The Verdigris Mountains had known war before. Their oldest songs and tales even claimed they had been born in battle. However, the mountains also sheltered persistent redoubts that cultivated the arts of peace and trade. Most prominently among them was a meandering succession of small, stubborn and independent skydocks known as the Choir of Irons, named for the singing winds that whipped over the mountains’ peaks and across their metal towers. These outposts now found themselves under the darkly acquisitive stare of Castian Storm, their only shield the receding, wounded power of Barak-Drak.
Hostilities began relatively quietly. The prophetic magecraft of Dar Starborn of the Skyguard, atop his Hurricanum, succeeded in foiling a first foray by the Reavers of the Sea Spear , even defeating a writhing Kharybdiss. Khrozia’s Ossiarch legion of the Frostfire Exiles routed in turn the unexpectedly elevated Chief Endrineer Boomer, wrecking much of the Aqshyan grot’s experimental equipment.
Yet at this early, if escalating stage, envoys of the Skyguard opened communications with Storm’s brusque ‘diplomatic’ advisors. Their offer, as yet unprecedented in the wars of the Wilds, laid out terms for a formal truce. The Reavers’ representatives reacted first with harsh mirth, then with utter bafflement as they realized their foes’ earnest intent. When at last they broke their long, frustrating silence, and it was with bargaining born of hard lives on the salt seas. And so, a truce was crafted to divide the Choir between them.
The truce began well. Initial hostilities had ceased, and a sense of peace returned to the skies above the Verdegris Mountains. A complex prisoner exchange of sorts, between the Reavers’ apparently captured High Marshal Morathell and the Stormcast Skyguard ‘spy’ Ameline, was conducted both more warmly and more peculiarly than expected.
In the meantime, the Skyguard held their nerve. They had concluded they lacked the strength to defeat the Reavers at arms while both maintaining and repairing the city in the skies that was their only true concern, and arrived at a plan so bold and unexpected it was almost realistic. For this pragmatic, heartrending enterprise, preparations now began.
Barak-Drak had begun plans to turn its back on Chamon for good, if it became necessary. The war council of the Skyguard had decided, with Admiral Breyla’s tentative approval, to extract as much aethergold from the Verdigris Skyports as possible and prepare for their sky-city’s flight, with all the endrin parts and survivors that could be garnered, beyond the Badlands and further into the Realm of Beasts. It was a contingency born both of disaster and of survival, like the Admiral herself.
As such the Idoneth Prince Ca’nem haggled with Reavers for seemingly untenable and half-fallen skydocks, all the while boosting his own Namarti with soulraids on local beastmen infestations. Ishothea Cometcalld helped kharadron dockers to lug aethergold barrels with her own delicate looking hands. The Loudbellow mawtribe saved the crucial, aethergold-rich dock at Zonbek Dawr from a white wyvern’s fury by strafing it down from the sky with their cannons.
At the same time precautions of a more covert kind were taken. Misshapen shadows moved at the behest of pale-faced lords. Unknown runes, in a repeated pattern of three, appeared painted upon all but every surface of the Verdigris skydocks. Dawnberg Grot squig riders bounced avidly, carrying diplomatic dispatches, their narrow eyes squinting in vigilance.
Through all this effort, the Reavers had not been idle, and the first sign of something badly awry came from Barak-Drak’s cartographer, Havard Erkansson. His operations had been set upon by Ghur-maddened chaotic beasts and the Reavers, in apparent contravention of the terms of the truce, had offered no help. Rumours began to swirl that survivors of the attack had been ambushed by waiting Reavers, though they could not be confirmed. The AABCo’s Ironclad Tarragon , underduardined and lightly armed for urgent supply runs, sent word by skyrigger of an ominous shadow of orrukish shape.
The Tarragon, credit Cai
As at Hawksfall, the decisive flame came from the Frostfire Exiles.
A hard-pressed Kharadron trader was shot from the sky by a suddenly hostile Mortek Crawler, as the now notorious Khrozia renewed her attention once again to the unfortunate and all but unarmed Chief Endrineer Boomer. To Skyguard protests, the Ossiarch returned this answer;
“ We are the Frostfire. The rage of our baleflame will incinerate your flesh, the hunger of our Everwinter entrap your feeble souls.”
The tenuous Truce of the Choir of Irons had been broken.
What followed what would be remembered dolorously as long as the Verdigris stood, as the merciless Reaver ‘Charge of the Heavy Brigade’. At the point of the spear came Prince Ulthorn’s light Kurnothi scouts, murdering those duardin too stubborn to surrender. Hideous cracks in the brooding skies announced the arrival of weird Skaven globes, spitting out Hell Pit Abominations apparently cannon-armed, whose grapeshot proved to be yet more rats. Behind this chaotic screen the Knights of the Black Grail and the Mad Hatterz’s Colossal Squig charged through crag and ravine to mob up the disadvantaged defenders. The rout of the Skyguard had begun.
The attack as conceived was relentless and irresistable, but the Skyguard were not the only ones who would have to confront the unpredictable that day. The Slaaneshi Lord Vigo the Vexed and his god’s Daemon Princess Brawen the Bloodly Queen had disagreed as to whether the scheme pleased the Prince of Pleasure in its depravity or sickened him in its cheapness. As they almost came to blows, they found themselves both subject to the sudden hatred of their patron’s greatest enemy. From every strange rune scratched upon the Skydocks, daemons of Khorne were pouring, all of them now drawn to the all too powerful lure of their rival power’s chosen. The Slaaneshis were routed in utter disarray. Meanwhile the Sylvaneth Lunim Mossbeard, who more in fury than in policy had cast the decisive vote for treason, was repelled by the lasercraft of the Lumineth Lord-Regent Aethys, partly because of the reluctance of the honour-struck Gargant Green Knight, who had been chosen to bear him and his wyldwoods against Skyguard vessels.
The Charge of the Heavy Brigade, credit Hennrik the Chronicler
As the Reavers’ most successful and aggressive lines secured dock after dock, detonations rocked the Verdigris peaks. Explosives had been laid in advance by the Soulblight and vargheists of Marius the Gilded, ever cautious of the possibility of treachery. When the dust settled and the ruins were cleared, the Stormdancers were left with a series of ruined outposts, stripped of their valuable and infested with Khornate daemons.
The Cleavermaw returned empty-clawed, its Kaptain sulkily admitting that the outnumbered and only half-armoured Kharadron had resisted with spirit before taking advantage of a mysterious plume of bluish sandstorm to make their entire escape.
It was on Zonbek Dawr that the heavy-hearted Reaver Captains responded to the curt summons of their Fleetmaster, Castian Storm.
“The Verdigris, or what’s left of it, is conquered,” the aelven Captain began. “Another half-victory. A hollow prize. Doubtless many of you expect my reproaches, but that is not why I’m here. Reavers. I have long plowed the barren ocean where you now drift, with no land in sight. I know what it is to feel your goals slip from your fingers at every turn.”
“The Shadow King banished me for surviving where a fleet of his did not, swallowed into the onrush of the Living Avalanche, Drakatoa, who held back Gorkamorka himself of old. Only when I have hunted down that unimaginable bane myself, can I return to Druchiroth be sanctioned. I have attempted the impossible ever since, my lads. We wrestle the tides and hunt the sunrise. Just because they are impossible, does not make them less worthy of the attempt.”
“So chins up, my wild ones. Scour the Wilds for the Lamentation. And we shall all amaze the Great Dragon, and the Realms, yet.’
Crow-Bear’s tribe stood on the shore of the Kaleidoscopic Sea, staring out at the lapping waves. They had been searching up and down the coast, looking for signs of the elusive Silverdeep. Woldsage had assured them that near-mythical gigantic fish could be found here, yet there had been no sign. Instead, the monster that rose out of the water before them was purely mechanical, a barge of blackened iron and varanite belching noxious smoke into the air. Heavily armoured figures prowled the decks, and corroding steel winch cables dredged at something deep underwater. Wasting no time, the tribesmen leapt into action. Fighting across the deck was swift and fierce, yet the heavy armour and weapons of the Hateforge cultists worked against them in the shifting, narrow confines of the barge. In short order, the Hateforge were defeated. A handful of survivors leapt into the sea, daring the swim to shore, yet their hope was short-lived. Crow-Bear watched as, rising from the depths, the massive Silverdeep breached upwards to swallow them one by one. With satisfaction, the Dog-marrow band inspected their prize. The barge was a crude, ugly thing, yet what it had been salvaging from the depths glimmered with the light of slann artifice.
Lightning crackled across the rugged island known as Thunderstone. rolling in great sheets of green and blue energy. The Chamonic pillar of copper-infused stone had always attracted storms, yet since the Bleed it had become a literal lightning rod for the coruscating energy of the realms. Sandy shores had become planes of brittle glass, shattering and being refused with every strike. Who better, then, to delve the secrets of this storm than the Stormdancers themselves. Devorah and her ghostly menagerie arrived, searching for the ancient home of the Fisher Kings, yet what they found instead were storm-blasted ruins inhabited only by savage orruks. Baron Grubwood’s Mournful Choir led the charge, joined by Anactia Swiftsunder, Morathell and Balian Stormmantle. Even the Stormcast found themselves hard pressed by the conditions, faced not with the pure lightning of Azyr but the raw, unfiltered energy and Ghur and Chamon. While high overhead the crew of the Cleavermaw chased down limping survivors of Barak-Drak, Murktred strode purposely across the beach towards the copper pillar at the island’s heart. He understood the call of the Green God that had brought his savage kin to these shores. Something drew him on, through the lightning crashing all around him, until he beheld what Gorkamorka had no doubt intended him to see - a mapstone inscribed in the living copper.
Energy of the collapsing realms shifted and churned. In some places, it flowed like water, yet in others it coalesced, eddies in the realmtide that drew like to like, concentrating and focusing it. The Tainted Depths were such a place, drawing in foulness to the flood-lake that had drowned the ferrous wastes below. It had become a place of filth and wretched life, a natural syphon for the Plague God’s presence, as the Cabal’s explorers had swiftly learned. Mistress Zinatha’s nighthaunt had been battling against writhing, tentacled monstrosities that arose from the mire, pulling even their incorporeal forms downwards. Screamers, daemonic predators of the Plague God’s creations, had been conjured by Ka’tarn and his followers, and sent diving down into the polluted depths. Yet there, at their deepest, the skaven of Captain Kreek Scrimgnaw worked in barely contained desperation. From Screaming Diving Bells, their air swiftly dwindling, they fought harpoon and claw with the diseased nightmare creatures of the deep to reach the wrecks that lay below. There, in the muck, they discovered something even more valuable. Whatever lost souls had been transporting the magical tome, it now belonged to Lady Nashwar.
In the roiling turmoil of the Bleed, the very earth that had cradled the Underbough Sepulchre in its cool embrace for centuries beyond counting had begun to collapse around it, threatening to smother it until nothing remained. The countless lives within, the precious stores of knowledge, and, most urgently to Necromancer Drakenot, the very incubation chambers that their glade had given everything to protect: all were in mortal peril. Such encompassing destruction would require a plan of unsurpassed ingenuity and unrivalled audacity. Luckily for the Underbough Sepulchre, the disparate forces that had flocked to its banner had shown no shortage of either in the long weeks of the campaign.
The strategy, perhaps the Sepulchre’s most mettlesome yet, was dubbed with the rather literal moniker of “Operation Overbough.” If the very ground was threatening to swallow the Sepulchre, then the Sepulchre itself must be divorced from the earth. To this end, plans were drawn up to raise the Underbough Sepulchre and the endless network of crypts and warrens below as a metalith, drifting safely above the tumultuous earth. The plan had three distinct phases, the first of which was the acquisition of the abundant resources required to reinforce the structure of the Sepulchre in the second phase, and to bolster the ritual magics that would see the metalith rise in the third. The acquisitions were arranged by Inquisitor Voidwalker, who had shipments of mundane building materials as well as various thaumaturgical curiosities and arcane ephemera flown in from distant Umberspire at no small expense to the city.
Once the necessary materials had been acquired, construction began in earnest. Overseen by an odd assortment of architects, notably including a surprisingly talented ghoul prince of the Gloomcourt, an equally peculiar workforce hurried to strengthen the crumbling stones of the ancient repository. Muscular Ardboys from Krunt’s Skraphogz hefted materials, while mounted Khainite warlocks ran messages and lent magical aid under the direction of Melesis Daggerheart. Gradually, the old ruins began to take the aspect of a true fortress once more. Lord-Arcanum Arnought of the Retinue of the Fang ignited a regulating engine of his own design deep beneath the earth. It would calm the tremors, for a time. Just long enough to safely raise the metalith.
The Warsong Revenant Thrandrangur creates a waypoint of life magic around which the rest of the ritual will pivot.
The creation of the metalith required a complex interweaving of various magical disciplines around a central mote of life magic cast into the skies above the Sepulchre by the Warsong Revenant Thrandrangur. Chanted invocations echoed from the lips of a dozen potentates at specific leyline nexuses surrounding the ancient structure. Zuji the Weapon Beata channeled the power of the Waaagh! to excite the stones and set the very earth vibrating, while the lumineth mages of the Speculatus honed the raw power, channeling it into a zephyr that slowly but surely swept the Underbough Sepulchre into the sky. Finally, She-Who-Unearths and Drazgûl Kel channeled the power of Shyish to stabilise the floating megastructure around Thrandrangur's mote of Ghyranite magic, a perfect balance of life and death suffusing the structure to keep it aloft. As it reached its zenith, the Underbough Sepulchre came to hang safely in the twilit sky, an dizzyingly huge inverted pyramid, bristling with tangled roots and crowned by great trees, silhouetted starkly against the gloam.
The silence of the desert that surrounded the Lionthorne Outpost was conducive to the intense studies of the Cabalists that lived there. However, that silence was soon to be replaced with a deafening roar. A Bleed-induced sandstorm, the likes of which had never been seen, was tearing towards the outpost. The storm was only a growing blur on the horizons but already library-tents were being swept away by the preceding winds, their tomes scattered, their secrets lost to the firmament.
Upon seeing that their home was under direct threat, the Cabalists wasted no time defending their home. After her psychic encounter with the Mallus Hound and Gond a few weeks before, Nashwar had been in a near-catatonic trance, meditating deeply on her discoveries. So deep was her trance that not even her favoured Yarn-Grot could cause her to stir, and so the Cabal were forced to seize the initiative on how best to protect their home.
Nyssa the Necromancer’s undead host slaved away, building a wall with the unceasing toil that is the hallmark of undead labour. Chunks of mountain scree were chained to the dead and borne across the baking sands to be deposited. After a while, their efforts were joined by Troggboss Mudglutt who’s troggoths greatly increased the speed of the building work by carrying larger boulders, but hampered Nyssa’s efforts by using her undead servants as mortar for the great wall. Though they thought it was terribly funny, Nyssa was less well pleased.
During these labours, Chungus and his ogors sat in the camp. They were very still. When asked what they were doing, the answer was always ‘waiting’. When asked what they were waiting for, the reply was always ‘rain’. Some commanders grew red in the face when they tried to convince Chungus to help, but they were a minority. The ranks of the Cabal are wise indeed and the ogor was left to his own devices.
Captain Kreek Scrimgnaw was busy too, excavating gnawholes between the outpost and the rapidly approaching sandstorm. The storm reached him long before it reached the outmost, and this was part of the design. Using the fans constructed in the Labyrinth of Gond, Scrimgnaw funneled the sandstorm deep underground to… somewhere else nearby. Scrimgnaw never gave a clear answer, but it was highly likely that the gnawholes terminated near the foes of the Cabal.
It is now that Chungus re-enters out tale, for as he knew it must, the rain had come. The peculiar everwinter which followed his ogors was more of a monsoon than a snow storm, and as the first droplets spattered onto his head, he began to stir…
This is when Kraknaw Killjaw entered approached Nyssa and Mudglutt, who were still busy building their wall.. He proposed that, instead of carrying boulders in from the distant mountain, they simply piled the now-wet sand high. The skaven had a plan. After some persuasion this was done, and soon tall mounds of sand were going up around the outpost. This is when Killjaw gave the order for the warpfire throwers to move in, blasting the sandy mounds with gouts of superheated flame, they warped and screamed as they fused into a colossal glass wall, taller and higher than the sandy mounds had been, and containing terrifying shapes that almost looked like mortals.
The storm finally hit, and the Cabalists had done a skillful job in protecting their home. The sands were robbed of much of their force by the fans and gnawholes of Scrimgnaw and the rains of Chungus, while the little force that did remain in them battered helplessly against the high, glassy walls. Lionthorne outpose, its libraries and its catatonic leader were safe and now better defended than ever.
In recent weeks the enigmatic, mercurial surface of Lake Lapiz had been blemished by an ostentatious and incongruous new arrival. Where the lake discreetly sheltered its argent mysteries, the vast rock now hovering above it seemed to revel in its bustle and activity. But there had been a desperation, lately, about the fervid comings and goings upon the Weirdrock. Fragments, natural and man or orruk made alike, scattered into Lapiz like so much dandruff. Fissures, veins and defiles began to yawn on every hand, no matter what efforts were expended to bridge them by the ant-like industrial army of Ghalbakk’s Company.
The Shareholders of the Company had just convened to address the crisis when a horrendous, rockshaking groan was heard from the floating islet’s depths, close to where the relentless Chugforges burned night and day; a sound of the most ominous kind. It was Glottul, Ogor tyrant of the Coldcutters, who hastened swiftest to address the source of this latest hitch. After more cacophonous and terrifying eruptive sounds, he reemerged with his Butchers heavily singed, wounded and winded, with a great, even perhaps transformative prize. An Incarnate of Aqshy was dragged chained behind him, and a light of sinister glee at once blazed in the ever famished eyes of a second Tyrant, Azoth Realmgorger.
The Chuglord of Chuglords selected his old comrade from the ill-fated hordes of the Celandec, the great Troggboss Mooneye, as his most prominent assistant. At the urging of the High Ossiologists and the Duardin of Zharr-Lamost, each of the Master Runes recently discovered in the vicinity of Choggrish was now pressed into service. Azoth employed what his old friend the Troggoth referred to as the ‘Glowy Howzits’ to harness the Incarnate’s might and form a ‘living engine’ at the Weirdrock’s core, to surpass all that the Steamwrought Chugforges had belched out yet.
While Ghalbakk’s own showiest and least scrupulous Gutrippas enforced discipline from cowed, and cowering, civilians, occasionally throwing them overrock into the lake for educative example or passing entertainment, other measures for the Rock’s repair were also being rushed into action. The Gargant Alaab, perceiving the jaunty pinnacle of Zaggor’s Watch listing out of shape, simply pushed it straight again. The Melusai among Vhaskora’s Wardancers welded the Weirdrock back together with veins of petrifying crystal.
Meanwhile the various Runes began to make their effects felt, for all the toll that their wielders in many cases took. Mooneye with the Master Rune of Quillan endured enough pain for even him to lose consciousness, while the High Ossiologist Xaxius inadvertently sacrificed his own best arm.
As the approaching banners of Company Dawnriders announced the arrival of crucial supplies and equipment, protected despite the malign efforts of local wild Seraphon, the Shareholders could regard their essential maintenance work with considerable satisfaction. Luck, toil, initiative, enterprise and teamwork had kept the Rock gently afloat and more or less intact, for all the bleeding Bleed could inflict on it, and that was quite good enough to keep the Profiteer-General and his stalwart business associates contented, both with their ever less temporary home and with their own persistent ingenuity.
High Ossiologist Xaxius’s steep sacrifice. Credit GorksPokinFinger
High in the mountains, almost a realm apart, Basikon the Eternal’s curators studied the ruined fortress. Sitting on the edge of a sunlight-dappled forest and a highland meadow blooming with wildflowers, the cool stones of the overgrown ruin were infused with a sense of peace. The ossiarch could not feel the soft, clean breeze, or smell the budding life in the air. The lumineth that were with him, a small cohort of Lord Itzal’s followers left to him while the young lord was off hunting a manticore in the surrounding mountains, had told him of the aesthetic calming of the irregular, tumbledown ruins. It was against the ossiarch’s natural inclination, which ran to symmetry and order. What was this fascination that ruined places seemed to hold for them? Was it a function of mortal beings, the anxiety of life alleviated seeing something endure even in ruin, or perhaps the natural world reclaiming what was once built? A curious question for another time. The study of the ruins continued. They had unearthed a few pieces of ancient treasure, baubles which would no doubt keep Ghalbakk and their backers in Fairwater pleased, and that meant more time and resources for his expeditions. Everything an academic could ask for.
Horrors, pink and blue and streaming fire of all visible colours, tumbled together across the courtyards and hallways of the fortress island. The mortal acolytes of the Tzeenchian alchemist that built the compound had summoned the daemons as soon as the attack began, yet had been startled to see their meagre efforts matched in kind many-fold over by the sorcerous prowess of Beakbender, Aethador and Prince Skarath’s combined might. Few mortals or daemons could claim to understand the Changer’s moods or will, or whether the swirling firefight that resulted as horrors fought horrors pleased it, yet the ruinous god did not withhold its gifts, and magical fire flowed like water. Through the swirling fight, Kara Bloodtide fell upon the mortal defenders, draining their blood and raising her new ‘recruits’ to join the Reaper’s Vengeance. It was enough to break the spirits of the mortal defenders, and soon the battle became a route. Striding through it all, seemingly untouched by the warping fire, Chungus walked among the silvered halls and libraries, carefully removing rare tomes and precious alchemical ingredients. Among them, somewhere, he knew waited the shiny treasure that the Cat Boss wanted, and he was determined to be the one to find it.
The crystalline shores were a disconcerting place. Light and sound seemed to play tricks upon each other. Fleeting phantom presences were seen from the corners of the eye. A sense of deja vu was felt with every step, like the explorers had been there before, or would be again. It was like stepping on your own tombstone, or remembering you had done so in a dream, as Thleto of Ryvarlynd had recorded the experience. The crystal edifices reflected distorted images back as the explorers traversed the beach, each facet showing different times of the day. Zhuzol Zhath’s expedition moved quickly, eager to be free of the place. Company scouts had reported monstrous rumblings from the fractured canyons beyond, and the exploring companies were moving quickly to converge on the source - the lair of a monstrous Great Crested Dread Saurian. There was little discussion of avoiding the beast entirely, or attempting to raid its lair in secret. If a beast that powerful could somehow be captured, or wrangled and steered towards the Company’s enemies, it would be a weapon almost beyond compare. Four among their number were chosen to make the attempt - the notorious skypirate Tethora Seabrand, the Idoneth Soulrender Ryltmyr Ebbharvest, Zhuzol Zhath in his flying contraption, and the skaven Mizzd. The plan was simple. Using the harpoon launchers and nets from the flying ship Chumhauler, and the duardin’s own invention, they would attempt to tie down and contain the beast for as long as possible. The skaven would serve as a distraction until the Soulrender could attempt to beast-bond with the titanic lizard. Yet the creature would not be so easily swayed. Centennial trees used to anchor the lines were ripped from the ground. The duardin was sent crashing from air first, from a lash of the creature’s tail. The engines of the Chumhauler, suddenly straining against the Saurian’s full might, groaned with strain then gave out in a gout of black smoke, sending the ship tumbling from the sky. The beast leapt forward, dashing Mizzd and Ryltmyr against the canyon walls, then roared in triumph. The roar echoed through the crags, then suddenly quieted. The Dread Saurian turned its massive head back. Tethora Seabrand had picked up the lurelight from the fallen Idoneth. The beast stared down at the diminutive aelf, who met its gaze without flinching. The seconds hung in the air, before the Dread Saurian dipped its head. A beastbond had been forged. Bleeding and injured, the explorers picked themselves from the rubble, and stared in awe at their newest acquisition.
The truesilver depths. It is a name that terrified the locals. A paralyzing fear of foul shapes surfacing from its unfathomable depths. Many locals would rather take their chances as a Yarn-Grot than be forced to even paddle along the shore. And yet, the fanatical followers of Nashwar and Voice-Of-Embers both flung themselves willingly into this chill abyss, desperate to rescue a scale of Maudra Rua from a lost, sunken temple.
The loyal Cultist Lord Carnagros was one of the first to discover the temple’s location, and upon the crunching bone-sand shores, he performed a great rite of costly sacrifice and shocking brutality. The furies that he summoned whickered like hyenas as they dove underwater, shedding their wings and moving like runnels of ink to distant sea floor.
They soon located the temple and, under Carnagros’ fell bidding, began to open up tears in reality around the ruin, causing great whirlpools to better occlude the find from the far-seeing eyes of the Cabal. However, this ploy was destined to fail spectacularly. Straszyc the nighthaunt had been spying on Carnagros’ rite from the water, for it had interrupted his resurrection of drowned sailors. He had followed the furies to the depths, a faint trace of white following the black streaks. Upon seeing the temple and the whirlpools, he fled back to the shore to inform his fellow Cabalists.
When word of the temple’s location reached the Cult forces, Itza’ Qua and Dendaelien Vipertongue wasted no time in summoning great writhing sea-beasts. While some of the Cult’s warriors were capable of swimming alongside these leviathans, the Torchbearer Igniteous drove his warriors into a colossal eel’s maw, trusting in the Ruinous Powers to preserve him in the stead of common sense. Not to be outdone, Carnagros followed suit, and the laughter of his furies grew to new, sinister heights.
And so, the submarinal fleet swam towards the temple, led by Carnagros’ bound furies through the only safe passage through the perimeter of whirlpools. Their progress felt interminable as they travelled, seeming to be unmoving in the featureless darkness. The sensory deprivation served to test the mettle of many warriors, but the faithful zeal of the Cultists kept their resolve strong.
As fate would have it, Straszyc finally arrived at the Cabalist beach-encampment and told his compatriots of the temple’s location and the wall of swirling water surrounding it. Upon hearing this news, a chill ran up Ka’tarn’s spine. The night-visions he had been sufferend suddenly shifted and their meaning became clear. His eyes glazed over and he began to chant, holding his hands together. The tzaangor’s muscles bulged as if he was heaving with immense effort. Just when it looked as though he would pass out with the strain, he tore his hands apart and his chant reached its crescendo.
And the realm-tears that had spawned the whirlpools blinked, and then yawned wide, revealing great multi-hued eyes below. The whirlpools continued to rage but now tears bled into them, screaming tears in the shape of rays. These tzeentchian daemons stormed into the clustered Cult forces like a storm of knives. Torn bodies were dragged into the whirlpools while the survivors scattered, some heading towards the temple, while others attempting a doomed retreat.
However, Ka’tarn’s spell did not defend the temple entirely, and though a large portion of the Cult’s forces were lost, their core had managed to run the gauntlet mostly unscathed. With captured Ethersea magicks, the Cultists stormed the temple, searching the kelp-strangled ruin for the scale. The glory of the find eventually went to Torchbearer Igniteous though, as he discovered a huge altar that was shrouded in a wispy, delicate shroud. A sense of awe came over him as he lifted up the prize. It was no scale. This was a fragment of shed skin. He was holding a molt of Maudra Rua. So great was his awe that he could barely speak to call out to the others.
And then a loud thunk came from the ceiling. Then another. And another.
Kraknaw Killjaw and Captain Kreek Scrimgnaw had not been idle on the shores of the Truesilver Depths. They had been constructing what they called Screaming Diving Bells, clanking, crab-like monstrosities that could hold up to fifty men, or a far greater number of skaven who had never much cared for the idea of ‘personal space’. These payloads were heavy enough to drop straight through the turbulent waters of the whirlpools and as their claws crunched into the remains of the temple, a host of Cabalist warriors stormed forth onto the temple roof. Skaven wearing converted gas masks were cut down by the dozen of Itza’Qua’s warriors, only for them to be dashed aside by Troggboss Mudglutt’s fellwater troggoths. They, in turn, were leapt upon by Carnagros and Vipertongue’s warriors, and hacked into still-writhing chunks. The fighting was close and fierce and all conducted in the eerie silence of the deep sea.
Below, within the temple, Igniteous was fighting to keep his prize. Nyssa the Necromancer has slipped away from the melee and her dire wolves had slunk besides her, both beasts and master unconcerned by the lack of breathable air. The wolves leapt upon the shed skin that Igniteous was holding and began to tug, yanking and growling. Igniteous held firm, his prodigious strength allowing him to hold his own against half a dozen corpse-wolves as his men battled the growing swarm of zombies that shambled in Nyssa’s wake.
But the sheer forces being exerted upon the skin were too great. It tore down the middle, sending all involved in the tug-of-war sprawling. Nyssa locked eyes with Igniteous before calling her hounds to heel, evidently happy to only stake her claim to half of the sacred relic. Considering the shape of her zombies, she was evidently used to claiming half-destroyed prizes. Seeing that his men were quickly being outnumbered, Igniteous turned to order a retreat. However, as he turned to the temple door, a feathered figure stepped out of the shadows. It was Ka’tarn. The Tzaangor shaman held out his hand, as if to take the holy skin from the Cultist. Igniteous held it close to his chest and bared his teeth. In response, Ka’tarn’s hand twisted into a distorted shape, and Igniteous’ prize burst into blinding purple flames before disappearing in a burst of blue sparks. There was nothing Igniteous could do to save the skin, but he could at least dedicate it to a pure flame. And so, the Torchbearer chanted to his gods, before lowering the skin into his holy brazier.
And, as Nyssa boarded her Screaming Diving Bell with the remains of the molt, he vowed that he would avenge this loss, and the insult that had been laid upon a fragment of Maudra Rua’s very form.
The Collapse had sent the ruins that edged the islands cliffs of the Amber Sea tumbling into the waters below, churning them in fury. Sarros Falneak and his herd scrambled among the collapsing structures, seeking shelter. They had come to the island seeking to reach out to the sea serpent that was said to live in the waters below. According to the locals, it had always kept them calm, yet the tremors that ran through the earth and the collapsing stone ruins had made it anything but that. The water churned and bubbled, and Sarros caught glimpses of the massive scaled creature below, raging against the disruption of its home. Down upon the waters, Tk’ya’pyk and Granny Hookbeak sat in joined concentration, reaching out to the creature below the waves. As odd as it was to see the skink and the wizened tzaangor working in concert, the effects of their complementary skills could not be denied when the massive, scaled head of the serpent breached the waters. Through the crone’s magic, the ancient beast and the diminutive skink spoke, then the explorers turned their magic to stabilizing the earthquakes caused by the collapse. Long into the night they fought the destructive waves of magic tearing through the sea, yet by dawn the calm had at last returned to the sea. When the explorers left, it was with a gift - a slann artefact, dredged from the sea’s depths.
It did not make sense. They had come to this place, this bizarre pit in the middle of the desert, in great strength. They had brought explorers sufficient to discover its every secret several times over. Khrozia’s Frostfire Exiles had more than lived up to their expectations, manipulating freezing cold magic with ease as they deployed it down into the pit below. Yet now, the Reavers looked across the field at the massed forces of the Underbough Sepulchre, and knew they were outnumbered. Why, of all places, had Drakenot’s forces come here in such numbers? The time for speculation quickly passed, as the two exploratory armies met. Tar’ruk and Lord Vigo charged across the intervening field towards Crown Prince Bloodlas, only to falter as their Landless Knights of Wight King Tarsus slammed into their exposed flank. All across the line, Reaver forces were being pushed back. A deep wedge drove into their lines, led by Brynja and Cyprecht, splitting apart the armies of Lomil, Pyrashi and Vroggrog. With every step, the pirates were being forced back towards the pit. Then, the battlefield froze, as a deep rumble shook the ground. Kap’n Toxis took a moment to look back uneasily at the gaping hole in the earth, before dirt and dust exploded out all around them. From the subterranean depths, a squig of titanic proportions burst forth, launching itself down into the center of the melee. Both sides broke and ran, scattering out into the desert, leaving their dead joined together upon the field. The rampage of the squig lasted for hours, yet for the skeletal servants of the Underbough it was not time spent idly. Sneaking into the caves beneath the pit, they unearthed the crystalline echoes of the Rite of Life. Another piece, they knew, to the freedom of their wards.
Vhaskora gripped surely at the slick rocks, and pulled herself up. The waterfall roared behind them, yet pressed up against the cliff face behind them they were out of the direct path of its plummet. Despite that, the water hung heavily around them, filling the air and making it difficult for the witch aelves to climb. Prince Crudo’s explorers had assured them that from the top of the falls, they could see a cave beyond, and so reluctantly they had taken on the challenge. What they had not expected was the sight that greeted them as they reached the mouth of the hidden cave. Amberbone crystals lined the walls and ceiling, a fortune of them, yet even that was secondary to the creature that moved in the cave’s depths - a ape-like beast of immense size. The explorers froze, hoping to escape its notice, but the creature’s massive nostrils flared and it turned towards the mouth of the cavern. Howling a challenge that burst the ear-drums of the aelven explorers, the beast charged towards them then leapt, clearing the mouth of the cavern and bursting out through the waterfall beyond. From the cliffs high overhead, Kankerfire watched as the ape leapt from the water, straight into the path of the gargant Alaab the Whaleeater. The two colossal combatants were sent tumbling and brawling across the shoreline, sending trees scattering in their wake. Though the beast towered over even the gargant, Alaab was a cunning grappler, well used to hauling in colossal catches and fending off his own kind, and with a sudden twist he flung the creature across the valley below. The ape bellowed in surprise and pain, then pulled itself to its feet, and with a sullen roar loped off across the wilds.
As ever, Ghalbakk's Company were on the lookout for loot, and thought themselves supremely lucky when they discovered a rich vein of dragonmetal concealled beneath an old, forgotten woodland in a tucked-away valley, directly in the path of the Weirdrock. There was only one problem however: Bleakwood Grove was not so forgotten as they had assumed. The forest sat upon a confluence of geomantic leylines, one that was vital for Necromancer Drakenot's grand ritual. Ghalbakk was savvy: war was costly, and he was sure that the dragonmetal vein extended beyond the confines of the leyline. If he could mine around it and save himself the trouble of invoking Drakenot's ire, the gross profits from a bloodless expedition would outweigh the loss taken from a reduced yield. The orruk profiteer gave his blessing for his chief diplomat, the ogor Prince Crudo Cinghiale, to reach out to the Underbough Sepulchre on his behalf. The offer was simple: allow the Company to mine unmolested, and Drakenot's leyline wouldn't be disturbed. The meeting was fruitful, Crudo and his vampiric counterpart from the Underbough camp, the Margrave of Marais de Tarascon, sharing a meal and discussing the plan long into the night. By morning, the terms had been set and contracts had been written up.
Drakenot immediately sent their second in command, Aradna Willoweep, and her dryads to the Bleakwood Grove to commune with the local spirits, both for the purpose of drawing up a map of the precise dimensions of the leylines and the sacred places of the grove, and to warn them to be watchful for any treachery from the profiteers. A copy of the map was handed over to Ghalbakk via Crudo, and mining began. The combined forces of the Underbough Sepulchre glared at the Company from the treeline as they set up their equipment and began their dig, daring them to reveal whatever treachery they had in store.
The inevitable breaking of the tension into outright conflict came not from treachery however. No matter how deep the Company dug, all but the very dregs of dragonmetal seemed to be beyond their reach. It appeared as if the vein corresponded directly to the leylines that they had sworn to avoid. The miners' frustration grew and tensions mounted until, when Megaboss Skarbag 'Edsplitta began to jeer and guffaw at the fruitlessness of their rivals' efforts. They made the mistake of antagonising Azoth, leader of the famed Steamwrought Chuglords. The ogor's jaw clenched, veins bulging on his sweaty forehead, until he finally snapped, striding over to a jeering orruk brute and pulverising his face with a single blow from his enormous gauntleted fist. Fighting broke out across the line, fast and brutal, Azoth bellowing for his trains and warmachines to charge at the grove. Their goal in this venture was to gather dragonmetal, and to Azoth's eyes the deal that had been struck turned sour the moment that none of the precious substance had appeared outside the boundaries of the leylines.
The Steamwrought Chuglords charge into the woods, setting the foliage ablaze as they hurtle through, but are met with stiff resistance.
Though mighty, the Chuglords immediately found themselves bogged down by the enemy defense. Far from the glorious charge Azoth had envisioned, it appeared that the bulk of the Company force had not followed him. Only the Chuglords and a small contingent of Ossiarch Bonereapers under Prince Daloneth had followed him into the woods, and they now found themselves surrounded and vastly outmanned. Bonereapers from the All-Points Legion, Khornate warriors of the Brass Horde, and servants of the Inquisition of Umberspire surrounded them, bristling with blades pointed towards the ogors and their allies. Worse, the very grove seemed to turn against them, vines clogging up complex mechanisms and thorns lashing out to lacerate muscular flesh. From the shadows stepped Willoweep. She was accompanied by a towering treelord, its countenance closer to a wooden Gore-Grunta than a man.
"Leave, now. Take your tainted tools and choking machines and flee," said Matron Willoweep, her ancient bark creaking, "and we shall do you no more harm. I am the voice of Necromancer Drakenot, who has claimed these sacred groves for their own. You have dishonoured our compact, and yet I shall show you mercy. But only if you turn back now."
For tense moments, the Branchwych and the ogor tyrant faced each-other in silence, before Azoth nodded curtly and signalled the retreat. There would be no more glory, or dragonmetal, to win this day.
Bestial hackles ran taut, fanatical blades were whetted, and serpentine forms coiled. From the peak of the Zenith to the fringes of the Weald, the Cult of the Burrowing Fang prepared to face the power upon which they had long felt themselves to draw. The wrath of teeming, Ghurish, Chamon-maddened nature itself was now turned upon the inner sanctum of Voice-of-Embers and his adherents.
The Oldblood’s roar re-echoed from the Zenithtop and was answered from the verdant canopy by the towering Doombull Baamu, who with his Slaughterhorns was trusted as greatly in defence as in attack. But where Baamu aimed to meet and break the oncoming saurian stampede with superior brute strength alone, many of his devoted allies had subtler means in mind.
Certainly Baamu was not the only cultist to prefer personal prowess, and the Daughter of Khaine Kataki led her sisters to hunt the rampaging reptiles utterly heedless, or even glorying in the heavy and bloody cost to her warband. But their often despised fellow worshippers the Sons of Khaine, by contrast, resorted to ritual sorcery, exacerbating the wounds in the land caused by the Bleed, hoping to tumble the errant beasts to their doom.
Many of the Cult’s most arcanely inclined believers had somewhat similar schemes in view. The Shepherds’ leader Sarros commanded the invocation of a deathly Purple Sun, and drew whether by design or sheer magical appetite the attention and allegiance of an insanity-spewing Jabberslythe in the Weald’s defence. Orik Mind Flayer, after interrogating a feeble looking shaman he had initially dismissed, colluded to lure the scaled herds into the ambit of another predatory spell.
Celemrica’s Nighthaunt, their procession’s leader twisted in perverse mirth, drove the senseless invaders, increasingly yet more witless from terror, back towards the gorges already worsened by the male Khainites. Superintending the fortification of the Weald camp and Zenith, Veithan Waagh-Mother kept in mind the carnivorous copses of nearby Sionnach’s Rest, hoping that the saurians once diverted there would likely reemerge broken and singly if at all.
Yet still the bestial ‘enemy’ came on, and Baamu, though reinforced by Goldpaunch ogors and the grumpily awakened Great Unclean One Amadeus, with inchoate dismay found his battleline on the point of wavering: until something changed altogether. In the heart of the ziggurat, various cultists had succeeded in evoking a new power and conferring it on the Doombull, who stood and roared anew as a King of Broken Earth.
All but unstoppable now, Baamu was joined by the Zenith’s own Saurus Ziggurat Guards under Voice-Of-Embers himself, initiating a competition of grim satisfaction. By a final occult device, the Lord of Chaos Carnagros, mutant Raptoryxes scanning the skies at his behest, used the uncontrollably rising magic within the wild herd to drive its every remnant not, now, away from the Cult’s defences, but, given that they were so direfully reinforced, straight towards them.
That night all that called the Weald home, beasts and Seraphon, Khainites and humans as wild and bloody as any, feasted well.
“Rise again, Rise again! That her name not be lost to the knowledge of Duardin!” - Barak-Drak work song…
It started with a single spade, shoved with a cursed mutter by an old weathered dwarf into the packed snow, ice, rock, and only Grungi knew what that piled high here... Then another shovel, a further spade, a pick axe, and all other manor of tools few of the Kharadron had ever taken need to use… muttering ever more into an increasing rumble of a good old fashioned grumble to make any greybeard proud.
“Trenches…” that first dwarf grumbled “..a fey nettle spot upon the liver of that Steelmead for every blister I get diggin…” One trench dug, at an oblique angle to the port proper, and the company marched to the next spot marked on the map, and set to work again.
Behind them moved other companies with their assigned task in the project. Timbers pulled by Dracoths, guided and put into place by Endrinriggers, packed high with stone and clad in clay before Drakefire was breathed upon it all, hardening it all into a solid face. And further still more companies of men, aelf, duardin, grot, and all others who would lift together moved down the line to build the Great Plow.
High above them in the looming snow capped peaks, a bombastic call of a Khemist’s jubilant voice before the deeper thud of a series of booms echoed. Small falls of snow trickled down safely in clumps to rest in more stable climbs, and slowly the edges of what could be a much greater fall were whittled away.
New groves of wild woods appeared to hold in place other patches of loose mountainside, while a strange dance of fire fused together anew rock long sundered and broken. Healing, bolstering, and strengthening this little piece of the realm against what would come; one prayer, spell, incantation, and rune at a time.
When it started, it started as the merest tremor, as if part of the mountain let out a long held gasp, and in pure silence the first piece of snow broke from the tip of the great peek… part of it caught in the updraft of the wind and made a fine cloud of silvery sparkle… then the rumble.
Slow at first, but once in motion there was no force that could stop it as it built speed, gathering more and more mass, more and more of the mountain with it as it fell.
Work had continued right up until the first shouted warnings, and then none needed to look as the pure deafening roar of the avalanche lit the primal instinct in all things, living or not, to be elsewhere rapidly. The frantic scramble to get behind the Plow, and then even further back as the onrushing wave looked like it would overtake even that great work…
And indeed the blast of icy wind and the shower of loose snow made it seem like all had failed as pelted all with the pressure wave of so much mass in motion… but the pitch and tenor of the roar had changed…
High above the few skyships on overwatch could see as it all unfolded… how the leading edge of the avalanche caught in the trenches, and broiled up to the oblique angled walls of the plow burring them under but … and being slowed just enough to cause all the mass and weight of snow and mountain behind to pile up and cause cascade backlash to ripple back through the wave… everything slowed, force upon force until the great mass split in two, and much more gently flowed to either side of Barak-Drak.
The blast of cold propelled her down the slope, rolling her under the wave of falling snow until at last the momentum died and the great pile heaved it’s last gasp but in that moment of pure blinding white and frigid terror, she could feel space… and in that space she felt the warmth of hyshlight. The avalanche had cracked here, and a long narrow crevasse lead to the surface.
Emideri climbed with great care that height, until at last she was back on the surface, a much different mountainscape before her. Her eyes squinted in the cold haze of still swirling flecks of snow and tiny ice crystals, but she could just barely make out where that cave had been.
The climb up the unstable pile of still shifting post avalanche debris was lost in the pure need to get to that place to get back to who might even now still be trapped within… when the small flash of colour caught her eye against all the blinding white.
Delicate within the fresh fall, but there, was a single beautiful bloom and a serene calm seemed to still even the mountain itself.
The high mountain pass known as Breakwall Gate had once been a vital artery into heart of the Dragonspines. Trade, travel, and even a thriving community of orruk banditry had grown along its well-trod routes, yet all that had stopped when the Bleed rolled over the land. Ash waste from Lake Copperhead had been blown up through the mountain’s foothill, settling into the narrow passes and choking them off. As the Collapse rippled across the Wilds, avalanches of snow were sent tumbling down the mountain’s heights, mixing with the ash into a thick, cloying blanket. Yet deep in the heart of the Gate, kharadron flares had been spotted by Marius the Gilded’s scouts, and so the Skyguard began their excavation. Seemingly overnight, a forest of wooden frames appeared around the pass, and under the direction of Havard Erkansson a network of scaffolding was built down the mountain’s side. Dura Forgeheart, with the help of the Uldorduff Lodge and Barlimn Grimnir, bent the fire elemental affinity of her kind to clearing passages through the ashen snow, while Olg Rumblegut’s ogors lent the weight of their backs to the task. After several days of hard excavation, they at last uncovered the source of the signal, a crashed endrinn component playing home to a few dozen weary Barak-Drak survivors. Signaling to the waiting von Albern airships and their Thunder Ranger guard, the wreckage and remaining survivors were swiftly air-lifted back to the fallen city.
Excavations of a very different sort rang out from the plains known to the Company as the Spirit Crowns. The wide grasslands were dotted with barrows, burial mounds from ages past. Circles of ogor-sized standing stones ringed them, the spiral patterns carved into their sides nearly faded away by time. Glottul Coldcutter led the expedition, unearthing mound after mound. He was certain the entrance to an ancient age of myth ruin lay somewhere just beneath the surface. Instead, all he had found were bones, and he was growing frustrated. His allies were scattered across the plain. Theddrick Skullbane had seen off a band of troggoth that had been living amongst the standing stones and preying on less well-equipped travelers, and Darius and Batik Ornat were setting guard points around the excavation. Glottul punched a hole into the next mound with a heavy mattock, and stuck his head inside. A wide, skeletal grin leered back at him from the tomb. With a sigh, he pulled it out and shook it over the growing pile of gold and jewels at the centre of his dig, then flung the old bones into a much larger heap. At least Ghalbakk would be pleased with all the gold and magical trinkets, he thought glumly, even if they hadn’t found their secret buried city.
The Black Arks of the aelves are not ships in the conventional sense. Legend says the first Black Arks were once great cities, torn away from their homeland by a mighty cataclysm, an unlikely fable it may be. The Arks that sail the Mortal Realms were built to be floating fortresses, great bastions that ply the waves like an isle under sail. Imposing edifices though they are, their greatest strength is to be their own safe harbour, both against attack and the sea itself. Entire flotillas of conventional vessels can shelter within its portcullis-barred bays, and those too badly damaged to float can even be lifted into drydock for repairs.
Yet, as indomitable as a Black Ark may be, it is not invulnerable, and the Stormdancer would face her doom upon the inexorable tides of the Bleed. The phenomenon was born of the Ur-River, and as magicks ran amok, the Stormdancer found itself threatened by a tidal wave that could drown even her high decks. Castian Storm, of course, laughed in the face of it, and set his crew to work.
The plan dreamed up by his commanders was as daring as it was novel: seek and awake the “Trench Hunter”, a supposed godbeast spoken of in hushed whispers. Even before the Bleed, this stretch of the Ur-River between Ghur and Chamon had been largely desolate, and what locals there were in places like Gehenna’s Rest and the Choggrish Market claimed it was the Trench Hunter that made it so. It was the master of these waterways, and thus, the famed beast-hunters of the Stormdancer wagered it could help them out of their predicament.
Folklore told them the Trench Hunter made its home in “the great blue hole”, a much-feared sinkhole in the Ur-River. The name was ironic, for while the shallows around it were blue with crystal reflection, the hole itself was a gaping maw in the surface of the world. It was here the mad plan of Celtavyr Solas would bear fruit.
Like the trident of some primitive sea-god, the ships of Lomil Seaspear, troggoth Kap’n Toxis, and Celtavyr’s own Dauntless under the command of Caidd Bashline made all speed toward the blue hole, followed by the dark mass of the Stormdancer towering behind them. Thus began the Idoneth binding ritual to provoke the Trench Hunter, if it even existed, from its den…
Cap’n Clink Keyholdr attempts to summon a Verminlord by siphoning off Hedonite magic used to empower the Idoneth binding ritual, but things go slightly awry.
Just beyond the edge of the ritual deck, those of arcane talent gathered. Their goal was to offer up spells of protection to shield the priests as they did their work. Nothing could be allowed to disrupt the invocation, whether it be the physical degradation of the Bleed, the approaching wave, or even the beast itself. Knight-Arcanum Aldelina the Just stood with the various wizards from the Stormdance Reavers. When they saw the Idoneth take their positions, the wizards spread out to their own places as well. Aldelina braced her feet and raised her Valedictor’s Stave.
A crack of lightning split the sky, and thunder pounded in Kap’n Toxis’ ears. There was an electric energy in the air, and not one created by the weather. The realmstone embedded in Toxis’ body began to hum, and in a moment of prescience, he knew what was coming. “HOIST DA RIGGIN’! READY DA SAILS! FLY DA COLOURS!” he bellowed. “DA BEAST BE ‘ERE!” The trogboss shoved his troggoth helmsman aside and, grabbing the tiller with both arms, turned Da Jabba’wokk hard to port. Daring a glance overboard, Toxis caught a glimpse of a ponderous shape deep in the hole- not swimming, as they had expected, but climbing.
The krew of the Sodden Wyvern constructed a totem of monster teef and Gorkamorka’s mug to empower the Idoneth ritual.
Elsewhere, the waters churned as tens of thousands of creatures well known to the Idoneth fled the hole in fear of the apex predator emerging from its depth, and attacked all in their way in a frenzy. It was here the Waaagh! energy the Reavers’ many weirdnobs’ had channeled to empower the Idoneth binding ritual went awry, driving the terrified creatures into an incensed fury - a fury matched by the Stormdancer’s defenders, who cheerfully chopped, gutted and otherwise butchered any sea-beast that came at them.
As minutes passed that seemed like hours, the tide of creatures fell away as quickly as it came, making for safer waters - and with a swamping wave of its own, the Trench Hunter pulled itself free, sludge-thick water pouring off its eight massive, crustacean-shelled legs.
On the command deck of the Stormdancer, Celtavyr Solas’ watched Captain Castian Storm bite his fingers hard enough to draw blood. “Well, I’ll be…”
The Trench Hunter emerges.
“So that’s the broodmother of the White Mares of Varan.”
The creature was no godbeast in truth, yet it stood nearly as tall as the Stormdancer itself. Its shape was that of a spider- eight pale legs, segmented body, seemingly countless ruby red eyes and ooze-slick mouth-bits twice the size of an Arachnarok. It gave a howl the reavers felt more than heard, a dread seeping into their bones and a terror at what they had wrought clouding their minds with doubt.
That was when the Idoneth completed their ritual and blinded it.
The Trench Hunter’s screech was twice as loud and long, now, as it staggered and veered, desperate Stormreaver attacks seemingly useless against it. It was not attacking, though. It was confused and in pain, desperate to defend itself. As the mega gore-stabbas of Toxis’ ship sunk into the flesh of its joints, it fell into a frenzy, all eight legs- each twice as tall as a mega-gargant- thrashing in all directions.
Incensed, it wrought the destruction of the Great Blue Hole, the ground itself breaking and giving way as the Reavers fled the devastation they had wrought. Forced upward by the collapsing ground, a great swell of water pushed upward, meeting the oncoming tidal wave and, for just a moment, negating the worst of it.
What did hit the Stormdancer was well accounted for. The Sacrosanct warrior-mages of Titania Thundersworn gave all their strength to holding the structure of the Black Ark together as wave caused the anchor’s slack to run out and slam against its newfound anchorage in Blight City, courtesy of the gnawhole machinations of the skaven, Geki. Elsewhere aboard, Baron Grubwood’s sorcerers of the Mournful Choir enacted a rite to drain the arcane Sword of Perfection to empower the entropy of the wave. As the waters turned to sludge and receded, the aethersea around the Stormdancer subsided. As the Black Ark settled back into calm waters, the Reavers began to realize and celebrate that their insane scheme had actually worked.
Of the Trench Hunter, there was no sign…
The Bleeding Wilds groaned, the mountains and plains in agony as two realms attempted to collapse into one.
Lightning flashed, black and purple against the raging sky, as unnatural and old a magic as the realms had known.
There, upon a mountain top, a building appeared. Domed in gold and haloed by the shattering purple lightning, its ancient architecture foreign in this supposed Age of Sigmar, it stood atop the peaks.
At the same time, atop another mountain identical to the first in all regards except the realm it sat in, the same tower appeared.
Within the Bleeding Wilds, Vizier Nashwar’s eyes suddenly shot into focus. Since the encounter with Gond, her mind had been adrift in the knowledge he had shared, her own towering intellect struggling to make sense of it now. Then, in a flash of purple light, it had become clear.
The Observatory was an anchor. Two realms, opposed fundaments of the universe, could not exist long in the same place. They rebelled at the idea, and in their existential struggle would destroy anything that was held between them. The Collapse had already begun. Yet a single fixed point in each realm held them apart. The Observatory - one building, firmly planted in two separate realms.
“The doorway! It is neither inside nor out! The door shuts in, the door shuts out, yet it can never be either!” Yarn-grots scattered at the shrieking, diving for cover, yet with feline grace Nashwar leapt across the room and pinned one to the floor.
“Gather my generals and call the armies. The realms will collapse soon, completely, if we do not close the door. Whoever seizes the Observatory will be able to choose whether the Wilds settle forever in Ghur or Chamon. The other interlopers will know of its location soon enough. There is no time to lose!”
Deep below the earth, the Dragon shifted again. It felt the Collapse, even in its unconscious and fractured mind. It knew, far above, the tiny mortal souls that flitted and died, all for her. The end was approaching.