perjantai 2. joulukuuta 2016

Raid on Shimmerglade Holdfast

G'morning, everyone!

During this brief pause in between my posts I've not been idle, and here is a Narrative Battle Report to prove it.
The game was played at our local club against a fellow I too rarely face on the battlefield. He had brought his Highborn Aelves to test their mettle against my Slaves to Darkness, and we opted to play a custom scenario we simply called the Barricades.

The aim of the scenario was to get more models inside the wooden walls than your opponent until the time ran out or we reached the bottom of battleround 6. My Slaves to Darkness were the attacking faction so I got a few extra models on the field as we balanced the game roughly using Wounds, to save time.

Let's dive into the narrative, shall we?


Lord Althran Mournfire was leaning against a rock atop a flat hill with his arms crossed. His long, elegant two-handed sword was standing before him with its tip on the frozen ground, its perfect balance keeping it straight despite the weight of his helmet resting on top of the handle. All around him wooden palisade walls were being erected by his troops, their spears and shields leaning against each other in neat stacks around the construction site. Althran fixed his black oval eyes on a group of aelves hacking the hard-packed ground with picks and shovels, his heart filling with anxiety upon the realization that this enterprise would take many more days to finish.

Lord Mournfire had been one of the many aelven nobles tasked to raise forts and holdfasts in the wilderness surrounding the city of Caleria to protect it from the perils that lurked in every shadow of the Realm of Ghur. Of course it had been him who got the freezing tundras to the north as his charge, where the ground was stone-hard and materials had to be transported many miles since woods were scarce there.
His men had not been happy with the task, but they followed their lord without audible complaint. A regiment of citizen militia to act as muscle, his personal household guard to watch over the construction and a group of mounted Reavers to scout the surrounding lands, that was all he had taken with him as he had left the city two days ago.

A shiver went through Althran's lean body, rattling the lightweight metal plates of his scalemail armour. He didn't envy his men as the first group finished digging the ground and moved aside to sweep sweat from their pale brows, making way for the second group to strike wooden poles into the rummaged soil. Just as Althran was rubbing his gloved hands together to force the cold out of his limbs a mounted scout cantered to him, deftly avoiding the workers and household guards on the way. Even before the horse had halted the rider swept down from the saddle, gracefully taking a knee in the presence of his superior.
"My lord Mournfire, I bring dire tidings from the west..." the scout uttered, panting slightly.
"Report," Althran replied, already picking his helmet from where it rested atop his sword.
"A horde of Chaos followers approaches this site, my lord, foolish mortals led by a warlord that reeks of great dark power," the scout paused briefly as he searched his mind for more details. "They'll be upon us before the sun has set."

Dismissing the scout with the wave of his hand, lord Mournfire gripped the handle of his sword and lifted it in the brisk winter air.
"Gilean!" he called out to the captain of his household guard who was overseeing the workers. "Cease the work for today, we seem to be receiving uninvited visitors soon. Sound the call to arms and wake the mages from their meditations."
The captain bowed and strode off to prepare the men, starting with the twin brothers who accompanied them to provide arcane aid if needed. Two separate lengths of wall had already been finished, and lord Mournfire could only hope that was enough to repel this sudden assault.
With the last rays of sunlight arrived the Chaos host on the horizon. Hordes of barbarians, armoured and bare-chested, marched determinedly towards the partially finished holdfast. All around the surrounding tundra patches of snow glittered in the evening light like piles of crystals, a sight from whence the area drew its name.
Althran had positioned his citizen militia atop the walls, with himself standing in the gap between them along with his household guard and the mages. His mounted Reavers he had tasked to remain outside to harass the approaching enemy with hails of arrows.
Lord Althran Mournfire (in red), surrounded by his loyal household guard
Flanked by the mage brothers on each side, Althran felt relatively secure. His personal guard were among the most skilled warriors in the land, and both of the mages were renowned spellcasters and scholars in Caleria.
"Anything worth noting in this ragtag horde arrayed against us? Any tricks or deceit?" he asked the brother dressed in yellow garments. For a while the mage seemed to focus, his mouth tightening and eyes straining as they scanned the approaching ranks.
"None, my lord, aside from their leaders. The one in armour radiates considerable power, but the other two are minor shaman and priests, nothing the two of us can't handle," the mage replied finally, nodding to his brother at the last statement.
"Wonderful!" Althran exclaimed, with no real joy in his tone.
"Slay the twisted and the unholy! Stand your ground, highborn warriors, and show these brutes what it means to cross our path!" he cried out for all his men to hear. Bolstered by his words, every aelf in the fort resolved not to give any ground to the foe without watering it with their foul blood.
Across the frozen field stood Vladislav the Indestructable, a powerful Chaos lord sworn to Tzeentch. Clad in heavy magical armour he gazed upon the aelves standing behind half-finished barricades and laughed.
"This will be all too easy, Izazel," he uttered in a hollow voice, addressing the sorcerer walking behind him. "Puny aelves behind walls of sticks... their lifeblood will soak the ground by nightfall!"
Izazel the Twisted rolled his eyes. On his quest for power and glory he had need of a strong warlord to lead the tribes of his followers in battle. After finding a suitable youngling from the ruins of an unnamed ancient city he had spent years tutoring him in the ways of warfare and magic. The result of his efforts now walked before him, clad in magical artefacts and wielding a blade that contained a furious daemon...and yet this creation was reckless and foolish.
The reason behind this attack was simple: to test his apprentice's skills, body and mind in battle, and no target was better than a group of shivering pointy-ears trying to build a ring of sticks in the nearby tundra.

If anything, he was grateful for the presence of the Slaughterpriest at least. A huge monster of a man, twisted by the will of Khorne before he fell for the lure of Tzeentch, earning him the name of Sigismund the Betrayer. With a simpleton army of barbarians around him he welcomed the bloodmagic and experience of the man, even though he was far from trustworthy.
Vladislav thrust his pitch-black blade in the air, orange lightning dancing around its edges. With a deafening roar the hordes exploded into motion, running towards the aelven fort with murder in their eyes. Walking calmly behind the mindlessly screaming mobs, Izazel wove protective enchantments upon them as he knew to expect volleys of arrows when fighting this particular race. He was positively surprised to notice that even his apprentice, despite running along with the barbarians in a mad rush, focused enough to grant a protective spell upon a group of warriors. Perhaps there was some hidden calmness in that restless mind, after all...
As Izazel had wisely foreseen, the walls came alive with motion and spat forth clouds of shafts to repel the invaders. Placing their shields and spears leaning on the walls, the aelven militia had unslung bows from their backs and were lobbing arrows faster than a mortal eye could follow. Pure-white shafts punched into eye sockets and throats, stopping many barbarians dead in their tracks as they fell on the run to be trampled by their comrades.
Their ranks greatly thinned by the furious arrowstorm, the followers of Chaos pushed on despite their losses. From their right flank the aelven Reavers galloped in, lobbed three volleys of shafts into the barbarian horde in quick succession and turned around to run out of range once more. Frustrated by the cowardly tactics, the bare-chested warriors shouted insults on the run, only to be silenced by a few more arrows that struck through their open mouths.
Seeing the peril of their footslogging tribesmen, the mounted barbarians readied their throwing spears and went after the retreating Reavers. As the aelven cavalry turned around for another hit-and-run attack, they were greeted by a hail of javelins that punched an aelf from his mount and pierced the arm of another, spilling the first drops of highborn blood on the white snow that dotted the landscape.
Vladislav the Indestructible resolved not to waste more time in the open ground and roared at his men to pick up the pace again. Armoured warriors reached the palisades and begun to clamber up, eager to reach their arrogant foes. A tight formation of heavy barbarian cavalry charged full-tilt into lord Mournfire and his personal guard in an attempt to break their lines and gain access to the unfinished fort.
Sorry for the shaken pic!
Against any lesser race the Chaos assault would have been baneful, but against the valour and skill of the highborn the attack broke like a tidal wave upon a coastal rock. The twin mage brothers had spoken words of power and shielded the aelves with their arcane tricks, protecting them from the brunt of the enemy charge.
The Mournfire household guard lowered their greatswords like pikes before them, forcing the Chaos Knights' mounts to rear as they refused to run headlong into a thicket of ithilmar blades. With their momentum stolen away, the knights were easy prey to the aelven swordsmen who chipped away chunks of hell-forged armour with each graceful strike, even resulting in one of the knights falling off his mount with his head missing from the shoulders. Swinging their crude weapons in blind rage, the remaining barbarians managed to cleave apart the skulls of a few reckless aelves who ventured too close in search of a good striking angle.

Armoured Chaos Warriors reached the top of the palisade in ones and twos, only to be greeted with a wall of spears and shields. The barbarians were pushed down from the battlements before they gained a foothold, some never rising back up as their throats had been pierced by aelven blades.
Using their superior skills of horseback warfare, the Reavers shifted towards the safety of the palisades while releasing a wave of arrows at the barbarian horsemen on the move. Horses whinnied and men screamed as white shafts protruded from their unarmoured chests while they fell off the saddle, dead before they hit the ice-cold ground.
Making no real progress in their assault on the fort, the fortitude of the barbarians began to falter. Yet more armoured forms were pushed off the walls to crash on the ground, followed by swiftly shot arrows to ensure they never rose again. The Chaos Knights were bogged down as if they'd charged into a swamp, one that fought back with greatswords. Half the riders met their doom as elegant blades found gaps in their armour, darting in and out to pierce flesh and rupture organs with astonishing speed. Lord Mournfire himself accounted for one of the kills, his measured slash cutting off an arm and half a head as his blade danced around the edges of the enemy armour to cleave through all the soft spots.
The riderless horses of the slain knights were nothing to be ignored either, as one of Althran's household guards learned the hard way as his ribcage was shattered by a panicked kick from one of the mounts.
Snorting at the failure of those assailing the fort, Sigismund the Betrayer had a different approach to breaking the aelven defense.
"Why keep hitting your head against a wall when you can make those atop it come to you instead...?" the Slaughterpriest muttered to himself so that only the closest few barbarians could hear it. "To me, you lazy curs! Gather around me and I promise you the blood of our enemies!" he roared at those around him, making the barbarians hesitate a moment for leaving the assault on the foe ahead before forming around him.

Sigismund began to pray in an ancient tongue, gazing up at the skies with his hands spread out on either side of him. The men around him were growing restless as arrows thudded into their midst from the nearby palisade and all they did was stand in the open to be shot at.
Suddenly the arrowfire halted and a bloodthirsty cry went up from aelven throats. Their eyes burning red-hot with anger and bloodlust, the citizen militia on the walls abandoned their bows to pick up spears and shields. With no concern for personal safety the aelves stumbled down from the ramparts and charged into the open shouting threats and oaths in their own strange language.

Lord Althran saw the spearmen sally out and cried out in anguish.
"Volthilmar, halt! What in the name of Isha are you doing!?" he shouted desperately but the Warden of the militia unit was just as maddened as his men, running at the barbarians from the safety of the walls while roaring wildly.
"No..." Althran gasped, losing sight of them as the swirling melee around him went on furiously and he had to parry a clumsy swing from a Chaos Knight.

"Go get them, lads!" Sigismund bellowed as he opened his eyes, grinning wickedly. Amazed by the power at the Slaughterpriest's disposal, the barbarians around him howled with joy as they surrounded the blood-grazed militia and set upon them like hungry wolves.
With the remaining barbarians engaging the sallying militia, Vladislav the Indestructible had committed all his available forces to the battle. The fighting on the walls had no end or progress in sight, and even the charge on the gap had bogged down into a bloody maelstrom of maces, swords and limbs that had drained the strength from the Knights of Chaos. The aelven Reavers galloped inside to the safety of the palisade walls as they realized they were unable to help the bewitched citizen militia, seeing it more tactically beneficial to guard the walls now left unmanned.

Vladislav cast a quick look around him, ensuring all his men were giving their best effort in toppling this puny outpost. Satisfied, the lord of Chaos nodded to himself and started jogging towards the walls where his warriors were once again being beaten back from the ramparts. As the distance between him and the walls closed, Vladislav picked up speed that belied his size and the weight of his armour. Like a blazing comet of destruction he bounced into the midst of the foe from atop a snowy rock, crashing down upon the battlements so that the whole construction creaked and shook.
Once more the Warriors of Chaos clambered up, only to be cast down with spears and arrows jutting from the gaps in their armour. Their numbers were so few now that it seemed almost ridiculous that none of the defenders arrayed against them had suffered anything more than some scratches and flesh wounds. However, the arrival of the Indestructible changed everything, his massive form wreathed in protective spells of his own making and a daemon-bound sword raised high in the crisp winter air.

Each swing of the damned sword was terrible to behold, with the malevolent voice of the bound daemon screeching across its edge as the blade cut through the defenders in wide, cleaving blows. Shields, armour, flesh and bone all parted under the unholy touch of the weapon and the unmatched strength of its wielder, resulting in half a dozen mangled militia corpses falling from the ramparts in half as many swings.

The Chaos Knights in the gap were finally overwhelmed by Althran and his personal guard, their perfectly balanced blades cleaving apart one of the riders while lord Mournfire claimed the last. A swift slash cut the reins of the horse, making it rear as the rider lost all control. The second strike was a cruel thrust into the beast's belly, taking it down with a painful scream. Before the battered knight had a chance to pick himself up, Althran leaped gracefully upon him and his third blow separated the barbarian's hairy head from his shoulders, sending it rolling across the patches of now-red snow.
At the foot of the other stretch of palisade wall the forces of Chaos managed to achieve a triumph, led by Sigismund the Betrayer. The spell that had enraged and blinded the aelves wore off and they suddenly realized their peril, starting to form up a defensive circle of spears and shields. Alas, it was too late and the barbarians were already upon them. Horsemen rode straight into the disarrayed ranks of the spearmen, jabbing aelves down with their javelins to be trampled by their foam-mouthed horses. Bare-chested Marauders sprung upon them from the other side, using their body weight to unbalance the militia before sending an axe or flail to crush and cleave skulls and limbs.
By the time Sigismund strode to the scene, the whole group of aelves laid dead on the frozen ground, slain where they had stood.
"Well done..." he admitted in his low, rough voice, kicking aside an elegant helm with a bloody cleft on top.
Izazel the Twisted watched the events of the raid unfold, and even though he smiled at the slaughter of the citizen militia he knew that this test had been a failure. His apprentice and puppet was not yet ready, his reckless feeble-minded tactics resulting in the destruction of the current warband without any visible success. Feeling himself ultimately bored and irritated, he formed a telepathic connection to Vladislav.
"Return to me. You have failed and will suffer the consequences. Fall back."

With a bellow of rage and frustration, Vladislav looked once more around him. He had truly failed. His followers had died in droves while the success they had made was minimal. Ramming his massive shield into the jaws of an approaching spearman to send him flying from the battlements, he finally submitted.
"Yes, master," was the reply he formed in his mind to Izazel, unknowing that the sorcerer had followed through his entire string of thoughts with great interest.

"Fall back! Retreat you dogs, you have failed me and will feel my wrath on the flesh of your backs!" he roared, the warband responding with something akin to relief as they turned on their heels and ran into the vastness of the tundra. Muttering curses under his breath, Vladislav decapitated one more aelf trying to lunge at him before jumping down from the battlements and setting after his troops.

Gripping the handle of his greatsword in front of him with both hands, the blade dripping strings of clotting blood, lord Althran Mournfire watched his enemies vanish into the horizon from whence they had come. Not all of them made it far, though, as the remaining militia on the wall was more than glad to send a few shafts after the barbarians to punch through backs and thighs, cutting their retreat short.
"Gather the dead, tend to the wounded," he ordered his household guard as they arrayed around him, exhausted but triumphant. "And send the Reavers after the foe to harass them for fifty miles, after which they are to return here to speed up the construction work. We still have some daylight left." The warriors saluted and set off to fulfill their lord's command in the warm orange light of the setting sun.

"There was some terrifying dark potential to the armoured giant," said one of the mage brothers as he glided towards Althran on a gentle gust of conjured wind.
"We both sensed it. That one can prove troublesome in the future if it learns to harness that potential."
"I agree and I understand your concern, master mage. But right now we have a holdfast to finish," lord Mournfire replied, his gaze fixed on the setting sun in the distance. All around them aelven warriors took off their helmets and breastplates to ease the sweating now that the adrenaline rush of the battle had worn off, sitting in circles where flagons of springwater passed around and stories of personal feats were exchanged and lost comrades mourned.
"After I've set up this suddenly battle-tested fort I swear to gather an expedition and set after that monster."
"You'd be wise to do so, my lord. There's no better time to extinguish a threat than when it's still nothing more than a fledgling," the mage nodded, content with the verbal oath of a highborn noble.

As the brothers took their leave to regain their powers through meditation, Althran was left standing amidst the cold corpses of the enemy knights. He would let his men rest until the Reavers returned, when it was safe to resume the construction. The powerful Chaos lord was a matter he would have to deal with later on.

An enjoyable game that ended up in crushing defeat for my Slaves to Darkness!
We had about one and a half hours of time which ran out at the end of the third battleround, resulting in me having no models inside the fort at all. Given some more time I could've been able to breach in, but ultimate victory was far from my grasp as my men died in their dozens at the foot of the makeshift walls...

Although I don't see many Highborn Aelf players around and the Compendium Warscrolls for them seem a bit meh, I was surprised with their performance on the field. Units like Ellyrian Reavers or Lothern Sea Guard were surprisingly effective and durable on the field, more so than what they looked like on paper. This particular battlereport was a joy to write as I got to try my hand at using noble aelves in the narrative. I think delving into aelven mind, manners and ways of war (as background research for this story) has sparked up a desire in me to collect a small force of them for the sake of my narratives. That would be my eight army. Heh. We'll see what happens!

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