Ruyalar v. Aurannar
Iscarion, the City of the Dawn, had fallen into darkness. Fires raged in the streets. Doom speaking cultists and light-addled prophets railed from darkened alleyways and toppled monuments. Monsters dredged from the Lux Umbra prowled the rooftops. Above it all, the flying metalith of Castle Iskar hung, watching and waiting. In the Dawn City’s hour of need, many heroes arose to help those in need and safeguard the Iscarneth against such perils. And yet, there is never such a crisis that cannot be made worse by those who see only opportunity. Watching the city burn, each satrap sought to use the chaos to cement their own claim for the throne.
In the days of the Iscarneth’s flight from the Spirefall and the long and perilous march to their haven, it was the Auriflamme that they had rallied behind. The legendary banner of the Wayseers was a symbol of the strength and resilience of their people, and a reminder of what they had overcome. The banner was laid to rest in the catacombs beneath the Illuminated Senate, waiting for a time when it would be needed to rally the Iscarneth again. To both Caradryas and Iden, the promise of this potent symbol of power and authority was too great a lure to ignore. And so, under the pretext of defending it against looters and miscreants, both satraps sent the orders to march.
Clearing the entrance of the catacombs was a relatively simple task for both forces, with the only significant opposition coming from an aelven cult priest that attacked the young orruk shaman Osolak Snakeeata. However, there the two sides met, and in the tense confrontation old allies from the War of the Burning Winter came face to face once again. In the end, a compromise was reached – the Ruyalar would be allowed to take the flag, in return for diplomatic concessions for the Aurannar. The two sides parted on friendly terms, and a small force of Ruyalar moved down into the crypt.
Reputations in war can be the making or breaking of the warrior, and the Aurannar had no such meek aims as to simply give away such a prize. In the dead of the night, they struck. The ogor Torag and Lunim Mossbeard of the Sylvaneth fell upon the light guard like a storm, loaded out to kill Soulblight and aelf alike, and then swept into the catacombs. They had devised a heist, to trick the Ruyalar with promises of peace and then take the Auriflamme out from under them. Down they descended, into the reliquary of the banner, where only a token force of Blackguard ossiarchs remained. There the banner sat, waiting for them. With the sword Beshslayer howling with the storm’s fury, the ogor attacked.
High above, concealed amongst the bones of the Senate building, Caeraen Swiftfoot and Tarascon had watched the Aurannar enter the catacombs. Reputation can make it break the warrior, and Tarascon knew the treachery his old ally was capable of. That was why they had smuggled the true banner out of the reliquary hours before and replaced it with a decoy. With a rueful smile, they signalled the archers on the opposite roof. Lumineth archers began firing, their long arrows trailing hissing green flame from skaven explosives grafted to their heads. With them emerged a wind spirit, it’s own ammunition ‘improved’ upon, trailing bombs in its wake. Down into the entrance of the catacombs these missiles flew. A muffled crump emerged, followed a fraction of a second later as they detonated the explosives hidden within. Deep within the catacombs, the old ogor heard the sounds, and knew in a moment what they meant. He had experience with these things, after all. Torag smiled and closed his eyes, and for a moment the voices were silent. Fire and smoke emerged from the catacombs entrance, and with an earthshattering groan the entire hill collapsed inwards.
The Ruyalar made an orderly retreat from the ruins of the Senate, the Auriflamme in hand, all under the watchful eye of Valdaren Everwarden perched above on his great drake. Nothing stirred in the rubble. Somewhere, buried deep within, a sword that howled with lightning and whispered with black ice called out into the darkness for a new owner.
The Phoenix Seal
Idrelec v. Celandec
Not far from the spot, another very different battle played out. Both the Idrelec and Celandec had learned that the Phoenix Seal, the symbol of the Ceraph’s authority, had been seized by pillaging skaven pirates, and in a joint effort stormed the upper chambers to take it back. In the aftermath of the battle, the two sides reached an agreement both had successfully employed in this war in the past. A duel of honour would decide their fate.
The battle was arranged. St. Lothar, the old and worldly war saint, would represent the Idrelec, while Sigmund the Peoples’ Pommel would serve as Renaya’s champion. As the stormcast dismounted from his loyal dracoth, he saluted the older man, then burst into action. His massive hammer, itself larger than the old warrior, fell with cometary speed, and though it knocked the old man’s sword off guard with each strike he always managed to have it back in line just in time to deflect the next.
The two combatants were not alone in the Senate chambers. Stormkin skaven and Man Herder Gargants ringed the outer walls, cheering for their champions. Those cheers turned to calls of alarm, however, as a massive wave of skaven pirates flooded into building. Fighting back to back, the warriors of each satrapy held strong against the incoming horde, keeping clear the circle that their champions fought in.
With each blow, the fight turned to favour Sigmund more and more. St. Lothar gave ground again and again, retreating from the godforged strength of his opponent, each block coming later and later. It was only a matter of time before he made a fatal mistake.
That mistake came moments later, when the Senate itself shook and lurched as a massive explosion ripped through the catacombs. The stormcast kept his footing, but St. Lothar was sent tumbling to one knee. Sigmund raised his hammer up for a final blow, then cried out in surprise as the old warrior’s leg swept out and wrapped around his own, sending him tumbling to the ground. Lothar came up rising, sword in hand, from his feigned tumble. Laying the blade across the exposed neck of his foe, the saint and the stormcast locked eyes, then Sigmund gave a short nod. Lothar sheathed his sword. The meaning was clear. Though no blood had been shed between them the Idrelec were victorious that day. The seal would be a potent symbol of Atressa’s authority.
The Price of Knowledge
Dornayar v. Teclandec
Across the city, the Basilean Library burned with a corruscating magical flame. Though the people of the city cried out in dismay, when the scholars and warriors of the Dornayar arrived they quickly came to realize that this was not a natural blaze. The destruction falling in the city had damaged the great library, and in turn disrupted the carefully crafted restraints that bound the great spell of the Custodian to its walls. The magical fires that surrounded the building were the now-unchained sentient spell lashing out to defend itself. Though the preservation of knowledge was first in the minds of many of the Dornayar, they were not the only ones to realize the significance of holding the great structure, and in short order they soon found themselves facing the Teclandec as well.
Initial attempts to enter the library has not gone well. Null myriad bonereapers had been deployed first, their legendary resistance to magic making them somewhat immune to the corroscating waves of arcane fire that lashed at their approach. Yet even as they burned away, albeit slowly, they had underestimated the responsiveness of the Curator. Though it’s magic did little to slow the bone constructs, they proved to have no special resistance when it lifted up a fallen column and smashed the automatons to pieces.
It was the Teclandec that proposed a solution. Not wishing to fight, they promised aid in containing the spell. The Dornayar could then secure the library itself, which they would hold with Teclandec support. Seeing no reason to refuse such an offer, the Dornayar agreed, and a lone Kharadron entered the library. None know exactly what Theodora Brecht von Albern did to persuade the Curator, yet there were no explosions of magical flame or smashing stone, and she emerged a short time later with the Curator bound to a magical bottle. With their side of the bargain completed, the Teclandec departed.
Securing the library was not easy. As soon as the Curator was contained, skaven looters poured into the building, and had to be hunted down by Tecpatl’s Seraphon and Vaclav Greenfang. Sir Mappenborough unleashed the cold fury of the Knights-Scholastica, his dueling blade cutting down those that would defile the wisdom of the ancient halls of learning. Not all were as pure of motivation, however. Some, like Zotbag Longears, were content with pocketing a few shiny baubles. The Shadowflames of the Thief of Wits slew plunderers with great abandon, yet instead of returning the works to their home, secreted them down to their master in the Lux Umbra. Captain Mogrum’s Cleavermaws saved a group of librarians from marauding cultists, then helped themselves to the treasures of the library in recompense. Yet, after a brief struggle, it was clear that the Dornayar had control of the library, and had upheld their reputations as the defenders of knowledge. Repair were begun, and in a small corner plans were laid for the Sokrateez Memorial Wing.
A Realm Asunder
Ruin had been wrought upon Wirenth. The island had been capsized by Alti’s magicks before being hurled into the sky, and the stresses of the upheaval had fractured the landmass. The fragments that remained were in turmoil, smashing into one another as they floated in the shimmersea, upturning and righting themselves in the forceful currents that the cataclysm had left in its wake.
Despite the danger, Aziss Lithetongue, the quick-footed Shardspeaker, ranged far and wide on these floating shards, slaying the foul things that had been unearthed by the capsizing of the landmass and flagging the wild-eyed survivors for evacuation with her glittering illusions. That any had survived at all was remarkable, for these were the ones who had fled into the dubious safety of the Lux Umbra when Wirenth capsized, and had been forced to fight for survival against the unnatural things that resided within as the very tunnels pitched and tilted about them.
Once these exhausted survivors had been discovered, they were taken back to a new settlement; rebuilt upon the largest, most stable shard. It had been upturned and had remained that way, exposing the soil of the underside, foetid, damp, and full of boulders. As the Loonchompa Troggherd set about clearing these boulders with their acidic bile and brute strength, the Ossiarch known as the Broken Eminence erected a wall of moulded bone, sourced from the freshly upturned graves of all manner of unrecognisable beasts. Exposed roots were hacked at by the axes of Khaegon Sundergaze’s men, who carried the strong, dark timber to the Aelves of Caradryas the Swift. These aelves then set about the construction of spacious, simple housing for the refugees. The lack of materials meant that bunking together would be a necessity, but at least they would all have shelter.
The Broken Eminence soon realised that the sap that bled from the roots could be brewed into alcohol. Khaegon’s men had discovered this fact days earlier but had hoarded the warming ‘tree-blood’ to themselves. When the secret was out though, they helped supply the Eminence’s newly built drinking den in exchange for as much ‘Wirenth-Wine’ as they could manage. The tree sap was potent though, and only Khaegon himself could handle more than a few measures before having to be carried back to his lodgings.
Eventually the new settlement, quickly named Wireth, meaning ‘little Wirenth’, began to feel like home to the refugees. There was community, shelter and safety. In the evenings, while drinking with the surprisingly amicable mercenaries, one could almost forget the devastation wrought across the land, and the promise of danger that floated above Iscarion.
Upon realising that her people were in dire need of aid, Atressa the Reddhand commanded six of her mercenary companies to go out and help her people in whatever way they could. Of those six companies, four sailed straight to Iscarion. Too full of vainglory or bloodlust to follow their orders, they instead sought to take the fight to Alti and skirmish with the warriors of the other Satrapies.
Only Maelyn of the Wildwood Vanguard and High Marshal Aluril stayed true. As Aluril went to work in the larger settlements, Maelyn went on patrol. On his travels, he arrived just in time to defend a beleaguered settlement from a band of Ruyaleth invaders searching for supplies. It was all for nought though, for Maelyn’s forces were stretched too thin to leave behind a guard, and when his patrol returned to the village a few days later, all he found was a smoking ruin.
The Redhand’s fury was total and her courtiers cowered before her rage. Her people were left unprotected, unaided and unsheltered as her enemies plundered her lands and her warriors defied her will. Rumours were abound that the Satrap of Valour was turning into the Satrap of Brutality, for what good was strength if you did not use it to save those that you had a duty to protect?
Regardless, even if her mercenaries had stayed true, she had direly underestimated the aid her people needed. Six companies would have barely made an impact on the work that needed doing to return her Satrapy into a halfway recognisable state. Her own miscalculation cut her deep, and the insubordination of her warriors was like salt in the wound.
And this wound, much like the wounds of her Satrapy, would take a long time to heal.
Celandec’s efforts to save their people were as altruistic as they were ambitious. Eager to take on as many refugees as possible, both from Iscarion and from the wars that had raged upon their own soil, the Celandeth set to work as if there was not a moment to lose.
Their efforts started well; the camp’s location in the north of Amisra had been selected by Reyana herself. It was away from enemy territory, surrounded by fertile farmland, and already was the site of a recently abandoned fortress. The Ventrolian Trading Fleet sent the local troggherd fleeing after a swift and bloody conflict, and soon after the refugees began to pour in. Zod-El, the newly appointed Marshal of Celandec, recognised that there was more than enough guards for the fortress at present, and permitted Azoth and Belegornor the Starsmith to travel to Tenula’s Tower in search of supplies, armour and tools for the relief effort, as well as raw resources with which the two forgemasters planned to build a weapon that would help Celandec in the war to come.
Soon after the smiths left, tensions began to run high. Noxal Dimsoul believed his efforts in healing the sick were being undone by Dr Mouldspawn’s Nurglish surgeons. After the two nearly came to blows, the doctor explained that he had sworn to Reyana that Nurgle’s gifts were to be held in check for the refugees and allies of the Satrap. As a result, the two companies’ medics saved a great many lives as they worked night and day, Mouldspawn’s chuckling physicians toiling alongside Dimsoul’s barber-surgeons and hedge-witch herbalists.
After several days, when the fortress was reaching its capacity, scouts returned with word of a band of skaven to the south, amassing for a huge attack. Marshal Zod-el knew that time was of the essence. If they could strike at the ratmen while they were still mustering, they could be spared a long and costly siege. With a grim face, Zod-el took up the spear Celenar’s Bite, gathered Quetz’al the Seraphon and Valinar the Ghoul Lord. Together, the three companies struck out.
Leaving the fortress undefended was a risk, but Zod-el had received word that Belegornor and Azoth were about to set sail from Arasne, and the journey would take them two hours at the most. They would make great speed and take up guarding the fortress the moment they arrived. He hoped the medics would be able to keep things in order until then.
Although Zod-El’s rush to attack the skaven was a bold and swift decision, regrettably, he did not have all the information. As he and his companions sped home, wiping the thick blood from their blades, they came in sight of the Fortress just as a flanking herd of troggoths, the very same herd that Valinar thought he had sent fleeing, brought it low. The two smiths had been waylaid on the shore by troggoths that had decided to make the tunnels beneath Tenula’s Tower their home, and only the unarmoured, exhausted medics had been left to defend the fortress. Each warrior that saw the fortress collapse there was struck dumb as they relived the fall of Tenula’s Tower. Once again, they were too far from the fortress to help, lured out by a dramatic push while their enemies attacked from below. They charged back towards the gate as the ancient fortress toppled and fell.
Though the mercenaries raced back to their camp, they were too late to save most of the refugees. Noxal Dimsoul and Dr Mouldspawn had done their best, but their warriors were not dressed for battle, for armour was exhausting to wear for the long hours of round-the-clock medical work, and their limbs were deadened by sleepless days of medical work. They were relieved by the outriders and the two smiths at much the same time, and the troggoths either fled or were put to the sword. Few of the refugees survived in the end, and many that did slipped away soon after, happier to take their own chances than to be protected by the Celandec forces that had been outwitted by troggoths more times than was excusable.
Whispers spread that Reyana was not fit to rule; the Satrap of dreams had shown that her heart was too big to deal with a refugee crisis of this magnitude. It was pointed out that, in trying to save everyone, she had overstretched her resources and succeeded in saving none.
Arcane ambition defined the Satrap of Innovation’s reaction to the rise of Castle Iskar. The furrows that the castle’s chains left in the earth were viewed not as scars, but as the foundations for a great work. A road would be built, one which followed the line carved onto the face of Lhoris and through its dorsal mountains. As Zodgrob Facecrumpah’s orruks hurled boulders and fallen masonry from the freshly carved ditch, Lord-Regent Arras Danathan and Lord Ambassador Aelric discovered than much of the fallen debris was in fact the eggs of some foul invertebrate beast that had been shed from the underside of the castle. The chittering, translucent monsters that burst from the eggs were hard work to put down, especially when a warrior was taken unaware. Word was passed on and Tla’grex’s Seraphon sent outriders the length of the scar to inform the warriors how to quickly identify and destroy the dormant eggs.
Meanwhile, an arcane ritual of staggering proportions was about to take place. Even the bluntest orruk could feel a supernatural tingle on the back of his neck, and for the magically attuned, Lhoris sang with arcane potential.
The plan was threefold. Firstly Horith’s Tower was to be restored. The waystone it housed had been out of kilter for too long. Lord Ordinator Leonidas Alcazar, mustering all his knowledge of arcane craftsmanship prepared to set right the misaligned stone. The solution was, in fact, surprisingly simple. Perhaps too simple for the elaborate Iscarneth to see. Like a masseuse realigning a spinal disk, with a quick push and a small pop, the waystone was realigned, and the magical energy of the Prime Dominion could resume its natural flow through once more.
The second part of the plan was left to Tu’bok, who was to empower the now-restored magical flow. Through a great display of arcane strength and mental stamina, the Skink wrought a spawning-pool from thin air before the dormant realmgate that stood upon the isle of Sumina. By doing this, the pool attuned him to the geomantic leylines that criss-crossed the Prime Dominion, especially those that Alti had upset with the rise of Castle Iskar. By pouring more and more of himself into the pool, Tu’bok sought to bring the ley-lines back into harmony. He risked pouring his very essence into the flow of magic, but the wise skink recognised his own limits, and managed to heave his spirit back from the spell before it was too late. His work was a resounding success, and the energy that was merely flowing before, now thundered through the realms like an arcane torrent.
Finally, once the magical flow of the Prime Dominion had been restored and energised, it could be conducted. This task was left to I’Zrun the Flameborn, master of prismatic energies and herald of the Changer of Ways. His spell was the centrepiece of the plan. Before another dormant realmgate, this one hidden away in a crystal garden deep within Lhoris’ mountain range, he wove his magic. Blinding lights flared, casting strange shadows that chilled the daemon and reminded him of Noctis. However, the energy provided by Tu’Bok and Leonidas was clean and pure, beyond either the daemon’s ability to corrupt, or Noctis’ power to negate, for this was the lifeblood of the Prime Dominion that flowed through the spell. The sorcerous neverborn struggled to channel it to his will. This was the very essence that kept the Prime Dominion afloat, that birthed the shimmersea, and that kept Noctis rotating in orbit, and it railed at being channeled by any living thing.
The skies clouded over and strobed with multicoloured strobes of witch-light. I’Zran sweated droplets of shimmering mercury at the effort of simply being near the raw, unfettered magic. It was all he could do to hold onto the spell, let alone hope to direct it. One by one, the daemons that surrounded him were snuffed out, withering from existence in the face of the brilliance of Hysh. Just as I’Zran felt his own corporeal form beginning to sear into nothingness, he sensed a subtle change in the magic, like the sudden breaking of a wild stallion. The daemon knew that this was his chance and with a colossal effort, he thrust his hand forward, tearing a hole through reality, past the terrifying abyss behind it, and out through the realmgate that stood before Tu’bok
The dark clouds dissipated as I’Zran finally let the spell go, and the magic dissipated like a flock of trillswallows. He collapsed into the dust as a breeze that blew from another continent cooled his face. They had done it, through the secrets of Stormcast, Seraphon and Tzeentchian, they had reignited a realmgate. What’s more, thanks to the efforts of the Stormcast and Troggoth labourers, they would soon have a paved highway that gave half of Lhoris easy access to it.
Refugees could now travel the length of Lhoris, and the Ruyaleth were not afforded easy access to their newly annexed territory. The road and the realmgate combined would allow the supply of food, water, weapons and reinforcements to be faster than it had ever been before, and all because of the ambition of the Ruyaleth mercenaries..
The Aurannar’s relief effort was focussed on a single large town in the southern border of their lands, far from Iscarion and the conflict that raged there. Gordin Beardadamantsson was instructed to be the architect of the restoration, returning the dilapidated walled town in the mountains into a defensible, sustainable, high capacity settlement. The Cogsmith was unfamiliar with the intricacies of town planning. At first he faced the task with trepidation; this would normally be a colossal undertaking, but with so little help and even less time, it barely seemed possible. He did not let his doubts show, reassuring the other mercenary leaders that hard work and Duardin intuition would not steer them wrong.
As refugees from across Kellandor began to trickle in, Beardadamantsson instructed the gargant Mal to reconstruct the wall. Huge blocks of quartz littered the mountainside from when the stronghold had originally fallen, and the Gargant spent many long days climbing up and down the mountain, searching for the polished chunks of debris amongst the scree and undergrowth.
Meanwhile, the Cogsmith worked through the layout and logistics of the town and worked in concert with a handful of displaced farmers as to which crops his gyrocopters should sow in the terraced mountainside fields. This left Throm Copperfist and Raga’shu Neckbreaker in charge of construction. This started out well, agreeing with the Cogsmith that they would need to build a secure pen for their handful of Ruyaleth prisoners from their last conflict first, and then progress to building habitation for the Auranneth refugees.
However, Throm soon abandoned this plan in favour of building a bar and gambling house named ‘Luck’s Run Dry’. This was perhaps a foolish thing to build first, but the real mistake was to leave Raga’shu alone with the prisoners. The Kruelboy had heard many tales of the power of diplomacy, and was eager to experiment a new, less brutal, method of treating his captives. As the prisoner’s housing was nearing completion, Raga’shu learned of an escape plan. Wishing to harness the power of diplomacy, Raga’shu did not threaten the aelf, or make an example of him. Instead, he talked and listened, confiscating the small lockpick and leaving the Ruyaleth aelf, who had been prepared to die for her transgression, thoroughly confused. Regardless, Raga’shu was no fool, and he left the handful of prisoners to sleep with both their hands and feet bound in chains and thick cord and guarded by two kruelboys.
That night though, all six aelves all escaped. The denizens of the Satrap of Innovation lived up to their namesake, and a single carpenter’s nail, worn smooth from being scraped against ropes for hours on end, was found amidst the open locks, severed rope and the two dead guards.
Fury erupted from Beardadmantsson’s tent when he heard the news, and he stormed out to confront Raga’shu and Throm. Insults were hurled and grudges listed against the two foolish greenskins, the former for not alerting him of an escape plan, and the latter for not watching the first. The duardin knew that, this close to Ruyalar’s territory, the prisoners would have been able to cross the border during the night, meaning that they had but a scant few hours, perhaps a day at the most, before a Ruyaleth counterattack would sweep up the mountain pass, dash their half-finished fortifications and see them all killed.
With a heavy heart, the mountain fastness was abandoned and the refugees evacuated once more. Perhaps if Iden the Auric had been willing to spare more of his mercenaries and personal soldiery that had been left guarding his vaults, a proper perimeter could have been kept, and the willfulness of paid soldiery could have been compensated for.
This defeat was not just a tactical one, but a political one too. Dissenting opinions spread like wildfire through the Satrapy of Wealth as once patriotic subjects asked what could cause the selfish ruler to part with his riches if he would not deign to spend more than a pittance to safeguard his own people?
The Dornayeth faced a different challenge to those of their neighbours, for while the smallfolk were just as beleaguered as any in the Prime Dominion, they also suffered a drought that cracked the earth and shrank the great lakes to muddy quagmires. Runar Bugmansson reacted quickly, using the newly rediscovered Duardin hold that the Sibyl of Dawn guided him towards, he set up a field hospital for the wounded, but he could only do so much without water. The shimmersea was as abundant as ever but the water was not potable.Near to the hold, Godrun Blood Fist had recently finished the building work on a public bath-house. It was an open secret that the bath-house was merely a front for the Daughter’s Khainite temple, but that did not matter in this hour of need. Godrun ordered for her baths to be bled dry, and that the springwater that bubbled from the living rock of Edraele be bottled and shipped to the hospital.
Thanks to the spring water, many who would have died were spared, and could in turn lend aid to the others. However, this was not enough for the Dornayeth. A handful of mercenary leaders met one evening, and Bugmansson explained that his hold was barely a quarter full. The smoke that rose from Iscarion could still be seen on the horizon, and all knew what he would suggest before the words left his lips. He proposed that more refugees could be brought here, if only the drought could be overcome. Davidus Mappenborough suggested that an aqueduct would be an ideal solution, for he had found a valdera on the top of one of the mountains nearby while searching for a rare breed of newt in the summer. He said that even in the baking heat, the lake had been deep and clear.
The mercenaries lamented that the water was so near, yet so far. An aqueduct would be an ideal solution, but could take generations to build. Silence reigned on the meeting untill Skoi’s muffled voice rumbled through his boat-mask. He did not know how to build an aqueduct, he confessed, but if he and his stomp were shown how, he knew he could manage many years of small people’s work in a matter of days. With that, it was decided, and with the strength of the gargants, the guidance of the academic and the technical skill of the duardin, the mercenaries set to work.
Eventually, after three weeks, the aqueduct stood. It was no beauty, for its columns were rough-hewn and the finish was uneven, but it worked. That was all anyone cared about.
The Deepwood Choir and the Amber Grove had not stood idle during the intervening weeks however. They worked as they grieved their losses and celebrated their newly grown comrades, planting fields of crops and orchards, as that the refugees might eat when they arrived.
As soon as the water began to flow into the dam, the Dornayeth ships were set off to Iscarion to evacuate more refugees.Thanks to the imported water, the duardin irrigation trenches and the Sylvaneth’s vital magicks, the land surrounding the hold were quickly coated with thick with sunkissed wheatfields and fruit bearing trees before the first ship even returned. The duardin of Bugmansson had to undergo daily pruning duties to hack back the wild growth to ensure that the path to the shore was not lost. They did not complain though, and even doffed their caps when they came across the strange arboreal folk, for they knew that this chore was a blessing compared to the starvation they would have suffered without their help.
Refugees from Iscarion were imported night and day, and the dwarf-hold soon became a bustling field hospital. The harvest from the Sylvaneth fields sustained them and the water staved off the worst of the drought. The springwater from the baths was no longer needed, so Godrun’s bath-house could reopen and many bruised and aching refugees found a cessation to their pains within the scented steam. Meanwhile, the Peakgrabber stomp could finally rest, for their efforts had been herculean, even for ones of their size. To the Iscarneth that arrived on the ships, the found that, through forethought and teamwork, they owed their lives to a handful of foreigners, who had helped them against the odds, and on their own initiative.
The Fall of Iscarion
On the night of the Winter Ball, as the bells of the Palace began to chime the hour, the sky was shredded by a hailstorm of stone.
Great hunks of debris fell across the city in an apocalyptic blanket. Fresh rock was torn asunder from towers and spires by the dragging chain of Castle Iskar as it cleaved the city from end to end. Alti’s fortress tainted the starry night pitch-black as it eclipsed Catarhactes, heralding the waves of undeath that now descended upon the helpless citizens.
The estate of Lady Astara Moonstrider, host of the Winter Ball, was hit hard. Her mansion and grounds, like many of the Iscarneth nobles, sat at the base of the beleaguered Palace of the Dawn. Each attendee watched with horror as Iscarion’s seat of power shed its spires like the spines of a hedgehog to rain down upon their festivities. Walls crunched inwards as their doors bulged outwards and snapped, posing no more protection than paper. Ceilings caved and chandeliers tumbled, spiderlike, only to start fires across tapestries and carpets.
In the kitchens, Eliana Swiftbloom and her companion attempted to pull some of the cooks to safety as they fled through the crumbling corridors, but the aelven civilians were too crushed under the weight of their own overturned stove to even attempt to stand. The Sons of Bugman proved much more lucky, with the attack triggering their flagship, The Frosty Mug, to descend on the city for the evacuation of themselves and the refugees.
The Able Albern Baking Co., representing the cooking prowess of the Teclandec, also found themselves fighting their way out of the Estate, and were caught behind a wall of falling debris as they attempted to flee. However, the timely arrival of their ally Troggboss, Mudglutt, and his rubble-punching Gargant twins proved their saving grace. The group were able to extract Theodra and and her men by smashing through the falling stones.
At the other end of the estate, Sylvaneth of the El-Woods forged a literal path, lined with sprouting Wyldwoods, to rescue Winter Ball party goers trapped inside. The path led out of the city gates, and was the first of many rescue efforts that were to commence that evening.
Walking against the tide of escapees was Vashti. Fleeing guests described her later in fragments and snippets: unnaturally pale and tall, gliding ethereally through the unnatural twilight. She was smiling, perhaps for the first time in weeks. With many of the Idrelec present, having been attending the ball, it was only a matter of time until she was spotted.
King Tiberius, having lost his dance partner Eris Bloodwrath in the carnage, instead stumbled across Vashti as she observed her new master’s work. A chase began, taking the pair into the rubble-crusted streets, as the incredulous general became determined to confirm his fears. However, he quickly lost her as Alti’s armies began to wash over the town, swathed in the tattered robes of the Soulblight. Seemingly at every corner, he was set upon by vampires and the raised bodies of the Iscarneth.
Bright explosions peppered the sky as the floating Castle began to take cannon shots at the Palace of the Dawn, symbolically attempting to destroy the Prime Dominion’s seat of power. Drullack the Shark Prince, another ball attendee stranded with his Idoneth, headed towards the floating castle – only to catch sight of Vashti reaching the dragging chain first. His spear clashed against her sword, drawn with a new, unnatural strength. Fighting with supernatural skill she did not previously have, it became clear to the gathered Idrelec that the once-lover of their Satrap was indeed alive, and had become something else entirely.
As more and more of Alti’s hordes swarmed down the chain and into the streets, the Band of the Gryffin and the White Flame Coven clashed against those that now sought to claim the city in a river of blood. The Aurannar-aligned representatives struck the first of many blows back against the blood tide, but it was all they could do to just hold off a mere pocket, as more and more forces cleaved into the people.
The Band of the Gryffin strike out at the Undead Cultists.
Ruyalar Disciples of Tzeentch and Seraphon, led by Zyclistian Alvakai and Yukana’zeeme, shielded refugees from the vampire army’s onslaught in the streets. Most notably, a huge wall of amethysts was summoned to guard fleeing civilians.
Zyclistian Alvakai summons the amethyst wall.
Hoping to stop the descending army at the source, the Gargant Junko Gatebreaker climbed the tail of the great chain itself. Although higher-ranking members of Alti’s court still had their own means of getting down, it temporarily stemmed the flow of lesser vampires and undead that had been sliding down and out into the city below.
Stomping Solutions pulls the Soulblight down from the chain of Castle Iskar.
A seething mass of Skaven, composed of at least five different covens from both the Celandec and Aurannar, led a green and gold swarm through the streets. Many citizens were evacuated by tunnel and gnawhole. Whether the creatures of chaos felt genuine compassion, desired rich rewards, or were simply furthering their satraps’ individual designs on the city was unknown. Their tunnels were capitalised upon by the Oath-Gobbla grots and the ghoulish Knights of the Ivory Sword, who surfaced through the maze of tunnels and catacombs in the wake of the grey horde in order to clash with the undead.
Skaven of Clan Slikk move on Iscarion
One particularly vicious foe emerged in the noble district, as the aelven daughters of The Diretide found themselves faced with an undead Gargant. The fighting was bloody, and each attempt to drive back the creature seemed futile, especially as swarms of skeletons scurried around its feet, shielding it from ground attack. Reinforcement came in huge, smoking, chugging form, as the giant’s body was mowed straight down by Azoth. The Ogor’s Steamwrought Engine cut through viscera and flesh in a torrent of cleansing magma, allowing The Diretide to fall upon their foe and finally finish it off.
Riding the engine came Celandec reinforcements hoping to beat back the undead from the castle above, including a large contingent of several Soulblight Gravelord houses loyal to Renaya Oathsworn. The vampires Malrak Windstrike, Lucia von Carstein and Carmenia Nightwind were all spotted routing their Alti-sympathising counterparts, refusing to let the rogue vampire lay such a bloody claim to the pacifistic City of the Dawn.
Even the shambling forces of Nurgle put themselves to work, sending their brightest beast of nurgle to herd citizens towards the gates.
It is said that the panting Beast comforted fleeing children, full-body waggling not unlike a friendly canine.
Towards the docks, cultists and wayward corsairs took advantage of the fighting to storm the rubble-strewn dockside streets. However, it quickly became apparent to defending forces that the corsairs were raiding and attacking indiscriminately, with their leader Draketooth nowhere to be seen. A small group of Dornayar Soulblight began a systematic purge of the cultists at the docks, aided by huge gargants of the Peakgrabber Stomp, that were able to silence the Harpoon Guns of the marauding snipers for good. The Order of Mirksvoir bit off more than they could chew as they found themselves facing a creature from the Lux Umbra itself, roused by the bloody fighting in the streets. However, the combined forces of the dock defenders managed to eventually beat the many-tentacled behemoth back into the water.
Whilst some defended the docks, the majority of the Dornayar forces were committed to the protection of the library. In true Dornaneth fashion, they seemed panicked about the destruction of the ancient, almost sacrosanct knowledge housed in the oldest of the Prime Dominion’s book collections. There was a lot of tension between the Dornayar and the Aurannar, their rivalry still fresh in their minds, with some breaking down into fights on the streets due to misplaced ‘friendly fire’.
The White Host head for the library.
Back at Castle Iskar, a daring group of Idrelec actually managed to climb all the way up the chain to the edge of the structure. Kharora Talonsworn of the Deathshriek Valley was accompanied on the strike mission by an orrukish guard composed of Worthag Marsh-Heart and Dakka of Da Brokenjawz. They used their combined magic to conjure a wave of toxic gas in an attempt to take out Alti’s artillery and smoke out Alti’s Generals before fleeing. Although the cannons finally were stopped from firing on the Palace of the Dawn, the intrepid group were chased down the chain by several of Alti’s generals.
The Idrelec had underestimated just how many men Alti still had. Fresh troops poured down after the members of the Soulblight’s court, overwhelming the gargants that had been keeping the chain under control. However, that did not mean that the Idrelec could not adapt.
It would be a night the citizens of Iscarion remembered forever. As the fighting continued, with the satrapies fighting side by side but still overwhelmed by the rising numbers of the dead, the greentide came. Mazoka Brokenjaw slipped the ring of Ataxerxes onto his gnarled viridian finger, bringing the power of immortality and pure red bloodlust with it and soaking him in holy rage. Da Brokenjawz led the now-infamous Idrelec Waaagh, followed by Da Sandwalkaz, Da Erthbreakaz and Da Realmsmashas.
The precision of the Idrelec’s co-ordinated response was one of the slickest strategies of the war effort, with almost every single Warclan of the Idrelec sending parts of their army to help. Red banners over a sea of green expertly dealt with the crisis, with bigger Orruks fighting off the final wave of undead as Kruleboyz and Grots guided citizens to safety in a unique show of charity.
A record of events, by Hennrik the Chronicler.
It was dawn before the smoke over Iscarion finally began to clear. The Castle still remained, but the citizens were mostly now evacuated or moved to safety, and out of imminent danger. Skaldangyr Bloodclaw’s Knights of Ruin could be seen handing out food and supplies to refugees in designated safe zones across the smoking carcass of the noble district. Ketil & Co.’s Ruyalar-aligned Airship cast a long shadow over the flickering fires as it removed refugees by the skies. Finally, Throm and his Bogswallow Marauders were seen setting up refugee camps in the surrounding Aurannar land.
That bloody red morn, the satrapies looked up together in union at the stain on their sky, and made themselves a promise. That soon, all of this would come to an end.
Idrelec National Objective Victory
A pallour of dust hung heavy in the air above Iscarion. The conflicts of the night had been fierce and chaotic, yet as the hailstorms of stone had subsided and the wave of unearthly creatures it brought were thrown back, a suffocating stillness had settled across the city. No one knew what was supposed to happen next. The cardinal rule of Iscarion, which had stood adamant since the city’s founding, had been broken when Aurannar and Ruyalar had spilled each others’ blood. Across the city, pockets of resistance remained, aligned to one satrap or another, yet none could claim control. Above it all, the giant castle hung, quiet and still. And so, the city held its breath, and waited.
Mithridates Alti stood on the high tower of Castle Iskar. He could not see the city below the metalith his castle rested upon, not directly, but nothing touched by the light eaten by Noctis was beyond his vision. The black orb, banded in trapped light, hovered around his head, the miniature reflection of the void above. It was time. For the first time, he would speak to all the Prime Dominion.
“Iscarneth. The people of Iskar. You, who fled from destruction and death at the hands of your kin, and who were brought to this haven by my own hands. You, who have built, and learned, grown and innovated, become mighty and prosperous in these lands I gave to you. I am Mithridates Alti, your king.”
The voice was not shouted, yet it found the ears of every aelf and mercenary within the Prime Dominion. All across Iscarion and the surrounding isles, eyes turned to the sky above.
“I have returned to you now to realize the truth of this realm. You have lived and died in Noctis’ orbit, protected from the maddening light of Haixiah, but now it is time for you to truly understand this haven I have created for you. Noctis is not merely a shroud, but an aegis. Here, alone among all the realms, we are shielded from the sight of the gods. It is the great gift of the black sun, yet it is incomplete. Though they cannot see us, they still hold the strings to our fate. We are bound to them.
No more! I have, at long last, the power to break my chains. By my hands, I shall unshackle the bindings of Noctis iself, until the black sun consumes the sky. I shall seal the realmgates and the great Catarhactes. I shall make the Dominion whole again. Then, and only then, shall we truly be beyond the grasp of those ancient parasites of greed and hunger that dare to masquerade as gods! No gods or masters, beyond those we choose, to cast us upon the cruel shores of destiny! No stormforged fanatics descending in a bolt of lightning to impose the will of the feckless tyrant of Azyr, or daemons pulled from the depths of madness. No reptilian overlords hurling fire on their inhuman whim. No more! With Noctis unshackled, I shall break the oppressive bonds of fate and at last defy the tyrannous stars!”
Alti paused a moment, and collected himself. “Much blood has been spilt this night. That was not my intention. It is the failure of your own leaders that brought us to this conflict. When I left to find what I needed for this great cause, I left you in the caring hands of the Wayseer Erasiel, who guided you all to this haven amidst the ruination of the Spirefall. It was your Satraps who turned upon him and slew him. I did not create the hatreds that have divided you. It was your Satraps who allowed their pride and sins to shape this devastating war. Had they not killed my steward and destroyed the land I entrusted to them, I would not have needed to raise this castle above your heads. Look inside yourselves, each of you. You know that, in truth, none of them could lead you. Each is ruled by their failings, and each would bring this land to ruin.”
“My work shall soon begin. The Wayseer Vashti stands by my side, who was once slain by the passions of those that would rule you. She knows the truth. Several of your satraps stand with me as well. Their loyalty and vision shall be rewarded in the new world that is to come. Many of you have voiced your support as well, privately and publicly. You shall have the opportunity now to join this great endeavor. Those deluded few who fight only for their own pride and ego, who seek a throne instead of a purpose, shall no doubt stand against me, and shall order you to do so as well. Do not listen to them, for they shall bring you to ruin for their own glory and nothing more.”
“Now, at last, is the time. Let us break the tyranny of fate together.”