Monday, 18 February 2013

Storm of Chaos - Eye of the Storm - Part 3

Greetings all, and welcome on this glorious Monday morning to the final part of my three part 'this is where I think the action should go' fan fiction for playing games following the lifting of the Seige of Middenheim at the climax of the Storm of Chaos Campaign.

I have deliberately saved the most important factions till last, but before I begin, I will try to pre-empt two questions readers may ask, especially those who were there for the campaign itself.

Firstly, I haven't written fluff for every race in the game or that was included in some way in the original campaign. This is because one of the things I dislike about such affairs is when the organisers try and shoe horn every single race and faction into the story and sometimes it just isn't appropriate and doesn't benefit the story in my opinion. Therefore I have only included the races that would be directly involved in the fighting in the Empire, which would make the action more cohesive. Other races could of course play a part, but as bit players and journeymen rather than as main protagonists.

The second is regarding my decision to include the Ogre Kingdoms. The Ogres didn't feature in the original Storm of Chaos campaign, because at the time they weren't even a playable army, but I think my reasoning is sound.

My decision to include the Ogres was twofold: The first reason is the fact that the timeline year is currently one year before the Storm of Chaos took place and the Ogres are now a well established race means that if the campaign were to be re-run, it would be natural for them to be included. The second reason is that the Rulebook background is drawing the Ogres ever closer to the Old World - many Tribes have already arrived - and that Grimgor Ironhide is trying to recruit them to his cause.

This second reason in particular sets the stage for both the Ogres and the Orcs and Goblins to be major players in any post Storm action, and the rest of the factions will be fighting simply for survival if they join their forces to any significant degree.

Without further justification, here are the final four pieces of fluff:

The Ogre Kingdoms

From the northern Dwarf holds of the Worlds Edge Mountains to the rickety watch towers of the Goblin Tribes of Peak Pass and Mount Gunbad, lookouts have spied great columns of dust out across the plains of the Dark Lands. For weeks these clouds of dust have been visible, but their source has been a mystery until now.

First there came great tides of lesser creatures, game animals, and tribes of Goblins, heading west towards the Old World. The frantic Wolf Riders of the Goblins brought with them tales of an immense and insatiable creature from further east, all tusks and grumbling belly, that devoured everything in it’s path, save those who could offer mounds of gold and glimmering trinkets, or else lead it to even more sustenance, and afterwards it would devour those as well! On and on the rumors of the creature came, ever westwards, ever hungry.

It was the Rangers of Clan Elriksson that brought the truth of this creature. Moving fast, well armed, and with great furred beasts of the Mountains of Mourn in tow, a great migration of Ogre tribes were on the move. Far to the east, in the foothills of the Mountains of Mourn, the Rangers witnessed an exchange between a Warband of Orcs, and the Paymasters of Greasus Goldtooth, the Gutlord himself. The Orcs, carrying with them a standard bearing the tribal emblems of Grimgor Ironhide, had driven a team of four hulking Squiggoths across the plains, dragging behind them a huge and ramshakled wooden wagon, plated with rusted iron, and loaded to bursting with gold taken in plunder from all the races of the Old World. The creaking wagon was mounted with sharpened stakes along it’s high sides, each of which impaled the diminutive bodies of Gnoblars, stacked one on top of the other: those who tried, foolishly, to steal the treasure horde of Grimgor, destined for the Lord of all the Ogre Tribes. This spectacular treasure, offered by a muscled and armed Orc Warboss in exchange for marching his warriors west to war in the Old World, was accepted. However, the bargain was not sealed with blood until the Orcs had agreed to also give over the Squiggoths, to bless the feast table of the Goldtooth and his warriors.

Several hours later, after much belching and butting, and Greasus Goldtooth had finished picking the last strings of Orc flesh from between his yellowing tusks, he announced that the bargain was made, they would march west over the Worlds Edge Mountains, to war…

The armies of Manfred von Carstein

Having scattered the remnants of Archaon’s forces at Sokh, Manfred has marched his army east. The naive leaders of the Empire, which had themselves failed to take Sokh after bitter street fighting, believed Manfred’s ‘retreat’ to be due to the defiance of the Grand Theogonist, Volkmar, but in truth, he knew he needed to protect his centre, and the vast power and knowledge stored there, from the encroachment of the hordes of Vardek Crom into Sylvania.

As Manfred turned and rode away from Middenheim, there was in fact an evil grin seeping across his pale visage, for armies under the command of his most trusted lieutenants had already marched across the borders of Sylvania into the eastern Empire States of war ravaged Ostermark, hated Stirland and Talabecland. The humans could never comprehend his great ambitions, for they were short lived and thought in terms of weeks and months, not the years, decades and even centuries his complex plans could encompass. There was one pressing consideration though. With the vast size of his forces, he must have a victory, to reinforce his dominance and keep the Vampires of his horde in order.

Trust among Vampires is a fallacy in purest form though, and whether Manfred is able to retain control of his lieutenants without his direct influence remains to be seen. It has ever been the way with Vampire kind that they rule through fear rather than loyalty, and only the strongest of wills can ensure their continued obedience...

Will the depleted but jubilant forces of an Empire and its allies battered by war be able to counter this new and terrible threat, or will the Empire finally fall to the cold machinations of the Vampire Counts?

The Empire

The Empire was in turmoil. Though the siege of the city of the White Wolf had been broken, and the forces of Archaon forced into retreat, the Warlord himself still lived. He was surrounded within the virtually impregnable fortress of Brass Keep, his greatest surviving warriors gathered about him and the walls of the edifice protected further by vile enchantments. Valten was gone, and none knew for sure where, but those who knew of the manner of his disappearance feared the worst. Some of the nobility with an eye on the throne themselves muttered in muted whispers about how conveniently this challenge to Karl Franz position had so neatly been removed.

Despite the hardships the Imperial forces had suffered, now was not the time to fall to complacency, and Karl Franz had ordered a mustering of the remaining Empire forces, bolstered by reinforcements from the southern States spared the horror of the war thus far. A decisive push must be made to cleanse the land of the forces of Chaos and drive them back to whence they came, or destroy them utterly. Archaon himself must die, so that he would have no chance to reorder his forces and plunge the Empire once more into bitter war. The northern States that had borne the brunt of the fighting were in ruin, and great was the task of rebuilding ahead of them. The roving bands of Beastmen and fur clad Marauders must be hunted down, and any treacherous men of the Empire who, in their darkest hour had thrown their lot in with the forces of the enemy, must be put to the sword as well, lest their taint be allowed to spread.

An army had already been dispatched, heavy with Priests and Witch Hunters, east towards Stirland and far Sylvania. Now that the threat of the Vampire Counts hung once more over their heads, that too must be addressed and ended for all time. Now, while they were on the front foot, the forces of the Empire could be victorious, but it was a hard task to come.

As Karl Franz stood in council around the map table before him and his generals, an outrider entered the tent. He looked worn and short of breath. From within a leather satchel he drew forth a rolled parchment, and kneeling he held it out for the Emperor. Karl Franz took the roll and unfurled it, scanning down the script within. The news was grave. The Orcs were marching south, towards Altdorf...

The Forces of Chaos

Archaon roared in pain. His head swam with terrible images and sounds, and felt as if all the power of Chaos threatened to burst his skull asunder. His body was equally wracked with pain, and it contorted and cracked into unfathomable shapes as the displeasure of the Chaos gods manifest itself. Being the favoured of the four greater deities brought almost limitless power, but it also meant that failure invited punishment from all four as well. His body, verging on the immortal, could withstand far greater physical damage than any simple man, forcing him to endure unimaginable agony while his life force refused to expire. The anger and the will that had brought him so far, down the path of long years, sustained him. It bubbled slowly from deep within him until it began to overcome the pain and the noise.

The malicious deities beyond the veil, a hairs breadth from the material realm, sensed the strength that remained deep within their defeated champion, sensed that, though brought low, the will that had brought him to them endured. It smouldered. They could still achieve their goals through him, though they must commit a portion of their own being to restore their champion...he was not like those champions who had gone before. He was of them, and his hatred burned hotter than the deepest hell.

...Slowly, and with great effort, Archaon, Lord of the End Times rose to his feet. Now he knew how close he had come to oblivion. It did not do to fail the very powers that had given him his chance to have his vengeance on the Empire. He had underestimated his enemy, thought his forces unstoppable. Now he knew better, knew what he faced, knew what waited should he fail once more...now there would be a reckoning. He strode from the chamber...

As always, thanks for reading...