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.

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