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...