Friday, 28 December 2012

The Winter Wedding

The chill of early winter stirred the fine hairs on the back of her neck. Though Isabella couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t just the apprehension. Her resplendent white wedding train whispered sadly against the marble floor as she made the inexorable slow march towards Sigmar’s High Altar. A sense of impending doom settled over her. Try as she might to squash it down into her stomach, the undeniable feeling of dread surged up over and again.

Dmitri had once been an attractive match. In her girlhood Isabella had stared longingly past the other young nobles assembled at Father’s court, hoping to catch Dmitri’s eye. He was tall and darkly handsome, with easy smiles and a sonorous yet gentile voice. She had dreamed that one day Father would accept the overtures to a marriage. The Drazkharovs were, after all, a powerful house and worthy in-laws to the Alptraum dynasty.

Such were the idle dreams of youth, she reflected ruefully. Since the War everything had changed. The Drazkharov Rebellion had turned her beloved Dmitri and his family into bitter enemies. Until today the last time Isabella had seen him was at court, the very day before the Rebellion had ignited and war had consumed the realm.

And now Isabella found herself the symbol of the rebel victory. The cavernous Cathedral of Sigmarheim seemed impossibly full, packed to the buttresses with the great and noteworthy of the Empire. They were a panoply of ruffs, lace, capes, collars, crests and vivid grandeur. All had come from across the realm (no small number grudgingly or against their will) to see Princess Isabella married to the young Dmitri Drazkharov. This union, it had been declared, would heal the wounds of civil war and usher in a return of peace, fealty and trust between the great families. Isabella found herself the final transaction in a peace treaty. Though the terms had been meticulously dictated by the victors.

Isabella glanced to her father as they walked arm in arm towards the high altar. His frozen expression masked the abject humiliation that she knew he must feel inside. The Drazkharovs had used every aspect of this wedding to parade their victory over the House of Alptraum. The toppled Emperor now leading his daughter to the arms of the triumphant conquerors, with all the world here to bear witness. Father’s abdication, and Isabella’s betrothal to Dmitri, had been the culmination of decades of politicking and schemes. She would sit the Imperial throne of her forebears, and through their puppet monarchs the Drazkharovs would hold the realm in their despotic grasp. Yet her sorrow was not for her own fate; her pity was for the aged and weary old man who walked beside her. Trying to hide a sideways glance, she saw a brow that now looked bare without the Imperial crown resting upon it. Had Father always been so small, so wan? Isabella thought that she could see tears glistening in his eyes. She looked away and stifled her sorrow. She strained to recall the giant of her childhood whose mighty hand had once ruled an empire.

Near the front of the congregation was her brother. It was almost impossible to believe - he looks even worse Father! The savagery he had witnessed and hardships he had endured through years of war now weighed leaden against Karl’s soul. The defeat had aged him by twenty years. His hair was shot with grey and his skin lined with grief. Surrendering his armies and the capital to the rebel generals had crushed his spirit.

Isabella tried to catch his gaze, fervently wishing to see a glimpse of the lost Karl of her youth – the one who would have leapt up, who would have fought like hell itself, who would have sprung some chivalrous plan that would thwart all the Drazkahrov ambitions in a single bold stroke. But the dejected Karl she saw before her had no fight left in him. He had not even spoken out when his claim to the imperial throne was quietly set aside. Nor had he done ought but murmur his acknowledgement at the news that his younger sister would marry the enemy against whom he had once fought so fiercely. The new government had bestowed upon Karl the dubious honour of “Protector of Kustenland and Ebenland” - an office that was in truth a poisoned chalice. It made him responsible for maintaining the peace in these recently annexed and still fractious territories.

As she reached the altar steps to stand beside her betrothed, Isabella’s new family were there to greet her. Isabella the girl had been dazzled, as many had, by their dark majesty and exotic charm. Now, the events of the civil war had unveiled the villainous Drazkharovs. Isabella the young woman and soon-to-be-Empress saw, too late, the old façade stripped away. Their courtesies, etiquette and sycophancy of the old days were now abandoned for the gloating and crowing of their triumph.

Up close, they were a menagerie of mismatched characters; tall, rigid Viktor – he nodded courteously and feigned a smile to her, though it barely managed a flicker across the eyebrows and a flash across the lips – austere as stone. Beside him, hunched and hideously battle scarred, grim-faced Ivan leered with a hungry atavistic gleam from his one good eye. Waiting at the altar to meet her was oily Boris, a grasping rodent of a man, looking faintly absurd in the ostentatious confection of a gold and crystalline crown that had been commissioned to mark his appointment to the holy office of Grand Theogonist. In the background a score of others, the prodigious offspring of House Drazkharov- lackeys all - jostling behind their seniors. They were a nest of insidious vipers trussed up to masquerade as regal peacocks.

But in their midst, cold and statuesque, was the architect of the Drazkharovs’ ascension to power. The grand matriarch herself, Anastasia Drazkharov. She was a majestic vision in flowing crimson silk, bodice studded with garnets and rare black opals, all trimmed with finest ermine and topped with a spiked lace collar that framed her face. She, at least, seemed the very image of nobility. Though it was less the gown she wore and more the bearing she carried with it. She held the kind of expression that was at once haughty yet somehow oddly maternal - in a stern sort of way - a look that only a true queen could carry off with such natural grace and ease. A most befitting countenance for she who had been dubbed The Mother of the Realm by her conniving brood.

The ceremony passed as some half-remembered dream. Looking into Dmitri’s eyes, Isabella saw only emptiness. A blank gaze, vacant of expression. There wasn’t a thought in his head or a word on his lips that hadn’t been planted there by the Drazkharov elders. He was a splendid marionette, mouthing honeyed words and oozing allure. It that had wooed her younger self, along with so many others. Yet now the memory of it alone turned her stomach. But the Drazkharovs had played a long and patient game in their bid to charm the realm and garner the crown’s trust in their ruthless quest for power. How had she - how had everyone?! - been so blind to the charade?

As Grand Theogonist Boris lowered the Imperial crown to rest heavily upon her head, Isabella’s thoughts raced as she considered the future. She wouldn’t become the puppet monarch that they intended! She would resist the Drazkharovs wherever she could, slow and stymie them when she could not openly defy them. They may be powerful, but she was still Empress! And there were those who were quietly loyal to the House of Alptraum, and more still who loathed the Drazkharovs. Across the seas her eldest brother, Johann, had taken refuge in the colonies along with other nobles who had managed to escape the fall of Sigmarheim. In the Durom Mountains the stalwart warriors of King Morgrim still held out against a Drazkharov siege. Morgrim had long been an ally of the Empire and a friend to the Alptraums. There were still glimmers of hope. She forced herself to believe it.

Newly- wed and newly-crowned, Empress Isabella and the wedding procession passed out of the cathedral doors with great fanfare. Outside, bitter night had lowered its cloak upon the city. There were hints of the odd snowflake skittering across the frosty sky. In the flickering torchlight she saw streets lined with soldiers wearing Drazkharov livery. Isabella shivered to see their ghastly shadows dance and coil, tormented in the light of the wavering flames. The cobbles echoed back the crunching of hobnails and of armoured plates as the Knights of the Grimholt assembled an honour guard for the new Empress. Faceless, encased in lobstered steel, swords glinting in the firelight- these dread knights were the iron fist that had crushed the Imperial army mere months before. They were a bleak reminder to those who dared to forget the might of House Drazkharov.

High above Sigmarheim, from every tower and spire, every rampart and bastion, flew the re-designed Imperial standard. It proudly displayed the ancient Imperial symbols coupled to the grim arms of the House of Drazkharov. It blazoned a new world order, forged in blood and battle, now cemented with Isabella’s marriage and coronation. As she stepped into the enveloping darkness of the Imperial carriage, gazing out through the glass panes upon a Drazkharov city, Isabella could not help but feel doubt creep back into her heart.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Fall of the South

A Drazkharov host mustered in Sigmarheim in 671PC as cousins Count Ivan and Count Viktor united their armies for the final act of the conquest of the Empire. Standing against them were Count Toumas von Schaffenacke and Lord Larkin, holding out in Sudhafen and Galamory respectively. Both were faced with a nigh impossible choice; if they held to their defensive lines then the two cities would find themselves isolated and surrounded by superior numbers. Yet marching out to meet the Drazkharov forces would leave both cities easy prey should their armies be bested in open battle.

In spite of the risks, neither von Schaffenacke nor Larkin was willing to subject their towns to the horrors of a Drazkharov siege. Moreover, both recognized that their large contingents of cavalry would be better suited to open battle where prowess and strength of arms could be made to count against the northern infantry. So it was that the armies of the south united to meet the enemy in the field. The two massive opposing forces from north and south marched in the early summer of 671PC to face off at the Habrung Forest at the eastern borders of the Kusten Plain.

The Drazkharov host numbered hundreds of loyal northern soldiers, many of whom could now be counted veterans after the years of bitter conflict with their southern neighbours. Mingled with the army was the whole spectrum of undead terrors, slinking ghouls chattering in the vanguard whilst shuffling zombie hordes brought up the rear. The skies above darken in the eclipse of shadow-black wings, as whirling Vargheists soared with three immense Terrorgheists. Count Ivan himself rode to battle mounted atop one particularly gruesome fiend, a colossal putrefying behemoth whose screams could pierce the very soul. Leading the ground forces from the front, Count Viktor rode at the head of the dread Black Knights of the Grimholt, their glittering lances promising steel-tipped death to any would dared stand against them.

Arrayed against the Drazkharov army were the stalwart southern soldiery, counting among their number many regiments of great renown, some of whose famed names counted battle honours that spanned scores of battles. The Galamory Silverspurs were at the head of Lord Larkin’s army, magnificent visions in gleaming plate armour sitting astride their regal Demigryph mounts. The Sudhafen Greatswords formed up in serried ranks, proudly bearing the fluttering colours of House von Schaffernacke before them. Behind, with the tightly packed foot troopers, rolled the fantastical Hurricanums, huge sorcerous war engines drawn by muscle-bound draught horses the size of oxen.

The Steel Count’s cavalry began the attack, hoping to pre-empt a Drazkharov strike. But as the knights emerged from the tangle of the Habdrung Forest, Ivan and his flying minions took to the skies to avoid being engaged. Meanwhile the Silverspurs went on the offensive on the right flank, aiming straight for the densely packed infantry leading Viktor’s assault. All the while the artillery train blasted the Drazkharov lines, hoping to pick off the largest undead monsters. Cheers went up from the southern battle lines as cannonballs struck home, only for glee to be dashed to dismay as the rancid flesh of brutish grave horrors knitted sinew and bone back together to heal the wounds mere moments later.

As they plummeted from the clouds, unearthly death shrieks heralded Ivan and his Terrorgheists as they hurtled down toward the field to join a Drazkharov counter-attack. The terrible screams struck the Sudhafen cavalry stone dead in an instant, leaving Rikard von Schaffernacke to complete his father’s offensive with only a handful of knights. They fought bravely and well, but the overwhelming numbers told against them as their gallant charge gave way to slugging hand to hand combat.

The Silverspurs fared little better. The ground had shaken beneath the pounding tons of beast and steel as they collided with Count Viktor’s front line as an ironclad battering ram. But the glorious attack waned to a deadlock. The furious talons and snapping beaks of the Demigryphs couldn’t grind down the sheer number of foes, while the waves of ghouls that leapt upon them fought with frustration as their grasping claws scraped and glanced off the lobstered armour plates.

A surge of hope rippled through the southern army as the legendary Sudhafen Greatswords joined the battle in earnest, their double-handed blades a shimmering blur as they hewed deep into the Drazkharov lines. However, high above the battlefield once more having seeing off the threat of the Sudhafen cavalry charge, Ivan led the Vargheists swooping down behind the lines into the midst of the Galamory artillery. With arcing talons they over-turned the cannons and scattered the gunners. The threat of the artillery now nullified, the unengaged Drazkharovs regiments held in reserve now had free reign of the battlefield.

As Count Toumas and Lord Larkin tried to reinforce their faltering assault, the Drazkharovs seized the opportunity to move to outflank their foes. The grave-eerie low moan of warhorns signalled the charge of the Grimholt knights. Viktor and his riders charged down the slope of the low hill, lances levelled. They were bearing down on the Sudhafen Greatswords who were still engaged in the dogged toe to toe grind against the Drazkharov foot soldiers in the centre. Further west, Ivan was wheeling his Terrorgheists around to attack the Silverspurs from the rear. The jaws of the Drazkharov army finally snapped shut. Caught on three sides, having witnessed the annihilation of the south’s best and bravest, the remnants of the loyalist army broke and fled.

Sudhafen and Galamory, now all but defenceless, were forced to surrender to spare the populace the depredations of a grueling siege at the hands of Ivan and Viktor. With the fall of the south the Drazkharov victory over the loyalist forces was total.

The bannermen and supporters of House of Alptraum had been decimated and forced into submission or exile. Many towns had been sacked and vast swathes of countryside lay barren following the ravages of war. Yet for all those years of civil strife and desolation that has followed, the Drazkharov vision is beginning to take form - out of the ashes of the old order a new Empire will rise.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Refugees flee the Holy Sigmarite Empire

The fall of Sigmarheim in the spring of 670PC saw an exodus of aristocrats, once loyal to the Alptraum cause, now fleeing to safety in the south where Sudhafen and Galamory stood as the last bastions against the Drazkharov hegemony.

Close links to the Imperial fleet had made it possible to maintain the continued support of the Navy. Though the Drazkharov armies now dominated the land there was still a large and formidable Imperial presence at sea. Lord Larkin and Count von Schaffernacke had kept the ports safe from the rebels. Now they would orchestrate the evacuation of the many noble families who clamoured for passage to the safety of distant Ulrichshafen and the colonies in their attempt to escape the reach of the new masters of the Empire.

However Galamor Bay had been subject to unrelenting blockade by the corsairs of the Dominion for the duration of the war. The Imperial captains would be forced to run the gauntlet of some of the world’s most seasoned pirates.

The Navy determined to weigh the odds in its favour as best they could. With Sudhafen and Galamory now a bristling defence it would be some time before the Drazkharovs could mount an assault against the south. This bought a few valuable months in which the Navy could re-arm and up-gun every vessel at their disposal.

As early autumn mists swept over Galamor Bay the Imperial fleet captains seized their chance. Under the cover of thick morning fog, they slipped from the harbours as a single mighty armada. As one force, the colossal fleet closed on the blockade to punch through the line by sheer force of weight. Indeed, the obscuring fog allowed the Navy to accomplish this task as the Dominion ships were within firing distance before they sighted the approaching armada. The exchange was brief but fierce as Imperial vessels raked the corsairs, who were desperately trying to bring the strength of their many vessels to bear. The swift dominion ships harried the Imperials as they passed through the blockade, but the mighty cannon volleys of the Navy guns broke the line and the majority of the Imperial armada escaped to the open ocean before the full strength of the vast Dominion fleet, strung out in blockade all along the Canaur coastline, could be brought up in response.

The Imperial fleet was not without its losses. A good many went down with their vessels in the desperate escape from the bay, taking many able sailors and doomed refugees with them. But joyful was the arrival at Ulrichshafen when the fleet safely made landfall, delivered (they hoped) from the Drazkharov grasp.

Back in Sudhafen and Galamor, the defiant army defending the independent south waited anxiously for the promised return of the fleet, ready to embark at a moment’s notice to escape west to the safety of the colonies. While Lord Larkin and Count Toumas fervently shared this hope for salvation, both had already privately admitted a terrible truth; should a rescue attempt even make it back across the seas and through the Dominion blockade, it would be unlikely to appear before the arrival Drazkharov army, which messengers reported was now marching south from Sigmarheim. The two generals steeled themselves for what they hoped would not be their final battles.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Battle for Sigmarheim

Following the defeat at the Battle of Neuland Plain the Imperial Army was left with but one chance for a desperate last stand against the Drazkharov host that now closed on Sigmarheim. The soldiers of Sigmarheim knew well the stories of the terrors that had been visited upon Pellenar during its occupation by rebel forces. In the spring of the year 670PC the men of Sigmarheim now stood with their backs to the wall, ready to defend their homes to the last.

Grand Theogonist Ignatius took to the field in person to bolster the Imperial morale, riding atop the colossal gleaming war altar that would be the beacon of faith and hope to the army of Sigmarheim. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Prince Karl, the two leaders would fight knowing that defeat here would mean catastrophe for the Imperial cause.

Riding high on the string of victories that had carried them to this decisive moment, the army of Count Viktor marched down the Easting Road. From the walls of Sigmarheim the fluttering banners of House Drazkharov flew the proud black beast that had come to herald woe to all those who dared stand before it.

Battle was met before the city walls, with both Ignatius and Karl in the thick of the fighting. For a time the mix of fervour and desperation of the Imperial solidery lent them a fresh strength, even after enduring the hardships of months of bitter fighting. They held the rebel lines in check, and none were able to get near the gates.

Yet as before, the Drazkharovs could rely upon the supernatural to tip the balance in their favour. A ban of thrall wizards brought from Niederdam helped to push the Drazkharov forces onward with dark magicks that imbued the troops devilish vigour. As the troops of the Imperial army were inexorably forced back, Viktor unleashed his winged terrors to make the decisive winning stroke. The arrival of the airborne monsters broke the Imperial resolve. Ignatius was snatched from his perch atop the towering war alter, his death sending ripples of dismay through the Imperial lines.

The battle lost, Prince Karl surrendered himself and his surviving troops to Viktor to spare his men any further bloodshed. The city gates were opened, the victorious rebels leading their general to the steps of the Imperial Palace. Meanwhile the nobles within the city abandonned all compsure as they scrambled to flee the Drazkharov occupation. Some were captured, but a good many managed to escape during the confusion as some citizens made forlorn attempts to defend their ciy. The majority fled to Sudhafen in the south with Kronprinz Johann, even as Viktor consolidated his hold on Sigmarheim, crushing all resistance and making bloody example of any citizen who challenged his advance.

The remaining aristocrats were corralled into the throne room to bear witness to the end of the war. With grossly staged pomp and ceremony, Count Viktor accepted the Emperor's public declaration of the Alptraum's surrender, which ceded all imperial governing powers to House Drazkharov. The nobles were then left little choice but to sign their names to the proclamation of truce between the great houses and await the terms a Drazkharov victory would force upon them.

Only Sudhafen and Galamory now stood in defiance of Drazkharov hegemony. Count von Schaffernacke and Lord Larkin refused to disband their armies or to travel to Sigmarheim to accept the truce. They steeled themselves for the retribution that was certain to follow.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Schinderland Falls

Following the capture of Niederdam, and the exclusion of the Dwarves from aiding the Imperial war effort, the Drazkharovs sensed the waning of the Alptraum’s hold over the Empire. Count Viktor moved his armies west along the Easting Road into Schinderland. The Imperial court dispatched Prince Karl to intercept him, the hopes of the Alptraum dynasty resting on his success.

The two armies met across the Neuland Plain, overshadowed by what would later be remembered as the Great Storm of Schinderland. Torrential rain and howling gales battered the low lying hills, the exposed landscape whipped by a maelstrom of unnatural ferocity. Through the tempest the Imperial armies marched with grim resolve.

The imperial artillery trains foundered in the mud as the downpour continued, whinnying horses sinking into the quagmire as they strained against the stranded limbers. Viktor’s winged fiends descended out of the thunder-wracked skies, untouched and unhindered by the supernatural storm, sweeping shadows backlit in some nightmarish vision against the crackling lightning overhead.

Fear seized the Imperial army as the monsters began to harry Prince Karl’s lines. Out of the tempest the dreaded Black Knights of The Grimholt were seen to glide effortlessly over the cloying mud-churned fields, borne above the ground upon eerily graceful phantom steeds.

The artillery was unable to act. The Household Cavalry were becoming ever-more swamped in the mud with each step, even as the undead riders were bearing down on them. Panicking, the Imperial troops scattered in the face of the gnashing horrors that emerged through the miasma of the pouring rain. Karl bellowed orders for his men to hold fast, but his voice was a single quiet note drowned amid the thundering overture of the storm raging across all of Schinderland. The Household cavalry, seeing the army’s discipline disintegrating around them, turned and fled, carrying a furious Prince Karl from the field.

The road to Sigmarheim lay open. Viktor had the capital in his sights. The soldiers of the Imperial army would no longer be fighting simply for the Imperial cause or for oaths of fealty – if the Drazkharovs could not be stopped then the homes and families of every loyal man would be easy prey for the rebel armies.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Siege of Niederdam

Count Viktor had successfully suppressed all military opposition to Drazkharov movements in the north. Pellenar remained a thorn in the side of Drazkharov ambitions and the Lord Titus Aureus was still at large. However, most of Pellenar’s contributions to the war effort were now reduced to low level guerrilla fighting that proved more an irritation to the rebels than a hindrance.

Seeing the power of House Drazkharov focused on the battles in the northern provinces House Larkin had joined the war in the fight against Rhan’k’adanra in the west. This was a bold move as it left little to military presence to defend Niederdam other than the standing militia. The imperial strategists had deemed the rebel armies too far away to pose an immediate threat to the city.

The Colleges of Magic were a prime target for the Drazkharovs, a seat of power and influence nestled behind the mighty walls of Niederdam. If they could seize control of the colleges, the Drazkharovs knew that they would effectively rob the Imperialist forces of any further support from the magi and wizards of the colleges. Instead they would bend that vast wealth of ancient lore and sorcerous knowledge to their own ends.

Upon learning that Niederdam was left all but lightly defended Viktor pounced. With alarming swiftness that astonished the imperial generals Viktor descended upon Niederdam and put the city under siege. The rebel armies seemed to materialize overnight, for neither the Imperial war council nor the City Watch realized the danger until it was too late. Niederdam found itself caught in the monster’s jaws as all supply routes were cut and all means of escape blocked. The City Watch barred the gates and prayed for deliverance.

Yet the city was far from lost. The outer wall was a towering redoubt that could withstand the most ferocious siege engine, the stones and mortar woven with centuries-old warding enchantments placed at the founding of the Colleges of Magic. Within, the wizards of the colleges were united in their determination to defend the city against the undead hordes waiting outside the gates. None relished the prospect in living in the thrall of the vampire counts.

As Viktor’s army battered the gates with monstrous siege rams, the City Watch mounted a stern resistance with shot and shell that hammered the rebel armies below the walls. The wizards gathered in the highest spires to hurl crackling storms and coruscating bolts into the midst of the flying undead terrors that spiraled over the city’s great towers, setting the twilight skies ablaze with incandescent magicks.

After weeks of isolation it seemed that Niederdam’s salvation was close at hand when the Watch espied the banners of House Larkin flying at the head an army marching with all haste down the Easting Road. But even as Larkin’s army closed the leagues to the rebel encampment to break the siege Viktor’s rams finally brought down the great Celestial Gates. As the breaking of a dam, the splintering gates let through the flood of undead that spilled through the breach.

As Lord Larkin’s vanguard clashed with the rebel army at the Battle of the Celestial Gates, Viktor’s monster prowled the alleys and parapets, making short work of the City Watch and the wizard council. Larkin’s relief force cut down swathes of zombies and ghouls, but the mass of twitching corpses (dead and undead alike) eventually slowed the advance. The Celestial Gate became choked with the mounting piles of the bodies until in place of the once mighty doors instead a mountain of rancid flesh now closed the way.

Lord Larkin was unable to press home the attack as Viktor’s troops manned the walls to secure the city.  The bodies of the slain City Watchmen were seen rising up from the places where they had been struck down moments before, joining the ranks of Viktor's army and returning to their posts to keep a now eternal vigil over the ramparts for their new master. Niederdam had fallen to the rebels, the blood red standard of House Drazkharov now flying above the walls. The Colleges of Magic and all the arcane lore they contained would be turned to aid the Drazkharov cause.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Battle of Eynsford Hill

The Drazkharov Rebellion that wracked the Holy Sigmarite Empire had caused numerous other races and nations to become embroiled in the conflict. Some malign powers had seized the opportunity to reap whatever gain they could from the misery and chaos of a mighty Empire laid low by civil strife. However others had sympathized with the plight of the people of the Empire and leant their support.

The Dwarves of Karak Haraz had remained strangely neutral for the first three years of the war. In spite of numerous petitions from the Imperial Court of Sigmarheim, citing ancient oaths of alliance sworn between the great nations, the Dwarves did not act. Perhaps the Dawi were distracted by conflict in their own lands? Was the grim spectre of the Ghoul Wars of old a memory that few of that race wished to relive?

Whatever the delay had been, the enigmatic Dwarves eventually answered the call to war. King Morgrim dispatched a mighty throng of warriors from Karak Haraz, well supported by formidable Dawi artillery. They made the long descent through the winding pass that connected the Dwarf holds of the Durom Range to the Easting Road. But the journey was slow and Holwingen was not idle in keeping a close watch on its borders. Count Ivan, The Beast himself, had called the army of the Krähefort beneath the Drazkharov banners and marched into the Durom foothills to lie in wait for the Dwarf host.

The ambush that Ivan launched upon Morgrim’s force at the Battle of Eynsford Hill was a brief yet savage attack. Terrible spectral hunters bore down upon the Dwarf artillery before they could set to the task of pummeling the undead army. Without the Dwarf guns to hamper his advance, Ivan himself was able to lead the devastating charge on the Dwarves in the bottleneck of the pass. With little room to manoeuver the Dwarves could only stand firm in the face of the onslaught.

Seeing the battle lost as their comrades fell to fang and claw of the hated enemy, the Dwarf rearguard reluctantly withdrew back into the mountains. Those warriors who returned to Karak Haraz told wild tales of a terrible fiend who ripped his way through the battle lines, his deranged laughter echoing across the hills above the din of battle as he flung aside proud Dawi warriors with predatory abandon.

Karak Haraz now finds itself cut off from the outside world, Ivan’s armies choking the mountain passes with heaving undead hordes. It seemed that the Holy Sigmarite Empire would not be able to count upon the support of the Dwarves after all.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

House Larkin calls the banners

The noble house of Larkin is a prodigious family of wealthy merchant noblemen whose forebears made the family’s fortune in the early days of Imperial colonial expansion into Adler an Zee. Since then they have been an influential mercantile power in the Holy Sigmarite Empire, with vested interests in Galamory and the city of Niederdam, both vital trading hubs to the Empire and the world beyond.

With the outbreak of war Lord Larkin was cautious, keen to protect his financial interests. Though declaring his family's support for the Alptraum dynasty he was reticent to send troops to fight in the war. Loyalty to the throne was one thing, but jeopardizing lives (particularly one's own) for little material gain would be quite another.

As such, Lord Larkin had thus far only mustered troops to defend his own borders in the south. Yet the increasing turmoil that has engulfed the Empire finally forced his hand, especially in light of Rhan’k’adanra making further inroads into the southern marches. So it was in the year 669PC Lord Larkin called the banners and marched west to the aid of neighboring Sudhafen.

At the head of the army were the glorious Galamory Silverspurs, a resplendent brigade of demigryph knights, the majority of whom are self-financed yet ambitious noble sons who won their laurels (and their exotic mounts) on foreign campaigns in their quest for glory, fame and riches.

Yet their finery and reputation stood for little against the hordes unleashed by Rhan’k’adanra. The daemonic legions were gathered in full strength, no longer making raiding forays but instead intent on full militarized invasion. In the Nimarn Valley, Lord Larkin’s host was soundly rebuffed by the multitude of mystifying Rhan’k’adanran daemons, his Galamory Silverspurs overwhelmed by ferocious attacks and bewildering magicks.

The daemonic host advanced further still into the Empire, until it was eventually (though just barely) held in check by the Steel Count von Schaffernacke’s army at the marshlands lying to the west of Sudhafen. Rhan’k’adanra was now making its prescence felt, and many southern lords appealed to the Emperor for more men and support in the war for the south.

Monday, 12 November 2012

War spills over to the colonies

The Ogre mercenary armies mustered their strength at Ulrichshafen in preparation for committing their support to the Imperial armies that were fighting to contain the Drazkharov rebellion. However, the Baron Giovanni d’Cadavero of Scorcio intervenes on behalf of his Drazkharov cousins to hinder the Ogre’s efforts.

Cadavero moved quickly on Ulrichshafen, mercilessly driving his troops onwards in a night march to catch the Ogres unawares. As the mercenaries gathered at the city gates, Cadavero’s forces descended on the docks, their target the fleet of ships waiting at anchor to carry the Ogres to the Holy Sigmarite Empire. The Baron took full advantage of the element of surprise and his men set the fleet ablaze, sinking every last ship and leaving the Ogres stranded.

The Ogre mercenary captains, incensed by this open act of war, launched a punitive attack on Cadavero’s soldiers as they withdrew from the harbour. Turning to face the threat, the Baron himself led the charge. But the fury of the Ogres was great indeed, and the Baron was unceremoniously crushed beneath the hooves of the thundering Ogre cavalry. Without Cadavero’s direction and leadership his troops were picked off piecemeal and the army utterly destroyed.

Their rage vented, the Ogres were left with little choice but to make the long march overland to go to the aid of the beleaguered Empire. However, the shortest route brought the Ogres within sight of the borders of the Kaalroen Empire. Sensing a threat heralded by the dust clouds kicked behind the Ogre column marching across the horizon, the lords of Phalicia were quick to summon their own warriors to defend their lands against potential invaders.

The Ogres, weary and strung out on the march, were caught off-guard. Though they gave battle with discipline and stout resolve they were overpowered by the Kaalroen warriors. The way ahead blocked, the Ogres were compelled to make the long march back to Ulrichshafen.

While the Empire is beset by foes the Ogres sit frustrated in Adler an Zee, grieving over a missed opportunity for gold and spoils of war. In Sigmarheim, the Emperor’s diplomats continue to send increasingly desperate pleas for aid to any who will heed the call.

The war for the south

The province of Hoffenland was struggling to recover from the devastation wrought by the Skaven during the Battle of Eichenwald. Though the combined might of the Imperial army and High Elves of Mellvellon did their best, the total expulsion of the rat-men proved an insurmountable task. The Skaven were well supplied by their fleet, particularly by airship convoys that were proving almost impossible for the Imperial navy to intercept. Moreover, they had entrenched themselves in the Eichenwald forest, weaving a network of make-shift lairs and tunnels in which they could take refuge and plan further raids into the Empire.

Yet the Skaven found themselves hampered instead by the Dark Elf Dominion as the corsair lords continued marauding into Flackland and Hoffenland. Competition for plunder and slaves escalated between the rivals and their full-blown confrontations bore out in bloody battles raging across villages and farmsteads as stricken locals cower behind barricaded doors.

In most of these exchanges the Dark Elves have gained the upper hand, their seasoned and battle-hardened pirates more than a match at close quarters for the Skaven foot-soldiers. However the Dark Elves have struggled to capitalize on their victories; for every clanrat cut down two more skulk in the shadows, waiting to take his place.

With increasingly frequent Domovoi raids now targeting Flackland and Rhan'k'adanra making ever more aggressive moves into Imperial territory, it becomes all the more difficult for the now thinly spread Dominion to concentrate its efforts on the rich pickings posed by a vulnerable and distracted Holy Sigmarite Empire. All the while, peasants live in terror of being carried off to slavery or a fate worse still by the multitude of enemies that now ravage the lands in the south.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Hoffenland Burns

Count Toumas von Schaffernacker had retreated to the safety of Sudhafen following the Battle of the Chapel. In spite of the set-back his people remained stubbornly loyal to the imperial cause and new soldiers were soon recruited to fight beneath the von Shaffernacker banners.

The Steel Count girded his forces with every intention of surging back westward to liberate Gross Dortbeck from the vampiric stranglehold. Yet within two days the army was forced to turn back to counter a new threat in Hoffenland, the southern-most province of the empire. Though messages were confused and piece-meal at first, increasingly the scouts and outposts reported the same news: the Skaven had landed an attack force in Hoffenland.

Carried over the waves by their mind-boggling dirigibles, the loathsome Skaven descended upon the coastal villages of Hoffenland as a verminous thunderstorm. They plundered without check, kidnapping many peasants to be carried back as slave labour.

Count Toumas made his way to Hoffenland with all haste, meeting the Skaven marauders on the field of battle outside the town of Eichenwald even as the ratmen assembled their legions to launch an assault upon the town itself. Bloody battle was met as the resplendent Sudhafen Greatswords clashed with the rusty, furry tide of rat-soldiers. The Skaven inflicted heavy losses, their rocket artillery blasting gaping holes in the imperial lines. In answer, the Count’s own cavalry rode down swathes of ratmen, their terrified squeals drowned by the roar of a thousand hooves crashing against the sun-baked dirt.

Glorious charges and sweeping advances gave way to gruelling close-quarter bludgeoning as the two armies ground against one another, the dry earth churning to rancid mud beneath their feet as the soil ran red. Gradually the Skaven gained the upper hand, their vast numbers eventually telling in their favour. The scurrying tidal wave swept around and over Count Toumas’ army and consumed it, leaving few to escape.

Too late did the Elves of Mellvellon arrive to change the course of events. Even as Toumas fought toe to claw with the foe, the glittering host of the Elven allies crested the ridgeline of the hills overlooking the field of battle. The wrath of the Elves was terrible to behold, so fiercely did they fall upon their most hated and ancient foe. The Skaven, seeing the strength of the Elves arrayed before them and reeling from the day’s fighting, reverted to their basest instincts and turned tail. As water through a storm-drain, the Skaven multitudes slipped into the darkness of the Eichenwald Forest and dispersed.

Though chased from the field, the malice of the Skaven had seen the town of Eichenwald turned to a veritable bonfire, the coastal villages of Hoffenland ransacked and hundreds of innocents taken captive, damned to terrible fates of ceaseless toil in the appalling conditions of the Skaven tunnel and mines.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Pellenar Over-run!

The Drazkharovs turned their attention to subjugating their neighbour of Pellenar in a bold attempt to consolidate their hold over the whole of the northern empire. With Ivan’s monsters still exacting their savage incursions across the countryside the Drazkharov elders ordered Count Viktor to lead his armies north to deal the hammer-blow that would break the power of Pellenar.

Scouts warn Lord Titus Aureus of Viktor’s advance, and the Lion is quick to rouse the riders of Pellenar to meet the latest threat. Yet Titus’ forces are ragged and weary from endless sorties against Domovoi raiders and weeks of defending villages and farmsteads from Ivan’s marauding beasts. Arrayed against them, Viktor had summoned the power of the Volbeck standing forces to support his assault on Pellenar, bringing fresh troops to the engagement.

Though the men of Pellenar fight valiantly, the exhausted and beleaguered knights cannot stand against the Drazkharov host. Unleashing his infamous Black Knights of The Grimholt, Viktor smashes the Pellenar cavalry aside and Titus himself barely escapes with his life.

The alarming news reaches Sigmarheim and the Emperor is quick to send his erstwhile ally fresh men and supplies, dispatching a sizeable army from the capital to go to Pellenar’s aid. However, this move yields unexpected consequences. With the might of the Imperial Armies now arrayed against the threat from the north, neighbouring Rhan’k’adanra seizes its opportunity. Normally out-matched by the Imperial Army’s numbers and military might, Rhan’k’adanran forces march unchecked onto imperial soil. Local garrisons are unable to co-ordinate their forces and prove no match for the daemonic pantheon that descends upon Helland. Outrage and crisis grip the Imperial Court as the province is wrested from their control to fall under daemonic influence.

Imperial morale hangs in the balance as the land is beset with foes from all sides. Worse is yet to come when word reaches the court that a Skaven fleet makes landfall in Hoffenland...

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Wolves at the Gates

Envy, avarice and thirst for power have driven many to enmity with the flourishing and bountiful Holy Sigmarite Empire. Dark powers long asleep now seize the chance to usurp what they can from an empire that finds itself exposed and vulnerable during bloody civil war.

Though generally a peaceful province, Rhan’k’adanra has in the past found itself on the sharp end of Imperial ambitions, her borders squeezed by the ever-expanding Holy Sigmarite Empire. Now close neighbours, the differences between the two realms has become more focused. Of greatest contention, the people of Rhan’k’adanra are pagan worshippers who put the protection of the country and indeed their very lives in the hands of their many manifest “gods”. Under the beneficence of this profilic pantheon the folk of Rhan’k’adanra enjoy simple lives of agriculture and craftsmanship. These pagan deities are appalling to the oft-times dogmatically religious Sigmarites and the resulting culture clash has caused friction between the two nations on more than one occasion.

The war within the Holy Sigmarite Empire poses a unique prospect to Rhan’k’adanra. With the mighty Alptraum armies redeployed to the north the people of Rhan’k’adanra have an opportunity to claim dominion over the rich lands of Hoffenland and the Nimarn valley that have long been denied to them by the dominant Empire. The druid-lords of Rhan’k’adanra have reached an understanding with the Drazkharovs: in return for harrying the southern marches and diverting Imperial attentions, the Drazkharovs have agreed to cede lands to Rhan’k’adanra should they win the imperial throne.

The complex culture of the Domovoi means little to the ruling classes of the Holy Sigmarite Empire, who regard them as primitive barbarians. A nomadic tribal people of the Kaalroen Empire, the Domovoi roam the Canabrin plains, often making forays south into the fertile Canaur valley. These frequent incursions have earned them the enmity of not only the Emperor but also the Drazkharovs, whose lands lie closest to the plains.

The Domovoi draw no distinction between the Imperialists and the Rebels. They simply see the rich pickings to be had from raiding into a weakened Empire. The Tsar of Novgorod rouses the Pantheon and the Domovoi war-hosts to plunder their way across the Holy Sigmarite Empire.

The Lords of Lamentation have been in seclusion for so long few remember their last public appearance. Without firm leadership, their city had devolved into infighting and anarchy as dreadlords and nobles vied for mastery over their neighbours. The coastal raids of the Black Arks continued under their individual captains, but without a strong will to unite the corsairs and reavers of the island city, they have posed little coherent threat to the outside world. Some had begun to speculate that the lords had feuded within their midnight towers so long as to have slain one another, leaving none to command and none fit for rule.

But with the ignition of civil war in the Holy Sigmarite Empire, the Druchii are as sharks drawn to the blood-scent of wounded prey. The Master of the Tower, a forbidding figure clad in the dull red of dried blood, silver armour chased in gold, has approached each corsair captain and reaver king in turn. He has presented them a writ of authority forged in iron and stamped with the seal of the highest Lord of Lamentation. It presents a single command: the Empire of Men will burn.

The fleets cross the Straits of Angfang to land a corsair host onto the shores of Flackland. Now the reaving will begin in earnest.

The Drazkharov influence has reached far and wide, even to the relatively new settlements of the imperial colony of Adler an Zee. The fortified town of Scorcio was founded upon the banks of the Tiban in the shadow of the ruins of fallen Aquila. The Drazkharovs were eager to link themselves to their ancestral homeland, their forebears having left behind myriad treasures and artefacts as they were forced to abandon the burning city.

As with so many of the Drazkharov’s schemes, they first aligned themselves to the ruling elite of Scorcio through a carefully arranged marriage. Over a century later, the citadel is now firmly under the control of House Drazkharov through their now-cousin, the Baron Giovanni d’Cadavero.

The crisis in the Holy Sigmarite Empire has yet to spill over into the overseas territories. But as Ogre mercenaries prepare to depart from the colonies to answer the Emperor’s summons, Giovanni Cadavero sets his sights upon the city Ulrichshafen. With the Ogres absent little will stand in his way of the Count realising his vision of appointing himself as Grand Duke of Aranur, undisputed master of the colonies.

His Most Tyrannical Majesty, Master of Boiling Peak, Future Overlord of All Palurin – some of the many self-aggrandising titles Grey Seer Typhus has bestowed upon himself. His machinations are not merely for glory, plunder, or political rivalry. Rather, Typhus envisions himself as ruler of the entire world, his Skaven legions spread across the globe enforcing his iron will, with the subjugated nations revering him as a living god.

Typhus hopes to see the civil war of the man-things collapse their empire in upon itself and he's more than willing to lend a helping claw. The fall of the empire will leave a power vacuum that only he alone, of course, has the might and will to dominate. The coastal towns of the Holy Sigmarite Empire have begun sighting putrid warp-steam clouds billowing out at sea, heralding the coming of weird and wonderful vessels and a fleet of outlandish airships that can only be of the incomprehensible designs typical of Skaven mad-cap technology. Crammed within the holds of the fleet, innumerable rat-men prepare to descend to gnaw upon the weakened Holy Sigmarite Empire and hasten its downfall.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Allies Abroad

The Holy Sigmarite Empire does not stand alone as war and darkness threaten to consume it. The House of Alptraum has never been idle in matters of diplomacy, and the Emperor can count upon many friends from nations far afield.

Many of the Ogre mercenary bands that have fought in the employment of the Holy Sigmarite settled in the colony of Adler an Zee. Lured initially but the region’s warmer climes, the Ogres found frontier life suited their adventurous nature.

Now that the Empire goes to war the Ogres find themselves called upon once again to fight in the name of Sigmar. The Alptraums have always proved reliable clients who pay on time, in turn for which the Ogres have time and again shown themselves staunch soldiers whose loyalty (at least to the Imperial Treasury) can always be counted upon.

But the Drazkharov shadow reaches far indeed – as the Ogres prepare to set sail from Ulrichshafen, further up the River Tiban the fortress town of Scorcio may yet prove the dagger at their back.

Centuries ago it was the Dwarves who toppled the ancient empire of Aquila in the bitter conflict recorded in Dwarf history as The Ghoul Wars. Few veterans still live who remember that time, but the memory of the atrocities and cruelty perpetrated by the vampire regime lingers still in the Dwarf psyche.

With Aquila’s descendants rising to power in the Holy Sigmarite Empire the Dwarves are compelled to act, lest the hardships and losses suffered in The Ghoul Wars prove to have been for naught. Perhaps more pressing, the Dwarf settlement of Karak Haraz lies scant leagues from the Drazkharov stronghold of the Krähefort. With the undead armies massing in the shadow of that forbidding citadel, can the Dwarves afford to ignore the threat?

The Dragon Lords of Mellvellon have seen their might tested and their resources drained by numerous decade-spanning wars against the Skaven hordes of Grey Seer Typhus. Yet, distant as they are from the crisis in the Holy Sigmarite Empire, the Elves still consider the Sigmarites as allies and friends. They cannot turn a blind eye in an hour of need.

Some sceptics pose a more cynical slant on Mellvellon’s interest, suggesting that the Elves simply wish to maintain a political balance and a strong Empire in the west to preserve their own foreign interests and keep in check the power of their dark cousins of Lamentation. Whatever their true motivation, Mellvellon nevertheless sends what troops she can spare to fight for the cause of House Alptraum in defence of the Empire.

The Battle of the Chapel

As Ivan ravages Pellenar his cousin, Count Viktor Drazkharov, marches his own rebel army into Dortland, with the infamous Black Knights of The Grimholt forming the steel-clad vanguard.

Viktor descends on Gross Dortbeck, with the aim of securing a southern base of supply at the mouth of the Great Cannaur River. The threat posed to Galamory and Sudhafen cannot be ignored by imperial forces and the army of Sudhafen, led by the Steel Count Toumas von Schaffernacker, moves east to intercept the rebels. Count Toumas blocks Viktor’s advance at the village of Mittelhamm, using the houses and the local chapel to garrison his troops and so turns the town into a make-shift fort.

Viktor’s attack is ferocious, his rebel army supported by undead beasts. As the battle unfolds, capture of the Chapel proves crucial; the commanding position acts as a redoubt from which a large contingent of the imperial forces can mount sorties against the undead lines before they regroup back behind the safety of the walls. Viktor’s assault is supported by shrieking bat-winged terrors wheeling in the grey skies above, borne upon tattered black wings suffused with dark magicks. Below, the Steel Count’s knights charge through the cobbled streets, and the renowned Greatswords of Sudhafen clash in bitter hand-to-hand fighting with marauding ghouls that try to storm over the walls of the graveyard.

The battle ends in a decisive victory for the Drazkharovs when, after hours of sorties and repulsed assaults, Viktor’s troops surround the Chapel and put the buildings and the grounds to the torch, burning the few remaining devout Sigmarite warriors who steadfastly refuse to flee. The imperial cavalry, unable to break the encirclement, can only look on helplessly as the town goes up in flames.

With his army almost destroyed and his son Rickard badly wounded, Toumas withdraws west to the safety of Sudhafen, leaving open the road to Gross Dortbeck. Viktor wasted no further time and quickly moved south to invest the town.

Frightened locals flee their homes at the sight of Drazkharov banners appearing on the horizon. The terror of the Drazkharov Rebellion strikes deep into the Imperialist southern provinces.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Battle of Franzbruck

The Drazkharovs quickly turn their attention towards securing their power base in the north following the Battle of Weissbruck. It soon becomes apparent that the Emperor is summoning the military might of the Imperial armies to counter the Drazkharov uprising. The province of Pellenar stands an imperialist island amid a Drazkharov ocean, a thorn in the side that holds back an otherwise total dominion over the northern provinces. The vampires soon elect to turn on Pellenar and crush her before the Lord Titus Aureus can join his strength to the Imperial army or, worse, move to catch the rebel forces in a pincer movement.

Having escaped the field at Weissbruck, Count Ivan makes his way to the Drazkharov strongholds in Mallenstein to muster new forces. In a few weeks he is once again the commander of another mighty host, a melting pot of disciplined state troopers loyal to their Drazkharov masters and a horde of shambling undead thralls.

Ivan drives his army south through the cover of the Mallenstein Forest with all haste, but the seasoned Titus Aureus is not so easily caught off guard. All too aware of the danger his realm faces from the threat of envelopment by Drazkharov forces, The Lion had already mustered the famously resplendent cavalry hosts of Pellenar at the town of Saarborn and is ready to intercept Ivan’s army as it emerges from the forests and onto the plain of Pellenar.

The ensuing clash would become the Battle of Franzbruck. It is a frantic and bloody affair, with heavy casualties on both sides, the rival generals throwing themselves into the thick of the fighting. Gradually, the ferocity of the undead horrors and their sheer weight in numbers tells in favour of the rebel host as Titus’ cavalry becomes bogged down in close-quarter fighting. Ivan himself then leads the final charge, smashing Titus’ forces and routing them from the field.

Yet Ivan fails to seize upon the strength of his victory. Rather than pursue Titus and annihilate the Pellenar army piecemeal, he takes stock of his own heavy losses and holds back from pursuit, fearing to advance further without reinforcements. Instead, Ivan turns his soldiers over to ravaging and plundering the Pellenar hinterlands. The cost to the peasants of Saarborn and surrounding villages is terrible indeed, as the terror attacks coincide with Domovoi raids from across the Mallvass mountains.

Ivan’s delay gives Titus vital time to rally his armies at the capital of Auleaena. He is able to meet the Domovoi raiding parties with superior forces, without his supply lines being harried by Drazkharov scouts. Though a ruthless move in which Titus sacrifices much, his peasant-folk falling victim to Ivan’s predators as they rove the countryside unchecked, the calculated strategy results in a decisive military victory that scatters the Domovoi back across the mountains and allows Titus’ armies the opportunity to regroup and rearm to face the next Drazkharov onslaught.

Empire in Flames - the year 666PC

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Shadow in the North: The Rebel Forces

The worst kept secret in the Empire can no longer be ignored - the taint of vampirism now looms large over the north. The ties of the Blood Kiss run deep in the lines of the aristocracy, with many owing their power, position and allegiance to the Drazkharov’s politicking. The outbreak of war sees the House of Drazkharov make its bid for power. Following the religious persecutions throughout Holwingen and Mallenstein, the Priesthood of Morr can no longer defend the crypts and graveyards of those dark lands. As the banners are called, the dead rise up to march to war.

The matriarch of the House of Drazkharov, the Mother of vampirism in the west, the Queen of the Midnight Court. Yet Countess Anastasia arrived in the Holy Sigmarite Empire a destitute refugee. She fled the ruin of her family following the Fall of Aquila and over the centuries since has steadily climbed her way through Imperial aristocracy to become one of the most powerful and influential nobles of the realm.

Once daughter to a long-ago Emperor and sister to another, Anastasia claims descent of the ancient bloodline of the Tyrannii. She seeks to rekindle the glory of her forbears and her thirst for power is boundless. Following her marriage into and ascension to power over the House of Drazkharov, Anastasia’s progeny has now spread their terrible curse to ensnare many other noble houses, binding the fates of each to that of House Drazkharov.

The seeds of ambition finally bear fruit as the scions of Aquila answer their sire’s call to arms. The Counts of the north unite to topple one of the greatest dynasties of the Palurin and place their grandmother Anastasia on the imperial throne.

The brooding lands of Holwingen are made all the darker for lying in Ivan’s shadow. Envy of the lords in the south and paranoia of enemies at home have left Ivan an unstable man. His delusions have left him given to acts of immeasurable cruelty in order that he maintain his stranglehold over the north. It is these depravities that have proved most difficult for the Drazkharovs in their efforts to conceal their secret from the rest of the world. It is only Anastasia’s iron will that has held Ivan in check.

Yet the people of Holwingen hold a strange loyalty for their lord and master. Obedience to the Count has kept the people safe from foreign threats. Enemies from across the border are subjected to the full brutality of Ivan’s bloody hand in defence of his realm. “A beast in the hand is worth two in the bush” has become a common proverb amongst the folk of Holwingen.

As the Lord of the Krähefort, Ivan has a huge military force at his disposal. With the eruption of civil war Ivan’s callous and sadistic appetite will become the terror weapon that the Drazkharovs unleash upon the southern provinces.

The indomitable fortress of The Grimholt lies at the strategically crucial junction of the Greater and Lesser Cannaur Rivers - it is no accident that is was there that Anastasia planted her grandson, Viktor. A soldier and tactician of extraordinary ability, Viktor’s fingertip feel for the ebb and flow of battle has won him countless victories.

Steeped in the blood of the thousands he has slain, the Crimson Count presents an imminent threat for Imperialist forces from his vantage point at the Grimholt. Where his cousin Ivan is the bestial claw that will tear at the Imperial armies, Viktor is the rapier thrust with which the Drazkharovs seek to deliver the decisive killing blow.

The Doyenne of Ratzberg, Madame Maxime is an eccentric recluse, even by a vampire’s standards. Descended from the House of Drazkharov through the female line, she has been variously allied to or feuding with the family since her marriage to the ageing Count Volbeck. The Drazkharovs and Volbecks have long held one another in distrust, each having rival designs for dominion over the lands of their shared neighbour of Pellenar.

Though a changeable and unreliable ally, Madame Maxime has for the time-being aligned herself to the Drazkharov cause. Ever the opportunist, Madame Maxime will seize every chance to make gains out of the losses that the rich southern provinces will inevitably suffer as the chaos of war engulfs the land. When the dust settles, Maxime intends to find herself and her lands secure, and more powerful than ever.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

For Crown and Country: The Imperial Forces

The House of Alptraum has reigned as the imperial family of the Holy Sigmarite Empire since its founding. Centuries-old alliances form strong political and family ties that bind the aristocracy of the Empire. The Imperial Army can rely on the support of many loyal nobles and their bannermen as they unite under the Alptraum standard. The defence of the throne and the very survival of the Empire itself will count upon the courage, mettle and conviction of the brave men of the south.

Second in line to the Imperial Throne, the young Prince Karl is the Alptraum dynasty’s representative on the field of battle, a man to inspire loyalty and bravery in the common men. Dashing and daring, at the age of just twenty-two he has already shown himself to be a man of courage in the face of a terrible enemy.

Karl fights with the invincibility of youth, but he is also a man of deep conviction that belies his age. His faith and courage inspires his men, who will gladly follow him into the jaws of the beast that rises in the north. Karl’s selfless (some might say reckless), lead-by-example, head-of-the-charge style of command has emboldened the soldiers of the Empire and won their adoration. Where Prince Karl rides, so too do the hopes of Imperial victory.

Only very recently elected by the Conclave of Arch Lectors, Ignatius would, in peace-time, have proved an unremarkable and unmemorable man as the head of Sigmar’s Church. Chosen as a steady hand at the tiller, Ignatius is an even-tempered, tolerant and unassuming man who was a choice of compromise between the conservative and radical wings of the church. However, thrust into the spotlight by recent events and the tensions raised by the emerging Puritan Movement, Ignatius now treads an unenviable path. The coming months will be a test of his leadership as he tries to hold together disparate factions of the clergy in these troubled times.

The divide between north and south could well be reflected in a schism that threatens to split the church should Ignatius not prove the man for the challenge. His first duty to the people of the Empire is to see that they hold true to their beliefs at a time when faith is about to be tested to its limits.

Von Schaffernacker, like many of southern his contemporaries, finds his conservative and traditionalist sensibilities at odds with the brash zealotry of the Puritan Movement. Neverthless the von Schaffernacker’s are a deeply religious family and they abhor the malevolent influence of dark magic that pervades the north.

It has been remarked of the Count that he is a man “steel of faith, who puts his faith in steel”. Uncompromising and direct, he has earned a mixed reception at the Imperial Court and is regarded by some of the other high-ranking nobility as blunt and rude. His military prowess is in no doubt however, and the city of Sudhafen blossoms as a direct result of his continuing protection.

The Count seeks to defend the Holy Sigmarite Empire from enemies at home and abroad. His loyalty is to the crown and the realm, though some have noted that this does not necessarily equate to a loyalty to the Alptraum dynasty.

As his ancestors fought to protect their homeland, so too does Titus hold his borders against the predations of the north. He has carefully managed diplomatic relations with neighbours and made friends of potential enemies following Pellenar’s union with the Holy Sigmarite Empire. Yet when it is necessary Titus is equally ruthless with those who prove his erstwhile foes, many of whom have learnt their folly beneath the thundering hooves of the Pellenar cavalry charge.

The people of Pellenar harbour a deep distrust for magic and Titus is no exception. He holds no esteem for the House of Drazkharov and has long held them at arms’ length to protect his people from their machinations.

With the call to arms, Titus has firmly aligned himself to the Emperor. The glorious cavalry of Pellenar form the steel claw with which the Lion will crush the rebel hosts.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Battle of Weissbruck

The Imperial Army sent to apprehend Count Ivan Drazkharov found itself attacked outside its camp at the town of Weissbruck. Prince Karl himself quickly assembled his troops to lead the army in a counter attack.

As the morning fog cleared, the full scope of the treachery unfolded; emerging from the mists, Holwingen soldiers marched side by side with creeping ghouls, slavering wolves, fell monsters and bat-winged terrors from darkest nightmare, and everywhere flew the crimson banner of House Drazkharov.

The Prince’s artillery hammered the foe, rockets and shot pounding the enemy lines as the air choked with smoke and fire. But the horrific beasts that Ivan had summoned marched on to tear into the Imperial lines. The Count himself proved to be a ravening beast, a clawed terror against whom none could stand. Only the courageous charge of the Prince and his Household Cavalry could check the undead advance, smashing into the vanguard and through to break the back of Ivan’s army. Yet the Count himself escaped the field to return to the Krähefort.

With the artillery train destroyed and his army exhausted Prince Karl was forced to withdraw back to the safety of the town, unable to give chase.

When news of the battle reached Sigmarheim the Drazkharovs at the Imperial Court had already disappeared, presumably having fled north. The Emperor declared Ivan and his family outlaws and enemies of the Empire. No emissary was sent from the north to sue for terms or explain the incident at Weissbruck. The only news from the north would be increasingly frequent reports of undead forces massing across Holwingen and Mallenstein. Following the religious persecutions of the Puritan Movement, the Priesthood of Morr could no longer defend the crypts and graveyards of those dark lands and the necromancers roamed unchecked.

As the Emperor calls his banners in the south in defence of the realm, in the north the dead rise up to march to war. The Drazkharov Rebellion has begun.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Starting positions - 665PC

Spark in the Tinderbox

The year 665PC sees the untimely and quite unexpected death of the Grand Theogonist Cornelius I. Appearing to have succumbed to spontaneous exsanguination in his bathtub, having being hale and healthy the very same morning, his death throws the Church of Sigmar into disarray. Conclave is called to elect a successor to the Holy Seat of Sigmar. Alas, the process drags on for weeks as contending Arch Lectors are variously found dead, have fled the city, or mysteriously withdraw themselves from nominations.

Meanwhile, the small but increasingly popular Puritan Movement gains support in the north. Regarded by some as an extreme branch of the Church, the Lector Boris Drazkharov nonetheless seizes upon the Puritan’s distaste for "idolatry" and "vanities" forming part of religious worship. The churches and shrines of Holwingen are systematically purged of their symbols and relics of Sigmar in favour of a more austere aesthetic. Churches in Mallenstein quickly follow suit. As the strength of the Puritan movement rises it begins to challenge the Empire’s other religious orders, considering the worship of other deities anathema. The Puritan’s scorn falls upon the faithful of Manaan, Morr and Ulric. Non-Puritans are derided and castigated for not adhering to the worship of the One True God and Saviour, Most Holy Sigmar.

Puritan zeal is whipped up by the Machiavellian Lector Boris. Priests of these other faiths soon find themselves persecuted across Holwingen, and rapidly, the rest of the north. Boris personally goes to great lengths to vilify the priests of Morr. Scores of that brotherhood suffer at the hands of the Puritans and many of Morr’s temples and shrines are put to the torch by Puritan lynch mobs.

After three months of delay, in Sigmarheim the Conclave is finally ended with the appointment of the new Grand Theogonist Ignatius I. He is appalled at the excesses of the Puritans in the north and calls for immediate cessation of their activities. Conversely, with Boris Drazkharov fanning the flames of religious fervour, the Puritan movement labels the newly appointed Ignatius a heretic for tolerating any who would stray from Sigmar's pure light.

The Grand Theogonist issues a warrant for the arrest of Boris Drazkharov and number of other Puritan leaders. However Boris finds support in his cousin, the Count Ivan Drazkharov of Holwingen. The armed escort sent to apprehend Boris is intercepted en route and the men are massacred by Holwingen state troops.

This incident causes outrage and draws the attention of the Imperial Court in Sigmarheim. With tensions beginning to reach crisis point, and a schism threatening to sunder the Church, the Emperor has little choice but to dispatch the soldiery of House Alptraum to take Count Ivan and Lector Boris into custody, so that they may be brought before the Throne to answer for their actions.

But the Drazkharovs are ready. As the Alptraum troops take rest and make camp outside the town of Weissbruck on their route northward, an army raised at the Krähefort descends out of the mist on the Holwing Hills.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Daemon outbreak

The High Elves and Skaven in Palurin had been at each other's throats for centuries, ever since the Elves had established the colony of Sein Creban close to Boiling Peak. Most years only small skirmishes took place but every so often both sides would marshal great forces to war and magic would split the skies apart.

Such magical energy being unleashed is not safe for the world, and there are those who theorise it was unchecked magics that caused the downfall of the long lost civilisations of Palurin. Whatever the truth in 591PC, near the Elf-Skaven border, great rips appeared in the sky and daemonic forces dedicated to the dark prince Slaanesh spilled out to attack both sides.

The Skaven were the first to be set upon. The rat-men attempted to marshall their forces into some sort of defence but the daemonic assault was too swift. The claws of the Slaaneshi warriors eagerly tore apart fur and bone massacring the squealing Skaven.

Elsewhere the High Elves had more time to prepare before the attack, their mages sensing the approaching danger. Their vat-grown ogres marched from Ogreguard to meet the daemons on the field on battle. Their tough hides protecting them from slashing claws, the ogres soon turned the tide and in ribbons of pastel light the daemons were banished back. Perhaps the elves could have urged their ogre warriors on into the now-undefended Skaven realms, but with the rifts still glittering in the skies above they were unwilling to leave their lands undefended. The ogres returned to Ogreguard, the elven mages began their vigil against what may be coming.

All over Palurin its inhabitants looked into the night sky to see a pink corona of light in the distance and ponder its meaning. In the daemon-worshipping lands of Rank'an'Adanra they rejoiced at the sight. Their gods were coming closer to Palurin than ever.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

New skaven faction

Though the increasingly paranoid Typhus stayed plotting in Boiling peak the Skaven were not idle towards the end of the 6th Century. New clans and alliances were forming and new warlords emerged to try and win glory in the eyes of Typhus, or possibly break free of his tyrannical yoke.

In 586 rat-men poured from the tunnels around the Holy Sigmarite Empire city of Sudhafen. This was a dangerous time for the HSE as factional accusations and infighting was threatening to tear the once great land apart. The Emperor was unwilling to send troops to help Sudhafen, fearing an attack to the capital Sigmarheim. It was fortunate therefore that the Von Schaffernackes family of Hoffenland had recently formed a military guard of their own. Despite the presence of fearsome Skaven weapons of war and mighty rat-monsters the staunch defenders of humanity were able to repulse the attack and seal up the tunnels from which the rats had emerged.

A Skaven army bearing similar clan markings was seen in great force only a year later in the west, attacking Cuitlaxaochitzin. The confident Slann sent their skink hordes to deal with the invaders but the new clan seemed a wily bunch and managed to force the lizardmen to a standstill before returning to their tunnels. Neither side could claim a victory but Cuitlaxaochitzin now had to be wary and in Typhus' kingdom a new power was rising.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Domovoi continue warlike expansion

The Domovoi had always been the most active of the tribes that made up the Kaalroen Empire. Towards the end of the 6th Century they embarked on a number of conquests to prove their worth. It is possible that this began in 573 when an up-and-coming Nurgle chieftain, Rustirus Puce of the Flyswatter tribe, openly mocked the Domovoi for a string of defeats they had suffered. The Domovoi were quick to anger, storming Puce's camp and adding his head to their trophy racks.

Whether or not the Domovoi felt they had something to prove they became far more active in the years following. When Cuitlaxaochitzin increased its attacks upon Kaalroen the Domovoi were first to rush to its defence. In a brutal fight they sent the lizardmen fleeing, setting back the Slann attempts to conquer Kaalroen for a number of years.

The frequency of their attacks upon the Holy Sigmarite Empire also increased. In the east House Volbeck, busy themselves with dealing with Cuitlaxaochitzin invaders, struggled to hold off attacks from the Domovoi. On two separate occasions the chaos raiders swept through the Osterland, pillaging farms and villages. The attacks were finally stopped when House Drazkharov sent aid to its Volbeck allies. The dark magics used by the Drazkharov army was enough to finally defeat the Domovoi, but the tribesmen returned to Kaalroen with both loot and honour.

Eastern HSE at war

For decades an enclave of lizardman warriors had hidden itself within the borders of the Holy Sigmarite Empire, conducting raids and spying missions for the Cuitlaxaochitzin Slann. They could not last forever without being discovered. Relations between the HSE and Cuitlaxaochitzin were already close to all-out war, and the Emperor needed little prompting in 577PC to order the enclave hunted down and exterminated.

The overconfident Slann sent their Ogre forces on a commando raid into the HSE to extract the lizardmen before they were found, believed the powerful force would be little challenged by anything the HSE could throw at them. But the warriors of House Volbeck proved sterner than most, bolstered by the dark magic that was by now ingrained into the HSE and ignored by the ruling classes. The Ogres were forced to retreat back to Cuitlaxaochitzin and in the months following numerous skinks were rounded up and executed within the borders of the HSE.

The east of the HSE was suffering increasing raids on farmlands and villages, mostly due to Domovoi attackers from Kaalroen. As House Volbeck was dealing with the Ogres from Cuitlaxaochitzin the chaos raiders took the opportunity to make an attack. House Volbeck's rear guard was defeated and the lords of Volbeck returned to find much of their outlying settlements looted.

It would take a few years to recover, but House Volbeck was eager to remind the Emperor of the good it had done against the Cuitlaxaochitzin Ogres and not the losses it had suffered. In 580 the lords considered their house strong enough and they went to war, attacking the Ogre Kingdom to the east under a flimsy pretence that they believed it was the Ogres who had raided them and not the Domovoi. Once again House Volbeck proved themselves worthy against Ogre foes and they looted enough treasure to return to the HSE and look like heroes.

The fourth High Elf Skaven War

Once more back at Boiling Peak Typhus began to receive reports from his Clan Eshin spies that the armies of the High Elves were mobilising. They were building up their strength at Ogregard in preparation for a full scale invasion of the Typhonian Enclave. Rather than wait for the Elves to attack Typhus ordered his own armies to muster behind the chain of forts that barred the narrow isthmus separating the two protagonists and prepared to meet the Elves in open battle.

With the Maemir Bay on one side and Caraloth Sea on the other there was little room for the two armies to manoeuvre and they met in a brutal head to head engagement. Typhus himself took to the field, blasting entire regiments of Elves into oblivion with the mutating power of his dark magics. The armies of the Elves were lead by their own Mage who responded in kind, both wizards unable to check the sorcerous might of the other. Fuelled by a hatred born of hundreds of years of constant and fruitless warfare the fighting was bitter and bloody with no quarter given or expected.

When the dust settled it was the Skaven hordes that claimed victory, breaking through the Elven lines to surround Ogregard and sack its surrounding townships. The fourth war between Mellvellon and the Typhonian Enclave had begun.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Cuitlaxaochitzin campaign to rid Palurin of trespassers

The Slann of Cuitlaxaochitzin and the Elves of Mellvellon seemed like a natural alliance. Whilst dark forces were constantly massing both wished to see an end to chaos in Palurin. But the alliance was tense, the Slann objecting to the Elves magically birthing their own ogre warriors and generally treating themselves as superior.

The alliance was truly shattered when the Elves learned of the Slanns' final goal - that all other life was to be removed from Palurin. A step too far, the Elves protested but were thrown out of the Cuitlaxaochitzin cities. The argument lead to bloodshed, as the Slann sent their lizardmen to kill every Elf still in their borders. Though the Elves banded together they were ambushed by skinks and ultimately killed.

As the Elves were still reeling from their banishment from Cuitlaxaochitzin, the Slann sent their own Ogre mercenaries from Graag to the Holy Sigmarite Empire. if this was their latest step in their extermination policy it failed as Drazkharov force defeated the Ogres on the battlefield.
The Cuitlaxaochitzin ambassadors were thrown out of Sigmarheim by the Emperor's council. The lizarmden appealed to be able to speak with Emperor Dieter, but the lords on the council refused access to the fifteen year old boy-emperor.

Elsewhere otherwise were getting wise to the lizardmen plans. The Daemon worshiping kingdom of Rhan'k'andra, which was worryingly close to Cuitlaxaochitzin, knew it needed to build up its defences. It achieved this by looting Kaalroen territory, defeating a force of chaos worshippers there - much to the disgust of the Domovoi.

Domovoi on Campaign

In 562PC the Lizardmen once again travelled to Canabrin to further their aims of destroying the Chaos realm bit by bit. The Lizardmen were successful, but as ever were unable to press their advantage within the vast borders of the Kaalroen Empire, and their raid's effects were limited. The Domovoi were in any case concentrating their forces in the south, readying their forces for war against the Ogre Kingdom. The Domovoi hoped to make short work of the Ogre armies, leaving their two great cities ripe for plundering. In 562PC the battle of Cardenin Pass took place. The bitter struggle between the Domovoi and the Ogres went on for two full days before both sides withdraw exhausted and battered. The Ogres would not be easily beaten. Saluting their prowess in battle, the Domovoi took their host back to Novgorod, content to leave the Ogre Kingdom intact for now.

The Domovoi lords were becoming increasingly exasperated with their Skaven allies. Since its failed and aborted efforts of invasion against the Dwarves and High Elves the Typhonian Enclave had once more revert to its isolationist tendencies. Deciding that the duplicitous Skaven were not living up to their end of the bargain the Domovoi cut off their support for Typhus, declaring that until the Enclave could convince them of its good faith all further payments would be frozen. Typhus immediately flew into one of his notorious rages and boiled the Domovoi ambassador's blood within his body which caused a diplomatic incident, although in truth the Domovoi were fully aware of Typhus' character and always made sure to send their most expendable ambassadors.

The excuse given by the Skaven for their lack of action was that they had been busy creating new and more potent weapons of war with which to bring ruination upon their enemies. The Domovoi replied that if this was the case then Typhus simply must come to Novgorod and demonstrate these new super weapons. Accepting the challenge thrown down to him Typhus arrived in Novgorod in 562PC aboard his personal Zeppelin, a massive flying ship which did indeed impress the assembled observers. Typhus proudly unveiled his latest creation: a pack of barely restrained, blood crazed genetically modified rat monsters of huge stature and bulk. A tournament was immediately scheduled to demonstrate these new killing machines and Typhus declared that he himself would take to the field.

Whether Typhus actually did or not is still debated by the Domovoi observers. He was certainly sited before the battle begun, leading from the traditional place honour for Skaven commanders at the rear of the army. However, once the battle was under way there was no sign of him and he certainly didn't deign to intercede in the fighting with his magical prowess. As in previous tournaments the Skaven acquitted themselves well and emerged victorious after a long and bitter struggle, although it was cynically observed that the new Skaven “super weapons” were casually run down by chaos knights in the very opening stages of the battle.

The Domovoi reluctantly agreed to recommence payments to the Typhonian Enclave, but only on condition that the Skaven actually made war on their enemies rather than just make endless preparations and excuses. The tournament had impressed the Domovoi with the strength of the Skaven armies, but not with the reliability or sanity of its leadership, Typhus himself throwing a petulant hissy fit at the after battle banquet when he was told that the payments so far withheld would not be made.

Ancient civilisation discovered in the Nemir desert

In ages past, centuries before the warp gates opened and bought the current inhabitants to Palurin, the lands were ruled by a great empire. This civilisation had already fallen when the settlers arrived, and in many cases built their cities upon the ruins. Some Human and Elven scholars have begun digging into the past but the larger picture of who the ancient race was - and why they fell - is still a mystery.

But secrets do not lay buried forever. In 555 PC forces from Kaalroen had journeyed South, lead by a prophetic seer, to the Nemir Desert. There they began digging, unsure what exactly they were looking for. What they unleashed was a horde of skeletal warriors and giant walking statues. Despite being unprepared the Domovoi were tough warriors, and managed to crush the attackers. Uninterested in exactly who they had just defeated they looted the complex they had uncovered and returned north, assuming the matter settled.

What they had unleashed had not entirely been put to rest however. Over the next few decades the ancient warriors returned, rising from forgotten burial grounds and beneath ruined cities. In 559 an army rose from a previously undisturbed ruin to surprise a tribe of Kaalroen warriors and crush it beneath their bony feet.

The undead were less successful later. In 565 High Elves of Sein Craban noticed a distrubance in the arcane energies of their colony. Dispatching their magically-bred ogre force to the source, they found more of the ancient warriors rising from a previously unfound ruin. The ogres relished the chance to smash apart the skeletal invaders and put down the attack before it began.

The latest uprising came in 572 as a Dark Elf Dominion raiding force came across a seemingly directionless skeletal army wandering the coast. Though the undead enemies caused many casualties upon the elves, ultimately they crumbled to dust. Would the ancient race prove more of a threat in future, or would it remain a nuisance?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

War Against Chaos

The tentative alliance between Cuitlaxaochitzin and Mellvellon continued in 554 as the two nations made further assaults on the evils of Palurin. Both empires marched armies to the vast reaches of the Chaos-worshipping Kaalroen Empire, separately meeting the Domovoi tribes upon the battlefield.

From the west the Lizardmen had more success. Skink legions encircled a Domovoi village and despite the presence of knights of Chaos and a lumbering Shaggoth crushed the Chaos resistance. Meanwhile the High Elves attacked from the east. Their initial invasion took the chaos by surprise and smashed through their ranks but the Domovoi unleashed a powerful magical counterattack. Both sides took losses and withdrew.

Overall the Slann and Elven mages hoped the attack might warn the Domovoi about continuing their expansion. But many thought this short sighted, and the ire of Chaos would only grow and neither empires were powerful enough to utterly defeat the vast hordes of Kaalroen. But at least the attack had strengthened the bond between Cuitlaxaochitzin and Mellvellon.

North HSE creates enemies

Whatever ill feeling there was between Cuitlaxaochitzin and Mellvellon they were united in their belief that there was evil in this world that needed to be destroyed. In 550 both sent small armies marching through the Holy Sigmarite Empire intent on cutting out the rot at its heart - the noble houses they believed rife with vampirism and necromancy, despite the Emperor's protestations to the contrary.

The target was the largest of these nobles families, house Drazkharov who flew the banner of a flayed man. Skink raiders emerged from the pine forests to leap savagely upon a mustering army, crushing it utterly. The Drazkharovs were still reeling from the attack when on the other side of their lands an Elven army appeared, hidden from scouts and the rest of the HSE by powerful magics. At their head was Sil'cet, a sorcerer of great power. The dark sorceries were no match for his magics and another Drazkharov force was swiftly defeated. There was little defence left for the capital, Mallenstein.

By this time the Emperor had got word of the invasion, and amassed a great force in anger to deal with the invaders. By the time this army reached Mallenstein the Lizards and Elves had vanished and the city still stood. The Emperor personally apologised to the noble house, and pledged help in rebuilding any settlements sacked by the invaders, and donating part of the Imperial army to help defend from further attack. Unusually a hundred of these men never returned from their duty, the records of their loan being lost in an error of bureaucracy.

Whatever the truth, the two-prong attack did not seem to affect House Drazkharov as much as the Slann and Elves hoped. Whether it was the Emperor's assistance or something darker they were ready to fight only 3 years later when there was an unknown falling out with House Volbeck, the other noble family accused of vampirism. The Drazkharov army sent the Volbecks into retreat, but halted their attack at the Emperor's request.

Had the lizardmen army that attacked Drazkharov truly left the HSE? It was 4 years after that attack, in 554, when a similar force attacked and defeated the army of House Volbeck. Again as HSE reinforcements arrived the Lizards has slipped away and despite repeated searches by the Imperials could not be found. Persistent rumours of a colony of lizardmen hidden in the forests would plague the Drazkharovs and Volbecks for a long while.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Mellvellon on Campaign

The Elven kingdom of Mellvellon unleashed the full force of its new army in 538, made not of Elves but Ogres bred by sorcerous magics in the caves beneath the Dragon Isles. The fury of this brutal force was directed at the Kaalroen Empire, the Elves eager to crush the vast Chaos-worshipping realm. The inaugral battle was a great success, the Ogres and their beasts crushing Domovoi warriors beneath their iron boots.

Meanwhile the Slann lords of Cuitlaxaochitzin caught word of what Mellvellon had created. Despite a tentative alliance between the two empires, the Elves had worked on their project in secret. The Slann were offended - the secrets of birthing life were theirs alone, used in the creation of their lizardman workers and armies. They believed the Elves were tampering with things they did not understand, leading themselves down a path to corruption.

Elven ambassadors scoffed at the suggestion of course, and the matter came to blows. The Slann despatched an army to halt the march of the Ogres through the Kaalroen empire. It was an unusual respite for the Domovoi, who avoided the clash between Lizards and Ogres that sent the Mellvellon army into retreat. Many Ogres were killed but the wizards of Mellvellon would not see this as a failure, increasing production of their ferocious new army.

Some Slann in Cuitlaxaochitzin believed the war a mistake, that those who had made the decision were to greedy of the knowledge they coveted. Would it not be better to help the elves perfect their birthing techniques? The argument would occupy the Slann for many decades to come.

House Drazkharov faces down enemies

The stability of the HSE was on the brink in 535PC. House Drazkharov had long been growing in power and the rest of the HSE had long suspected their strength lay in dark magic. Rumours of the dead rising from battlefields and terrible beasts spotted in the skies over the pine forests near Mallenstein, mixed with whispered tales that the lords of Drazkharov had been alive for centuries. Even Elven ambassadors from Mellvellon had protested the dark heart of the HSE, but the old Empress was adamant that nothing untoward was taking place in her lands.

Meanwhile the power of the Church of Sigmar had been waning as Drazkharov, Pellenar and other factions rose in prominence. It was finding it increasingly hard to attract new members to its ranks, as more and more people forgot the old ways of Sigmar - commonly seen as a god of the Old World, not Palurin. Pope Gregerious I knew that the church needed to make its mark, to be seen as powerful as it used to be. In a bold move he ordered the Church’s contingent of Ogre mercenaries to attack house Drazkharov, denouncing the house as witches and heretics.

As soon as House Drazkharov realised what was happening they sent word of protest to the Empress, but by that time the army had reached Mallenstein. As the ogres prepared to march into the city the fears of the Church seemed realised. Corpses clawed their way from the ground to oppose the Ogres, and a contingent of skeletal riders upon ethereal steeds rode from the city gates. At their head rode a dark figure with blood dripping from his swords, and they held aloft the banner of a flayed man.

Ogres are not the type to be afraid of such things and with a roar charged into battle. The cleaved through wolves and bats, ghoulish men and the living dead faster than the evil necromancers could summon them. At the centre of the battle was a great clash between the vampiric lord who lead the knights and the Ogre sorcerer and his bodyguard. Such was the carnage it was not clear who had the upper hand until finally the vampire lord emerged alone, his horse scrabbling up the pile of dead. But the Ogres had brought with them a great war machine - the ironblaster - which sighted itself upon the triumphant vampire and blew him to smithereens with its cannonballs.

The Ogres - and hence the church - had won a great victory, but the army was recalled by the Empress before it could take Mallenstein itself. Pope Gregerious was furious, but the Drazkharovs claimed this was an isolated incident of vampirism, and thanked the church for bringing it to their attention and dealing so well with the problem. A few days later Gregerious fell down the stairs at his home and broke his neck. His successor, who took the name Gregerious II, promised friendly relations between the church and House Drazkharov.

So what was the truth about House Drazkharovs? They seemed little affected by what had happened. Only a few years later they were sent to battle against attacking Domovoi forces in the Flachland gap. The chaos raiders were destroyed, and there are almost no impartial eyewitnesses to the battle, but rumour continues that the commander of the force looked eerily similar to the one blown apart by the Ogre cannons four years earlier.