Sigmarsmacht Delegation, Seneschal-General’s Command Tent
The map was scattered with coins and trinkets, pebbles and knicknacks, every bit and bauble reducing uncounted lives and materiel into a single passive reference point that sat complacently among scores of peers. They trembled in place even as their constellation shifted, a bright-gauntleted hand plucking and dropping dull slate chips with a plunk-plunk-plunk around a small cluster of silver pennies.
“The ravening horde fell upon us hard and fast. My Raptor retinues were not taken unaware, as must have been the brutes’ intent, yet still our Vanguard-Palladors were nearly overrun as they withdrew to bring warning.” The Lord-Aquilor Han Shinzong rested a finger on one of the coins. “I fear the situation is dire, and the outcome inevitable without reinforcement. If this so-called ‘Big Eat’ breaks through, we risk the entire approach. With your permission, Seneschal-General, I wish to commit the whole of my Auxiliary Chamber to thwart their advance.”
The woman so addressed leaned on the table, sharp eyes scanning the toy battlefield. Then she shook her head. “There are closer forces more than equal to the task.” Her worn face broadened into a smile, and she turned. “General Feuerbach.”
The third figure in the tent snapped to attention, armored fist to breast in a salute. “Ma’am.”
“Gather your command and march to relieve the Stormcast.” Her gloved fingers quickly pushed a handful of lustrous copper discs towards the enemy. “When you arrive, attack immediately- I’d say the guns of Hammerhal should make short work of these brutes, wouldn’t you?”
His response was cut off by an annoyed grunt coming from the fourth side of the table, as a magnificently bearded Duardin scowled down at the battleplan. “An’ where do we stand in all this?”
The Marshall’s gaze met his, and both held for a long moment, unblinking. Then she picked up a pair of golden rings and placed them to the rear of the Freeguild. “Your warrior lodge will cover the Lectors’ rear, Runefather. If there are enemies left after Feuerbach’s guns are quiet, you’ll move in and mop up.”
“A task fer beardlings, nae those wit’ Grimnir’s mark.” The Duardin was silent for a long moment, one hand scratching at his red-and-silver crest. “If’n I’d accepted Mithridates Alti gold, the soulblight would give us a real fight.”
“Maybe.” Her eyes narrowed. “So would Qarang Sarn. But is the sworn oath of your lodge really worth so little these days?”
The Runefather gave a snarl, and the Fyreslayer’s hand went to the haft of his axe- before he turned his head, spat, cursed her virtue, and stormed out of the tent. Unruffled, she turned to the plate-clad leader of the Freeguild once more.
“You may proceed as planned, General.”
“Ah, yes Ma’am.” He bowed from the waist. “Thank you, ma’am.” Then he turned as well and followed in the duardin’s wake.
It was a long moment before the same plunk-plunk-plunk started up again, and Lady von Helminger turned to see the Lord-Aquilor bending over the table. One after another, he dropped new slate markers onto the map, until they far outnumbered copper, silver, and gold put together. She glanced down, and then up, still with a hint of a smile.
“With respect.” Han Shinzong rose to his full height, his mask’s crest brushing against the roof of the tent. “The enemy is far more numerous than you made out, and Feuerbach’s Lectors are green. Feuerbach is green. They have no idea what they’re facing- when they attack, that will be the end of them.” He pushed the slate forward until it crowded out the copper. “The foe will then be among the Fyreslayers, and they, too, will die to a man.”
“I expect you are correct. But the General did not need to know the magnitude of the threat that awaited him, only that it was there. He will serve his purpose, and this way he will die without fear.”
“And the Runefather?”
“It’s not in the nature of the Lodges to run.” Her eyes blazed almost viciously. “And now that Goroth-Grimnir feels his pride pricking him, that’s doubly true.” She looked up. “The Fyreslayers will stand firm when the Freeguild breaks, and yes, likely they’ll die- but in the process they’ll blood the foe, take pressure off your retinues, and rid us of a line on our budget to boot.” She began sliding silver pennies away from the scrum. “Your brethren will be free to withdraw to a more defensible position, and the approach will be secured for another day.” From her tone she might have been talking about the endgame of a close pitball match, or the solution to an aethermetric equation.
“And when,” the Lord-Aquilor’s tone as heavy as a stormsmite maul- “does our turn come?”
“Your forces are of a higher caliber than what I’ve made use of today.” She looked at him intently. “When we reach Amasya, your Auxiliary Chamber will be fresh and ready to fight the real battle- while the brave soldiers of the Freeguild will lay upon the Anvil of Apotheosis, waiting to rejoin us.”
The Stormcast’s expression was unreadable behind his mask, and a long moment passed, barely broken by the muffled sounds of the camp. Then he nodded- once.
“If the Chamber is to redeploy, then I must be with them. Excuse me.” With that, Seneschal-General Monique von Helminger was left standing alone, with only the map and its tokens for company.