Oathbeard (WHFB fiction, Updated 2/17/11)
I use to write and post a lot of 40k fan fiction at the black library forums, but sadly they are no more, and I cannot seem to find any equivalent web forums that have the same purpose. If anyone could point me to anything, it would be greatly appreciated. But anyways, this is my first or second attempt at Warhammer Fantasy fiction, so bear with me if I don't have lore precise (even though I do like to think I know a lot). This story is focused on a duo of sell swords who fight in various areas of the old world. they are currently fighting in Estalia which recently has been invaded by the corsair fleets of Arabya (the one in which the knights of the blazing sun were first founded). This is just the rough beginning, so more is on the way. I'm always open to constructive criticism and suggestions.
Smoke rose against the sun setting behind the hills of Margritta, the cobbled streets of the port city were peppered with broken and dead soldiers. Not far from the docks the Arabyan fleet could be seen in the Bay of Quietude, black and red sails swayed slowly in the evening breeze. Occasionally the corsairs would fire their deck guns into the besieged city in hopes to drive the defenders further back. But it had been a full week of fighting, and although the Estalians had suffered heavy casualties, they had shown no will to flee their beloved city.
Before the invasion Margritta was among the wealthiest ports in Estalia. Trade ships from all over the Old World as well as exotic locales such as Cathay, Lustria and Nippon came to trade their goods. And while most of the Arabyan fleet was besieging Margritta, many other ships split off and began to plunder and raze the smaller towns and villages off the coast.
Even with the news of Tilea amassing an grand war fleet, and orders of empire knights pledging their lances to the Estalian Court, hope had never been more scarce than it was now. At the time, Grumli Oathbeard considered the move to Estalia a horrible mistake.
Grumli spat out a bloody tooth onto the ground as he pulled a wounded arquebusier behind the barricade made of empty barrels and wagon wheels. A pair of chickens fluttered across the street clucking in fright as the dwarf neared them. Once they were in relative safety Grumli reached to his belt and unclasped his wineskin, he took a swig and spat out the bloody liquid. The drink stung where his tooth had been as he felt the area with his tongue and warmed his belly, the only enjoyable aspect of it.
“Blasted manling brew!” he cursed, “If only this were quality dwarfen ale”.
He took another drink from the skin and reattached it to his belt when the clattering of steel and horse hooves alerted him of reinforcements. Grumli turned around with arms crossed as a column of soldiers made their way towards the barricade. Two men on horseback trotted alongside formation, the dwarf recognized the man wearing a red shirt and over it a dull breastplate, but the second horseman wearing much finer garb and armor was new. The unknown man spurred his horse down a street perpendicular from the main road as he lead a group of soldiers away.
Grumli smirked as his friend neared, “I had hoped you were dead, more gold for me in the end” he said. Liezo Sciretti, the red shirted man, dismounted and the two grasped each others fore arm. Liezo released the dwarf's arm and reached into the saddle bag of his horse and retrieved a small flat stone.
“I'll be able to tell when you're dead” the Tilean said.
“You'll smell better” Liezo grinned and handed Grumli the stone.
As they chuckled the reinforcing troops took the the barricades with supplies and the Arabyan fleet fired the last salvo of the day. The garrison commander of Margritta, Franco Delicci, raised his hand in greeting to the solders as he neared them although his face was grim. But it disturbed the troops little, for Delicci was always dour looking. He was shorter for a Estalian and his face was adorned with a deep pink scar across his cheek and mouth. His thick sideburns and longer hair were black and matted.
“Attention!” he commanded, “This will be brief, as I have battle plans to attend to”.
“And by battle plans he means Esperina the whore!” Liezo joked.
The company erupted in laughter, as most knew it was true. But Delicci kept his composure and waited for them to settle down. “Knights from the north have sent word that they are on their way, at least three days ride. Thus I command you to get this place ready for them” he paused, “Which means clean stables and rooms for them once they arrive”.
No one jested as they knew these knights would turn the tide of battle, hopefully. The commander closed his hand into a fist and placed it on his chest and they did the same. As the commander walked towards the bell tower in the center of the city square the men began to mill about, whispering a question to each other about the knights, were they really coming?
Night fell over the land hours after but the destruction around them was still evident when lit by torches and the twin moons that loomed above them in starry sky. A Storm were seen and heard off in the distance and was approaching the coast rapidly. The soldiers were quick to set up their tents and campfires and the smell of stew and roasted meat filled the air.
Grumli inspected the stone in the firelight, “This is no mere stone, Tilean!” he exclaimed.
Liezo tilted his head in a playful manner, “Well I could tell that, dwarf! It's a rune of some sort, I found it the ruins of a dwarfen smithy”.
The dwarf nodded and stroked his beard in delight, “Indeed, 'tis a rune of fire, commonly used by smiths and forges to ignite their furnaces very quickly”. Grumli looked up to Liezo and smiled, “I'm sure I'll find good use for it soon enough”.
Perhaps it was foul sorcery at work or just a coastal storm, but lightening took the skies in the dead of night. The furious clouds rolled ever inland and seemed to stretch as far as an eye could view seaward. Frozen rain pummeled the defenders to seek shelter making many guardsmen leave their posts. Torches sputtered out as soon as they were brought outside, even the burning ruins had extinguished, the horses and mules in the stables beat against their pens in a vain attempt to flee from the unnatural weather.
Grumli stood at the top of one of the city's bell towers. Standing with him were Liezo and the second horseman from earlier. His name was Junther Breidich and he hailed from Marienburg, an independent city in the north of the Empire. Junther had laid all his equipment on a nearby table and Grumli noted that the man carried three pistols along with two purses of shot. Laid next to the pistols was a rapier with an intricate hilt, a small dagger usually hidden in his boot, and lastly a small ring.
“Your arsenal is impressive” Liezo began, “But might I inquire what the ring does?”
Junther raised an eyebrow and smiled as he picked up the ring, “It is perhaps the deadliest of all these” he said. The Marienbuger put the ring on his index finger and pressed the side of it with his thumb. A small spike popped from the center of the ring.
“Hidden blade?” Liezo asked, “Would be useful in tavern brawl, but against an armored foe, you would be out of luck!”.
Junther smirked and retracted the pin, “Have you heard of the land known as Lustria?” he asked.
Liezo nodded and rubbed his goatee, “I have. The city of Tobaro sent an expedition there many years ago”.
Junther rubbed his hands together and picked up his feathered cap from the table, “Yes, it is a very dangerous place. Although many expedition have failed, there are still some that make it back to the old world in, mostly, one piece”.
Grumli was growing impatient with this banter, and looked out seawards. Despite the raging storm, it appeared that the corsair fleet was unscathed, no broken masts and no ripped sails. In fact, the ships gently bobbed in the bay as if there was no storm at all.
“There is a certain type of toad in the forests of Lustria” Junther continued, “These toads secrete a highly venomous toxin to ward off larger animals.”
Grumli glanced back at the manlings, Liezo had his trademark confused face on and it brought him some comfort. The whole storm had put the dwarf on edge, not to mention the entire invasion.
“Simply put, if I cut you with this blade, you will die if not in seconds, than certainly in minutes”
Grumli reached to his belt and carefully squeezed his wineskin, gauging the amount of the fluid left inside. Although it was rancid he concluded that piss poor spirits were better than no spirits at all.
The three began climbing down the large spiral staircase once Junther had retrieved his belongings. The winds still howled strong even through the stone walls, and as when they reached to bottom the door in front of Grumli ripped itself open. Junther already had one of his pistols aimed at the terrified soldier as soon as he stumbled into the doorway. Grumli grabbed the gunman's arm and pulled it down slowly.
“Easy now friend, he's one our own” Grumli said.
Liezo pushed Grumli aside to see the soldier, “Whats with the look on your face, what's going on?”
The soldier began to spout out words in Estalian, a language neither Grumli or Junther knew.
Grumli looked up to his Tilean comrade, “Well, what's he saying!?”
“Get out!” Liezo bellowed. Before Grumli could question further he was partially pulled by the soldier and pushed by Liezo along with Junther out of the tower into the cobbled plaza.
“Gods, what are we doing?” Junther grumbled as he picked himself up from the muddied ground.
“No, keep running!” Liezo yelled, and once more the quartet stumbled around in limb-tangled dance. Grumli looked and saw most of the soldiers at the barricades, all were staring at a strange green light shining from the bay. Each passing moment the intensity of the light grew, and as he reached the barricade with the others Grumli's eyes went wide.
The light was not coming from the horizon, but from a ship floating in the bay, the light formed into an orb as it rose higher into the air. “What kind of magic is this?!” Liezo asked.
A terrified swordsman screamed, “This is not magic, it is black sorcery!” He stumbled back from his comrades and turned around. The man dropped his shield and sword as he fled towards the tower and as other men began to falter backwards a ray of lightening struck down the orb, and in a brief blinding flash it disappeared. The thunder and rain stopped and only the lightening could be seen flashing in the clouds above, a silence fell upon the city.
It hit the soldiers like a ocean wave, an intense pressure in the head, so strong that some began to vomit while others just fell to the ground unconscious. Grumli, being naturally resistant to magic, only felt a mild dizziness. Few were conscious when the bell tower began to crumble apart. The roof collapsed and as the mid-section of the tower was about to fall inwards stonework and splinters of wood burst outwards, as if it had been blown apart by an explosive from the inside.
The first soldier who fled from the barricade was struck by a stone that crushed his head in a mist of blood and skin and caused the headless body to hug the ground. Soldiers who were struck by the debris succumbed to panic as the tower crashed down onto the city square. Thrashing arms and legs struggled for freedom from the throng. Dust and debris filled the air and none could not see much farther than a few feet ahead.
As the dust settled the carnage was evident, survivors were still crawling for freedom under their dead and mangled friends when Marco galloped up from a nearby street, with him were a detachment of pistoliers. They rode upon swift, lean horses and wore little armor, but each man had half a dozen pistols strapped to their body.
The commander pulled the reins of his horse to stop at the edge of the rubble, “The Arabyans have two small frigates filled with men approaching the docks, gather yourselves!” He drew his blade from his belt as he yelled, “this night is not over, far from it! To arms! To arms!” Franco spurred his horse down to the docks, holding his sword in the air, with his soldiers rushing behind.
Grumli retrieved his axe and and shield and shook the dust from his beard. He looked around for Liezo and Junther, the two manlings seemed shaken but unscathed. “Come! There's blood to be spilled!” Grumli shouted. Liezo, Junther, and others who were not injured severely rallied to the stout dwarf.
Grumli hardly considered himself a charismatic dwarf, or to say the least a leader at all, but the men standing were waiting for him to speak. Grumli looked to them and swallowed whatever was left from his wineskin, and after a loud belch he raised his axe in the air.
“Manlings!” he said loudly, “This city is your home, and now you're home burns and your families are endangered, but all is not lost! I too know what it is like to see my home burned and plundered by savages.” Grumli spat on the ground, “This place may not be my home, but give you my oath, as dwarf, and as friend, that this city will not be taken as long as this dwarf stands strong, that no Arabyan will know peace until they pry this axe out of my cold, dead, and bloodied hand!
The men, although bruised and weakened, raised their weapons in the air and bellowed in approval, and Grumli was surprised. The dwarf lowered his axe and pointed it down the street where the docks could be seen at the very end. “To battle!” he roared as he sped down the street. The clattering of armor and the sound of running boots on the cobblestone encouraged Grumli, and gave him a sliver of hope.
The garrison commander was already engaged with the black and red garbed Arabyans when Grumli reached the docks. Blackpowder smoke filled the air as buccaneers and Estalian handgunners exchanged fire. The Arabyans fired poisoned darts from crossbows and larger spears from deck mounted ballistae as Grumli and the others crashed into the melee.
Grumli parried a slice from a curved sabre and swung his axe sideways into the attacker's knee. The dark skinned man yowled in pain and dropped to his good knee, he looked up just in time to see Grumli bury his axe in his face, blood spurted across the cold dwarfen steel.
Two corsairs charged at Grumli from two sides, the dwarf dispatched the first with a quick hack to his groin and another to his skull as he fell down in pain. Grumli swung his shield around and bashed the second combatant away, he fell to the ground and shortly after his head was cleaved in two. Estalian soldiers rushed into the fray and were able to cut down a wave of pirates before they were forced back by missile fire.
Men fell to the ground shot dead by a pair of Arabyans with repeater crossbows in the highest crows nest of the closest ship. Grumli glanced up to them, and noticed they had trained their sights on him. “Tilean!” he shouted through the din of war.
“I'm here, what do you need dwarf?” Liezo fought his way through to Grumli.
“You see those bastards in the tower mast? I want them dead!”
“Already on it dwarf, just give me time to reload” the Tilean knelt down behind Grumli and began to wind the string of his crossbow up. Grumli held his shield high and deflected a one or two speeding bolts and he grunted in approval. Liezo stood up and aimed, and shortly after released his bolt. The projectile caught the Arabyan in the throat and sent him backwards over the railing of the nest, the second shooter met death soon after the first splatted onto the ship's deck.
Master axemanship brought a score more of corsairs screaming to their deaths, Grumli's blade was drenched and his beard matted with his enemies blood. The Estalians had managed to fight the corsairs back to the first ship despite the constant enemy barrage, Franco ordered a team of men to bring barrels of pitch from the supply stores and shortly after the top deck was drench in highly flammable sap.
Arabyans surged up from the lower deck and cut down many but they were too late, the master alchemist of the city, Bertio Gonzezas, had already thrown an alchemical bomb onto the deck.
Fighters on the deck, friend and foe alike were engulfed by the searing flames and those who did not jump off soon enough caught fire. As the pitch seeped between the wooden planks so too did the flames, and the ship rapidly became engorged in a white hot blaze.
Sails were devoured, masts splintered and crashed downwards onto the already damaged vessel, finally the flames reached the ship's magazine, where most of the gunpowder was held, and the vessel was blown into two by the explosion. Burning warriors were tossed into the air like playthings by the blast as the remaining Arabyans from the first frigate were forced off the docks and into the dark waters.
Last edited by The Merchant-Prince; 02-17-11 at 09:41 AM.
Reason: Minor edit