Turn Six

Time of the Warring States
Summer, Year 2532, Year Two of the Great War

At fifteen I leave home to fight the foe
And will not go back till I am two-score.
On the way I meet a Cathayan I know;
I ask him who remains within my door.
"Seen from afar, your house is over there,
'Mid graves where paddy and blossom stand aloof."
Arrived, I see rooms strewn bare
And a pheasant fly from beam of roof.
In middle courtyard grows only wild grain
And by the well grows mallow I can eat.
I pluck the grain, boil it as food plain
And put the mallow in the soup I heat.
When I have cooked the simple, homely fare,
Who will eat it with me? No one appears.
I go outdoors and eastwards fix my stare,
My furrowed face and clothes wet with tears.

----Cathayan Homecoming poem

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Palace of the Red Petal, Tung-Sheng “Tung-Sheng was burning…”

General Xuan Bin leaned upon the battered ramparts of the Palace of the Red Petal, looking south and west. A hot wind blew in from the west, billowing out his magnificent crimson cloak and bringing with it the smell of burning timber. The Palace flags snapped sharply in the breeze, the ancient keep starting to crumble in the face of nature. Every once in a while a piece of rock broke loose and fell into the valley below or a roof shingle would break loose, causing a small avalanche of the reddish tiles to go clattering into the courtyard.

 

The Palace had certainly seen better days, as had the Celestial Dragon General! Forced to withdraw from the Taishan Bridge, Bin had been forced to find refuge in the Emperor’s summer palace and regroup his shattered armies. His hands gripped the battlements tightly as he thought of all the lives lost in the flood from the destruction of Taishan Dam. He had been holding a Tournament of Swords when news of the disaster struck. Quick to respond, the defenders could only watch in horror as their comrades were washed away by the raging torrent, large pieces of the Taishan Bridge toppling under the stress of the roaring water. The order to withdraw had been swift to follow and the remaining regiments of the Tung-Sheng Talon had force marched for two days straight to remain ahead of the Ghost Fang greenskins. The spider mounts used by the greenskins were swift and many of the retreating elements were caught and eaten by the savage arachnids! And so Bin was hole up in this ruined keep, banking on reinforcements to arrive before the Orcs finished the job they had started!

 

    

Province of Lan-Sheng

“Hold the fort, for we are coming,

Alexander signals still.

Wave the answer back to Heaven,

By his grace we will.

Shields high, do we die

Spears forth into enemy chest

Our anger and courage

Are up to the test"

---Homeguard Ballad, unknown poet  

As the dawn sun rose in blood, Unbrok Stonebeard stood on the high ground overlooking the rice paddies of Lan-Sheng. With him were one hundred Cathayan men and women armed with bows, swords and axes. Only about thirty of them had shields and these warriors he placed in the open ground facing the dip in the plain. Bamboo forests towered on either side of the small force, while behind them the valley widened on both sides, becoming wood covered hills. The force had moved quickly across the flood plains, using hidden trails known only to the few. The Children of Alexander had grown with the liberations of more towns and regions under the yoke of the Orc invaders, and now the recruits were showing their worth, their knowledge of the lands an invaluable asset to the forces of the Outcasts. The peasants, hastily recruited into the ranks of the Children of Alexander, were becoming restless now, and Unbrok had no words for them. They moved warily around the Dwarf, casting suspicious glances at him; they would fight along side of him, for he was a great warrior and Alexander had wished that they do so.

Unbrok raised a gnarled hand to shield his eyes and saw that the Orcs were moving. He could make out the sunlight glittering on their speartips and flashing from their looted scraps of heavy mail. Unbrok smiled smugly as he drew forth his axe, testing the blade with us thumb. Unbrok turned to his assembled forces, he motioned for them to form up and ready for battle.

He grinned broadly and cast his eyes over his small force. Their faces were set, determined; there was no give in them. For countless centuries men such as these had held their empire together, turning back the beasts of the Mountains of Mourn, the hordes of Hobgobla Khan, the Immortals of Khorne and ferocious raiders from Nippon. Even a Winter March that caught the Ghost Fang greenskins off guard was launched with the help of skilled hunters and poachers! And now they once again stood against impossible odds.  

The pounding of crude drums echoed across the valley, followed by the thundering of hooves as the Orc battle lines surged forward, a massive wall of Boarboyz leading the way. Glancing to his left, Unbrok saw one of the men had urinated on himself while another set arrow to bow. One woman tested the air with her blade while an aged farmer wiped his sleeve across his brow, surprised so much moisture could be on his face when his mouth was so dry. Still, Unbrok thought, they would all do well this day…  

 

Province of Lan-Sheng

“Ere we go! ‘Ere we go!

Pulping Stunties as we go!

Might of Mork! Fist of Gork!

Da East is green, colored Ork

And weze just lookin fer more!” ---Orc Camp Song, Time of the Warring States  

 

Mugruk Skullbasha was in a foul mood! His ladz had fought hard and been forced to flee the field of battle, the jeering of da umies still echoing in his head. Throwing his helmet at the nearest Goblin he could see, he stalked into his tent, not noticing the blood flowing from the crushed skull of the little greenskin that the force of his throw had pinned to a tent post!  The battle lines formed, his forces had moved into position to run straight through the human lines, breaking them with the charge of his Boarboyz. As the Orcs thundered forth towards the humans position, Mugruk could see them forming into archery lines. Laughing out loud, Mugruk readied his shield even as the first rain of arrows fell upon the charging mound of pigflesh and muscle. Several Orcs fell from their saddles, much to the amusement of their fellows, as they were trampled into the soft muddy ground of the rice paddies. As the horde crested the small knoll the humans were sheltered behind, they ran into the hidden defenses of the Outcasts. The first rank was scythed down like ripe wheat as they fell forward into the hidden stake lined pits across the mouth of the dell, the second rank following as they could not stop the charge of their mounts in time. Chaos ensued as the remaining Orcs scrambled to get around the bodies of their fellows even as more arrows rained in from the ranks of the Homeguard. A ragged cheer erupted from the Outcasts as a lone Stunty led a charge towards the Orcs! Soon swords and axes rained upon the Orcs, who countered with savage blows from their choppas, their mounts goring chests in bloody ruin even as they squealed their own death throes. The battle was over in a matter of an hour, the Orcs fleeing from the savage attacks of the berserk humans, with barely a fourth of their number left alive. The banner of the Children of Alexander fluttered in the hot summer win, claiming the field of battle for the Army of Alexander… 

 Lu-Sheng Marsh, Lu-Sheng

Honcho slammed his blades long shaft into the muddy ground with a loud sucking noise.

“Brovvas! We 'az finushed da work azzigned to uz from da lord! Diz iz a proud moment in da 'istory of da republik!” Cheers erupted, the crowd of thousands screaming their approval and pride.

“Da Gnoblars iz slavez no morez! We iz da onez in kontrol.... We'll Lord Koppenztoff iz but we'z iz, hiz instrumentz of powa!” More cheers followed his proclamation as the crowd quickly became more and more enthusiastic. 

As da true followa's of da will of Alexandar threw da teachin's of Lord Koppenztoff we shall enherit! Dis magniglorific pass we 'az made will serve da republik well. The 'ummies will come ta buy da goods and it wills provid da workas to do da fieldz. Wid dis road we shall build da bootyful land we'z allwayz dreamed off. Where every shiny thing can be urz and da righteus will no longa be eatun! Dat, my pietyful fruends.... Iz da tru will of Alexandar!”

Honcho paused as the crowd bellowed and lost control of their emotions, it was rare to see such unity amongst any of the goblin races and it swelled his heart with pride. He knew this was right, all those times he had gone into battle with his old masters he had never wanted to really protect them. He had seen his fellows thrown onto blades to protect their masters. It was never right; it had never been for the greater good. But the time of changes was upon them, the wind blew out the old and in the new.  Whispers had been abound that the Gnoblars were not in Alexandar’s vision, that they were scum and to be exterminated, it had worried many but Honcho was certain it was lies spread by the unfaithful humans. They worshiped false idols, clinging to their old ways. They didn't know the real one true religion. Lord Koppentoff did. He had told Honcho himself and made him a disciple of Alexander a true honor. This was their time, they would not submit to the ogres or humans demands. This pass has to stay open, it is his will. He threw his arms up.  

“Brovvas! We'z will 'old diz pass. Da fat gitz might come to get uz out! But it iz da profits will dat diz path will be foreva urz! We will not submit to dem, we shall fite dem till da last. We iz no longa slaves to dem! For ALEXANDAR!”  

“What da zog is he talkin' bout?” Shouted Riggit to his friend as they stood deep at the back of the crowd.  “I can't 'ear a word! It'z givin' me brainhurt from da noise!” The gathering was captivated by the figure stood before them in his resplendent crimson cloak and carved helm, runes and symbols seemed to light up from the depths of the beautiful helmet. “I duno Riggit, but it'z bloody excitin! His 'at is lovely!” Said Yammer, a look of adoration on his face. “Wheeeeeeeeee!” 

Even as the diminutive greenskins squeaked their approval, they failed to notice the legions of Celestial Dragon warriors creeping into position to strike…

     


Ruins of Nan-Gau, Northern Cathay

A cruel whip cracked in the warm morning air, its descent snapping hard across the bare shoulder of a Cathayan female, flaying a generous chunk of flesh from her back as she stumbled forward with a basket of heavy rocks. As she fell to the ground in a heap, the cruel laughter of the Dark Elves rang in her ears. Another crack of the whip brought another measure of flesh from her back as she stumbled back to her feet, gathering her burden once more. 

And so it went for several months since the siege the forces of the Anointed securing the once impregnable fortress of Nan-Gau and using it as a base form which to launch future raids into Northern Cathay. The battle had been a decisive one, the toppling of the fortress an accomplishment that had never been done. That she had been forced to use up a large force of her demonic allies meant little to the enigmatic leader of the Anointed, so long as the fortress had fallen. And fall it did, the forces of the Dark Elves and Warriors of Chaos reducing the defenses to rumble and swarming through the streets in an orgy of destruction. Once the fortress was under the control of the Anointed, the forces of Nurgle and his Dark Elf allies moved towards the heartland of Cathay, with only the forces of the Celestial Dragon to stop them. Forces of Marauders and Cold One Knights ravaged the surrounding villages, long lines of prisoners being led back to Nan-Gau in chains. A large counter attack had come with the spring dawning, the forces of the Migration, reinforced with units from the Celestial Dragon had surged forth in an dawn assault designed to take one corner of the ruined fortress and wedge open a big enough gap to allow the Cathayans access to the ruins. However the attack had meant with failure, as the Anointed had expected a counter attack and had spent the first few months of spring reinforcing the ruined battlements. As the forces of the Ogres charged the ruined gaps, they tumbled forward into spike lined pits full of disease covered bamboo pungi stakes, only to be riddled with bolts from the Dark Elf reapers positioned to cover such an assault. The forces of the Ogres were driven back under the expert fire of the reapers, forced to fall back and regroup beyond the shadows of the ramparts, again the cruel laughter of the Dark Elves ringing in their ears… 

...blaring horns announced the arrival of the forces of the Celestial Dragon, proud regiments of warriors under the provincial control of Xie-Zhiqian, Governor of Zhong-Sheng. The Celestial Dragon had been ordered to recapture the fallen fortress and as summer rolled towards an end, a massive siege train arrived and was hastily erected. Overnight siege towers and catapults were assembled and as the final days of summer draw to a close, the armies of the Dragon prepare for war… 

Hemen-Zun, Central Cathay The streets of Heman-Zun erupted in cheer as the new moon rose high into the night sky. The beleaguered humans, long suffering from the ravages of famine and plague, plus sporadic attacks from the forces of the Dark Pact and the Anointed, were finally given cause to celebrate for a brief period of time. The arrival of the Ogres of the Great Migration was seen as an answer to their prayers. Here was an army that could defend the people from the ravages of war.  Rhal Spinebite Stoneshoulder marched down the flower strewn streets, catching the falling buds and cramming them into his mouth as his tribesmen took in the marvels of the great human city. A waste he thought, when food was already scarce, to be throwing away perfectly edible vegetables! The Ogre scratched at his rump as he looked at the towering building surrounding him, something not quite settling in that thought, since Ogres were usually taller than most. A display of fireworks lit the night skies as more and more Ogres arrived from the south, bringing with them with scores of peasant levy. The levy marched in even ranks, their steps matching those of the Ogre which was a feat to itself as the stride of an Ogre is much longer than a human! Yet they did it with pride, not one falling behind. Battle weary cavalry of the Celestial Dragon cantered in behind the rag tag army, the rearguard moving at a relaxed pace, though the lacquered armored warriors astride the great stallions’ maintained vigil even in the streets of the river town. The town was under their control for now, with more Ogre reinforcements expected to arrive in a fortnight. The tide of battle was turning for Cathay, as the hot summer wore on…

Chuanshi, Northern Cathay

Even as the forces of Xie-Zhiqian, Governor of Zhong-Sheng lay siege to the fallen fortress of Nan-Gau, the Order of the Dragon Shield moved into his seat of power, reinforcing the dwindling garrison there. The streets of Chuanshi were empty for the most part as the armies of the Order marched through the gates and into the city proper.

As the soldiers marched past homes and businesses they could see faces in the windows, frightened faces. It was as if their coming was foretold and the people were afraid of them!  As the men dispersed to their barracks, the commanders moved to the town hall to seek answers. Where were the armies of Governor Xie-Zhiqian? The promises foodstuffs, weapons and supplies? The Governor had much to answer for!  

Ruins of Shuanglong, Chukei

Great bonfires roared high into the summer night sky, bands of Marauders celebrating the victories of the Anointed over the lands of Cathay. Tribes of warriors from different regions all shared drink and camaraderie in purpose. An enormous Mammoth roared in the distance, a great howdah being set upon its massive frame while dozens of sweating warriors struggled to get the ropes and straps in place to secure the platform. Tomorrow promised to be a glorious one, the tribes receiving word that they would be marching south to reinforce their brethren in Han-Gau.

At one point during the night’s celebrations, a series of battles broke out among the tribes, as ancient vendettas were brought to the front and the gathered army broke down into frenzied sides. The great Mammoth roared through the embattled warriors, trampling men into the muddy earth, goring more with its massive tusks. Chaos ensued as the berserk warriors fell upon one another, the frenzied screams being echoed in the cold dead bones of the ancient Chaos Dragon…

 

   

 

 Alexandria, Southern Cathay

Scratching quill to parchment, Lord Bryon, formerly of Bretonnia, continued to update his troop journal even as the hot summer wind blew through his open window, billowing out the mauve curtains. Tasked with the perimeter defenses of the eastern border of Gongxiang, it was his tactics and planning that kept the borders safe form the marauding Orcs of the Ghost Fang. Sheets of troop movements, supply trains and more were arrayed on the table before him, their positions marked carefully on several vellum maps.  

A faint scratch of metal on metal caught his attention and he looked up from his work. Taking a dagger in his hand, he moved toward the open windows of the balcony. As he stepped out onto the landing, the wind again billowed out the curtains, enveloping the knight in their grasp. Untangling himself from them gauzy material, Bryon was shocked to see a figure standing on the edge of the balcony. Arms folded and dressed all in black, the figure stared at the knight with blood red eyes.  

“Who are you?” inquired the young knight. The figure simply remained in place, not uttering a word. As Bryon moved towards the figure, dagger in the defensive position, a lonely bell rang in the distance, announcing the arrival of 3 am. As he got closer to the figure, he could see something dangling in the figures hand, looking for all the word like a tail!  

“I said, who are you and what do you want? Answer now or I shall be forced to call the guard and have you arrested!” 

With that he took one more step forward, and it was his last. The figure exploded into a blur of movement, a fine chain swinging forth from its hands, the end of which ended in a wickedly hooked scythe. The hook swung at a low angle, catching the knight in the loins and ripping them out with a sickening tearing sound. A stifled gasp escaped Bryon’s lips, even as bubble of blood burst from his open mouth and he fell to his knees. Unable to cry out for help, it took the Bretonnian several agony filled hours to finally expire, as the assassin merely sat cross-legged nearby and watched. When he was sure the knight was dead, the assassin slipped over the balcony and into the darkness of the alley below, blending once more with the shadows...

  

 

 Cathay, the Grand Empire, Last Days of Summer

As the war rages on across the empire, the forces of the Ghost Fang Waaaagh continue to clash with the Army of Alexander while the Anointed battle with the forces of Cathay, the Order of the Dragon Shield and the Celestial Dragon. At sea the forces of the Orcs have secured several sea fortresses in near Nippon despite the combined armadas of the Outcasts and Yamato’s Imperial Navy.   

With control of the Southern Sea of Nippon, the Ghost Fang mariners were able to stage an amphibious assault on their own lands, surging forward to fight the forces of the Outcasts with a great mass of Sea Trolls under the control of the Ghost Fang Shamans! Once more a stalemate was reached, neither force able to force the other one out. So Outcast and Orc fight a continued struggle as the season turns colder and the skies above Cathay once more turn hostile and grey… 

“Gone is the guest from the Chamber of Rank,
And petals, confused in my little garden,
Zigzagging down my crooked path,
Escort like dancers the setting sun.
Oh, how can I bear to sweep them away?
To a sad-eyed watcher they never return.
Heart's fragrance is spent with the ending of spring
And nothing left but a tear-stained robe.
  
 

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