Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Domovoi War - 435PC

The Domovoi war was fought between the Kaalroen Empire and the Holy Sigmarite Empire in 435PC. Since the success of the HSE's Ogre army in 424PC the Empire had been gradually extending its influence in the east, with the Drazkharov influence growing in the North, and the count of Wurmlingen's estates growing ever eastwards, extending the province of Niederland and making the count the de-facto ruler of the state.

The Drazkharov's had, by 435PC, divided the growing state of Holwingen in two, forming a new state, Mallenstien, around the river town of Mallendorf, which had grown increasingly prosperous since its founding just a decade earlier. The Emperor Louis II approved this action, and sanctioned the expansion of the Empire into the lands east of Pellenar, while continuing to recognise the King of Pellenar's independence.

The major barrier to eastward expansion had always been the raids by the Kaalroen Empire into the western foothills of the Mallvass mountains, but during the 5th century secretive talks had been taking place in Hovedstaden, with the aim of securing a treaty with the lord of the Kaalroens, recognising the HSE's right to colonise all of Canaur. The negotiations had been long and relatively fruitless, and it appeared that lord Tragean was in fact enjoying toying with the Sigmarite ambassador.

Nevertheless, expansion east continued, and the Empire prospered, until 435PC, when two enormous Domovoi armies massed at the passes of the mountains. One tracked north towards the Mallend Gap, and the Count of Holwingen dispatched an army to prevent them from passing into the Emperor's lands. Once again the Count's elite greatswords and host of free company were able to defeat the chaos army, routing them from the field. A few onlookers in Mallendorf commented on how the army marched through the settlement only by cover of darkness and never showed their faces, but this only added to the mystery of the count's armies...

Meanwhile a second Domovoi army had penetrated the Mallvass mountains further south, and began ravaging settlements along the lesser Canaur. Louis II acted swiftly and the standing army of the HSE was in the field before the Domovoi could reach the gates of Wurmlingen.

Outside the town, the two armies drew up for battle, but as the Domovoi approached, disaster struck the Empire army, as one by one their artillery blew apart, the cause later being attributed to a suspect order of gunpowder. Very soon the Sigmarites found themselves with but one cannon, but that cannon proved to be sufficient, as a well placed cannonball blasted the chaos sorcerer from his monstrous mount, defeating the magical wardings which may have protected him.

The Domovoi came on however, unphased by the loss of their sorcerer. Seeing an opportunity present itself the empire general, Templar Grand Master Gerhard Von Schmekt, rode his cavalry onto a hill to the left of the battlefield, while the Empire infantry stood steadfast in the valley below. As the greatswords prepared to meet the charge of the Domovoi, Von Schmekt's knights crested the hill and charged down into the flank of the enemy force. After dispatching a mighty Shaggoth, the knights crashed into the Chaos footsoldiers. This left only the chaos knights to charge the Empire infantry, and the greatswords held their ground, cutting the enemy cavalry down to a man.

The knights made short work of the chaos foot troops, and soon the battle became a complete massacre, with only one brave - or very foolish - chaos sorcerer staying to fight. Furious at his army's defeat, the sorcerer made straight for the Empire battle wizard, and a bizarre hand to hand duel then took place, while the rest of the Empire army looked on perplexed. Eventually Von Schmekt and his cavalry arrived, and dispatched the enemy wizard, sadly too late to save the screaming Empire battle wizard, who had been strangled.

The two decisive victories over the Domovoi didn't appear to bother lord Tragean, and negotiations continued, as fruitlessly as ever. Louis II was still keen to have a treaty with the Kaalroens, but he had to make sure the Grand Theogenist, Josef IV, didn't find out. As Ravensfeld was founded by the Count of Wurmlingen on the eastern fringe of the realm, Josef was out in the streets, calling for a "great crusade" against Chaos. Quietly Louis wondered whether his biggest enemies were the other empires of Palurin, or his own church.

Ogre Kingdom suffers setbacks

It was not the chaos worshippers of the Kaalroen Empire who troubled the new Ogre Kingdom as the middle of the 5th Century approached. Following the battle of Alluvium in 408PC relations between the Ogres and Mellvellon had soured. The Kingdom lay on the important trade route to the west, where elven caravans would bring fine objects and craftsmanship to the Holy Sigmarite Empire and Cuitlaxaochitzin, in return for gold and other raw materials.

Although the Kaalroen Empire took its own share of the trade with its "trading post" at Grattistad, the trade flowed relatively unmolested between east and west. However during the 5th century, caravans were ever more frequently raided while crossing the Mallvass mountains, and it was clear the Ogre Kingdom was sponsoring the raids, or at least doing nothing to stop them.

In 429PC the lords of the high elves sent a "delegation" to the hall of the overtyrant, backed up by a strong army. The Ogres refused to agree to Mellvellon's terms, and a battle ensued. The elves were successful and forced the Ogres into a treaty ensuring protection for the trade between east and west, or they would sack the Ogre capital.

Eleven years later the Ogres of Graag, loyal to the rulers of Cuitlaxaochitzin, sent an expedition to the Ogre Kingdom to settle a point of pride. Ogres escorting lizardmen trade caravans to Mellvellon had been taunted and derided by the Ogre kingdom scouts, labelling them lackeys, slaves and fools. The Ogres of Graag made it quite plain they were just as much a part of the great kingdom of Cuitlaxaochitzin as the slaan or skinks, and underlined this fact by bringing and army before the great hall and defeating the Ogre Kingdom's warriors in open battle.

Skaven expedition defeated

They had been lost in the jungles for weeks. Grittik had looked on, exasperated, as the Chief Warlock Skrix turned the map over and around, time and again, occasionally glancing up and down the jungle paths, tail jerking nervously, then turning his perplexed gaze back to the tattered map grasped in his paw. Skrix clearly didn’t have a clue where they were supposed to be going. Given the circumstances, most Chiefs would by now have been quickly... err, retired, yes-yes... but Skrix had managed to maintain a facade of confidence and authority throughout the trek deep into the heart of Cuitlaxaochitzin.

But Grittik and the other warlocks of the Guild’s warpstone expedition were tiring of the pressing jungle heat, persistent bites and stings from tropical bugs, and seemingly endless trudging. Grittik had acquired a huge blistering sore on his tail where a bloat fly had nipped him four days ago. Things had continued to get worse as the army became increasingly strung out on the march, each cohort becoming separated from the others as they navigated tangled vines, noxious bubbling swamps and venomous thickets. Frettin’s clanrats were falling way behind, and the Unscurried hadn’t been sighted since those pompous, puffed-up Stormvermin decided to go left around the lake instead of going right with the rest of the expedition, claiming to “know better than any bunch of worthless litter-runts”.

Chitters of dissention were passing between the warlocks when Skrix’s back was turned. If he was allowed to continue in this folly they could all end up trapped in this tropical hell forever. But Chief Warlock Skrix’s potent and unstable blend of genius and paranoia made it hard to judge the right moment to enact his “demotion”.

Grittik stopped, resting his weapon against a tree to uncork his water bottle, when he heard a SNAP in the thicket up ahead. He froze to the spot. Some of the others had heard it too. The air danced with twitching whiskers as dozens of anxious noses sniffed the cloying jungle air. Then, like the first thunderclap of a storm, the jungle erupted in a cacophony of raucous bellowing, pounding footfalls and discharged blackpowder weapons. Bursting through the mist and undergrowth came a ferocious warband of Ogres. Each of them was easily five or six times Grittik’s height and at least twenty times his weight. They roared their war-cry as they charged towards the Skaven, the canopies above shaking with the force of the avalanche of Ogres surging beneath.

“Ambush!!” the cry went up, though any who hadn’t realised instantly what was going on must have had their brains addled by swamp pox. Clanrats swirled around in disarray as the Ogres bore down on them. Grittik threw himself down on his belly and scrabbled beneath the carriage of the ponderous cannon that had, just moments before, been lumbering up behind him. Just with a whisker to spare too, as the Ogres crashed past him and on into the assembled clanrats who were serving as the Chief Warlock's personal escort.

Grittik watched from his hiding place as the Ogres milled through his comrades. The brute leading the Ogres’ attack stopped in the midst of the clanrats, reached down momentarily, then leapt back up and thrust his arm in the air as if in triumph. Wide-eyed, Grittik saw Chief Warlock Skrix firmly locked in the monster’s iron grip. Scrabbling against the gnarled fingers of his captor, Skrix was screeching hysterically as the shovel hand brought him in towards the hulking Ogre’s gaping yellow-toothed maw. Grittik turned away and closed his eyes tightly just in time to miss the end, but he couldn’t block out the nauseating CRUNCH as the Ogre made short work of the morsel that had been the once-proud Chief Warlock.

Grittik could just peer out from under the gun carriage to make out dozens of iron-shod feet stomping towards his hiding place from across a clearing to his right. He had to move or risk getting crushed beneath the wood and iron frame when the Ogres inevitably smashed the gun to kindling. Overcome by a sudden and personally unexpected attack of reckless courage (a most disturbing and unsettling sensation for any sane rat), Grittik scampered out on all fours and rushed to the tree where his weapon still rested. He seized the barrel, knowing that if he was going to get out of this with his life he’d somehow have to slow the Ogres down first.

Paws shaking, Grittik levelled the barrel at his oncoming foes and squeezed the trigger. There was a hooting WHOOSH! and with a sprouting tail of smoke the rocket left the tube and spiralled up into the air, smashing low branches and shaking loose a shower of leaves. Grittik allowed himself a moment of malevolent satisfaction as the rocket screamed towards the target, only to have his optimism turn to dismay as the projectile corkscrewed widely and veered off through the canopy. He heard the dull, thudding BUMPH! somewhere in the distance, the accompanying cloud of warp-tinted smoke mushrooming up through the trees. Grunts and cries of a score of dismayed Ogres he hadn’t even seen echoed back. At least he’d hit something.

However, Grittik was now acutely aware of his peril. The jungle air was filled with the gleeful bellows of rampaging Ogres, the screams of massacred clanrats and the acrid stench of burning warpfire. More pressing, the Ogres that he had tried to shoot at looked none too pleased at having a rocket fired at them. On the contrary, the look of unbridled battle-rage contorting their faces quite convinced Grittik that retreat was the better part of valour.

With that he turned and fled, all four paws kicking up the dirt and leaves of the jungle floor as he made off into the dense brush. After some distance, with the Ogres mercifully falling behind, he came upon towering tree trunk. Without hesitation he shot up it, digging his frantic claws into any nook or crevice that afforded a hand-hold. Some forty feet up, safely in the canopy, he paused. Tongue lolling and panting heavily for breath, Grittik could espy the Unscurried making their way into the battle. The Stormvermins' wickedly barbed halberds glinted steel death in the dappled forest light, but Grittik thought it best to see out the rest of the battle from up here. What good could he do down there anway? Besides, someone would need to take up the post of Chief Warlock when this was all over.

The Holy Sigmarite Empire in the 5th Century PC

In the 5th Century PC the Holy Sigmarite Empire is the largest human Empire on Palurin. There are smaller dominions of men, including the satellite protectorates of Pellenar, Ebenland and Kustenland, but the HSE dominates them all. Founded by Empire explorers many of the customs and traditions of the Holy Sigmarite Empire have remained largely unchanged since the first explorers set foot on the new world. The HSE has expanded greatly since its beginning, but it is still ruled by the hereditary monarchy of the Alptraum family, whose colours are yellow and black. The religious leadership of the nation comes from the Grand Theogonist of Sigmar, or the Pontiff, who wields great influence, although no real political power.

The Empire is divided into several states, each of which is ruled by an aristocratic family. The state is then further divided into provinces which are ruled by lesser lordlings. Each lord and lordling is expected to protect their own lands and set their own laws in line with the teachings of Sigmar. They are also expected to pay taxes to the Imperial coffers, but any change in taxation must be agreed upon by consent of a majority of the states, in a gathering known as the Imperial Court. Th Emperor also has a large standing army which is also his house army, as the ruling Alptraum family also governs the capital state of Sigmarheim.

The HSE has a large Ogre population, as Ogre mercenaries made up a significant proportion of the original settlers. The Ogres of the HSE are fiercely loyal to their adopted state, as they themselves helped to build it. Although the Ogres hold no positions of real power, The chieftan of the Ogres is the nominal head of the HSE military, much to the irritation of the aristocratic lords. In addition the Ogres contribute substantially to the Empire's income, usually by campaigning against the Empire's enemies, and they are given large license in their expeditions, and can keep half the loot of their campaigns.

The West
The West of the Empire is also the most populous, and almost half the population live in this region, which stretches from the Duron mountain range in the north to the border of Hoffenland. The states of Bergland, Helland, Neuland, Sigmarheim and the Nimarn Valley make up the west, and they contain the largest city in the HSE and its capital, Sigmarheim. Hellveg is also a major town on the river Nimarn. The Sigmarite church is based in the capital, and the Imperial palace and Cathedral of Sigmar are the largest and most impressive structures in the Empire.

The West is the oldest region of the Empire and has the oldest noble families and traditions. Westerners tend to look down on the other regions, particularly in the aristocracy. The fertile lands of the Nimarn Valley also make the region the richest in the Empire, and the populous here tend to be the most loyal to the Emperor and his family, whilst also being the least religious.

The South
The south consists of Hoffenland, Sudhafen and Galamor, along the coast of Galamor Bay. Since 420PC Hoffenland has extended to the Pan Coron Ocean, with the new harbour town of Eichenwald sited as the Empire's newest port. The south is dominated by fishing industries and naval power, and Galamory is the home of the privateer navy of the HSE, a group of licensed but privately run warships, who often act outside the control of the Emperor on the high seas. So long as they don't start a major war and pay a share of their profits to the crown, the Emperor has in general turned a blind eye to the activities of the privateers. The official Holy Sigmarite Navy is based at Sudhafen, but has only been in action once, against the navy of Typhus, with disastrous results. It is generally looked down upon by the privateers of Galamory, who see the Imperial Navy as for show rather than doing anything useful.

The south is generally loyal to the Emperor, but even less religious than the west, and the official religion of Sigmar is often surplanted by that of the Goddess of the Sea, Manann. The people of the south have an affinity with the sea, and are often regarded as a little strange by the rest of the Empire, and their customs are the most divergent from the rest of the nation. The south has also been plagued by Dark Elf and Skaven raids for hundreds of years, and the populace are generally keen on enjoying life as much as possible rather than worrying about the future.

The East
The east consists of Schinderland, which was the largest state in the Empire before the expansion of Hoffenland, Dortland, and Niederland, and its population is mainly concentrated on the Great and Lesser Canaur. Schinderland is a state of rolling meadows and dispersed settlements, with much of the population living in and around its seat of power in Niederdam, the Empire's second largest city which is also home to the Empire's colleges of magic. Niederland is the furthest east of the Empire states, and is more populous than Schinderland, its rich and fertile soil providing ideal farming land for its inhabitants. Wurmlingen on the Lesser Canaur and Oberbrucken on the Greater Canaur are the largest settlement. Dortland is similar, though smaller, with its seat at Gross Dortbeck.

The easterners are the most religious, or even pious of Sigmar's lands. The East is the newest part of the Empire, with Niederland only having half the history of the west, and Dortland even less. In the east the cult of Sigmar is very strong, and pilgrims will often walk barefoot to the cathedral in Sigmarheim. Ulricans, already a minority in the Empire are distrusted and often discriminated against. The level of education is also poorer in general, as most of the region is made up of farmers, although Niederdam does boast a university as well as the Colleges of Magic.

The North
The north of the Empire is comprised of just two states. Ancient Nordingland is ruled from Weissbruck, and for centuries was the northern border of the Holy Sigmarite Empire. Then in the third century PC the Drazkharov family, who trace their lineage from Kislevite kings, were given a lordly seat at Krahefort. Since then they have expanded their state of Holwingen to the north and east, and established Erichsbrucken and Franzbruck on the northern reaches of the Canaur. The north is colder than the south, with harsh snowy winters, and is populated sparsely. The soil is poorer and the gentle valleys in the south give way to bleak moors and forbidding forests. Most of the population of the north live in one of the three major settlements, but unlike the other HSE states Holwingen is ruled not from a settlement, but from the Castle of Krahefort, the Empire's largest and most impressive fortification.

The people of the north live more simply than those in the south, and the settlements are built of stone and thatch, rather than half timber and slate. Harvests are poorer and food more difficult to find, and this is often very dependent on the weather, and as such the population tend to be superstitious in nature, mistrustful of the decadent ways and easy lifestyles of the south and west.

Adler An Zee
Adler An Zee is the newest addition to the Empire, a new colony bought from the dwarfs in 376PC in exhange for the Duron Mountains. A large number of Ulricans have moved here, eager to be free of the discrimination of the HSE mainland, and over 50% of Adler An Zee worship gods other than Sigmar. A large Ogre population has also moved to Adler An Zee, as it is nearer the campaigning grounds of the Kaalroen Empire and Typhonian Enclave.

Kustenland is the smallest independent human nation recognised by the Holy Sigmarite Empire. It is completely surrounded by the HSE and totally reliant on it for its continued existence. Kustenlanders are mostly peasant farmers, and most of those who want something different out of life end up in the Empire anyway. In time the full merger of Kustenland with the HSE is an almost certainty.

Ebenland is very similar to Kustenland, though larger and its inhabitants, mostly trappers and rangers, are fiercely independent. Much of Ebenland is marshland and of very little value.

Pellenar is the largest independent human realm after the HSE, ruled by a King from the capital Ingolrop. Its customs are similar to those of Old Kislev, and it is believed to have been founded by Kislevite travellers a few centuries after the establishment of the HSE. Successive Emperors of the Empire have recognised and guaranteed the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Pellenar, though a number have tried to peacefully integrate the realm into the HSE.

Pellenar is dominated by flat grasslands, which make it the ideal land for horses, and it is horse breeding at which the kingdom excels. Most Empire knights and nobles prefer a Pellenar steed, and the people of Pellenar are often known as the "horse lords".

Monday, 24 October 2011

Palurin Political - 424PC

Holy Sigmarite Empire 408-424PC

The Count of Holwingen had showed little sign of slowing with his advancing years. Rather, Count Drazkharov had helped to maintain the impetus of the Emperor Wolfgang’s campaign of expansion into Louis’ reign. In 410PC the Count and his lady wife Anastasia sailed to Adler an Zee at the head of a host of a thousand soldiers, pledging their support and protection to the new colonies.

Igor and Anastasia toured the new settlements to meet the smallfolk there, and personally brought supplies and provisions to the pioneers who forged westward to annex the territories of New Aranur. Anastasia was noted to dote on the tales of the smallfolk and take great interest in their adventures of the new lands. The Count himself led a joint counter-attack against Skaven invaders later that year, and his soldiers were rapturously received by thronging crowds who celebrated the victory along the streets of Ulrichshafen. In no small part did this victory over the vile rat-men weigh in the Drazkharovs' favour when they brokered a marriage for their eldest daughter, Izolda, to the young Lord Mortiz of Ulrichshafen, second son of the venerable and well-respected Moritz family of Nordingland.

Holwingen was still equally as fierce in its defence of the Empire at home, and in 416PC the Krahefort Guard mustered in the passes of the Durom Ranges to successfully repel a a Lizardman incursion from Cuitlaxaochitzin that otherwise threatened to overwhelm the Empire’s northern borders. Igor and Anastasia became much beloved in the Holy Sigmarite Empire as brave and just protectors of the people of the north. As the influence of Holwingen rose, other noble houses sought to align themselves with the power of the Krahefort. In 418PC the victor was decided as the Drazkharovs' second daughter, Sophia, was married to the aging Count of Wurmlingen. It was rumoured at the Imperial Court of Sigmarheim that, as part of the marriage deal, Igor and Anastasia had promised their support to the Count’s claim to inheritance of the long-contested state lands of Niederland.

Emperor Wolfgang concentrated on domestic matters towards the end of his reign. In these years the count of Holwingen extended his control over the north, while Wolfgang was blessed with three Grandchilden by his hier Louis. In 413PC, just ten months after the birth of Prince Konrad, the Emperor died, aged 67. He remained bitter to the end that he had been unable to extend the control of the Kingdom to the seas of the Pan Coron Ocean, and his son Louis vowed this would be his main aim.

In 416PC Louis began planning a new settlement on the coast of Armaethor. He completed his father's road to the coast in 417 without interference from the Lizardmen, and by 418PC Eichenwald had been established as the Empire's newest port in Armaethor, on the shores of the Pan Coron Ocean.

Eichenwald quickly started drawing trade away from Galamory and Sudhafen, as captains were far more willing to sail into the new Empire port than risk getting too close to the foreboding shores of Arvin and the Dark Elf Dominion. The Count of Sudhafen, irritated by the loss of profits then began discussions with the dwarfs to build a canal connecting the two ports.

The establishment of Eichenwald was met with indifference by Cuitlaxaochitzin, but the armies of Typhus licked their furry lips. Another human settlement, even further from the main armies of the Empire, and harder to defend. By 421PC the Skaven realm was ready to strike and a new raiding force was assembled, making the difficult trip across the Pan Coron Ocean in just a few weeks, arriving in late summer of the same year.

Eichenwald and the surrounding area were not powerless to defend themselves however. Realising how exposed the new town was, and expecting a Lizardman attack, Louis II had stationed a permanent large army in the town. This army became aware of the skaven before they had a chance to sack the city, and marched out to the skaven landing zone in order to halt their advance on Eichenwald.

The skaven gave battle under the setting sun, and the artillery and magic of both sides was brutally effective. Poison gas bombs, warpfire, rocks and all sorts of deranged weaponry were fired at the Empire lines, as well as vicious spells. The Elite Alptraum guard suffered the most, with more than half the regiment lost in the opening exhanges. Still the Imperial army stoically marched forward into the teeth of the skaven guns, firing back with cannon and hellstorm rockets.

The Imperial artillery was no less destructive. The skaven screaming bell was severely damaged, and the core strength of the ratmen horde, the stormvermin, was obliterated by accurate shell fire. The battle reached a climax when the Imperial cavalry delivered the charge, breaking the ratmen's lines and forcing their way through to the screaming bell itself. In the ensuing melee both the skaven general and his infernal war machine were destroyed in a cacophony of rending metal and tortured inhuman screams.

Unfortunately, despite causing horrific casualties to the skaven horde, the Imperial army was almost annihilated. The Empire general, surrounded, panicked and was cut down after his knights had bravely stood and died facing the swarm. Only a handful of state troops limped back to the relative safety of the Eichenwald pallisade, and there they waited for the inevitable skaven assault on the underdefended settlement.

It never came. Typhus' horde had suffered huge losses, despite holding the field. Their general was gone and their war machines damaged or destroyed. Their elite infantry had been slaughtered and only a few thousand clanrats and skaven slaves now remained. Far too few to even think of continuing the raid. The skaven looted what they could from surrounding villages and returned to Boiling Peak with their spoils.

The heroic defeat, while saving the town of Eichenwald, did not please Louis II. Another king had lost another army, and in 422PC his mood turned ever more black after his youngest son, Konrad, succumbed to the plague.

Two years later, Domovoi forces from the Western areas of the Kaalroen empire led by Tyras, Personal Champion of Elder Hors the violent, sought to expand there holdings in that direction. Tyras sent raiders as far as Pellenar, a small nation of humans native to Palurin and under the protection of, though not control of, the Holy Sigmarite Empire. Emperor Louis II was quick to respond, despatching a standing army of Ogres to help the Pellenarians. After a handful of minor skirmishes in which the Ogres crushed smaller raiding parties, Tyras was forced to raise a larger army so as not to lose face in the sight of his master. The two forces clashed on the plains outside Saarborn.

Whilst the large number of Chaos sorcerers used the eight winds to their advantage in the early stages of the battle it was clear that the Domovoi were overwhelmed by the sheer number of ogres arrayed against them. A few individuals managed to escape and return to Novgorod with news of the massacre in the West. Tyras was one of the survivors but had been gored by a mournfang in the final stages of battle. His recovery would take many months and forced a furious Elder Hors to take control of the Domovoi armies himself. Meanwhile the domain of Pellenar welcomed increased talks with the HSE, and allowed a number of Sigmarite missionaries to visit their settlements and spread the good word.

Typhus renews expeditions

Following their retreat from the walls of Sein Craban the standing armies of the Typhurian Enclave had been devastated and scattered. Typhus had emptied Boiling Peak of its garrison to secure his advance on the Elven colony and their loss left him in a perilously weak position.

When patrols around Boiling Peak captured a number of skink spies from the empire of Cuitlaxaochitzin, Typhus feared the weakness of the Enclave had become known. Realising he had to demonstrate his empire's continued strength and resolve beyond doubt or risk invasion, Typhus ordered the agents brutally killed before scraping together what forces he could to launch a punitive retaliatory raid against the Lizardmen. Typhus' small army made landfall under cover of night from their airships and marched directly towards the port of Tacapantzin. Completely surprised by this unexpected aggression the Lizardmen rushed their troops to stall Typhus' advance and buy time to prepare a proper defence of the port.

Finding his path blocked in a narrow pass Typhus himself opened the hostilities, blasting the elite Temple Guard forming the core of the enemy host out of existence with his deadly sorcery. Facing annihilation under a deadly bombardment of poisoned gas the Lizardmen were forced to leave their defensive positions and rush forwards to engage the Skaven. The fighting was exceptionally brutal and bloody and the Skaven were fought to a standstill. Typhus himself was forced to teleport himself back to the fleet when a rampaging Stegadon threatened to trample him in its blind rage. Eventually however the shattered Lizardmen withdrew, hoping they had bought sufficient time to mobilise enough troops to mount a defence of Tacapantzin. The attack never happened. Their victory won and statement made, the Skaven hordes retreated to their fleet and departed back to Boiling Peak. Unknown to his enemies, the small advance guard that had clashed with the Lizardmen had been all that Typhus could throw together and had never posed any threat to the well defended port.

Following their successful raid the fortunes of the Enclave rapidly improved. Typhus established a new city in the south of his realm. Overshadowed by a mighty extinct volcano, Widows Peak would provide a southern base for the large Skaven fleet and allow them to better control the straits between the Great Rhun Sea and the Pan Coron Ocean. The privateer fleets of the hated Elves of Mellvellon now ran even greater risk of interception if they wanted to hunt in the eastern seas.

The Enclave's fortunes were to wax once again when a delegation from the Kaalroen Empire came to Typhus with an offer of trade. The delegation had initially been ambushed by the alert and paranoid Skaven. It was only after his warriors had been slaughtered and his elite household cavalry were surrounded on all sides that the leader of the delegation succeeded in communicating his wish to parley. Typhus received the Kaalroen's ambassador at a specially orchestrated ceremony at Boiling Peak. Newly raised and equipped legions of troops, paid for with loans from the Warpclaw Guild, marched past in a never ending stream. Elder Dažbog of the Domovoi seemed impressed with the military might of the Enclave although in truth Typhus' army was still small. The ignorant Kaalroens couldn't tell one skaven from another and seemed oblivious that they were in fact watching the same regiments march past them repeatedly, each block of troops rejoining the start of the march once they were safely out of sight of the Kaalroens.

Elder Dažbog was keen to secure Typhus' aid and support against mutual enemies. He showered Typhus with extravagant gifts and even more extravagant flattery, offering to support the Enclave with regular shipments of warpstone and war materials provided Typhus would commit to making war on their mutual foe.

The Enclave, which had been weak and destitute only a few years earlier, was once more strong. Fresh warpstone was being manifested in the giant magical condensers at Boiling Peak to feed the wheels of Skaven industry. As they returned to report their success to the Domovoi Pantheon, the Kaalroen delegation sailed past the island fortress of Tyrant's Gate, a fortress that had not been there when they had passed the island on their way to Boiling Peak.

Kaalroen Empire attempts to extinguish Ogres

The newly established Ogre Kingdom in the Moors of Mourn, just to the east of the Mallvass Mountains, was of great concern to the lords of the Kaalroen Empire in the early part of the 5th Century. Although the lords of Skraeland, Phallicia and Hovedstaden showed no real interest in the tiny kingdom of the Ogres, the Domovoi and the lord of Ayn'Qaahira, whose borders were most threatened, put together a plan to wipe the upstart realm off the map before it could grow.

In 408PC the Domovoi encountered a roving Ogre army on the plains of Canabrin, within the vast expanse of the Kaalroen Empire. The Domovoi soon raise dna army, led by Tanais, champion of elder Smargl, and managed to crush the Ogres on the plains west of the Branmeren Hills. However the Lord of Aayn'Qaahira was not satisfied by this. He knew the Ogres were in a key position to the south east of his realm, and needed removing once and for all. Later in the same year he negotiated a pact with the Cloudy Mountain Orcs, to invade the Ogre Kingdom and sack the Hall of the Overtyrant.

Fortunately for the Ogres, Elven magic divined the plans of Ayn'Qaahira, and before the Orcs could reach the Chaos city and march forth with their allies, an elven warhost arrived bringing news of an imminent attack to the Ogre leader. Together the elves and Ogres formed up before the mighty army of chaos and greenskins, in the largest battle to have taken place on Palurin since the battle of Sein Craban over a hundred years earlier.

The High Elves' motives were clear. Mellvellon, seeing the Kaalroen Empire expanding ever eastward, appreciated a distraction to their enemy's west. If they could foster a continuing enmity between the Ogres and the Kaalroens, then the lords of Chaos would have their gaze deflected from the Elven colonies in the east.

The battle of Alluvium took place between the tower of Ayn'Qahira and the Ogre realm's border, as the elf-Ogre alliance attempted to block their enemy's path south along the only useable road. The battle started badly for the chaos alliance, with the war shrine and chaos knights panicking at the Ogre and Elven firepower, and then proceeded to get worse.

By the end of the battle the chaos and greenskin alliance had suffered a resounding defeat, and fled back north. The Ogre Kingdom expanded its dominion to include much of Alluvium, so that they would receive more warning of chaos attack in the future. Even so, the small Ogre nation sat between a number of powerful Empires, and its very existence still teetered on the brink of annihilation. The elves had saved it this time, but would they continue to do so?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Ogres declare own nation

The moors of mourn were originally colonised accidentally, when three different tribes set up camp at the same time. After seeing a vision of a flaming peak Grut the prophet of fire, tyrant of the Fire guts, led his tribe on a long march south. Bolgut, maneater of the Lead spitters, also headed in the direction of the moors of mourn after a disagreement with an imperial engineer over the price of black powder culminated with the hapless engineer being skinned and eaten. The Lead spitters decided to head east in search of cheaper sulphur deposits. Gorg, giant breaker of the Three fists, lead his tribe east out of the jungles of the lizardmen an army hot on his heels. The Three fists were forced to fight a bloody rear-guard action, culminating in a hard fought stalemate. Unperturbed by the horrendous loses incurred in the jungles of Cuitlaxaochitzin Gorg headed of in search of new territory.

Although the three tribes were initially unaware of each other, they all sent parties to the flaming peak. It was there in a great natural pit half a mile across high in the mountains that the three tyrants fought in the time honoured tradition of a pit fight. It was Gorg, giant breaker, Three fist who emerged triumphant taking the title of pit Lord, however instead of killing and eating the other tyrants he instead declared himself over tyrant of the fledgling Empire in the moors of mourn.

Ogre Kingdom: A brief history so far:
Year 400 Gorg, giant breaker fights the lizardmen to a bloody stalemate and fleas Cuitlaxaochitzin
Year 402 Gorg defeats Bolgut and Grut to become 1st overtyrant of the Ogre Kingdom
Year 405 gorg tries to deface a chaos monolith but is driven of buy a host of demons, and names the place the challenge stone

King Alarag

King Alarag wasn’t listening. The discussions of the council echoed around him but the sound, like the guttering light of the torches lost in the shadows, dissipated up into the vaulted ceiling of the high throne room. Deep down Alarag yearned to return to workshops. After two hundred years of ruling Karak Grimnil and the Runesmiths’ Guild he was tired, and now longed for the heat of the furnaces and the ringing hammers of his youth. The masters who were being raised nowadays just didn’t compare to those of his far away homeland. Not that many here remembered that place anymore. There were precious few dwarfs left who could be counted old enough to remember the lands to where the Dwarf race traced its lineage. Nearly every Dwarf in the Kingdoms had been born and raised on this new world. True, there was good stone here, but…

The palpable silence around him brought Alarag from his nostalgic reverie. He looked up from the mess of ledgers and reports to notice the new arrival. Recognition brought a smile that cracked his leathery features. “Harval!” he bellowed at his old comrade. Alarag rose from the table and made a move to embrace his friend. “I thought you’d gone north with the prospectors?”

The white bearded dwarf cut a courteous bow but did not return the smile. “Alarag, King, I came as quickly as I could. I knew High King Morgrim would not receive me as you would.”

“Enough of the ‘King’ nonsense, you miserable old grobi,” Alarag chortled, not seeing the pained look etched upon Harval’s face. “What’s up? A thirst, is it? Ale!” The King gestured, somewhat unceremoniously. “Quickly, am I your king or aren’t I? Someone fetch this rascal some ale!”

Harval advanced slowly, tucking his beard into his belt. “No, please... Alarag hear me, I bring word from the new holds in the north, by the Sigmarites-

“Hah! I knew better men in the old lands-“

Harval tried to press on, “I came by ship, Undin’s Vengeance, to warn y-”

“Ah, a fine ship” the King interrupted, “Harval, have you seen the canal we have built in the south? It’s a –“

“Ghouls!” Harval almost winced as he said it, as if the news he bore gave him great pain. It was a single, shouted word, but it leapt around the chamber like a spark threatening to ignite a magazine. “Ghouls, my liege” He repeated the word again, slowly and more quietly.

The throne room was utterly silent. “We wiped them out.” The King half grumbled, half whispered the words, as if their utterance might be enough to bring evil back to haunt them again. But the morbid expression Harval wore gripped the council with fear. Alarag brought himself close enough so that none of the others would see his desperate disbelief. “You’ve come here chasing some half-tale that simply cannot be true!” It was supposed to be an accusation, but sounded in Alarag’s hoarse whisper to be more like an appeal; some other news, anything else. Please, not this.

Harval was unperturbed. “There is word of them in the lands of men. Perhaps just stories, ‘tis true no Dwarf has seen them, but the Elves...”

Someone behind Alarag spat at the mention of “Elves” and more than one greybeard harrumphed his displeasure. Dwarven distaste for Elven-kind was the worst kept secret in the kingdom. Harval scowled down his detractors and continued, “The Elves claim have seen them, fought them even, and have been defeated. I do not think they would lie, Alarag, not in this. And now Karak Haraz grows next to those lands…” He left the rest unsaid.

Age and grief tinged Harval’s voice. The mood in the hall had grown a deal darker, and the air itself seemed chilled as if by mere mention of the ancient foe. “How many of us are left who fought in the Ghouls Wars and still live, still remember Alarag? Morgrim wasn’t there. And the humans think they are just tales to frighten children.”

The elderly king sagged back onto an oaken chair next to the council table. He rubbed his brow, eyes closed as if trying to fight back the flood of unwelcome memories. Finally, he opened his eyes again and spoke. “Grunmar - You take over here.” The slightly less elderly dwarf across the table looked shocked and went pale. He began to stammer out his objections, but before he could speak the crash of the crown hitting the table silenced him.

“Gather our best smiths.” Alarag spoke in a tone that brooked no debate. “Spread the word amongst the other Kings. Pass on to them the… advice… the Elves once gave us long ago. Send word of this to young Morgrim; tell him I’m going north with all our strength. If there are Ghouls amongst the humans, then war will be upon us again. Soon.” His mouth twisted into a sardonic half-smile half-grimace. “I flattened them before, I’ll do it again.”

As Alarag strode from the throne room his mind reeled with old memories. His hammer crashing down as ravening ghouls clawed over the bodies of his fallen comrades. Fluttering flames of an ancient city burning. The face of the tyrant Scorpius swam up before him, fanged mouth screaming black rage, driving at him with a bloodied sword. Memories that haunted his nightmares still.

He was young back then, and strong. But so many good friends had perished in that terrible war. He would have to fight again now, and once again a heavy price would be paid in the blood of his kinsmen.

“Make sure someone packs some good ale and tabac…” The orders of Alarag, once King, trailed away, his voice lost in the shadows.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Domovoi Pantheon

Of all the people of northern wastes none are more zealous and barbaric than the Domovoi. The Domovoi tribes live their entire lives in response to the eight winds of chaos which they believe represents the will of the dark gods. As the winds constantly change, the Domovoi must be able to relocate in-kind. Therefore these people are almost entirely nomadic hunter-gatherers, except for those privileged enough to reside in the only permanent city of the Domovoi, Novgorod. Novgorod sits in the very centre of the tribes’ lands and is the seat for their ruling body, the council of eight, also known as the Domovoi pantheon.

The council of eight actually consists of nine members. There are the eight elders and the Tsar of the Domovoi, a former elder, master of Novgorod and ultimate ruler of the eight tribes. Each of the eight elders is the leader of a separate tribe and is responsible for ruling all the lands in a given direction from the capital. If the winds blow in the direction of their lands then the gods favour them and it is their immediate responsibility to expand their borders and raise icons of devotion.

It is usually left to the champion of the chosen elder to lead the armies during these times of expansion unless a war is being fought, in which case the elder himself will lead the war-host. These champions of the elders are advisers to the council of eight, and upon the death or elevation of their master to Tsar, they will one day become an elder of the Domovoi Pantheon.

Their nomadic lifestyle means that when the armies of the Domovoi march to war it is to the sound of thousands of thundering hooves as they use their mastery of horsemanship to deadly effect. Following the tides of cavalry come the swarms of barbaric tribesman covered in woad and the pelts of nightmarish beasts and fallen foes, ready to rip their foe limb from limb whilst screaming praises to their dark masters.

The Current Tsar:
Tsar Koschei the Deathless (E)

The Council of Eight:
1. Elder Perun Darkhand (NW)
2. Elder Hors the Violent (W)
3. Elder Dažbog (SE)
4. Elder Stribozh Daemon-tongue (N)
5. Elder Simargl (NE)
6. Elder Gamayun (E)
7. Elder Alkonost the All-seeing (S)
8. Elder Mokosh the Flayed (SW)

Champions of the Eight:
1. Ister (NW)
2. Tyras (W)
3. Borysthenes (SE)
4. Gerros (N)
5. Tanais (NE)
6. Hypanis (E)
7. Kalanchak (S)
8. Hypakyris (SW)

The Founding of Ayn'Qaahira

For the first eight days and nights of 390PC, a blue-trailed comet was seen in the skies over Palurin. On the ninth day it plunged like a colossal blade of corruscating light into the deserts to the west of Hjemland. The event was observed by scholars, mages, seers and prophets from the ziggurats of Cuitlaxaochitzin to the ivory towers of Mellvellon, but the Kaalroen Empire was the only faction to successfully locate the impact site. The Tzeentchite 'Qaahira Legion', led by a mighty desert sorceror known only as 'Utinni', discovered a new and vast crater on the edge of the desert. The area was found swarming with daemons that had burst from the warp following the explosion of magical energies. The legion moved swiftly to excise the daemonic incursion and establish control of the crater. They began building a settlement on the edge of the desert, named Ayn'Qaahira, from which to study the site of the cataclysm in order to further the schemes of the Changer of Ways.

Although the shifting sands of the desert, the myriad machinations of Tzeentch and the secrecy of the Qaahira served to keep prying eyes away from this nascent site of arcane power, the arrival of the azure comet had not been forgotten in other realms. In 408PC, an expedition of Ogre raiders was sighted in the desert, heading directly towards the crater. Riding upon a Screamer of Tzeentch bound to his will, Utinni lead his legion forth to meet the gluttonous imbeciles in battle. This thread of fate clearly did not please the Great Manipulator, for both armies were engulfed and scattered in a supernatural sandstorm before either side could strike the decisive blow. As the disoriented Ogre warband marched away to the south, Utinni retreated to fortify Ayn'Qaahira and extend his domain into the desert territory of Alluvium. The veil of secrecy remained...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Palurin Political - 407PC

Sein Craban saved

The Skaven had long-prepared for a direct assault upon Sein Craban. The strategy was a simple one; a straight thrust to the heart of the Elven colony that would deliver the killer blow and drive them from the lands of Mellthu. It would leave Typhus as undisputed overlord of the south.

The Warpclaw Guild amassed its legions of Mount Breakspear to drive down upon the Elves from the north whilst Typhus brought the main strength of the Skaven army from the west. In the grip of this twin pronged attack, and with the grand fleet of Boiling Peak prowling the shores on daily patrols the Elves would be penned up against the coast and annihilated.

But the plan was not to run smoothly. First, the Warpclaw Guild foundered in the march south as the Elves mustered to block their advance. The wily Elf general refused to meet the Skaven horde in open battle and instead harried the army as it tried to bring the Elves to bear. With their main strength stalled as it tried to attack, the Skaven army was engaged piecemeal until it lost all sense of order and coherency. The Warlocks were forced to withdraw their forces north to regroup, and so Typhus was denied the support of the Guild and its terrifying war machines.

The great tyrant himself was to find his march to Sein Craban fraught with difficulty. Typhus had the misfortune to encounter roving bands of Ogres as he forced his armies ever eastward. The Ogres were under the command of the infamous Obwun Jade-Eye, Captain of the mercenary forces of the Holy Sigmarite Empire. Jade-Eye had been tasked with securing the lands around the newly founded colony of Ulricshafen, but in inimitable mercenary fashion had taken his armies south in search of plunder. It had became all too apparent that Ulricshafen was a tedious posting for one of Jade-Eye’s prowess and notoriety, and his bored Ogres were spoiling for a fight.

Typhus and Jade-Eye ultimately fought one another to a standstill, the former struggling to contain the Ogre raids on his supply lines, whilst the latter tried to avoid being caught up by the main van of the Skaven horde as it tried to negotiate the route through the Endwe valley. The Ogres withdrew north, bloodied and weary, but with Obwun satisfied that his lads had enjoyed another good season of “adventuring”. A hugely frustrated Typhus was eventually able to press on to Sein Craban, though not without the strength of his horde having been sapped and at the cost of a number of valuable war machines that had been wrecked beyond use.

Lightning flashed around boiling peak, the atmosphere kept in a state of near constant tumult by the spumes of red hot lava randomly ejected from the barely controlled volcano. Deep beneath the surface, Typhus' anger was a capricious force of nature that mirrored the volcano. At a mere whim he belched forth arcs of etheric lightning, immolating groups of slaves and sycophants alike who happened to be in his vicinity. Eventually the stench of burning fur and the screams of his minions as they ran around as living torches proved sufficiently entertaining to dull his mindless rage.

Once again his innumerable legions had been repulsed from the accursed Elven colony of Sein Craban and his dreams of greatness lay in tatters. It had begun promisingly enough. In a ritual that had lasted thirteen days and thirteen nights Typhus had executed the Elven civilians and soldiers captured at the Tears of Isha and Vale of Endwe. Their agonised deaths had created a magical vortex so potent that raw power had crackled across the landscape, earthing around any landmark tall enough to provide a focus.

Typhus himself had begun the assault, annihilating the centre of the Elven army with a blast of raw magical power that saw the noble elves twisted and mutated into vile ratlike form and the brains of his closest minions dribble out of their noses and mouths. As panic rippled throughout the serried ranks of the elves the archmage commanding the host was cut down. Typhus had allowed himself the savour his impending victory as he watched the vile animated puppet complete the deed for which he had created it. A daemon, bound to a scarecrow form made of straw and elven organs, it was the perfect weapon for such a task. But it was with victory certain that things had started to go wrong.

The very power Typhus had summoned turned against him. Wild and without bounds the magical storm proved beyond the ability of his sorcerers to control. One by one they were slain, not by their enemy but in blasts of power as the magic they sought to channel ran beyond their control. Typhus himself was forced to flee the battle, transformed into a frog by the uncontrolled energy. Meanwhile the Elves proved better able to tame the storm and channel it to their uses. What their wizardry lacked in ambition and raw power they made up for in iron-willed control.

Eventually the Skaven hordes were forced to quit the field. They may have won the battle and most of the elven host lay dead or dying in the dirt, but it was the elven mages who controlled the fulcrums that were the focus of the titanic winds of magic. The Skaven host could not hope to stand before such power.

As his rage cooled into a lust for revenge that Typhus would nurture throughout the coming years he vowed that he would never rest until all the Elves on Palurin were destroyed. This was just a temporary setback. He would build an empire able to rival the Elves on land and at sea. They would rue the day they had made him their nemesis!

Emperor Wolfgang takes HSE throne

Emperor Louis died in 397PC, aged 75. Under his reign the Holy Sigmarite Empire had seen expansion, and a colony founded in Aranur, in the ruins of Aquila. Louis reign had been one of peace, and the Empire had avoided the bitter battles which had plagued previous Imperial rulers.

Wolfgang, Louis' son, was not a man of peace. He looked to his great great grandfather Karl II, whose ambitions of expansion had never been fully realised, and had dreams of equalling the rule of Konrad the great, almost three hundred years earlier.

Wolfgang immediately sought to establish his rule by raising an army to march on the Kaalroen Empire, who had been continuously raiding the plains of Pellenar for almost a century. By defeating the Kaalroens Wolfgang would take his place in history and bring the independent kingdom of Pellnar closer to the Imperial throne.

Unfortunately for Wolfgang it was the host of Lord Tragean who marched out to meet the HSE army on Mallar Moor in 398PC. Despite a valiant charge by the knights of the Empire, and a stalwart defence of the moor itself by the Empire's finest greatswords, the chaos lord and his army was too much to overcome. Wolfgang's defeat ensured Pellenar would continue to suffer the ravages of the Empire east of the Mallvass mountains for years to come. The emperor's dream of bringing Pellenar into the Empire were on hold, for now.

Nine years of peace followed. Emperor Wolfgang spent his time trying to keep the nobles' petty squabbles from destabilising the Empire, while noting with alarm the growing power of the Drazkharov state of Holwingen in the north. Ill tales reached his ears often, but always the duke of the north was at pains to assert his loyalty.

Then, in 407PC, the Empire went to war again. By now Wolfgang once again had expansion on his mind, and with his fleet penned in by the Dominion at Sudhafen, the Emperor wished to have another outlet into the Pan Coron ocean. Wolfgang began moving towards the coast of Armaethor, moving west of the Eichenhohe forest, and building a road to establish a new trading presence on the shore.

The Slaan of Cuitlaxaochitzin were alarmed by this move however. In 406PC the Lizardmen ambassador made an official complaint which was rejected by the Emperor, and a second deposition, this time an ultimatum, was similarly ignored. In 407PC, war came to the Empire once again, as an army from Tacapantzin marched out into the plains of south east Curufin, intent on removing the Empire forces and pushing them back north of the Eichenhohe forest.

The battle of Galar plain, where the fighting took place, was a savage and drawn out afair. The lizardmen marched forward towards the Imperial lines, stoic in the face of determined artillery fire, and shrugging off the savage magics the Imperial battle wizards unleashed upon the cold blooded warriors. Battle was joined in the centre of the plain, and the lizardmen found the Empire knights and elite infantry difficult to break down. Despite being outnumbered, the army of men refused to break, and the lizardmen only claimed victory when the last Imperial cavalryman, the Empire general himself, was cut down.

Once again despite a valiant effort, the army of the Holy Sigmarite Empire was defeated, and Wolfgang abandonned, at least for the moment, his plans for expansion. Once behind their initial borders, the Lizardmen suggested an "everlasting agreement" on the borders of the two nations. This was the last deposition made by the ambassador of Cuitlaxaochitzin, as for the remainder of his reign no lizardman was allowed to enter the walls of Sigmarheim while Wolfgang was present.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Dwarfs at the Closing of the 4th Century

The reign of the High King Undin Greybeard had seen the Dwarf Kingdom enjoy a long period of prosperity and enterprise. This stability began to wane with the escalation of the war in the south between the Skaven and the High Elves. A quiet unease settled across the Dwarf Kingdom as the unending conflict between these two powers threatened to engulf the southern continent.

The death of High King Undin Greybeard did little to settle the air of tension in the dwarf kingdom. Upon succeeding his father, newly-crowned Morgrim Undinson sought to ease internal rivalries between the naval clans and mountain clans. By ceding Karak-A-Varr to the Admiralty, and moving his capital north to Karak Brynaz, Morgrim deftly appeased both factions by thus honouring their respective positions within the Kingdom.

Yet with the advance of years Karak Brynaz stagnated under the strain of dwindling trade income, caused in great part by the constant state of conflict across the Pan Coron ocean caused by Dark Elf reavers and Skaven war fleets. To combat this High King Morgrim began his great project - the Grand Canal that would connect the Pan Coron Ocean to the Great Rhun Sea. It would facilitate increased trade with the humans and elves by bypassing the southern coastline altogether, a notorious stretch where traders were so often caught at the mercy of roving enemy vessels. Moreover, such an undertaking would make Brynaz the heart of the Kingdom again.

Upon completion it proved to be everything the dwarfs hoped for, despite the witterings of the Human Empire who claimed to have far more involvement than they had in fact contributed. The human Emperor made ridiculous demands for sovereign rights of passage on the canal. With diplomacy reaching a stalemate, the military presence of both nations escalated in the area. Morgrim dealt a swift and crushing blow to the Holy Sigmarite Empire, taking their confused forces by surprise and thus settling the dispute. The HSE retracted their complaints regarding this imagined slight to their honour and peace and co-operation between he two nations was restored.

With the heart of the kingdom growing in power and influence, the rest of the realm grew with it. Karak Grimnil in the far north, ruled by King Alarag, became a home to the Guild of Runesmiths, still standing as it did as a stalwart reminder of the terrible Ghoul War. To the south, Karak Vermingard was to be the newly-founded bastion to hold back the verminous hordes of the Typhonian Enclave. To the east, Snorrisberg remained the home of the merchant guilds. It became famed across the Kingdom for the production of ale that even grey beards agreed was “not bad” compared to many other ales (albeit still nothing compared to the Bugman's drunk in their youth). High praise indeed.

Seeking to settle bad blood with the humans, High King Morgrim engineered a territorial exchange that saw the Sigmarites settle new small colony on the ruins of Aquila. In return, the Emperor gifted the dwarfs the southern reaches of the Durom Ranges. So it was that the founding of Karak Kharval was begun in the mountains bordering the Sigmarite lands. It was by this act, claimed Morgrim, that new mining opportunities would be plentiful, and the bonds of fellowship between Dwarf and Human firmly secured as they stood together in defiance against predations of their mutual enemies.

Most recently, at the grand age of 370 years, Morgrim took a young bride; Olga, agreed by all to be “a bonny lass”. Celebratory feasts were proclaimed across the Kingdom and in Snorrisberg a brewery was drained dry for the first time since its founding... much to the consternation of the inhabitants.

States of the HSE

Fevered Dreams

It was a moment of terrible realisation. A threatening spectre, long lurking in the shadowy corners of fevered sleep, now bursting through into waking thought. It grasped out from the mist, thirsting for vengeance, an ancient and unspeakable evil long since forgotten. A primal scream of crimson fury that froze the soul with fear. A portent of woe and despair.

Atop his pyramid in Hor’takn, Mage-Priest Cxaz-Lotl-Chitxi roused fitfully from his other-worldly ruminations. Wrenched free of his cogitative slumber the ancient Slann came gasping back into the corporeal world. Alarmed Skink attendants fussed around the dais. To see one so ancient and so wise as Cxaz-Lotl-Chitxi seemingly gripped as if by a waking nightmare during his meditations was a fearful sight to behold. What terrible vision or portent of evil Cxaz-Lotl-Chitxi had seen remained unspoken. The Mage-Priest urgently summoned the Ogre Captains of Graag and commanded them to make haste for the east with all their strength. Yet the purpose of their mission would be lost with them.

The Ogre war-party, assembled in the summer of 385PC, marched with all the speed they could muster. They made the crossing of the great expanse of the Desert of Bones and over into the Durom Ranges seemingly without respite. Yet the host never reached its destination. Outriders of the Sigmarite Empire, tracking the Ogres as they progressed across the border into Holwingen, lost sight of the army in a day of autumn fog on the Holwingen moors. Try as they might the scouts could not locate the column again. The Ogres seemed to have simply disappeared in the night.

With the onset of winter, caravans and traders plying the Northern Road across Holwingen brought fanciful tales to the markets Sigmarheim and bazaars of Graawk. They spoke of hillsides that were strewn with abandoned weapons. They claimed sightings of huge supply wagons found untended and untouched on the mountain roads. Some whispered of hulking hauberks and mail shirts hanging empty in the woods like grotesque overgrown scarecrows, as if the occupants had just melted away from within them. And bones. Bones as large and thick as logs, gnawed and picked clean by carrion birds, timber wolves, or worse.

But no-one, not travellers nor traders nor outriders reported sighting the Ogres themselves.

In Hor’takn, Mage-Priest Cxaz-Lotl-Chitxi daily returns to his meditations. Yet nightly he wakes, startled from his cogitation by portents of evil. The primal scream of the terror in the darkness echoing in his fevered dreams, and growing ever stronger.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Countess Anastasia

Igor Drazkharov was not renowned for his etiquette or his courtesies. His was a bleak province inhabited by a hardened folk. Frequent were the summer raids from beyond the northern borders of Holwingen, marauding greenskins and savage barbarians oft descending on the farmsteads in search of plunder, rapine, slaves and worse. Yet the grip of winter was almost as dire, as the biting wind and torrential snow-storms all but buried the countryside for months at a time. The lands were perilous to travel, even for well-supplied caravans and bands of armed local militia. Such hardships turn the kindest souls stern and mistrusting, and Drazkharov’s ruthlessness with foreign invaders became widely known. So it was to the great surprise of the garrison of the Krahefort when a lone traveller, arriving in the gloaming of an autumnal evening, stood before the gates of Drazkharov’s castle seeking the hospitality of the Count of Holwingen.

She had travelled a long, dangerous road yet for all her weariness and dust-stained travel clothes she maintained an undeniably noble bearing. The usually curmudgeonly Count took audience in the gloomy Raven’s Hall, with his barons and knights assembled to hear the curious tale of the lady rider who had found her way to the Krahefort alone, against all the odds.

Hers was a bitter tale. She told the Count of her far-away homeland, ravaged by war. Of how her noble brothers and their kinsman died in the defence of her once proud city. Of her flight into exile, pursued at every turn by those who had laid waste to her country and slain her people. She was the last of her family, without home or refuge or friends. Her shone with diamond tears with the telling of her tragic tale, and the knights and barons and Count and all, each of them hung upon her every word. They were utterly captivated.

She was tall and graceful, with midnight hair and alabaster skin. Her voice was a song of grief and loss that somehow magnified her beauty. Even in the darkness of the Raven's Hall she shimmered with an undeniable aura of majesty. It is said that it was her eyes though, as they glistened their grief in the meagre candlelight, that utterly beguiled the Count. His dour and flinty heart had melted in her gaze. So it was that the exotic stranger, who had risked all in search of safety, found her unlikely sanctuary at the Krahefort and her comfort in the arms of the Count of Holwingen. Within the turn of the year the Count was married, and Igor presented his new wife, the Countess Anastasia, at the Emperor’s annual ball in Grand Palace at Sigmarheim.

Yet the story of Count Igor and his Lady Anastasia would not end in fairytale. Upon their return to their seat in Holwingen it appeared as though Anastasia’s hunters had not surrendered their pursuit. An envoy of the Dragon Lords of Mellvellon, at the head of a mighty army, sought an audience with the Count. The Elf claimed that he was tracking a dangerous foe, one who had for many years eluded the hand of justice. When the envoy named Anastasia as the fugitive and criminal that he sought, she wept with anguish. Confronted with the face of one whose kin had a hand in the downfall of her motherland and the death of her brothers, she begged her husband for vengeance. Enraged by such accusations and inconsolable to see his dear wife moved to such fear, the Count consigned the Elf to the dungeons of the Krahefort, never to be seen again. Igor rallied his barons and knights and in a single day of ferocious battle drove the Elves from the lands of Holwingen.

As the carrion birds of the Krahefort flocked to feast upon the spiked heads of Elven captains that adorned the Count’s battlements, Anastasia plotted with Igor and his barons to fortify the castle and expand the defences of the province. Doubtless more invaders would come now that the Lady’s presence was known.

The shadow of the massacre of the Elves hangs heavily upon the bleak hills of Holwingen, and the smallfolk whisper fearfully of the tortured screams that can be heard across the moors of a still night. Echoing up from the dungeons of the Krahefort, they serve as warning to those who would seek to extinguish the last scion of noble Aquila.

Palurin in 380PC

Dwarf & Empire alliance forged

Despite some factions within the Holy Sigmarite Empire still feeling agrieved following the trade dispute of 372PC, Emperor Louis fostered good relations with the Dwarf Kingdom, seeing them as a powerful ally in the south, especially as his realm was still vulnerable to the predations of the Typhurian Enclave, thanks to their agreement with the Dark Elves of the Dominion. In 376PC the dwarfs were already constructing their newest hold, Karak Vermingard, on their southern border, and the dwarfs were interested in investigating mountains other than those upon which their Empire stood.

The dwarfs had long expressed interest in mining the Duron range, and even settling their, but had been politely put off by the rulers of the Sigmarites. Now, with the Lizardmen Empire growing rapidly eastward, Emperor Louis warmed to the idea of a buffer state comprised of stubborn and stalwart dwarfs, and the Duron range would be an ideal location for just such a colony. In return the dwarfs offered the remains of Aquila, the lowlands around the Tiban river. In 376PC the deal was signed, and Karak Kharval was founded on the slopes of Kings Mountain. Aquila became a new HSE colony, named Adler An Zee, and the city of Ulricshafen soon sprung up on the mouth of the river, full of adventurous types and those with new ideas. Meanwhile the grnad theogonist began preaching that the Alptraum line should be building armies along our border, not heading off for new lands. Louis ignored the pontiff, the power of the Empire now resting soley with the Emperor's family.

With the seas around Palurin unsafe for common shipping, and the Imperial Navy having never established much confidence in the hearts of its citizens, the decision was made to travel by land to the new human colony of Adler An Zee. Of course travelling in such a way was not without its risks and the Emperor sent a contingent of ogre mercenaries, lead by captain Barhum Bugg, to protect the colonist caravans.

As expected the long journey was not without its trouble, including many harrying raids by chaotic forces from the Kaalorean empire. Captain Bugg’s forces were enough to see the raiders off with only minor casualties, but the situation escalated after scouts reported an entire chaos army hiding in a patch of swamp land and looking to cut off the caravan.

The ogre mercenaries marched ahead to meet the attackers and at the Battle of Brown Mire the forces clashed. Bugg personally lead his Irongut guard deep into the heart of the enemy lines. As knights, warriors flying on daemonic beasts and axe wielding berserkers beset him he stood defiant, roaring contempt and giving time for his army to produce a devastating counter-charge. The Kaalorean forces were stomped beneath the iron boots of the ogres, the few survivors scattering back north.

That evening the ogres hosted a great feast, giving praise to the volcano gods for their victory and in the process terrifying the settlers. Bugg was true to his word though, and within weeks the caravan arrived safely in Adler An Zee and the settlement of Ulricshafen was founded. It seemed ogre mercenaries would be settled in the former lands of Aquila for some time to come.

Meanwhile west of the Duron Range, the new dwarf settlement of Karak Kharval was not met with rejoicing. The Slaan, concentrating on other worldly affairs following the ogre uprising, were offended by the sudden sale of the mountains to the dwarfs. Seeing the new dwarf enclave as a threat, the amphibian rulers judged that if they could be defeated in battle early in their existence, the dwarfs might think twice about the benefits of their new deal with the Empire. At the same time, lizardmen envoys made it clear they had no designs on the HSE itself, attempting to drive a wedge between the dwarfs and the humans.

In 379PC however the plans of the Slaan lay in ruins, as the lizardmen army sent to defeat what was considered a small and weak dwarf presence, was decisively beaten at the battle of the bones, just east of the great pyramid in the Desert of Bones. With their army defeated, Cuitlaxaochitzin was forced to accept the establishment of this new dwarf realm, and the dwarfs of Karak Kharval celebrated, pledging their friendship to the Sigmarites and their fealty to the dwarf King in Karak Brynaz.