Monday, 30 January 2012

The "Evil in the North"

As the year 500 approached, the tensions within the HSE were growing ever more apparent. By 495PC everyone had heard the ghastly tales of the walking dead in the north, and the church, particularly the independent preachers, continued to spread the word of "the evil in the north", imploring the noble houses to root out the blasphemous goings on in their own states.

It was clear that House Drazkharov and House Volbeck had no intention of raising forces to root out necromancy in their own lands, particularly since they themselves were the source of the undead incursion, but at that time no-one realised this fact, and few even suspected that the high born northern lords were in fact ancient Vampires from Aquila. Only the very top of the church knew, as had Emperor Wilhelm, warned by the dwarfs. The Emperor had died with the knowledge however, denying it to his grave.

Senior officials in the Sigmarite church were in fact supportive of their independent warrior priests, and in 497PC one such firebrand, Father Simmermann, raised his own force of loyal followers to root out unbelief and blasphemy in Holwingen. His force reached the sparsely populated region in late summer, and encountered a force of undead creatures. Urging his followers on the Warrior Priest flung himself into battle, only to be cut down by a host of hungry ghouls. Only a handful of men escaped, although the necromancer conveniently destroyed himself with his own magic, allowing those lucky enough to survive to flee back to Sigmarheim.

After the battle House Drazkharov were incensed at rogue religious zealots causing mayhem in their lands and demanded at the council of state that the church be denied any standing forces. They tried to outlaw warrior priests, but in the end the council agreed to outlaw independent armies. From now on only states and the Empress herself would be able to raise an army legally, and the church found itself shackled thanks to the political machinations of the northern nobles.

Then, later in the same year, a force of Ogre Mercenaries arrived in Mallenstein, threatening to sack Mallendorf if the lord of the city did not come out to answer for his crimes. The Ogres had been sent by Mellvellon, in a bid to force the ruling elite of the HSE to recognise that there were Vampires within their ranks. The lord of Mallendorf was not present however, and a minor lordling took it upon himseld to resolve events. While the Ogres laid seige to Mallenstein the minor lord, whose name remains a mystery, escaped the castle and travelled under the cover of darkness to a bleak and lonely moor, located just to the north of the Castle Mallvass. There he summoned a great host of undead, right along the Ogres' line of retreat.

Disappointed at not being able to face the undead in a place where the general populace would see, the Ogres none-the-less turned back on themselves to give battle. A vicous action took place on the moor, known as the Battle of Mallvass Moor, which saw the undead host annihilated and the minor lordling destroyed. They Ogres hadn't managed to reveal the undead curse in the nobility of the north, but they had destroyed at least one minor Vampire.

Houses Drazkharov and Volbeck were incensed by the attack on the HSE and demanded the Empress declare war on Mellvellon, but shrewdly the High Elf lords had distanced themselves from their own army, and could not easily be implicated in the attack. Privately the Mellvellon ambassador managed to whisper a cryptic warning to the Empress, who began to realise for the first time that the "evil in the north" went as far as, or even started at, the nobility itself.

While the northern nobles raged, they could not hide the fact that their armies had been defeated in open battle, and Matilda used this opportunity to marry the Graf of Schinderland, Dieter Moritz. This settled at last the question of succession, and the Vampire plans to worm their way to the HSE throne took a backward step.

War at Sea

Merchants travelling the seas of Palurin have long been on the lookout for dark elf raiders, but despite the number of elven ships on the seas they had rarely banded together to form a fleet capable of challenging the navies of other factions. This all changed late in the fifth century as the lords of Khaldieth began to organise a serious blockade of the Holy Sigmarite Empire and its port at Galamory.

Having seriously damaged the Imperial Navy the newly formed dark elf fleet saw another opportunity for plunder in the form of ships belonging to the ogres of Cuitlaxaochitzin heading east to attack the skaven at the behest of their slann masters. The ogres never made it, sunk by the elves at range before they could close for boarding.

Angered, the ogre tyrants defied their masters request for caution and sent a second ogre fleet to avenge the loss. But the Khaldieth elves were elsewhere, harassing the coastlines. Instead the ogres met a newly built fleet from the HSE in the Galamor Bay. With such a high turn-over of crew it is no surprise that the HSE ships were commanded by an inexperienced Admiral, Franz Katzenhai. Mistaking the ogres for dark elf raiders, Katzenhai ordered cannon fire at the maximum range.

Under attack the ogres tried to plough forwards against the wind. Katzenhai realised his mistake but rather than try and parley he panicked and ordered the entire ogre fleet wiped out with no survivors, so that no word could be taken back to Cuitlaxaochitzin of the error. The more manoeuvrable Imperial Navy surrounded the ogres and blew them to pieces. The Admiral’s desperate plan worked and the slann believed the fleet was wiped out by dark elves, but would it be long before they learned the truth?

Chaos Raid Canaur

In 493Pc the nomadic tribesmen of the Domovoi once again came back to plague the Empire with their raids. They crossed the Mallvass mountains to the south, along the Easting Road, and proceeded unmolested until reaching Wurmlingen, when a small Empire army was hastily pressed into battle to save the southern states' settlements from the predations of the wildmen. Unfortunately the newly formed and untested Empire formation suffered appallingly in the relatively small scale battle. The Empresses new army was cut down to a man, and the Domovoi sacked several small settlements south og the Canaur river, Wurmlingen escaping be blowing up the bridge crossing the waterway. The Domovoi then moved into the plains of Canaur, raiding as they went, but were finally stopped in their tracks by the Dominion, whose long range patrols ambushed and harried the Domovoi raiders until the fled back across the Mountains.

Meanwhile in the west, the strange inhabitants of Rhan'k'adanra were encountered on the Empire's border. Humans claiming their "living god" had sent them forth to expand their realm, arrived near Helland, and plundered several small hamlets. The Empress once again sent out a small army to deal with this new threat, only to find the Rhan'k'adanra tribesmen had summoned a small army of daemons to help them in their pillaging. The Empire once again had difficulties, their one cannon blowing up, killing the crew, and the rest of the army massacred by the other worldly beings. Helland itself escaped, but only because the daemons finally disappeared, the magic binding them to this world running out.

With the Domovoi in the east and Rhan'k'adanra in the west, Empress Matilda had cause for concern, but her worries were still focussed on the issues within her own kingdom. These increased when the Countess of Volbeck declared rather loudly at court that only the armies of the north could defend the Empire.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

New Factions rise in the HSE

Towards the end of the 5th Century, the emperor of the Holy Sigmarite Empire was becoming increasingly ill and frail, and his daughter Matilda took up many of his duties. Many at court however were becoming nervous. She had not found a husband and the prospect of a woman at the helm of the HSE didn't appeal to many, despite her proving her ability at handling the day to day running of the kingdom. Although Matilda expressed her annoyance at the endless speculation over who she should marry, she did realise that to secure her position a marriage, and the right marriage, were paramount.

Several noble houses courted the royal hand, but the political situation had become increasingly complex by 489PC. In the north the powerful and mistrusted house of Drazkharov had pushed the Empire's borders outward, establishing the new states of Mallenstein and Osterland, which had been given to a related family, the Volbecks, after all resistance to the idea at court was mercilessly, and sometimes murderously silenced. The Drazkharovs now effectively controlled much of the north and east of the nation, the continuing reports of walking corpses and vampire activity officially denied by an anxious church and state.

Meanwhile the kingdom of Pellenar was striving to increase its influence in the HSE. The horse lords had seen the relative wealth of the Empire which now surrounded them, and had resolved to join it, but on their terms. The "treaty of eternal friendship" was a start, but the Pellenarians, lead by house Aureus, wanted full recognition as a state of the Holy Sigmarite Empire, and all the riches it would bring to the kingdom.

To further these aims, house Aureus began to send small armies to help Emperor Wilhelm in the defence of his borders. The first arrived with much pomp and ceremony at Sudhafen, before heading into the Galamor peninsular, where reports of Dark Elf raiders had increased. The Pellenar force quickly found itself in trouble however, upon discovering a new Dark Elf settlement on the coast, known as Khaldeith. The Dark elves defeated the Pellenar force and the horse lords were at pains to reassure the Emperor that such defeats would not be commonplace if Pellenar were to join the HSE.

In the same year, tensions over the exact border of Osterland with Mallendorf came to a head. The Volbecks wanted to send a message to the Krahefort, that they were no mere puppets of the Drazkharovs, and skirmishes between the states continued during 489 and 490, while the Emperor vascillated over deciding the border. He never made a decision. In 491PC Wilhelm died and Matilda became the first Empress of the Empire at 25 years old. During the brief period of uncertainty following the changeover, Osterland took the opportunity to bully Pellenar along their shared border. Villages were raided and horses stolen, and once again the tales of the walking dead reached Sigmarheim, and were once again ignored. Eventually Pellenar was forces to defend its borders, but lost a number of knights in the process. To protect its prestige however, no help was asked for from the Empress.

491PC also saw the Drazkharovs attempt to impress the new Empress in an effort to win her hand. They sent troops to the south, defeating the dark elves in a number of skirmishes, but failed to dislodge the growing colony from the coast. This had direct consequences late on in the year when the privateer fleet of the Empire was sunk in Galamor bay by raiders from Khaldeith.

Despite this setback the Drazkharovs did impress Matilda, securing victory over Cuitlaxaochitzin in a major battle to the north of the Mallvass Pass. Why the Lizardmen had made war on the Empire was unknown, but the ambassador from Cacauaxochitl was keen to point out the army was not sanctioned by the Slaan rulers, and the dispute was with Holwingen, not the Empire itself. In response, Holwingen and Mallenstein constructed two large fortifications on either side of the pass. They hailed this as a great achievement for the protection of all of Sigmar's followers, although both the Empress and the Grand Theogenist felt they were more interested in protecting themselves.

The victories by the northern states could not be denied, but Matilda refused to marry any of the potential suitors put forward by the Drazkharovs and Volbecks. She knew the south of the Empire was growing ever more wary of the north and its power, and secretly signed a bill drastically increasing the size of her own armies, paid for by taxation of the southern states. Realising the importance of this move, the southerners agreed. Meanwhile house Aureus gave up plans on immediately joining the HSE by way of marriage to Matilda, realising that security at home from the threats of the northern HSE states was the first priority.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Skaven defeat Chaos on land and sea

The Domovoi had been as good as their word, supplying The Enclave with wealth and supplies to aid their war against the High Elves of Mellvellon. Despite this Typhus wasn't in any particular rush to restart hostilities by making yet another move on the colony of Sein Craban. The war had so far been fruitless and cost him dearly. For the moment Typhus was more concerned with the continued expansion of his empire. Under his twitching and erratic stewardship two more colonies had already been established, the southern port of Widows Peak and the undersea stronghold of Ratlantis.

Typhus wanted to establish yet another new colony, this time on the southern continent. His agents had finally found a source of warpstone amidst the underground caverns that riddled the rocky coastline there. Mining it would finally provide a reliable source of the precious substance meaning The Enclave would no longer be entirely dependant on the generosity of their Domovoi allies. In addition establishing a fleet base in the far south would help secure The Enclave's control of the straits linking the Great Rhun Sea with the Pan Coren Ocean. This would make the forays by elven privateer fleets into the Pan Coren Ocean increasingly risky as they would have to dodge the constant patrols of Typhus' navy. It would also provide a convenient justification if the Domovoi questioned why their aid was being spent on new Skaven colonies rather than making war.

The new colony wasn't established entirely without blood loss. The southern continent was infested by primitive beastmen and the straits themselves haunted by chaotic pirate fleets looking for easy plunder. The innumerable armies and fleets of the Enclave overcame both threats with ease and the City of Pillars was established amidst the magnificent caverns honeycombing the cliffs around a perfect natural harbour.

Dwarf Kingdom in Turmoil

The year 487 saw a time of crisis for the Dwarven empire as religious fanatics took control in a number of areas of society. Ancestor worship is the common form of religion amongst Dwarf society, but many believe that worshipping the ancestors of the Old World is a futile exercise and that heroes of Palurin should be the objects of reverence.

This belief may not have caused upset if one of the proposed 'new ancestors' wasn't Durhig Keyfounder, a notoriously racist and isolationist dwarf who died fighting the Kaalroen Empire in the first century. The Followers of Durhig reject the alliance with the Holy Sigmarite Empire and many secretly planted themselves into important positions in the Dwarven army.

During 'The Night of Short Knives' a Follower lead a Dwarf garrison into an attack on the HSE colony of Adler An Zee in the hopes of starting a war. Spies reported this attack back to the Dwarven holds and a large army was despatched to stop the traitor Dwarfs, but this army too was partially commanded by Followers and it fell to infighting.

The loyal Dwarfs defeated the rebels, though at the cost of many innocent Dwarf lives - most troops were unaware of the religious conflict taking place. Meanwhile the Ogres stationed in Adler An Zee made short work of the surprise attack and repulsed the Dwarf force. It was a resounding defeat for the rebels.

Following that night many Followers of Durhig were rooted out and dismissed from their posts. The plan had been in vain, as the Dwarven king met with the Holy Sigmarite Emperor and the two agreed to many recommit to the alliance which was now stronger than ever.

Kaalroen Empire hemmed in

Towards the end of the fifth century the Kaalroen Empire continued its slow expansion but increasingly found its growth blocked by neighboring empires. In 481 expansion south was contested by the small Ogre Kingdom, but the Ogre forces were easily brushed aside and the Chaos pillaged the lands. But further expansion was met with unexpected results.

The Ogre Kingdom appeared to be in a precarious position, and 4 years later the Kaalroens were massing for another attack. This time however the Ogres received unexpected help in the form of Lizardmen from Cuitlaxaochitzin. Ogre mercenaries had helped build the Lizardman empire whilst the Slann were still spawning their troops, and now it seemed they wished to support the fledgling nation. The chaos invasion was repulsed, and gold was donated to the Ogres to help keep their defences.

With this unexpected turn of events the Kaalroens looked elsewhere for their plunder, but in the very same year they were defeated in an attack on the north of the Holy Sigmarite Empire. Troops from the rapidly growing Mallenstein region lead the defence, and the Chaos forces were unprepared for the dark magic used. Accusations of necromancy from inside the HSE were hushed up by the Emperor.

The latest setback to the Chaos empire came in 491 when the Domovoi went to battle with the High Elves of Mellvellon, but found themselves fighting an unknown company of Ogres. Well armoured and equipped, the Ogre smashed the unprepared Chaos army. Lizardmen defending Ogres, the undead defending humans, Ogres defending Elves; The Kaalroens were counfounded at every turn.