The Satrapies move against each other as the Prime Dominion goes to war.
Iden the Auric sat at his desk, ever so carefully balancing his ledgers. The expenses for the past season had not been trivial- Ur-Gold for the Fyreslayers, Aqua Ghyranis for most, plain Chamonic gold and silver for many more, realmstone for a few, not to mention a handful of artifacts of nebulous value earmarked for services rendered. All of this he counted as money well spent, as it paled in comparison with the returns on his investments.
The Eye of Noctis. The mysterious artifact would secure his vaults for an age. Even keeping it out of Elusedrod’s grasping hands would have been worthwhile, but with it in their possession, the benefits were almost impossible to quantify. Power, mostly, power to blind Elusedrod once and for all, to hold the future of all Iscarneth in the palm of his hand. He shuddered at how close the needle had come to tipping the other way. For a moment… but that was not worth dwelling on. Only their foes lived in the past.
Add this to the deal they’d cinched with the Celandec, shoring up their relations for nothing more than a declaration about a conflict he’d never been a part of to begin with. It was a small victory, but a tangible one. Noctis was dark, but with the Eye under their control and the political situation resolving in their favor, the future of his Satrapy seemed bright indeed.
Nothing had been lost. Everything had been lost.
They had smashed the pirate queen and her band of brigands, effectively ending the threat that she posed to Iscarion and letting the common folk sleep soundly for the first time in weeks. Caradryas’ soldiers had shown their true mettle where all the city could see them, and as a result all Iscarion sang their praises, sang his praises. Follow this path, and the all-important city and its support was guaranteed. Take Iscarion, and the rest of the Prime Dominion would fall into line.
But at what cost? What was to be the happiest day of his life, his marriage to the cleverest and most beautiful woman he’d ever known was ruined. Atressa had snatched his bride, practically straight out of his arms. Now she was bound for Redhand’s court, probably to be tortured and killed at that madwoman’s command. Worst of all was the creeping suspicion that those he placed his faith in had let it happen, that his armies had somehow allowed the Idrelec to carry out their attack.
Perhaps bean-counting Iden would think the whole situation had turned out for the best, one but Caradryas had too much heart to look at things so dispassionately. The loss of one woman should be nothing in the grand scheme of things, but he didn’t know what he would do without her gift for making order out of chaos, her foresight, her way of making everything fall into place. He felt like a ship without an anchor, a statue without a plinth, a roof without columns, and all he foresaw was more of the same.
In the sudden stillness of his court, Caradryas wept.
“Nothing has been gained. Everything has been gained.”
It had been a long time since Vashti’s once-wife had asked for her advice. Then, it had been before the assembled court, or in the privacy of their chambers. They had spoken then as handmaiden and queen, as partners in counsel, as lovers in spirit.
The relentless years had eroded this old Atressa, though. Centuries of rule and intrigue warped her, changed her into the iron-masked creature that now paced before her. Once they’d been spouses and best friends. Now they were nothing more than gaoler and inmate. It didn’t matter that there weren’t bars or chains in the tower- Vashti knew that escape from the heart of the Idrelec’s power was impossible. Even alone, Atressa could block her flight.
She smiled bitterly. “I thought you’d be pleased. You finally settled your old grudge with Caradryas, and took back your beloved once and for all.”
Atressa growled. “The war continues. Jandar Castle, our territory, is now held in common with Dariel. Armies march, battles are fought, the pieces on the map are ever in motion, and what do I have to show for it?” Her eyes flashed malice. “A worthless traitor and a point of pride.”
“Worthless? Were the lives of your soldiers spent for nothing, then?”
She snorted. “Hardly any were spent. Caradryas must care less for you than either of us believed.” Then it was back to the steady pacing of a caged animal. “And you are not worth nothing. Your flight was a blemish. Your capture cleans our honor. We are restored to greatness. I am restored!” Atressa pounded her breastplate with one mailed fist.
“Restored to what, Atressa?”
“You wouldn’t understand. You never understood. You wounded me when you left. I let you go, because I thought the pain would make us stronger together. When you stayed, though, that was like losing a limb. Like striking off a hand. I have bled ever since.”
“You’re not well, Atressa.” Vashti’s memory went back to all the times her once-wife’s rage had boiled close to the surface. Never had it been like this, though. “Sit. Let’s talk, like we used to.”
“There is nothing more to talk about. Your return means that I can cauterize the wound you caused, staunch the flow, end the pain. I am restored now.”
Vashti was silent for a long time, long enough that the sounds of soldiers sparring in the courtyard below was the only thing in the air. “And what becomes of me, if I am worth so much to you?”
For the beat of a bloodfly’s wings, Vashti thought she saw something old in Atressa’s eyes- was it fear? Uncertainty? Regret? But then the iron mask slammed shut again.
“Never reveal your plans before they’re made manifest. When you need to know, I will tell you myself.”
They had sailed in dribs and drabs all evening, the remnants of the once-vast invasion fleet that had gone to war seemingly just hours ago. Gone was the glorious forest of sails, the heartening sight of a dozen peoples united in pursuit of a single goal. The invasion had failed, and Wirenth remained in the hands of the Teclandec.
Yet one thing had not changed, Renaya reflected. Even in defeat, the Celandec had left their mark, and delivered the butcher’s bill to their foes. Wirenth belonged to the Teclandec, but they would gain precious little use from it- not with the devastation her soldiers left in their wake. This, she thought ruefully, was their hallmark. They might be defeated, but they did not go quietly into Shyish’s embrace.
This was not the end. Not even the beginning of the end. Perhaps, though, it was the end of the beginning. They had made the first move, and been outplayed. The ball was in Dariel’s court now, and he was nothing if not predictable. The Teclandec would come for them, seeking to repay their invasion in kind. It remained to be seen if the Celandec could turn the tables once more, or if the next season would mark their end.
Somehow, Renaya found, the burning hope that had accompanied her this far had not deserted her yet. The Aurannar, of all people, had affirmed her right to rule and pledged their friendship, securing one flank and promising further diplomacy in the season ahead. Perhaps this was not like the last war. If they gave it their all, if everyone kept their noses to the grindstone, they might yet turn Dariel’s folk back, make their stand and prove once and for all that the Celandec were as rightfully a part of the Prime Dominion as any.
Renaya discovered she was smiling, even as she returned to the mountain of work that marked the days to come.
Wirenth burned. Even as the last of Renaya’s invaders were driven off, the rest of Dariel’s troops labored alongside the inhabitants to mitigate the damage done by their victory. The island would bear the scars of the Celandec invasion for years to come, until root and shoot, leaf and bark could erase the marks of the terrible arsenal unleashed by defender and attacker alike.
And yet Dariel was not displeased. Quite the contrary, in fact. The false Renaya had played her best hand, and she had been outbid. Wirenth might burn, but in a decade it would be the same as it ever had been. Ten years would not erase the wounds her ill-conceived invasion had inflicted on the motley assembly that followed in her wake. Far sooner than that, Dariel would strike back, and remind the Celandec just who it was that they thought to trifle with. His armies were legion, the ships of his navy as numerous as the stars in the sky, and combined they would roll over the usurper’s motley bands like an Aelementari trodding upon a hobgrot.
That wasn’t all, though. The bond with Atressa he’d forged, the mutual ceasefire between them, meant that the worst enemy he’d thought to face had been effectively neutered. There was nothing to distract him from finishing what he’d started a century ago, wiping the stain of the Celandec off the Prime Dominion and relegating their false Satrap to the history books- books written by the Teclandec.
His people stood poised at the dawn of a new age. The next season would bring his plans to fruition, see his supremacy over his would-be rivals cemented and Iscarion itself brought into his orbit. Whatever blood and fire they must pass through to reach their goal, in the end the Teclandec would all truly be as he was already- resplendent.
Elusedrod sat motionless atop his throne, his mind far distant from his surroundings. Freed from the limitations of his mortal body, he could walk the Prime Dominion at will and look at how the war played out firsthand. He saw ships on fire off the shoulder of Wirenth, armies at war in the streets of Iscarion. All across their pocket of Hysh, pieces were falling into place, some by steel, others by words. The board was changing beyond anyone’s ability to predict, but not beyond his ability to influence.
His mind turned to the sole dark patch on the map. Now as then, the realm of the Aurannar proved frustratingly hard to scry out. Iden’s paranoia and commitment to secrecy had blinded the Dornayars’ agents, and the wards on his treasure-troves hid them from Elusedrod’s sight. As ever, this made Iden’s folk a mortal threat to the Dornayar and their designs, an imposter in among a game of kings, a wild card on the board, a roll of the dice in a game of chess.
An observer in the throne room would have seen the Satrap’s still face twist into a scowl. Hidden, and unless something changed dramatically, likely to remain so. The loss of the Eye of Noctis meant that Iden now had the artefact’s immense power at his disposal, power to deceive and to disrupt. Power to blind Elusedrod’s sight forever.
No matter. Iden may have won a victory, but he would find it transient at best. The Eye was an instrument of precision- the Aurannar Satrap sought a blunt tool, and would pierce his own hand on his new prize. In the meantime, the Dornayar would be ready to retake what belonged to them. When their foes were shattered, all the defeats of the past would become intangible, and only their victories would remain.
The Invasion of Wirenth
The first great battle of the Iscarneth Civil War took place on the sapphire shores and rolling fields of Wirenth, the heartland of the Satrapy of Plenty. The suddenness and ferocity of the Celandec invasion had caught the rest of the Prime Dominion by surprise. So long looked down upon, few had suspected the anger that burned within the Celaneth, or the force that they could bring to bear. It would be a costly lesson for all the other satraps, and one paid in the blood of those who thought themselves beyond the depredations of war.
The Celandec laid the preparations for their arrival well. In the predawn hours, ironwrought submersibles slipped cunningly beneath the shimmersea, their unflappable captains navigating a knife’s edge between detection and the Lux Umbra below. Infiltrators were loosed across the isle, subduing defenses and opening pathways for reinforcements to arrive. Dark-eyed kruleboys crept over the land, poisoning the defenders with honeyed toxins and foul brews. Everywhere they went, soldiers fell ill, and watches were mysteriously abandoned. Wirenth was vulnerable. It was time to strike.
The landing of the armada was a sight that shall endure in the memories of aelf, dwarf, ogor and greenskin, and all the many and strange things beyond. Massive iron ships, hammered together by fists of steel, emerged out of the cloying unnatural fog. Ogors burning like furnaces stood atop them bellowing orders, and cannon fire answered, blasting out across the weakened shore defenses. Mad skaven contraptions, looking like giant paddlewheeled steamers, crashed full bore into shore, only to release crackling warp lightning and spinning doomwheels. The shores of Wirenth exploded under the barrage, in some places collapsing into the shimmersea and plummeting beyond. For that brief moment, it was as though the spirefall itself had at last caught up with the Teclandeth.
What defenses had been formed on shore quickly melted away, leaving only a few pockets of resistance. A small group of vagrant gargants made a valourous stand, lobbing rocks against the tide until they were overrun. Idoneth seaguard held to the last, their pale blood given in roaring tribute to the Blood God as Khornate warriors butchered them. The shore had fallen. The invasion could begin.
The hordes that assaulted Wirenth covered the beaches, stretching from horizon to horizon. Much of the fighting strength of the Celaneth had been gambled on this surprise invasion, and their numbers exponentially bolstered by the masses of mercenaries that answered their call. Multitudes of greenskins led the charge, Beergutz boyz and Morlug’s lads jostling to be first ashore. Troggoths lumbered among them, the strangest troop of vampire hunters ever to grace the Prime Dominion. Behind them crept the unnatural fog that has aided their approach, breaking as it hit land to unleash tides of revenants and spectres. Ghouls crept and cackled in their wake, breaking off from the main body of the invasion to terrorize the villages and fishing towns across the coast. At the vanguard, streaming out into the verdant fields of the island, a strange array of mounted goblins and skaven bedecked in crude approximation of knightly raiments seemed to be competing to reach their target first.
On the beachhead, a khainite priestess called out to her flock, extorting them to murder and death, inviting into them the hardened spirit of war, and wishing the same to the enemy who had seemed so easily vanquished. Her prayers were about to be answered.
On the fields of Wirenth, the charging hordes of goblin and skaven met lance to lance with the Teclandec’s defenders at last. Gleaming white silk of swift-riding aelves and definite seekers both shone brightly for a moment before battlelines met, and with a resounding crash the invading vanguard was broken. Slanneshi riders hunted orruks across the plains, riding them down. Gleaming dawnriders matched them kill for kill. The momentum of the horde was broken, and in that instant the defenders seized on their one opportunity.
Breaking from the sky, duardin airships rained down fire upon the invaders, breaking the pall of the nighthaunt and scouring the skies. Khornate warriors lept from ship to ship, casting off their concealing sacks and seizing the wheels, preventing reinforcements from landing. Troggoths emerged from the shimmersea like sharks, their black doll-like eyes betraying nothing but hunger as they pulled ships and sailors alike into the depths. Champions like Lord Bear Eyes made their name, rallying what remained of the Teclaneth defenders against the monsters pillaging their towns. The encirclement was complete when the vampiric khan drove his dragon down into the milling fleet, it’s fire driving what remained of the armada from the shore.
The Invasion of Wirenth lasted only a few short days. Isolated and stalled, the invaders were pushed back into the sea, many forced to make hasty escapes where they could. The island itself was left in ruin, its sapphire shores reduced to ash, and it’s fertile fields poisoned. It would take generations to restore even a portion of its plenty, and greenskin outbreaks would forever remain a threat. However, the cost to the invaders was steeper. The bulk of the Celaneth forces were captured or destroyed, their grand army in shambles. Much had been risked on this roll of the dice. The Celandrec forces that remained had been pushed back to sea, and the Teclandec would soon be in pursuit. If their navy was able to break the survivors at sea, all of Celandec would be theirs for the taking.
Roses and Thorns
When it came to the Vashti Affair, it would not be inaccurate to say that the outcome had already been decided – by everyone except, perhaps, Caradryas Lightbringer himself. The Satrap planned his wedding blissfully with his betrothed, his diplomats feeding him a story of a ceasefire with the Idrelec in exchange for false information as to Vashti’s whereabouts.
This would quickly prove not to be the case.
With Vito Valencia travelling North towards Iscarion, Caradryas’ own mercenaries were left unchecked. A certain salacious Ruyalar publication was ‘accidentally’ circulated within Idrelec territory, containing the exact time and location of his nuptials. The honorary companies of the Ruyaneth had their own agenda: a simple aelf woman would not make their Satrap into a Ceraph; only pure power would accomplish such a feat. To the depths of Noctis with this rivalry business. The Idrelec would be allowed to take their traitor back in return for leaving them in peace.
The Idrelec diplomats – a bloodstained king, a thirsting Melusai, and a Vengorian Lord – considered this proposal for all of a day before dismissing it entirely. Handed a path straight to their goal that promised to contain little opposition was a sweet gift, but not one that would quell their desire for blood.
A plan was enthusiastically cooked up. A large group would sail out to the border of Lhoris and wreak as much havoc as possible from The Geode to Horith’s Tower, forcing the Ruyalar into battle. In the meantime, an elite force led by Eris Bloodwrath would quite literally crash the wedding and drag Vashti down from the altar, since she had been so kindly offered to them. Not the most complicated of plans, to be sure, but brutal and effective in a way Atressa would surely be proud of.
Figures within the Idrelec hatch plans with their Figurehead.
This manoeuvre was aptly nicknamed ‘Da Great Distraction’. Other publications from the time also refer to it as ‘The Dread Distraction’ or, more boringly, ‘The Great Distraction’. Who planned it may indeed be lost to history – some credit the bloodstained King Tiberius, but others speak of a convincing argument made by Warboss Brokenjaw, and with more Warclans present then can be counted on one’s fingers, any number of them could’ve had a hand in it.
The Ruyalar did not entirely fail to predict this violence. In their willing contribution of Vashti’s location, they prepared for an inevitable wedding brawl or small show of power when the Idrelec came to pick her up, with Ruyalar forces hanging back from Iscarion to instead guard the nuptials and ensure Caradryas’ safety.
They were not prepared for this.
A contingent of the Hammers of Sigmar led by Leona Brightspear found themselves locked in vicious combat as Grushnags’ Slickboyz slid from the nearby forest with Skareshields and Spears at the ready. Near the Geode, Captain Wolfram’s Rovers cut down a marauding warband of skaven that seemingly slunk straight out of the Shimmersea. As greenskins, beastmen and bloodreavers of every size and shape began spilling out of Atressa’s skyships, the Ruyalar realised they had gravely underestimated the extent of her anger.
It was a beautiful day for a wedding: warmth shone down unendingly from a clear blue sky. Ruyalar Fyreslayers put the finishing touches on a fortified keep within the city of Ivasaar in which the wedding could take place, perhaps confident that even with Vashti’s location sold to the enemy, they may still yet keep her safe.
No-one noticed the sleight shadows of Namarti Reavers slipping through the backstreets. No-one missed the single Fyreslayer, taken from his lodge brothers, or heard his tortured screams as he coughed up the new keep’s weaknesses.
Within the keep, the harp-players readied their gilded instruments, and the Bonereaper Priest, Tarascon, took his place at the altar. Vashti was led through the doorways draped in white, purple, and gold, and it is said that when Caradryas wept tears of happiness, the rest of his court wept with him.
As the organ played and the court stood in the pews for celebration and song, so too stood the Bloodbound outside, lurking in the shadows of the Ruyalar splendor. Eris Bloodwrath prowled through the bricks, every inch as predatory as her dark mount.
Warriors of the Blood God, heed my words! We will drag our golden traitor back across our borders. We will have her stand trial for her crimes, and I’ll personally be damned if her head does not roll in the name of Khorne. That neophyte King Tiberius wants to just hand her over, to give Atressa everything she wants. But what Atressa wants isn’t necessarily what she needs. Our reputation will not be cauterised until the weakness is purged.
Eris Bloodwrath to her army, outside the gates of Ivasaar
Before the last of the couple’s vows left their lips, Bloodwrath’s men smashed open through a weak point in the roof, sending great stones and beams crashing down onto the horrified congregation. Eris’ own Juggernaut ripped through brick, metal, flesh and bone indiscriminately as her warriors cut down the defending Iscarneth without mercy. Lord-Regent Celebrian, the Lumineth heading up the defence of the event, heroically fended off everything from bloodletters to flesh-hounds despite finding herself vastly outnumbered, buying her men time to get the couple to safety.
The Lord-Regent and her forces stand by at the site of the Royal Wedding
For the first time in centuries, Caradryas admitted to himself that he had been mistaken. His court, founded upon the coldness of modern logic, had never cared for Vashti. As the two ducked behind pews, Vashti’s dress stained red with the blood of their guests, he realised that there was no ‘false location’. They allowed this to happen.
At the border, the huge numbers of revenge-starved Idreneth continued to overwhelm the sparse patrols, allowing them to occupy parts of Lhoris. The Harbingers of Lustria, a huge Seraphon force, climbed atop the Geode itself and decorated it with their defeated foes. Running out of enemies to vanquish as quickly as it had arrived, the splintered forces of Da Great Distraction eventually reunited on the planes outside the city with the intention of backing up their Equerry and paving the way for her escape. In a near-unprecedented spectacle, five entire Orruk Warclans joined together, turning the Ruyalar fields into a roiling mass of green skin and red blood.
The Greentide prepares to cleave a bloody path into Ivasaar City.
It is said that, as Eris dragged Vashti from the keep by her hair, she was laughing every step. Beyond her, a thousand baying Orruks cheered in unison.
“Caradryas!” she cried into that burning afternoon. “This was too damn easy! Where are your people? Where is your Equerry? Does not a single warrior in your court obey you?”
Vashti sobbed as she was forced out of the gates, walking behind the blood-spattered mount as Eris pulled the ropes that bound her.
“Listen well, people of the Ruyalar! Should your naive young ruler by some miracle become Ceraph, he would be a mere puppet, pushed around by mercenaries and foreign dignitaries that the Iscarneth would love more than himself!”
The blood lord’s laughs were echoed by the beasts that swarmed around her.
“Your chance was over before it began!”
Ink and Blood
The hunt for the Eye of Noctis began as a quiet thing, born in the vaults and the libraries, whispered among the knowing few. It was rumour granted wings, a caged bird now free to sing, and so its siren song found two that would listen; Elusedrod of Dornayar and Iden the Auric. This whispered rumour would shape the fate of the two Satrapies. Once they learned of it, both knew that they needed to possess the Eye of Noctis. And so, a new battle began, and what was started in whispers would soon echo across the Prime Dominion.
The location of the eye was frightfully vague; within the lair of a feral beast, somewhere in the twisting caverns and mazes of the Lux Umbra. Both the Dornayar and the Aurannar would need to learn more, and so began a shadow war of knowledge. In the grimy alleys of the Downside, agents of the Dornayar tracked down information brokers and wisemen, narrowly avoiding skaven assassins in backalley shootouts. Warplock fire split the serene air of Selanar City, silencing targets and striking panic among the citizens. Warriors of the White Flame Coven set torches to Dorneth safehouses throughout the Lux Umbra. Across the Prime Dominion, agents and loreseekers sought to outdo each other in a deadly game of cat and mouse, with the truth as their ever elusive prize.
Within the caverns of the Lux Umbra, the battle had become anything but quiet. Warriors and mercenary groups by the score swarmed through the tunnels, each desperate to be the first to discover the Eye. There was no shortage of monsters to be found in the depths. In the wild search, medusae, troggoths, chimera and more would be rooted out and destroyed, their lairs pilfered of anything that might possibly be the fabled artefact. Yet the fiercest fighting of all was found when groups of Dornayar and Aurannar treasureseekers met in the depths. Searing power crackled through the tunnels as Taranus Silvercrown crashed against waves of spectres and the ghastly Grim Fang orruks. Kruleboy ambushers picked off “da Yella Lads” as they tried to bring supplies through the open caverns. Some even seemed to abandon the search all together, as the orruk Sokrateez and a band of ogors turned their full attention to stopping any Aurannar bands from moving through the tunnels at all. To this day, tales are still told in the Lux Umbra of a skeletal dragon and its deathrattle rider soaring through the caverns, cackling with deathless mirth at their plight. Over it all rang out the ever-present sound of drums beating in the deep, a steady rhythm hammered out by gargants to pass information among the Dornayar.
Half buried in forbidden libraries, Loreseeker Marithillian and the White King made a shocking discovery; the writing of the Mad Monk Arlan Kels. The crumbling scrolls detailed his passage through the realms in the Age of Myth, questing for some unknowable truth, yet in one small passage it described a black orb, a treasure of impossible gravity that seemed to bend light around it, that shattered sound itself and that could pull the heavens from their firmament. He named this foci the Eye of Noctis. There, written in flaking ink, was set out the Eye’s location. There too was described the Custodian, the fearsome beast that stood in eternal vigil over its resting place. The wight and the loreseeker set the book down. It was far, far too late to warn their comrades of what they were about to disturb.
The Eye of Noctis
The first to find the cave of the Eye were the Bugman AEC, duardin mercenaries and adventurers that had been tracking rumours of a cult dedicated to some ferocious guardian beast. They approached the lair brazenly, secure in the superiority of their firepower. The cultists proved little obstacle; mind-seared aelves that had spent too long in Haixiah’s glare, or twisted humans and goblins dredged from the Lux Umbra’s gutters. Most charged headlong into the withering shots of the duardin, or fled from the firestorm that ensued. In the silence that ensued, the AEC readied themselves for the beast itself. They were not prepared for what emerged.
The duardin were not the only ones to find the Custodian’s cave. A band of sylvaneth, approaching from another angle, called forth a wyldwood within the depths of the cavern itself, cutting off the chance of escape. As the enchanted trees burst forth from the Lux Umbra, screams split the air. Fleeing cultists were cut down by angry dryads pouring from the wood, their ancient anger directed at this sunless chasm and all its inhabitants. Even as they pressed forward, however, the sylvaneth found themselves under attack from fyreslayer mercenaries and their hated axes. Runeson Thungir and his lodge had followed the sounds of the waypipes, and soon a swirling melee of dwarf, aelf, treespirit and terrified cultist spilled across the cavern. Above it all, clinging to the rocks like spiders, crept the murderous witches of Khaine, and slipping like wraiths they entered the beast’s lair.
The sight that greeted them took the breath from even the hardened hag at their fore. Rearing from the cavern floor, hissing and clacking, was a massive centipede-like creature. It’s gleaming plated segment shone, hard as diamonds and crystal clear. Scything claws the size of chariots lashed out, swiping at the duardin mercenaries buzzing around its head. Lightning crackled up and down its form, blasting out at any dwarf that got too close. It struck like a snake, coiling and springing as fast as the khainite aelves could see. Kharadron bullets rained down on it but sprang off its hardened sides. The hag took a moment, then made her decision with a quick signal. Her sisters would move around the swirling fight, and try to reach the Eye while the beast was distracted. They would know what to do. Taking a dagger in both hands, and with a prayer to the Lord of Murder on her lips, she leapt down towards the beast below.
The fighting swirled around the colossal beast as more and more mercenaries poured into the cavern, fighting through the wyldwood and their rivals to claim the prize. The colossus thrashed, scything through soldiers by the dozen as arcs of deathly lightning crashed all around it. Above it all, however, a cry was heard – a lone Daughter of Khaine, clinging to a black orb that seemed to break the light around it, and holding on to a duardin edrin hauler, its engines screaming in protest. For a moment, neither side could tell who carried the treasure, until a cry went up for Iden and the Aurannar as the small flyer sputtered out of the chamber. There was little time for excitement or remorse, however, as the swirling melee became a haphazard flight away from the enraged guardian. For the Aurannar, the prize this day was theirs. For the Dornayar, this was but a setback – Iden’s warriors would still need to transport his prize back to their lands, and a great many dangers lay on the road ahead.
My dear readers, you may, especially after the bloody happenings at Vashti’s wedding, assume the Idrelec to be a purely bloodthirsty folk. However, this could not be further from the truth. Wisely, Atressa left her diplomatic matters perfectly balanced between the King, the Daughter, and the Vampire. Like a donkey trained with a carrot and a stick, foreign dignitaries were often caught off-guard by the politeness of one or the other, as their compatriots continued to sharpen their knives in the shadows.
The Teclandec were to discover just this much as they parlayed with the Idrelec’s chosen representatives in the ruins of Jandar Castle. Presented with delicacies and wine, it was not quite the welcome they had expected as a small number of their armies waited outside with bated breath. Indeed, the good members of the Able Albern Baking Co. even received an additional recipe for their business. As King Tiberius and Hibiki Feyshriek toasted with the Duchess, the Baker and the Aelven Knight, a deal began to form within the cradle of the magnificent ruins.
“On the eve of war, it is customary in my home of The Arterial Steppe to craft these desserts–incorporating a number of materials sacred to our lands and patron–as a gift, the last taste of home before descending again into battle…”
– King Tiberius Calore VIII
This was certainly not to say the day went perfectly – both Idreneth Hedonites and Teclandeth undead broke out into small scuffles over the defence of the ruins themselves. More worryingly, a large number of Da Bluemoon Boundaz’ Gitz and allied vampires of the Crimson Tide did not seem as amenable to a bloodless peace as Atressa’s diplomats. Teclandec Skaven met them in kind, with cautionary bolts being fired by both sides. Their fight may have escalated into all-out war, if not for the timely conclusion of the two factions’ diplomacy.
Despite the best efforts of a few dissenters, the agreement that was struck within the walls of Jandar Castle appeared to crush any hostilities between the two – for the time being. Whilst the details of the deal were not made widely known outside those forces present that day, it is said that both Teclandec and Idrelec forces have been sighted on the walls in recent weeks. Eyewitnesses can confirm sightings of Dariel’s sigil, hung from the half-built walls alongside Atressa’s own. Activity at the nearby Library of Galaeron has picked up as of late, but as to what implications this may have in the future, no-one is truly sure.
Only time will tell if this agreement continues to hold water.
Ships in the Night
Was there ever a case more deserving of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ than that of the ships in the night? As Iswelda the Traveller and Athelric Fairbrow returned to their respective factions, both convinced the other had attacked their merchant vessels, the Dornayar and Ruyalar found themselves teetering abruptly on the brink of war. Emotions ran high between the two crews, many of whom had lost shipmates in the attack, and accusations were flung in every direction.
If it had been the furious Idrelec, the prideful Teclandec, or the quietly-seething Celandec, such an argument may have had a very bloody outcome indeed. However, the Satraps of Serenity and Innovation were founded respectively on knowledge and science. To commit to war on a mere assumption was not good enough for either. And thus, less than a day after the incident was reported, both sides simultaneously found themselves landed with a request for parley.
There were requests, of course, to ensure the Satrapies treated their counterpart with respect. As the two groups of diplomats met within the walls of Iscarion, the Ruyalar were presented with a wedding painting of Caradryas and his bride-to-be as painted by the Pumpkinarch of the Everautumn Dynasty, as well as a poem of goodwill from one Lord Chungus the Verbose. In return, the Dornayar were provided with a tome of the knowledge they so craved for Elusedrod to add to his endless chronicles.
Portrait of Vashti and Caradryas, charcoal on canvas, by The Pumpkinarch of the Everautumn Dynasty
Politeness proved to be key as the Warden of Helspoint, the necromancer Withershins, and the aelven Dreadlord sat down opposite Lord Arras Danathan, Tarascon, and the vampire Cyrethea. With the formalities out of the way, the representatives cut straight to the matter at hand. There was to be a ceasefire as the Satrapies worked together to find out the truth of the accusations. The gathered diplomats, however, were wise enough to understand that the truce may be a temporary, for several knew to be wary of familiar faces: many had both supported and betrayed their peers at the edge of Lake Bykaal in times gone by.
When word of the investigation reached Elusedrod, he wordlessly offered approval and assigned several of his personal watchers to the cause with no questions asked. Allegedly, the Satrap chafed at the fact he did not already know what the answer to this dilemma was – and all blind spots in the Dornayar knowledge pool had to be filled immediately. A fleet of lightships were prepared, led by the illustrious Frosty Mug, built by the sons of Bugman.
Despite the political truce, it quickly became apparent that the Dornayar had dedicated a lot more resources to this investigation. However, Ruyalar representatives remained positive that their enigmatic cousins would be more than willing to share whatever they learned. The Necromancer Gothos, in service to the Dornayar, quickly raised one of the dead from Fairbrow’s ship in order to find a lead. The deceased aelven trader spoke of the organised chaos of the undead amongst the attack, leading Dornaneth investigators to theorise that they may have been mistakenly blamed due to the amount of undead servants attracted by the Dornayar court.
Another account was gathered by Andrik the Watcher, who siphoned souls from the gulch one by one for interrogation. After running into a few dead ends, he eventually began to piece together the puzzle: that there had been three ships, not two, that had been weaving through the mists of the shimmersea that day.
Andrik the Enduring harvesting spirits.
With the Dornayar beginning to crack the mystery, both coalitions widened their search. Every siphoned soul, every dead raised was another clue towards locating the mysterious third ship. However, it was the Ruyalar’s Settlers of Humbris that eventually located and lured out the enemy – only to be outnumbered by a marauding force of undead pirates. Though the Settlers fought back valiantly, their ship was badly damaged in the attack, forcing them to withdraw as the Dornayar beat the coalitions’ mutual enemy into submission instead.
With the case finally closed, it seemed as if the case of the ships in the night was coming to an end. The Dornayar came away equipped with a vast amount of knowledge about bands of unaligned pirates of all races in the area, better preparing them for future skirmishes with the groups that scourged the Shimmersea. It is unknown just how much they shared with the Ruyalar – such exchanges were done in secret, far away from prying eyes.
As the last of the ships were leaving, the Ruyalar’s aelven Agents of Aval’Atun attempted to place scrying orbs within the Dornayar vessels. However, Mage-Warden Alvarus quickly found a bony hand on her shoulder as she returned to the docks at Lhoris. She turned just in time to catch the armful of orbs that the lone necromancer Withershins had returned to her. Many locals on the docks still recall the words spoken by the cheerful skeleton.
“Now, now, Mage-Warden. I don’t think that’s quite what we agreed on.” – Withershins
Cooler heads prevailed as well at the Myriil Monastery, where a small group of Celandec refugees had been arrested by Aurannar guards under suspicion of espionage. Blood had been spilled, and the citizens of both satrapies were outspoken in their desire for vengeance. Yet it was the diplomatic actions of a few that were able to divert further bloodshed. Compromise, as ever, meant that both sides gained and lost, and the Celaneth court were left displeased with the death of their kin. Renaya, however, understood her generals’ reasoning, and with the failure of the Invasion of Wirenth had more pressing concerns.
“Only one did the Teclandec send,
Syr Rychyrd, Duke of Bryshayvn, Duchy of the Lyin’.
The shadow tide they did upend!
But the Corsair Queen wasn’t interested in ‘im.
Skoi was a big old boy,
Picked up a boat like a duardin would an axe.
Thought maybe he’d trod on Draketooth like a toy!
But Illyana wasn’t to be found in the gargant’s sacks.
The Dornayar did come from below
Cray’dos was left alone among his men’s remains.
And barely a cannonball did Vincent Valencia bestow!
Smashas and bashas, the Idrelec themselves were swampy and fungal,
Set fire to a mountain in search of dragons,
Realmshaped some poor farmer’s field into a jungle!
Wasn’t long before they hitched their wagons.
Crabrat and Mugwort made out alright,
Stealing a magic tank in the name of Celandec freedom.
Belegornor wore a dressing gown to his own delight,
While Eliana Swiftbloom nearly found herself in a mausoleum!
Lightfinder fed the men a hearty soup,
As the Intricate Paradox went up in fire and smoke!
Zod-El led a responsible troop,
Draketooth’s plans went awry when-ever he spoke!
Up came the Ruyalar a’marchin’, heroes all
Drunk on Varl and Osarva’s magmale
General Iron found the witches through the squall
This was the key, Gustav thought, with his eye for detail
A bold speech did he give, one for the history books
“You fight for hearth and home!” he roared
His voice so loud it could be heard in all the nooks
“You will not see them taken from you!” he drew his sword
Tu’Bok and the egg,
Velea did not fear her death
Pity the insurance salesman to whom the barkeep would beg!
Ayiana was steady with ther breath
Wrath and Grimnir, Zangrom’s lads chanted
“Leave none alive,” the embers in his spit alight
Over to one side the ship canted
It would indeed be an interesting night!”
Excerpt from an absolutely abominable drinking song heard during victory celebrations, as transcribed by Hennrik the Chronicler
Corsairs at the Docks
The corsair attack on Iscarion was a sobering reminder to the citizens of the City of the Dawn that even there, they were not completely removed from the ravages of the war. It was a mystery to all how Illyana Draketooth had managed to pull together such a force from the disparate dregs and lowlifes of the Lux Umbra. There could be no denying the brutal logic of her strategy, however. With the soldiers of the satrapies pulled away to fight their own wars, only Iscarion’s Dawn Guard remained, stretched thin across the city. It was a vulnerability she meant to exploit.
Their sudden arrival at the city docks went as well as she could have imagined. Warehouses were stormed, looted and burned. Dockside merchants fled in panic. The city guard was overwhelmed, and Iscarion lay before them like a pearl. All had proceeded according to plan. At that moment, Illyana might have imagined herself victorious. She was very wrong.
Pouring from the city, concealed in warehouses or shops, or flying high above the city’s streets, the mercenary armies of the satrapies descended upon the corsairs. All but cold-hearted Iden had sent some forces, yet it was the Ruyalar that came by an overwhelming margin to the aid of the people of Iscarion. Striding through the streets like heroes, they pushed the corsairs back, driving them down towards the docks once more. Some lucky few of the pirates were able to slip back out into the shimmersea, but most were caught between the docks and the liquid light itself. Illyana and a few of her strongest allies managed to make a last stand in a port battery, trying to stave off the relentless assault of the Ruyalar as long as possible, but even that proved a forlorn hope. Freeguilders and militia companies, duardin and more readied their cannons, and in a massive barrage brought the building down around the would-be pirate queen.
In the aftermath of the battle, the city rejoiced. Their saviours were exalted, purple banners of Ruyalar flying from every portside building, and not a Ruyalar soldier paid for their drinks for a fortnight. Along the docks and the among the warehouses, Caradryas’ name was spoken with reverence. Despite what it had cost him, the brave soldiers of Ruyalar had shown that his promises of progress and innovation could be the way of the future. Perhaps he was the Ceraph to lead them into that future.
The Ruyalar victory was definitive, capturing the public’s imagination and keeping the violence from spilling over into the city proper. Although the waterfront districts suffered considerable damage during the attack, few non-combatants were injured and Illyana Draketooth’s cobbled-together armada was decisively broken.
While Draketooth herself was captured and imprisoned in a high tower of Iscarion, she was discovered badly wounded and has yet to recover. Her motivations- and how she assembled such a host so quickly- remain a mystery. Multiple parties claim to have been the ones to best her in single combat, but the nature of her injuries makes it seem likely that a simple brick wall collapsed on her during the attack.
Mithridates Alti looked at the map, a goblet of wine close at hand. An Iscarion vintage of some renown, by all reports. The drink did nothing for him. He could not feel its intoxicating warmth, nor take sustenance from its cool liquid. It did even less to slake the thirst that he felt at all times, crawling against his throat. Yet he kept it at hand, as he had done for over a century now. In its small way, it helped him feel a little more human. It helped him remember who he was.
The Prime Dominion was scrawled out on vellum before him, the detail exquisite. Each corner of the realm, each little hideaway carefully noted. All the promise of an empire lay there, and all the fault lines that ran beneath the surface plain to see. The Prime Dominion was special, more so than even the Iscarneth knew. Unique in all the realms, to Alti’s knowledge. They understood a little of how their sanctuary came to be, but did not understand yet what it meant. They did not understand the potential they had…
He stood, and pulled a cloak of starless night close around himself. The satraps did not understand. They could not, so long as they were ruled by greed and pride, grief and resentment. He had saved them once, not just from the Spirefall but from the willful ignorance forced upon their distant kin by a spiteful god. He believed in what they could be, but also knew the depths they were capable of sinking to. He would save them again, if only from themselves.
It was his destiny.
TURN 1 IS OVER. TURN 2 HAS BEGUN!
JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH ANIMOSITY? TAKE A LOOK THROUGH EVERY SINGLE TURN 1 REPORT WE RECIEVED!