keskiviikko 2. joulukuuta 2015

Siege of Järnborgen

Hello everyone!

For once I wanted to give a chance for my less played armies, having them tear each other apart in and around a custom-built miniature castle!

This scenario was a simple siege where the attacker tried to get more models inside the castle than defender at the end of the 7th Battle Round to conquer the castle and claim victory. The defender had to hold back the attacker long enough for the reinforcements to arrive and lift the siege.

A castle on a rocky hill, a small abandoned village and a sandy hill were the only terrain features on this barren battleground
Defenders were the Bretonnians, while the attacking force consisted of Tomb Kings. Both of the armies are from my collection, but they very rarely see any daylight.
An interesting match-up, and a definitely nice change in between my otherwise Dwarf-heavy posts!

On to the story!


The sun had just reached its zenith above the barren lands of the Bretonnian Coast and the small dukedom of Svedonnia. Paladin Gösta Storbuken gazed down from the castle ramparts, only to see a vast undead host readying for assault. Some mummified prince had landed his invasion force on the coastline three days ago, intent on conquering the lands of Lord Birger Pepperberg, the duke of Svedonnia.
Gösta was not going to let that happen, though. He was the castellant of Järnborgen, a mighty castle sitting atop a rocky hill carved hollow by some old mining complex. By the Lady, he was going to hold the castle for his Lord or die in the attempt. 
A message had been sent to Lord Birger and his army as soon as the undead invasion had begun, but there was no telling when the reinforcements would arrive.

The situation was dire. Against a supernaturally disciplined force of walking human remains, the Paladin had thirty-odd frightened peasants and a lone Damsel of the Lady, Tilde the Blessed. The only knights in the castle beside the Gösta were Paladin Arvid Fredholm and four of his knights-in-training, who had all left Järnborgen this morning 'to do some scouting' and haven't yet returned.

All around him his peasant archers stared at the enemy, faces pale with fear.
"Fear not, pojkar! What is dead has died once already, which means it can be killed again. We instead haven't died even once thus far. Who knows if we're immortal!", the bulky Paladin roared, resulting in cheers from his men.
"Let's put an end to this walking boneyard, shall we?" he shouted, lifting his crystal hammer up in the air and letting the sun's rays dance upon its surface.
"För Pepperberg!"
"FÖR PEPPERBERG!" came the echoing answer from the men of the garrison.

Braziers were lit, bows stringed and arrows arrayed in neat rows all across the ramparts while Järnborgen Men-At-Arms rushed down to the first floor to man the gate. Under the colours of the regiment flag and their very own relic of the Lady, the peasant soldiers resolved to stand fast against the tide of horrors they were about to face.

The stern gaze of the fat Paladin observed the scuttling of his men as they prepared for battle. After a moment or two everything was set: Archers stood on the ramparts with arrows nocked to their bowstrings and the Men-At-Arms locked their tower shields to create an impenetrable wall of wood and steel. All they needed now was an enemy to hack at... and hopefully some reinforcements to help doing it.

Down on the ground level Prince Imhotep the Impotent was directing his army. With dry, hollow words of an ancient language he let his will be known to his subjects. Today he would have that castle. Today the blood of the living would be spilled.

Obeying the commands of their overlord, the skeletal regiments immediately started towards the hill. Marching slowly but in perfect unison, the long-dead warriors closed in on their prey.

The Necrotect of the undead force still had enough of his soul left to retain memories of the sadistic joy of whipping speed into lazy workers. Urged by this feeling he could no longer actually feel, Canopus the Necrotect let his ancient whip sing a painful song off the backs of the skeletal legionnaires. Gaining some unholy power from the whipping instead of mortal pain, the Warriors hastened the movement of their bleached bones, quickly closing the gap between them and the hillside staircase.

As their more numerous brothers-in-arms sped ahead, the Tomb Guards took a more cautious approach. Lifting their long shields above their heads, the veteran warriors created a shield fortress to protect them from the defenders' missiles.

Following the example of the rapidly advancing Warriors, Skeletal Archers marched forth to bring the enemy within bow's range, while the Arabic Mercenary Ogres ran forward chasing the smell of human flesh.

The crew of the Catapult loaded their war-engine with a pile of enchanted skulls, launching this curious missile at the hilltop castle. As they arced through the dusty air, the enchanted skulls burst to green flames and started a horrible screaming before exploding harmlessly against the castle walls. The siege had begun.

Despite the supernatural ammunition of their foe's warmachines, the Peasant Archers calmly lit their arrows from the braziers on the ramparts.
"Aim... Draw... Loose!" came the shouted commands, producing a black cloud of arrows flying towards the attackers. Two more times the commands were repeated in quick succession, tiring the shooters entirely.

The result was worth the effort, however: like torrential downpour the volleys rained on the legion of skeletons at the foot of the stairs, decimating it. Arrows slit through ribs and hammered into eye sockets, dissipating the foul magic that bound the souls of the warriors to their dead bodies.

On the walls Damsel Tilde encouraged the archers and rewarded their success by casting a Blessing of the Lady upon them to protect them from harm.

The magic bound into the standard of the Skeleton Warriors activated, bringing more souls from the realm of the dead to occupy the bodies of the fallen. Some of the piles of bones the enemy volleys had left lying on the ground took form again, as new souls claimed bodies to rise up and fight again. Soon the skeletal legion once again had enough soldiers to form a shield fortress and start ascending the hillside stairs.
The whole undead army continued its relentless advance, with even the Tomb Guard breaking from their formation to reach the stairs more quickly.

Grasping his mortuary staff, Liche Priest Amenhemti muttered an ancient incantation with his eyes glowing bright, quickening the moves of the Skeleton Archers to unnatural speeds.

Reloading, aiming and loosing faster than a human eye could follow, the archers shot several volleys of bronze-tipped arrows at their living counterparts on the castle walls. Most of the arrows clattered harmlessly off the crenelations, and the few lucky shots that found their marks were deflected by the force barrier that the Lady's Blessing granted the peasants.

With no success in even scratching the warm flesh of the defenders thus far, Prince Imhotep roared out in frustration. Although he had always been very quick to anger, due to the shame he had suffered in his past life for the lack of all the manly capabilities of an average noble, this rage was something even more powerful. His mummified heart burning with all-consuming wrath, the Impotent commanded his legions to double their efforts and deliver him the castle!

It was then that something unexpected happened...

Paladin Arvid Fredholm had arrived with his Errant Knights in the rear of the besiegers! Whether they had heard the sounds of battle on their scouting trip or regained their senses after fleeing like cowardly peasants and returned, Paladin Gösta Storbuken didn't care. Now there was a glimmer of hope in this dark day, a distant hope of victory!

Gaining courage and energy from the arrival of friendly knights, the Peasant Bowmen drew their bows again. Soon after a cloud of flaming arrows was arcing through the skies, descending upon its unsuspecting target...

Having turned to see the new enemy in his army's rear, Prince Imhotep never saw the arrows coming. A wave of missiles washed over him, many sinking deep into his mummified flesh which ignited like dry parchment. With the flames engulfing him and his angered roars echoing across the field, the Prince was a terrible sight indeed. After much waving and cursing the flames finally dispersed, leaving the Impotent withered and burned with none of his flesh or clothing remaining.
The smoking undead noble swore dire vengeance.

Adapting to the situation around the castle quickly, Paladin Arvid led his knights-in-training into the Screaming Skull Catapult and its skeletal crew, skewering them with their lances on the charge. The cocky laughter of the young Errant Knights echoed across the field as they trampled their fallen enemies under the hooves of their warhorses with glee.

Seeing his precious siege engine under attack, Prince Imhotep led his Mercenary Ogres in an attempt to get rid of the enemy flankers. The combat at the Catapult was so quickly over, however, that Imhotep and his mercenaries never got near enough to get to grasps with the enemy.

Meanwhile the Skeleton Warriors and the Tomb Guard were ascending the stairs on the side of the hill. The defenders' arrows were powerless against the undead shield fortresses, bouncing of or getting stuck in the ages-old wood and cowhide, leaving the Impotent's minions unharmed. Furthermore, the Warriors' standard kept summoning back the spirits of the slain, returning many an arrow-slain skeleton back to the ranks of the legion.

Angered by the insolence of the horseback warmbloods, Liche Priest Amenhemti resolved to restore his master's one and only siege engine to full function. Raising his withered hands towards the sun and rasping an ancient prayer to the god of death, Amenhemti retrieved the souls of the slain Catapult crew. Binding these ever-loyal soldiers back to their broken forms, the prayer lifted the slain crew from the ground. Once again they prepared to fire their war engine, despite the enemy standing awe-struck beside them.

At the castle the swarm of bones crashed into the gates. Rusty weapons waved in the air, denting the gate's bars badly while the pressure of massed skeletal bodies got the hinges screaming threateningly. How long could the gates hold back such a wave of ancient anger?

Skeletal Archers drew their bows and let off another volley. This time the dusty arrows rained upon the peasants rather accurately, one punching through the chest of an unfortunate lad despite the Lady's Blessings. The first casualty on the castle's garrison had been suffered, and many more were soon to follow.

As soon as they recovered from the shock caused by their supernatural reanimating enemies the Knights Errant fell upon the Catapult crew once again, waving their swords in silvery arcs. As the skeletal crew fell to the ground, their heads lopped off by Paladin Arvid and his knights, the Svedonnians went on to destroy the Catapult. Cutting the ropes and hacking apart wooden bars and cranes, the cavalrymen wiped this threat off the field once and for all.

Growing more confident of their luck and skills after their success, the Peasant Archers concentrated their fire on the Necrotect that was whipping speed into the skeletons climbing the stairs. A wave of flaming missiles detached from the battlements, descending upon the Necrotect like a swarm of hungry fireflies.
Waving his whip around him, Necrotect Canopus managed to deflect a few arrows before the rest covered him in burning shafts. Having less mummified flesh and dusty clothing than his Prince, Canopus was fortunately not swallowed entirely by the flames. 
He could feel the numerous steel arrowheads in his body disrupting the magic that held his old bones together, but yet he endured. Someone had to lead the assault on the castle itself.

Leaving the ruined warmachine behind them, Paladin Fredholm and his Knights Errant turned to face a new foe. Galloping towards the Arabic Mercenary Ogres, the knights lowered their lances with a zealous warcry upon their lips:
"För Pepperberg!"

Mere moments before plunging into the Ogres the Knights Errant wheeled their mounts and headed towards Prince Imhotep instead. Paladin Arvid never altered his course, crashing into the Arabic mountains of fat at full gallop.

So far the battle seemed to be in nobody's favor. The castle still held, its garrison largely unscathed, while Arvid Fredholm's knights had eliminated the besieger's catapult and were now slamming into the undead army with religious fervor.
On the other hand skeletal legions had reached the gate which could break any moment now, and the knights on the field were largely outnumbered.
Paladin Gösta saw no signs of approaching reinforcements in the horizon. After a deep sigh he yelled out to his men:
"Hold the gates! Hold the castle, stand your ground! Our Lord Pepperberg should arrive not too long from now!"
Wary smiles rose to the faces of his peasant soldiers, indicating that hope yet lingered, although desperation was slowly getting the upper hand...

The four Errant Knights charged at the withered and burned form of Prince Imhotep, only to find that he was far from finished. With a savage upward cut of his Monarch's Greatblade, Imhotep severed the heads of a warhorse and its rider in one swing. Never stopping his motion, the Impotent then slashed his weapon across the charging foes, severing two more knightly heads and sending them rolling into the sand.
The last knight, terrified of his comrades' fates, missed the undead noble with his lance. Luckily his horse was made of sturdier stuff. The mount crashed into the Prince, trampling his blackened form under steel-shod hooves and ending the (un)life of this ancient monster.
Whoops of joy escaped the lips of the young knight; he had slain the enemy warlord! 

Unfortunately his joy was cut short by the dark curse hanging upon the slain Prince. The Errant Knight's skin fell off in grey flakes and his eyes dried in their sockets as the man aged hundreds of years in a heartbeat. Soon all that was left of that young and comely knight was a pile of dust inside a shiny armour.
Such was the fate of him who slew Imhotep the Impotent.

Paladin Arvid sunk half of his lance into a large uncovered chest of an Ogre, felling the creature to the ground in one charge. Casting away his broken lance, Fredholm snatched his sword from its scabbard and laid about him, cutting deep gashes in the flesh of any Ogre foolish enough to come near. One of the mercenaries managed to get in a slash from a huge scimitar but Arvid's plate armour absorbed most of the blow.

An ear-splitting crash resounded across the battlefield as the castle's gate collapsed under the pressure of the attackers. With a dry scream rising from their empty mouths, the Skeleton Warriors charged in, throwing themselves into the peasants' shieldwall without any concern for personal safety. Their duty was to break the defense and claim the castle for their lord, and they were determined not to fail in fulfilling it.

Sensing his master's mercenaries were in trouble, Amenhemti turned his attention to the lone Paladin. A short prayer and a mysterious finger pattern later, beams of pure light shot out from his withered eyes. The beams struck Arvid in the shoulder, blasting apart a pauldron and scorching the flesh beneath.

More and more skeletons were ascending the hillside stairs, ready to sacrifice themselves for the selfish purposes of their perished lord. The shield fortress formations kept the attackers safe from the arrows of the enemy above while they advanced.

The Peasant Archers soon grew a bit too arrogant and careless, peeking out from behind the battlements to get better shots at the skeleton legions assaulting the gate. The cost of such an error was none other than death: as soon as the peasants came into view from behind cover, a volley of bronze-tipped arrows flew from the Skeleton Archers on the ground, turning the enthusiastic lads into pin-cushions.

At the gate the Men-At-Arms tightened their ranks against the tide of undead. Using a hard-drilled formation fighting techniques, the peasant soldiers laid low many an attacker with their polearms. The lack of proper training still took its toll, though: a few men dropped their shields too low in the press of the fight, getting immediately rewarded by a rusty weapon in the face.

Paladin Fredholm, despite being wounded by the Liche Priest's foul spell, split the head of the Ogre that strayed a bit too close with his shiny sword. The remaining two stayed back, not too eager to share their comrade's fate at the end of this hero's blade.

Warrior after warrior crashed itself against the Svedonnian shieldwall, unable to break through. Heavy polearms rose and fell, splitting skulls and hacking apart skeletal limbs. The floor was soon filled with splintered bones and rusty weapons, although here and there a careless Man-At-Arms died screaming with a scimitar in his throat, spilling his lifeblood onto the wooden planks.

The gates were now crashed and the enemy was pouring in, with only Paladin Arvid left of the mounted rescuers. The glimmer of hope in the eyes of the garrison had begun to fade. After Imhotep's demise it fell to Canopus the Necrotect to lead the undead forces into the castle and claim it in the name of his late master, but he knew they had to hurry. The human reinforcements could arrive at any time, and then the only option would be to flee if he wished to preserve his master's legions!
With this in mind Canopus slashed his whip in the air, slamming it into the backs of the Tomb Guard ahead of him along with curses in a forgotten language.

Before the Paladin could turn his attention to the two remaining Ogres, the mercenaries saw their chance. Ramming into the side of Arvid's mount together, the Ogres fell the mighty hero. One of them hacked off the head of the warhorse, while the other cut the sprawling Paladin in twain with a single two-handed blow of his gigantic scimitar. Thus ended the tale of Paladin Arvid Fredholm, slain my Arabic Mercenaries.

Hearing from the wet splashes and cuts behind him that the threat of the enemy knights had been removed, Priest Amenhemti focused his powers on the enemy archers manning the battlements. Opening his mouth impossibly wide, the Liche Priest sent forth a swarm of undead locusts to assail the peasants. 
As the black cloud of mummified insects hammered into the ramparts, several archers met their end. The locusts covered the men and devoured the flesh from their bones, killing them painfully before turning to dust and scattering in the wind.

Adding to the casualties and horror of the Peasant Archers were their skeletal counterparts' arrows that claimed the lives of those who had left their cover when trying to stay away from the locust swarm. The walls of the castle suddenly didn't feel as safe and reassuring as before with warm blood pooled at the feet of the terrified peasants.

Down at the gate the shieldwall still held firm despite mounting casualties. For every Man-At-Arms that was cut down at least two skeletons were crushed, but peasants lacked their enemy's ability to reanimate their dead!
Those men who fell stayed down while the skeletons kept rising up for another round again and again.

Necrotect Canopus was guiding the skeletal assault from the stairs, his whip snapping in the air. The Peasant Archers sought to end this, hoping that the attack on the gates would weaken if the leader was taken down.
A bunch of arrows flew from the battlements, thudding into the Necrotect one after another. Disrupted by the multiple arrowheads that punched through Canopus, the magic that bound his soul to this carcass dissipated, leaving behind a lifeless pile of bones and armour on the castle stairs.

The Tomb Guard broke from their shield fortress at the top of the hill. Calmly and with cold determination they raised a scaling ladder against the walls and started climbing, hoping to slaughter some warmbloods on the walls as the gateway seemed tightly blocked by the Men-At-Arms.

The deaths of their master and Necrotect took their toll on the Skeleton Warriors. Without the strong will of a nearby leader, their speed and skills dropped to pathetic levels. Clumsy blows bounced off the wooden shields of the peasantry, while less and less Warriors rose up from the ground after getting hacked to pieces by polearms.

Up on the ramparts the Peasant Archers hurried to counter the Tomb Guard that were coming up with their ladders. With skinning knives in hand the archers rushed to the contested corner bastion to prevent the undead from gaining a foothold inside the castle.

The attempt was desperate, however. Peasants armed with knives were no match for centuries-old veteran warriors of Nehekhara, the cursed blades of the undead elites cutting down almost every archer that ran in to intercept them.
Only Tilde the Blessed could fight back. Having thus far inspired the peasants and granted them the protections of their goddess, now the Damsel sought to unleash some destructive force. Raising her Purity Staff in the air and shouting out a prayer of vengeance, Damsel Tilde created a wave of pure, golden light that set several of the Tomb Guard afire and threw them from the battlements onto the ground below.

As the last survivors of his Peasant Archers ran from the walls to hide somewhere deeper in the castle, Paladin Gösta Storbuken picked up his crystal hammer and started towards the undead that were flooding to his ramparts.
Down at the gate the fight still raged on, with the Men-At-Arms' ranks thinning every moment as the clumsy skeletal hands tore down shields and battered the men holding them one by one. How long could the gates be held anymore?

The attention of the Tomb Guard turned to the Damsel. As one they raised their shields and surrounded her in the bastion corner. Before Tilde the Blessed could get off another spell of banishment, the cursed blades of the Prince's bodyguards cut her down. Glowing tomb blades rose and fell, depriving the castle's garrison of any further magical aid.

Despite the Blessings of the Lady wearing off, the Men-At-Arms held the gate stubbornly. More and more of the helpless Skeleton Warriors were crushed as the magics of their legion banner failed to resurrect the casualties as fast as they were being suffered.
Oblivious to the slaughter up on the walls where their comrades were being hacked down by the Tomb Guard, the peasant soldiers once again took heart of their success, the hope of victory burning white hot in their hearts.

Seeking revenge for his fallen countrymen, Paladin Gösta threw himself into the ranks of the Tomb Guard. Swinging wide rainbow arcs with his shimmering crystal hammer, Storbuken decimated the enemy. Sundered shields and broken bones filled the floor, with empty skulls rolling all around the walls. Not even the centuries of experience could save these poor mummified veterans from the righteous fury of a pissed-off Paladin!

Unaffected by the terrible losses wrought upon their unit by this leader of Men, the Tomb Guard surged forward in unison to deal with the threat. Cursed tomb blades were turned by the skill of the Paladin's parries and the strength of his steel armour. Some blows found their mark in between the armour plates, though, cutting deep wounds in the flesh and infecting Gösta's body with the ancient curse on the skeletons' blades.
Fortunately the Lady of the Lake watched over his champions, halting the curse from spreading in the flesh of a Paladin as wide as it could in other mortals. 
Thus saved by his patroness, Paladin Storbuken continued to protect his lord's castle.

Despite their best efforts to fulfill their master's last will, the Skeleton Warriors could not break the peasant shieldwall. Heaps of bones and ancient armament littered the floor while the last of the legionnaires bashed themselves against their foes time and time again, to no effect.  With no powerful enough magic to summon more souls to take up the carcasses of the fallen, every skeleton that fell stayed down.

Up on the walls Paladin Gösta was bleeding from several wounds while trying to fend off the attacker. Down at the gate the Men-At-Arms now suffered casualties due to exhaustion caused by prolonged contact with the foe. The only Svedonnians in Järnborgen were these valiant but tired survivors, fighting more for their own lives than anything else.
The heavy footfalls of the Mercenary Ogres climbing the stairs were disheartening the men even further, while the foul incantations of the Liche Priest could be heard echoing across the barren landscape...

It was then that the sound of liberation rang from beyond the horizon. A wave of drums and trumpets and warhorns heralded the coming of the most welcome sight of all:
an endless sea of lances, flags and brave Svedonnians... Lord Pepperberg's Host! 
The Lord and Duke of the beleaguered garrison had arrived with his army to lift the siege and rescue his subjects!

As the blue-and-yellow host broke into a run to drive off the invader, Liche Priest Amenhemti took the hint. With a dry rasp he barked an ancient command, bidding his master's legions to fall back.
The Tomb Guard descended their scaling ladders and joined the retreating Skeleton Warriors as they made for the coast, while the Mercenary Ogres and the Skeleton Archers were already on their way. Casting one last resentful look upon Lord Birger and his host, Priest Amenhemti followed his minions.

Ragged cheers went up from the dry throats of the remaining garrison. The enemy was falling back and their lord had come to their aid!
Letting his hammer drop to the floor, Paladin Gösta Storbuken sent a thanking prayer to the Lady. He had held his oaths of honor and kept the castle from falling into enemy hands.

Looking around him, Gösta inspected the bloody heaps of peasant corpses that filled the ramparts.
"Too bad these poor bastards couldn't make it 'til the end!"


That was the story of my sixth Narrative Battle Report!

An enjoyable game despite the fact that our terrain was a bit ascetic. It really felt like only a couple of turns more and my Tomb Kings could've broken into the castle! Damn that Paladin for bashing my Tomb Guard to tiny bits of bone...

Although the Bretonnian force mainly consisted of peasants they did quite a good job in defending that castle. The "Arrowstorm" ability from the peasants on Battle Round 1 was devastating, a total of 12 Skeleton Warriors were slain in one go! Luckily their unit standard soon resurrected them back to full strength so they could get at the Men-At-Arms inside the gate with extra attacks for having 20+ models in the unit.

Next up will be my 7th Narrative Battle Report, featuring Dwarves and Goblins once again!

Until then!

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