Monday, March 5, 2012

The Battle of Fimul Plains

Black father had been dead many times, too many to remember, he had given the death speech to his brothers as he had many times before and they had stood stock still to hear his words, the only sound the crackle of the fire by the tower, the city guards men had stopped their work and even the sorcerer stopped her industrious chalking to listen. The speech was always the same but the words carried power and his men needed it. His men recited the verse "We enter battle as dead men, we are not worthy to serve lord Khaine!".  These men had served him for many years some of them with him since he was a youth.  "We offer to you lord of murder!".  He regarded each of them in turn. They were tired but their eyes still gleamed.  "The fallen before us!" The sound of hoofs were close now.  The hag looked shaken, no doubt from one of her draughts, but she regained her composure and joined the group reciting the verse "grant us victory lord!", the chant had risen in volume.  It always amazed him that declaring himself dead before battle commenced he never felt so alive. The hag unfurled the banner, it seemed to shimmer in the weak morning sun.  He felt the aches and pains from the nights rough sleep seep from his muscles.  "LEST WE FORGET!" the elves roared in unison.  he exhaled and found his centre and he was ready.  Black Father, champion of executioners took his place and unslung his blade from his back.  In unison the rest of his company did likewise. they were ready, come what may.

They had left the burning ships behind and struck off north hoping to avoid the patrols.  They had reached the ruins of the keep their brethren had taken not a few months ago, it was a blackened ruin but they had walked this far and decided it was as good a place as any to mount a final stand,  with little food they had no chance of ever seeing home again. As the youngest member of the city guard that had travelled here he felt it his duty to show bravery in the face of adversity and his mask had not slipped once.  He counted off the quarrels in his quiver again checking the trigger mechanism of his crossbow for the hundred time.  The fires had been lit late night, no point in hiding now and their last days should be as comfortable as possible.  They had feasted on the last of their supplies praying to their gods and talking of happier, simpler days.

The sorcerer had been awake since early morning the company stole glances as she chalked runes first inside the tower than around the outside, letters that they couldn't read and made them uncomfortable when they looked directly at them.  She had not spoken to them and they knew very little of her but a thousand rumours had been whispered about her since they had left home where she was known as the black widow. One of the city guard had brought food to her that morning, entering the tower smiling, then coming back out pale and shaken. 

The hag had spent her morning with a pestle mixing up one or her brews, cursing the lack of roots and herbs
available to her in this foreign land, a dozen guards had been sent on errands to collect the strange dark roots
and flowers she craved.  She had healed a number of men since the loss of the ships and all those she had helped were now fiercely loyal to her.  The enemy scouts no longer snuck around, they sat watching the camp in open view, beyond bow range, riders thundering off and returning fascinated by what they saw.  They knew when the sun had risen fully the main army would arrive. 

Midday, all preparations had finished and the archers had taken position, the executioners now strangely silent in the centre waiting, then the banners had appeared. Coming from the north the thunder of hooves and the beat of drums and shrill of trumpets marked the arrival of someone important.  the early sun glinted on polished armour and now they could hear the snort and whiney of horses.  One of the guard joked how he would enjoy a fresh horse steak before being silenced by a glance from the hag.

The horses started into a slow trot, the outriders breaking away and taking their places to watch the proceedings from safety. The executioners never stirred, standing stock still in the valley not even glancing at the oncoming force. Kai waited for the order then let fly with his crossbow, more bolts joined in from the tower and the first company of knights was peppered with darts.  The darts feel harmlessly away some finding their mark but being turned aside impossibly at the last second, signils glowed around the necks of the knights and their banner seemed to ripple in the windless morning. Kai reloaded quickly and waited for the order to fire again, then he saw it a crackle of lighting from the tower, and explosion among the knights and some of them were down their horses screaming. he wet his lips and fired again on the order. The executioners remained stock still the horses now breaking into a canter, he could make out individual shields now, beautiful paintings with no uniformity, again the crack of energy from the tower and more knights were falling, clutching their throats, some of them flailing on the ground trying to pull off burning armour, horses running crazily.  "LOAD!".  The horses were bearing down on the executioners now in full gallop, he had never seen a the executioners in battle but he knew them by reputation as everyone did, they weren't moving.  "KHAINE!!!!" a massive roar arose from the executioners and they were moving, faster than he had seen elves move before, sprinting as one to the wall of horses.

Black father was in a sprint now his company beside him, the hag at his left, her eyes were rolling in her head and he was happy there was a safe gap between him and her as she unsheathed her poisoned blades, screaming and bawling. The first horse was on him, he sidestepped, rolled blade out, taking the legs off the horse in front below the knee before coming up and disembowelling the horse to the right in one swing. The charging horses faltered, horses from behind crashing into those in the front, he was laughing now, his draich light in his hands, a part of his body as it always felt at times like this, he vaulted on a fallen horse taking the head off a knight as he soared and danced, at that moment time slowed and he knew where every executioner was on the battlefield, their movements their actions, a massive complex dance, he felt proud.  He deflected a lance spinning and planting his elbow in the knights face with a satisfying crunch, the knight would never regain his feet.  The hag was beside him now, stabbing at open visors, kicking, screaming and raining blows with inhuman strength.  The knights panicked, some trying to turn, getting knotted up in fallen horses, orders being screamed uselessly, the executioners flowed over them them, vaulting over bodies, carving effortlessly through armour and shield.  They were too fast for the clumsy knights used to fighting their own.  A unit champion screamed a challenge but was cut off before the words were out of his mouth.  Black father laughed. Behind a unit of flying knights looked on, shocked at the carnage unable to believe what they were seeing and they were on them too. He saw the hag leap behind a knight, catch him around the waste like a pillion and her blade flash out again and again, his armour no match for her mania. The Pegasus fought their riders orders to stand, panic washing through the company, the draichs were on them carving armour, wing and bone, none could withstand them. in seconds the unit was destroyed executioners everywhere dispatching men, first the fighting ones then the knights tangled up or wounded.  Black father raised his draich above the fallen knight champion, a terrible grin on his face, he closed his eyes and felt the blade slice through the knights neck.  Khaine would be pleased.  he exhaled.

Kai watched in horrid fascination as the knights rode toward them, he had dropped his bow and drawn his sword for all the good it would do, he remembered his shield lost in the ship fires and though it would make little difference now.  He saw the horses, their faces, the ground shaking and felt a massive pressure on his chest, then slept in the arms of Khaine.

in the tower the sorceress was hurting, she wiped blood from her left eye, her head rang like she had been struck by a hammer, she staggered out into the sun away from the tower, her ears ringing, she could see the bodies of elves and caught a glimpse of men and elf locked in deadly embrace. she was on her knees now vomiting.  her head cleared and she saw the mayhem of the battlefield, the executioners were winning. that crazy witch was in the thick of it, leaping stabbing, she didn't feel well enough to hate her at the moment. deep breaths.  find her centre.  the knights were falling back, she knew she was done for but in that instant decided that she would go out fighting. Running out into the mayhem she recited the spell as loud as her voice would let her and again armour cracked and exploded in their ranks, she caught sight of a woman, her face in panic, one of their wizards from her aura, oh how I would like to teach you magic girl she thought, then she was down again vision blurred, coughing blood and gasping for air.  The winds of magic had been kind but took a terrible toll. she stood, made a sign in the air but the knights were running. turning and thundering away to the north.  she could see the executioners land the final few blows then they were gone.

Black father regarded the knights as they left, leaning heavily on his draich, they had not been prepared for what they met in the valley and had paid the price. sweat soaked his shirts and he felt the smart of some earlier blows. The hag was collapsed on the ground in convulsions, some of the elves were tending her, administering an antidote to the draught she'd ingested before the battle, she would live.  He looked around the battlefield, they would dine on horse tonight, he spotted the sorcerer staggering back to the tower, they regarded each other and a smile flashed between the two followed by a clumsy salute from the sorcerer.  He hefted his draich and walked back towards the tower, at the very least songs would be sung about him. it was then he decide that since he was dead anyway he might as well take his chances with the sorcerers charms, there would be few nights after this one.

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