The Prime Dominion bears witness to its worst battles yet.
The Spear of Celennar
The claims of how the artefact “Celennar’s Bite” was rediscovered are quite nearly as varied as the tales of how it was lost to begin with. A terrible artefact forged in the years before the Spirefall, the spear was the opposite of sunmetal for supposedly when the light of Hysh’s True Moon reflected upon it, it would part armor as easily as it could parchment. It had long been carried to war by Caradryas’ forebears, but was lost in the final battles of the Usurper’s War as the Celandec’s last stand was routed at Adorellan.
What is known is that the spear came into the possession of the Ruyalar Killaboss Osolak Snakeeata and his Swampkalla Shaman, Kerr Skullsmoka. Swamped by Celandec scouting parties, the Kruleboyz hunkered down deep within the ruins and awaited reinforcement before attempting to break out. Struck by the scent of rotting meat and coagulated blood, they soon found themselves beset by the Knights of the Ivory Blade and Tristain of House Weissnocke.
Swampkalla Shaman Kerr Skullsmoka and in his adopted Ruyalar colors
Tristain of House Weissnocke
Considering its nature as a powerful symbol and dangerous weapon, neither the Celandec nor the Ruyalar were willing to simply concede the spear to the other- yet, with pressing conflicts on Arasne and the Strait of Salihn, each were daunted by the prospect of Adorellan igniting into a whole new battlefront. The resolution was simple: each Satrapy would choose the greatest champion from among their ranks, and the spear would be claimed by rite of single combat. First blood was considered too little for such a prize, yet avoiding a fight to the death was the whole reason for the duel, too.
With the terms of the combat set, both Ruyalar and Celandec held a tournament within their own ranks to name their champion; thus it was that Sigmund Mortiz, “the Unlucky”, and Gorfang da Immortal of the Bloodbreaker Clan met beneath the smoke-streaked skies of Kali.
Ruins of Adorellan
Gorfang crossed no-man’s land with a hodgepodge of a warband: a handful of Bloodbreaka Ironjawz, three delegates representing Caradryas Lightbringer bearing a Ruyalar banner, and an intrepid- if foolhardy- scribe from the Lux Flummoxed as a witness. By contrast, Sigmund came alone atop his Dracoth, the noble beast growling in warning as it caught the Bloodbreaka’s scent. Stopping some yards before the assembled Ruyalar, Sigmund nodded in acknowledgement.
“Oi, stormboy!” Gorfang bared his teeth. “Dis here’s gonna be a good scrap, I can promise you dat. I’m an orruk of honor, so no funny business. I ain’t gonna gut ya, but I’m gonna give you a good krumpin’. Dat dere pointy stick belongs to da big boss Cara-Deedas, an’ iz gonna use it to kill da Alti git. May da best orruk win!”
Sigmund made to dismount, reaching over the Dracoth to grab his Sigmarite greathammer and sling it across his back. “I recognize your prowess, orruk,” he called out. “I must say, this shall go down in histor- oop!” Sigmund toppled over as his foot became caught up in the stirrup, tripping him. Using the haft of his hammer to prop himself up and pull himself to his feet, Sigmund went en garde, ready for battle.
Gorfang grinned. “WAAAGH!” he bellowed, bashing his Big Choppa, Golzag, on his pauldron in challenge. Charging forward, Sigmund gauged the distance and swung his Greathammer in a sweeping, horizontal arc. Snorting in amusement, Gorfang brought up a hand to catch the hammer, his meaty grip large enough to grab the head of the massive warhammer as easily as a mortal man might grab a carpenter’s mallet.
The orruk’s beady red eyes went wide and he bellowed in pain as the hammer, charged with the lightning of Azyr itself, bashed aside his grip and his arm. Bones cracked, ligaments tore and the orruk felt his shoulder dislocate with a sickening pop. Still, the Megaboss’s forward momentum carried him into the Lord-Celestant and bowled him over, knocking him away like a bull hitting a scarecrow.
Regaining his feet one more, Sigmund was instantly set upon by the enraged Gorfang. One arm hanging limp at his side, the Megaboss hacked at him with the other, relentless overhand chops that drove Sigmund to one knee and prevented him from swinging back. Striking at the Stormcast’s exposed leg, Sigmunt cried as Golzag’s teeth rent sigmarite. Another blow tore the Stormcast’s pauldron off, the upward force of the swing lifting the Stormcast back to his feet.
In a flash the Megaboss was on him again, Golzag’s rough-hewn blade crossed against the greathammer’s haft between their chests. They looked each other in the eye for a moment, faces only inches apart, before Gorfang put all his weight behind the choppa and shoved, knocking Sigmund back.
The Stormcast staggered away, but turned the momentum of his steps into a powerful backswing. Caught out by the surprise riposte, Gorfang only had a split second to lean into the blow before a flash of light and a thunderclap blinded him and left his ears ringing. For a moment, he felt himself floating- no, flying?- and briefly wondered why Gorkamorka’s afterlife was so peaceful. He was quickly disabused of this notion as he came crashing back to earth, Golzag lost to his hand and the wind knocked from his lungs as all two tonnes of him landed flat on his back.
Every instinct in his pounding head told him to get up, told him the next downward swing of the Grandhammer would drive his spine through his nose- but, as his vision came swimming back to him, he realized no strike was coming. Instead, the Stormcast stood over him, simply offering the haft of his Grandhammer to the downed adversary.
“I fear you may not be immortal after all, friend.” Sigmund chided softly, a smile in his eyes.
“You’z just a lucky git!” Gorfang snarled in rebuttal, grabbing hold of the hammer’s shaft and clambering back to his feet.
It was dark when Sigmund returned to Renaya’s camp and, on one knee, presented the weapon to his Satrap, laid flat across his upturned palms. With a smile and a nod, she took the spear, spinning it in her hands before holding it up before those assembled like a torch. The moon’s light caught it, and it flashed with cold fire, as if consumed by the glint of its own reflection.
“By oath’s sworn, another wrong righted,” she breathed.
Dig Two Graves
Eris Bloodwrath cinched the knot tight on the sling around her neck. The fingers on her shield arm were numb, for the Lightbringer’s spear had pierced where her armor was weak at the elbow, nearly severing the limb. She did not bind the wound, but allowed the blood to coagulate and dry black on its own, knowing her injury was already re-knitting itself in a manner some would consider to be… unnatural.
In the aftermath of Vashti’s death, Atressa Redhand had become unconsolable, leaving Eris to mastermind the defense as Caradryas’ forces withdrew. Although a lifetime spent on the Road of Blades had left Bloodwrath unable to relate to her Satrap’s grief, she admitted to herself that it was just as well she had not attempted to slay the woman herself, as she would have surely died at Atressa’s hands shortly there-after.
Vito Valencia knew his Satrap was mercurial of temper, but had never seen Caradryas like this before. Where the Lightbringer had been despondent at Vashti’s capture, now a fury was upon his brow alike to Sigmar’s own tempest. Even as Gorfang da Immortal departed to reclaim Celennar’s Bite, the Satrap could be heard vowing to plunge the artefact through Atressa’s black heart. As the Ruyalar pulled back and made to intercept the inevitable Idrelec counter-attack in the Straight of Salihn before the enemy could make landfall on Lhoris, further bloodshed seemed inevitable.
And yet, while few would give voice to it- and fewer still to Caradryas’ face- Vito could tell the fight had gone out of the Ruyalar at Vashti’s death, and judging by the lackluster Idrelec pursuit, he reckoned the same could be said for their enemy. Even as diplomats traded barbed words and open conflict threatened to re-ignite hotter than ever with each missive, it became increasingly clear that neither side wished to add their own lives to those already spent.
Still, as days turned into weeks, the full might of the Idrelec war machine that Vito expected to descend upon the Lhoris failed to appear. No matter how fragile, the tentative peace appeared to be holding.
Of course, even if Atressa had given the order immediately, such was the nature of the Idrelec’s allies that some measure of further violence could not be curtailed- nor did all among the Ruyalar want it so, Caradryas himself first among them. In the hours and days after the battle, the Idrelec lands around the arena continued to be riven by conflict. Disregarding their allies requests to stand down, Spiznak’s Bluemoon Boundaz ran the retreating Ruyalar to ground for glory in the name of the Bad Moon, their squigs feasting on their foes despite suffering heavy losses for their meal.
Spiznak’s Bluemoon Boundaz
Varbuk Half-Moon’s ill-fated Hobgrot warband
The Kastelai Outcasts
Mazhug the Undying was commanded by Varbuk Half-Moon to take a band of Hobgrots to Horlith’s Tower to deny it as a line of defense to the Ruyalar, only to find Cytherea’s Kastelai Outcasts already there, and in insurmountable numbers. Meanwhile, Keldehar’s Splintered Fang cultists infiltrated Ruyalar camps and poisoned the streams their mortal warriors drew drinking water from.
Elsewhere, the island of sumina bore witness to the worst fighting since the assault on the arena itself, although this time, the Idrelec found themselves at a severe disadvantage. With a binding truce fragile at best and unlikely at worst, the withdrawing Ruyalar descended on the Library of Galeron. Turning the local Idreneth against their Satrap, Lady Eleanor Flamekissed forced the garrison to surrender with hardly a fight and scoured the library itself for a grimoire penned by Grakain the Betrayer- as well as her missing ally, Lord Arras Danathan.
Nearby, Lady Felosial also made landfall, chasing rumors of the Shedscale’s Chameleon skink Yukana’zeeme escorting regrouping Ruyalar survivors in hopes of discovering Lord Arras among them. Not one to trifle with, Tu’Bok descended from the heavens, his ziggurat-ship landing in the pass between north and south sumina, openly daring the Idrelec to attack and joined in their defiance by the Broken Souls Stormhost, the 1st Hasfel Militia Regiment, and many others.
Annihilators of the Broken Souls
Although no attack ever came, the message was clear: Sumina and the Library of Galeron now belonged to the Satrapy of Innovation, in deed if not in word… and only resumed hostilities would see it returned to Idrelec hands.
Helaku shook with rage. “They plan a grand funeral for a fallen love, when we have not already buried those that fought for them? I find honor lacking among the leaders of this realm, Goddess.” Helaku looked up from Asana’s body for a moment only to see Haset’s own gaze meeting his. “I see the pain that flows through you, but you too have lost, you too have felt this pain. All will have their proper burial, and all will find their soul path.” Haset promised, gently.
A conversation between Helaku of the Mountain’s Path and the goddess Haset
Ultimately, the truce hinged on a single agreement: a memorial service for Vashti- and, by extension, all those lives lost in the Idrelec-Ruyalar war- to be held in Iscarion. A final bone of contention was her body- or, rather, it’s disappearance. Each Satrap secretly harbored suspicion the other had borne it from the battlefield, while others postulated it had been lost and burned with the other casualties. Regardless, the memorial was meant to be a moment of healing, not of burial.
The service itself was a somber affair. The arrangements each Satrapy’s diplomats had made- arrangements they wholly expected to be betrayed- were observed with solemn respect. Unarmed, the Satraps themselves met for the first time since that fateful moment in the arena. Without speaking, they each took their turn before those assembled. In lieu of speeches, they had chosen to honor Vashti in place of their own wounded hearts, and each sang in her memory.
Relate to my youth
I’m still in awe of you
Discover some new truth
I was always wrapped around you
But don’t just slip away
In the night
Don’t just hurl
|Your words from on high
I know I had it all on the line
Don’t just sit with folded hands and become blind
Because even when there is no star in sight
You’ll always be my only guiding light
With a grim nod of acknowledgement, Atressa surrendered the dias to Caradryas, his face as emotionless as if it were cut from stone.
Angel, angel, what have I done?
I’ve faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
I’ve conquered country, crown, and throne
Why can’t I cross this river?
Pay no mind to the battles you’ve won
It’ll take a lot more than rage and muscle
Open your heart and hands, my son
Or you’ll never make it over the river
It’ll take a lot more than words and guns
A whole lot more than riches and muscle
The hands of the many must join as one
And together we’ll cross the river
Their songs finished, the ceremony broke, a feast in memory of the fallen commencing in the shadow of Vashti’s painted portrait.
Atressa and Caradryas had stalked each other at a distance all night, circling like predators and sizing each other up. Although they bore no weapons, both knew that neither needed them to kill the other. When finally they did come face to face, it was away from the eyes of their allies and their equerries; none would even know they’d spoken.
“You did this.” Caradryas repeated the last words he’d spoken to her weeks before, his voice still trembling with fury.
“Yes,” Atressa nodded in affirmation, her voice barely more than a whisper. “I did this.”
Like a storm breaking, the tension between them flooded away, and they stood in the cold rain of their sorrow and regret.
“She was better than either of us.” Atressa stated at last, looking away at the assembled feast.
“Yes,” Caradryas assented, also turning from his hated enemy. “Yes, she was.”
“She believed in the Ruyalar, Atressa. She was to rule the Ceraphate by my side, not yours.” Caradryas’ spoke quietly, yet his words resonated like thunderclaps.
Atressa put her head back and grinned, yet there was no mirth in it. “Always thinking of the future, aren’t you, Lightbringer?” Her tone turned sharp as she looked at him with hate. “I will never support your claim to Ceraph, not ever.”
Scowling now, Caradryas made to walk past her, but paused by her side. “Then you will die in the past you live in, Redhand.” He hesitated a moment longer, and breathed a sigh that seemed as though he’d been holding for years. “But for her sake, your death will not be at my hand.”
And he was gone, leaving her alone with the silence and the pain.
Diplomatically Resolved, Ruyalar Advantage
Idrelec-Ruyalar Rivalry Stalemate
The Eye of the Storm
The Plains of Aldavanaer were as close to a vision of hell as could be imagined in the Prime Dominion. At the centre, strewn across the scorched and blackened field, lay the wreck of the Golden Eagle. Fires still burned, weeks later. golden white and blue flames flared and sputtered as the arcane machinery that powered the craft bled their aethyric charge into the air. All around, tunnels and trenches had been dug into the earth for miles. Smaller craft that had come down in the crash, like the Frosty Mug, had become ruined towers or derelict fortresses, their meagre protection like the gates of Azyrheim itself compared to the blasted plain around. Above it all raged the nethyrstorm. Red and black lightning blasted down on the wreck and the poor souls caught in the field, scorching the earth and setting off new fires every few seconds. The constant hammering noise, hour after hour, for days and weeks on end, was a madness all its own. The rain that came with it was unending, turning the entire field into clinging, sucking mud. Nothing could fly within the radius of Perun’s Helioscope. The relic, dredged from the depths of Iden’s stores, had unleashed the nethyrstorm, and ensured that those trapped within its radius could not be saved through the air, or transported across the winds of magic. Across the plain, the foreboding doors of Iden’s Vault sat sealed, like a promised paradise looking over the souls damned to the fire and mud below.
Inside the wreck itself, sporadic fighting still raged. The ruined corridors and smashed bulkheads of the ship had been a battleground in the days following the crash. Room to room, the survivors had battled, as the initial confusion and shock of the crash reigned. Ogor ironblasters and leadbelchers bearing the Aurannar yellow held the bridge for a time, yet as the forces of the Dornayar rallied it became clear that they were fighting a losing effort. Fully seizing the wreck was a slow and brutal process, yet it was necessary. The Ogors were killed or driven out, either to find shelter in some other twisted wreck or try their luck in the nethyrstorm field. The Dornayar hold of the Golden Eagle was firm. Knights Numinous patrolled the twisted corridors, putting down feral lizardfolk that had taken root in the depths of ducts and broken pipes of the ship. Orruks and troggoths held the bridge. In the very heart of the ship, a few weary veterans found the lead and aethyrquartz chest that held the Eye.
Beyond the radius of the nethyrstorm, the assembled forces of the Aurannar had entrenched as well. They sat and watched, day by day, as the eldritch lightning hammered the wreck. Iden had told them that the only escape for their foes would be by ground, and so they waited and watched for the eventual breakout that must occur. When the strike did come, however, it was not what they expected.
Pouring from the mountains behind them, a spearhead force of cavalry thundered down. Vaclav’s Blood Knights and Deathknights of the White Host ride in tandem, punching through the rearmost defenders. Gordun Bloodfist’s fanatics joined the fray, a skaven warlord falling to their fangs. Deeper into the lines they pushed, opening a hole for their trapped companions to escape, yet as quickly as they had it seemed to tighten around them. The vanguard, fast and powerful as it was, were vulnerable now as their charge was expended. The aid they were clearly expecting had not materialized. Deep beneath them, in the caverns of the Lux Umbra, another battle was being waged. Gladewyrms, linnorns, and all manner of tunnelling creatures had been rallied by the Dornayar to find an escape, but they had underestimated the extent of Iden’s domain. Many of the tunnelers had stopped short, running into the densely made and magically fortified walls of Iden’s Vault stretching out below the battlefield. Those few that managed to break through found themselves immediately engaged by Iden’s elite Vault Guardians and the shining Knights of Eventide. Elsewhere, the pirate captain Mogrum was locked in a battle of his own, the Umbral Corsairs he had strongarmed into helping to break the siege turning on him and his crew in transit. There would be no other help coming for the Dornayar breakout.
Seeing the breach in their lines, the Aurannar responded quickly. Gargants burst from the Vault’s entrance, the massive doors that had sealed it carried before them like a shield wall. Overhead, the last remaining airships flew. The mad slayer crew of Long Drong’s own airship sang aloud, even as they plunged into the lightning fields of the nethyrstorm, the seeming insanity of their move only becoming clear when the beastherd that had been chasing them crashed into the Dornayar vanguard. Torag Godspeaker battled through the trenches, only looking up to watch as the grand plan of the Aurannar was unveiled. Flying through the sky, held aloft by gyrocopters and a struggling gunhauler, was the corpse of an ogor, bloated and filthy, atop a struggling stonehorn. Torag smiled. Vatol Halftail and Skreet Darktail had done them jobs well. When the ogor dropped, its corpulant form burst into a cloud of seeping noxious gas that spread all across the breach in the line. An unearthly stink filled the air, and a cry went up from the Aurannar. Repeated over and over, up and down the line, was the same phrase. “Fleshstink lives!”
Within the wreck, the orruk prophet Sokrateez stared at the Eye of Noctis. None that survived remembered how exactly he had come to have it, yet all agreed it seemed right that he did. They say that it had shown him what was unfolding on the battlefield. When he arose, the eyes behind his mask blazed with green light.
The last charge of the Dornayar shall be remembered forever in the legends of the Prime Dominion. Sokrateez led the way, plunging through the storm, nethyrbolts striking off the green WAAAGH! energy that surrounded him. At his side rose the vampire Sorina atop a spite stag conjured by the Ancient One, and the followers of the Everautumn Dynasty and Brute Boss Azztag in their wake. Together they plunged into the choking gas that filled the breech, crashing headlong into Throm’s hobgrots. They fought like heroes, outnumbered but undaunted, these unlikely allies and friends. They might even have made it back through the lines, if not for the arrival of the great draconith Kadera.
Soaring overhead, the great beast rained fire down upon the battlefield, carefully directed by Lumin Mossbeard. There, in the mud and blood and stinking gas, there could be no hiding from the dragon’s wrath. It devastated the charging survivors, crushing what momentum they had and sending them scattering. Kadera swooped low and picked off the fleeing Dornayar where it could, but the fight was already over then.
On the ruined battlefield, Sokrateez stood face to face Golgoth Tombsplitta, the megaboss of the Grim Fang tribe. There, at the end, they say that the prophet seemed truly happy. He had, at last, understood the truth of the WAAAGH!. Amid all the destruction around him, he felt the hands of the twin gods as he never had before. He looked at the fearsome orruk warlord that stood across from him. There was nothing else to do or say, apart from “WAAAAAAGGGHHHH!”. The prophet charged, and was cut down.
Golgoth Tombsplitta was heralded as the hero of the Battle of The Plains of Aldavanaer when he brought the Eye of Noctis back to Iden’s Vault. For the Aurannar, this victory was sweet. Not only had they finally bested their rivals, but as Iden took the Eye within his Vault he had at last found the key he needed to seal it away from the eyes and minds of his foes. He felt, for the first time since the Spirefall, secure. For the Dornayar, the loss of the Eye was tempered by the memory of the heroism in the face of such overwhelming odds, and of the orruk prophet that had emerged to rally such an unlikely group of allies into friends. Amid the chaos of the battlefield, Sokrateez’s mask was never found. Some claimed it had been carried off by a strange human girl, while others say the hand of Gork (or Mork) had reached down to scoop it up.
Elsewhere, green lightning crackled across a pile of stones, and slowly but surely a new rogue idol began pulling itself together.
Aurannar Minor Victory
Aurannar Rivalry Victor
A Rock To Die On
When veterans of the Iscarneth Civil War looked back, many would cite the Battle for Tenula’s Tower as one of the most bitter and harrowing conflicts.
The Celandec fleet had rushed back to their tower stronghold on the island of Arasne. Quickly reinforcing the defences, they rebuilt the surrounding wall, calibrated their artillery, and dug a network of underground tunnels from which to spring ambushes near the coast. Then, in the freezing winter and with the blacksun Noctis looming over them, they waited for Teclandec’s inevitable retaliation.
A storm was battering Teluna’s tower when the forces of Teclandec arrived. Their glittering warships were dulled by the ever-present night that Noctis brought with it. Flags snapped and sails billowed as captains attempted to land safely. Those that disembarked here were to be known as Shield Formation, according to Lord Imperitant Kongming’s battleplan. Unknown to the Celandec, the rest of Teclandec’s army was already in position.
Kongming’s plan was as multifaceted as the Geode it relied upon. The Shield formation was made up of hardened veterans, unlikely to break and flee in the face of horrific danger. Their job was to storm the walls through the barrage of defender missiles. Then, upon reaching their destination, they would give a show of being fought off, and flee in apparent terror. When the defenders gave chase to the Shield, an airborne detachment known as the Beak would swoop down and harry the exposed defenders, while a third detachment known as the Knife would slip into the fort and disable the artillery. Meanwhile, an underground contingent of Sappers would attempt to fell the walls and even the tower itself, before storming onto the surface for the final coup de grâce.
However, as all good commanders know, plans never survive contact with the enemy.
Kongming himself marched in the ranks of the Shield, alongside Rygra the Bardslayer’s Duardin and Skraalin Bloodtaker’s berzerkers. In this formation, the brave and the insane would march on the tower while, behind them, the Duchess of Bryshavon’s mages would work the Geode, channeling its magics despite the overbearing presence of Noctis, which sapped the potency from spells like the cold snuffing out a flame. The mages had found that, in spite of Noctis, the Geode could be filled with arcane might and released in a burst which lit everything about it. Some scholars had estimated that it would have limited range but they were proved wrong as the Geode released its first searing burst of radiance. All about Arasne, its light was seen. Thick walls and closed eyes were no protection from its glare. Even the nervous defenders, sweating in their cramped tunnels, were dazzled by its brilliance.
However, despite this tactical boon, the Shield formation never made it to the outer walls. The cunning Sylvaneth Wythach Alderbark and Lor’ax had grown a thick Wyldwood between the Tower and the safest haven for landing ships, letting them set an ambush for the Shield. The defenders of the wood had been given double rations of Aqua Ghyranis by the orders of the Composite Multitude. While this lent the Sylvaneth an oaken resilience, it rendered their allies, the Maggotkin of Ulcerott Mouldspawn and Camry Plague Lord, nigh on invulnerable. Though the defenders were almost impervious to harm, they were also half-blinded by the Geode. The uneven footing and dazzling switch from searing brightness to empty darkness forced the battle of the woods into a bitter stalemate. Bloody rainwater fed the wyldwood’s roots but Kongming’s plan was not ruined yet.
The forces of Chaos ambush the Teclandec Stormcast in the darkness of Noctis.
Deep beneath Tenula’s Tower, the Teclandec Sappers waited in the breath-damp air of the tunnels. Even the perfumed aura of Cythemnon Deepfarer’s Slaaneshi Daemons were not enough to block out the overpowering stench of two herds of Troggoths, a gang of Grots and a rabble of Skaven. Just as tempers were about to reach breaking point, the Sappers saw the impossible gleam of the Geode illuminate the tunnel and knew that this was the signal to begin. Bork and Dummlukk set about commanding their Troggherds to destroy the foundations of the wall they had tunneled up to. Meanwhile Rattigus’s skaven stood guard, alongside the Daemons and Da Squig Git’s squiggly beasts, which pulsated with bioluminescence in sympathy with the Geode. Just as their owner was explaining how they had taken turns licking the priceless arcane gem, the foundations the Troggoths had been pummeling gave out. With a mighty crash, the foundations tumbled, burying unconcerned Troggoths alive, only for them to exhume themselves moments later with wide grins plastered across their faces.
Troggoth Sappers, briefly illuminated by the Geode’s searing light.
The Troggoths continued their work, decimating the Tower’s defences while the others turned to face the echoes that came from the Celandec tunnels they had not dared explore. Roars, hoots and trumpets blared through the depths, and the thundering Celandec footsteps caused a fine shower of dirt to pour from the tunnel’s fragile ceilings. As the Teclandec mercenaries peered into the dark tunnels, the Geode flashed again, and they saw their enemy illuminated, a snapshot of bloodthirsty warriors, before the Celandec charge met the Teclandec lines. King Valinar, Zod-el, Folkvar-Grimnir and Sqweela Sliktail are but some of the heroes that took part in the punishing fight beneath Arasne’s soil. The claustrophobic battle was savage; large weapons were of no use in the cramped confines, so knives, claws and fists had to serve instead. Many deeds of valour and brutality were performed in those tunnels, but it did not change the fact that the defenders, who had been stationed to ambush their foe in the wyldwood, arrived too late. The Troggoths had already compromised the wall.
On the surface, the Knife and Beak formations had been lying in wait for long days before the battle. They had despaired at the waylaying of the Shield, but when the walls surrounding Tenula’s Tower began to crumble, they saw their chance to strike. Dashing in, and aided by a handful of mildly concussed Troggoths, they charged the exposed artillery and shocked defenders. The long range weapons were smashed to pieces by swooping Dragons, raging Vargheistst and rampaging Troggoths. The Celandec defenders rallied quickly though, evacuating the artillery teams and replacing them with grizzled warriors. As Dreams warred against Plenty amongst the wreckage and rubble, Siphius plied his trade, doling out Aqua Ghyranis to his injured allies. However, its proximity to the Daemon of Nurgle had lessened its life-giving powers, and the defenders were losing more and more troops as the Knife and Beak pressed the assault.
They did not falter however, until the Troggoth Sappers that had remained underground finally wrought destruction upon the Tower itself. It groaned as it fell and the Geode flashed, burning the after-image of the falling spire into the reticles of every warrior present. For a moment after it’s fall, the two armies were silent, deafening winds and lashing rain were the only thing to be heard as a shocked stillness spread through the courtyard. The ancient tower, built by the mind of Archmage Tenula herself, had fallen. The Celandeth knew they had lost. The falling rubble had dashed the surrounding wall to pieces, and their position was now untenable. Seeing the hole in the wall, they seized their chance to escape. A grim-faced rearguard was left to cover the defender’s rain-slick flight over the ruins and across Arasne.
A cheer went up from the Satrapy of Plenty as the rearguard was taken prisoner. The fighting had been harsh, and there was no chance of the maimed Teclandec forces pursuing their enemies across the island through darkness and storm. It did not matter though, for the final blow had at last been struck. Celandec had been humbled. And though it had all but destroyed the Teclandec army to do it, they knew now that none would dare challenge Dariel’s ascendancy now.
Teclandec Minor Victory
Teclandec Rivalry Victor
Relations between the Teclandec and Aurannar abruptly balanced on a knife’s edge at the turning of the seasons. Darius, nephew of Dariel, was caught delving deep into Iden’s territory in a desperate hunt for his vaults. With one of the most important members of Dariel’s court under lock and key in Aurannar territory, tempers quickly began to rise, with the Satraps each baying for the blood of the other.
Like any good diplomats should, the representatives of the satrapies gave them a little while to cool off, kept their armies at home, and sat down to talk.
The question of what to do with the boy was the biggest and most difficult to answer. To let him return would be to betray the location of the vaults, but to kill him would be to invite open war. Keeping him prisoner against his will would also undoubtedly have been considered a slight to the Satrap of Plenty, to whom reputation and comfort were ruling tenants.
Torag Tome-Eater and the Duchess of Bryshavon led negotiations, eventually coming to a surprisingly creative and agreeable solution on both sides: Darius would be trained as a Ledger Keeper, living in safety and willingly remaining behind Aurannar lines. In return for being allowed a glimpse at how the Auraneth ran their impeccably tight ship, he would stay until the war for the Prime Dominion had ended. The Aurannar would keep their secrets intact, and the Teclandec would gain beneficial knowledge from their rivals.
There were conditions, of course – trust is a rare commodity in the Prime Dominion, and with a Satrap as paranoid as Iden the Auric, there had to be further collateral. It is said that further exchanges were made behind the closed doors of the sacred parley – future promises made, and services exchanged. By the time the deal was struck in ink and parchment, both groups of diplomats were sighted leaving Iscarion with satisfaction on their faces.
Rennyn’s Nighthaunt and the Bryshavon Ogor, Jeygroy of Pikejaw, were shortly dispatched from Teclandec territory to serve as the young princeling’s bodyguards for the duration of his stay. What Dariel offered Iden to allow such an intrusion into his vaults is unknown, but it seems that the Teclandec and Aurannar have, against all the odds, brought their relations back from the brink of destruction and have even deepended it into tenuous friendship.
Diplomatically Resolved, Teclandec advantage
The resurrection of the Death Knight Ataxerxes could not have come at a worse time for the Prime Dominion. As each faction tore at the throats of their peers, the Idreleth were caught off-guard by the great necrotic eruption that now roiled from the centre of their territory. Sightings of the ancient aelven death-behemoth quickly began pouring in from Zaleria, replete with the legendary ring that allowed the undead warrior to renew his lifespan. One thing was for sure: Ataxerxes had to be dealt with, before he became a threat to Idrelec power.
To the northwest, Elusedrod’s watchers stirred. Orders were quickly issued: to bring the all-knowing Satrap the ring that could grant resurrection. In the hands of one of the greatest minds known to all aelvenkind, let alone the Prime Dominion, the possibilities for societal growth and evolution were near-infinite. Idreneth scouts quickly found intruders in their territory, as Dornayeth warriors crossed the border to do some spying of their own. It became clear the two Satrapies would finally meet in battle for the right to slay Ataxerxes and win this prize.
As it happened, however, neither competitor was well positioned to wage such an unnecessary war. Atressa was still caught between grief and rage, her time devoted to her dealings with the Ruyalar, and Elusedrod was preoccupied with his constant war against the Aurannar. With the Satrap of Conquest in an uncommonly somber mood, and the patient Satrap of Serenity always more than willing to negotiate, warriors ended up not at each other’s throats, but at the diplomacy table.
So it was that the Melusai, the Aelven Knight and the Bloody King drew up their chairs opposite the Dreadlord, the Bone Shepherd, and the silver-tongued Warden of Helspoint. Ever the conversationalists, the Dornayar immediately offered a proposal. They would concede the right of conquest to its eponymous satrapy, not interfering with the Idrelec’s righteous hunt of Atressa’s old rival. However, they wished to first study the ring, before it was returned to Atressa. If this condition was to be met, unnecessary war would be avoided.
With the terms on the table and the ink still drying on the pages, the Idrelec set out to slay the Death Knight. Two of the three diplomats themselves led the hunt, with Feyshriek and Tiberius engaging the first wave of Ataxerxes’ servant Nighthaunt through the thick foliage. This cleared the way for a twofold WAAAGH! to swarm the walls of the crumbling keep, with Azgrok ‘Eadbreaka’s Realmsmashas teaming up once again with Razgor Beastbreaka of Da Sandwalkaz for one of the unstoppable greentides the Idrelec were quickly becoming known for. Orruks of all shapes and sizes overwhelmed the undead before they had even managed to fully leave the confines of Ataxerxes’ fortress, culminating in the Warbosses effortlessly smashing down the gates into the squat cluster of buildings beyond.
The final wave of undead, guarding the inside of the building, were lured out of formation and systematically cut down via a joint effort between the Idoneth Shark Prince and his Idrelec Hedonite companion, Kykakzen Twinsurge, finally opening the path to Ataxerxes’ own crypt where the Death Knight was building his armies and regaining his immense power.
In a stunning finale to this razor-sharp hunt, the Brazen Warbringers and Brazen Horde set both Stormcast and Bloodbound upon the Death Knight. The Idrelec had wisely saved their heavy hitters for last, and with the masterful flourish of summoning them straight into the centre of the crypt, victory was assured.
The Brazen Warbringers
As the warriors valiantly cut down the deathly warrior-priest, an attempt was made by a single Soulrender to bind Ataxerxes’ soul into a pearl in order to find out whether he held any connection to Mithridates Alti. Whilst the creature resisted the competing death-magicks of a single priest, the Idoneth was able to feel and identify magical commands issued to Ataxerxes, confirming Alti as the Knight’s ancient master.
It seemed that the vampire’s influence, as a founder of the Prime Dominion, was deeply woven into its past and future.
As the Knight is felled, the Soulrender attempts the ritual
* * *
It was mere days later that a ship bearing the ring – and its designated Idrelec custodian – arrived at Selenar City for ‘study’, in accordance with the Dornayar-Idrelec pact. Ashavohlk’s skeletons greeted the boat at the port, intending to bring both ring and guardian to Elusedrod’s great libraries.
They were not expecting to see Eris Bloodwrath, equerry of Atressa Redhand and Harbinger of Chaos, on their doorstep.
The Legions of Helspoint descend to collect the ring.
Of course, the Dornayar had never intended to return the ring. ‘After we’ve finished studying it’ could mean an eternity to Elusedrod, withered and yet unaging on his golden chair. However, they never anticipated that the Idrelec would predict such a play.
Eris took up residence in Selenar, telling the Dornayar scholars that they would have until the end of the season – ‘or else’. When such a request was refuted, with representatives of the White King arguing that it was ‘not what they had agreed’, Eris simply smiled back, revealing her ultimate trick.
During the fight against Ataxerxes, Kykakzen Twinsurge had allowed many of his Soul Hunters to die in pain and ecstasy against the Death Knight, earning the service of one of Slaanesh’s own Keepers of Secrets. Twinsurge had cursed the ring with this privilege: if the Dornayar attempted to break their deal and steal it, the greater demon would appear and go berserk.
With most of the Dornayeth armies and mercenaries away fighting Iden, the remaining scholars and mages could not afford to take such a risk. Elusedrod got the results of his studies, allowing him to delve ever-deeper into the secrets of immortality – but at the end of the season, as promised, Eris Bloodwrath departed with the ring of the Death Knight. The Lord of Khorne swelled with pride that day, safe in the knowledge that, for the first time, the tricksy Dornayar had been outplayed.
Diplomatically resolved, Idrelec Advantage
The Winter Ball
The night of the Winter Ball had finally arrived. For many, it was the start of an apogee; the highest point on the social calendar, and the culmination of all the courtly intrigue of the past year. The aristocracy had been in a frenzy of anticipation and preparation for weeks. For the outsiders, the mercenaries and refugees, it may have seemed a frivolous waste of time. For those in the know, however, this night would cement alliances and grudges, marriages would be arranged that would alter the future of entire bloodlines, and the wealth of kingdoms would pass between hands. This year promised something unique as well, as the rumour had spread that mercenaries that had come to answer the satraps’ call had been invited. Never before had the grand courts of the city seen such an diversity of attendees, a prospect both threatening and alluring in equal measure. It would be a night long remembered.
The noble districts were alive with colour and light as the guests began to arrive. Multi-hued lanterns hung from wall and signpost, globes of magical fire bobbed and weaved through the air, and silk banners streamed from every balcony and gantry. Shades and awnings had been raised on the wide lawn, to give small pockets of privacy where guests could speak away from the crowds. Musicians played slowly in a dozen small alcoves across the wide estate, while inside the palace a full band alternated between stately waltzes and high-spirted dances. The Iscarneth that danced seemed to do so in jarring asynchrony, each pair following their own way, until one stepped back and beheld the floors as a whole. Then, the astute observers saw that there was indeed a method to the chaos, for each dance aligned with the satrapy that the couple had come from. What had seemed uncoordinated was instead six different dances, all carried out at once; all following different steps but aligning to the same tune.
The arrival of the outsiders sparked fresh excitement through the attendants. King Tiberius VIII arrived in baroque plate and silk, escorting the Black Pilgrim Lady Eris, and with the remains of decapitated rose petals still clinging to his cloak. Few in the Prime Dominion had ever seen the equerry of Idrelec unarmoured before, yet the simple black dress and lack of any obvious weapons made her no less terrifying. Across the ballroom, many of the mercenaries could be spotted amongst the aelven nobility. Eliana and Cyra had garnered instant attention by arriving wearing the latest in Iscarneth style. The massive form and flowing white fur of the stormcast Calaius the Martyred was instantly recognizable. Yet it was the more monstrous guests that drew the most attention. The Troggboss Buffet and his trollhag wife had drawn shocked gasps when they first arrived, but once they moved to the dance floor those turned to surprise and delight as the pair proceeded to dance as gracefully and artfully as anyone there. The Lord Drosus and Tasi the Sorceress matched them song for song, neither pair slowing down through the night. Mugwort Widegrin surprised all with a display of orruk fashion, and then a series of friendly races around the outskirts of the estate astride his gnashtoof mount. Even a chattering varghoul made an appearance, escorted by a surprisingly sane looking young man. As much as its appearance was a surprise, it might have truly raised an uproar with its constant complaints about the shabby accommodations and lack of hospitality, had anyone else been able to understand its deranged chittering. The wide buffet and flowing drinks did much to draw the attention of many of the less socially minded guests, and even the orruk Azgrok seemed content to help himself and merely grumble below his breath at all the peacocks around him. The catering team of the Sons of Bugman, the Able Albern Baking Co, and Bone Appetit had more than lived up to their promises. The Satrap Strong ale they provided especially proved its worth.
The night was not entirely smooth. A gaggle of hobgrots, unleashed by Varbuk to listen in and spy on whatever conversations they could find, provided more irritation than espionage. When one of them had to be helped out of the wide punch bowl to keep from drowning, they were politely returned to their master and warned not to wander off again. A Lord Aquillor of the Astral Templars had arrived as well, with the fixed notion that there were agents of Alti among the crowd, and spent most of the evening surreptitiously interrogating all those he met to learn more. At one point, a small crawl even broke out between a group of skaven and goblins, and was only broken up with the lot of them rolled into a large topiary draconith and knocked it over, sending most of them fleeing from the sudden assault of the green dragon. Despite these incidents, nothing could diminish the joy and spirit of the evening.
Until the ground began to shake.
Mithridates Alti walked across the desolated lands of Wirenth. Months had passed since the invasion, yet still the land bore the scars. Fire blackened earth crunched beneath his feet. The skeletal ruins of a once-vibrant village lay to his right, and the shattered carcass of a steam tank to his left. Saturating it all, all around him, he felt the blood that had been spilled into this land. It sat in the earth, thrumming against the soles of his feet. This pocket of life, this Dominion, formed from pure realm dust pulled from the Ur-River by Noctis and hardened by the outermost light of Haixiah, held the memory of that blood. To his ears, it sang like a brazen baritone. With each step he took, dark purple grass and crimson flowers sprung up in his footsteps.
He followed Wayseer Vashti into the heart of Wirenth.
“The Aurannar have the Eye now,” she said, almost chidingly. She hung in the air like a mirage, her feet not touching the ground, and an ethereal wind softly rippling in her hair.
“No matter. Pluck an eye, that does not make us blind. It will be far too late before they figure out how to use it.”
Alti raised his arms in the air. Golden lightning arced between them, spinning and flowing. With obvious effort, he brought his hands closer together, the strands of lightning weaving together into constant helixes. Power coursed around him, grounding itself in the earth. The island itself shook beneath their feet. With a shout, Alti brought his hands together, the power compressed between then, flowing around his hands, trying to escape, until a soundless thunderclap blasted out around them. The power in his hands was stable now, a black vortex sitting in his palm, a raw void with nothing to hold or stabilize it.
The earth trembled, roared, and cracked. The screeching of rocks torn apart filled the air. Fissures splintered off from around the pair, a spiderweb of shattered lines branching out in all directions. It was the death rattle of an island. In an explosion of earth and splintered stone, Wirenth tore itself apart. The center of the island groaned and shifted, rising up into the air. Hills burst with the metallic groaning of a colossal chain lifting up from beneath them, where it had remained dormant for so long. The outer portions of the island, those not in the rising heart, sheered away and fell. New metaliths formed, a broken chain of tiny islands, or fell away into the shimmersea. Still the land rose. The ashen remains of the once-plentiful fields stripped away. At the heart of this new land, dredged from the blood-soaked stone, rose a towering castle. Parapets and keep, its walls high and thick, the imposing structure rose. Higher and higher the island flew, up above the plane of the Dominion, until the jagged broken bones of the bottom of the landmass lifted from the shimmersea. Rock and dirt rained down from its roots. A colossal chain dragged up from within the earth hung free, battering against the ruined islands that remained below.
Alti and Vashti hung in the air, overlooking the newly rising land. Black lightning crackled across his fingertips, flowing around the orb of void he held. His gesture swept the island.
“Castle Iskar. This is where we shall break the shackles of fate.”
As they flew towards the island, it began to move ponderously through the air. Through the gloaming night, it travelled. Over Lhoris, its dangling chain leaving gouges in the countryside, and the broken anchor that once tethered it. Past the war-ravaged plain that once held the Geode, and the Cyran mountains that saw a golden eagle fall. Onwards, towards the Dawn City, where the nobility of the realm attended the Winter Ball. Falling earth and stone cascaded into the city, sending its residents fleeing. The great chain cut through the harbour, overturning boats and splintering the old lighthouse that watched over them. Hanging in the sky, its immense size plunged the Dawn City into twilight, and sealed the great Catarhactes realmgate above.
Chaos reigned below. Above, Castle Iskar clawed at the sky, as if to drag Noctis itself down.
At the Winter Ball, Vashti walked among the fleeing nobles and mercenaries, the falling rocks and debris passing harmlessly through her incorporeal form. Her fingers brushed an aiu fruit blossom on an uprooted tree, barely rippling its petals before frost crackled across it.
“Tell them it is time,” she said, and the huddled figures around her darted off, across the city and soon across the length of the Dominion.
She let the flower fall, crumbling and frostbitten. “This is the pain that will set us free. No gods, no fate, no ties but those we make ourselves.”
The lounging woman rubbed her temples and gave an exasperated sigh as more tidings came pouring into the hideout from above. Her mind made up, she gave the order.
“I think it’s time we blow this scene. Get everybody and the stuff together.”
For the first time since her successful jailbreak, Illyana Draketooth prepared to venture into Iscarion once more.
Illyana Draketooth, Corsair Captain