Led by Fleetmaster Anruil Brighteyes, the Expedition represents the authority of Hammerhal and the divine will of the God King Sigmar himself… well, more or less. The Expedition’s orders are to defend the far side of the Ghyrplunge realmgate against attack, discover the fate of the missing Lord-Celestant Han Shinzong, and protect Azyr’s interests- no matter the cost.
Although any faction can fight for any coalition, the majority of the Expedition number among…
- Cities of Sigmar
- Kharadron Overlords
- Stormcast Eternals
- Lumineth Realm-lords
The Expedition has been dispatched on behalf of Hammerhal to venture through the Ghyrplunge realmgate from Amasya to Lake Bykaal, discover the fate of Lord-Celestant Han Shinzong, and bring this backwater underworld under Sigmar’s domain.
Less a conventional army and more an ad-hoc detachment, the Expedition is made up of either volunteers eager for glory or mercenaries hungry for coin. Generally, regiments from the Cities of Sigmar fall into the former category, while the Kharadron Overlords fall into the latter: the hazard pay is good, and the chance at undiscovered veins of aether-gold invaluable. Several brotherhoods of Stormcast Eternals have also pledged their blades, promising to avenge the Lord-Celestant if he has indeed been slain by the retreating Chaos armies.
Anruil Brighteyes is the bastard son of a Spellweaver in the Living City and the notorious Corsair captain, playboy, infuriatingly successful adventurer and all around infamous Anruil Althariel.
Brighteyes’ birth was actually the source of some small embarrassment for his father. Normally Althariel’s intimate relations were water under the bridge, at least for him, but the Corsair made a miscalculation when he courted Tuori Greenmane. The loose sorority of Spellweavers, incensed by what they saw as an insult against one of their own, made much trouble for the Althariels in the Living City and beyond.
As a result of this Brighteyes was at the center of a political storm almost from day one- a fight among the movers and shakers of the Living City, between those who advocated for accountability for figures like Althariel and those who were nervous about alienating a powerful Azyrheim family over such a trifle.
In the midst of this, Brighteyes’ aunt- actually his mother’s cousin- Karli Bloodeye, herself a fearsome Corsair, scooped him up, reasoning that life as a privateer was better than life as a pawn. Brighteyes would spend the next seventy years in her service, learning all there is to know about leadership and strategy. Technically he’s still sworn to her- practically he has long since eclipsed her in terms of influence.
When Hammerhal’s ruling council decided to annex the newly rediscovered Amasya, Brighteyes was one of the many commanders seconded to Seneschal-General Monique von Helminger. With her own background in Azyrheim’s esteemed military colleges to inform her judgement, Monique chose Anruil to lead the Expedition after Han Shinzong’s disappearance. Still, she couldn’t have held him back even if she had wanted: his fate, like that of his half-sister Arali, is inextricably entwined with that of Lake Bykaal itself.
South of Old Dyunsk
The amethyst Shyish skies over the lake were perpetually dark, but for Anruil Brighteyes this just made the starshine all the more brilliant. This far from the Ghyrplunge, there was no mist to fill the air and block his vision, and he could see how the lake ice was mirror smooth, throwing back a perfect reflection of the heavens. He wondered – was it comforting for the trapped souls on the lake, to be able to see High Azyr even as it was perpetually denied them? Or was it simply another facet of the hell the lake had become?
Perhaps now that the Expedition had come, that could change. Perhaps the souls on the lake could be liberated from the Undying King’s clutches, to pass either to their true rest or to join Sigmar’s reforged legions. This realm had been rewoven at least once before – who was to say it couldn’t be remade again? It was a hopeful thought, one that kept him warm even in the bitter winter cold.
The barely audible crunch of the Knight-Azyros alighting next to him snapped Anruil back into the present. Tornuri Goldensire saluted quickly and then pointed out at the horizon. Following her finger, Anruil saw two – no, three figures emerging from the gloom, occulting the reflected points of light on the lake. “That’s her, sir, and with her a Fyreslayer and a Branchwych.”
Anruil grimaced. So much for solidarity. “Well done, Tornuri. Now get back up and keep watch. We don’t want anything coming out of the darkness.” She nodded, and in a flash of silver feathers was in the air again, circling overhead. Anruil turned to the armored Duardin on his other side. “Ready for this, Bjornssen?”
“Ready?” Bjornssen scoffed through his armored faceplate. “‘Tis just ‘nother meetin’ fer me. No one expects t’Duardin ta speak when there’r others in th’room. Th’real question is, are ye ready for this?”
Anruil grimaced, momentarily. “Ready or not, here we come.”
“Arali! Hail and well met!” The stupid spawn of her feckless sire came strolling across the ice, looking for all the world like he was on his way to a picnic in Azyrheim. Beside him, scrambling to keep up, was one of the sky-Duardin clad all in metal, and she hadn’t missed the flash of gold and silver wings circling overhead. Beside her, Haraldr-Grimnir huffed amusedly, watching the Kharadron fall over his own feet.
“Anruil. You asked, and we came. Why?”
“Of course.” With his inane smile he could have been any of a hundred of Sigmar’s courtiers she’d encountered, and the thought made her smile in turn as most of them had ended their lives on her blade. “I came so that we might talk about the task before us.” Us? Her eyebrow quirked. “Before all of the Pantheon. All the Free Peoples of the Realms.”
“You came because you want us to plant our seeds in Rootless Sigmar’s shadow, as you have.” Willowgrieve’s voice was like creaking oak and ancient elm, and her eyes held no trace of spring. “Where we will grow stunted, taking only the sun and the rain that is not caught by his leaves.”
“We will all grow strong, united, in his service.” The simpleton was trying to argue with them. Like a fisherman, she’d let the line play out before snapping it in for the kill. “Together, the people of Azyr can dominate every one of our mutual foes. Divided, we are nothing but prey.”
“You think us weak, then? Are we sheep to come obediently to the shepherd? Should we ignore our destiny, our possibilities, simply because we are afraid, and allow the God-King to work his will as we carry Azyr on our shoulders?” She sensed his heart beating faster, a confusion bordering on frustration manifesting behind his eyes.
“The strength of the Pantheon was always, is always found when it works in concert. We can forge our destiny and divide the lake between us- no one need be its sole master when everyone can have their share.”
She sneered, but before she could say anything Haraldr-Grimnir spoke. “Why should we give a Skaven’s arse abou’ seein’ everyone wit’ their share when we kin have th’ whole thing? Ye have pretty words, Aelf, bu’ all I hear is weakness speakin’ ter strength. We’ll nae carry ye in th’ war t’come, but per’aps if ye get on yer knees I’ll let ye-”
Bjornssen spat on the ground. “Bite yer tongue, barbarian, before I tear it out for you. It’ll be easy, seein’ as ye have nothin’ but a loincloth an’ pig grease ter hide behind, but I kin make it last as long-” Before the Kharadron could say anything more in his defense, though, Anruil raised a hand for silence and he subsided, fuming.
“Arali. It is not right for the children of Azyr to fight one another, any more than it is right for us to fight one another. For the sake of the blood we both share, I beg you – turn aside from this war.”
There it was – he’d reached the end of his line, and now she would reel him in and slip in the knife. “Oh, Anruil. You have such high hopes in yourself, but you don’t understand. Our sire was a weakling and a fool, and what he gave me – what I share with you – is what I hate most about myself. He embodies everything corrupt and pitiful in the Aelves of Azyr, and I will purge it from myself.” Her simpleton half-sibling stiffened, and she paused to taste the delicious affront on his face before twisting the blade. “If my father could be found, I would gladly lay him out as an offering to Khaine. Flee, now, before I decide that his namesake will serve just as well.”
“So be it.” She could feel the hurt, bitten back in every syllable, and marveled that such as he could truly share her blood. “We will meet again, I am sure, but you may not enjoy that meeting as much as you have this one.”
Anruil did not look back as he stalked away. Let Tornuri raise the warning cry if Arali and her bandits turned on them again. It was only when he’d gotten fifty paces off that he let the rage slip from his shoulders, and another twenty before Bjornssen spoke.
“So. What’re ye goin’ ter do now?”
“What we were going to do all along. Tell Azyr that though we negotiated in good faith they fell through… and then proceed to secure as much of the lake as we can. And if we encounter my half-sister’s throng in the process, we’ll remind her how little love lost there is between gunpowder and flesh.”
He had gleaned one useful thing from the conversation, though- it seemed Arali believed their father to be truly dead, rather than one of the countless ghosts trapped on this lake. He knew better, and he could move to secure Anruil Althariel’s spirit for Sigmaron before she was any the wiser.
So the son truly was as much fool as the father. Willowgrieve would tell her that the acorn never fell far from the tree, but she preferred to think that it showed how little of Althariel she had actually inherited. She had taken little from him, but she would take him in the end. Arali almost pitied her half-brother, as it was apparent he didn’t know just how close he was to the sire he idolized. Armed with that knowledge, she would snatch his prize out from beneath his nose, and use it as succor for the Lord of Murder…