This post details the story that the Dragons at the Drawbridge campaign is following (you can find details about the Campaign Rules here). Dragons at the Drawbridge is a race against time, as the Legion of Everblight seeks to complete a ritual with a stolen athanc, Cryx forces seek to locate them and steal the athanc for themselves, and the remaining factions of the Iron Kingdoms uncover this threat and race to stop both sides from draconic apotheosis. The campaign follows the story of events that we first started with Carnage at the Confluence back in late Spring 2016. While the campaign is taking place, the most current week’s events will be listed at the top of the post (will be reversed when the campaign is finished in December).
Story Week Seven:
Malekus over Grayle
Durant2 over Mortenebra
Denny3 over Malekus
Kreoss over Fyanna
Fyanna over Helynna
Malekus over Gaspy
Hunters Grim over Abby2
Denny1 over Hexy2
Naaresh over Abby2
Vindictus over Abb2
Denny over Kaylssa
Durant2 over Kaylssa
Progress Week Seven:
This was it: the final week before the finale battle. Cryx and Legion are neck-and-neck between clues and unlocking the Athanc, so no advantages on either side there for the final clash. Legion managed to circle their entire base as of last week, so they’ll have a more defensive set-up overall to protect the Athanc. Though the strange powers of magic can have some really odd effects upon what is about to occur! And Trollbloods and Circle sadly failed to make it to either Legion or Khador squares, so they’ll start at a distance disadvantage in the event. But don’t count a wounded Troll out ever!
Story Week Six:
Victoria Haley was skeptical about this whole thing. The strange envoy from Khador who started it all was a bad enough sign. “Kommandant Kerensky or whatever his name was,” Haley thought to herself. “The very fact that our diplomats listened to him was a bad, bad sign.” It had only gotten worse.
Ostensibly it was a joint training exercise. A celebration of culture and mutual recognition between two longstanding foes. A new ground to forge better relations between Cygnar and Khador. “Peace and prosperity in our lifetimes” the diplomats had crowed.
“Bullshit,” thought Haley. “More like human shields.”
Haley had definitely realized that there was more afoot than it seemed. The Khador “joint exercises” never took place, and they only got mumbled excuses when they sought to pursue them. “We’re working out some disciplinary issues, Comrades” said Kerensky when he finally appeared. “Next week we will begin.” That was two weeks prior. The Khador forces had marched out from their encampment many times, and came back looking battle damaged. Haley finally realized the truth when a Skorne scouting party led by an unfamiliar Warlock with a massive sword attacked her advance camp. She suffered losses and had to retreat closer to the main concentration of Cygnar might. As her cavalry slowly trotted past on their retreat path, Haley realized that they weren’t there to actually train or cultural exchange or anything. They were just positioned to hold the flank for the Khadorians.
Her blood boiling, Haley channeled her energy into her magics. She had already unlocked the notion of time more than most anyone, and it was time to use those same powers over space. Effectively conjuring shadowy echos of her future and past self, Haley used them to in a sense scry on the battlefields around her–the histories of the blood spilled. She caught only fleeting images, but they disturbed her greatly.
The first flash was three sets of teeth tearing into the hide of an elephantine beast. Beyond it a strange bent woman with a whip led her forces against a man covered in scars, whose own warriors seemed to be flailing him in some ritualistic manner. The flayed one’s forces were losing, and the howl of the strange hunting dragonspawn seemed to echo in her brain.
Sorscha1 over Helynna
Helynna over Kreoss
Abby2 over Denny1
Abby2 over Goreshade
Gaspy3 over Baldur
Progress Week Six:
This was a big week for the Legion-Khador alliance, netting four total wins between them and finally encircling the Legion base. That means that for the final battle, the Legion forces will have a more protected side of the table and a central strange hideout tower that will help defend their ritual for the Athanc. However, the other forces are closing in–Skorne and Cryx have now earned starting spots in the final battle opposite Legion, and Retribution secured the starting spot opposite Khador.
Story Week Five:
“Filth. Impurity. Grotesque monstrosities.” muttered Magister Helynna as she stood in her command tent, gazing at a map of northern Ios. Tiny ivory pins, carefully carved by Iosian artisans to represent various armies in exquisite detail, were pushed delicately into the map. Helynna’s gaze reviewed them with disgust, as if the beauty of the carvings made the presence of the forces all the worse.
Scout patrols had first located Legion activity in the northeastern reaches, just beyond the border. Assembling a battlegroup in force, Helynna had ventured out to perform reconnaissance in force. She quickly found much more than just mere activity. Her army first encountered a Legion command led by a strange winter witch. Could this have been Vayl, the Disciple of Everblight? The forces engaged with deadly vigor, and while Helynna’s suffered losses she managed to drive the strange winter witch from the field.
Counter-attack from regrouped forces was swift. Again, a host appeared and struck. The strange Vayl again led her forces, acting as Consul of Everblight itself. Helynna used her magics to bolster her forces and weather the storm, which she again managed to do. The Legion was clearly emplaced in force up in the barren valley, and these attacks were sure to continue. Helynna sent word back that she was going to withdraw to the border line to resupply then advance once more toward the foe and root out the source of corruption.
Unfortunately, that had not gone as smoothly as she wished. A column of Cryx warjacks had struck from the woods, seeming to pass unhindered through the dense forest as they crashed into her army. Helynna was stunned. First, Legion, now Cryx? What was happening in this valley. Why were the sources of discord and corruption rampaging in the territory. She was forced to flee in the face of the Cryx and their deadly commander Bane Witch Agathia. As Helynna regrouped, scouts came to report more and more activity in the valley. As she marked her map carefully, she planned resurgence. “The filth will be driven from the lands that border ours” she swore to herself.
While Helynna brooded over her next conquests, one force not yet marked on her map was making advances of their own, unknown to the Iosian commander. With the grind of gears and clouds of steam, the Protectorate of Menoth had finally arrived at the valley. The order from the Harbinger had been clear at first: “after the non-believers have expended their strength, we will drive the power of faith where it wills to go.” Yet the waiting had been difficult on some. Amon Ad-Raza, Feora, Malekus, and Tristan Durant each had reasons and ambitions they wished to drive northward. While Malekus and Durant dutifully obeyed, it was the hot-headed Amon, egged on by a communique from Feora, who had finally broken from the church-army’s grand camp and taken a force into battle.
Amon’s forces quickly raced into the face of the enemy, servants of the Dragon led by Deneghra the Soul Weaver astride her foul flying monstrosity. With trademark abandon, Amon pressed all-out attack against his foe, sending waves of steaming Warjacks trampling across enemy lines and into Deneghra herself. Only through the power of Grave Wind did she manage to survive, her fearsome mount protected by swirling mists of the undead. With terrible vengeance she commanded her Inflictor to strike at Amon himself. In his haste, Amon left himself open to attack and suffered grievous harm, forcing him to retreat from the field… yet leaving the Protectorate’s presence clearly announced.
This forced Feora’s hand in the matter, meaning she had to move her troops to support Amon’s retreat. She rushed toward Deneghra’s position, eventually engaging the deadly witch in single combat after surviving a battering blast of spellfire. While the Grave Winds had protected against the dull clockwork minds of Amon’s warjacks, Feora leveraged her warjacks to strike via ranged, somehow faring better. With Deneghra’s horrific mount alight with fire, Feora herself dashed in to try and land the killing blow. It seemed for a moment that Deneghra would stand firm, but somehow the burning flames that continued on the great beast managed to dissolve too much of it for Deneghra to remain. Her steed flapped awkwardly into the setting sun, still flaming, as she fled from Feora’s wrath.
Progress Week Five:
This week Retribution made a huge surge forward in their progress on the map nabbing two hexes, with Cryx also gaining two. The other new event of the week was the appearance of the Protectorate of Menoth, who started to campaign up from the wastelands and got onto the map.
Week Five also featured a special IKRPG mission run by one of our players, Ryan Nolte. Everyone participated in the big spy-mission show-down detailed in the story above. Big thanks to Ryan for running it for everyone, as it’s cool to vary the pace of things sometimes with some role playing.
Story Week Four:
Agathia’s vaporous form glided over the ridge, the grass lining the path withering at her passing. Behind her trundled a few helljacks and bonejacks, then a long column of banes. Concentrating on the optical receptors of the Stalker that was ranging ahead, she led her force through the hills just below the timber line. Cryx had finally arrived in force, fighting to establish a cleared basecamp in the mountains. They were drawing close, and the Legion were definitely hiding the Athanc in the cluster of small hills that lay in the midst of the valley. It was time for open battle.
Her own force had discovered the truth. After a pitched battle, her soldiers managed to capture one of the strange forsaken from a Legion patrol led by Absylonia. By smashing the great warbeast it followed, it was denied enough magical protection to resist being pinned by her Seether. Agathia summoned her magical power and delved into the strange mind of the former elf. Finally she caught a glimpse of the goal. The Athanc, and a flash of a lonely castle nestled in the hills. The pitiful creature must have gathered there at some point, or been part of the ritual. Agaithia severed the connection, killing the enfeebled creature, and smiled to herself. She had succeeded where her peers struggled. And it was at her evidence, the command to establish a war front was given.
Aikios had led the charge, his helljacks screaming into the ranks of the Khador forces. Why Khador was encamped to defend the Legion base was confusing, but such was Aikios’ zeal to engage the enemy that distinction was overlooked. Agathia laughed silently to herself at his misfortune, as his warriors and jacks crashed into the unyeilding wall of Khador iron to no effect. Khador required subtlety and guile to defeat, and Agathia prized her ability to shine in that role.
Asphyxious had taken the central line directly toward Legion forces, and struck another blow against Absylonia’s battered army. A number of Kraken had been deployed to the front now, and one used its might to bully its way through the scattered Legion defenders.
Deneghra had been assigned the duty of defending the rear approach of the Cryx army, and she had quickly found herself in battle with the Trollbloods that had been lurking in the hills behind where the Cryx forces set their camp. Deneghra herself was knocked flying from the mightly club of Mulg, and only managed to escape with her life after her army was crushed. The call went out to the Cryx commanders that they needed to turn back and press against the Trollbloods first, lest they be caught in a pincer. Agathia knew that she was favored, as it was Asphyxious who was commanded to turn back rather than her.
Asphyxious’ forces entered into a slug fest with Calandra’s warbeasts, which suited Asphyxious just fine. He bode his time and hid behind a farm house as he slowly drew magical soul energy from the expressions of rage all the warbeasts generated. Then in a turn of destructive force, he unleashed the energy into Calandra, whose star-crossed magics still could not turn away. She was forced to flee the field, leading the Trollbloods back into the lower hills.
Unfortunately for the Trollbloods, the lower hills were no safer than the upper hills. As the Trollbloods reeled, they split into multiple Kriels to find a space to regroup. Doomshaper’s went east, where they encountered a force of Minions led by Strum and Drang. After a fierce battle, the Trolls had to retreat yet again into the hills.
A similar fate met Calandra’s fleeing force, though this time in the lower badlands near Ios. A contingent of Retribution, led by Magister Helynna, turned the Trollbloods away as well–their firepower proving too overwhelming for the Trolls to weather.
It was only near the edge of the woods of Ios that the Trollbloods managed to fight their way to a moment’s respite. Led by Jarl Skuld, they pushed southwest to find an encampment in the foothills. A Circle Orboros force appeared and attempted to harry them just as the other Kriels. Jarl’s troops and warbeasts managed to strike with better speed than the others, with a rampaging Dire Troll Mauler leading the charge into the Circle lines and felling Grayle the Farstrider where he stood. The Trolls had earned a brief peace, but Agathia and her Cryxian forces held the better half of the hills and better vantage to push on their true objective: the Legion base that hid the Athanc.
Progress Week Four:
The big event this week was that the Cryx generals united and decided to place themselves on the campaign map. They chose a spot in the northwest, boxing the Trolls out in a grab for access to Legion forces. Skorne, Trolls, Khador, and Legion (thanks to Minions working for them) all expanded some. In addition, Retribution of Scyrah, which has been competing for a while, managed to score a victory and made advancement onto the map.
Week Four also had a special mission, where forces got their first attempts to notice the machinations of Kommander Kerensky behind the scenes. In every case where he took the field, he managed to remain hidden and undetected by opposing forces.
Story Week Three:
Asphyxious tried to recall what exhaustion felt like. His body and soul were eternal and tireless, yet the strain of his long campaigns seemed to still affect him somehow. He stood on a hill overlooking the great valley northeast of Ios, and that sense of having been long at war crept into his mind. So many clashes, so many battles, so many opportunities to prove himself Lord Toruk’s most useful commander. And somewhere in this valley lay another such opportunity.
Two weeks prior, Venethrax had found a lead on another Athanc and led forces into the valley to seek it out. Asphyxious reveled in the fact that Venethrax made the critical mistake of including Skarre in his initial forays, not knowing that the Pirate Queen’s force included informers loyal to himself. Recognizing he could make a push for the prize himself, he rallied a fast-moving force and marched north.
While Venethrax crept through the hills, Asphyxious marched straight into the central plains. The best intel would come from the various forces that moved through the area–reanimating their commanders for interrogation would be the critical edge that Asphyxious hoped to exploit. He first came upon a column of Khadorian warjacks, and trailed their fuming smokestacks. Setting up his Satyxis raiders for a pincer, the Cryx army struck and managed to tear apart the metal monstrosities and sent Kommander Harkevich scurrying back to the safety of his lines. With a few corpses in tow to examine later, Asphyxious set his sights on other prey.
Turning to the East, his force twice clashed with the forces of the Skorne Empire. Asphyxious had respect for his foe, Lord Hexeris, as few others who walked the soil of Western Immoren had the power over death that Hexeris could command. The first clash of their forces ended with a rushed retreat of Hexeris, his armor badly damaged from the cruel assault of a Inflictor. Asphyxious was not prepared for the return engagement. Hexeris returned, his armor repaired and elaborated upon with magical protections. The onslaught of magical bolts from Hexeris and firepower from the Skorne force managed to drive Asphyxious’ own forces back to regroup.
Having withdrawn into the southern hills where his necrotechs repaired his helljacks and necrosurgeons stitched together more bodies for his cause, Asphyxious the Lich Lord continued to survey the valley. The reports from his scouts confirmed that the Legion of Everblight were indeed actively defending territory throughout the valley. All he needed was to pinpoint the source of their lightning raids.
Pirate Queen Skarre had faced one such assault recently, which proved another setback for her advances. Asphyxious was somewhat pleased, as her loyalty was with the other Lich Lords–whatever could weaken her was in the end an advantage. This time it was the strange blood-beasts that Legion could field. According to his spies, Skarre personally took ill from the poisonous injections that spewed from the vile abominations. Having to flee the field, his spy noticed the winged form of Absylonia prowling about the battlefield in victory.
The other information was less pleasing. His protege Deneghra had clashed with a scouting party, and had her forces mauled. Lylyth stalked the area close to where Asphyxious had clashed with the Skorne. Deneghra had been his support, but the ambush by Lylyth and subsequent retreat meant that his force remained somewhat unsupported in the region.
Reports detailed the other clashes observed in the valley. The Withershadow Combine had consulted powers of divination to foretell what was happening in the woods of northeastern Ios. Lylyth’s raiding parties had been spotted there first, engaging in battle with a Retribution force led by Magister Helynna. They had driven her forces from the woods, and unexpectedly she led her warjacks and infantry northeast in their escape.
Helynna found herself trapped. In the vacuum left by Asphyxious’ withdrawal, Skorne had made their way entirely across the eastern mountains. They rushed forward, meeting Helynna’s forces in the marshy lowland. The terrain slowed the Retribution army further, and Lord Arbiter Hexeris used the power of his ranged might to inflict crippling wounds on the elf commander. With few places to flee, things looked grim for the interests of the Retribution in the valley.
Skorne, on the other hand, surged forward even further. With such gains by Hexeris, other leaders followed in his wake. Just when Kommander Harkevich had been able to repair his damaged and beaten battle group, he found himself the target of Morghoul and his vicious beasts. Morghoul’s ability to sew discord and disrupt even steam-powered cortexes with waves of tormented energy proved costly. Harkevich’s warjacks foundered in stopping the wall of Titans and bugs, leaving the deadly Aradus access to strike at Harkevich himself. Severely injured by the desert creature and harried by the strange spirits that flew as part of Morghoul’s host, Harkevich gave the command for yet another withdrawal.
As he stumbled back into camp weary and exhausted, Harkevich saw the general operations leader directing orders to various people in the camp: Kommander Kerensky. His arm was still in a sling, injured from a long-past battle with the forces of the Legion. Harkevich wondered how bad the injury was, and why his express order was to avoid engagement with the Legion patrols that were seen in the woods and instead focus on meeting other forces in direct battle in the field. Perhaps Kommander Kerensky was more injured by the forces of Legion than he revealed, and he was worried about facing them again. “Surely, that must be it,” thought Harkevich. “The man is a wounded war hero. We’ll renew the fight for him and carry the campaign forward. For Kerensky, and for the Motherland.”
Progress Week Three:
Week Three was all about Skorne and Legion. Cryx won games against Khador, which meant that they advanced their searching track this week. The thundering might of the Skorne army in the East versus Legion may become a deciding factor in the shape of the campaign. Time for Retribution and Trollbloods to step it up!
Week three also featured a special mission representing forces seeking to make territorial gains against others–critical to that is command structure. Thus, the “Chain of Command” special mission:
Story Week Two:
Kallus, Wrath of Everblight, had sent observers out over the high plains that filled the valley around the hidden Legion castle. Some, using Kommander Kerensky’s assistance, were informers hidden among the Khadoran picket lines. Others were lithe Nyss scouts, ready to hide in the shadows and note the tides of war for him. Their mission? Track the progress of the forces of Dragonlord Toruk.
Thagrosh had been angry, the magical energy narrowly remaining contained within his form, at the news that Cryxian agents had found a definitive lead toward the location where the Athanc was being prepared for the ceremony. He tasked Kallus to take over the network of operatives and stay informed. The Skorne empire’s emergence on the east had fouled up everything. The Skorne had already unwittingly stumbled on clues that could only help Cryx if discovered.
The first reports were not promising. Cryx may have already have extracted what they needed. It seems as if a ruse army of Skorne had been operating deep into enemy lines. Their commander was supposedly Void Seer Mordikaar, but Kallus’ spy (hiding in a copse of battlefield trees) reported that they were an impostor: just an ordinary mortitheurge of no particular skill, dressed up to appear as threatening as the deceased Void Seer had been in life. Deneghra’s forces defeated this impostor, only to fall into the trap in which the force was bait.
Lord Arbiter Hexeris had lured the Cryx force forward, and they had plunged ahead in their clamor for any and all information. He swept down upon Deneghra’s host and defeated them soundly. Seeing the military defeat, Deneghra retreated and used magical communication to ask a fellow Cryxian commander for assistance.
Goreshade answered the call. Leaving his horse behind due to the tundra-like terrain, he led a force forward in relief of Deneghra’s disintegrating army. Rushing forward, he managed to claim the information that Deneghra had first secured–a crude carved figure that the Skorne had thought was merely war plunder. A flicker of recognition marked his face: Venethrax would treasure this discovery, and know of the figure’s purpose. He dispatched a unit of banes to rush it back to the secret headquarters Cryx had established in the region.
Goreshade was lucky to get the information away when he did… it was then that Lord Arbiter Hexeris’ forces swept down on his column as they had done once before to Deneghra. The Cryx fought hard, but the assault of spells alone on Blackbane forced him to quit the field and retreat.
Kallus reviewed those notes carefully. It seems like the Skorne commanders were proving to be more of a thorn in his side than he expected. Another report on his desk focused on other developments. It tracked the movements happening within the central plains, detailed this time by a dim-witted Ogrun serving in a Mercenary company willing to correspond with a “cousin” (actually a Nyss infiltrator who carefully faked a crudely written letter to the Ogrun’s pup tent each night). The Ogrun’s command was being led by Gorten Grundback. After driving Cryx from the hills, his warriors had made their way down to make good on some mercenary contracts with the Khadoran forces.
Kallus knew that the initial direction the mercenary band had received was due to his own influence. Kommander Kerensky had planted the seed Kallus requested, getting the mercenaries to assist in repelling the invading Skorne. Gorten had a skirmish with an advance group, led by the so-called Lord of Assassins, Morghoul. They drove back the Skorne with some skill, but that’s when the problems started.
The foolish dwarves spied Legion forces en masse, and drove their column directly toward the command of Abyslonia. “Damn foolish dragon-woman,” Kallus cursed under his breath as he reviewed the report. She had provoked the dwarves, and not recognizing that they were Khadoran allies–and thus under Legion’s sway at the moment–returned the attack. She lost a number of creations of Everblight in the process, and squandered the momentum of their advance.
Making matters worse, another Khador Kommander had been operating in the area and observed the battle. Instead of checking in with the central base and receiving the obfuscating orders of Kerensky, Sorscha made the decision to hunt out Legion troops herself. She located a group led by Lylyth, and despite the ravages of their missile fire, Sorscha’s force managed to route the Legion patrol.
Kallus invoked a curse from his frozen lips. What good was it having Khadorian lap dogs at your beck and call if they did not obey. So far Kommander Kerensky was not living up to his promises.
Enraged by these outcomes, Kallus himself decided that it was time to take the field. He led his army, laden with warbeasts, out into the plains. The one good thing of the ritual was having an ample supply of new beasts and blood to utilize. He set his sights on a recent location of Cryxian activity, and managed to catch Skarre and her force without room to manuever–they were extended beyond the waterways that they normally preyed upon. Kallus and his force struck, and managed to buy their ritual more time. Each delay in Cryx’s search meant a day toward the ceremony’s completion and Everblight’s empowerment.
Kallus strode the field, confident in his success. At that moment, a Skorne war party came crashing out of the woods unexpectedly. Kallus rallied his beasts, throwing Blight Wasps and Scytheans equally into the breach to try and slow his opponents. He saw a shadow darting between the trees–could this be the so-called Lord Assassin?
It was Morghoul, but not as Kallus expected. Morghoul had returned to the harness he used when driving beasts, as he found it better-suited for campaigning. The change caught Kallus off-guard, as no one expects the sheer furious power, threat, and speed of an enraged and abused Bronzeback. The massive beast rushed forward and threw one of Kallus’ own beasts right into him. It then proceeded to pummel Kallus repeatedly. With dents in his armor and his magical defenses shattered, Kallus was forced to retreat.
“That force was beaten? How did they regroup so fast?” Kallus pondered aloud when he returned to the ritual site. “How can we stop them?”
“We don’t need to stop them,” said a grave-voiced Thagrosh in response around the war council. “The ritual continues. We need but delay them.”
Progress Week Two:
Week Two saw expansive growth by Skorne and Khador, as both groups won three total games (though in Khador’s case two were thanks to Rhulic mercenaries who agreed to lend their strength to Khador for this round). The special mission this week featured the various forces combing through battlefield debris and dead bodies for intelligence materiel that could lead them to get a handle on what was happening with opponents’ forces.
Story Week One:
A pale green mist rose from the stacks on Lich Lord Venethrax’s spine as he stood over table, examining a sprawled map. The area was a section of high plains and mountains, northeast of Ios and east of Rhul, and a variety of marks glowed with faint magical aura on the page. He had tracked the Athanc this far, but the question was where the precious piece of Lord Toruk’s offspring lay. Venethrax mused over the terrain, trying think of what his opponent would do. Thagrosh was cagey, and would certainly keep the piece away from any main military force. There was also the complication of the Khadoran and Cygnarian forces that were inexplicably present in the area–and seemingly at peace with each other. Thagrosh would have to steer far clear of them, no doubt. That meant the edges and margins of the region: the forests of northern Ios came with a cost, but had to be checked. Likewise the mountains that marked the border with Rhul. A much more likely hiding spot.
Venethrax considered his forces and commanders. Skarre and Goreshade were ostensibly under his command so far. The positive account of an Athanc that was torn from that strange Trollblood’s mind was too important to pass up. The immortal Toruk, praise to his name, had dispatched Venethrax with haste and given him full command and resources to pursue the precious shard. Venethrax knew better than most what would happen if Everblight managed to bring the power into himself. He, Toruk’s champion, would wrest the Athanc from Everblight and submit it to his own master. Glancing at the map again, he made his decision. He would take his large host into the foothills of Rhul to search there. Skarre would take her lighter and more maneuverable force into Ios. “Dangerous. And unlikely to be a spot Thagrosh would tread,” Venethrax thought to himself. “If Skarre happened to be disintegrated by some strange elf whilst there, well… so be it.” As for Goreshade, his force had more rank and file. Requiring less fuel for his bonejacks and helljacks meant he could range further and faster. Best to send him deeper into the pass between the hills to scout. Venethrax quickly summoned messenger thralls and dispatched his orders to his forces. He rolled the map up and stowed it in a scroll case before exiting the burned-out hovel he was using as a command post. The Athanc was close. He could feel it, taste it. Venethrax knew the glory of its capture would be his.
Venethrax led his forces through the Rhulic foothills, trying to get a sense of hiding spots where the Legion forces might be hidden. The transit of his full war-host was not simple, however, and soon enough Rhulic woodsmen had noted his army’s presence. Venethrax veered southward, hoping to avoid entanglement with the dwarves. Unfortunately, their forces mobilized more rapidly than the Lich Lord had expected. A raiding party of mostly light jacks came surging from hilltop pass. Gorten Grundback led the force, their shooting tearing into Venethrax’s infantry. He quickly rushed his forces forward into the faces of the dwarves, his carrion crows leading the charge to buy time for the slower Cryx elements to advance. Venethrax himself strode forward, hoping to lure Gorten into a risky advance where a Cryxian counter-attack could crush his assault. The ruse worked, and while Gorten tried to finish Venethrax’s forces he left himself open–and had to hurriedly retreat after engaging in a bit of combat. The threat to his own life was too much, and Venethrax’s forces carried the day.
Despite the victory, Venethrax was convinced that Gorten and other Rhulic leaders would soon be back for more, so he rushed his forces southward into the foothills and closer to Ios. However, he was not expecting another force to be waiting there. Why the Trollbloods were marching eastward, directly toward the valley pass where the Cygnarian and Khadoran armies waiting, was baffling to Venethrax. Did they know something he didn’t about the Athanc? There was only one way to find out: to strike. The Lich Lord sent his forces screaming down into the troll lines. There he saw his foe, Madrak the World Ender leading the counter-charge. Against another Trollblood leader, perhaps the assault would have triumphed. But Madrak was grim and determined, and he and his forces inflicted too much damage on Venethrax’s force for them to hold the ground. They gave way–melting back northward. The Lich Lord’s advance had been stalled. Yet perhaps one of his other commanders had done better–he anxiously waited for reports.
When Pirate Queen Skarre’s arrived, he was disheartened despite her success. Her forces had encountered a Retribution war host, led by Ravyn, Eternal Light. Skarre’s missive reported that Ravyn was caught by a harpoon from a Reaper, and dealt what was surely a mortal blow from the Warjack as it pulled her into its reach. However, the elf prisoners had no information about Legion forces. Whether Skarre had actually asked, or merely replenished her forces after the battle from their corpses, Venethrax had no way of knowing.
It was the missive from Goreshade that brought Venethrax more pleasure. His forces had encountered a Legion of Everblight scouting party in the tundra. They engaged, and while Lylyth inflicted some casualties on the Cryx force, Goreshade’s host of Bane Warriors and Bane Knights managed to drive them from the field. The report, written in Goreshade’s own hand, detailed that the Legion forces had not been packed correctly for campaigning. It was a tangible lead! They could not be too far away, only 3 or 4 day’s travel maximum. Venethrax could feel the net tightening.
The Cryx forces were not the only ones sending small groups to explore the tundra, nor the only ones who knew that the Athanc was in Thagrosh’s hands. Venethrax had no idea that Hoarluk Doomshaper had been present when the Legion had captured it from a hidden vault, and that he had informed the various Kriels of the threat. In addition to Madrak’s movement of his forces through the hills, Jarl Skuld had taken a light force and raced forward into the pass to try and pursue the escaping Legion forces. Strangely, the Khadorian army opposed his progress. Jarl had been informed that they were assisting Hoarluk against Legion, yet now they were opposing his progress. When they revealed violent intentions, Jarl quickly adjusted–and although he returned fire and sent the Khador force running, he himself drew back to try and make sense of who the Kriels’ allies really were.
On the eastern side of the valley, an unexpected threat arrived: a column of Skorne warbeasts and their inscrutable soldiers marched forth into the rugged terrain. Likely unaware of the athanc drama, the forces were an advance contingent of Makeda’s army in the west, renewing their assaults on Western Immoren for plunder, slaves, and death in honorable fashion. The column, commanded by Lord Arbiter Hexeris, spotted a relief column of Legion warbeasts commanded by that daughter of Everblight, Absylonia, that was heading to replenish Thagrosh’s forces. Hexeris’ force struck, and while suffering some initial losses managed to remain in the field long enough that Absylonia could not continue the battle and fled. A chymist in Hexeris’ forces, ostensibly seeking dragonsblood for some vile concoction, uncovered some messages that revealed the location of Legion forces in the area. Hexeris forced his troops on a hard march forward through the foothills surrounding Gorgon Peak, seeking further combat.
And find combat he did. Hexeris’ column came to a small abandoned farmstead, lured by the smoke rising from the house. An unruly Archangel in Thagrosh’s force had lit the home aflame in a fit of defiant rage. Hexeris commanded his titans to rush thundering down the pass and try to catch the Legion forces off-guard. The battle was bloody and protracted, and the smoking farmhouse groaned as the massive bulk of the Archangel pushed up against it in the battle. Despite felling the Archangel, Hexeris found his forces decimated and was forced to quit the field. He knew where the Legion was going, and was determined to regroup with support and fresh warbeasts before striking at Legion forces again.
Progress Week One:
That night, Kommander Kerensky dreamt of dragons. The Khadorian officer soared above the clouds on veined wings, far above the burning forest where so many of soldiers had perished. Suddenly, an enormous winged shadowed passed over him and, in a sudden panic, Kerensky flailed, falling fast as the shadow overtook his tiny form and consumed him.
Kerensky woke in a cold sweat, his field cot soaked through and beginning to freeze, with memories of the past few month pouring back in an unstoppable tide. His men, his brothers-in-arms, being slaughtered in a cold Orgoth dungeon. A flash of light streaking towards him. Cold. Pain. Thagrosh’s cruel gaze as he held Kerensky in the air with one meaty claw, driving a glowing crystal into his back. More pain. His new mission. Meetings with his superiors. Decorations, awards, ceremony. Then his subtle offer of an envoy. The peace treaties. The damnable swans being such easy marks for the overture.
He shook his head rapidly, a shiver banishing the memories, and pushed himself up from the cot, stumbling to the shaving mirror hanging from his tent post. His face was bathed in a sliver of moonlight coming through the tent’s flap, and Kerensky’s face twisted into a sick grin. An awful shadow crept across his mind and he shivered with fearful pride as he beheld the infinitely vast presence. Kerensky withdrew his arm from the sling that was wrapped about his body. He held his newly formed claw up into the air and, filled with power, willed a ball of fire into existence. Kerensky began to laugh hysterically. He was the dragon Everblight, and the dragon Everblight was him.
As he finally stopped laughing, his face grew cold. Kerensky closed his eyes for a moment, and it was if a veiled shadow settling gently on his skin. He had to be careful–expressing his power drew the marks of the dragon out of the ridges of his cheekbones. The arm was fully transformed now, so he kept it hidden as a war wound in a sling. The face he could hide, so long as he didn’t use the magical power of fire that lurked within him. He had to be careful. He had to stay hidden.
Kommander Kerensky knew that the ritual to bring the captured Athanc of the long-dead Vorspark into Everblight’s power was proceeding in the hidden ruins of a castle to the north of his encampment. It was a matter of time. And he was the first-chosen of Thagrosh to enable that time to pass. The manipulation of his own government, the overtures and eventual accord with Cygnar, the fielding of their two expeditionary forces into the wasteland northeast of Ios and east of Rhul: all was part of the plan. And so far, it was going just as he Kerensky… no, he Thagrosh… no I Everblight, most powerful of Dragons, had planned.
*Huge thanks to Andy Dobies for writing the starting fiction and doing up a model of Kommander Kerensky. Why do we need a model? Stay tuned to find out!