The rolling landscape of the Glittering Hills shone, the distinctive metallic fuschia of its forested dells and knolls blinding in their lustre. It was beautiful and deadly, buzzing with biting, stinging things, some large enough to rival a gyrocopter. This part of Silverside had always been treacherous, but the Ghurish energies spilling through the bleed had driven its insectile inhabitants to a primal frenzy. Few would brave these hills for less than a king’s ransom.
And to Necromancer Drakenot, the prize scattered across the Glittering Hills was priceless.
Similar concentrations of Alarielle’s Rite of Life had materialised across the realms, and the Sepulchre had been scouring the bleed for them for weeks, a vital catalyst in the quickening of their draconic charges. Then, as if from nowhere, huge amounts of the stuff in the form of enormous crystals had burst from the ground in the Glittering Hills, close to the Underbough Sepulchre itself. The forces of the Sepulchre had already begun to find and hold crystalline deposits throughout the region, with Drakenot themself taking up position among the ranks of some of their most trusted generals to hold the largest of these deposits, a veritable spire of viridian crystal, pulsing with the very stuff of life itself.
Drakenot turned to Melesis Daggerheart, the mastermind of the Sepulchre’s plan to defend the crystal. The ironscale nodded. All was ready. Drakenot gestured, and the Sepulchre’s forces fell into position. Drakenot’s allies had shown the strength of their ingenuity and resourcefulness in the defence of the ritual sites in the Prismatic Shadows, and the necromancer had every confidence that they would succeed once more. Indeed, they would need all their wiles and every ounce of their strength, for the Underbough Sepulchre were not the only ones to seek this prize.
The arrival of the Nashwan Cabal was heralded by a great flight of needle-flies rising up from the forested hillside beyond their vantage. Just as Daggerheart had predicted, the Cabal were supremely overconfident. They hadn’t even tried to hide their approach. The massed armies of the Cabal were on them in moments, hitting the defensive line fast and hard. They came in the form of a seething tide of daemons of every stripe: buzzing bloat drones, capering horrors and ravening bloodletters, and, at their centre, the enormous figure of the daemon prince Skarath, who grinned wickedly as he took to the air on colossal wings, diving into the melee. Even with a seemingly endless daemonic horde, the Cabalists would have difficulty breaking through Drakenot’s lines. Zombies shuffled forth, risen and re-risen by the fell magics of Doctor Clovis, absorbing the tidal wave of daemons, a breakwater of foetid flesh. Those daemons who made it through found themselves pressed against a phalanx of mortek guard, their weapons bouncing uselessly off of the osseous shield wall of the All-Points Legion. With a beating of mighty wings, Skarath soared over the lines flanked by bloat drones, intending to break the Underbough centre, but was met with a hail of melusai arrows, thudding into the Prince’s chest and sending bloat drones tumbling in a spray of vile ichor. Skarath landed hard, finding himself faced with the Cult of Khaine the Unconquered. He swung his sword about himself, killing aelves with every swing, but with each drop of blood spilled, the Avatar of Khaine atop the cauldron of blood at the formation’s centre glowed brighter. The statue creaked and groaned, then finally roared as it came inexorably to life. Amidst bright trees, the Daemon Prince and the Avatar of Khaine clashed, sparks flying from titanic blades.
The Soulclaim Host drifts through the forest, marking crystals with motes of shadeglass, nullifying their lifegiving effects.
At the front, both forces attempted to grind the other down, both the undead and the daemonic hordes counting on their infinite numbers. But this was not the only line of the battle. All about the great crystal, skirmishes raged as Nashwar’s forces attempted to flank the Underbough on a dozen different fronts. But Daggerheart had predicted this too, and the armies of the Sepulchre were prepared. Where Warlord Sprakk and his Talismongers attempted to use a stagnant waterway to sneak behind Underbough lines, they found themselves ambushed by Nighthaunt of the Dread-Fire Crusaders, their poisons ineffective against their spectral assailants. In a dense wooded valley, Captain Palyras attempted her own flanking manoeuvre, using the glimmering pink boughs as cover, but found herself pinned down by sylvaneth archers from the Emberheart glade while the Verminlord corruptor Yestis bore down on her with pox-ridden sickles raised. The Sylvaneth and the daemon pursued the Captain even as she took wing and escaped above the treeline. The Underbough forces emerged from the trees, expecting to find a single, fleeing opponent. Instead, they found themselves faced with an enormous ship carried on the air by spectres and bristling with cannons pointed directly at them. The Cabalists had anticipated just this, and had drawn the forces of the Underbough out, scattered and isolated.
Incredibly, however, Daggerheart’s plot had accounted even for this. As the flanking forces of the Cabal attempted to draw the Underbough defenders off, the claws of the trap closed. The retreating Talismongers found themselves suddenly hemmed in by gibbering hordes of flesh-melded horrors whipped on by the maniacal Master Moulder Vreeche Maggottail, while Palyras’s ship was buffeted by spectral fire from another floating ship, a ghostly vessel commanded by Magdalene von Sinckler, grand shadow duchess of Umberspire. Palyras’s ship listed under the barrage for a moment before returning fire, the two boats suddenly engaged in a mid-air battle as Palyras attempted to make her escape.
In fact, it seemed like the Cabalist forces were breaking and fleeing all across the battlefield, even the daemonic forces of Skarath turning tail and sprinting back towards the tree line. Drakenot’s tense wooden shoulders finally relaxed slightly. They’d won.
“Oh no, I don’t think so sweetheart.”
Drakenot whirled. Nashwar seemed to be everywhere, her feline form shifting in and out of Drakenot’s peripheral vision. Then, the great crystal that had been piercing the earth behind them was gone.
“Dear, sweet Chungus made off with that while you were busy. It’s very easy to make someone see what they wish to see, you know. Don’t bother looking for scraps or trying to chase us down, either. Straszyc has made sure that all of the crystals are perfectly unusable for your silly little project. Oh, and darling? I wouldn’t leave your little ones undefended next time. Others might be less caring babysitters than I. Now, I’m very busy preparing to study those lovely gems, so I shall bid you farewell. Ta-ta!”
And with that, the spectre was gone, and Drakenot was very, very afraid.
Nashwan Cabal Victory
The skeletal remnants of an ancient town clung to the edge of the Amber Sea. The name of the fishing village, if it ever one, had been long since forgotten by the living and the dead alike. The long uninterrupted monotony of soft waves had been broken with the arrival of the Stormdance Reavers. For days, they had searched the ruins to little avail. Prince Maelyn Ulthorn’s aelven rangers had dispersed into the surrounding hills, chasing down and eliminating troublesome bands of local skaven. With dusk, campfires sprouted up like mushrooms after the rain, their dancing light giving life to the ruins once more. Yet, as Brawen’s raiders were soon to learn, they were not alone. With a hissing and gibbering cry, ghouls swarmed down into the village, appearing out of the gloom or pulling themselves from muddy burrows in the lakeshore. The fighting was quick and desperate, the Reavers strength and speed carving a red furrow through the teeming flesheaters, yet the ghouls could afford to lose twenty of their own for every raider they pulled down. The ground rumbled as a massive ghoul atop a monstrous bat-like creature lurched atop a broken wall, screaming a battlecry at the desperate defenders. In a flash, that scream became a cry of pain and surprise, very briefly, as the colossal might of Hakai and his gargant brothers came smashing into the ruins. The gargant bowled into the terrorghesit, sending the creature sprawling before snapping it’s spine across his knee. Like a riverbank crumbling against a flood, panic swept through the foul creatures, and the ferocious reavers fell upon them, cutting them down so they could never return. Morning’s light revealed the scale of the slaughter. Along the shore, they found the broken body of the arch-ghoul, crawling for a submerged tunnel entrance. There, from the amber silt, the Reavers pulled an ancient stone tablet with the shattered designs of a map carved upon it.
High in the mountains, the forces of the Cult of the Burrowing Fang followed a flowing tributary river’s climb. The map they followed was of dubious providence, found in the ruins of a camp far below along the Ur-River’s shores, yet Crow-Bear led the disparate band with certainty. The cave ahead from which the tributary sprung was the goal, yet the map promised much more besides. They had seen the signs on another expedition on their ascent, the well-known sigils of Sir Rychard explorers, yet Crow-Bear’s scouts knew their rivals had not been able to get past the mouth of the cavern. Girding themselves, the explorers entered the yawning opening, the mist of cold flowing water seeping into their strength. The cave they beheld was massive, stretching up and into darkness all around them. Pale lights, which looked at first like stars in the night’s sky, began to resolve themselves into pinpricks of cold blue torchlight. Ghost lanterns, made and maintained by ancient magics, lit vast buildings carved into the sides of the mammoth caves. Ghostly figures moved among them, giving a pale blue glow of their own. Yet they were not alone. With a crashing of metal, the Ugustkin Golems of Ghalbakk’s Company emerged from another entrance and charged towards them. Naucor Wildrider and Dendaelien Vipertongue readied themselves to challenge, yet before the lines could meet a primal roar split the cavern. Emerging from the ghost-lit waters, a hydra of terrifying size reared its snake-like heads and struck out at both groups of invaders. Cults and Company alike were snapped up in venomous jaws or crushed in the milky-white scales of the warbeast. Both sides gave ground, their fight momentarily forgotten, their blows doing little to the beast’s heavily armoured hide. Vipertongue struck fast, whirling a blade with terrifying skill to sever a serpentine head, only to see two more grow from its place with terrifying speed. Their backs to the cave entrance and the precipitous drop below, the tide turned at last when Ogdo, beast of the Bleak Host joined the fight. Where the corrupting touch of Nurgle’s plaything fell, nothing new could grow. Working in grim precision, Naucor and Dendaelion struck the heads from the beast and Ogdo sealed the wounds with gouts of corruption. When at last the beast lay dead, the cavern lay still. The Ugustkin Golems had fled back in the face of the beast. Following Crow-Bear’s map once more, they entered the haunting city, its ghostly residents moving through the streets like echoes of the past, unaware of their presence. At its heart, they found at last what they sought - a temple built around the ruins of an ancient slann artefact. As the Cult diplomat reached a hand towards it, the motion in the city suddenly ceased, thousands of ancient shades turning in unison to stare at them with hollow eyes. For a moment, nothing breathed, then the spirits began to fade from view, their light disappearing, ghost-lanterns extinguished. The Cult explorers stood in the sudden complete blackness, holding close to their prize.
The warring mountains known as the Biting Stones were an unwelcoming host to the explorers of Ghalbakk’s Company. A sense of unease filled the tall, claustrophobic canyons, their rocky walls unnaturally sharp and jagged. Yet the mountains had not been ungenerous to Grikk Mookshield and Glottul Coldcutter. Rich seams of gold and realmstone filled the rocky walls, and as he watched over the excavation work Grikk wondered at his unease. They had seen some Gnarltongues at the mouth of the valley, yet the predators had not followed their expedition deeper into the canyon. High above, Tethora Seabrand and her entourage were scouring the skies, keeping watch for enemies or natural threats. He looked again at the canyon walls. Sharp and jagged, like teeth biting at the sky, It put him in mind of wild plants he had seen in the jungles below, vicious fanged things with snapping jaws that pulled birds from the sky. A tumbling rock from the slope caused him to jump. One of the diggers called over to him, and he gladly turned his attention away. Amid the seams of precious materials, they had found a strange sight - skeletons, humans and duardin, had been preserved in the rock, yet they were not like the fossilized remains of some of his ossiarch allies. They looked old, yet not ancient, pressed into the rocky walls like imprints in clay. The digger pointed excitedly again. The skeletal finds had been clustered around something, a jet black tablet or box of some sort. The workers excitedly chipped away at the surrounding stone, looking to work it loose. Another rock tumbled down the canyon walls, and Grikk thought he heard a low, growling sound. The thought of the skeletons, clustered around this mysterious black object, and his own diggers now excitedly working away at it. He looked at the canyon walls, this fang-like maw above them, and thought again of carnivorous plants. Were the walls above narrower than he remembered? A cry snapped his attention back, one of his skaven excitedly holding the black object aloft, having pried it from the stone. The ground growled again. “Run!” With a shout, Grikk took off towards the entrance to the canyon. His diggers look of confusion lasted only a brief moment before their own survival gear kicked off, sending them all scurrying towards the entrance. They canyon walls groans and shifted, then with a grinding sound began to snap shut. Grikk lept, his strong legs carrying him clear of the entrance. The diggers were not so lucky. One of them, carrying the black stone, made it half way before the walls slammed shut. Grikk took the object from his lifeless hands. Polished onyx covers bedecked in strange runes reflected his face, and between them thin metal sheets with writings he could not decipher. Grikk smiled, shaking the dust from his coat. Fairwater would pay very, very well for this indeed.
In the accidental little neutral township named after the long dead beast Choggrish, there waited a secretive, diminished, concerned and scattered band of tradesfolk. Some expected imminent rescue by the Skyguard of Barak-Drak. Others wondered agonizingly about recently missing associates, or tacitly gloated at the elimination of longtime rivals. A slippery few coolly assessed the new wager they had warily concluded with the increasingly notorious Company of Acquisitor Ghalbakk.
At first it was just another day amid the haphazard, dusty, improvised markets that clustered about, beneath and between the Ribs; yet another day of ugly tales and unexplained new merchandise. Perhaps, in retrospect, a pessimistic observer might have detected something ominous and harsh on the stale air between the stalls, in the volume, fervour, and the ever so slightly increasing nervous tension with which hawkers and visitors alike traded questions, and groped after answers of any certain kind at all.
‘What’s all this dirt cheap fish oil about, anyway?’
‘Want to watch yourself with those Bugmansbur twins’ brew. So good you go…airy like.’
‘Did you hear the spice merchant’s widow’s up and left?’
‘Lahareth got her.’
‘No, it was Lahareth she went with…’
‘The expeditions’ ogors drinkin’ hard. Too hard for the safety of honest traders.’
‘Fewer wild orruks around lately, though.’
‘Ha, wild orruks are the least of our worries. You seen that swollen new shop bein’ set up…?’
These anxious yet aimless rivulets of discourse were interrupted by an announcement made by strange Fyreslayers, Lodge Darkrom, cautiously whispered to be in with the famous Skyguard. The children of Grimnir proposed to display in the market all the wonders of a magmic battleforge. Excitement twitched about the crowd, much of which seemed to be hooded, diminutive, and squeaking.
As Lodge Darkrom commenced its magnificently infernal and, as the programme intensified, gloriously risk-taking demonstration, feyly winged Sylvaneth archers flitted through the dreamy heat, appearing to search for very particular marks, or perhaps charges.
Then it was that a fully accredited delegation, apparently from the Skyguard itself, made its most conspicuous mark upon the crowds of expectant shoppers and sellers.
The duardin were enswathed in particularly doughty aethersuits, their gruff, aggressive demands hard to make out from within. But they seemed to be attempting the exaction of some kind of universal toll on the marketplace. They had brought several drooling troggoths to add literal weight to their haughty blackmail, and they seemed to glory in their ugly conduct to the frailest and most accommodating of Ribtraders. The temperature in the market and the settlement trickled up to near boiling point.
While this strange scene dominated the stalls within the Ribs, runaway stories from the outskirts of the town did nothing to reassure the worries of onlookers and inhabitants. Stormcast Eternals sporting the rival colours of Fairwater and Barak-Drak were brawling openly, to the disillusionment of all Sigmar-fearing witnesses. The Skyguard’s Krakensworn under the leadership of the Fyreslayer Trungim had routed some of Ghalbakk’s hired Ironjaws, only to be thoroughly done over in turn by the seasoned Orruks of Wazchoppa who served the Company’s distant ally Kroolius da Seizer.
And then the eaves under the Ribs played host to what some called salvation, others, near sacrilege. The oddly braggartly, heavily suited Skyguard duardin were flamboyantly repelled by numerous, well-equipped and articulate reinforcements proclaiming to all and sundry their unshakeable allegiance to Profiteer-General Ghalbakk. Here marched the magnificent, and even more magniloquent Ogor ruler Prince Crudo, Conte of Cinghiale, atop his thoroughbred Stonehorn; the aelf prince of Iscarion, Darius of the Teclandeth, and his beloved Tzaangor-in-arms; the vast and blind Troggboss Mooneye and Guttrippaz lent by Ghalbakk himself, that none should doubt the protection Fairwater’s agent now extended.
The brutish Skyguard who had swaggered first upon the scene had never a chance, and were defeated almost more completely and instantly than could have been possible had they been surrendering on purpose. And yet the day was still young. The elegant hoof-fall of a Lightcourser fleet enough to rival that of Prince Darius announced the arrival of Aethys, the Lord-Regent and envoy to the Skyguard, and her faithful Bannerblade Icolas.
As lines of Grundstokk Thunderers strode forth to strafe the Company, even unhorsing, or unhorning, an inconsolable Prince Crudo, Aethys called out a formal challenge to determine Fairwater’s rights in these lands. To the surprise of many, her impetuous offer was accepted by the Immortis Guard Ossiarch Var’ek, the Chuglord Hunter Throg Ironflame, and a second Company Ogor Olbalg Goldfang. Aethys unhesitatingly faced them all at once in a performance of artistry that astonished all beholders, but yielded more entertainment than juridical clarity.
At the same time the case of Fairwater and its Company’s actions, legal or otherwise, was being prosecuted by way of more sophisticated methods. The Mortisan Atropheks had defied attempts by Skyguard scouts to dismantle it and now addressed the notables of the Ribs at remorseless length upon the rights, and more rights of the question. Meanwhile, a mysterious incident involving a Skyguard-aligned Cathallar disguised as some kind of Khainite, a Daemon of Khorne, several unfortunate Chuglords and an Orruk shaman concluded with the Cathallar Aengellania being removed into temporary custody at the Weirdrock itself.
The melee beneath the Ribs was far from decided, with one watching alchemist gasping, torn between horror and triumph, to see the Skyguard employ his own metals to drop Fyreslayer berserkers from the clouds in curiously fashioned pods. Meanwhile subtler and more mobile struggles were being pursued while the populace was so well and truly distracted, both from house to house, and in the sparse plains out of town. While the Hobgrot Company bailiff Pokka wormed his way into the homesteads of a whole catalogue of merchants who might or might not have something to hide, the Skyguard’s own Ogors, along with the Fyreslayer Barlimn and Dar Starborn’s hardened men, worked to free other targets and sabotage embryonic Company mines.
It took hours for the brawling to end, all night for the dust to settle. But with dawn came the relief the citizenry of Choggrish had yearned after. Both sides had respected the Ribs themselves, if little else; nearly every stall was overturned, though such damage would be swiftly reversed if peace were allowed to settle.
And the chances of that, at least, seemed all but definite, as Acquisitor Ghalbakk himself processed solemnly into the heart of the Ribs, guarded by huge, new-made, metallically glinting Ossiarchs, multifariously befeathered Greatsword-like Fairwater warriors carrying grotesque cleavers, and exquisitely disdainful Iscarneth bladelords.
As the Profiteer-General sashayed up to the market’s one untouched emporium, the freshly reared GHALMART, he slashed open its mint-green ribbon with the elegant Freeguild sabre he had pilfered years back.
‘I do hereby declare Fairwater’s and the Company’s position upheld, the Ribs’ protection against the Skyguard or anyone else guaranteed in perpet…forever, and this fine store of delights open! Get at it you lovely people! WAAAAGH!!’
Ghalbakk’s Company Victory
The explorers of Ghalbakk’s Company had spread themselves out over the wide desert basin. In the distances, the lights of the trading post twinkled, yet among the ossified remains of ancient megafauna there was no feeling of familiar comfort. The bonefields were vast and alien. The ancient megabeast in whose remains the town had been founded was the most prominent, yet it was joined by many other strange beasts. Some were recognizable, ancient and mega-sized versions of the Sand-Scurries or Lithodons that could be found still in the Wilds. Yet many were much stranger. The bones of marine beasts were littered among them, strange colossi from the deep. Others were utterly alien, beasts that bore no resemblance to anything in the eight realms. High Ossiologist Xaxius Xzaahn studied these with great intent. There had been little to challenge them upon the desert plains. Mooneye’s Troggherd were off raiding the outskirts of the town. Vhaskora the Wardancer and her witch aelves had fought off a small haunt of ghosts that had harangued them at the start of the expedition with little difficulty. Prince Daloneth, his fellow ossiarch, had taken to long hunting trips in the waste to pass the time. The expedition was an enjoyable diversion. It was the Boar’s Tusk ogors and their scouting beasts had found the marker further into the bonefields. A column of black metal, ten feet tall, had been driven into the desert earth. Each of its five sides held a passage carved in its flanks, though only on one was the ancient dialect recognizable. The site radiated power, and scattered around its sides rune stones of exceptional quality. The ossiologist would have much to study here.
Another bloody chapter was about to be written in the sordid history of the Murkskull Pit. The ossiarch legions under the command Khrozia had marched through the center of the rocky valley, towards the fortified tower that was once the seat of the necromancer that had shaped the colossal stone skulls in its mountainsides. The Reaver was assisted by the necromancers of Victor Kral, channeling the wild death magics of the site into a swirling maelstrom of power. Across from them was an army of the dead, the arrayed forces of the Underbough Sepulchre. Tarsus’ Landless Knights and Mattias of the All-Points Legion formed a deathly hammer and anvil, waiting to crash upon their mislaid kin. The lines formed and reformed, shifting and responding with the patience of the undead, yet it was the living that would move first. Kaptains Toxis and Mogrum signaled a charge, the skaven of Killax hot on their heels. The lines met with a crash that reverberated through the skull-like mountains around them. Yet the day would not be won on the field. Cyprecht Detris’s hunting packs roamed the tower’s halls, searching for signs of the ancient necromancer that had built this place, or the secret he protected, Drazghul Kel and She-Who-Unearths following on their heels. In the tower’s throne room, skaven assassins and clanrats fought tooth and claw, their masters Geki and Vreeche Maggottail whipping at the fray. Yet it was the valley itself that would end this battle. Long railing against the undead corruption of its would-be masters, the walls of the valley shook and splintered, leering skull faces that had been shaped into their sides collapsing down. Amber crystals burst from the ground, stabbing into the combat above indiscriminately, forcing many from the field. A shudder ran up through the tower itself, cracks forming in foundations that had been built from blood and bone. The warring forces raced from its sides like rats from a sinking ship, and with a bone-splintering crack a large chunk of the edifice toppled into the dusty ground. Picking themselves up, the forces of the Underbough Sepulchre were the first to survey the ruins, and from their depth Cyprecht Detris emerged with a glowing crystal pulsing with the energy of the Rite of Life.
The crystalline daggers of the Prismatic Shadows stabbed into the evening’s gloom, a forest of multi-hued and gleaming needles. The strange rock formations of the region were concentrated here. Strange voices just at the edge of hearing rippled through the fog, taunting or luring the unwary into the unknown. Captain Palyras of the Cabal had sent her forces off into the darkening night, chasing after a skaven sorcerer that had appeared in their midst. High Templar Aethador and his tzaangors had stayed at the forest’s entrance, guarding the expedition against nurgle-infested corpses that had been following them for days. Crolic moved forward warily. He had flung his hobgrot assistants into the fog ahead of them, scouting for danger, yet none had returned. The dying light reflecting from the forest of warping crystal stagmites bounced and reflected in strange ways, morphing the reflections of him and his mount. A burst of wind buffeted him, then the sound of thousands of wings beating through air all around him echoed out, the sources unseen in the twilight mists. As suddenly as it had started, the sounds passed, and Crolic stared out as a figure loomed out of the suddenly silent crystal forest. Towering above him, swaying, Crolic gripped the reins tightly, before the figure stepped out of the mists, its silhouette shrinking back down into the hobgrot he had sent out before him. The grot clutched something tightly to its chest, a crystal orb glowing with swirling lights. The Mistress would be very pleased with him today.
Even as scenes of life and death struggle played out across the Bleeding Wilds, one of the strangest events of the war took place on the southern islands known as the Cometfall. Learning that a Loonshrine had been raised on the island by its fiercely protective grot inhabitants, members of the Skyguard had arranged for a diplomatic visit. Boomer and Olg Rumblegut arranged for food and drink to be sent to the island, and in short order a massive squig roast barbeque had been set up. Tended to by ogors and gloomspites, it did not take long for the local grots to join in the festivities, and soon a party-like atmosphere had pervaded the entire island. For many like Umithil, a veteran of the Iscarneth Civil War, this momentary peace was a welcome respite from the combat. Pleased with the food and drink and generosity of their guests, and with Boomer even offering to make them honourary members of the Skyguard, the grots were more than willing to share the location of an endrin crash site. Yet, the lights and smells of roasting squig attracted more than just the grots. Screaming cries sounded from the island jungles, and the grots fell back to their village in a panic. Ghouls emerged from the darkness in fearsome numbers. Without a word, the Skyguard moved into defensive positions, joining grots around their village. Boomer and Olg stood side by side with Catalogist Brynna and Sir Zigbin, his relic blade glowing. Brachanthyl Ivythicket held back flesh-eating troggoths with Umithil. The grot villagers rallied around the six heroes, fighting the horde around them, yet with each passing hour they were pushed further back. It was then, when things appeared dire, that cries of ‘For Sigmar’ sounded from across the island. Ishothea Cometcalld and her free guild soldiers had arrived, smashing into the rear of the flesheater horde. She had intended to bring her forces here to bear against the grots of the island. She had grudgingly accepted those that had joined the Skyguard, yet here was a chance to strike at her most hated foe. As she broke through the ghoul lines and sent them scrambling and howling off, however, she was greeted by a strange site. There, at the loonshrine, were her comrades, yet all the grots that surrounded them had the mark of the Skyguard scrawled across their clothing or foreheads. Despite her grudge, she had agreed to put her vengeance aside amongst her allies, and it seemed Boomer had convinced these grots to join them after all. She would have to be contended to hunt down the remnants of the ghouls this day.
‘… Copperwater will allow us to strike right at the Ur-Dragon’s sealed heart. I want every available man, woman and tetran to seize the lake – especially since we may not be the first to have realized this land’s crucial importance…' - Castian Storm
‘... Copperwater is the most advantageous position for the Reavers to achieve their goal of striking down Maudra Rua from its heart- but the same is true for us. A ritual performed there would swell with immense power…’ - Voice of Embers
The weather had become worse than awful as the Reavers began their amphibious assault on Copperwater. Rain spattered through rolling banks of fog, flashes of distant and irregular lightning only making the reeking haze more foreboding. Of course, none of this appeared to be cause for concern among the Stormdancer’s allies.
Discovering the dense fog to be wholly unnatural in origin, the keen-eyed scouting force of Wanderers led by Prince Maelyn Ulthorn initiated a surprise shock attack upon the Waaagh-mother’s swampcalla shamans and their slime-slick ilk. Descending the slope like a rockslide, the Eternal Hunt swept da finkerz into the churning waters, crushing them against Captain Tar’rok and the crew of the Red Wake… if not without stinging losses.
Thus began the Reavers’ landing in earnest. Thunder heralded the Knights Numinous and the Knights of the Fulgurite Order, Sigmar’s tempest splitting the mist and acting as a beacon for Evangeline Riftborn’s Chainbreakers and Killax’ swarm of Skaven to follow ashore.
Pureblood Cyrus Fanghand duels his Rift-sister, the so-called “Chainbreaker”.
The Thresher King proved worthy of his name as frothing Bloodbound berserkers met Tk’ya’pyk’s Seraphon counter-attack head on, a tide of muscle and fat by his side as Da Grim Fangs, da Beergutz Waaagh, and the Crimson Raiders got stuck in.
Fangs and teef meet in furious, if water-logged, confrontation.
Vogrog “the Beast Slayer” gave a triumphant roar as a bolt the size of a spear slid through the skull of an enraged Carnosaur mauling the Thresher King, stealing the right to claim its ponderous skull as a prized trophy. Victory appeared inevitable as Clan Kyodai and the Suns of Behemat, gargants all, emerged from the water and secured the beachhead in ponderous, pounding strides, their titanic ‘Green Knight’ the most imposing of them all.
The mystical Green Knight
Suspecting treachery, Khrozia the Frostbound and her Ossiarch Bonereapers led a subterranean flank through the caverns surrounding Copperwater. It did not surprise her to find Maggotkin in these dank confines, and she took pride in freezing their putrid corpses, that they might never again decay. Routing the bleak host, she followed their feculent spoor high into the crags above Copperwater- and there found Amadeus Wretch. The Great Unclean One squatted alone in the rocky desolation, and only when the Frostfire Exiles surrounded him did he begin retching in raucous laughter. Soul-constructs of shaped, ossified bone were rendered to ash the greater daemon was torn open, burnt flesh splattered across the crag by searing light. This had been the Cult’s ploy all along, a ruse to lure the Reavers into a killing field.
The Eye of Tlanxla was a weapon composed of crystals from the Prismatic Shadows. Eight pieces, hidden around Copperwater, directed Hysh’s light towards the Geomantic Megalith, a single massive piece charged with geomantic energy, hidden on the surface of the lake, far from the battle. Above that, an ur-gold plate, held far above by the flight-beasts of the Seraphon, engraved with carvings and prayers to Tlanxla, the serpent warlord of the sun. The eight plates would direct sunlight towards the megalith in the middle, where Woldsage performed rituals to concentrate it before sending it up to the plate over it in the sky. The plate would direct the energy down onto their foes all at once, as if Tlanxla himself had come to smite their enemies.
Like the linear path of an Aethervoid Pendulum, the lance of light and fire carved through the very fog that had concealed the Cult’s machinations just moments before. Besides the Frostfire Exiles, the nighthaunt of the Fisher Kings and the gravelords of the Black Grail were the first caught in its terrible path, the legions of Nagash blasted apart by prismatic brilliance. Finally, after a moment that felt to last an eternity, the light flickered out, leaving the Stormreavers reeling, blue thunderbolts crackling upward like echoes as Stormcast Eternals returned to their maker.
The Waaagh-Mother was well prepared for just this moment, and as shamans and weirdknobs called upon their frenzied, mushroom-induced magics, the great green hand of Gorkamorka scooped them up and delivered greenskin and beastman alike into the heart of the Stormreaver attackers. Their morale wavering, if only for a moment, Celemrica of the Betrayed Torment seized her opportunity, shrieking Nighthaunt sending panicked Skaven and Orruks fleeing into the water in terror, spirit hosts circling the Reavers’ gargant allies like howling vortexes. Their momentum gone and their resolve broken, Castian’s disparate commanders had little choice but to withdraw before the butcher’s bill could cost them any more.
Cult of the Burrowing Fang Victory
The steep mountain that they called the Runepeaks had held an unshakeable fascination for the Stormdance Reavers. Long, looping geoglyphs carved into its sides by ancient, unknown hands displayed mysterious patterns from the sky. Were they geometric formula, or arcane lithography? Where did they lead? Those questions and more had guided the exploratory group high into the mountains. Murktred of the Kompany of the Sodden Wyvern had led them across a precarious path into the clouds, following his head. At regular intervals, he had gone ahead on his own and found a quiet spot, then brought a heavy rock down across his skull. Studying the pattern of broken rock bits and blood as they fell to the ground, he had divined the next steps of their ascent. The other Reavers watched reverently. The art of lithospex, the rock-based augury, was held in high regard by the crew. His head swimming with visions of the grotty mountain eating a gargant skull, he had led them slowly but surely through the peaks, until at last the clouds broke beneath them and they beheld a hidden valley high in the mountaintops. There, Vigo the Vexed pointed to the sight that had been haunting his thoughts - the entrance to an ancient tomb carved in the valley’s side. Yet that was not all they beheld. The valley floor crawled with zombies, a horde of frostbitten dead. Despite the risk, their path was clear. Lunim of the Twisted Thistles led the charge down into the milling ranks of the undead, carving a path through them, Snorri fast behind them widening the gap and holding its lines. The undead pressed close, relentlessly, yet the Reavers would not give back and inch of ground, and slowly but surely their expedition pushed across the valley floor towards the tomb itself. Balian Stormmantle push open the heavy stone doors, and beheld the small crypt within. Symbols circled the walls, imitating those found on the mountains outside like the solution to some vast and ancient algebra problem. Curving patterns like a figure eight dominated the wall, consuming its own tail, and symbols of Ghur and Chamon asunder in its wake. The dragon’s resurrection and the realms destroying each other, promised in the stone. Yet that was not all that lay within. At the center of the small chamber lay a dias, where a sarcophagus might have sat. Yet as Murktread approached, he felt instead the instinctive call of Gorkamorka resonating from the stone box it held. Prying it open, he looked down at the face of the Great Green God.
Upon another mountain peak, the explorers of the Skyguard were fighting for their lives. Spite swarms flew like a tornado around them, hundreds of thousands of wings beating in a buzzing cacophony. The swarm had been whipped into a frenzy by the Sepulchral forces of Archregent Murnau’s flesheater minstrels, joined by Lehergheist, Kurnaya and Thrandrangur. Their joint efforts to musically control the creatures had only been partially successful, and while they had roused the swarm’s ire they could not shield themselves or their allies from its wrath. Baron Krogg and Tarascon were forced to seek shelter further down the mountainside. Thymopen and Ghost Bear had been drawn into a battle with Saint Lothar’s forces at the mountain pass, blocking the Cult from making their own play for the mountain. Yet the Skyguard forces trapped upon its slopes did not have the luxury of shelter. They ran through the thick snow and iron peaks as the swarm descended. Marius had been injured in the first wave, and was limping heavily. Yenlass’s sentinels provided running covering fire, joined by volleys every twenty yards from Kugok’s Thunder Rangers, their disciplined fire providing a moment of reprieve but little more. Ventoleon steamtanks sent swaths of superheated vapours outwards, yet they could hardly move along the mountainside, and were quickly left behind. Harvard Erkansson’s gunhauler escort was struggling to stay aloft, the weight of the spites making progress difficult, yet they had been a glimpse of possible reprieve ahead. A Ghurish stand of trees, completely out of place in these Chamonic mountains, were the only cover available for miles, and so the desperate band made their way towards them. Each hard and costly step punished them, yet at last they found cover from the spites. A long night followed, huddled together from the swarm outside, until with dawn’s light the relentless buzzing finally receded. The swarm had returned to their nests, high in the mountains, and the Skyguard survivors looked out over a mountain side picked clean of their fallen. The strange thicket they found themselves in was fascinating, but offered little to make their climb worth the losses. While Emideri investigated signs of a stonemage’s presence, the rest of the Skyguard explorers met with a local hunter who had also been driven to seek shelter in the thicket. Joining him on his hunt, they tracked a herd of lithodons across the mountain side and down the other side, and parted ways with fuller bellies and rumours of the surrounding areas.
Continuous skirmishes had echoed across the rolling hills for weeks, as explorers from many disparate groups sought to lay claim to the idyllic pink-blossomed expanse in the wake of the explosive battle at its center. It was a vibrant place amidst the Wilds, quite unlike the desolate wastelands farther afield, and this vivacity was what had attracted the attention of the Underbough Sepulchre. Motes of the Rite of Life, carried by the Ur-River, had flooded through these lands and coalesced into crystalline infusions that Drakenot sought with a desperate need. Yurek Malenkon spurred his forces through the softly falling metallic pink blossoms. They had ridden down numerous outsiders, evicting them in a wide berth around the heart of the copse. The pulse of life energy that came from the lodestone crystals at its center was distracting and intoxicating in equal measure. They had had little trouble securing the elysian groves and grasslands. Hedonism from the Cult of Exquisite Sighs had appeared in numbers, yet had seemed more interested in fighting amongst themselves to present a serious challenge. The curious tzaangor ancient known as Granny Hookbeak had given them more difficulty, yet the timely intervention of Tarascon’s Blackguards and Crown Prince Bloodlas Cadaverskin had soon seen her off. Dappled in sunlight streaming through pink blossoms, the rolling grassland before him, and with the life infusion secured, it was a good day.
An explosion echoed through the vaulted turquoise buildings of the Sanctuary Arcane, shaking dust from golden ceilings and splintering ancient glass murals. Another explosion followed swiftly behind. Kankerfire’s warpfire throwers were overheating in the magically infused atmosphere of the buildings, sending the Company rats scurrying for their lives. Their expulsion did little to settle the swirling melee. Forces of the Cult and the Cabal met in brutal close-range combat, the twisting halls and mad architecture of the sanctuary forcing invaders into small, roving bands searching from room to room. Shiv, ungor outcast, leapt with all his might over a floor that had turned from blue-green stone to carpet of gnashing teeth in less than a heartbeat. The madness of this place was taking its toll. The troggoth hag Big Mudda had unleashed a scuttletide swarm out into the complex to set off any traps, yet they had disappeared into the vast complex completely. He had seen his allies Kraknaw, Nyssa and Beakbender fighting on a distant gantry against the forces of the Bleak Host and the Beast Ogdo. No help would be coming from there any time soon. He skidded into a doorway, then threw himself back again as a blast of ice erupted from within. Torchbearer Igniteous was locked in a desperate battle with a ring of arcano-mechanical constructs, their eldritch blades clashing against the turquoise walls with melodic rings. Following another path, he sprinted up a staircase, then found himself for the moment in an island of calm amid the conflict. This appeared to be a study of sorts, if anything resembling logical deduction could be applied to the beings that had built this place. He walked cautiously across, and peered into an alcove in the wall. A small shrine sat within, a three-eyed statute set in its heart. Of course it would be. Hovering above the shrine, suspended in mid-air, was a three-bladed golden dagger. It glimmered golden in the light, yet its surface seemed to writhe and crawl. Whatever it was, he knew, Mistress Nashwar needed to see it.
The Labyrinth of Gond had countless entrances, its interior shifted between glimmering, natural caves, resplendent with dripping stalactites to regal and imposingly wrought architecture, carved from a stone that the duardin that entered found unnerving, for it was local to neither Lahar or Silverside.
Regardless of where the warriors entered, they were universally struck by a sense of scale, as though the labyrinth had not been built for them. Even ogors felt uncomfortably small beneath the lofty ceilings, while the staircases posed an athletic challenge.
credit Liege-Immortis Basikon the Eternal Curator
Ghalbakk led his company through the labyrinth with an incredibly straightforward approach: they would blast their way through the labyrinth’s puzzles. This served them well for a time. Glottul Coldcutter brought a healthy amount of blasting powder and, guided by the experienced hand of Basikon the Eternal Curator, they succeeded in blasting a straight path through a fiendish labyrinth that had over a hundred dead ends. When Glottul’s blackpowder was spent, Azoth and the Chuglords stepped forwards, bringing out an emberstone empowered device which seared through a colossal barred door. Though the inscription on the door read that it would only open to those bearing the password, Azoth was determined to prove its creator a liar. It was as Azoth’s device began to overheat, and Goldtooth’s gargant Mangagh the Red was about to take over demolition duties, Ghalbakk called for silence. Though it took awhile for the echoes to cease, silence did eventually reign. And in it, the Company heard muffled hammering coming from dead ahead.
Leading the approach of the Skyguard of Barak-Drak, Curator-Magnate Havard Erkansson and Marius the Gilded were busy dismantling another door, identical to the one Ghalbakk’s company had come up against. The two doors stood on either side of a small, empty chamber and, unbeknownst to them, they were not doors at all, but were carved walls designed to waste a traveler’s time guessing the password. It seemed that the labyrinth’s architects had not anticipated the tenacity of these warriors though, and as the two forces destroyed their respective doors and surged into the breach, they met face to face with blood on their minds.
But these false doors had not been designed to move, and when they were demolished, the labyrinth began to shake and groan. Dust poured from the ceiling and across the chamber, Havard locked eyes with his old archaeological rival Basikon. The two old rivals shook their fists at one another, exchanging curses, each blaming the other’s shoddy archaeological skills for the cave in before being all but dragged out by their companions as rocks began to fall. The two forces retreated. Ghalbakk’s company managed to escape the labyrinth mostly unscathed but far too delayed to reach the labyrinth’s centre in time. While the Skyguard stumbled further into its depths.
The Stormdance Reavers approached the Labyrinth of Gond with a comparatively delicate approach. Devorah Charnette floated through the dungeon ahead of the main host, their ghostly form sliding through stone walls and iron doors in search of traps that would harm her companions.
credit Pretending to Aspire#7880
She helped them avoid a hail of darts and swinging pendulums, but it was when she beckoned the Reavers down a long, straight passageway that disaster struck. Kap’n Toxis strode ahead of the others, leading his troggoths, fearless and confident that his regenerating abilities could overcome any trap laid before him.
However, when he had nearly reached the end of the corridor, and the other Reavers were beginning to cross it, there was a loud click. A pressure plate had been triggered, undetected by the floating nighthaunt. The Kap’n and his troggoths fell fifteen feet before landing on a cave floor, carpeted with sharp, steel spikes, each 6 foot long. Roars of pain echoed through the labyrinth as the troggoths tried to haul themselves off the stone spikes. For a troggoth, being impaled was more of an inconvenience than a mortal blow, but that didn’t stop it being agonizing. It took many hours for the Stormdance reavers to rescue their companions. The nimble skaven of Bosun Squee darted across the spikes and troggoth’s backs, tying ropes for their allies to pull on. When all the troggoths had been rescued, and only a few clan rats smashed by their impatient fists, the pirates were stuck with nowhere to go except for the way they had come. They too were not to reach the centre of the Labyrinth in time.
The Underbough’s venture into the Labyrinth was a surprisingly flamboyant affair. Archregent Wilhelm Murnau and Brynja’s Guardian Legion led the main host, flying pennants and banners, sounding trumpets and singing war songs.
They paraded and marched while ahead of them, Skweekit Venombladeand his skaven searched for traps and scouted out dead ends. If a skaven did not return from a path, that way was deemed neither safe nor worth investigating. This method worked well and inspired great confidence in Skweekit’s maze-solving abilities. Soon the Underbough’s warriors found themselves picking their way through a cave that was paved with slabs of obsidian. The craftsmanship was stunning, and the skaven found no traps, and so beckoned the army forwards. However, almost as soon as the command was given, a skaven cried out.
Though the cry was heard by the warriors at the front, those at the back did not hear and kept marching forward. The petrified squigs fell from the roof with the weight of boulders, ranging from the size of a duardin’s arm to a doombull’s. They plummeted into the advancing warriors, and the stormcasts threw their shields up to protect themselves, while the daemons of Phyrra Bloodrain held their blades aloft fearlessly, determined to at least kill the falling beast before it struck them down.
The stalagsquigs ripped apart any they fell on, but were helpless after their initial attack, and were slaughtered ruthlessly. The army was about to recommence its journey when Thrandrangur, The Vale-Prince called for a halt. After the last attack, the response was immediate. The Vale-Prince pointed towards the distant exit to the cave, and the Underbough saw that the obsidian floor changed quite abruptly to a red, fleshy tongue. Slowly the Underbough Sepulchre saw through the camouflage of the beast at the end of the tunnel. It was a gigantic stalagsquig waiting for the warriors to march into its open maw.
Realizing that this was a dead end, the Underbough was forced to turn around. They would spend many hours in the dark, searching for a new path before resigning themselves to returning to the surface empty handed.
Perhaps it was only natural that a serpent cult would worm its way to the heart of another’s burrow with ease. Many grisly fates were avoided thanks to Itza’Qua’s timely warnings, and many of the monsters that roamed the labyrinth were struck blind by Burnscale’s magic. As they arrived at the centre, they were met with the sound of battle. In the centre of a perfectly circular room, well over three hundred metres in diameter, and with an intricate pattern carved into the floor, the forces of the Skyguard doing battle with the most enormous Mallus Hound imaginable. It was a perfectly white canine, and a huge fragment of the Mallus erupted from its forehead like a unicorn’s horn. Though the beast was large, it did not seem like it would be enough to challenge the gathered might of the Skyguard. They had managed to bring a great many warriors to bear, as well as ordinance in the surprising shape of an Albern Baking Co. Ironclad skyship! However, as the hound turned from ravaging an ogor and laid eyes on its new foes, they understood why the Skyguard were fighting in such disarray.
A barrage of invasive visions assaulted every one of the Cult members, showing them pasts, presents and futures, each with an unsettling new truth or subtle lie wound in. The beast howled and the visions grew more intense. But its howls soon turned to whimpers. A pair of noble knights, Sir Zigbin and Marquis Sepulcairn from the Skyguard had been given a brief reprieve from the mental barrage by Klodius Brinen, who stood sweating and catatonic with the effort.
credit Duke Cailorn
The two knights sallied forth and charged the beast, striking it at full speed with their weapons. This in turn distracted the creature from the Cult of the Burrowing fang, and Dendaelien Vipertongue surged forward with his men, lashing out with the glaive.
credit Dendaelien Vipertongue
Hope began to bloom in both factions. It seemed that the beast was unable to mentally barrage both forces at once. Perhaps the day could be won if this cooperation could continue between these two rival armies, united to defeat a greater foe. Taking turns to land a blow while the other faction suffered in their place.
Until a final trap was sprung upon them.
The Nashwan Cabal had found the centre after the others, drawn through a zigzagging maze by the clamour of battle. As they arrived, Nashwar was prepared to join the fray, but she was approached with a plan by Grey Seer Shylvar and Kraknaw Killjaw. The two skaven received her blessing and within minutes, huge fans had been built from disassembled doomwheels. The skaven’s poison wind globadiers hurled their gasses into the melee, their spread aided by the fans and by extra gas canisters strapped to the few remaining doomwheels, which careered around the chamber.
Credit: Grey Seer Shylvar
Feeling the choking stench of skaven gas, the Cult and the Skyguard fled, many of the Skyguard remembering the sheer potency of the weapons from their previous battle. The Mallus Hound leapt upon the fleeing warriors, and many fell to its claws and teeth, coughing and choking as they were torn apart.
The beast itself seemed unaffected by the toxic air, and turned its attention to the Cabal soon enough, slowly walking towards them. Keeping their fans going, Shylvar and Killjaw worked furiously to clear the air, though their thoughts were beginning to be overwhelmed with prophecies. They called out to their leader, who had promised to lead the charge, but Nashwar stood stock still, staring at the colossal hound, her three eyes blazing with psychic might. It seemed that an invisible duel was being fought, the backlash of which was having an unbearable effect on the Cabalists. High Templar Aethador alone was able to resist the collosal powers at work. Digging deep into his mental reserves, Aethador fought through the prophecies to utter a single word.
Motion broke the spell, and all hell broke loose in an instant. The templar’s cavalry were joined by Gigglegrin’s troggoths and Prince Skarath’s bloodcrushers in an unstoppable charge. Beakbender peppered the hound with arrows from afar while its hide was pierced by blades and battered by clubs. However the beast did not retaliate, and a smile crept across Lady Nashwar’s face. Before long the hound uttered its last whimper and fell silent.
The mental pressure abated instantly and the room suddenly seemed deafeningly silent. Nashwar blinked for the first time since the assault began and shook her head as if to clear it before walking further into the room.
‘Thank you for the help, darlings. He was quite the handful, wasn’t he?’ she said as she walked to the centre of the engraved floor and twisted the eye of the pattern. The floor rumbled and began to descend into a spiral staircase, still too large for most of the Cabalists to comfortably manage. Nashwar hopped litherly down.
‘Just the generals from here onwards, please.’ she called over her shoulder.
At the bottom of the staircase was a door. A plain, wooden door painted green. It was ajar and a voice called from inside ‘Come in, Nashwar. Your Cabalists are welcome too. Enter freely. There are no more traps.’
Crossing the threshold, the Cabalists were met with a home. The grand architecture and scaling was the same, but there were echoes of a person’s life here too. A selection of books were displayed neatly on a shelf cut into the marble, a table was lined with a sheet, a large gryph-hound napped in the corner. It woke up at the entrance of the Cabalists and began to wail until the voice called out from the adjoining room ‘Hush now Brightbolt. These are my guests.’
‘Gond.’ Said Nashwar as the speaker walked in. It was not a question.
‘That’s right.’ nodded the being. He looked like a Fomoroid but he was… sane.
‘Gond the Architect. Welcome to my home. You have done well to reach me.’
‘I have risked much to come here, Architect, and I am ready to receive my prize.’ She struck a pose. ‘You may shower me with riches now.’
‘The riches that I have shown you in your vision pale in comparison to the true prize. Listen well, for I know you and your Cabal appreciate the value of information, perhaps more than any other. The Bleed is drying out. It has been receding for months but it is not leaving the realms as it found them. Instead, the spaces where the realms have bled have bonded too well. These places have begun to show signs that they are both Chamon and Ghur. The ebbing of the bleed will pull at this bond, and I have foreseen that these places will cause a tear, like ripping off a bandage that has been left on a wound for too long. One realm will be deeply scarred by this event, and even I cannot see how dramatic the results will be. What I can offer you, Nashwar, is a way to influence this event. To choose which realm is the one to be wounded, and which is to be alloyed with the other when the Bleed recedes.’
Murmers of amazement and disbelief rippled throughout the Cablists.
‘I shall accept this power, of course. What must be done?’ replied Nashwar.
‘I have an observatory. Whoever controls that place will be able to affect the Realmtear. However, it is not accessible now. The Bleed shields it, like an animal shielding a wounded limb. You will have to be ready to strike when it appears, for no matter what you do, your enemies will know of its power. It is not a… subtle building. However, I shall tell only you the mechanics of how it works.’
Gond closed his eyes and the air shimmered. There was a moment of silence before Nashwar gasped.
‘It’s so.. How does one… Why can you not simply join me?’
‘I may not leave this place. That is the price of dealing with the realm, and Maudra Rua.’ He gestured upwards and the Cabalists saw a great mural of the Dragon herself on his ceiling. The depiction was realistic, and differed greatly to the more interpretive depictions that had survived to this age.
Nashwar shivered. Maudra Rua truly was beautiful.
As the Cabalists gazed at the ceiling, the room lurched. As they looked around, they saw that thick dust covered the books, the chest was a rotten husk and the paint on the door had flaked to the floor. There was no sign of Gond or his hound, no evidence that they had even existed in this age, aside from the knowledge that now raced around Nashwar’s mind.
The cracks had spread, and deepened. Like the fresh green shoots of the spring, nurtured by shifting waters and the death of the previous year, they pushed against the bedrock of the realms. Deeply they had wound. The ground was brittle. The Bleed had stretched it to its breaking point. The cracks had reached the foundations of the realms.
Above, the Bleeding Wilds reeled. The huge, slow-moving walls of realm shifts shattered, spilling in mirror fragments across the sky. Each reflection shown with different facets, their edges blurred and indistinct. Splinters of the realms stabbed outwards, hissing Chamonic irons scraping into the bones of Ghur. The changes were wild and erratic. The fabric of reality could not support two realms in the same place any longer. Fraying edges appeared and disappeared in flashes.
In her sleeping prison, Maudra Rua thrashed.
The Collapse had begun.