On the PPforums I had this thread with all my narrative battle reports. I'm going to cross-post them since I don't think I will be as active on the PPforums as I was before. In each of these battles, I'm the legion player. All of these games were played during MK2.
Abyslonia stood by the edge of a huge spawning vessel, stretching her new wings to their full length, admiring her new claws and spiked tail. She wondered if the visions she saw of Lylyth's time with the archangels would live up to seeing one right before her. A sudden increase in churning of the vessel pulled her attention back to the present.
"It shouldn't be long now." The lead acolyte said to Abyslonia.
Abyslonia nodded and took flight, ready to meet the gargantuan spawn about to be birthed. As the churning continued to intensify, a swell started to form in the ichor. Then all at once, the great beast burst forth from the vessel, spraying ichor everywhere as it spread its wings and took to the sky. Abyslonia had only a couple seconds to react to the great beast as it came racing up towards her. Tucking one wing, she quickly dove to the side to avoid being slammed by the beast. Once cleared of its ascent, she raced up to meet the new spawn who was now circling the vessel, hungry for its first meal. She cautiously approached the archangel, the buffeting of its wings nearly sending her reeling once or twice. Finally she got close enough to lay a hand on the archangel, binding it to her will. Now under her command, she directed the beast to the nearby feeding cages. With the archangel busy feeding, Abyslonia returned to the vessel and was met again by the head acolyte.
"We have just enough fodder to feed the new archangel, but not enough to support it for long." said the acolyte, "We will need more if we hope to spawn another."
Abyslonia nodded and took flight, heading towards the main sections of the encampment. Flying over the camp, she finally found Anysaa Ryvaal and her Raptors near the northern edge of camp. Abyslonia landed next to Anyssa, spooking two of the ulk nearby causing them to throw their riders and run off towards their makeshift stables.
"My apologies," Anyssa stated as she turned her attention to Abyslonia, "Most of us are still getting accustomed to your new . . form." Abyslonia dismissed her apology, there was work to do.
"The feeding cages are getting low. I need you and your Raptors to accompany me to scout out a new source." Abyslonia said.
"They will follow your commands and will be ready when you beckon.â€ Anyssa replied. â€œThere is a human village not far north east of here, near a great river. It should provide us with a bountiful harvest."
"Ensure your ulks don't scatter away during the battle, we will be accompanied by an archangel." Abyslonia hissed. Anyssa nodded grimly and went back to reprimand the riders whose ulk had thrown them.
Heading back into the encampment, Abyslonia made her way to the beast cages. Their current camp had recently been the staging grounds for many of the other warlock's missions so her choices of beasts were limited. There were two carniveans in the large paddock, several raeks bounding around in another, a handful of shredders that were being trained by beast mistresses and a naga curled up under a fallen log asleep. She summoned a carnivean, raek and the naga to accompany her as well as one of the shepherds tending the paddocks. She headed back to where the archangel had just finished feeding and was grooming itself, cleaning off the last little bits of ichor stuck to its body. Abyslonia took a moment to gaze at the magnificent beast under her command. Even the massive bulk of the carnivean seemed minuscule in comparison to the archangel. Absylonia felt a growing eagerness to see the archangel in battle. She had seen the battle between Charsaug and the archangels though Lylyth's eyes, but she yearned to see what one could actually do, herself.
With her beasts gathered, she heard the sound of hooves approaching. It was Anyssa and a full unit of her Raptors approaching.
"We are ready whenever you are." Annyssa said, bowing her head to Absylonia.
"You and your Raptors will be the vanguard of the attack. Draw any defenders to the center of town so that the archangel can finish them off. Keeping the archangel alive is the top priority.â€ And with that command, Abyslonia took to the air followed by the archangel. Her carnivean, raek and naga did their best to keep up with the swift Raptors as they made their way through the thick brush of the Thornwood.
Meanwhile, Commander Coleman Stryker was waiting patiently for his barge to dock at a small Cygnarian port. It was a dark, moonless night in the Cygnarian shipping town. The barge carried Commander Coleman Stryker, Lt Alison Jakes, and Jr. Warcaster Elis. Also accompanying the Warcasters was Stryker's favorite jack Ole' Rowdy, a Charger under the command of Jakes, a Hunter, Lancer, and their prized possession a mighty Stormwall colossal jack. Commander Stryker had just left the dock master and headed into town to meet with the quarter master when he heard the screams.
"WE'RE UNDER ATTACK!!" a local town guard screamed as he ran towards Stryker. He only made a couple strides before he was struck down by an arrow. Ducking behind cover, Stryker reached out to the dormant cortexes of his jacks, spurring them quickly to life with some extra effort. Surveying the battlefield he was able to find their attackers; swift, nimble humanoids riding large ulks. He turned back around and was greeted by Jakes, Elise and his jacks. The Stormwall was lumbering up behind them with a trio of gun mages following in its wake.
â€œElise, get this town evacuated! Move as many people onto the barge as you can and be ready for immediate departure!â€ Stryker ordered over the noise of the battle. The Jr. Warcaster nodded and ran back to the barge, relaying Strykerâ€™s orders and started to evacuate the town.
"Jakes, it is you and me from here out." Stryker gave the Jr Warcaster a smirk "We have to keep them busy till we can get as many people out of the town as possible. You take right flank and keep an eye out for their cavalry. I'll take the main force and the gunmages and keep their attention towards the center!"
Jakes nodded, and moved to take her position on the right side of the town. She and her Charger started their advance. They ducked between houses, taking shots at the swift riders when they had them. They scored several hits and knocked the riders off their mounts. Once the pair neared the southern edge of the town they saw the main force of the invaders attacking the town. A large beast with paws almost as big as Rowdy's hammer charged out of the woods, belching fire that engulfed a line of defenders with pikes. They screamed briefly before being reduced to a pile of smoldering ashes. A flash of movement behind the large creature caught the Jr Warcaster's eye. Lending her power to her Charger, she commanded it to take an aimed shot at the smaller creature. The Charger took aim and let loose a volley of shots. The first shot hit and slowed the creature enough for Jakes to get a good look at it. It was much smaller than the first creature, about the size of a large war dog but had a longer tail that ended in a vicious spike. The Charger's second shot missed and the creature darted away, vanishing once again into the night. Seeing that she was outmatched against the larger creature, she and her Charger made a quick retreat back to Commander Stryker to inform him of what she saw.
Making her way back to the center of the town, Jakes realized how grim their situation really was. The Stormwall and Hunter were effectively taking out the cavalry, but the main threat was coming from the sky. A gigantic form, easily as large as the Stormwall, was swooping in and out of the town. Each time it came close to the town it would unleash a hail of fireballs, destroying houses and setting many of the townâ€™s defenders aflame. She had just arrived at Stryker's position as the great beast swooped down again, rendering two of the three gunmages to ash. Styker was ordering the Stormwall and Hunter to take shots as the great beast passed. Each shot that landed would make a visible wound on the beast, and it would fly away only to return looking as if it had never been shot.
"HIT THE DIRT!!" Stryker shouted at Jakes. She had just enough time to drop to the ground before a winged form swooped over her, a spiked tail connecting with her power field causing it to spark and briefly diminish. The form continued past her and landed near the center of the town, the flames behind it giving light to the abomination. The creature looked female, but was significantly taller than a human female; she had large leathery wings sticking out of her back, wicked looking claws on her arms, and a spiked tail that seemed to drain energy from anything it touched. Runes glowed around the creature, and spread to the beasts that were coming up beside her, causing their wounds to seemingly close on their own.
"She's a Warlock! Get everybody to the barge NOW!" Stryker shouted to Jakes as he directed his Stormwall to open fire on the Warlock. The Stormwall opened fire with its chain guns, sending dozens of shots towards the enemy line. The Warlock was nimble for her size and was able to evade most of the shots and the ones that connected didn't seem to faze her at all. Once the Stormwall leveled its big guns at the Warlock she vanished in a flash of light.
"Damn it! Where did she go?!" Stryker shouted.
"Up there!" Jakes said, pointing to the Warlock who had appeared on the roof of a nearby house.
The Warlock pointed towards the Stormwall and let out a piercing cry. The sound of muscle and sinew stretching and growing filled the air as the beasts before them seemed to grow right before their eyes. Muscles bulged underneath their skin, stretching it taut. Their claws grew longer, and horrid wings sprouted from their backs.
"Jakes get back to the barge, NOW!" Stryker commanded as he directed the Stormwall to turn to assail the Warlock. Jakes hurried back to the barge with her Charger in tow. Once there, she turned to see if she could help at all. From her vantage point she could see as the colossal machine turned its guns towards the Warlock. She briefly glanced upwards and saw a terrifying sight; the large winged beast was diving straight for the Stormwall! She barely had enough time to shout out a warning to Stryker before the massive beast collided with the Stormwall, all four claws digging deeply into the machine and toppling it over. Hearing Jakes' warning, Stryker jumped out of the way before he was crushed beneath the tumbling mass of metal and flesh. The archangel tore into the prone Stormwall, rending armored plates and tearing the chain guns out of their emplacements. The archangel finally got a grip on the Stormwall's head and in a sickening sound of sheering metal, tore it off. Returning to his feet, Stryker commanded Rowdy and the Hunter to return to the barge at once.
The town had been lost. In their desperate attempt to get back to the barge, Stryker noticed the large warbeast break out in a charge towards him. Rowdy stepped in front to intercept the beast barreling down on his master. The warbeast slammed into Rowdy, sending him sailing backwards into Stryker, knocking them both backwards with tremendous force. The warbeast was able to take one swing at Stryker with an oversized claw. Stryker brought Quicksilver up in time to block, his power field absorbing most of the impact, but it still sent him skidding backwards. Rowdy again, stepped in to protect his master, this time joined by his Lancer. But the pair were overwhelmed by the ferocity of the beast. Stryker, struggling to stay standing, noticed the smaller dog-like warbeast start running and take a bounding leap. With the aid of its new wings, the beast soared right over Rowdy and landed just in front of Stryker still in step to ram its armor plated head directly into Stryker; the force of the impact slammed him back several yards. His vison blurred and the sounds of metal clanging and beasts roaring echoed in his ears before everything faded to black.
Stryker awoke several hours later. He was on the barge sailing down river. Bruised and bandaged, but alive. He had lost his Hunter and Lancer covering his rescue, Rowdy was badly damaged and his trio of gunmages were gone. He slowly sat up in his makeshift bed and accepted the cup of warm soup that Jakes offered him. They had lost the town, but he promised to return and send those demons to their graves personally.
Madrak Ironhide strode through his Kriel, it was a dark, moonlit night. He had often wandered in the night, the murmurings of the axe Rathrok keeping him awake. As he approached the edge of the small village, he took pause to gaze out over a patch of fields the village had created to sustain them. As he peered over the fields, he noticed a single figure standing at the edge of the tree line at the far end of the field. The figure took notice of him and slunk back into the shadows. Alarmed, he woke the warriors of the Kriel, two full units of warders poured out of the barracks, joined by a sorcerer adjunct. The Sons of Bragg were also accompanying him on his journey and they stumbled out of the local tavern, joined by a Champion Hero, and the Krielstone bearers and elders. Madrak also called out to Mulg, the ancient troll who was on loan to him while Hoarluk dealt with more political matters with the other Kriels. Finally he called his trusty axer to his side. He wasn’t sure what he saw, but if he was right, they would be in for a long night. His troops assembled, Madrak ordered the warders to form a line and quietly make their way through the field, the rest of the army followed closely behind, with the stonebearer enhancing their armor and strength with the great stone he carried. As they made their way through the field, a sudden light lit up the night and sailed towards his line.
“LOOK OUT!” Madrak shouted, as the ball of fire soared into his line of warders. Most were able to get out of the way, but one unfortunate soul was consumed entirely by the blast. Distracted by the blazing fire, they barely had time to prepare before they were beset on both sides. On their left they had swordsmen who seemed to be surrounded by an unnatural darkness charging them, while on the right they were faced with a group carrying smaller curved, wicked looking blades that sent streaks of magic sailing at his line of warders as they approached. At the back of the group Madrak saw the beast who shot at them step out of the forest, flanked by another beast of equal size, but in place of hands had wicked looking scythes, almost as big as Mulg’s runeclub. But what caught his main attention was the slender woman who stepped out beside the beasts. She was clad in sleek armor and wore three clawed gauntlets which made her more resemble the beast at her side than a woman. Almost as one, the three started to run towards the Kriel. Two slithering beasts made their way up the field in front of her; one looked like a small snake, but would every now and then stop and release gouts of poison from its mouth, dissolving tissue anywhere it touched. The other seemed to be almost humanoid, two great arms sticking out of its torso, which was covered in appendages that looked as if it could open and engulf something.
Madrak had only a second to think before they were beset by the swordsmen and magic slinging warriors. He fueled his stonebearer with his fury to enlarge the area in which they could bolster their defense and sent his axer into the fray of swordsmen. It and the warders had a difficult time hitting the nimble warriors, but when they did their strikes rang true and the attacker would fall. While Madrak was commanding his warriors, the warder directly in front of him was ripped forward and knocked to the ground, barely surviving his ordeal. Through the hole, Madrak saw the woman send forth a wave of energy, and felt himself get yanked forward, out from behind the ranks of his warders. Landing on one knee, he barely had time to register what happened before he was assaulted with more magical bolts. One after the other they slammed into him, brining him near to death, but the strength of the Kriels are not so easily defeated.
Once the volley had stopped, Madrak stood once more, fury storming in his eyes. He let out a warcry, allowing Rathrok’s lust for carnage to sweep through him and his warriors. Allowing them to not only swing faster, but do so on the move. With this boost, he and his warders cleaved their way through both the magic slingers and the swordsmen in front of them till they were no more. Mulg had engaged the scythe handed beast and with three great swings of his club, smashed the creature’s skull, sending it crashing to the ground in a heap.
With a chance to survey the field, Madrak directed Sons of Bragg and what was left of one unit of warders to engage the last large beast, who had been busy fighting the axer. Madrak tried to pinpoint the location of the slender woman, but to no avail. Both her and the two serpent creatures had vanished. All the while the warders and Sons of Bragg were able to surround the great beast and set into it with a flurry of blows. The great beast was able to pulverize two warders with its large fists before they were able to slay it. He was amazed that the larger creature still fought on even with the disappearance of its master. Truly it showed the fanatical devotion these creatures have to their masters. With the last of invaders killed, Madrak took stock of his army, two warriors remained of one of his group of warders, and the other had suffered minor injuries. The swordsmen they fought had trouble penetrating their thick armor after the initial charge.
“Burn the blighted bodies,” Madrak spoke to the trollkin champion, “and set a watch for tonight. We don’t know if that was just the beginning.” The champion nodded and went about giving orders and setting the warders to a watch schedule.
Wrathar approached Madrak and slapped him on the back, “Good fight! Time for a drink!” he said in high spirits. His brothers already unstrapping mugs and pouring a strong smelling ale from pouches on their belts.
“Maybe another time.“ Madrak replied, carefully wiping the blood from Rathrok.
Wrathar shrugged, took an outstretched mug from Tor and took a large gulp as the three walked back to the tavern. This force seemed small in comparison to the reports of Legion movements he heard from the other Trollkin warlocks. With patrols set, Madrak finally was able to return to his hut and tried to sleep, doing his best to ignore the murmurs of Rathrok. With tonight’s carnage he was hoping the axe would be quelled enough to let him sleep. He assured it that this would not be the last time it would taste blood.
The wind whistled in Lylyth's ears as her ulk-drawn war sleigh soared through the night. With the aid of her Nephilim Bolt Thrower, she was able to augment her ulk, allowing them to fly above the tree tops. Racing across the canopy she searched for her quarry. The report from her scouts indicated a small Cryxian force was accompanying a Lich Lord in the North Eastern corner of the Thornwood. The possibility of singling out a Cryx Lich Lord was too great of an opportunity to pass up. Lylyth was dispatched with a small, elite force to hunt down and kill the Lich Lord.
Not far in the distance she noticed the distinct plume of necrotite smoke. Lylyth flew low to the treetops, her Angelius, Seraph and Bolt Thrower followed closely behind her. Using her Blighted Vision she was able to locate her ground forces quickly. A full company of striders, accompanied by an officer and musician, were nimbly making their way through the dense brush. A single DeathStalker was keeping pace off to the stridersâ€™ right. A pair of shepherds were trying their best to keep up with the swift rangers.
Locating the Strider Officer she called out to him. I've spotted our prey; they are only a short distance ahead of us. I saw a clearing that they will have to pass through if their course remains the same. I'll draw his attention, and then you attack from the sides!â€ Lylyth gave the Officer the location of the clearing and with a nod he turned to relay the new order to his unit. As one, they shifted their path and broke out into a sprint, navigating the dense brush with inhuman speed thanks to the blighted blessing bestowed upon them. The two shepherds pushed themselves harder to keep pace, to little avail.
Goreshade was making good time through the dense Thornwood. He spent many years here studying the Iosian defenses, searching for any gaps in which he might sneak in a small army. His current expedition was taking him to one of the northern edges of Ios. He only brought a small force with him to lessen the risk of accidentally betraying his position. He had two Stalker bone jacks scouting ahead of his force. Following swiftly behind them were a full unit of Bane Thralls accompanied by an Officer and Standard Bearer as well as the Bane Lord, Tartarus. He only brought one hell jack with him; a Harrower, whose ghostly gun was great for shooting the Circle druids hiding behind trees. His trek had been a long and arduous one; on several occasions he had to re-route his forces to avoid the Circle of Oroboros as they hunted the legions of Everblight who were starting to be seen in the Thornwood.
As Goreshade's group made their way through the thick underbrush, the forest suddenly gave way to a small clearing with several fallen pillars scattered throughout it. Goreshade commanded one of his Stalkers to approach the pillars. Inspecting the runes through its eyes, they appeared to be Circle sacred stones, similar to ones that he encountered earlier in his trip. Wary of the possibility that this could be a trap laid by the Circle druids, he cautiously ordered his army forward into the clearing, ensuring they all keep a vigil eye on their surroundings. He sent his Stalkers around the outer edges of the clearing while his army made a swift march through the center. His army was so concerned with a trap springing from the ground that they barely had time to react as Lylylth dove down from the sky on her war sleigh, followed closely by her Bolt thrower, Angelius and Seraph. She landed on the far side of the clearing and turned to face the Lich Lord.
"I will bring your head back as a trophy for Everblight!" Lylylth yelled as her ulk reared up and her beasts let out a roar. The group then broke into a full charge directly at the enemy Warcaster.
Goreshade barely had time to think before the large beasts were nearly upon them. The beasts seemed to move with an unnatural speed. The Seraph, Angelius and Lylyth all took shots at the line of Bane Thralls; the darkness that surrounded them offered no protection from the Blighted Vision of the group. The Bolt Thrower flew to the nearest pillar, perched there and unleashed a bolt from its ballista at the nearest Stalker. The bolt penetrated deep into the light armor of the Stalker, breaking its connection to Goreshade. The Seraph rushed towards the enemy lines, raining fire on the Banes approaching them, reducing two to ashes and knocking two more down. The second stalker turned to engage the Seraph, building up speed for a charge as it approached. Just before the bone jack could reach the Seraph, the Anglius took a steep dive and drove its spiked tail directly through the small machine. The small bone-jack spewed a stream of ichor from the wound that nearly cut it in half and slumped to the ground, ceasing to function.
With his bone jacks disabled, Goreshade commanded his Banes forward to engage, he also cloaked his battlegroup in darkness as they moved forward. The thralls made it several paces into the clearing when the air around them became thick with a volley of arrows. Lylyth's Striders had joined the attack, taking shots at the line of undead warriors approaching them. The unnatural darkness surrounding the undead protected them from the arrows, their forms vanishing into darkness at a distance. With a clear target now in front of them, the Banes charged towards the Striders. With their serrated axes raised high, eyes glowing with the anticipation of a kill, they charged the Nyss in front of them. Bane Lord Tartarus pointed at the Striders, and started chanting in an attempt to curse the Nyss when the Bane next to him broke into pieces, an enchanted arrow sticking out of its skull. As Tartarus tried to return his focus to his curse, the Bane on the other side of him toppled to the ground, another enchanted arrow sticking out of his skull. Again Tartarus returned his attention to the battle; he looked up just in time to see Lylylth swoop down from the sky, her bow aimed directly at him. He let out a defiant howl as Lylyth loosed a shaft and sank it into Tartarusâ€™s skull, her blighted energy increasing the power of Whisper. The Bane Lord dropped his axe and faded back to nothing, leaving behind an empty shell of armor, the rest of the Banes continued with their charge. The Striders were able to dodge most of the attacks, with only two succumbing to the undead strikes. As they came close to the Banes, the Striders noticed their armor grew brittle as one unlucky Strider was split completely in half by the combined strike of the Bane Officer.
Motioning for his Harrower, Goreshade directed it to approach the battle and shoot the Angelius in the sky. Moving into position, the crab-jack pointed its mortifier cannon and let loose a shot. Empowered by Goreshade it connected and sent the beast whirling backwards. Goreshade's Deathwalker made the mistake of straying too far away from her tree and was impaled by two arrows from Whisper, the third shot connected with Goreshade's powerfield causing it to shower sparks. Ducking behind a tree, Goreshade surveyed the battle through his Harrower. His Banes were being whittled away, the nimble Nyss were too fast for them to hit. His Harrower had taken several shots from the Seraph and Bolt Thrower and had lost its Perisher to the Angelius. Goreshade drew upon necromantic powers to summon a small unit of Bane Thralls around him. He then sacrificed one of the Banes to teleport his Harrower out of danger. The large jack vanished just as the Angelius plunged its tail spike into the ground where it stood moments before. With the crab jack appearing at his side, Goreshade turned back into the forest and broke into a run. This setback that would impede his progress into Ios, but he knew of another route to his destination. He and his group ran in the direction of where he thought one of the Cephalyx tunnels emerged, his pursuers would be hard pressed to follow him through that passage.
With the last of the Banes destroyed, Lylyth surveyed the area. Over half of her striders had been killed along with the DeathStalker. The wounds on her beasts were being treated by the panting shepherds that had just arrived at the clearing. Once her beasts were healed, Lylyth gave her Strider Officer an order to start a wide search for the Lich Lord. She then took to the sky followed by her beasts, resuming the hunt for her prey.
Hoarluk was faced with a dismal scene as he approached the small Trollkin village. He had received urgent messages from a nearby Kriel informing him that they were under attack by the Legion of Everblight. Hoarluk mustered what forces he could find and quickly made his way to help the village. Two dire trolls accompanied him; a Mauler and Mulg, his favorite companion. He also brought a full unit of Champions led by Skaaldi Bonehammer. Following quickly behind the Champions were the Stone Scribes and the Krielstone Bearer, escorted by a Champion Hero.
The village, which was comprised of a dozen huts in a circle around a large central gathering area, had been utterly destroyed by the Legion raid. Debris was scattered throughout the small village and each hut had been ransacked. Hoarluk ordered Skaaldi to secure the perimeter as he and the Dire Trolls searched for survivors with the Stone Scribes. As Hoarluk made his way through the village a feeling of dread came over him, when he realized the settlement was empty. There should have been at least twenty Trollkin living in this Kriel and so far not a single body was found, alive or dead. As he neared the center of the village Hoarluk observed several drag marks leading into the clearing from each hut. He hunched lower to investigate the marks and noticed ragged bits of cloth and flesh speckled throughout the length of each drag line. There were several pools of mostly dried blood near the middle of the clearing where all the lines converged into one and continued out of the village headed towards the forest. The thought of the residents of this Kriel being used to create and feed the blighted horrors spawned by Everblight sent a surge of anger through Hoarluk.
Skaaldi and his Champions had finished and had just returned to the center of the village. Skaaldi approached Hoarluk, who had seated himself in the center of the clearing, his Dire Trolls sitting next to him. The Stone Scribes and Krielstone bearer were busy salvaging any supplies from the huts.
"We saw two sets of tracks, one leading into the village and one leading out. The tracks leading out were difficult to decipher, they must have dragged something behind them to cover their trail." Skaaldi informed Hoarluk.
"What they dragged was the Trollkin of this Kriel!" Hoarluk snapped at Skaaldi, causing the veteran Champion to shrink backwards from the rage brewing in his eyes. The two Trollkin continued to banter about what plan of action they should follow. Should they pursue the tracks, or return to acquire more troops in case they happened upon an encampment of Everblight's followers? During this exchange, Mulg rose to his feet and sniffed the air. The great Dire Troll let out a low growl and looked at Hoarluk.
"Noticed something eh?" Hoarluk asked his companion. Mulg pointed his large club in the direction that Everblightâ€™s forces had left the village. "Let's see what's out there." Hoarluk mutter to no one in particular.
Hoarluk focused himself and unleased a wave of energy that would agitate any enemy warbeasts within his reach, hopefully giving away the position of any beasts hiding in the forest. As the wave reached deep into the forest, a thunderous roar erupted and the sound of trees being torn from the ground followed. Near the area where the drag marks entered the forest, the trees began to shake violently as a large Dragonspawn burst forth in a frenzied state; a shepherd desperately running behind the spawn trying to regain control.
The shepherd finally caught up to the spawn and struck it with her crooked staff, tying to turn the beast back towards the forest. The Ravagore turned toward the shepherd and swiped at her with one of its large paws, sending her sailing backwards into a tree where she slumped to the ground motionless. As the Ravagore turned its attention back to the group of Trollkin, a slender form glided down from the treetops and landed next to the rampaging Ravagore. The pair of grotesque wings where her hands should have been shrunk down to reveal a set of vicious claws. Without a word the female Warlock restrained the Ravagore, draining it of its fury.
"A Warlock of Everblight. ." Hoarluk muttered to himself. Hoarluk recalled the messages from this Kriel and from survivors of other Kriels that had been attacked in the area. A common detail they shared was that the Warlock commanding the raiding parties could change her form at will to suit her needs. She could have wings that would carry her over the heads of the local Kriel defenders, and once in range, her wings would reform into elongated claws and her arms would increase in muscle mass allowing her to tear through the defenders with ease. Each Trollkin that was struck with her blighted claws seemed to lose their innate regenerative abilities.
With the Ravagore finally back under her control, Absylonia turned her attention to the gathering of Trollkin in the center of the ruined settlement.
"I thought we had completely emptied this village," Absylonia mused to herself, "apparently we missed some morsels."
She made a loud whistle and a ruckus could be heard in the forest behind her. A group of blighted Gatormen stepped out of the forest line, followed by a Beast Mistress with two salivating Shredders at her side. A large Scythean and a bounding Raek made their way up to join the Ravagore by Absylonia. With her hands once again lengthening to form a pair of wings, Absylonia took to the air. While she flew over her army, she increased the strength and agility of the Raek and sent out magic to extend the Ravagore's talons, increasing its aggression and making it a terror to behold. The Beast Mistress began empowering the Gatormen with the Shredder's natural tenacity. She landed on top of a pile of debris that used to be a hut, pointed towards the Trollkin and let out a beastly howl, spurring her army into a charge!
As the blighted army drew near, Hoarluk directed Skaaldi to intercept the blighted Gatormen with his Champions. The Trollkin warriors divided into two smaller groups, keeping close to one another to better guard each other from attacks. Mulg instinctively stepped in front of Hoarluk and was quickly joined by the Mauler. Hoarluk lent his power to the Krielstone, increasing the size of the defensive aura they had just begun to radiate; he also imbued Mulg with the Mauler's rage, increasing his already immense strength. With their defenses set, the Trollkin braced themselves against the tide of claws and blades hurtling towards them.
As the lines closed, the Gatorman Bokor invoked a rite to surround his Gatormen with a veil of mists, concealing them from a distance and obscuring their movements up close. Absylonia also sent runes to enchant her Gatormen, increasing their already carnivorous appetite. Knowing the dangers of the large Dire Troll, Absylonia focused and created a small area of blighted energy underneath Mulg; the blighted energy disrupted the connection between Mulg and Hoarluk. The Gatormen lowered their halberds and drove them into the line of Champions managing to skewer one to the ground while the rest were deflected by the Champions' weapons. The skewered Trollkin was quickly devoured by the ravenous Gatormen who pinned him down. The Beast Mistress and her Shredders followed quickly behind the Gatormen, continuing to imbue them with the Shreddersâ€™ tenacity. Darting out from behind the Gatormen, the Raek managed to score several deep wounds on a Champion, but the Trollkin's resilience was strong and the Champion survived the onslaught.
Mulg turned his attention to the enemy Warlock, and began to advance towards her. Before the Dire Troll could reach her, she once again sprouted wings and took to the sky, distracting Mulg long enough for her Ravagore to ram into him, pushing him back into the blight field. The Ravagore pummeled Mulg with its extended talons, but only managed to anger Mulg. Shrugging off the Ravagore, Mulg swung his meaty fist upwards at the Ravagore, catching it under the chin and briefly lifting the spawnâ€™s front legs off the ground. As the Ravagore was coming back down, Mulg swung his rune club down onto the spawn's head in an arcing overhead strike. The force of the blow drove the Ravagore to the ground, shattering its skull. Mulg raised his club and with both hands, brought it down on the spawn, pulverizing the Ravagore's torso and causing its entrails to spew over the ground at his feet.
While Mulg was dealing with the Ravagore, Hoarluk commanded his Mauler to engage the Beast Mistress supporting the Gatormen. His Champions were having a hard time hitting the Gatormen with her support, only managing to kill one and wounding several others. The Mauler let out a howl and broke off in a sprint towards the Beast Mistress. Alerted by the noise, the Beast Mistress turned her attention to the dire troll headed directly for her. She commanded both her shredders to attack the Mauler's legs. The lesser warbeasts began to foam at the mouth and with unnatural speed charged at the Mauler. Diving under the swings of its meaty fists the Shredders each latched onto one of the Mauler's legs. The collision knocked the legs out from under the Mauler and caused it to belly flop onto the ground before the Beast Mistress. With all her might she drove the point of her claymore deep into Mauler's head, causing it to spasm briefly and go limp.
Angered by the loss of the Mauler, Hoarluk again sent out a wave of energy to agitate the enemy warbeasts, causing the Raek to frenzy on the nearest Champion and the Champion Hero. The Hero was unlucky and caught one of the Raekâ€™s tail swipes across his throat causing blood to spray out while the Trollkin slumped to the ground dead. With the protection of Mulg, Hoarluk took a minute to survey the battle. With the Beast Mistress distracted by the Mauler, his Champions were able to wipe out nearly all of the Gatormen, losing only half their numbers to their snapping jaws and halberds. His stone scribes had also started to engage in the battle, attempting to surround the Raek and keep it from Hoarluk. They were having a hard time hitting the nimble Raek, and the Raek was having just as hard of a time inflicting anything more than mere scratches. A pained howl from Mulg drew Hoarluk's attention. The Scythean had charged into Mulg and scored several deep wounds across the dire trollâ€™s chest. Continuing its attack, the Scythean slashed again at Mulg, tearing through more flesh, deepening the existing wounds. The strike continued through Mulg and connected with a Gatorman and a Champion who were fighting next to the dire troll. The Scythean's large sickle severed the head from the Champion and took the Gatorman through the mid-section ripping it in half. Urged on by Absylonia, the Scythean drew back and rammed both scythes into Mulg, driving it backwards and opening a line to Hoarluk. Mulg collapsed to the ground, blood pouring from his wounds.
With a clear path to the Trollkin Warlock, Absylonia imbued herself with the dexterity of the Raek and soared over the line of Stone Scribes, evading their swings with ease. As she descended, her wings retracted and her arms bulged with muscles. With the added force from her descent, Absylonia drove her claws into Hoarluk, spraying the air with his blood as she slashed into him. Slumped on his knees, Hoarluk looked up at Absylonia, a cruel smile crossed her face as she raised another claw to finish the job. A sudden noise stopped her mid-swing; it was her Beast Mistress calling out to her. Without her help the Gatormen had been completely wiped out and several of the Champions were driving her and the Scythean back to the forest while the rest tried to surround Absylonia and the Raek.
The Beast Mistress commanded her Shredders to intervene while she and the Scythean escaped. Aided by her blighted strength Absylonia picked up the old Trollkin and threw him at the line of Champions trying to surround her. Knocking over two of them with Hoarluk, Absylonia took to the sky again, and flew into the forest following the Scythean and Beast Mistress. Her Raek followed suit and leaped over the line of Champions and sprinted away to catch up to the larger spawn.
With Hoarluk severely wounded, Skaaldi ordered the Stone Scribes to carry him while he helped what was left of his Champions. Hoarluk could feel that Mulg was still alive, but gravely wounded. He focused what little energy he had to speed up the dire troll's regeneration, knowing that his own regenerative abilities would keep him alive. With Hoarluk's help, Mulg staggered back up to his feet and re-joined the group. The band quickly made their way out of the village, knowing that the raiders could be back at any moment.
"I hate walking ... " Thagrosh growled to himself as he slogged through the swamps of Blindwater. He was escorting a Throne of Everblight to an encampment in the Thronwood when his war band was forced to move on the ground due to the proximity of several Cygnar ranger groups stationed along the nearby Black river. Thagrosh knew of the Gatormen that inhabited the Blindwater and was reasonably cautious as he made his way, ensuring the Throne had all the protection he could muster. He had strengthened it with his own draconic blood and imbued it with the armored plates of the carnivean that joined him in this trek. He also brought two raeks, a Forsaken and Maelstrum; his favorite Seraph.
As the group veered around a particularly deep pool, Thagrosh heard the Battle Wizard atop the Throne call out a warning. She had been watching several large dark shapes swimming through the swamp off in the distance and they had just started quickly heading their way. Thagrosh took to the air to investigate for himself just in time to see a harpoon launch out from the water and strike the Throne. As the harpoon dug into the Throne power surged through it causing the armored plates to fall off and Thagrosh's blood gift to fade away. Immediately after the bolt struck a Totem Hunter launched himself out of the water, landing half way up the Throne! With another leap the Hunter vaulted over the top of the Throne, tackling the Battle Wizard and diving back into the swamp with his prey. The Throne recoiled upwards at the sudden loss of its controller while a large Blackhide Wrassler erupted from the pool's edge and lunged at it, spooking Maelstrum into the air. With its elongated jaws it ripped large chunks out of the tentacled horror as its claws struggled to keep the Throne's jaws from biting it in half. With several powerful bites the Throne plummeted to the swamp, writhing in its death throes.
Surprised by the large gator jumping out of the water Thragrosh barely had time to notice the group of Gatormen charging out of the pool toward his flank! He pushed the carnivean to enlarge its armored plates and forced it to move to intercept the charge with the help of a raek. The added armor came just in time as two of the Gatormen reached the carnivean and thrust their polearms into the spawnâ€™s neck and chest. Thagrosh felt his connection to the carnivean become fuzzy. Three more Gatormen tried to surround the Raek, but weren't able to pin down the nimble creature. A Gatorman Bokor was behind the group of 4, invoking rites to empower his kin. A scream from where the Throne lay, pulled Thagrosh's attention yet again back to that side. Thagrosh turned to see his Forsaken slump down to the ground, harpoon tips protruding from her back. Finally Thagrosh saw the one responsible for this trap. A Bogtrog with a harpoon launcher rose out of the deep pool on top of a swamp horror. He smirked and leveled his harpoon gun at Thagrosh, and sent a shot over his head trying to force him back down to the ground. As Thagrosh touched down he let the dragon's fury completely consume him. An ear-splitting roar erupted from Thagrosh as the beasts around him echoed in their own blood-curdling howls.
Thagrosh closed the distance to the Gatormen hacking up his carnivean, with surprising speed; the jet stream behind him pulled the carnivean back away from its attackers. Taking a diagonal strike on the first Gatorman, Thagrosh gutted him where he stood. The disemboweled Gatorman twitched briefly before erupting in a cloud of ashes, blinding the one next to him. With another sweep Thagrosh took the head off the blinded Gatorman, causing another cloud of ashes to erupt, separating him for the remaining four. Thagrosh paused briefly to command his second raek and Maelstrum to destroy the enemy Warlock and to restore his connection to the carnivean. Focusing his energy he caused its wounds to slightly close. His connection regained, Thagrosh pointed the carnivean to the Gatormen surrounding the raek. Without a word it reared up howling as it charged directly at the group. As the carnivean closed on the Gatormen the raek became a blur, dodging past the strikes of the Gatormen to leap directly over them and pounced on the Bokor behind them. The raek drove its armor plated head into the Bokor and knocked the Gatorman onto his back. With a quick bite the raek tore open the throat of the Bokor, pinning the Gatorman down to bleed to death.
The rest of the Gatormen gave pause; where once was a small spawn now stood a towering mountain of muscle and rage. The carnivean arrived at the trio with its fists raised high in the air. Slamming each one down on one of the Gatormen on the sides, driving them halfway into the muddy bottom crushing their spines. Drawing a deep breath the carnivean spewed forth a gout of flame, consuming the Gatorman in the middle. Its flesh seared to a crisp, the last Gatorman slumped backwards into the water causing the water to steam up around him. Distracted by the rampaging carnivean, Rask wasn't in time to warn his Wrassler of the threat dropping in from the sky. Maelstrum dove down at the Wrassler with its poisonous tail spike leading the way. Following along the ground the raek was carried by the jet stream created by Maelsturm. Using this speed boost it leapt completely over the wrassler and directly towards Rask! Rask aimed his harpoon gun at the incoming raek. His view was blurred at first but as the raek closed he finally had a clear shot, letting another harpoon loose. The shot connected and the impact drove the raek off course landing it in the deep pool. The raek briefly surfaced before it was pulled back under, the swirl of a tail underwater was all that was left.
Maelstrum dove straight for the wrassler, still picking up speed as it drove the spike of its tail through the wrassler's upper arm, nearly severing it off. The wrassler staggered and tripped over one of the Throne's tentacles, the poison from Maelstrum coursing through its veins. Rask hopped off the swamp horror as he sent it to help the wrassler. Things were starting to go poorly and he disappeared into the swamp, his movements covered by the wake of the charging swamp horror. The swamp horror arrived just as Maelstrum was removing its spike from the chest of the wrassler, leaving a deep gash slick with poison. As Maelstrum tried to ascend into the air, the swamp horror stretched out its two hooked talons, ensnaring its tail and left leg. They dug deep into flesh as it tried to pull the flying spawn back into the pool. Unable to lift the bulk of the swamp horror, Maelstrum spun itself enough to turn towards the horror and unleash a hail of fireballs. The shots landed on the horrors face, burning several of its eyes and causing it to lose its grip. Once freed, Maelstrum spun completely about, lashing out with its tail as it moved, slicing off the two hooked talons. With a clear shot the spawn then drove the spike through one of the large eyes of the horror, causing it to spasm briefly and go limp as the wound oozed with poison.
With no other threat in sight Thagrosh's vision started becoming clearer, he regained control once again just as Maelstrum landed beside him, gnawing on a bit of wrassler. His carnivean had just finished his second Gatorman and was already starting to look better, while his raek was just finishing up the Bokor. He searched for the other raek that accompanied him but could not feel anything. Returning to the destroyed Throne, Thagrosh salvaged some choice pieces. With a new gator skin bag of Throne entrails, Thagrosh continued on his way to the new encampment. They would have a Throne, Thagrosh now had a new target for their flesh requirements.
Rhyas dashed through the training grounds, a graceful ballet of leaps and bounds avoiding the arcing strikes from her recruits. The training was simple, if the Nyss Swordsmen could strike her with their training swords they would pass. If not, Rhyas’s riposte would eliminate them from the test. She was currently assailed by three swordsmen; the Champion, Abbot and current Commander of the sixth and final group of swordsmen. They were all new recruits sent to her from Saeryn to be trained. Rhyas ducked as the Abbot swung a decapitating strike, a brazen and fool-hearty attempt she thought. She responded by having her Nephilim bolt thrower launch a blunted shot at the Abbot.
The ballista bolt sailed just inches above Rhyas’s head and caught the Abbot full on in the chest, launching him backwards several feet before he fell to the ground. The Abbot’s yelp caused the Naga sleeping under a nearby tree to stir. Raising its head from the ground it cast an eyeless gaze across the training field. Five groups of six swordsmen, each lead by an Abbot and Champion drilled while Rhyas tested the final group. Noticing that the beast she was supposed to be watching was becoming restless, the Shepherd next to the Naga gently tapped it with her crooked staff. The Naga hissed at the Shepherd and turned in a circle several times before coiling back up and resuming its nap.
Back in the arena the champion and commander split up to try and flank Rhyas. In unison the Champion and Commander struck at Rhyas. The Champion swung his claymores in a scissor strike at Rhyas’s upper torso while the Commander swung at her knees. Rhyas twisted and tucked herself into a barrel roll, narrowly evading the strikes. Rebounding as soon as she touched the ground, Rhyas struck the Champion in the stomach with the flat of her palm. The Champion drew a sharp breath as soon as the strike connected and Rhyas invoked her blighted energy to vanish into thin air. She quickly reappeared behind the Champion and heel kicked him in the back. The impact sent the champion tumbling into the Commander and the pair of them to ground. Leaning on his training sword, the Abbot hobbled over to help the Champion and commander to their feet. Allowing herself a moment to relax, Rhyas felt the imposing presence of Thagrosh watching her through her Athanc.
“How goes the training?” Thagrosh asked.
“They are making progress... but they need a real fight to prove anything.” Rhyas responded.
“Careful what you ask for.” Thagrosh growled. “Lylyth’s scouts report that a host of Skorne lead by Supreme Aptimus Zaal were conducting an expedition not far to the North of your training grounds. His forces have two groups of Immortals each lead by two Ancestral Guardians. Back near Zaal, an extremely ornate statue wielding two swords strode next to an elaborately robed extoller. We have also confirmed that a ghostly presence has been seen scouting ahead of the war band. They have a pair of cyclops and a small basilisk as well.”
An eager grin crossed Rhyas’s face. “That will work perfectly. We will move to intercept immediately.” With that Rhyas walked over to gather the recruits. On her way she summoned the Nephilim to her side and motioned for her Shepherd to bring the Naga. As she neared the platoons of swordsmen, she nodded to the Abbots to assemble the recruits. Forming quickly into six columns of eight, the swordsmen initiates stood perfectly still, awaiting the announcement of their next test.
With all accounted for Rhyas began. “Initiates, I have just been informed that the time for your final test has come. The Dragon’s Eyes have uncovered a group of Skorne trespassing on our training grounds. They cannot be allowed to discover this location. Their band is small, several groups of animated stone warriors with a pair of cyclops. Your task is simple, defeat the enemy and kill their leader. Survive and you pass. Failure is not an option, you either die by their hand, or mine. We leave in 20 minutes, prepare.“
And with that she motioned for the Champions and Abbots of each group to her while the group of initiates gathered their weapons and began preparing for this final challenge. The assembled leaders formed a two rank deep line in front of Rhyas, Champions kneeling while the Abbots stood behind. Each pair beamed with anticipation as Rhyas approach to address them. She paused once mid-step as Lylyth reported the current movements of the Skorne army.
“The Skorne are going to be passing within one hundred yards north of us in the next half hour. Once Lylyth confirms that the war band is close enough we will strike. Our lines will be set three platoons across and two deep. The lead three will have the glory of springing the trap.” The Champions all eyed the others up, wondering who would be chosen. “Callael, Laconfir, and Pelyth.” The three Champions rose to their feet as the name of their Abbot was called. “Your platoons will be the vanguard of the attack. It will be up to the three of you to coordinate the ambush and bait the trap. You have 15 minutes to prepare.” Rhyas waved the six swordsmen off, each pair sprinted off to gather their troops and began to assemble them for battle by the woods edge.
Rhyas turned to the last three pairs standing before her. “Rillis, Sarlos, Thale.” The last three champions stood to attention as their Abbots were called. “Your groups will be the strike that breaks the Skorne lines. Rillis will follows Calleal, Sarlos follows Laconfir and Thale; your group will follow Pelyth. It is your job to support your fellow swordsmen. As the rank in front of you begins to falter, send in your troops as replacement.” The Abbots nodded in acknowledgement. “You have 10 minutes to prepare and then we move out.”
Rhyas finished and waved off the last three pairs of swordsmen. By now the last three groups had finished preparing themselves and stood ready at attention. Rillis, Sarlos and Thale, quickly gathered their initiates behind the platoons of Callael, Laconfir, and Pelyth who had assembled at the forests edge of the training field. As Rhyas began to make her way to the assembled swordsmen, she paused as her Naga and Bolt thrower turned around and hissed. Stopping, she scanned the area behind her through their eyes and saw a trio of hex hunters approaching her. Impatient, Rhyas had the Naga spit out a venomous glob at the hex hunters, causing them to drop the cloak of mists hiding them. They approached Rhyas, two kneeled while the leader spoke.
“The Black Frost Shard, reporting to the Sigil of Everblight.” Servyn addressed Rhyas with a deep bow. “We have come to aid you in the defense of this location.”
Rhyas scoffed. “This is the final test for these initiates, the challenge is theirs alone. You may accompany us, but do not interfere unless called upon.” The trio of hex hunters nodded and the group turned to continue on their way. Reaching the assembled warriors, Rhyas readied herself for the coming battle. Not long now, Rhyas thought to herself.
“You are correct Sigil,” Lylyth echoed through her athanc “The lambs are ready for the slaughter.”
A smile crossed Rhyas’s face as she motioned for the Abbots to begin their attack. She sent out a pulse of blighted energy, increasing the speed and dexterity of the Nyss. The group surged into the forest as one, the dense foliage barely hindering them as they sped towards their prey. They were able to hear the Skorne army before they could see them. The stone soldiers made little attempt to be quiet as they hacked a path through the undergrowth.
With the element of surprise with them, the first three groups sprung out of the wood line and charged directly at the left group of Immortals! Caught completely off guard the stone soldiers barely had time to react to the swift attacks of the Nyss. Laconfir and Pelyth directed their initiates into the closest line of Immortals while Callael went to intercept the group of Immortals swinging around from the other side of the Skorne lines. As Callael’s unit neared their target, he noticed several robed figures carrying stones turn toward his initiates. Each stone pulsed and sent a bolt of arcane power sailing towards his initiates.
His warning came too late as three of his swordsmen were annihilated by the arcane power. The Immortals, empowered by the Ancestral guardian behind them, swarmed over the remaining members of Callael’s unit. The stone soldiers combined their attacks to strike the nimble Nyss from multiple angles, ensuring that they couldn’t avoid every strike. Callael’s Champion was able to evade the Immortal’s strikes and in retaliation struck two down. While he struck down a third Immortal a whirlwind of arcane energies formed next to him. The Champion struck out at the Kovass but his swords passed through harmlessly. The Kovass lashed out at the Champion, wasting his body away to nothing but a husk of skin and bone. Callael drew his sword and prepared to face this abomination.
On the other side of the battle, Rhyas watched as Laconfir’s group was shot to pieces by the pair of Cyclops, two extollers, and Zaal. The hail of fire ripped through the initiates as Laconfir was enveloped by a hex blast from the extoller at Zaal’s side. The only remaining member was the Champion who charged an Ancestral guardian. The large statue took a defensive strike at the Champion, skewering the Champion with its glaive. The force of the Champion’s charge forced him down the shaft of the glaive to slash at the statues head, cleaving it from its body. Barely standing, the Champion was overwhelmed by the rest of the stone warriors.
Seeing her left flank falter, Rhyas glanced towards the initiates led by Rillis and Sarlos. The pair were already pushing their groups forward, keeping pressure on the left flank, but not wanting to engage the whirling arcane being. Rhyas quickly looked back at the Black Frost Shard and pointed towards the Kovass. The trio nodded and sprinted over to engage the incorporeal being. As they approached, Rhylyss cursed the Kovass, making it more susceptible to attacks. Vysarr and Sevryn sent bolts of blighted energy at the creature, each bolt caused the Kovass to shriek in pain. Sevryn then drove his enchanted claymore into the Kovass, causing it to let out a shrill cry and dissolve into nothing. Callael gave a quick nod of thanks to the trio then turned to join Rillis’s group as they fought with the rest of the Immortals. Together they pushed back against the wave of stone warriors, cleaving their way through over half the unit before they lost their first initiate.
Pelyth’s group, supported by Thale’s initiates, continued to push into the Skorne line. They were able to reduce the unit of Immortals on their side to just a few remaining warriors, while their own losses had been minimal. With the urge for battle growing too great, Rhyas entered into the fray. Her Bolt Thrower and Naga did their best to keep by her side. She dashed between the initiates to lop off the head of the nearest Immortal. Her Bolt Thrower grew wings and flew to catch up, launching a bolt at an Ancestral Guardian who was charging at Rhyas. The bolt connected with the stone statue, stopping it in its tracks and slamming it away from Rhyas. She continued her assault, decapitating three more Immortals and one extoller before cloaking herself in darkness to avoid shots from Zaal and his cyclops. The shots sailed past her and connected with the Naga, tearing through the beast’s armored plates and vital organs. The Naga screeched and slumped to the ground. Rhyas sprinted to the back of her lines with the Nephilim following her.
Once there she took a brief moment to account for her initiates. Callael’s group was wiped out, she was able to spot Callael fighting alongside members of Rillis’s group. Laconfir and his champion were dead along with most of his unit. Sarlos’s group was currently assaulting two large Ancestral Guardians and an extremely ornate one wielding two swords. Pelyth’s champion was dead, as was most of his unit. Thale’s group had pushed forward in support and the two groups seamless joined into one. They had just finished off the last of the Immortals on that side and were currently striking down the Cyclops Shaman who charged into their lines. A desperate move, Rhyas thought to herself. She scanned the battlefield and saw the Skorne warlock making a swift retreat, calling the remaining two extollers, the cyclops gunner, and the ornate Ancestral Guardian. The remaining guardians and Immortals created a blockade, effectively shunting the Nyss charges and holding them off long enough for Zaal to make his escape.
When the last stone statue fell, Zaal was nowhere to be found. Rhyas began to gather up what initiates remained to give chase but paused as she felt Thagrosh’s presence cause her to halt through her athanc.
Thagrosh spoke to her, “Lylyth is pursuing the Skorne. Her striders will track them and learn more of their presence in this area. The Dragon has need of your remaining Nyss elsewhere.”
Assured that the Skorne would be dealt with, Rhyas gathered her initiates. “Collect the dead, they will have the honor of creating more spawn for the Dragon. We then return to the main encampment for assignment. Well done, Swordsmen of Everblight!”
The swordsmen gave out a cheer and began collecting the bodies and reclaiming claymores from their fallen comrades. The day was glorious for them, they had survived their final test and were finally able to truly serve their new master.
Vayl watched intently as the Cygnarian force made their way through the open expanse of the ruins. This spot used to be sacred ground for the Circle of Orboros, but the constant fighting between Cryx, Cygnar and Khador in the area had left the site in shambles. Several of the large engraved stones were toppled over, creating an uneven ground that forced the Swans to slow their pace. The flock were making haste through the Thornwood to re-enforce an outpost that had been overrun along the Black River. Vayl knew this because she was responsible for the destruction of that outpost and the message sent for help. She hoped to lure them into a trap and so far, it was working.
Most of her group was hiding in the tree line at the Northern edge of the ruins while her newly spawned blight wasps were in the trees directly across the ruins from her spot. Looking through the eyeless gaze of the wasps she was able to take stock of her quarry. A cluster of blue armor clad infantry strode at the fore, she could tell by the standard waving high in the air that they were Stormblade infantry. The soldiers were led by an Officer who seemed to have the nearby Stormclad under his control and accompanied by several members carrying what looked like lightning emitting heavy rifles. Scouting ahead of the group were three pistol wielding horsemen, whose mounts had little trouble over the uneven terrain. The might of the army was comprised of a Centurion heavy warjack and a colossal Stormwall. These two were controlled by a strange looking Warcaster who himself looked more like a warjack with a crane on his back than a person.
“Darius. . .” Vayl whispered to herself, recalling the name of the Warcaster from the files they quickly pilfered from the outpost.
The Warcaster had three little half-jacks that were constantly running around and tinkering with the other jacks in his assembly, fine tuning the machines to keep them in top form as they made their way to help the outpost. To the right of the Warcaster, Vayl saw a young woman who also appeared to being wearing Warcaster armor. Upon closer inspection Vayl could make out that her armor was engraved with the rank of Jr. Warcaster upon it. A stout little Squire jack could be seen marching along to Darius’s left.
The sight of the Stormwall filled Vayl with impatient eagerness. She still remembered the last time she encountered the Cygnarian colossal, and the crippling defeat at its hands. On that day she made a vow to see the great machine broken at her feet, and now was her chance to fulfill that promise. With the Cygnarians almost in range she took stock of her forces. Her company of large dragonspawn included two Ravagores, a Scythean, and a mighty Carnivean. The large spawn were currently being tended by two shepherds. Her blight wasps across the ruins were feeding of Vayl’s growing emotions, becoming restless in their canopy hiding spot. Along with the spawn she also had a company of Hex Hunters, ready to strike down the humans with both blade and blighted magik. A group of Acolytes behind the Hex Hunters were finishing enchanting their vessel and preparing it for imminent spawning, while a spell martyr and Succubus both waited patiently at Vayl’s side. With a nod from Vayl, the succubus began to empower the large spawn with the Carnivean’s armored plates. Vayl enchanted one of her Ravagores allowing it to move after striking an enemy, and heightened the reflexes of her Scythean. With her army prepared Vayl once again peered through her wasps. The Cygnarian line had just entered the widest part of the ruins, directly between the blighted wasps and her location. With the victims in range, Vayl gave the order to strike!
Heeding her mental commands, the blighted wasps swarmed out of the treetops toward the line of Stormguard infantry. Always alert for danger, the infantry Officer sounded a warning as the swarm of man-sized winged spawn dove toward their line. The warning came too late as the swarm collided with the two outermost soldiers, stinging the men through their armored plates till they succumbed and fell to the ground. With their attention directed away from their position, Vayl gave the order for the Hex hunters to engage. The blighted Nyss charged out from their hiding spot directly towards the opposite end of the infantry line. They were followed shortly by the large spawn, Vayl, and the Acolytes with their vessel. Both Ravagores let loose a ball of blighted fire at the Stormclad as they approached. The first blast caught the Warjack in the back, immolating an unlucky soldier by its feet. The Warjack managed to about-face and raise its shield to intercept the second blast, blunting the impact of the shot greatly.
As the second wave of attackers approached, the Jr. Warcaster empowered the Stormwall with arcane power, shielding it from harm. She leveled her pistol at the approaching Nyss and let loose a shot that went wide as her target vanished the moment she fired. Hearing the gunfire behind them, the group of mounted gunmen veered round and started to sprint back to their group, sending their own shots towards the Hex Hunters. Again their bullets passed through the shadowy forms of the Nyss harmlessly. Responding to the larger force coming from behind them, Darius directed his Centurion and Stormwall on an intercept path to the dragonspawn who were closing quickly on their position. He also directed each of his half-jacks to stay near the three Warjacks. The tiny jacks were directed to repair any damage inflicted upon their charges. Pulling extra power from the Squire jack at his side, Darius pushed his jack’s engines to full throttle to be ready to mount a counter attack. Surveying the battle through the vantage point of the Stormwall, Darius spotted the spawning vessel approaching near the rear of the Legion assault. Having heard reports of how these vessels can churn out new spawn he level his steam cannon toward them, sending a shot scattering over the approaching Nyss and spawn. The shot landed just shy of the accursed vessel, but managed to shred three of the attendant Acolytes with the blast. Darius cringed as he saw the remaining Acolytes scrape up the remains of their fallen and toss them into the bubbling ichor without a second thought.
The Carnivean was almost at a full sprint aimed at the Stormclad when the two Ravagore blasts connected with the warjack. As it lowered its shield, the Stormclad was met by the engulfing torrent of the Carnivean’s fiery breath. The blighted fire flowed around the Stormclad scorching its retinal housings and incinerating the half-jack cowering at its ankles. Unable to see, the warjack swung wildly trying to send the Carnviean’s charge off course. One strike managed to connect, breaking off several of the enlarged spines on the Carnivean’s shoulder but did not deter the spawn. At the last moment the Carnivean leapt at the warjack with both oversized paws extended. The impact of the collision drove the Stormclad off its feet, and onto its back. Pinned to the ground, the Stormclad was helpless to defend itself as the Carnivean’s claws and powerful jaws set to the task of dismantling the prone warjack.
The wasps, on the other hand, were having a difficult time now that their element of surprise had expired. The Stormguard Officer had directed some of his men to encircle the smaller spawn and were effectively hacking them down and blasting them with voltaic blasts. The wasps managed to swarm one last Stormguard before a voltaic blast fried the last two, leaving nothing but scorched husks. Shots rang out again as the Tempest Blazers were finally able to draw a bead on the Hex Hunters, their shadowy forms becoming clearer as they drew closer. Not wanting to be flanked, Vayl directed the Hex Hunters to intercept the Blazers while she ordered the Spawning Acolytes to birth a Harrier. The vessel’s churning dimmed for a moment as a thick film grew over the top of the ichor until a form could be seen trying to push its way through. A moment later the air was filled with the shrieks of a newly birthed Harrier. Vayl bound the new spawn to herself and forced it to engage the Blazers. The spawn took to the air with blinding speed and charged directly at the nearest Blazer. The mounted Gunmage tried to steer his horse to evade the charge, but the Harrier’s aim was true and the spawn’s jaws took the man off at his torso, leaving the horse to run wild having just lost its rider. Gulping its first meal down greedily, the Harrier veered around and prepared to make another pass.
With the wasps killed, the Stormguard Officer directed his troops to engage the Hex hunters. The line turned as one and charged the Nyss. On their approach the Storm gunners unleased a hail of voltaic blasts, vaporizing several Hex hunters. Once the lines met, the Stormguard cut down several more with their own voltaic blasts, reducing the Hex Hunter group in half. Seeing an opportunity to push back, Darius directed his Centurion to charge the Scythean and sent the Stormwall lumbering towards the Carnivean. As the colossal machine set on its way, it sent shots at the Ravagores with its main cannons. The impacts slowed their approach, but only made superficial wounds on the two spawn.
As the Centurion approached the Scythean, the warbeast became a blur and moved swiftly out of the path of the charging warjack. The Centurion charged past the Scythean and struck a Ravagore that was just behind it, driving its spear deep into the spawn’s chest. Pulling its weapon free sent gouts of blighted blood pouring from the wound as the Ravagore howled in agony. The Carnivean had just bitten the head off the Stormclad when it noticed the Stormwall looming overhead. All too late the Carnivean moved to escape the colossal as an oversized fist connected with the side of the spawn’s head, shattering its jaws and sending the dismembered head of the Stormclad sailing through the air and into the tree line. Swinging around its second fist, the Stormwall drove it down through the back of the Carnivean. The impact punched through the Carnivean’s body and lodged it on the Stormwall’s wrist. The colossal jack heaved the Carnviean’s corpse into the air as it turned back toward the main fight. It grasped the corpse with its other hand and yanked the spawn free and flung it at the group of Hex hunters. Seeing the incoming shadow the Hex Hunters scattered towards the Blazers to avoid being crushed. Swarming over another one of the riders and dismounting him while the last one sprinted backwards. Most of the Hex Hunters were able to get out of the way but two weren’t so lucky. The Nyss let out a brief scream before they were crushed beneath the mass of the dead spawn.
Visions of her previous humiliation at the hands of the Stormwall filled Vayl with anger as she looked upon the corpse of her Carnivean. Power surged from her athanc as she unleased a powerful blast of blight, disrupting any arcane magiks in the area. Teeming with power she sent one of the Oraculii to connect with the un-engaged Ravagore, allowing it to be a channel for her fury. Through this link she sent a gust of glacial cold, freezing the Stormguard where they stood. An obliterating blast of blight followed the icy cold. The spell ripped apart over half the unit, sending limbs scattering through the ruins and punching a large hole through their line. She sent a second blast directed at the Stormguard Officer, catching him and the last of the Stormguard infantry. The detonation left nothing but a smoldering crater and shredded body parts where the soldiers once stood. She poured a portion of her power into her hurt Ravagore, slowing its blood loss and partially closing the wound, while amplifying its reflexes.
This boon came just in time as it allowed the wounded spawn to swiftly evade the next strike by the Centurion. The missed attack of the Centurion overextended the warjack, leaving it wide open to the Scythean and Ravagore flanking it. Bringing both scythes down onto the right shoulder of the Centurion, the Scythean sheared off the limb from its metal chassis while the Ravagore to its right seized and wrenched free the large metal shield from the Centurion’s other arm. Staggering off balance from the sudden loss of weight, the warjack was unable to move away as both Ravagores grabbed it and hoisted it into the air. With their combined might and a thundering roar the two spawn heaved the Centurion at the approaching Stormwall. The Centurion collided with the right knee of the Stormwall as it stepped forward, causing the joint to buckle and the great machine to topple forward. Urged on by Vayl, the Scythean leapt onto the back of the Stormwall, its scythes tearing into the storm generators on its back. One powerful strike pierced deep into the storm generators and caused them to rupture catastrophically. A blinding flash of voltaic energy and an ear splitting bang, left everyone near the explosion briefly incapacitated. The force of the burst sent the Scythean reeling backwards off of the machine and crashing to the ground, severe electrical burns covering most of its body.
Regaining her composure, Vayl strained to spot the Cygnarian Warcaster through the dust cloud left by the blast. She could still feel her Harrier and forced it to soar high above the ruins so she could get a better view. From its vantage point she could see the machine encased Warcaster and the last remaining Blazer sprinting away, the Jr. Warcaster riding alongside on a horse from one of the fallen gunmages. She started trying to gather up what was left of her force to give chase but once the cloud started to settle Vayl realized she had lost more than she thought. Most of the Hex Hunters had been killed by the mounted Gunmages and Stormguard infantry, along with her blighted wasps. The Hex Hunters that did survive were slumped on the ground, struggling to catch their breath and regain their senses. The spawning vessel had been completely toppled from the blast, sending draconic ichor spewing across the ruins along with the remaining attending Acolytes. Her succubus and Spell Martyr were both consumed by the explosion as well. Her shepherds, who had been hiding in the tree line, had just run out to tend to the severely hurt Scythean. Distracted by her losses Vayl didn’t notice Thagrosh’s gaze upon her through the athanc.
“With your petty vengeance complete, I assume you are ready to move onto the actual plan?” Thagrosh growled through her athanc, snapping Vayl out of her trance.
“Yes Messiah, we will salvage any items of use at the outpost, then resume our search for the Athanc.” Vayl replied coldly. She turned back towards the ruined outpost, her beasts and infantry following. She allowed herself one victorious grin as she passed the destroyed colossal.
Through the eyes of the naga hiding in the brush at the edge of the battlefield Kallus could observe the skirmish undetected. The undead horde of Cryx clashing with the heavily armored Skorne was making enough of a ruckus that his group was able to get close unnoticed.
Scanning the conflict Kallus saw the undead Warcaster. Reaching through Everblight's vast knowledge he was able to recognize the Cryxian spellcaster currently turning a Skorne warrior into a puddle of ichor, it was the Iron Lich Asphxyious. He could make out several helljacks; a Slayer and a Reaper. A bone jack with a cannon for a mouth, and one with a hose dripping sludge were being supported by a pair of necrosurgeons and War Witch Sirens around Asphxyious. The helljacks were tangling with two large Skorne titans, a gladiator and a large bronzeback who were accompanied by a falchion wielding cyclops. To the side of the clash of metal and muscle, a swarm of Bane Thralls tried to avoid blasts from the lines of Incindiarii. Their unnatural darkness prevented the Incindiarii for scoring any direct hits, but the blast still tore through the undead with ease as they surged towards them.
Kallus urged his naga further along the border of the battle to the back of the Skorne lines. As the naga slithered its way through, he caught a glimpse of the Skorne Warlock. He was flanked by a basilisk and carried a twin tipped gulgata. Kallus recognized him and his blood began to boil, it was the man who killed him at the Castle of the Keys. He reached through the mind of the Skorne body he’s currently inhabiting and was able to recall his name.
“Hexeris . . “ Kallus muttered under his breath. He turned to his Beast Mistress with fire storming in his eye. “When I give the signal, we hit them with everything we have!” Kallus ordered pointing towards the Skorne army.
“But won’t that put us between both armies?” The Beast Mistress meekly asked. Kallus could feel Vayl’s icy presence watching him through his athanc, he regained his composure and thought.
“Once one of the lines breaks, your group accompanied by our newly acquired Gatormen will take the loser. I will take the swordsmen, scythean, a shredder and the naga to deal with the victor. But remember, the Skorne Warlock is mine!” The Beast Mistress nodded and headed off to gather her two shredders and Gatormen.
Kallus turned back to his group; he focused and imbued the swordsmen with the tenacity of his shredder. He also agitated his scythean and naga increasing their fury to be ready for him to draw upon when the trap was sprung. A loud war cry alerted Kallus, peering through the naga again he saw Hexeris concentrate his power to unleash a wave of consuming energy. The wave soaked up the fury of his beasts, and drew power from the well of souls contained by Asphyxious as it spread across the area. As the wave reached into the surrounding foliage it also drained the built up fury from Kallus’s beasts, alerting Hexeris of the warbeasts hiding in the brush. Channeling this fountain of energy Hexeris unleashed a storm of hellfire directly at Asphyxious! The explosion of arcane power consumed Asphyxious’s form and in a burst of light the Lich Lord vanished.
With the disappearance of their controller the helljacks slumped down inert. By the time the vile machines shut down the War Witch Sirens and Necrosurgeons were already making a hasty retreat. The banes were too deeply engaged with the incindiarii to escape and continued to hack away. Seeing his moment Kallus gave the order to engage. The Gatormen burst out from their hiding spots and charged directly toward the group of Bane thralls and Incindiarii, the Beast Mistress and Bokor empowering them as the lines closed on each other. With the swordsmen leading the charge, Kallus and his band surged from the brush. Kallus took a moment to bask in the surprise he saw on Hexeris’s face when the Warlock saw him. This time will be different, he thought to himself.
Redirecting the remainder of his pool of energy, Hexeris sent an incinerating blast at the approaching Nyss. The swordsmen paused briefly then simultaneously burst into white hot ashes, leaving nothing but clouds of smoke in their place. Charging through the haze the scythean barreled towards the two wounded titans. The scyhtean’s mass slammed into the bronzeback with a tremendous force. The impact sent the titan skidding backwards and dropping it to its knees. With a target in range the gladiator swung one of its massive gauntlet spikes at the scythean, but a vemon blast from the Defiler let it mostly blind causing its swing to go wide and briefly lose its balance. Not wasting any time, Kallus invoked his blighted energy to guide the scythean’s strikes. With this new precision the scythean gutted the Gladiator with two quick slashes and moved to engage the bronzeback who was just getting back to its feet.
Following the momentum of the scythean, Kallus ran up to the body of the gladiator and vaulted off its back, Hellbrand raised high. He brought the sword down at Hexeris with all his might; Hexeris parried the attack with ease.
“I see you haven’t improved much.” Hexeris shouted at Kallus. He swung his gulgata around in an attempt to remove Kallus’s head with the rear spike. Kallus ducked just in time to have the strike deflect of his pauldron, taking him briefly off balance. Hexeris rebounded and stabbed directly at his unsteady foe. Time slowed for Kallus as he watched the strike approach him. Not again!! Kallus thought to himself as rage coursed through his being.
The Gatormen were able to take the incindiarii completely by surprise. The ones who managed to turn around in time were tackled to the ground while others were skewered in the back. The couple bane thralls that were left and the Gatormen brought down the armored Skrone together in a frenzy of blades and teeth, and then quickly turned on each other. The sheer ferocity of the Gatormen won them the day as the last bane was crushed in the jaws of the Gatorman Bokor. Empowered by the Beast Mistress and her shredders the band took only minimal casualties with two members falling to the undead’s axes. Ensuring there was no other threats; the Beast Mistress quickly gathered her group and turned them around, heading back towards Kallus.
In an instant Kallus’s athanc shard flared up and flooded his body with blight, heightening his reflexes and sharpening his senses. With his newfound agility Kallus diverted Herexis’s attack, sending the Warlock careening towards the fallen mass of the gladiator. The force of Herexis’s attack sunk his gulgata nearly a third of the way up the shaft into the dead titan. Stunned by the sudden change in target, Herexis’s didn’t have time to respond to Hellbrand striking him full on in the back. As the attack bit into his flesh, Hexeris was forced to transfer the wound to his bronzeback. The battered titan reared up wailing as a long, seared laceration tore across its back. Quickly Hexeris kicked backwards catching Kallus in the chest, buying himself enough time to rip his weapon free and regain his stance. Back on solid footing the pair began to circle each other.
Enraged from the new wound on its back the bronzeback struck at its aggressor. With deafening crunch, the titan connected with the scythean’s right shoulder, shattering bones. The impact drove the spawn to the side and almost knocked it off balance. The sure-footed scythean was able to right itself and in retaliation aimed its good sickle at the bronzeback and charged! With a frenzied roar it drove the spike through the titan’s chest and slammed the titan backwards towards the dueling pair. Hexeris heard the bronzeback howl in agony as his link to it was severed.
Sensing the tide turning against him, Hexeris unleased an all-out assault all across Kallus’s body. The swift attacks kept Kallus on his heels as it took everything he could muster to block the incoming blows. A high strike followed by a low sweeping one to Kallus’s knees took him off balance and toppled him to the ground. Hexeris stood above his foe and raised his gulgata high above him to deliver the killing strike. Kallus’s eyes widened as Hexeris prepared for his coup de grÃ¢ce, but Hexeris hesitated. Kallus wasn't looking at him but past him. Taking a brief glimpse over his shoulder Hexeris' eyes widened as well. The scythean’s momentum had carried the two massive beasts over to where the two Warlocks were dueling and was set to drop the entire weight of the bronzeback on top of the pair! Kallus struck Hexeris in the leg, dropping him to a knee and rolled out of the way. He looked back just in time to see the Skorne Warlock get completely buried by the massive bulk of the bronzeback.
The Beast Mistress and Gatormen returned just as Kallus was getting back to his feet. “Where is the Skorne Warlock?” asked the Beast Mistress. Kallus pointed a thumb over his shoulder at the dead body of the bronzeback.
“He’s under there.” Kallus replied, a small smile working its way across his face. The scythean was busy gorging itself on the body of the bronzeback and took a large bite out of the titan’s chest before being called back by Kallus. His trap had succeeded and his vengeance complete, Kallus took his group and headed to the nearest Legion encampment.
As night fell on the battle field, the hole in the bronzeback’s chest started to swell and eventually a blade burst forth. Cutting his way through the bronzeback, Hexeris staggered out of the stinking carcass. His gulgata was broken, his shoulder was dislocated and he was sure most of his ribs were shattered. With a loud pop and a grimace Hexeris reset his hurt shoulder and headed back the way he came. He knew there were other Skorne raiding parties in the area; he just needed to find one before something else found him.