“Me bones are creaking. Means a storm’s coming, trust in that. Have I ever led you wrong before? Heh, don’t answer that, don’t answer. Tell me, what would you do to change your fate? Better question, what wouldn’t ya do? How much are you ready to give for a chance like that? Do ya know? Can you ever know the consequences for trying? Can ya hear the clashing of swords and howls of wolves, the fall of empires, in every roll of the dice? That’s what da Great Saga is, you know. What we give, what we fight for, even knowing the chances for winning’s slim, and the prices we pay.
Hear dat storm now, lads? It’s coming in hard and fast, so gather round and shut your gobs. It’s time for another story. And it’s gonna be a real gorker.”
Hogrog ug Weirdklaw
“A story of Loss and Revelation in the ice-bound city of Frørholm upon the Sea of Shadows, of the Fated Treasures and unknown terrors sealed beneath the ice therein; of the Black Forge long-slumbering; and of the many and varied Heroes and Villains called to the island by the siren lure of promised destiny; as told by the Mad Orruk Hogrog uk Weirdklaw, Wurrgog Speaker of the Great Saga, and Faithfully recorded by myself, your humble servant and long-suffering scribe,
Nicodemeus Mikhail Grimm."
Turn 1 map of the island
The air split with the crack of thunder, yet no flash of light illuminated the unyielding gloom. This was not the sound of a storm, but of entropy upon ice. Those landing upon Frorholm found the roads to be more akin to runnels, as impenetrable ice sloughed away and ran into the river. From the mist emerged the wards, frozen just as they were when abandoned, and now, ripe for conquest. Sturdy and squat, the Ashrak Bastion looked out over the docks and warehouses of Tarn’s Fjord, and would witness the first blood spilled in the coming war. Obedji the Cruel, Mawtribes Khan, sought to breach its gate first, yet found the unnerving warriors of Vishkan Inkeyes already contesting its walls.
Norwall and Sowall would soon become passable, scouts sneaking over its abandoned battlements while foolhardy champions planted their standards above Estgard. Rainside’s namesake returned as the ice receded, the constant downpour soaking warbands to the bone as they huddled in the workshops of cobblers and wheelwrights. The doors and windows of the Strongkeld manor house were smashed out and then re-fortified, its interior gutted for material as it was remade into a makeshift fortification, and nearby, the ice surrendered its hold upon Turing and the Eye, warriors walking their courtyards and plazas for the first time in centuries.
Much of the island remained impassable, yet Lowtown now stood bare and vulnerable, the predatory eyes of all those who sought the blade at the ice’s heart looking over the newly exposed wards with sharpened blades in hand. The peace and stillness of Frorholm would soon be shattered by the raging cacophony of war.
Lady Gwenefyre stared out at the horizon, gazing at the strangely carved figures that continued to unnerve her. After many long weeks on the water her expedition had finally reached the fated island which had haunted her every dream for months. Those among her followers gifted in the fields of navigation decided, after much debate, to make landings at a pitiful shoreline known as Bear Sound, a shallow beach dense with pack ice and beset by near constant howling winds. Once landed, the coalition wasted no time in erecting what little shelter they could to use as mustering points for their eventual treks inland. Persons of all shapes and sizes flocked to Lady Gwenefyre’s cause to repel the false dawn that threatens her land. Men, aelves, even orruks and undead stood side by side in recognition of their independence from azyrite tyranny. As Lady Gwenefyre turned her eyes towards her followers on the beach, she saw a few of them participating in impromptu jousting matches, and even here, upon the bleak rocky shore, the thought of her home made Lady Gwenefyre smile.
From out of the fog came a strange vision: dozens of ships, each wildly different from the other. The Carrion Queen's flagship, the Blackwing, led the way, proud and ominous. Behind it, the ships ranged from the ostentatious to the downright putrid; the golden ship of the Templars of Our Burning Saviour contrasting with the ramshackle floating squig pen rowed by Boss Fezgit's lackeys. Their landing site at the North-East of the island was the appropriately named Crow Beach, and the disciples of the Great Gatherer and their allies quickly prepared themselves for the march inland. The scant protection of their makeshift harbour would have to be enough for the ships as the Blackwing Corsairs prepared to enter the city and uncover the treasures within. The crows would feast well this night.
Sangradiel reached for the delicate cup that had been placed at the table beside him. Its contents steamed as he raised it up to breath in the rich aromas of roasted fruits and subtle spices. He was reading from a book of poetry by Ipharia, one of the great masters of the old Teclandec canon. It was not that he needed to read the words. He had memorised each passage long ago, and could perform them flawlessly. Yet the simple act of reading them, of turning the pages pressed and bound in his homeland, brought a sensory pleasure and focus to his thoughts.
Captain Shinara waited for him to take a sip and set the cup down before clearing her throat softly.
“You sent for me, your grace?”
“Take the ships out and form a blockade of the harbour. There are enough vermin here already, let us not leave the door open any further.”
“Yes, your grace. And if any try to leave the island?”
“Target practice, captain. Dismissed.”
She clicked her heels together, saluting crisply and left. Sagradiel’s eyes never left the page.
They had taken the main promenade of the city with ease, marching up through the battered gate in quick order and securing their camp within. It was the largest open space in the city, and easily defended. Every few minutes, a rifle report would sound from the palisade that had grown around them, its light but sturdy walls built from wood carried from their ships. He encouraged his men to shoot at any figures they spotted skulking in the nearby streets. It kept them sharp, and made clear to the other trespassers in the city to keep their distance. From here, he would sweep through the city, clearing away the filth and detritus that kept him from what he deserved. Just as he would do when they returned to Iscarion with the Fated Blade in hand.
Where others picked their way among jagged rocks and scrambled to find purchase upon Frorholm, the Wolves of Agora deftly manoeuvred their longships, landing within Stag Cove and progressing quickly up the ridge to the Raven’s Nest. Such was the seamanship of Kul-Brimir’s kin, the lighthouse of Raven Point was hardly needed; denying to those who required such a crutch was more important and without contest, the white wolf upon a field of flames belonging to the Everblazing Buccaneers flew from atop the ancient structure. Kul-Brimir would dispatch the last of the Jitae to sail downriver and scale the battlement at Norwall, Sigurd Prow-dancer soon reporting back upon the Dross-forged’s landings at Tjarn’s Fjord. Their first foe spotted, it was the mighty tread of the mega-gargant “Snowshovel” Barlowe that would herald their arrival in lowtown, and his belly that would open a breach in Norwall between them and Ashrak Bastion, the painted Bronzebelly mawtribe hot on his thick, scabrous heels, their bellows carrying on the cold winds like wolves howling at a clear moon.
Rolling smoke to match the heavy banks of fog poured into the skies over Tarn’s Fjord, and what remained of Uhred’s face broke into a grin. It reminded him of home, in all the ways he wanted to remember it. The visions behind his eyes had set them to purpose, and now all bent their backs to it: the duardin of Stonebrak’s throng labouring beside Mougev’s hobgrots as they made landfall and occupied the wharfs and warehouses of the Fjord. Already the sounds of battle, dulled by the fog but unmistakable nonetheless, drifted from Ashrak Bastion, forcing Uhred to quench his bloodlust like a hot blade plunged into icy water. Calloused hands parsing the parchment reports provided to him by Sevvir, Uhred made count of those who’d survived the voyage, and felt pride settle alongside satisfaction within his chest. His brow furrowed at Captain Whisperport’s account of blue-striped ogors and a mega-gargant near Norwall, gathering about lowtown like wolves beyond the fire’s light. Then, he smiled again; soon, the likes of the Flameborn and the Dross Fray would cut them down and burn them all away like logs in a furnace. He would pass word to that peculiar fellow Vallash Kall to venture ahead, and when contact was made, signal the advance.
“Events are progressing much faster than we anticipated. The island is already beginning to thaw, and worse: he is here. I shall continue to keep you informed, but I suggest preparations are made as soon as possible.”
Excerpt from the Emissary’s first missive.
Along the shoreline of Chimera Point, amidst the thick and treacherous fog, the Shadowsong Renegades disembarked. Shadow magic coalesced around them, forming a veil of darkness to conceal their hurried landing. The beach was as cold as the hag goddess’ heart, and Klarieth pressed her new allies to ever greater speeds. The melusai was miserable in this cold and barren place, and even her cracked mask could not conceal this from her followers. The bleak weather matched her mood, cold rage burning behind hidden features. It was a familiar and comfortable resentment at the usurper that had driven her to these shores. She pulled the shadows tighter around herself, fading slightly from the wind and sleet of the landing zone, and cast her mind to the blade at the island’s depths. In her heart, she dreamed of warming her bones in the hot blood of Khaine’s cauldron. She would see it spill over in the blood of the heretic queen.
At the furthest tip of Chimera Point, just within view of the Shadowsong encampment, stood a lonely and dilapidated lighthouse. The Mooncalled had gravitated to it like moths to a flame, grand visions in the minds of Skrek Skychaser and Festerat Doomgrinder of the clockwork secrets it could contain. Arguments had already broken out over what to call it. Yet even a few cautious steps beyond its threshold revealed the ancient mechanism at its zenith had long since gone to ruin, and the structure with it. The building swayed erratically in the rising wind, and with a single ill-timed attempt to tunnel into the hard rock at its base, it came crashing to the ground. It only took the industrious grots and skaven a moment to get over their disappointment before they began sifting through the rubble for the choicest bits. After all, the beach was cold and miserable, and the real treasures would be found in the city beyond.
The dark skies churned, black clouds tinged the ugly purple green of a bruise. Winds whipped across the frozen beaches, tearing tents from their shallow moorings and snuffing watchfires. Then the sleet started. It pelted the shoreline, falling in pellets the size of heavy coins that stung like hornets against the skin and froze fast to ground and clothing alike. For those still on the beaches, it became a mad scramble across the icy rocks to reach the city’s walls and the only real shelter the island could provide.
So, they were arrived then. Not all those Called had survived the journey, of course. The Ur-River had claimed some, and the myriad dangers of the Realms more. Others had arrived too, interlopers following the siren song of treasure or the pull of awakening power. No matter. The pattern lay deep, its course would follow as it would.