lauantai 1. lokakuuta 2016

The Tale of Carnaghinians

Hi folks!

My recent posts have been all about the new campaign I created but this time I'll present you with something else. Worry not, though, as I'll still keep updating the campaign with more factions just as I promised!

I personally long to write up a Narrative Battle Report once again but thus far I've failed to get in a decent game of Age of Sigmar that I could turn into such... I truly hope this will change soon.

So, to let the Beginner's Path to Glory rest for just one moment I wrote up a short story about some of the newer models on my painting table, just to give you something to read while... well, doing whatever you're doing right now. Enjoy!


The Tale of Carnaghinians

Dusk was slowly settling over the small village of Carnaghan, painting the sky as orange as the savannah that surrounded the cluster of clay huts and houses which made up the village centre. A column of two dozen mounted men was snaking its way through cracked hills and twisted trees, heading for the village. Warm light glittered off breastplates and shields, bathing the men and making some remove their helmets to better catch the last rays of the twin suns that were descending behind the mountains.

“Ghur can be beautiful at times, but let us remember it also poses many dangers to the unwary,” Lieutenant Hansen called out to his subordinate riding next to him. Nothing but the clatter of their horses’ hooves on the hard-packed road could be heard in the warm evening air.
“Aye, it looks nice and peaceful to the eye but something about this tranquillity always makes my guts turn rounds…” the man replied, eyeing the dusty orange landscape while grasping the leathery handle of his sword tightly.
“This is the last village today, Karl,” the Lieutenant said, frowning at his mate. “You just can’t enjoy a peaceful patrol, can you?”
The sergeant turned away from his superior, gazing at the two setting suns in the distance.
“No, sir, it appears I don’t.”

As the soldiers turned the last slight bend of the dirt road they could finally see the village. A dry trotted path lead straight into the village market, surrounded by huts and houses of clay, leather, wood and turf. Small groups of people emerged on the roadside, their curious dark faces marked with white dots and lines, the traditional skin paint of the Carnaghinians. A lone figure dressed in a green tunic approached the patrol with his hands spread wide.
“The warmest of welcomes to you, good freeguilders!” the man smiled, revealing a line of white teeth. “How may I be of service?”
“Evening, Chimeka. How are things here in Carnaghan?” the Lieutenant said while pulling his horse to a stop and then carefully dismounting, aware of the many curious eyes that followed his every move.
“Oh, things are well here! Our hunters have been most successful in the last weeks, carrying home bigger prey each day, thank Sigmar,” the man called Chimeka replied happily, signalling the soldiers to follow him. “Come with me and I’ll show you!”

The freeguilders dismounted and left their horses to the villagers to be taken to the stables for food and water before following their leader into the streets of the village. On the market square there was a huge canvas drawn over a nine-foot object standing in the middle of the clearing, surrounded by makeshift wooden frames and ladders. As Chimeka and the soldiers passed the market, the Lieutenant’s eyes were drawn to this peculiarity.
“Why is it that your village totem is all covered up like that? Are you adding an ancestor to it or what…?” Hansen asked casually while adjusting the leather strips of his left hand’s bracer on the go.
“There was a storm not too long ago and a lightning struck our beloved totem, shattering the topmost ancestor. The whole thing is now under repairs, but the progress is slow as the men are always busy these days,” their dark-skinned guide replied while leading the freeguilders through yet another small path between houses.
“Busy doing what? I thought you lived a peaceful life here now that you finally reached peace with the raiding Berhanu-tribe last month,” sergeant Karl put in from behind them.
“Erm… we didn’t actually manage peace with them. We destroyed them,” Chimeka confessed without looking at the soldiers. “We destroyed them in a war, razed their village and slew their warriors to the last.”

The freeguilders fell silent. Even the relaxed chatter in the back of the patrol died away. Only wind blew through the narrow streets as they trotted towards the warehouse on the edge of the village.
“I see…” Hansen began. “I believe you had no other choice then. Congratulations on your victory.”
It was not unusual to the region’s human tribes waging war against one another, but the destruction of such a large tribe as the Berhanus in the hands of the much smaller Carnaghinians seemed odd at the very least. The lieutenant cast a sideways look at his sergeant, who returned the concerned gaze.

Finally the men arrived at the warehouse. A low but wide clay hut with a sturdy roof of dried wooden planks stood right next to the palisade wall that marked the edge of the village. Two Carnaghinian warriors stood at the canvas door, leaning on their spears.
“Take a look inside, you’ll be amazed!” Chimeka urged the Lieutenant with a proud smile on his face. Without a word Hansen ducked slowly and entered the hut, grasping the scabbard of his sword to keep it from hitting the ground. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, but what he saw left him speechless.

Rows upon rows of fresh meat hanging from the roof, packs of recently skinned fur and leather against the back wall, assortments of animal bones on the floor and baskets of gold and trinkets right in front of him, nearest to the door. It seemed the Carnaghinians had accumulated considerable wealth since Hansen’s last visit only a couple of weeks ago. Shaking his head in disbelief, the lieutenant stepped out back into the warming rays of the twin suns.
“That’s… admirable, to say the least!” he managed, making Chimeka’s smile even wider than it was before.
“I know, I know! Our tribe’s been finally blessed after the years of hardship and suffering we’ve gone through,” the guide laughed. “We thank Sigmar for answering to our fervent prayers!”

Hansen tried to smile himself. The happiness of the man seemed so touching, so genuine. As they walked back to the village market listening to Chimeka’s stories about the recent successful hunts, a sudden thought crossed the Lieutenant’s mind.
“Chimeka, I’m sorry to interrupt your story-telling but I’ve got a question for you.” The dark-skinned man fell silent and nodded.
“You never answered my good sergeant’s question earlier. Why are your men too busy to finish your totem’s repairs? I thought the icons of your ancestors were of great importance to your people,” Hansen asked. The relieved look on Karl’s face as the question was presented revealed that the matter had been pressing the sergeant’s mind the whole evening. The other soldiers seemed curious, too, forming a loose circle around Chimeka to hear the answer themselves. The guide looked nervous.
“I… urrr… We’ve got a lot of hunting and skinning to do, and counting the trophies from the war certainly takes time…” Chimeka stuttered, unsettled by the attention of so many armed freeguilders.
“But why do you have to hunt so bloody much? Your tribe isn’t that populous and the meat in your warehouse will sustain you all for weeks if salted properly,” Hansen demanded.

The lieutenant’s tight voice unnerved one of the younger soldiers who loosened his sword in its scabbard. The rasp of metal on metal made Chimeka twitch suddenly, startled by the sound. Hansen signalled slowly with his left hand, telling the youngblood to stand down.
“What are you jumping about, Chimey? We’re all friends here,” he said while looking the guide deep into the eye. He put his thumbs under his belt and moved his weight on his left leg in order to look relaxed and confident. He only managed the latter.
“Come on, matey, cough it up!”
“We’ve got a guest here in Carnaghan… ehm… a stranger who arrived last week,” Chimeka said, picking his words with care. “He eats rather lot.”

“Is that so…?” Hansen cast a quick look at his sergeant before letting his gaze wander around the empty marketplace. It was almost dark already and the freeguilders were shifting nervously. “And where might this guest be at the moment? Why are you keeping him here if he eats as much as the rest of the village put together?”
“We… errrmmm… he came here wounded, looking for aid… we offered him shelter and let our healer tend to his wounds. He promised to reward us as soon as he was in good condition again,” Chimeka explained, rubbing his sweating hands together. “He promised us good fortune in both hunting and war, just what our people needed the most. The strength to survive.”

Sergeant Karl stepped closer, holding his finger mere inches away from the man’s face.
“A man promising luck in return for saving his life? What in Sigmar’s name made you trust a stranger making such empty promises?!”
“The promises were not empty, good sir!” Chimeka cried out with tears in his eyes. “You saw it yourself, we defeated the Berhanus and we have more food than we can eat! Come, I’ll introduce you to him if you wish…” the guide continued, pushing through the press of soldiers to approach a large hut at the furthest corner of the market clearing. The freeguilders gazed at each other with grim expressions before following their officers and the nervous guide. As they approached the hut, villagers began to show up from the twisting streets, first in ones and twos but soon in groups of dozen.

Chimeka stopped at the ramshackle plank door of the wooden hut.
“He seems to be asleep. Shall I wake him?” the guide asked, seemingly encouraged by the presence of the stranger.
“Oh many thanks for the offer, Chimey, but I think I’ll handle this,” the Lieutenant said, over-emphasising the politeness of his tone. “Dietrich, a rifle if you please.”
A soldier behind him snapped to attention and placed a thick-barrelled handcannon in the Lieutenant’s outstretched hand.
“Step aside, friend,” Hansen commanded Chimeka while walking up to the door. The guide took three small steps away from the hut, never averting his gaze from the freeguild officer.

With the eyes of almost a hundred villagers and two dozen of his own men on him, the Lieutenant drew back the wheellock of the rifle with a soft click, took a deep breath and slowly opened the door to the hut.
There was dark inside, except for a lone fireplace in the middle that cast a weak yellow light on its surroundings. Bones and half-eaten meat lay on the floor, with splatters of blood here and there.
Hansen quickly swept the walls of the hut, gazing around along the barrel of his gun, but saw nothing of note. He took another step in and let the door close behind him. Outside he could hear the nervous chatter of his men. The hut seemed empty except for the bed of rushes in the furthest corner. He could feel his heart pick up pace, his breaths became shallow and sharp, almost like there was something stuck in his throat.
Something moved in the corner. Straining his eyes in the dark and ignoring the pumping he felt up in his temples, he could make out a figure laying on the bed. It was huge.

Hansen took a deep breath and lifted his rifle up to his eye-level.
“Morning, beautiful!” he called out with a determined voice, making the figure jump upright into a sitting pose. That was when the light of the fireplace hit the stranger’s face and the Lieutenant could see. A bald, scarred head with a vicious grin and gleaming red eyes, topping a huge body of a giant man rippled with muscles and scars. On the stranger’s forehead a blood-red mark could be made out in the dim light, a mark that Hansen knew all too well. The mark of Khorne.

Outside the soldiers waited anxiously as their officer disappeared into the hut. The villagers around them shuffled closer and closer as moments passed, gaining confidence with every passing heartbeat. The youngest of the freeguilders had slowly bunched up together, eyeing the approaching villagers suspiciously, while the veterans were chatting amongst themselves in low tones.
Sergeant Karl strained to pick up any sounds from the hut indicating that he should rush in to aid his superior, while at the same time keeping an eye on the villagers. Why where they so timid? He had participated in patrols into this village for several years now and he knew almost every person who lived here. He had learned to know the Carnaghinians as an open and lively people with rich traditions, but this time they all seemed to be frightened by the presence of armed Freeguild men. What was going on?

That was when he heard shouted words from the hut, followed by the loudest of gunshots. The patrol immediately bared steel, drawing their swords and priming their handcannons with drilled efficiency. The sergeant drew his longsword in one fluid motion and sprinted up to the hut door, only to be cut off by grinning Chimeka.
“Move aside, Chimey, or I swear I’ll put a blade in your belly!” Karl roared at the guide while slamming the cross-guard of his sword into the man’s face. Chimeka fell to the dusty ground with a bloody nose, but rose up quickly with a rusty dagger clenched in his palm. The sergeant had already kicked in the plank door and was stepping inside when the guide grasped his helmet, drew his head back and opened his throat from ear to ear.

In an eyeblink shivs of bone, flint and iron appeared in the hand of every man, woman and child on the market square as they descended upon the surrounded freeguilders, stabbing and screaming ferociously. For a moment loud booms of blackpowder weapons echoed in the darkening market alongside the metallic clash of weapons, only to be drowned by the silence of the night. Warm wind blew in the streets, raising up clouds of dust that blended into the darkness that settled once the suns were both slumbering behind the mountains in the distance.

Chimeka was breathing heavily. His gaze was locked onto the prone form of the sergeant that lay before him on the ground, lifeless. What he had done, he had done for his tribe, but somehow the slaughter of the soldiers that had kept his people safe for decades made him feel sick. He came aware of the warm streams of blood that flowed in between his fingers holding the rusty dagger, making Chimeka shudder and drop the ugly weapon to the dusty ground.
Then a shadowy form came out of the hut, stepping over the lifeless body in the doorway to stand before the confused guide.
“Well done, all of you. Khorne will be pleased…” the Stranger’s voice rang in the night, loud and low.
“Fetch your warriors from hiding and assemble at the totem, the time has come.”

As the Stranger started towards the centre of the market square, Chimeka signalled a villager fulfil the commands.
“My lord… are you injured?” he asked, horrified, as he saw a gaping red hole in the side of the giant man’s neck.
“Khorne has shown me favour as I still live despite the power of the weakling’s cowardly weapon. It is a sign that the time has come for my ascension,” the Stranger replied, speaking slowly with his powerful voice.
Soon they reached the covered-up village totem where dozens of people were taking apart the wooden frames and ladders to pile up bonfires around the market.

The night was pitch black as the bonfires were finally lit and the ritual could begin. The Stranger tore away his rugged tunic, baring the scarred upper half of his heavily muscled body and stepping in between two of the largest bonfires just at the foot of the totem.
“Khorne, all the blood here today was spilled in your name, the slaughter carried out by your devoted servants to gain your favour!” he roared at the skies while slowly drawing a red, jagged blade from his belt.
“Behold this sign of devotion!”

The villagers around the totem tore away the canvas, revealing not the faces of their ancestors but a giant brazen sign of Khorne on top of a pillar of skulls. The whole population of the village was there to witness the event, including the tribe’s warriors that had formed a circle around the Stranger. These men had grown unnaturally in strength and size over the last weeks, making them at least a head taller than any Carnaghinian had ever been, which was why they had been ordered to stay away from the village for the duration of the Freeguild patrol.

The warriors began chanting in a monotone voice, waving axes and knives in the air in a wild dance. The Stranger lifted his cruel blade in the air before grasping it with both hands and burying it into his own chest. The intensity of the warriors’ chanting rapidly increased as the body of the giant man fell face-first to the ground. In an eyeblink, the corpse transformed into a bubbling mound of dark blood that started to grow in size. As soon as gory mound reached a size five times the original one it exploded outwards and the night was filled with a blood-curling howl. In the place of the Stranger now stood a hulking creature of horrible aspect.

Its arms ended up in gaping mouths, from its shoulders sprouted snapping tentacles of bone. Its skin seemed like flowing liquid with bleached skulls popping up here and there, and the creatures head was the grinning skull of the Stranger.

None of the pics used in this post are mine, they're all either from Games Workshop galleries/books or made by various web users such as cynic_pavel, kashivan or wolf_nakomis. The pics are used purely for decoration and I do not claim ownership of any of them.

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