I can only imagine. I can form in my mind a vague and pale idea, as i know the time i spend to make good batreps, with pictures and diagrams, and these require a truly minimal amount of time, when compared to the massive work you put into this chronicle.
The Battle of the Valley of Death The Necropolis Valley of Norochia, west of Ebino, Early Autumn, IC 2403
Captain General Lord Alessio Falconi, despite everyone else’s surprise that the enemy had left the protection of the city walls to assemble in the nearby valley of Norochia, did not hesitate in issuing new battle orders. He knew that with a force as huge and unwieldy as this great alliance army, containing battalions from five different realms, any indecision on his behalf could escalate into a hazardous delay upon the field.
It was generally agreed the enemy must be expecting to gain some advantage from choosing to fight outside the city walls, and although some believed a relief force must be on its way to join the enemy host, most thought it was glaringly obvious why the undead would choose Ebino’s ancient necropolis as their battleground - the reinforcements were, in effect, already there. They just had to claw their way out of their graves to muster with the already animated corpses serving their vampire masters!
Lord Alessio had incorporated both possibilities into his thinking. If there was a force on its way, then it would surely be intercepted by the mounted force he had ordered to skirt north of the city. The horse-soldiers’ manoeuvre had been intended to prevent any enemies escaping Ebino, thus (un)living to fight another day, but they were also very well placed to serve in this new, if unexpected, role. And if the vampires did intend to bolster their strength with warriors newly raised from the ancient graveyards and tombs, then speed was of the essence. Lord Alessio’s army must engage the enemy as soon as possible, to limit the time available for any necromantic machinations.
And so the allied army, consisting almost solely of foot soldiers and artillery (having been selected to besiege the city), marched boldly to array themselves upon the western ridge of the valley, despite the horrific sight of the enemy silently forming up on the eastern slopes. They performed the manoeuvre well, thanks to the drills Lord Alessio had required of them during their march. Three times he had ordered them to form from marching column into line of battle, their performance improving on each occasion, despite the fact that he specified a different disposition every time. Lord Alessio needed the allied contingents to act as a cohesive force in the field, and to know that they could and would follow his orders promptly. He had them march in a specific order each day, all the better to facilitate his orders for deployment. Unlike their practices, however, this time budge barrels were unloaded and powder distributed, their handguns made ready, matches lit, and the giant colossus-construct was conjured from its slumber (upon a covered pallet carried by three massive wains) to take its place on the far left of the line.
The captain general’s own army was mainly concentrated on the right of the line. He intended these, being the soldiers he most trusted, to secure that flank from any enemy attempt to outmanoeuvre the army. He also concentrated the army’s artillery on this flank, no less than six great cannons and four master engineers (four of the component contingents having brought their own engineers to tend their own pieces). There were a brace of Pavonan pieces, another two Portomaggioran, as well as Reman and Luccinan guns, all of which were also shielded by his own troops. He expected the guns to deliver several crucial and crippling blasts against the foe and was therefore keen to ensure they could not be interfered with by the enemy – another reason to have his most trusted soldiers upon that flank.
On the furthest flank was Lord Ned’s hunting pack of demigryphs, the fastest troops Lord Alessio had with this army, commanded by his most ferocious commander. This was the only mounted company he had not sent away with the interceptor force heading to the north of the city. If anyone was to prove a match for whatever might attempt to break through, or ride around, the flank to attack the guns, then it was Lord Ned and his monstrous cavalry. Nevertheless, to assist them in this task was a company of handgunners, who might at least slow the enemy sufficiently to allow Lord Ned to bring his own company to bear upon them.
Next in line towards the army centre, was his large regiment of spears and his crossbow, and beyond these Portomaggiorans, upon the lower ground, were massed troops of the allied forces. The Cathayan mercenaries of the arch-lector’s Reman army stood centre-front, crossbowmen and halberdiers with banners showing the keys to Morr’s Garden, while the Verezzan’s large pike regiment and crossbowmen were to their right. Behind them was the smaller Luccinan pike regiment, bearing a royal banner of three fleur de lis (after all, they served a king) and to their left was the second company of Portomaggioran handgunners.
Further left were young Lord Silvano’s Pavonans - archers, halberdiers, handgunners. Their original strength had been reduced by constant war, yet they were still a significant force. The two huge blocks of baggage were clustered behind them, with an unusual halfling war machine nestled in between.
Similarly (suspiciously) close to the baggage, Barone Iacopo and his Verezzan halfling archers had formed up further to the left, and out on the far-left flank – again because Lord Alessio trusted them – marched the plate-clad Portomaggioran veterans known as the Sea Wolves. Finally, upon the army’s extreme flank, strode the Portomaggioran Colossus, as tall as the tallest of giants (if not taller) and fashioned of enchanted bronze and silvered steel, containing massively intricate iron gears and clockwork mechanisms.
(Game Note: The colossus has the stats, abilities and points-cost of the Tomb Kings’ Heirotitan, but he assists the Portomaggioran army’s spellcasters. This is an example of a player’s own inventive ideas in the campaign. Damo wanted a ‘colossus of Rhodes’ type statue to defend his city, so as a GM I told him the points cost and the time it would take to construct. Later he wanted it to move with his army, which I allowed, but warned him as a consequence of hauling such a massive thing upon wagons his army would march somewhat slower than otherwise it would have done. I try to keep everything balanced. As the undead player had such monstrosities as the terrorgheist and the mortis engine, it seemed fair that with effort, spending and consequences, a 'standard' Tilean army might have a suitable monstrous element.)
Upon the eastern side of the valley, the vampire high-priest Biagino watched as the living army assembled. Standing with his Disciplinati di Nagash (the resurrected corpses of the same Morrite dedicants he had marched with when he too had been alive) it crossed his mind that perhaps he should have begun the advance against the enemy earlier, despite the fact his own force had yet to fully assemble. This thought, however, was a fleeting notion, and was soon lost as he scrutinised the enemy army, assessing where the dangers lay, and the weaknesses.
Worryingly, it seemed to him very clear that there were plenty of the former and very few, if any, of the latter. Never before had he seen an army so large. The Viadazan and Reman armies he had marched with when alive had been considerably smaller, and they had nowhere near as many guns. It also occurred to him that he could see not see any horse soldiers, which probably meant that what he could now see was only a portion of the enemy’s true strength. Their army must have been truly massive on the march!
Where are the horsemen? he wondered. Are they out on the flanks, concealed by the lie of the land? If so, then the situation was worse than he had previously thought. What chance did his army have if surrounded entirely? Or are the horse elsewhere? Whatever the truth, he had played his hand and now had to see it through. If he routed the foe before him, he could deal with any mounted soldiers later. And if his enemies were attempting to outflank him, then delay would only give them more time to do so. This was his moment – his chance to prove himself to his mistress and defeat the greatest army sent against her yet.
Biagino, his three thralls and his mob of rotting cultists stood on the right of the army’s centre. Further right was a large regiment of skeletons, the corpse cart, his skeleton riders and a slavering pack of dire wolves.
To his immediate left were two more large regiments of skeletons, one of which obscured from the enemy’s sight by the large church occupying the middle of this stretch of the valley.
Out on the right flank proper, his vargheists lurked behind a large mob of zombies created from those poor souls who had foolishly returned to scratch a living in the ruins of the city of Trantio after the Pavonans abandoned it and the ogres then ransacked it. Beyond them slunk the huge terrogheist, and beside that the mortis engine drifted ethereally. This had a body of undead ogres before it, and a regiment of grave guard beside it. Outermost on the right rode a company of wraiths.
With the merest flick of his wrists, his army beholden to his necromantic will, Biagino commanded his dire wolves and hexwraiths to advance, all the better to get a feel for how the enemy intended to proceed, and how they might respond to the sight of such creatures of the night moving towards them. While the wolves loped between the ancient tombs towards the Portomaggiorans massed on the opposite slope …
… the wraiths moved boldly on the far right towards the colossal construct.
Due to the nature of the deployment, nearly every living soldier could see these two bodies advancing, but instead presenting a threatening countenance, the act of moving ahead of their own lines merely made them seem weak and lonely. The crossbowmen before the wolves calmly hefted their now spanned weapons to fit their bolts, while the gunners upon the higher slope blew upon their coals and prepared for their first volley.
The Battle of the Valley of Death, Part 2: The Battle
There was activity in largest of the valley’s walled graveyards, for a pack of ghouls were busy pulling up the more recently buried bones, sucking out the putrid marrow and chewing on the foul, foetid flesh still clinging to them. There was a plentiful supply, for many of the dead from the recent War of the Princes had been interred in that yard, including several many more who had been executed as undesirables by the Pavonans after their conquest. The ghouls’ feasting was now disturbed, however, for despite their ever-ravenous hunger, they could not fail to notice the gathering armies upon the valley sides.
(Game Note: There were scenario rules for the necropolis valley – the graveyard had a pack of 4D6 ghouls, which would attack any who drew too close, although the undead could use their necromantic magic to make them part of their army. Also, one of the two mausoleums, to be randomly determined by the GM, contained 2D2 swarms of bats, and they too could attack anyone who disturbed them with their proximity, although again the vampires could attempt to gain mastery over them by using their magic dice.)
As soon as Captain-General Lord Alessio spotted the approach of undead vanguard, he ordered the army entire to advance. Lord Ned led his hunting pack forwards, cautiously at first to allow the spearmen beside him to match his move.
In the centre of the line the pikemen began their own advance, forming a column to move between the crossbowmen and handgunners flanking them, thus allowing for volleys of bullet and bolt even as they manoeuvred.
The allied army’s wizards and priests, although barely noticeable as they conjured and prayed, were busy. The priests blessed the Verezzan pikemen with holy Morr’s protection, while Lord Alessio’s court magician, the arabyan Hakim, felled four of the zombie cultists accompanying Biagino with a banishment spell. But it was the Colossus that achieved the most astonishing magic, inflicting Shem’s Burning Gaze on the hexwraiths with such power that all five of the ghostly (yet dangerous) riders were dissipated entirely from the mortal realm. A cheer went up from the nearby Portomaggioran Sea Wolves and the halflings, the only allied regiments close enough to witness the event. Their cheer died away, however, when they saw the terrorgheist and the mortis engine still moving up towards them.
While every cannon on the hill was turned to target those same monstrous entities, the hand-gunners and crossbowmen let loose such a volley that not one dire wolf remained to continue its probing advance. This elicited a cheer from the other flank of the allied army.
Biagino frowned, as he was now becoming fully aware of just what the enemy might do before his forces even managed to engage them in combat.
He peered up at the massive artillery battery upon the hill, and from the absence of smoke knew they had yet to be fired. Squinting to make out details despite the painful light behind the guns, he was very dismayed to see where they were aiming.
There was a moment of quiet after the sharp rolling crackle of the handgun volley had dissipated …
… then suddenly the valley was filled with the roaring blast of the entire battery. Not one gun failed to fire, perhaps due to the attendance of no less than four different city-realm’s master engineers. The Pavonan cannons sent magically flaming round-shots at the terrorgheist, one missing but the other tearing right through. A split second later the Reman gun sent its own iron bullet into the beast, and it slumped to the ground bereft of undeath.
Before the Sea Wolves could begin to cheer a second time, the two Portomaggioran cannons and the furthermost Verezzan piece sent no less than three balls into the Mortis Engine, breaking off several large shards of whatever foulness it was made of. For a moment it seemed that it might continue its advance, but it broke into two, as if unfolding, then collapsed in pieces to the ground.
For a moment, there was a stunned silence, perhaps encouraged by the wave of foul magic that washed out, howsoever weakly, from both monstrosities to caress the living soldiers and unnerve them, but it was brief, and as it passed, they knew full well what had been done. A mighty cheer erupted.
Biagino felt the loss. It was not so much painful, more like being winded, as if a considerable portion of his own strength had been sapped away. The only parts of his army already to advance had been immediately obliterated, and while the remainder had yet to take even one step towards the enemy, two of its mightiest components had been blown apart like nothing more than dry leaves.
For the briefest moment, a burning rage threatened to overcome him – a bestial fury which made him want to throw himself and his whole army at the foe, wild and reckless with anger, regardless of the consequences. He yearned to rend their flesh, snap their bones and drink deep of their misery, to sate his ravenous hatred and punish them for daring to oppose him. But the desire quickly passed, and a clarity born of his cunning now suffused him. He knew that to advance in the face of such a foe would mean certain destruction. If there had been more vampires in his army than merely himself and Arnaldo, more necromancers than solely his new servant Severino, then perhaps sufficient aetheric winds could be woven, enough necromantic magic conjured, to repair and sustain the army in the face of the enemy’s thunderous volleys? But he knew it were not so. He had lost so much already, before the fight had even begun, and to continue this battle would surely mean defeat.
His mistress did not send him here to perish, or at least not to do so while barely scratching the enemy. He himself revelled in his new condition, bringing with it the promise of everlasting undeath. He refused to allow pride and anger make him sacrifice all he had, and so he gestured this way and that, as if he were doing nothing more than moving imaginary chess pieces but in truth subtly signalling his lieutenants, and within a moment his will was done.
The necromancer Severino bowed almost imperceptibly and led his regiment of skeletons forwards into what had already proved to be a killing zone …
… while the vampire Arnaldo snarled a command to send the mob of zombies shambling towards the foe.
When the ghouls in the graveyard began pouring out, yearning to feast upon the zombies’ decaying flesh, Arnaldo summoned enough magic to bind them to his service, and thus turn them towards the enemy too.
For a moment, Severino hesitated, having noticed the massive body of spearmen advancing to his left …
… but before he could decide whether to wheel his troops to face them or to continue his march directly on, a lashing hail of missiles was loosed from the soldiers and guns on the hill opposite. All around him his bony warriors were breaking into pieces, the clitter-clatter of their shattered bones clunking from one fleshless anatomy to another to rattle off the vacant skulls and between the empty ribcages of their comrades. Severino was himself pierced several times over by the sharp shower of shards and fell to the ground clutching at his face in a vain attempt to protect himself, whilst muttering the words of a spell he thought could keep at least a part of his regiment on their feet.
Upon the far side of the field a storm of arrows, bolts, bullets, round-shots and even the colossus’s enchanted flames, tore bloodily into the ghouls and zombies, but could not find their mark on the vampire Arnaldo, for he was skulking behind the stone ruins to conjure every scrap of magic he could to keep his zombies intact a little longer.
All this was as Biagino intended, for his only purpose was to escape. The walking corpses he had ordered his lieutenants to lead forwards were to be his rear-guard. He had left them upon the field of battle merely to buy himself time, knowing full well they could never reach the enemy lines. The living soldiers were to be distracted by the task of blasting away at the regiments before them, their vision obscured by clouds of black-powder smoke. By the time they had begun picking their way through the ruins of the valley and over the shattered remains of Biagino’s soldiers, he was already running, surrounded by a crazy mob of flagellant zombies, through the ancient, ruinous village to the valley’s east.
Games notes explaining (in detail) the weird shortness of the game may follow!
Going first for a shooting army is vital, and in this case, with such good luck, it was also the nail in the coffin for the undead (sorry, couldn't resist). between the impressive magic of the Colossus and the even more epic shooting, the first round saw the destruction of: - a unit of Hexwraiths (!) - a unit of dire wolves (this was expected) - the Terrorgheist (!!) - the Mortis Engine (!!!)
I don't recall a concentrated fire by so many cannons, and no misfire. Artillery in 8th can really be a game changer, especially against big targets.
Frankly, the battle ended before it even started. I hope Biagino will succeed in his "tactical retreat". He's one of my fav. characters.
Thanks Unas for your comments. I'll not clutter this thread with the 2400 word essay concerning the behind the scenes situation of the battle and the players' decisions, as it is a painful read. Instead, I'll get on with the story ...
The Hunter Hunted North of Viadaza, Autumn 2403
Two weeks out from the city of Viadaza, the army of the Disciplinati di Morr ground to a halt. The Praepositus Generalis, Father Carradalio, had decided enough was enough. Every night more men had died, despite the army’s precautions: the guards and watches set, the prayers spoken, hymns sung and devotions chanted. Every day they would march on, tired from their sparse and fitful sleep, exhausting themselves further, only to suffer once more at the hands of the deadly, nocturnal hunter the next night. If this was allowed to continue, their holy war would be lost before they even reached the vampire duchess and what remained of her army.
So, when morning came, the army did not recommence its march, but instead slept through the daylight hours. Their camp was to the east of the ridge of rocky hills running north from Rapallo to the bridge at Pontremola, separating the ancient road from the sea. On the road’s other side was a wide stretch of flat, open land, all the way to the River Tarano. While almost everyone slept, a handful of dedicants, chosen by lot, guarded, using every trick they could think of to keep themselves awake. What with their penchant for self-flagellation and whipping themselves into a religious frenzy, many employed methods both painful and bloody!
When darkness fell, however, and the bruised and battered guards crawled into their tents and huts, the rest of the army awoke and organised for the night ahead. Father Carradalio had ordered a hunt to be mounted for the slippery fiend, involving every part of the army (bar those few who were dead on their legs from their daylight watch). Carradalio himself, his Admonitor Vincenzo and his bodyguard of blessed torch-bearing dedicants, would stand ready near the camp’s centre, while the larger bodies of dedicants formed a surrounding ring of companies at a distance of about a hundred yards. The lighter troops, including the dedicant crossbowmen, the Urbiman horse and mercenary crossbowmen, would circumnavigate the entire camp even further out. All were to keep their eyes peeled for signs of the fiend, and if they spotted him, were to raise a loud alarm (by various means) to call everyone else to their proximity. Having the general and his elite bodyguard centrally placed ensured they would be among the first to reinforce whichever company had discovered the enemy.
This proved more difficult than Father Carradalio had hoped, for the foe was either slippery, cautious, or both. A trail was discovered, along with two corpses and three dead mules (apparently from fright!). The dedicants moved promptly, exactly as planned, but the fiend escaped. There was great frustration and disappointment, but Carradalio felt in his gut that the fiend could not elude him much longer, and both Admonitor Vincenzo and his dreams the next day confirmed his belief. As it grew dark on the evening of the army’s second day of camping, he knew the enemy would be found that night. He did not know whether the monster could be defeated, for his dreams had been cut short by his awakening just as the fiend came close, only that it would certainly be discovered.
In the second hour after midnight, with both white and green moons high in the sky, Carradalio’s prophecy proved true. He himself spotted the vampire, Lord Adolfo, lurking by a hut only two dozen yards away.
Adolfo’s once-living body had been bent and bloated into a horribly bestial form, and a ridge of horny protuberances had burst through the flesh of his back. His skin seemed blue in the moons’ light; his eyes, made small by the bony excesses of his face, were wholly bloodshot; his teeth and nails had become fangs and talons. He had long since given up wearing clothes, for there were none made that would fit such a frame as his, and he had given no thought to having any made. Such niceties were forgotten, to be replaced by a passionate rage, a vicious hunger and a loyalty to his mistress that had long since strayed far from the wrong side of madness.
Carradalio sensed the vampire had not yet noticed him, and so before raising the ‘all-arm’, before even signalling to his bodyguards, he whispered a prayer to channel Morr’s will and send harm upon the foe. He could feel his words made real. For a moment his own eyes became those of holy Morr himself and power flowed through them to lash out. But the vampire merely flinched, as if the curse were nothing more than a nip to gain his attention. He turned to look upon the priest, slowly lifting a huge scimitar aloft as if about to hurl it.
“He is here!” cried Carradalio, his voice revealing only angry determination.
The vampire took no more than three leaping strides before his way to Carradalio was blocked by the priest-general’s dedicant bodyguards, with many more arriving behind. Each was robed in the grey and red favoured by Morrite clergy, their flowing garments concealing the scabs and scars of many months of flagellation. They wielded either axes or blades, with most carrying a burning torch in their other hand.
These were not ordinary torches - the flames not merely fire. Each one had been blessed by holy ritual, making them both mundane and magical, to burn with a heat both real and ethereal. The flickering tongues were otherworldly, as if holes had been torn in the air itself to allow the light and heat of another realm to curl through. Were they to singe Adolfo’s flesh, his enchantments would not have healed him, for these torches burnt away the stuff of magic as well as that of the material world.
But so swift was his stab and slash that not one flame did touch him, and the dedicants began to fall, lifeless, all around him. Leaping over their corpses came Vincenzo, bearing his staff with its amulet of holy water, shouting his own prayers to join with Carradalio’s chanting. Yet nothing that Morr had to offer could pierce the evil magics shielding the vampire, and before Vincenzo had even swung his own blade, Adolfo cut him in two at the belly, spattering gobbets of blood to fizzle in the flames born by the few dedicants still on their feet.
In barely a blink there was only one bodyguard remaining …
… and in half a breath he too was dispatched with ease. Father Carradalio had time to say only Morr’s name, before the vampire’s huge blade plunged through his chest. Adolfo grunted with glee, then hefted the blade upwards, so hurling the lifeless priest-general nearly a dozen yards to smash into a wagon.
The vampire froze, his giant blade clutched in both hands and dripping with blood. For the briefest moment he allowed himself to revel in his slaughterous butchery, to inhale the delicious, sanguine stench surrounding him. Then he caught sight of the mob. Swinging his head quickly about he discovered they were all around, and in some deep recess of what was left of his mind he knew that his end had come. It was a mere fragment of consciousness, buried in a mire of brutal cunning, bestial anger and ravenous hunger, and was quickly forgotten.
Even as his blade recommenced its bloody work, the mob closed in on him, relentless. They were driven by a shared frenzy, cultivated through cruel exercises, perfected by hard practice, which despite being a temporary phenomenon, was in that moment not one jot less furious than Adolfo’s own.
From all sides came spear, axe, flail and blade.
Each and every one was thrust or swung with no care for the wielders’ own safety, nor that of their comrades, so that umpteen of their own succumbed to the torrent of blows. And at the epicentre of the swirling rage, his foul blood gushing from umpteen wounds, Adolfo was hewn to pieces.
When the crazed combat finally subsided, the dedicants reeled away. Some sobbed into their hands, others cried out with faces raised to the sky, and yet more stumbled silently in shock, weapons held slack in their hands.
Father Carradalio was dead. Brother Vincenzo too. They were leaderless, the best of them butchered, with their work still yet to be done. They had not even crossed the bridge into the Vampire Duchess’s realm, and already they suffered a potentially fatal wound.
Was Morr testing them? Or did he already consider them unworthy of his blessing? Either way, the self-scourging was soon to begin, more bloody than ever.
In order to resolve this encounter, as part of an ongoing wargames campaign, I had to play it out. Considering how short-lived a conflict it could prove to be, with one side having only one model, I did not think it worthy of inviting players to a table-top battle, so I played it out myself. No fudging or ignoring rolls which appeared to lessen the story – instead I accepted whatever results came up.
It may interest the wargamers amongst you to read the gaming notes of the fight described in the above story, and so here they are:
Having created charts to roll on concerning whether Adolpho or the cultists had surprise, who exactly saw who first, and whether or not the cultists involved in the initial encounter were alone, it was Caradallio who first spotted Lord Adolfo the vampire. Attempting to capitalise on the surprise, he conjured the prayer ‘Morr's Glare’ to curse the vampire. This was cast successfully, but Carradalio only rolled 1 wound, which the vampire then regenerated!
Adolfo now charged Carradalio but the general’s bodyguard (10 strong, with blessed torches that do away with regeneration saves and can harm ethereal creatures) got in the way. Adolfo could not challenge Carradalio as the bodyguard’s sole goal was to protect their ‘praepositus generalis’, and so I decided they were firmly in the way.
The 415 pts vampire was a killing machine - he had ‘beguile’ to ensure the enemy struggled to hit him; a ‘Sword of Bloodshed’ giving +3 attacks (8 in total); he was very strong, very tough, and regenerated his wounds. On top of all of this he had ‘red fury’ which meant all his successful wounds become an extra attack - e.g. 8 attacks, 6 kills, 6 wounds, then he gets 6 more attacks (but no more after that!) So I knew this was going to get messy.
Adolfo killed 7 of the 10 bodyguard. The surviving three failed to scratch him, even with 2 re-rollable attacks each.
Vincenzo now appeared and charged into combat. He attempted the prayer ‘Morr's touch’ to reduce Adolfo's Ld stat (aiding later spells). Dispelled. Carradalio tried to cast Morr's Curse to wound the vampire. Dispelled. Carradalio successfully cast Morr's Glare, but the vampire and him equalled their Ld +D6 scores, and so there was no effect. Carradalio attempted the prayer ‘Holiest Protection’ to give the dedicants a ward save. Dispelled.
The dice rolling for the Disciplinati di Morr has so far been truly AWFUL. I was so tempted to cheat, but I stuck to my guns and went with whatever, according to the rules and the dice, was actually unfolding. I have always done this with the campaign, that way even I don’t know what the future holds. I am thus a participant and a recorder of events, rather than the author of them.
Adolfo slaughtered Vincenzo, overkilling him. (Vincenzo had 'challenged' the vampire, now that there weren’t too many dedicant bodyguards to get in the way and they weren’t frenzied anymore, to buy Carradalio and the surviving bodyguard some time.)
In Adolfo's round, I didn't allow Adolfo to issue vs Carradalio as the 3 crazed bodyguards were still fighting to keep him from their commander. (Although they had lost their frenzy now.) Adolfo killed all three of them, then killed Carradalio, his ‘red fury’ allowing him to ‘overkill’ several times. (I know it wasn’t technically a challenge, but extra successful attacks informed the story I was to write – thus Carradalio’s dramatic demise).
The Disciplinati had lost their Praepositus Generalis, holy Fr. Carradalio, and their Admonitor brave Vincenzo, and their most blessed cultists, the general's bodyguard.
Now one of the two big surviving flagellant units showed up, being the smaller of the two, with 32 cultists, armed with nasty flails, (+2 str in the first round) and frenzied.
Adolfo issues a challenge, but I reckoned that they all just piled in furious – how would such crazed loons stop to watch a challenge fought? Two cultists died whipping themselves into a fury (The End is Nigh!), so that they were now frenzied (extra attacks), and re-rolled failed to hits and to wounds! The vampire effectively had a horde against him, fighting three deep - that's an extra 3 attacks for a total of 13 attacks at 5 Str in the 1st round.
Adolfo beguiled the unit leader (making it harder for him to attack) then killed 6 cultists. (His rolls were on the wrong side of average this time) The cultists then laid into him, flailing him so bloodily that he became a (dead) lump of battered flesh. (With re-rolls to hit and wound, 5 got through, of which not one was regenerated.)
It was the middle of the morning when Glammerscale encountered the damsel Perrette. As before, her face immediately lit up with a smile and she invited him to walk together a while, which suited him well for it had been his intention to talk with her. His servant, Thaldrin, a short, round fellow with a neatly trimmed beard, fell in behind the two of them as they made progressed along the way behind the ruined walls of Campogrotta.
Along almost the entire, ragged stretch of tumbled-stones there were scattered labourers and masons, both dwarfs and men, as well as ladders, piles of wooden planks, and other necessaries for the fashioning of scaffolding needed to begin the repairs. Campogrotta had suffered greatly from the attentions of the dwarfen artillery, especially the ancient ‘cannon-imperial’, Granite Breaker.
“You were hoping to meet with me, master Glammerscale?” suggested Perrette.
“Aye, my lady, I was. There’s much afoot and I would know your opinions concerning it all.”
“I think, in truth, it is my intentions that most concern you,” said the damsel with a grin. “And I suspect it is Thane Narhak who wants to know. I doubt he was keen to speak to such as I and so sent you as a suitable emmissary?”
“It is no burden for me, my lady,” said Glammerscale. “But aye, the thane is most keen to learn of your plans.”
“Master Glammerscale, you are a very poor spy,” Perrette said, chuckling.
“So poor,” he agreed, “that I had not even realised I was one.”
“Or, perhaps, you are so good a spy that you can conjure an illusion of honesty and lure me into a false sense of security?”
“I always strive for honesty, my lady,” said Glammerscale. “And so, with that in mind, I am told you have considerable influence now, like unto a captain.”
“The Brabanzon behave as if I were a queen,” she said, fixing her eyes upon him, channeling a most regal stare.
Glammerscale had witnessed her in action before the walls of Campogrotta, watching the fire she conjured broiling the brutes’ slaughtermaster. He had heard also heard how she had tumbled several lead-belchers from the wall during the first assault, causing them to explode as they fell!
“I think, my lady, they have every reason to show you due respect.”
Perette laughed at this. “If that were the case, then why do they not bow before the mighty empress Granite Breaker? I may have singed the ogres’ flesh a little but look here, look at what her massive majesty did.”
She gestured to the huge fissure in the wall they were passing, as if Glammerscale needed it pointing out.
It was his turn to laugh. “Ah, but my lady, Granitebreaker, despite her enormous size, is a dwarf, and the Brabanzon would surely never kneel to a dwarf.”
“Their days of kneeling for anything other than money are long gone,” said Perette. “What respect they have for me is born of fear.”
“Is that not the case in many a kingdom?” asked Glammerscale.
Perette did not answer immediately but came to a halt. She watched a pair of Brabanzon soldiers walk by, acknowledging their bows by gesturing with her fan, then seemed caught in a moment’s reverie.
“Now that both the Wolf and Jean dead,” she said, “as well as their closest companions, the survivors have elected me captain. If you and Thane Narhak are surprised to hear this, then I assure you that I am more so. I knew they had shaken off the yoke of vassalage to the nobility, but in choosing me it appears they care for very few of any of our homeland's traditions.”
“Are you not honoured by this turn of events?”
“I suppose, in some ways. They no longer … pester me like they used to! Yet, I cannot say I am pleased by this turn of events. Responsibility does not sit comfortably on my shoulders.”
“I am glad to say I never had much responsibility, beyond a few servants to command and apprentices to instruct,” admitted Glammerscale. “If it means anything to you, my lady, I think the Brabanzon have chosen wisely.”
Perrette gave a little curtsey, saying, “I thank thee, good master dwarf.”
“So, captain of the Brabanzon, now that you have been paid what was promised, and your soldiers have had their desire for plunder sated, I must ask, will you go to Ravola with the wounded baron?”
“He has asked, and I have promised to put it to the men. We are a very democracy, you see, when it comes to such decisions.”
“You spoke with Baron Garoy, then?” asked Glammerscale.
“No, he sent one of his cavaliers. I asked the man if the baron was recovering well, but he simply said he had yet to get over the worst of it. Do you know if he is likely to live?”
“He is being tended day and night by the Sisters of Shallya and is under the care of the best doctor remaining in the city."
Glammerscale hesitated a moment, then admitted. "In truth, I suspect the man is probably the only doctor in the city! Still, the baron is young, and the doctor assured me the break was simple. He still has the leg. He might walk forevermore with a limp, but what Bretonnian knight chooses to walk anyway?”
“Well, his messenger had little to say and could not answer at all when I asked about the terms of the proposed employment.”
“I doubt the baron himself has considered such details yet. Do not concern yourself, he’ll be fit to talk long before he’s fit to travel and so there will be plenty of time for such discussions.”
Perrette fanned herself a moment, then with a wry smile asked, “I wonder if he’ll receive me in his chambers for our negotiations?”
Glammerscale knew there was a joke in there somewhere but could not for the life of him work out how to ask without risking great offence. Had she been intimate with the young baron on their journey here? Was she suggesting she might become so? Or was it some reference to his arrogant nobility and her dubious past? He decided to play it safe and talk about chamber instead.
“The baron is comfortably lodged in what they say was wizard Lord Niccolo’s chamber. He has the largest bed in the city.”
“’Tis a wonder the brute Boulderguts did not use the bed.”
“I doubt even that bed would have been of sufficient capacity for the likes of him!”
“This wizard-lord, Niccolo,” asked Perrette. “Has he been found?”
Glammerscale frowned. “No, nor is there any clue he ever was here in Campogrotta. A very mysterious sort of man, I have to say, for the supposed ruler of a city realm. The chamber in question contained no personal possessions and was buried beneath so much dust and cobwebs it cannot have been used in some considerable time. And he apparently had neither courtiers nor servants to tend to his needs.”
“I asked some citizens,” said Perrette. “They talked of him - his tyranny and cruel proclamations. One of them told me he treated them no better than the ogres’ goblin-runt servants. But they never saw him Not once! There was a friend of a friend, who saw him, or a neighbour’s nephew, and so on, but no-one I could speak to.”
Glammerscale had heard much the same. Only the previous day, Thane Narhak suggested Niccolo must have been as old as it was possible for a man to be, and maybe a little older than that, and as such would hardly have been able to address the crowds, never mind inspire fear in them. Besides, the thane had added, Niccolo had the ogres to do the frightening, and everything else too. The man did not have to leave his rooms.
But none of that rang true for Glammerscale. Although he had said nothing at the time, he was beginning to think there was something everyone was missing concerning the wizard lord, and not just the unused chamber. There had long been rumours that Lord Niccolo was a vampire, thus his unnatural age. This was why several Tileans had suggested there must be an alliance between the vampire duchess and Niccolo, such that while the brutes tore their way through the heart of Tilea, the vampires had conquered the north – and although neighbours, they conveniently stayed out of each other’s way. Niccolo had sent a company of brutes and the last of Campogrotta’s human soldiers to join Arch-Lector Calictus II’s holy war against the vampire duchess, but he had also dispatched Razger Boulderguts to ravage the homes of the soldiers in that same army! Hardly the actions of a true ally in the fight against the vampires.
Glammerscale was not at all convinced. Vampires might shun the daylight, but not the night-time too. They needed blood and when they ruled a realm they were not shy in the drinking of it, and when made mighty by their sanguine sustenance, they need not hide every moment in the shadows. Nor did they surround themselves with brute ogres, instead siring other vampires for their courts and resurrecting the dead for their armies.
There was definitely something more to the wizard lord; something Glammerscale could not put his finger on.
He noticed the two Brabanzon who had passed them by had come to halt by a doorway, far enough away that they could not hear what he said.
“My advice, should you wish to take it my lady, is to get more than gold from the baron for your continued service. Without the Brabanzon, he could do nothing now. What few ogres are said to remain in Ravola could easily defend the city against what few knights the baron commands. If your assistance is all that makes his conquest possible, then you and the men of the Brabanzon should expect to receive land too. You deserve a means to live and thrive, if you wish it.”
“It seems to me that you dwarfs think of us as seeds to be planted, so that come harvest time there will be good trade to be had.”
Glammerscale chuckled at this. “Trade is good, I cannot deny it. And yes, it is better to have strong neighbours as future allies, rather than rat-infested ruins. But many Brabanzon fell before the walls of Campogrotta, and those who survived deserve more than mere gold. There is good soil and sturdy homes to be had in Ravola. A chance for old soldiers to live well.”
“Then there is more for us to vote upon. If the men want it, then I shall demand it." Fixing eyes upon him once again, she asked, "You speak of prosperous neighbours, master dwarf. What of Campogrotta itself? Now that his army has taken the city, is King Jaldeog not to rule here?”
“Oh, our king has no desire whatsoever to possess this city.” …
… “But like I said, and the king agrees, trade is good. Ravola is a Bretonian realm in Tilea, but Campogrotta is thoroughly Tilean. Its future has already been decided upon. The Compagnia del Sole, being nearly all Tileans, are to govern here, as part and parcel of their payment.”
Perrette snorted. “I suppose it costs a lot to replace their shoes.”
Glammerscale need not ask to what she was referring. The Compagnia had arrived too late to join in the assault upon Campogrotta, and now that it was becoming clear that Razger Boulderguts was unlikely to return to reclaim the city, their service was turning out to be all marching and no fighting!
“They fulfilled their contract,” he said. “And we have paid them, part in gold and part with the rule of Campogrotta. They might have accepted Campogrotta alone if your Brabanzon had not already removed so much of worth.”
“As we were promised, Master Glammerscale.”
“Aye, my lady. Well and good. I am not suggesting any wrong-doing on your behalf. Not at all. Both your company and the Compagnia del Sole have received proper recompense.”
Perrette looked around, shrugged, then asked, “Where are the new rulers, then?”
“They'll be here tomorrow. Right now, Captain Bruno Mazallini is to swear an oath before the statue of the goddess Myrmidia in Buldio, where the Battle of the Fog was fought centuries ago.”
“All the Compagnia’s officers and chancellors are to swear too. It is to be quite the ceremony ...”
“… drums, colours, and all the military rigmarole that suits such a solemn and binding oath before the goddess.”
“Thane Narhak himself will witness it.”
“Swear what exactly?” asked Perrette.
“That Captain Mazallini and his officers shall govern Campogrotta as agents of King Jaldeog’s will, heeding his majesty’s advice and instructions, doing all they can to make the city realm prosper, for three years, after which the city will become theirs entirely, in permanent friendship with Karak Borgo.”
“Not the king’s vassals?”
“No, as allies and trading partners. You see, who better than an army of veteran soldiers to defend this city at such a time of troubles? My advice to them was the same I gave to you.”
“So you are planting more seeds, master dwarf? Let's hope the crop does not turn out to be weeds!”
“I like to think that whatever grows here and in Ravola, it has to be far more fruitful and pleasant than the brutes we have driven out!”
Thanks Unas. I think I enjoy writing the bits in between better the writing the battles, though the battles are easier to write. Now, with the next battle already played, here's the prequel to the battle story ...
The Battle of the Isean Hills
Prequel: Each to Their Own
The army of the Disciplinati di Morr, bereft of its beloved, founding father, but still bound to the service of holy Morr, had drawn close to the city of Ebino and then halted. When they learned the vampire duchess had more than sufficient forces within the city to repel any assault they attempted, their new pastor-general, Father Lorenzo of Urbimo, ordered the fortification of their camp so that they might instead blockade the city, harrying any forces attempting to leave the city or join the garrison, while awaiting reinforcements of their own.
Fully aware of their depleted strength (indeed, having sent her servant Adolfo to prey on them to bring about just this end), the Duchess Maria decided she would not give them time to lick their wounds, nor allow any more forces to join them, but would instead march from the city in strength to deliver her ‘colpo di grazia’.
On the morning of the battle, each of the two armies prepared themselves for the fight ahead. In the part-completed, fortified camp they were building upon the hills to the south of the city, the Disciplinati di Morr gathered for prayers; while in the fields below the ruined Church of San Sabrella to the east of Ebino’s moated walls, the vampire Duchess Maria drew all the unliving servants she had in the city to her.
The Disciplinati’s new pastor-general, the Urbiman priest Father Lorenzo, was not the orator Father Carradalio had been, and so instead of an inspired, stirring speech, he simply read from the holy book of Morr. A swathe of dedicants crowded around him, as well as lesser priests and Captain Vogel’s palace guards, and all fell silent as he intoned.
Father Lorenzo chose his passage carefully. While in Urbimo, overseeing the cruel cleansing of the town, he had favoured the verses concerning the purity of the soul required for passage into Morr’s heavenly garden, and the punishments necessary for those who tainted themselves with wicked words, deeds and thoughts, or lured Morr’s living servants into the same. When the impure were burned, he had concentrated on the chapters describing the torments awaiting those who were not suitably cleansed either through their own will and discipline, or by the punishments inflicted upon them as a curative penance.
Here, however, before battling the vampire duchess’s foul army, he knew that something more uplifting was required. The men gathered around him were to face hell later that day, which made threatening them with the same seem somewhat redundant. He wanted to inspire them to fight fearlessly, to lay down their lives without hesitation, and so it was that he read of the abundant rewards awaiting them in Morr’s garden-paradise.
Several priests, their hands clasped in humility, stood closest to Father Lorenzo. These few knew the text well enough to add their own voices to the most important parts, thus ensuring those words were better heard by all. Other than the priests’ occasionally conjoined voices and the fluttering of the ragged banners (these fashioned from the tattered remains of ancient saints’ robes), the only other sound was the occasional ripple of mutters and whispers through the crowd as they involuntarily muttered repetitions of this or that inspired phrase.
The holy book’s words revealed that every drop of blood the dedicants shed in Morr’s service would be amply compensated with heavenly wine; that long labours for their lord-god would earn them ages of ease; and that every moment of agony would be rewarded by eons of ecstasy. Indeed, those who were sufficiently holy in the here and now could experience the first hint of that eternal ecstasy within the very agonies themselves, their pain tinged with the perfect pleasures to come.
The dedicants’ attention was given a keener edge by the knowledge of what they were about to face, and as they listened to the holy book’s powerful promises, their fears were swept away and replaced with excited anticipation. The more they suffered this day, the greater the rewards would be. It was all many of them could do not to begin their flagellation there and then!
Maria knew Lord Adolfo was dead, for she had sensed his demise two weeks before. As for Biagino, he had gone so far from her that although she could feel something was amiss, she could no longer know whether he (un)lived or not. Here and now her only her vampiric servant was captain Bernhardt, who would be her lieutenant in battle. There was a necromancer, Saffiro, a wretched fellow whose fawning company she could hardly bear, his blood so dry as to be undrinkable, his very being seeming to be composed entirely of mould, dust and rags, but even ignoring her distaste for him, such a creature would prove a poor second on the field of battle. Bernhardt, on the other hand, was very much a warrior, having been a condottiere captain in life, during which he fought both in the northern realm of the Empire and all over Tilea.
As her army assembled almost in silence, she beckoned Bernhardt over. He was clad in full plate armour and carried a blade almost as long, from tip to pommel, as she was tall. When he came to a halt before her, she said,
“Good captain, faithful, favoured servant, your hand.”
Despite not knowing why she asked, he reached out without hesitation. She laid her own hand upon his, her cold, pearl-white fingers resting upon the layered steel plates of his gauntlet.
Now he understood. This action was a sign of her favour - that this day she honoured him above all others. As she looked at him, her eyes seemed just as palpable as her touch, and for moment he forgot all but his fierce love for his mistress. All about them the duchess’s undead servants became still, momentarily bereft of any directive will.
Moving one step closer, Maria brought her mouth almost to Bernhardt’s cheek. She spoke quietly concerning what she expected of him in the battle to come, which was that he should give his all in her service, both his sword arm and his military ken and, if necessary, his life. She wished the foe killed to a man, so not one could escape to reveal the nature of her own forces to her enemies in the south. Having been sired by her, and utterly beholden to her will, he willingly accepted all she commanded. He could do nothing else.
Less than an hour later, near the head of the army, the two of them rode together towards the enemy’s camp.
It is indeed an auspicious moment, Unas, and yes, the armies have both been battered. But Maria has quite some northern Empire to draw upon to repair her strength, while the Dicsiplinati just get ever weaker, even with victory after victory! Here's the first part of the battle ...
The Battle of the Isean Hills - The Battle
Working with an almost frenzied vigour that few ordinary soldiers or labourers could ever match, the Disciplinati Di Morr’s dedicants had constructed substantial defences for their camp, even in the short time they had available before the Duchess marched out against them.
(Game Note: I allowed the Disciplinati player to put the scenery, including the hills, however he liked within his deployment zone, to represent the fact that his army had chosen the best spot they could find to camp, and had built the defences as they wished.)
Their brace of Reman guns was placed in a bastion-battery atop a steep slope, while the two large regiments of dedicants defended the almost complete stretch of barricades running out from the base of the hill. Maestro da Leoni’s ‘Engine of Light’ had been hauled between the massed dedicants, while Captain Vogel and his professional soldiers waited in the rear, Father Lorenzo amongst them, intending to move up to wherever they were needed. The two small companies of crossbow, one Reman, one Urbiman, flanked the larger foot regiments, each having taken to raised ground to afford themselves a better view.
Barone Pietro Cybo and his small company of light horse waited out to the far left of the army, atop a little hill, having claimed he would look for a chance to outflank the enemy. In truth, the baron had refused to dismount to help defend ‘walls of dirt’ (as he had put it himself) and it was actually pride that had sent him out so far from the rest.
The vampire Duchess Maria, eager to destroy the foe quickly, amassed her army directly in front of the enemy’s defences, intending to march right at them without any fancy manoeuvring.
(Game Note: I commanded the vampire army, now an NPC army, and so any deficiencies you might perceive in her tactics are down to my not-exactly honed wargaming skills!)
Her foot soldiers, being skeletons, crypt horrors and ghouls, formed the right of her army, aiming right at the defended stretch of barricades, while her knights, wraiths and wolves, herself and Bernhardt included, formed the left, hoping to overwhelm the defences at their extremity, burst through and thus ravage the camp’s interior.
Maria wanted her army to assault the foe as one, and so restrained the bodies so that when they did begin to close upon the foe they came up more cohesively than they otherwise would have done. (Game Note: No vanguard moves by either the wolves or wraiths.) Her second, the vampire Bernhardt, rode with the smaller body of mounted soldiers, dropping back slightly to keep an eye on the enemy horse to the right, and if they proved too cowardly to commit, which he suspected might be the case, to espy an opportunity to support the rest of the army as required.
The Morrite dedicants watched the undead army come on, with a calm imbued by a resignation to their fate and a devoted belief that their god Morr favoured them. He had tested them, without doubt, even allowing their worldly father to be cruelly taken from them, but they had proven themselves unshakeable in their faith. Most now fervently believed Morr’s love for them could only have grown stronger.
One regiment fair-bristled with the steel edges and barbed tips of their vicious halberd blades …
… while the other regiment hefted flails, whips and clubs. Both chanted words of devotion which filled them with an ever-growing lust for battle, a blind fury they were ready to release at any moment.
From above, the Reman gunners watched the enemy advance, judging the distances and adjusting the barrels elevation accordingly.
The undead foot, left a little behind by the mounted warriors’ initial advance (having only shank’s nag to transport them), and being a little too far away from the duchess to feel the full strength of her will, suddenly, and quite unnaturally, lurched forwards as she and her necromancer had intended, invigorated by the winds of magic conjured to course through them. In this way they re-aligned themselves with the horse soldiers.
Game note: Vanhel’s Dance Macabre in action, as planned – it’s quite rare anything I build into an initial plan comes to fruition!)
Maria’s army were coming up fast indeed. Realising that to delay even a moment further could mean he would fail even to distract the enemy as they advanced, never mind harm them, Barone Pietro led his horsemen down the slope to approach from the enemy’s right flank. They were the only part of the army that moved.
The crew of the Luminark, having worked upon their machine almost constantly since it’s shamefully negligible contribution to the assault upon Viadaza, polishing the lenses almost hourly so that not one speck might ingrain itself upon the glass, now prayed fervently for Morr’s blessing as they wound the wheel that would bring the foremost, smallest lens into alignment and so release a beam of burning etheric light. The whole engine bucked as a crackling condensation of energy broiled between the stepped lenses then burst forwards to burn three of Maria’s knightly companions to dust!
But the crew did not notice the enemy riders’ deaths, for once again, in exactly the same manner as had happened in Viadaza, the mizzen lens cracked and, as well as momentarily sapping the breath from them, also sapped all hope that the machine would contribute any further harm to the foe. They had but one such lens left, the least perfect of the three they had begun the journey with for its peripheries were not fully polished, and which would take many an hour to affix correctly to the machine. Two of the crew shed tears at their failure, although within moments their disappointment had turned into fear as they remembered how close the terrible enemy was.
Crossbow bolts brought down a few dire wolves and skeletons …
… then the first round-shot from the guns shattered the entire rear rank of Maria’s knights, and the second broke the rest apart, even brushing Maria as it passed! (Game note, she passed her 4+ ward to survive!) Maria was left alone, with only her ghostly wraiths close by!
Twisting in her saddle to see all about her, with a flick of her wrist Duchess Maria sent the dire wolves charging into Barone Pietro’s company of horse. One wolf was brought down by an arrow on the way, but the rest tore into the enemy with tooth and claw.
In the first moments of the immediately ensuing fight four riders and five wolves were slain.
Another of Maria’s tiny gesture sent her mounted wraiths hurtling into the fanatical dedicants nearest to them. Four Morrites were hewn in two by the partly-ethereal scythes, while they themselves could do nothing to harm the ghostly foe.
(Game Note: I had never really worked out just what these hexwraiths were capable of, in the right circumstances. I had intended them to pass through enemy units, not to engage them directly, thinking rank and standard bonuses would swing the combats. Here I discovered how capable they were of pinning down even large units of a certain kind - the dedicants had no banner and so all they had going for them was their rank bonus. This combat resolution score the Hexwraiths were easily able to exceed with their great weapons’ strength 5 attacks, and their steeds’ attacks too.)
Maria herself joined Captain Bernhardt and his little company of knights, but the magics they and the necromancer conjured had no effect. The enemy’s prayers, however, were not so weak, injuring one of the crypt horrors, and summoning a holy protective blessing upon Captain Vogel’s Reman Guard. The Urbiman crossbowmen brought down one of Bernhardt’s knights, and suddenly both vampires looked vulnerable. (Game note: No look out sir on the knights anymore!) Then, just when they might have fatally wounded the exposed foe, not one but both cannons misfired. Perhaps the crewmen’s fear had caused their fumbling failure? Perhaps they had lost Morr’s failure? Or perhaps the powder was just a little too damp?
The Barone and his riders cut the last of the wolves down, then watched in horror as the blue-tinged wraiths continued their apparently unstoppable slaughter of the massed dedicants defending the wall.
Maria now sensed that the tables had turned. She saw the dedicants blades sweeping by the dozen ineffectually through the hexwraiths, then noticed the gunners’ frantic activity, desperately attempting to put their eerily quiet guns in working order. She knew this moment could be her best chance, and so she ordered Bernhardt to leave her and charge the crossbowmen on the enemy’s camps’ extreme left …
… and her Crypt Horrors and ghouls to charge into the unengaged regiment of dedicants. The latter failed to reach the enemy, and so the brutes were left for now to fight alone.
The crossbowmen failed to harm their attackers with their hurriedly launched bolts, and the vampire captain and his companions inflicted a brutal slaughter upon them. The last few fled and the undead riders’ mounts clattered over the bastion to penetrate the defences. Maria cast a deadly curse upon the dedicants fighting her wraiths, killing no less than eight of them, then the hex wraiths killed two more (again, just enough to ensure that the necromantic magic animating them stayed strong).
The Crypt Horrors found themselves facing a great mass of dedicants, ensconced behind a sturdy earth and timber wall.
They were to prove no match for the frenzied hacking of so many halberds, and all but one perished in the ensuing fight.
From behind, the necromancer Saffiro could see that it would take a lot more than a few horrors to defeat such a body.
Maria was also cognizant of the situation and took a moment to consider who to command to charge next. The Hexwraiths had completely tied up the other body of dedicants, but she wanted both regiments utterly destroyed. This was the army who had killed her pet Adolfo, and they would pay for their action.
There was a pleasing sense of reassurance in the fact that she was in a position to make such choices. She was not being forced to respond to the enemy’s manoeuvres but had firmly gained the initiative. Victory, she believed, was surely hers. Many of her soldiers still had to die to achieve that victory, but considering they had died before and yet still served her, it seemed of little consequence to her.
She was so delighted with how things stood that she failed to notice Barone Pietro and his surviving riders off to her right. They had seen her though, and the barone had the mad thought that perhaps he could take her on.
And so it was they closed upon her, the riders to loose their arrows, the Barone to fire his pistols.
Yet to no effect at all. Almost idly, Maria turned to look upon them, a kind of evil euphoria coursing through her. She saw them now as nothing more than a potential annoyance. She even smiled as she wondered if they knew it themselves.
While she leered at them, her hexwraiths continued their bloody work, slaying half a dozen more dedicants, whilst the last of her brute Horrors was cut down. Then she turned away, her mind made up – the ghouls would charge next.
Your words were like the kiss of death to the Morrites, Unas!
The Battle of the Isean Hills Continued
The great mob of ghouls, who now equalled the enemy’s regiment in size thanks to the brute Horrors’ attacks and the cultists own murderous flagellations to maintain their state of crazed frenzy, charged headlong into the defences.
Maria cantered without undue haste to the side of the hex-wraiths and watched as Captain Bernhardt and his knights turned to threaten the Reman soldiery within the camp.
Whilst the winds of magic proved little more than a gentle breeze, so that not one spell could be successfully conjured, the fight between the ghouls and the dedicants proved very bloody indeed. Seventeen dedicants dies in the initial assault, and eighteen ghouls! (Game Note: The ‘End is Nigh’ roll meant the dedicants could re-roll to hits and to wounds for their 38 (yup!) attacks. In light of this, perhaps 18 seems like a bad result!) Two more ghouls collapsed from the weakening of the magics that kept them whole.
Captain Vogel knew he had to act decisively, before the enemy riders could launch themselves at him and his men. But when he ordered a charge, his so-called professionals proved wanting, and the hesitant lurch that resulted meant that the initiative was lost. The vampire Bernhardt and his knights were already spurring their fleshless horses into action. Standing with the Remans, Father Lorenzo quickly realised that something had gone awry, and so prayed for Morr’s Holy Protection to be gifted upon the men with him. He sensed its power as it enfolded them.
Upon the bastion-battery on the Disciplinati’s right, the cannoneers had shoved packets of grape shot down their pieces’ muzzles, and now both guns blasted the skeletons below them, shattering seven. (Game Note: 10 + 10 shots, but with 8th ed rules, you have to roll to hit as well as wound.) The bony warriors barely noticed, which in truth was the case most of the time!
The broken machine trundled about behind the defences, it’s crew’s shame exacerbated by the knowledge it was highly unlikely they would ever to get the chance to prove themselves or their machine in future battles, due to the fact that they were almost certainly going to die in this one.
The Morrite dedicants fighting the ghouls, however, were so gripped with bloodlust that no such defeatist thoughts impinged upon their minds. They now slaughtered the last of the ghouls before them, to the loss of only one of their own to the foe’s vicious claws, but at a cost of two of their own to flagellation. The hexwraiths to their left, however, had cut down another four dedicants amongst their brother regiment, who despite their manic efforts could cause absolutely no harm in return. Meanwhil, Maria rode very close by as if nothing of consequence were occurring!
(Game Note: I was still amazed at what the hex-wraiths were doing, and could only imagine how frustrated I would have been about it if I had commanded the other side! BTW, we had toyed with the idea that the campaign player helping out by commanding an NPC army should command the undead, but as his player character, Lord Alessio Falconi, was currently engaged in a war against Maria’s servants in the south, it seemed only right that he should command here enemies in this game too!)
Maria was smiling, but there was not a soul alive who could see. She blew a kiss to Captain Bernhardt as he glanced at her upon the threshold of his charge, and then she joined him in hurtling headlong into Vogel’s hesitant Remans.
The Necromancer Saffiro had watched the slaughter of both the brute Horrors and the ghouls with interest and was now satisfied to see that only a few dedicants remained upon the defences. “My turn!” he thought to himself, then raised his hands to command his skeletons to charge.
In they went, scrabbling over the piles of corpses strewn before the barricade without a care in the world, to stab a veritable forest of spears at the poor, tired souls on the walls!
Before long there was but one cultist remaining. He stumbled back, his pointed hood so obscuring his sight that he had no idea he was the last. Whatever idea he did have, however, was his last.
While the Hexwraiths’ scythes continued their bounteous harvesting of souls …
… Maria fatally cursed four of the Remans, then momentarily lost control of her magic while resurrected the missing knight. She was only saved from injury by her magical wards. Several more Remans died to the vampires’ and knights’ blades, and two of the knights were cut down in return. Somehow, the Remans had survived the initial impact, but the situation did not look good.
As Maria’s fight went on, cannon balls were fired to little effect, more dedicants were hewn by the wraiths, and crossbpw bolts clattered ineffectually against the corpse cart. Barone Pietro and his company rode to the rear of the undead and watched, aghast, as the slaughter went on. The riders dreaded the thought of charging in. Luckily for them, the barone gave no such command.
Maria now allowed a fury to course through her and she personally cut down six of the Remans. This, added to the bloody work done by Bernhardt and the knights, was too much for the Remans, and they turned to flee. Father Lorenzo was one of the first of them to be cut down in that flight, then Captain Vogel’s head was removed deftly by Bernhardt, while the remainder joined them in death soon enough.
As the crossbowmen on the hill wished they had run away when they had the chance, and the gunners abandoned their pieces to tumble pell-mell down the far slope, Barone Pietro suddenly realised that he and his men might be the only ones to escape the slaughter!
the holy crusade has been pushed too far, without the strenght to sustain it... and when the luck doesn't support you, there are little chances against undead. No pity for the living!
i am well aware that ethereal units can change by themselves a battle, if faced by an unprepared opponent. Against them, it's not a good thing to rely on combat res, being supported only by ranks, banners and similar,. The magical attacks in the first turn should have been directed against the hexwraiths.
I know what you mean bu pushing too far, but when you are mono-maniacal cultists who believe a god is on your side, then pushing too far is what you do!
Also, great point about the magical attacks. Then again, even if I had been commanding the Morrite army, I doubt it would have occurred to me that I had to immediately target the hexwraiths with the Luminark. I think had the wraiths suffered losses, then unless the vampires could have resurrected the casualties, the battle could have been very different.
Also, great point about the magical attacks. Then again, even if I had been commanding the Morrite army, I doubt it would have occurred to me that I had to immediately target the hexwraiths with the Luminark. I think had the wraiths suffered losses, then unless the vampires could have resurrected the casualties, the battle could have been very different.
Yeah, it's a matter of experience, and to know what they can do. even in small points games, every "all comers" list i write, contains at least 2-3 ways to deal with ethereal. Of course, even with such attentions, it's not always so easy.
The poor Disciplinati lost the Praepositus Generalis's blessed torch-bearing bodyguard unit in the fight against Adolfo. All they had left was prayers and the engine. Maestro Angelo da Leoni's abandoned project he gifted them to get them off his back! He must have known it was no good when he abandoned it!!! (He did talk about it quite extensively in an earlier story.)
“Not bad, this stuff,” declared the Cooper Artur Scharff. In one hand he clutched a tankard, in the other a flask he had tapped some of the wine into so that they could all have a taste. Only the carpenter Gerino had refused, for he was distracted by a bottle of port he had found.
“Not bad at all. If the other barrels are as good, we should be selling this, not drinking it. With the price this’d fetch, we could buy five times its weight of the kind of wine our boys’d be happy with.”
“You saying we’re cheap?” asked Geoberto. “’Cos I’ll have you know my palate is as sharp as any connoisseur’s when it comes to drink.”
“You long since burnt away any palate you ever had with strong liquors,” laughed Artur. “Did for your hair too!”
“That was practice, long and hard,” said Geoberto, “which makes me the perfect drinker.”
They were discussing their ill-gotten gains on Luccini’s southern outskirts, where a wide path led from the city down to the Almond Sands. The city had a fine harbour, with wharves a-plenty for ships of every size, but it was guarded by two stone artillery bastions, so the Sartosan pirates had disembarked from boats on the sands then marched up to assault the city from the landward side. Now that Luccini was taken, most of the vessels had moved to the city harbour, but a couple of ships and their boats, those belonging to Captain Garique, had for reasons only the captain himself really knew, remained at the sands. Which was why Garique’s crew were trudging back and forth from the beach, hauling their considerable share of the loot on the way down.
Not all of them, though, just the younkers and the foremast men. The sea artists and officers were busy drinking and talking. Artur was sniffing the wine, then allowing it to roll around in his mouth before swallowing. The others were either humouring him or had failed to notice.
Artur stroked one of the barrels and nodded in appreciation of the cooper’s skill.
“Seems to me,” he declared, “that we’ve already taken enough loot to satisfy the captains. We could disperse the fleet right now and there’d be no one a-complainin’, no bitterness nor disappointment and only praise for the admiral. And we took it easy.”
“Tell that to Oskar Furst,” said Gerino, who had started listening. Some of the port he had been sampling a moment before was dribbling down his black beard.
The admiral’s first mate, ironically named Furst, along with a number of Volker’s own crew, had died before the Sartosans even got off the beach, shot by a troop of Luccinan pistoleri left behind when the young king had marched off to war against the ogres.
“Someone was bound to be hurt,” said Artur. “You can’t expect to take a city like this without a little blood spilled. But think, if the king had been here with his army, however meagre it might be, there’d have been a lot more of us than Furst an’ a few of his lads piled at the garden’s gate.”
Geoberto laughed. “The pile’s big enough, what with all the Luccinans.”
“Their fault for arguing,” said the gunner, Isacco. “If they’d have had the sense to yield immediately, then everything would have turned out just the same, but they’d all be here to watch us.”
A pistol shot cracked from behind them, and they turned to look over the fence. One of Admiral Volker’s crewmen was responsible, from Furst’s watch, and was now stood over the man he’d killed.
“Another fool arguing, no doubt,” said Isacco. “People should know when they’re beat, furl their sails and run before the wind.”
Isacco always had a sombre tone, a consequence of his somewhat pessimistic philosophy. It was said he had been a proper scallywag in his youth but had changed when a gun he was tending shivered and killed everyone around him, somehow leaving him with not a scratch, other than a missing toe.
“Maybe so,” said Geoberto, “But wouldn’t you complain a little if you were being robbed? There’s no need for real nastiness, just the show of it would suffice. We’re taking everything else they have. We could at least leave them with their lives.”
They watched as the shooter rolled the corpse over with his foot, perhaps to see if he was dead.
“Let the fellow grieve,” said Gerino. “Furst was well liked.”
Gerino took another swig from his bottle, and Artur drew some more wine from the tapped barrel.
“You said we should sell it, not drink it,” said Geoberto.
Artur looked up as the red fluid trickled into his flask. “Can’t sell this one, now it’s been tapped. There’s plenty more.”
“This is all our share, then?” asked Geoberto.
“It is. The captain made good choices when it came to laying claim to portions. We’ll get some carts to take this lot down to the beach.”
Gerino pointed down to where a little stream crossed the path. “They didn’t wait for a cart.”
Peering down, they could all see two fellows struggling with a barrel just on the other side of the water.
“That’s but a little one, and it ain’t the same vintage. Still, I’ll see to it that they’re the last to try that. If they drop the barrel it’ll ruin the wine even if it don’t break right open.”
“That one’ll be for the captain to drink,” said Geoberto. “They’ll not drop it. Not just now anyway, what with him so close. He took a barrel for his cabin last time.”
“As was proper,” said Artur. “It’s in the articles.”
They could all see Captain Garique standing near the two with the barrel, with Tito Álvares by his side, toting his beast of a gun.
Garique had been supervising the removal of goods, utilising his unsheathed cutlass to point out which loot was to be carried next; ordering the tardy men to hurry up and those being careless to slow down. He was one of the oldest captains in the fleet, before that first mate to the admiral back when the admiral was only just elected captain himself. For some years he had been a captain in his own right, never once voted out, and well respected by his crew as a stickler for fairness (which was why it was only a small barrel he had taken for his own cabin). Bitter experience - the witnessing so much treachery, cheating and trickeries - had made him very suspicious of the other captains, even the admiral. Tito was often by his side, and thus Tito’s many-barrelled handgun, just in case a point needed making in no uncertain terms. It rarely did.
Garique’s share included much more than the wine. Several chests of precious metal and gems had been allotted to him, from which each of his crewmen expected their own shares.
As per the articles, the captain would receive four shares in the prize, the sea artists and officers two, the sailors one and the boy (being only half a man) half a share. Some of the chests were huge, so big that a single man could no hope to lift them.
Those who were not lugging the loot were guarding its transit. The larger chests had blunderbuss and handgun armed escorts, while watchful sentinels were dotted all along the route.
Luccini’s pistoliers had successfully scarpered after their brief assault, and so could conceivably return. As it was not known where exactly King Ferronso and his army were, no one could be sure he was not on his way home right now. Mostly, however, they were keeping an eye out for other Sartosans. Driven by greed and possessing of some flimsy excuse about gambling debts or compensation or some such, it was entirely possible that some other crews might choose to interrupt the loot’s journey to the sands.
“The fleet’ll not be splitting up now, Artur,” said Isacco. “This has been just a taster of what’s to come. They say the brute Boulderguts took everything from the cities and towns inland, which leaves the coast all to us. I say Luccini was easy, and the next place will be easy too. The noble lords have taken their armies north. There’s nothing to stop us.”
“There might be plenty to stop us,” said Gerino. “I’ve been to Remas, and Portomaggiore and Alcente. They’re great powers. They can march an army away and still have an army at home if they choose to.”
“So where is next, then?” asked Geoberto.
Artur swallowed his biggest gulp yet. “You might be right about Alcente and Portomaggiore, Gerino," he said, "but Remas has been wracked by rebellion and riots, and has sent armies north, south and west. If the Remans have anything more than Luccini had to defend their walls I’ll eat my hat.”
“And wash it down with wine?” grinned Geoberto.
“It’s all about surprise,” said Isacco. “Remas is too obvious. Rich, old, battered to buggery, it’s where everyone will be expecting us to go. We could take somewhere smaller next. Maybe Volker knows we can take Alcente or Portomaggiore? Maybe we only took Luccini first because it was the closest?”
“Or the admiral wanted to try us out,” suggested Artur. “Flash our pans to make sure we’re ready for a real fight?”
(For some reason, despite me re-inserting them, some images are not showing for me. Bizarrely they show when I edit, but then don't show in the post. It hasn't happened in other forums. Hopefully it is just my machine that is letting me down???)
(For some reason, despite me re-inserting them, some images are not showing for me. Bizarrely they show when I edit, but then don't show in the post. It hasn't happened in other forums. Hopefully it is just my machine that is letting me down???)
Thanks for saying, Unas. The pics are all working on mine now too! Huzzah.
So, everything is better with pirates? Cool. But ... what about skaven (or 'ratto uomo')? Do they improve things. I know some of my players will not be happy. They really don't like tabletop battles against them!
The Message-Letter Somewhere in Tilea.
Three of the Grey Seer’s servants were making their hurried way to him. For an otherwise abandoned stretch of tunnel, there was a lot of noise as they progressed, what with the crunching of the gravel beneath their feet, the clattering of the lantern the servant Bolk held aloft to illuminate their passage, and the strained wheezing sound of Gradger’s mask-assisted breathing. All this was amplified by the close stone walls around them, conjoining and reverberating, so that when they did speak they had to shout – or, more accurately, squeal.
“Your message-letter, Farrgrin, important is it? Yes, yes?”
“Never look, never read, just carry. That is my task-burden. Not for my eyes, see?” Farrgrin glanced back to indicate that they were being watched even now, for Bolk had more responsibility than merely lugging the lantern. Whether or not Gradger, his vision restricted by the small, thick glass lenses of his mask, noticed the gesture, Farrgrin did not know.
“Has to be important. It is for the lord-master. He will not look upon petty gossip and chatter-drivel.”
“You are asking what you should not be asking,” snapped Farrgrin. “Best be silent, or I might suspect-believe you to be a spy-traitor.”
“Not-ever I,” said Gradger. “Always obey, never shirking.”
“Well and good, best for all,” declared Farrgrin, nevertheless tightening his clutch upon the scroll.
They were in one of the lesser tunnels, leading from a little used exit. There were no breeding pits, slave pens, mine entrances or fungus caverns along this stretch, and nor had there ever been. Perhaps it had originally been intended as a sally port, or an emergency escape route? Farrgrin cared not, to him it was simply a satisfactorily secretive option.
Gradger’s mask let out a strained hiss as he took a deep intake of breath, and Farrgrin knew another comment would follow.
“I ask-enquire only because of Josgrach,” he said. “His was important news - the collapse, shoddy work-failings, fools in charge - which angered the lord-master. Rightly so, yes, yes, rightly so. Important news it was and the end of Josgrach. Bearer of bad tidings and killed-dead because of it.”
“It is not-ever for us to question the lord-master,” said Farrgrin.
“But yet what of us, I ask and plead, if this is grave and disturbing news? Are we to be blame-punished for the mere carrying of it?”
“The lord-master knows-sees that which we cannot. Failings, you said? Perhaps Josgrach failed, see? Late-delayed, or talk-chattering too much, see?”
Farrgrin picked up the pace a little, and began to outstrip Gradger, running almost beyond the limit if the lantern’s light.
“Listen well, listen hard, understand,” he continued. “Learn from Josgrach’s fate, not fear, but sense. What is important is that we carry this message-letter prompt, quick, secret. So keep up! And shut up! See?”
They were approaching the end of the tunnel, where it met with a well-used passageway close to the Grey Seer’s cavern-chambers.
“Here, now, the guards,” hissed Farrgrin. “Remember my advice-words and live.”
Gradger allowed himself to drop back further, so that Bolk was between him and Farrgrin. A moment later they rounded the bend to the junction.