Upon the Anvil
Word Count: 1097
An ashen rain poured from the blackened skies of Aqshy. The Realm of Fire. Brother Dacian remained as still as the void even as the fiery-laced earth quaked beneath his feet. He hefted his sigmarite hammer in both hands—the haft decorated with golden leafy patterns—and waited for the rising tide of flesh to collide into their battle lines.
Dacian looked around him. A hundred warriors encased in onyx sigmarite, trimmed with burnished gold, were gathered on the Plains of Desolation for a battle. Rain tainted with the soot of old volcanoes streaked grime on their tabards of crimson cloth and scale-mail. Each of them wielded a mighty hammer that arced with traces of volatile lightning. Even among their immortal brethren of the Anvil of the Heldenhammer stormhost, the Retributors were all giants of another caliber.
And across the battlefield, an Arcanite Cult sounded their brazen war horns and charged through the land cracked with lava-geysers. A horde of Kairic Acolytes—mere mortals who had sworn a pact to the Changer of Ways—bore their naked skin against the sweltering heat, shielded only in a white robe that wrapped around their waists and came down to their knees.
On their flanks, the avian creatures of the Tzaangors—Beastmen changed and blessed by Tzeentch—squawked savage battle cries as they churned the ground beneath their cloven hooves. They were a mess of multi-colored feathers and sharpened beaks half-encased in the shimmering armor wrought from Change Metal.
Dacian heard the command to brace as the over-zealous Acolytes hurled bolts of bruised flame across the battlefield. The Retributors were spread out some feet away from one another, giving them ample room to bring their lightning hammers to bear. Fireballs rained down upon the Anvil of the Heldenhammer, engulfing swathes of the battlefield in bruised flames.
A crooked smile crossed Dacian’s lips from beneath his helmet. A spark of pride kindled in his great chest as his brothers strode through the flames—some with their armor blackened and charred—and toward the charging horde.
The horde had seethed within an inch of them. They were so close that Dacian could see the brilliant dazzle in the eye sockets of the cultists’ masks. In a deafening noise of clashing steel and sundered armor, the two armies clashed into each other.
“For Heldenhammer!” Dacian sang. “Sigmar annihilate these wretches from our realm!”
Dacian advanced and ground the bones of a half-naked Acolyte beneath the momentum of his charge. A fireball seared across the sky and slammed into his flank. Dacian pushed through the pain and swung his lightning hammer in a great arc. A clutch of cultists caught in the hammer’s trajectory were cast aside like childrens’ dolls. A further burst of lightning arced from the hammerhead and crashed into the foe as they reeled.
A storm of cursed blades stabbed from every direction. Dacian could feel sword blows bounce off of his armor like a volley of broken arrows. Around him, Brother Regar crushed the chest of an avian beastman with a vengeful blow. Ferengar screamed to his death, reduced to ashes in a rush of bruised flames.
“Fear the eternal retribution!” Qaron snapped from beside Dacian.
A courageous Tzaangor shouldered into him and cut his hammer in twain with a swing of a great sword. Qaron reached out in order to pulp the creature’s skull in his mighty hand, but the Tzaangor snapped his beak through the soft metallic surface of his palm and punched into flesh. Qaron cried out, but in that moment found himself swarmed by the avian beastmen in a storm of sharpened beaks and blades.
Dacian suppressed a shiver as Qaron finally collapsed—eyes pecked into mush and his head severed. He charged forward into the thick of the foe. A Kairic Acolyte cried out when his knees were swept out from under him—literally. A cursed glaive sliced through the air and penetrated his armor where it had been burned.
Dacian followed into his swing with an uppercut into another robed cultist’s chest. Lightning arced from the hammerhead and burst his foe into smoldering pieces.
“Dacian!” Dacian recognized Avistus’ voice through the chaos.
Dacian whirled around on his right flank and was greeted by a Tzaangor who had taken a hammer haft through the gut. The Tzaangor squawked ferociously and managed to bring one his blades upon Dacian’s skull with the last of his strength. He grunted and felt blood trickle down the rent in his helmet.
“Are you well?” Avistus snapped the beastman’s neck with the back of his gauntlet.
“Fine.” Dacian laughed.
Dacian’s laughter became caught in his throat as whispers began to assail from seemingly everywhere. He scanned the carnage and saw dozens of his fallen brothers scattered among hundreds of the dead foe. Over the chaos, more Tzaangors rode into the skirmish on great flying Discs of Tzeentch. These beastmens’ horns curved in more elaborate patterns, their feathers more pronounced and fiercely colored. Each wielded fell spears, but what they whispered into being was something far more horrifying.
Avistus, when your village was razed, you murdered your own family rather than have them burned alive.
Dacian, your children were sacrificed by the Mighty Lord Dagon the Black, and yet you let their murders go unavenged.
Your efforts have all been in vain, their souls were great gifts for the Dark Gods.
Memories once long-forgotten kindled in Dacian’s thoughts. Of his former life before the re-forging had changed everything. Sigmar had told him to forget the past, but some old habits die hard.
“Avistus!” Dacian called after his friend, who stormed toward the Disc-riding Tzaangors in blind fury.
Dacian cried out in denial as Avistus miss-timed his hammer swing. The razor-sharp teeth of a rotating Disc sheared Avistus gorily in two. One half of his friend’s corpse still clung to the disc and the Enlightened he fought speared him once through the eye for good measure.
“Heldenhammer!” Dacian heard himself thunder and charged. The Enlighted that had slain Avistus rode toward him. Dacian leapt into the air, far higher than any immortal in his armor should be able. As he soared over the Disc of Tzeentch, he brought his hammer down in a death knell blow that obliterated his foe and brought the Disc of Tzeenth clattering to the ground.
Awe-inspired, less than a hundred voices echoed his battle cry. And for all of their ferocity, they sounded an entire stormhost gathered for war.
“Champion of Sigmar!”
“Back! Back into the fray, my brothers!”