Alright, folks! This is my first attempt at writing Warhammer Fantasy, and I must admit, many of my conceptions of the IP stem from Warhammer Online. Please read through and bring up any discrepancies with established fluff, because I don't know any better
. I tried to make it as generic as possible to avoid such discrepancies.
Bringing Life, Bringing Death
(1,099 words, including title)
“Behold, Men of the Empire! Look upon the blood-red dawn in the east! See past the dark clouds that have plagued us for days! It is an omen, foretelling the slaughter that will mark this day forever. But take heart! It will not be our blood that is spilt today, but the foul beasts’! They will roar and howl in their base fury, but we will cut them down like the animals they are. They are not worthy of existing in the presence of Imperial knights! Kill them for their insolence. Leave none alive!”
The warrior priest bellowed a prayer to Sigmar, asking for the utter annihilation of their foes. Once he was done, Wilhelm let out an emphatic cheer, echoed by four thousand of his brothers-in-arms. The Imperial warcry carried over the field and permeated the heavy woodland beyond, causing songbirds to take panicked flight.
In response, the enemy made itself known. Emerging from between the shadowed trunks, the beastmen brayed and grunted as they struggled to restrain their bloodlust. They stomped their hooves into the muddy earth and growled, eager for battle. The display was grotesque; gors of all types, their thick fur caked with dirt and dung, were assembled. Powerful bestigors paced amongst them, keeping them in relative order. All of them shared an insatiable thirst for carnage, and only malevolence could be found in their abyssal, black eyes.
Wilhelm had spent ten years as a knight in the Order of the Golden Aegis. He was confident in his sword-arm and in the stalwart allies on his flanks. He felt safe beneath his articulated plate armor and barbute helm. The rousing words of the warrior priest had bolstered his courage and faith. While lesser men struggled to tame their mounting anxiety, Wilhelm envisioned the raucous celebration in Suldenberg’s taverns after their resounding victory. The heavy rainfall of the past few days had not dampened his spirits, like it had dampened the recently tilled field before the forest’s edge.
War trumpets sounded a long, blaring note; another hearty cheer filled the morning air. Drummers began to pound a steady cadence. The front rank, comprised of lightly armored conscripts three men deep and five hundred wide, marched forward. Behind them, the heavily-armored knights acted as heavy infantry support; they, in turn, were backed by a thinner militiamen line. Archers and crossbowmen took up the rear.
The beastmen remained where they were. The bestigors shouted orders in their brutish tongue, and their minions grudgingly obeyed.
As Wilhelm plowed forward, he became troubled. His heart was strong and he was eager to spill the enemy’s blood, but with every step he took, he felt his energy draining. He looked down and saw just how thick and high the mud was, reaching shin height; from afar, the field had looked crossable, but now, he realized that raising each armored foot required much effort. The wet earth greedily sucked him in. He was no stranger to exhaustion, but there was still much distance to cover.
Despite his fitness, he began to pant. Hot beads of sweat coalesced on strands of lank hair and dripped into his eyes, irritating them immensely. His tight, corded muscles burned as they bore the burden. He glanced to his left; his knightly brothers were struggling as much as he was. If the militiamen ahead were cut down, then the beastmen would face fatigued knights with hampered mobility and agility.
In other words, a massacre would ensue.
Wilhelm had no choice; he had to push onward. Nothing would stop him from killing the enemies of the Empire and upholding the honor of the Golden Aegis.
As if Sigmar had seen his secret plight, the trumpets blared once more, signaling a halt. The ranged rearguard began to lob their payload towards the distant horde. For the enemy, direct attack could not be tolerated. The bestigors roared and their underlings surged forward, traversing the bemired field on cloven hooves. They trampled the dozens among them who fell, pierced by arrows and crossbow bolts. Two more volleys filled the air before the beastmen closed the distance.
Wilhelm heard the clashing of steel and cries of pain and rage as the enemy smashed into the front lines. With crude battleaxes, clubs, and other primitive weapons, the children of Chaos battled the men of the Empire. Spears penetrated flesh; axes cleaved heads; swords sent limbs flying and entrails spilling onto the field. The conscripts held their ground, but it quickly became apparent that they were outnumbered and outmatched.
The knight gripped his blade tightly and raised his trademark gold-plated kiteshield, set in a defensive stance. He could see blood and body parts flying into the air; he could smell the overpoweringly rank stench of the beasts, mixed with the odors of death and fear. When the man in front of him was hewn asunder, Wilhelm faced his first gor. He rushed forward, thrusting his longsword into the beast’s gut. It moaned as it collapsed, its life slowly draining away. The beastman behind it was no challenge, and Wilhelm easily brought it low.
Wilhelm battled fiercely until a bestigor emerged from the pack. It carried a heavy mace and was bedecked in rusty chainmail. He landed a few feeble blows on his adversary, but to no avail. The bestigor sent him staggering with a quick backhand slap, then brought its mace around and crushed the side of Wilhelm’s head.
Only one thing brought Wilhelm out of the darkness. He slowly opened his eyes as chilling drops of rain splattered his nose and lips. The sky above was overcast, and a light shower was cleansing the bloody field. He could barely remember where he was or what had happened, but none of it seemed to matter; any recollections of the battle were like half-lucid dreams. With his body and his mind quickly expiring, all he could focus on was the rain.
Why? They had been so sure of victory, sure of righteous slaughter, yet the rain had stolen that triumph in a most devious way. Had it punished them for their arrogance? Did it fall now to spite their broken remains?
Pinned under the crushing weight of a slain gor, Wilhelm stared into the heavens. He mused upon the rain, about how he’d used to love the warm showers of Pflugzeit that had washed his skin and provided water for new life. The flowers had always bloomed brighter after those springtide storms. Wilhelm weakly chuckled at the irony, before the blackness reclaimed him and he expired under the falling rain.