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Hello, Heresy. I don't know how far I am going to take this story, this is a little experiment for me, since I don't usually write fantasy, but I want to get better at writing it. So I suppose this is a test to see how well and far I take a fantasy story. I hope you guys like it :grin:.

Also, this isn't necessarily a Chaos vs. Empire story, this is just how the beginning starts :).


Gods’ Hall

Chapter One: The Battle of Pale Pass

Bjorn

The scent of burning smoke, loosed from a couple hundred muskets, was the first thing Bjorn awoke to inside the camp of the Alle’ Tribe. A light snow fell upon the tall and narrow mountains of the Pale Range, thin avalanches fell from rugged peaks with every thunder of cannon and shot. The dense collection of tents and old wooden cabins were ablaze, slaves swarmed the sites of fire with water filled buckets beyond counting. Yet the screams of men was still fresh in the wintry air, a whimpering noise amplified by all the horrors the technology of the Empire could riddle a man to.

Bjorn made to stand, a slow maneuver in his thickened armor of burnished brass and ordinary steel. He had slept through the beginning of the battle. He stood hunched in his ordinary tent, grabbing his blackened mace and a thick long sword lying by the entrance. Three barbaric looking individuals, half naked in the chill, rushed past him with shields and axes in their hands, screaming filth to the Gods above. Bjorn staggered out of his tent after them, dismissing his drowsiness with rapid blinks. He shook off the cold and searched around the camp, noticing the absent warriors that should have been gathering their arms an hour ago. He instantly knew where the fighting would be thickest and he set a steady pace toward the wooden palisade that protected the camp.

Lief’s bellowing already reached beyond the fighting when Bjorn neared the palisade, manned by nearly a hundred arches on the walls. “You see, men, Bjorn wasn’t scared to fight, he’s just a lazy sea dog!” A chorus of grumbled laughs rose up from the defense.

Two hundred knights of Chaos and Marauders surrounded the wooden wall from on the ground. Slaves were running to and fro, trying to repair the smoking breaches left by an accurate cannon shot. Musket fire slew many of them, but the slaves ran in great hordes around the warriors of Chaos. Bjorn caught a glimpse of their attackers through one such breach, a long formation of swordsmen marched toward them under the beat of a battle tune.

“Welcome, Bjorn!” Sigurd’s armored gauntlet found Bjorn’s pauldron.

“Come to fight?” Loki wheezed maniacally through the slit in his helmet. “The enemy seem twice our number.”

“We’ll defeat them.” Bjorn stated, raising his voice enough for most of the Chaos Knights to hear. “Such is our way, we’ll slay the Gods’ foes as we always do, as we always have!”

Lief’s whip cracked in the air, someone screamed in agony. “Archers, keep up your fire!” He turned around on the battlements, his iron finger pointed down to Bjorn and around the crowd of Knights. “They’re bringing up a battering ram! Don’t let them hole us up in here! Get out there and the skin them alive!”

Rancorous jeers and savage cheering echoed among the Alle’, weapons thrust into the air all around him, everything a man could possibly dream of for killing. The slaves toiled around the mechanism that opened the gates to the fort. The wooden doors struggled to open against the mounds of fresh snow, but eventually the opening crack widened enough that the Alle’ became encouraged, and then charged into the snowy rift of the mountain pass.

The archers on the wall covered the charge of their fearless comrades as best as they could. A hundred arrows loosed in timed intervals, thwacked into swathes of musket and swordsmen, their stricken numbers collapsing on their bellies and knees in various positions. Cannon fire roared around the palisade, creating a dozen more breaches along the main gate and neutralizing a score of bow men. A volley of musket fire bristled on the flanks of the Empire’s frontline. Asrod was the first to fall, blood sprayed from his wounds onto the snow, the first of about a dozen to succumb to their wounds.

“Khorne!!!” Loki’s mouth was filled with froth, bellowing as loud as his lungs could manage. The Alle’ took up his cry, sprinting through the snow toward the still marching center of the Empire’s forces.

More iron balls projected with smoke and fire hammered into the warriors of Chaos. Blood spilled. More warriors fell into the snow. After the second volley, the forces of the Empire state troops sounded their horn and their swordsmen charged forth. They were galvanized at the sight of blood, the sight of indomitable Chaos Warriors collapsing under their fire power. Bjorn laughed at their folly as they collided into the Norsemen.

Blades flashed between the giant Norsemen and the mortals of the Empire, quicksilver slivers that danced back and forth, hacking and hacking, attempting to find weakness in each renewed attack. The Alle’ cleaved through the first ranks with unbelievable ease, battle axes cracking and splitting and pole arms impaling. The swordsmen of the Empire simply swarmed their enemies in retaliation. Every strike parried by a Knight left him vulnerable to several attacks from other directions. Men bled on both sides, died in the span of breaths, but still the battle raged on.

Bjorn’s black mace cracked open a helmet and drank deep on a well of blood. His knee swept aside his first kill even as his sword thrust downward in an overhead strike. The squelch and tearing of flesh beneath cold steel and iron soothed the Chosen of the Gods. He struck again and again, cracking bones, spraying blood, all while accepting any pathetic blows against his own armor.

Bjorn ducked under a clumsy strike, brought his sword upward in an uppercut that sliced apart a man’s face. His mace left a heavy dent in a state trooper’s chest, bouncing backward to crack against another’s jaw. Several men rushed into his guard, attempting to bring him down. He withdrew one step and brought both of his weapons into a counter attack in the shape of an ‘x’. The mace cracked several bones in a puny mortal’s neck, his blade spliced through the meat and bone around the temple of another. A stern kick sent the last of them sprawled in the snow, his sword flipped in his grip and killed him with a simple lunge.

“Sigmar!”The chant of the Empire’s soldiers echoed across the field and Bjorn felt his heart race in anguish.

“Sigmar!!” Bjorn’s weapons quickened in his grip, struck dozens in the span of a couple breaths, killing with reckless abandon.

“Sigmar!!!” Bjorn bellowed his earsplitting scream like a maniac, driven into a feral rage along with the rest of his kin.

The rest of the battle happened in a flash, all Bjorn knew was the blood curse, cutting, disemboweling, and decapitating in the most horrific ways he could imagine. All around him, the Alle’ were in a similar frenzy. Quick blades suddenly became hammers in their masters’ hands, pummeling and crushing until only a tide of bodies and gore that caked them was all that remained for several feet around the warriors of chaos. The proud, defiant cries of Sigmar soon degraded into horrific screaming and pleas for mercy. The sound of retreat echoed across the field and the swordsmen broke in droves. The musket men on the flanks were tasked with covering the retreat, but their bowels had turned to water at the sight of the Alle’. They sprinted to join the fleeing masses, across the other side of Pale Pass.

****​

The sound of several dozen hooves crushing through snow and decayed rock carried over the battlefield. Pale Pass trembled in the coming storm, her erratic winds covering whichever direction they approached from. Loki was the first to glance up from his spoils—taking, from gathering steel that could be smelted down to forge real armor and weapons. He shouted across the field, alerting the rest of the Alle’ scattered about the battlefield, likewise scavenging. All of them looked up from their tasks, stomping through the floor of gore splattered corpses to gather in a circle from the approaching banners cresting the Empire’s side of the field.

The approaching flags billowing on the wind were of Sigmar’s faith, burning with licking flames alongside the pristine banners of the crimson eight pointed star. The riders themselves were a cavalcade of bloated knights, festering with pox and other diseases. All of them were caked in gore, from the hooves of their steeds to their bulging guts. Their leader rode on a massive steed and a large scythe in one hand, his war helm cradled in the other. The circle the Alle’ made tightened as the column of steeds made to surround them, riding in a Cantabrian circle around their raised weapons.

A guttural bellow forced the circular motion of the steeds to grind to a halt. “Halt!” The champion who issued the command stuck his scythe into the white earth. His face was a gnarled, sickly green thing, hidden beneath a bushy beard. Rotten teeth revealed themselves in his mouth in a humorless smile. His gaze instantly caught Bjorn’s. “Where’s your master?”

Bjorn grinned lopsidedly. “The Alle’ only answer to the Gods above, but if you seek our champion, he is occupied with matters of war. Relay your message to us, and we shall gladly tell him.”

The Calvary Commander grunted, snarling. “And who are you to say such a thing to a champion of the Gods? I am Grom, a chieftain of the Aedui.”

Bjorn acknowledged him with a nod. “I am simply called Bjorn. I am no Chieftain, but I do have much respect among my peers.” He removed his helmet, a thing of many horns and iron. A pallid skin man with a neat blonde beard and short, unkempt hair regarded Grom with assessing eyes.

A flame wreathed banner toppled to the ground, the chosen of Nurgle remained silent. Whether because he felt insulted, Bjorn could not tell.

“Fine.” The pox festered champion cracked his neck, eyes narrowing in resignation. “The Aedui have ransacked the mortals of Sigmar’s camp while they were called to battle. With no place of respite to return to, the army that has besieged you in Pale Pass is now running for their lives further down the foot of the mountain, along the Leipzig River.” He cracked into another wide grin. “Tell me, Brother Bjorn, do you feel like hunting?”

Bjorn shrugged his shoulders, as if weighing the merit of his words. Then he returned the smile with a predatory glint in his eyes. “Of course. Dispatch a slave to Lief! Tell him we have gone hunting for the rest of the day! Gather the horses!”

****​
“There they are!” Sigurd laughed quietly from the edge of a steep hill overlooking the foot of the Pale Pass.

The entrance into the mountain pass was wide enough for three hundred Chaos Knights on horseback to crest over the hillside join Sigurd, shoulder to shoulder. The deep snow muffled the combined noise of their steeds’ hooves. The scattered hundreds of the Empire’s forces, marching in exhaustion along the Leipzig River, just out of reach of the surrounding forests, could not hear them from such a distance. The banner men raised the flags of their tribes, both Alle’ and Aedui, toward the grey clouds above.

Grom hoisted his scythe beside Bjorn. “Spare no one! Brother Bjorn, shall we ride?”

“Aye,” Bjorn drew his blade, the rest of the Alle’ drew with him. “Show them that their deaths are on its way, boys!”

The cavalcade of Knights split the skies with their war cries, raising their weapons up and down as the Empire’s troops glanced over their shoulders, then began fleeing for their lives as they realized their approaching doom. Grom screamed something unintelligible and the Knights broke into a ragged charge down the hill. None of the Empire soldiers even attempted to make a stand for their lives, all they knew was to run as quickly as their legs could take them.

Bjorn shouted Khorne’s name as the charge found its way beside the untamed river. Dozens of men fell beneath the hooves of their steeds, he did not even need to swing his blade, so thick were the ranks of the chosen of Chaos. Mortal after mortal screamed to their deaths as they turned to fight too late, horses overwhelming and crushing them into the earth. Swords flashed and flails broke plate and bone, heads rolled, men fell with cold iron thrust in and out of their bellies. Soon the charge broke up across the snowy grasslands as the Knights individually sought their own glory.

Bjorn barreled over a man spinning around to bring his Halberd to bear, reared up on his horse, and then brought his hooves down on the man’s ribcage. He kicked his stallion into another bolting charge, brought his mace down on a man that had lost his helmet in a previous scuffle. He parried several other state troops trying to swarm him and knock him off of his horse. He thrust his blade into a soft throat and then Loki appeared, decapitating a man with a swing of his mighty axe. The last mortal turned to flee, but Sigurd cut off his escape root and slew him with a blow of his hammer across his face.

The chase was bloody, soon the combined might of the Alle’ and the Aedui left scores of the dead and dying by the river bed. Those who were wise simply plunged themselves into the frothing waters of the untamed river, never to arise again. Cheers of victory were fresh on the air, the bellowing of the united Norsemen a thing that trembled Bjorn’s flesh. Only the cries of their terrified enemies shouted with them as they were put to the sword.

Grom was bellowing to keep order in the celebrations. “Come on, you bastards, run the last of them down! Total victory is near!”

Bjorn made to join with him. “Alle’, attack!”

The Knights brought their steeds about for another charge, but were intercepted by a barrage of musket fire that knocked a dozen warriors from their horses. The back of Sigurd’s head exploded before Bjorn’s gaze, toppled from his steed as it made to bolt into the surrounding woods. Trumpets cried on the wind as reinforcing cavalry from the Empire swept from the forests, the pistols in their hands firing rapid volleys into the Norsemen. Wings of the Knightly Orders rushed in behind them.

Bjorn’s steed reared onto its hind legs, he fought to calm her before she could flee. “Rally, rally! Charge!”

The gun wielding mortals swept through the gaps left in the formation of Chaos Knights. Their pistols burst with smoke and fire, taking the Alle’ and Aedui by surprise, killing their brethren left and right, dispatching their steeds with a single shot. The Knightly Orders and the hundreds of Norsemen left from the attack charged into each other. Walls made with long lances impaled and shattered on northern flesh. Battle Axes and maces hit home as the Empire’s Knights galloped past them.

Bjorn sliced the head off of an incoming lance and threw his mace into the Knight attempting to claim his life. The force of the blow made the mortal sag, pulling his mount with him down into the white earth. His sword flashed in an arc, catching a Pistollier running circles around another Knight of Chaos square in the stomach. The upper body came free from the torso, the rest happily trotted along with its scared mount.

“Bjorn!” Loki and Grom came riding through the thick of battle, covered in gore, and bowled over two lesser horses beneath the bulk of their own.

Bjorn hollered in laughter. “It seems we have a battle after all! Loki, lead the Alle’! Grom, let us find a head worthy of taking!”

Grom’s scythe whirled around him like a storm of death, every swipe and overhead thrust splitting open armor and lopping off limbs. He took several blows from lances to the gut, but only seemed more determined to kill. Bjorn fought by his side, cleaving the head from mounts and treading over his fallen foes. Victory never looked so uncertain, a fact only made worse by the supposed head they would try to claim.

“Bjorn!” Grom called out, pointing skyward, above the forest tree line. “Gryphon!”

Bjorn slapped the Chosen of Nurgle’s pauldron. “Come on, let’s follow it!”
 

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Cruel Commissar
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This gave me a nice flashback to Warhammer Mark of Chaos. I liked the descriptions and such. Just two things I found a bit iffy. A unit having a Khornite and a Nurglite warrior in its ranks and that they seem a tad chummy with each other. But then again I can be a bit too literal with how things works as they are Chaos Warriors and not demons which I'm more familiar with.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the feedback, Beavis, as for Grom and Bjorn, their allies from two different tribes, not of the same tribe. Think of it as a convenient alliance, for now, at least:).
 

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Thanks for the feedback, Beavis, as for Grom and Bjorn, their allies from two different tribes, not of the same tribe. Think of it as a convenient alliance, for now, at least:).
I'm glad for that and this is a good story I would like to hear more about. Of course if you don't mind, and I seem to have support. :)

I will as always provide just and pleasant feedback for you. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks guys, I'm working on another update as we speak, so keep your eyes peeled:wink:!
 

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I really enjoyed that. A nice, and refreshing, change of pace to the usual bolters-and-chainswords that I read.

More, please!
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Thanks, DA, let the story continue!

***​
Through the thick of a cavalry battle, Bjorn and Grom rode through the gore streaked fields along the river Lepzig with a clutch of Grom’s best warriors. Brave Knights attempted to bar their path to the Griffon circling above the battle repeatedly, but quick blades saw them to even quicker deaths. The Empire’s ranks were in total disarray, scattered here and there, fighting on instinct and courage rather than any tactical sense. Yet they fought, Bjorn could not withhold a feeling of grudged respect even as he continued to cleave through armor, flesh, and bone.

“That Griffon,” One of Grom’s guards, Daegal, pointed toward the rapidly approaching creature that blotted out the sun. “I think I recognize its rider: General Ottokar Von Bornheim. He defeated us at Erenburg some odd weeks ago, but commanded a vast force then.”

Bjorn kicked his horse and bolted past a pair of Nordland Knights attempting to run him down. Grom’s men killed them easily enough. “If this is all he has, then perhaps the main force has succeeded against him somewhere else?”

Bjorn already knew the answer to his question. Why else would Ottokar even attempt to stop the Northmen’s advance with such a pitiful force? If it was true, then Pale Pass would have been the only likely battle he had a chance in winning, rather than face the combined might of the tribes. Then he would have an avenue of attack through the pass and perhaps pull off a great flanking maneuver. He was commanding this attack himself to ensure the Pass was gained.

One of Grom’s men screamed as he veered away from Bjorn with his horse. “Watch out! Here he comes!”

A couple of Knights nocked their arrows, firing a loose scream of arrows into the aerial creature sweeping down toward them, talons outstretched. The Griffon was unarmored, shielded only by white and ebony feathers and a thick hide. Several arrows found purchase in its underbelly, the creature screeched loudly, but it’s momentum could not be stopped. Bjorn barely managed to pull on the reigns of his steed and gallop away from the Griffon’s landing zone. The mighty beast landed talons first, crushing a clutch of knights too slow to avoid it into the earth of the river bank. Fresh blood seeped from between her claws from where she curled them, gouging into flesh.

The human riding the Griffon creature raised his hammer toward the sun, appearing a magnificent spectacle in the brilliant rays of the sun. He tugged on his massive mounts reigns, making the creature swipe its claws back and forth, tearing Chaos Knights from their horses as they charged in for the kill.

Grom screamed something unintelligible, froth spewing from his mouth as he led his retinue into combat. They advanced into the storm of claws, some of them claimed by death in an eye blink, while others managed to survive their scathing blows. The scythe cut into the outstretched talons of the Griffon and lopped away several clawed toes from her talons. It screamed a holy cry and answered with her razor sharp beak. The attack came down onto a Knight of Nurgle’s collarbone and left nothing but a ragged hole in the body from where it touched. The creatures head struck several more times and two more knights collapsed, wounded, but alive.

Old Ottokar swung his mighty hammer back and forth, attacking Grom’s men that were currently fighting on foot. Halberds cut into the flesh of the Griffon and drew on a steady stream of blood, but wherever they struck, Ottokar cracked open a skull. The chosen of Nurgle were able to withstand even such a brutal assault, but some had sense enough not to push their luck against a Griffon—mounted general of the Empire.

Bjorn kicked his steed toward the fight, weapons in hand. “Out of the way, you rotting sacks of flesh!”

Several men on the ground scattered before Bjorn’s mighty war steed, Ottokar’s mount immediately noticed the incoming challenger and reared on her own hind legs. He screamed a guttural noise as the Griffon brought her intact claw downward to crush him into the earth. Bjorn raised his sword overhead and answered with a sure thrust at the last moment, embedding his blade to the hilt into the majestic creature’s mighty claw. The beast shrieked and retreated several steps, enough for Bjorn to close the gap for one strike against General Ottokar.

The Griffon decided to skulk at the last moment, bringing Ottokar to attacking distance from Bjorn’s mounted presence. His hammer came up in defense far too quickly and parried Bjorn’s timed attack with his mace. Bjorn snorted as he pulled back his mace and struck a glancing blow into the slower General’s ribcage. He heard the armor buckle beneath the force and Ottokar cry out as a bone was cracked. The rest of Grom’s men hooted and jeered as they closed in to finish the job, but the Griffon took flight at the last moment. The last thing Bjorn could see of Ottokar was his wild eyes, staring down at him with plain hatred and disgust.

There was a blaring horn, playing a mournful note that told Bjorn the enemy had had enough for today. The Empire’s knightly orders withdrew in practiced order, the Pistollers covering their retreat back into the wilderness of the forest. Dozens of heavily armored nobles from the lands of the Empire stormed past Bjorn, retreating to fight another day alongside their general.

Grom’s hellish stallion, a decayed thing from the depths of hell, strode up to join him in the spot that they had faced the Griffon. Grom stroked his great beard in curious thought. “We do not pursue?”

Bjorn grimly shook his head. “No, not the Alle’, I’ve had enough surprised for one day. I am, however, thirsty. We should guard the river for now, since we have gained it along with Pale Pass.”

Grom nodded in agreement. “I will dispatch a messenger to your champion at the fort and tell him we have gained the river. I will bring fresh troops down to guard the sites of our new camps. Our men have deserved a day’s respite, I’d say.”

“Indeed, Chief Grom, we certainly have.”

***​

The fleets from the Chaos Wastes had come to Nordland several months ago. Seven thousand warriors from a collection of tribes that desired something greater than the glory of fighting one another. The first target of the combined raid was the city of Erenburg, but the Empire’s forces there were vast and repelled the wandering Raiders after an intense battle. So the bands of Chaos turned outwards to the countryside of the Nordland region, breaking into several distinct groups with separate objectives. The main force, consisting of four thousand warriors, attracted the armies of the Empire out to fight on ground it had chosen. The other smaller bands served as flanking forces, marauding and pillaging wherever they saw fit and joining the battle against the enemy’s lightly defended rear guards.

After the massacre of Pale Pass & Leipzig River, the Alle’ and Aedui ransacked the undefended settlement of Darmstadt and several outlying villages. With the armies of the Empire’s garrisons defeated, the Northmen took whatever they willed and left nothing but a mound of skulls and defiled carcasses in their wake. Whether Ottokar had died in battle or simply retired from fighting, Sigmar’s sons had begun to vanish around the Nordland wherever the powers of Chaos drew close. The false God, Sigmar, had abandoned his people for whatever reason and the small bands the raiding parties did encounter fought without a spirit, without a heart. While the Northmen enjoyed the freedom of raiding without retribution, weeks passed and suspicion began to grow amongst the armies of Chaos. Such animosity continued until Floki Ironside, the Commander of the entire raid into Nordland, claimed the raids a success and began withdrawing his forces toward the Sea of Claws in preparation to sail home.


Three Weeks Later…

Four thousand survivors from the raids into Nordland, three thousand brothers were missing, lying dead on a forgotten battlefield, somewhere. At least, Bjorn thought to himself, most of the Alle’ were not among the fallen. Those who had lived had made their final encampment on hostile soil for the year against the coast of the Sea of Claws. Thousands of tents and wooden barracks had been raised on the high hills surrounding the beaches in an effort to whether the cold. Thousands of gnarled and vicious men were scattered everywhere, stripped to their breeches and bare backs, and so used to looking fierce in their armor that Bjorn forgot what being human felt like.

Bjorn, Loki, Asrod, and Ingmar sat around a crackling campfire, bright against the darkened clouds of the late evening, atop a great hilltop where the Alle’ made their temporary home. The vantage point overlooked the beaches and hundreds of warships at anchor in the shallow waters. Currently, the cheers of men realizing they were going to be rich echoed over the encampment, as caravan after caravan of wagons, burdened with the heavy weight of immeasurable treasures passed through the camp.

Loki remained hunched over the fire, his thin black beard and short ponytail blowing in the breeze. He looked up from the blood slick sword he was cleaning with his horrific eyes, small gems the color of the abyss, and then stared into the flames for long seconds.

He finally spoke after long moments. “Upon the men we slew on the Pale Pass, I killed nearly twenty knights the day that Bjorn almost slew the Griffon. Never once did a blade touch my flesh… I believe it a sign from the God Slaneesh. My reflexes were beyond that of any mortal’s that day.”

Bjorn raised his horn of ale, the seventh that night and gulped it down. He watched Loki through the flames, contemplating his destiny and sighed. “If you were blessed, it could be a trick by She Who Thirsts, for are you not of a people sworn to the Blood God, sworn enemy to the Prince of Pleasures?”

Loki’s yellow flecked teeth gleamed in the fires of the camp. “I don’t believe in only one god, Bjorn, you know this. We slaughtered so many mortals beyond counting, but with the aid of allies. Men who place their faith with other Gods. And they brought us victory. Don’t be so quick to spit in the eyes of the Gods, Bjorn.”

“Aye, aye.” Bjorn dismissed him with a wave of his horn, swaying slightly from left to right without his armor to hold him. “I have heard through Grom that a great heathen army is arising in the south.”

Asrod grunted in concern. “Maybe they’ll follow us home. This could be a great omen, to have a fight another war after such a hard earned victory.”

Bjorn shrugged. “I don’t know what they plan to use them for. We shall be long gone before anyone will come seeking retribution on us.”

Ingmar knocked his drinking horn against Bjorn’s and hissed with laughter. “The Gods will howl and shriek until this affront is cast down. More will come from the chills lands of the north to take our place, while we grow rich and fat with treasure! Let’s not worry about what may happen, I look forward to planning our raid for next year. There’s so many lands to discover!”

Loki flashed a wolfish grin. “You see this fool…” He leaned over the fire and patted Ingmar’s naked shoulder. “Does not care how long he will live with treasure, so long as he has it. Bjorn and I on the other hand, are beings cut from a different cloth. I am more worried about what is happening in our homelands rather than where we’ll go next summer. Am I right, Bjorn?”

“Aye,” Bjorn said. “I am eager to return to our home shore, triumphant and laden with riches. Then we shall return to slaying our rival tribes, keeping them weak so they cannot annihilate us.” He swayed a little as he came to his feet and stumbled away from the camp fire.

The crewmen of the warships below were occupied with constant labor, transporting boats filled with gold and repairing any damages to the ships taken on the journey to Nordland. Bjorn observed them from the hillside, making his way through the throng of tents that made the Alle’s encampment. He stared across the open ocean and closed his eyes. The brood forest surrounding the coast became nothing more than a winter wasteland, cloaked in snow and the tracks of his people left upon it. The hilltop encampment was suddenly a great village, filled with the gazes of thousands of appreciative villagers. Warriors that had stayed to defend the Alle’ lands bent their knees in respect and the Chieftain, foremost amongst them, extended his favor and the blessing of the Gods. Ingmar, Loki, and Asrod rode with him, through the rain of blood and flowers that celebrated their triumphant return. The history of this raid would forever be passed down through the bards and would never fade from memory in a hundred years.

***​
Floki, an elder sorcerer known for stalking the Northmen encampments during the night, came away from the shadows and into the smoldering light of the camp fire. A thick shaft of moonlight sparkled on his sapphire robes, picking out his outline as if some partially real apparition. “You have questions concerning the Gods? Young Bjorn of the Alle’?”

The dying light of the flames half lit Bjorn’s naked face, but the glint of his eyes shone in the darkness, as he glanced up curiously at the old witch. He did not speak for long seconds. In truth, Floki’s visits to the warriors of Chaos were always random, and so Bjorn found himself slightly taken back. He finally whispered over the loud snores of his sleeping comrades. “No, I only have questions about myself.” He pointed toward an empty stump. “Why don’t you sit down, Sorcerer?”

Floki did not so much as budge from where he stood and his mouth spewed with droning prophecy. “You have never pleased the Gods, young Bjorn, but you have never displeased them either. Soon will come the time to prove whether you are worthy to live up to something greater or forever fade into the shadows of others’ accomplishments. When the moon becomes visible, sow the ground with blood as your tribute to the Blood God. Only then, he might take an inkling of interest in you.” The sorcerer revealed yellow and cracked teeth, wheezing with hysterical laughter as he sunk back into the darkness.

Bjorn waited until he was gone and finally decided to sleep for the night. It would be dawn soon, and the moon was nowhere in sight.
 

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Another enthralling installment, I definitely like the direction this is going.

Eagerly awaiting the next part.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
The scent of burning wood drifted over the taste of sea salt on the winds, Bjorn could swear he heard distant moaning on the horizon. There was an occasional shout that broke the ill quiet for only a moment before it was abruptly snuffed. He knew something was awry, but the feeling of drowsiness lingered over him as if a spell. There was no movement around the campfires of the Alle’ tribe, only loud snoring or noises of a far more intimate nature. Images of Floki flashed in his thoughts, mouthing the words of prophecy he uttered earlier that night. ‘When the moon becomes visible, sow the ground with the blood as your tribute to the Blood God. Only then, shall he might take an inkling of interest in you.”

The war horns blared across the dead encampment and Bjorn snapped his eyes open, wide awake.

Bjorn rolled out of his tent and into nearly into the campfire, searching for the crate that contained his armor. He screamed. “We’re under attack! Get up you lazy whores! We’re under attack!”

The horns of the Northmen wailed a mourning note, again and again as urgent screams echoed from the beach below. The warriors of the Alle’ tribe were slow to move, at first, but were quick to grab their armor and weapons when realization dawned on them. The entire camp descended into chaos, slaves were rushing to the armories, pulling out large bundles of weapons and more common armor out from the stores. Marauders and Knights rushed back and forth through the dirt paths of the encampment, attempting to organize into the formidable army they were used to fighting in. The sight of hundreds of Long Ships set ablaze on the beach galvanizing them into urgency.

There was a battle happening down there, Bjorn could hear the screams of men dying by the dozen in crystal clarity now. The shadows and outlines of numerous individuals were blurred together in a melee that stretched across the beach. The fires did little to light them and they continued to fight on in the moon—lit darkness. A couple of warriors from other tribes marched down toward the conflict, too eager for blood spilling or simply arrogant. The Champions of the raid further within the camp tried to keep their underlings from joining the fight too soon, until their ranks could be organized.

Slaves finished equipping Bjorn into his armor after several minutes. One handed him his great mace and another, his long sword. The warriors of the Alle’ tribe were assembled just beyond the campfire and Bjorn went to join them the moment the last slave slid a horned helm over his head. Loki, Asrod, and Ingmar waited for him at the rear of several hundred warriors. There were many fold that number from the other tribes, marching and reorganizing into a great marching column that would take the hill path toward the beach. The Alle’ warriors held praises on their lips as they parted for the four warriors, allowing them to arrive at the front of the assembled host.

Lief cracked his whip and laughed. “Bjorn! Loki! And the rest of you, good of you to join us! Floki Ironside has requested the combined might of the Alle’ and the Aedui to lead an assault to reclaim the beachhead! Fall to my side! We march into battle once more!”

Floki Ironside’s assembled army was arrayed in a way that the forces he desired for shock troops could march between the reserves and toward the fore of the army. There were more than a few rueful stares at Bjorn and his kin, the supposed champions that would be the first to enter battle. Yet they held some form of begrudging respect in their gazes, some even clashing weapons against shields in anticipation of the fight to come. When the Alle’ arrived on the forefront, beside Grom and his Nurglite kindred, the marching column closed ranks. The horns sounded and three thousand men marched down toward the beach.

Chief Grom joined Bjorn in their march ahead of the entire raiding force. “Brother Bjorn! Good to find you and your kin well.”

“Grom,” Bjorn acknowledged. “Who is attacking us?”

The Aedui Chief grunted and answered with a mere shake of his head. “No one has arrived from the beachhead. We do not know who attacks us. My guess is probably Empire reinforcements.”
Lief spat. “Then we enter battle blind. The bastards have sunk most of our ships, do you know how much gold we have already lost?”

Bjorn cursed. “All we can do now is salvage it. Warriors of the Alle’, ready your weapons! The beach approaches!”

Lief called. “Double Time!”

The sounds of battle were thrumming in Bjorn’s ears now, carried across the entire beach as the Alle’ and Aedui descended into the flame wreathed coastline. Darkness cloaked everything, but the flames from the husks of Long Ships lit up the thousand northmen already fighting on the beach. Most of their numbers were lying in the sand, half covered and weeping blood. Yet there was a good number of dead foes that Bjorn could not recognize. Cheers of victory were being howled as the reinforcements marched across the beaches length, maintaining a good distance from the actual fighting as they deployed into combat formations.

Thunder bellowed ad lightning cracked the skies, rain began to pour down across the land, dampening the flames. The same victory cheering was soon squashed by the sight of an enormous ship suddenly looming over the coast. It was a vessel as black as inky shadow, festooned with numerous barbs, blades, and hanging chains. The sails billowed in the breeze for but a moment, etched with alien symbols that seemed to drip blood, before they were lowered. The cries of their attackers echoed across the sea, suddenly visible in their lesser boats with every lightning strike, destined to reach the coast of burning Long Ships.

A Marauder on horseback galloped to the head of the reinforcements, bellowing down to Lief, Grom, and Bjorn. “Masters of the Aedui and Alle’ tribe, Floki Ironside commands your relief of the fighting force at the ships. He will send in several other tribes after you, depending on the enemy’s strength.”

Bjorn nodded. “Understood, son.” He looked to Lief, who simply shrugged his shoulders and nodded toward the incoming ships. Bjorn smiled savagely, hoisting his mace into the air. “Warriors of the Alle’, join the battle!”

Over the roar of several hundred Knights and marauders, Grom screamed something similar, and the Aedui were once again at their side. Wooden bolts too fast to be arrows darted through the stormy air, punching through armor and flesh without effort wherever they struck. A dozen Knights that had soared past Bjorn collapsed into the sand, screaming as the crossbow bolts embedded themselves wholly into their bodies. Another volley was loosed, Bjorn ducked under several soaring bolts, not sparing one glance back as Lief collapsed to his knees, gurgling blood in a horrifying scream.

The few Northmen that fought on the beach since the attack that were still alive formed a shield wall in between their burning ships. The war cries of the enemy swept over the ranks of Chaos as another wave of boats from the black ship beached themselves. Lithe figures dressed in chainmail and elegant steel poured in covering fire with their crossbows, striking down those too zealous to maintain their ranks. The melee troops disgorged from the boats were even lighter and wore thickened cloaks woven from scaled Sea Dragon hides. They fought with all manner of close quarter weapons: punch daggers, cutlasses, and repeater hand bows. Bjorn could tell from their noble features and pallid skin that they were Dark Elves and Black Ark Corsairs no less.

Bjorn twisted to his left in the same moment the warriors of Chaos collided into the Corsairs. He brought his bulk into a foe with sights on another and barreled him over. He lashed out with his mace at the same moment, cracking it against an Elf’s right kneecap before he could thrust a Punch Dagger into Bjorn’s neck. His foe rolled into the sand screaming, one of the charging Alle’ finished him with a flicker of his sword. Bjorn was already on top of the Corsair he tackled earlier. He pinned his foe down with one foot and stomped on his neck with the other. The life in his opponent’s eye left in an instant.

The Dark Elves weaved into the melee with an agility and dexterity that no mortal could hope to match. Blades flashed back and forth between the opposing forces. The Corsairs thrust and sliced into the weak points of human armor and flesh with brutal precision. Knights collapsed in a heap around Bjorn, while others with proven skill cracked and crushed Elven skulls together. Another volley of crossbow bolts flew through the skies and scored several more kills in the melee. Bjorn cursed, Floki was losing far too many warriors, too quickly.

Bjorn parried a lightning blow to his temple with his blade, swung his mace overhead in the same moment and brought it down on the Corsair’s extended elbow. The corsair shrieked as he was mangled. “Loki, Ingmar, Asrod, fall to my side!”

Ingmar was the first to reach Bjorn. A mighty war hammer in hand, Ingmar threw it into soft Elven flesh with reckless abandon. Loki rolled into his friend’s right flank and thrust once with his sword. A Druchii that meant to cleave Ingmar’s head from his shoulders became impaled. Asrod was the last, barreling through Northmen and Dark Elf alike on his war horse. The axe in his hand flashed repeatedly, a sliver of steel picked out by moonlight. Several other knights on horseback charged into the melee with him, trampling Corsairs into the dust and cleaving heads away with sweeps of their massive weapons.

Bjorn shouted to the three of them. “Lief's dead. We're losing too many!”

Loki struck away several strikes targeting the slits in his helmet with his heavy shield and spun once, cutting through the guts of a Corsair standing too close to his person. “Bjorn, form a shield wall!”

“Shield wall!” Bjorn bellowed over the battle. “Alle’, fallback and form a shield wall!” He knocked another foe into the sands with a solid kick and impaled him with a downward thrust. Bjorn let the blade remain in the corpse. He picked up the shield of a fallen comrade. He pointed toward the nearest warrior. “You! You’re my new horn caller! Find Lief’s body and pick up the horn, he should be somewhere toward the rear of the fight!”

The calling note of the Alle’ Tribe’s horn echoed into the night several moments later. Bjorn’s kin flocked to its call, half fighting, half retreating, all while attempting to dodge the volleys of crossbow fire. ‘Form the shield wall!’ Bjorn commanded, even the Aedui were rallying to him to form the practiced formation.

Those Knights that possessed kite shields of tainted steel formed three ranks, shoulder to shoulder, their shields raised and pressed together. The second ranks kept their shields up in a slant to protect from arrow fire arcing over the first rank. The third ranks maintained their own directly over their heads, shielding the formation from overhead ranged attacks. The rest of the horde remained at the backs of the shield wall or on the flanks, fighting as they were previously. Floki Ironside sounded his horns and Bjorn knew that other tribes were coming to salvage the fight.

Bjorn found himself on the very first rank of the shield wall, along with his friends. “Stay braced! Here come the little Elves! Stay together and they cannot overcome us!”

Crossbow bolts embedded themselves into the thickened slabs of the protected formation, nearly useless. Here and there, a warrior fell, but another rose to take his shield and replace him on the wall. The Druchii, galvanized by their enemy’s retreat, charged headlong into the shield wall, intent on breaking it apart. The Northmen laughed as hundreds pressed themselves into formation. They bounced away on impact or trapped themselves in their zealousness for bloodshed.

“Attack!” Bjorn answered the Druchii with quick clubs of his mace. Corsair after Corsair collapsed to the bone cracking force, attempting pitifully to strike through the wall of shields before they died.

Across the line, the Chaos Knights responded with rapid thrusts of their swords, cleaving down rank after rank as they were funneled in by their momentum. The Alle’ and the Aedui reveled in the slaughter, fresh blood spraying and arcing in every direction, the screams of their enemies joining the crashing of waves along the shore. The slaughter did not stop until the Dark Elves broke all at once to regroup around the boats they came ashore in. A carpet of over two hundred corpses lay at the feet of the wall.

Loki was the first to break out in a great way cry, a wordless thing made of pride, triumph, and bloodlust. The forces of Chaos hoisted their weapons in the air, taking up the cheerful shout even in the face of their enemies, roaring long and proud at the Black Ship waiting on the coast. Bjorn nodded at his horn caller and he signaled the counter charge as reinforcements from Floki Ironside joined their ranks.

The Northmen naturally tried to maintain their formation this time and fell upon the Dark Elves in one great wave. Those Elves that fell beneath the weight of shields were trampled beneath human boots without mercy. Individually, the Corsairs could only strike at one target, but the Northmen were so packed together that three men could strike at one unfortunate foe. The Corsairs shattered against the counter attack, entire bands of them rushed towards the safety of their boats than face the wrath of the Dark Gods. Yet the Crossbowmen aboard their boats had already taken flight, fleeing toward their Black Ship, fear etched into their faces.

The rest of the battle happened in less than an hour. A slaughter so complete that none were left to interrogate or use for games. The Black Ship slipped away into the night, but Bjorn was certain it had not gone far. The Northmen celebrated by bringing what was left of the ale onto the beach, which was littered with nearly two thousand men and elves, after the body count was taken. Every Druchii head was severed from their bodies and placed on a large palisade of pikes that stretched across the entire beachhead. Yet even in their victory, there was a hollow feeling to what was won, for the armada that was laden with gold was mostly burned. It could no longer take the raiding party home, the Northmen were stranded in Nordland, just over three thousand in number.
 

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Another engaging, and exciting, post. I certainly wasn't expecting Lief to die so quickly - It's a pity, he seemed interesting. Hopefully this new guy is better. :p

Loving it, so far, mate. Get to work on the next part, now. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Loving it, so far, mate. Get to work on the next part, now. ;)
Ask and I will oblige ;).

NOTE: Chapter Two has been overhauled, completely redone! Begin rereading Chapter Two here! :D

Chapter Two: The Treacherous War

The winds bare the stench of blood, ashes, and decay in the fields. Village after village is ransacked and abandoned, robbing us of bloodlust. The fishermen ships lay anchored to the docks, the temples and shrines of Sigmar are covered with dust, dead leaves, and snow. The roads are thick with grass and the haunting moans of those whom had fallen so long ago that their corpses were buried beneath the earth. The Sorcerers claim that they hear the cries, the struggles borne from the chaos of battle in the distance. Yet every hill we crest, every forest we forge through, there is nothing. There is nothing, until we arrive further west, nearer the lands of Brettonia. The Northmen had arrived to plunder and raze, but here, the world was already burning…

The Imperial Highways stretched onward as a never ending serpent of cobblestone. Bjorn watched the path that wound through the smoldering village of Brubach, from amongst a maze of charred timber that rose up around the venturing north men in a series of tattered structures. His war horse kicked through layers of loose hay and animal carcasses scattered about the roadside. But even he, a heathen from the cold lands of the inhospitable North, did not disturb the Empire’s dead that dwelled amongst them.

The vast majority were simple villagers, peasant men clothed in wool tunics and thick leather breeches were pinned against half-collapsed huts with arrows. Others laid still in overturned wagons, but most of the fallen had been killed fighting a desperate fight on the Highway. The women and children likely died inside their wooden huts and shacks. Beautiful horses not bred for war had been ran through with spears and spikes, their brave but unskilled riders crushed beneath them.

The Northmen of Floki Ironside’s raiding parties were scattered about the village, overturning every piece of rabble in search of plunder and food. The Mauraders moved swiftly through the winding alleys and roads, hopping from building to building, with only a few spare pieces of silver and gold to show for their efforts. The Knights of the tribes remained on the highway, marching to the dark tune of war drums, in the direction heading west across Nordland. The banners of the eight pointed star wavered in the chill breeze, colder than autumn. Winter was coming.

Bjorn did not have to look anyone through the slits of their helmets to realize the increasing desperation and disappointment in their eyes. Ever since piratical elves had razed their fleet, the Northmen began a trek further west in hopes of regaining their riches. The region called Nordland was still filled with fresh plunder, but the commanders of the raid were suddenly fearing an imminent reprisal from the Empire. The Warriors from the North were severely depleted, disheartened that they would not return home, and without a steady source of food now that they were on the move through an area that had been previously ransacked.

Bjorn silently cursed to himself as he marched at the fore of the Alle’, at the fore of the Raiding force. He cast his golden blonde hair around with assessing glances, taking in the sight of Brubach’s outskirts and the fresh grasslands beyond. The only evidence that they were heading in the right direction a simple wooden post emblazoned with the names of the next towns. It was meaningless to anyone unfamiliar with the lands of Nordland. It was even more useless because the next settlements were likely to have already been burned down, their cattle taken, and their citizens butchered.

There was a resounding blast of a war horn and the marching column of Chaos Knights grinded to a halt at the edge of the destroyed settlement. There was shouting and confused warnings, but there was no command to fall into a fighting formation. Bjorn kept an eye on the Highway, half covered by dense batches of woodland trees. The sound of hooves against stone resounded in the distance and a shadow atop a black horse darted into the open. He came riding hard toward the Northmen, whom were busy raising a hundred bows toward the rider.

Bjorn peeled his eyes and instantly recognized him as a scout, certainly deployed by Floki Ironside. He raised his hand in the air, the sign of a friendly, and reared up on his horse before Bjorn and the men of the Alle’ tribe. The scout hid his face behind a hood and his tattoos of faith, beneath a flowing ebony cloak.

The scout babbled hurriedly. “Where is Ironside? I must talk to him immediately!”

“Hold!” Bjorn stayed the scout from riding past with a raised hand, his palm held open. “I’ll send someone to relay your message. What have you seen? Empire forces? How many?”

“I have not seen any forces of this world!” The scout bristled, annoyed by the questions. “I have seen the armies of the dead, buried in a field not too far from here! There was a battle there and very recently! I have spent the better part of three hours riding across it. It should be safe to approach.”

“A battlefield?” Loki spat from behind Bjorn. “Who was fighting?”

“Better you see for yourself. It is about an hour’s march from this village!”
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
The intelligence under the Northmen’s disposal failed to include the sightings of a Castle in the distance, built upon a high, lonely mountain. Bjorn could see that it was clearly secluded and that whoever dwelled in it had no doubt fought on the battlefield he had just crossed into. For miles, the Earth was choked with blood, flesh, and steel. Tattered banners of the Empire billowed solemnly over the fallen ranks that had come from all over Sigmar’s realm. There were standards from another Kingdom as well, but Bjorn could not recognize them. Yet the warriors that had fought under those unknown banners were clasped in archaic armors, not the light polished cuirasses and puffy uniforms that the mortals of Sigmar wielded.

Bjorn kicked his steed into a light trot across the field, maneuvering through a field of shattered spears and corpses with the deftness that belied his weight. The Highway had been purposefully walled in by overrun supply trains and hastily erected barricades. The Northmen circumvented the wall of wood and blood by crossing through the battlefield. Across the battle’s aftermath, the Knights of Chaos strode across the field in long, thin lines. The on ground forces moved in behind them, deployed in a battle formation.

An hour passed. The fields outside of Brubach were silent as the grave and continued until they reached a dense woodland that sprang up down a long slope further in the distance. Bjorn watched the faces of the dead that looked skyward, their expressions twisted grimaces or peaceful expressions that they had held in their last moments. There could be a survivor amongst them that could perhaps tell him about the lonely Castle built atop a mountain.

Spear shafts splintered under his mount’s hooves. Random men clove down the high banners and stuffed them into their cloaks. The few wounded that had been found still alive were quickly ended. Annoyingly, they were ended without interrogation. The wolves howled in the distance, smelling the blood in the air. The carrion birds swarmed above in uncountable numbers and flew up suddenly wherever the Northmen neared.

Kirkegard, the Alle’s new horn caller, rode up beside Bjorn with his helm cradled in his arms. In many regards, Kirkegard bore a lot of resemblance to Bjorn, golden blonde hair and short, neatly trimmed beard, and a ruggedly handsome face. Bjorn could tell that he was a younger man, his eyes neither hardened and his skin scarred enough. He seemed like a good enough fellow to have at your side during battle. Other warriors had known him as a loyal sort.

“There’s been a battle…” Kirkegard sighed in quiet wonderment. “Yet there is a Castle up there that is neither smoking or appear to be under siege. If someone is still living there, they most certainly are alive.”

“Correct.” Bjorn grinned wickedly. “No doubt it is the stronghold of some famous Nordland Prince with a reputable history of service and valor.”

Kirkegard huffed, his eyes fixated in a look of disbelief. “You would hope to fight such a figure? That would no doubt have an army behind him?”

Loki cackled from Bjorn’s left. “You do not know much about good Bjorn, do you, Kirkegard? He appreciates a good challenge over any easy fight! So does everyone, I’ll bet! Woe to the first patrol we come across in our travels. Surely, they have always been fated for a fate far worse than death.”

Kirkegard nodded once. “The Gods take their sacrifices from our victories. But with our forces at these numbers? Ottokar could simply throw a bunch of wild Griffons at us and see us scattered.”

Bjorn hawked and chuckled. “We’re still three thousand in number. It’ll take more than a horde of angry birds to stop us…”

The war horns sounded across the fields, but Bjorn immediately tensed because they were unfamiliar and trumpeting. The Knights of Chaos immediately drew their weapons, blades and axes that had been too long in their scabbards. The infantry behind them hoisted banners and marched to a halt. He stared into the westward forest where an army began to emerge. Banners emblazoned with a giant lily of burnished gold on a striped silver and ebony background were hoisted at the head of infantry lines nearly two thousand strong. Across the entire front of the Empire army was rank upon rank of pikes. Wings of light cavalry, made fearsome by the Knightly Orders bolstered their flanks. Bjorn knew that there was artillery hidden in the forest.

The reverent silence of the battlefield was drowned under the quaking march a thousands of boots crushing into the earth. The Northman, galvanized by the sight of an enemy, burst into a resounding cheer and war cry. There were shouted commands and the Chaos Knights peeled away from the center and headed toward the flanks. Bjorn was riding hard across the field and noted a number of white flags billowing from the ranks of the Empire’s forces along with their other standards.
 

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I enjoyed the new updates - Interesting take on the Dark Elves. Kelithor comes across a bit moustache-twirly, at times, but otherwise it's very good.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
NOTE: I have changed Chapter Two with a complete overhaul. All of Kelithor's scenes and other scenes relating to his story line have been taken out. Please, go back to the top of page two and read the beginning of the chapter, it's not too much, I don't think, and it will catch you up. Gods' Hall is now following a new plot line :D.

***​

The drawbridge that made the moat of Castle Saarland crossable collapsed with a creeping hesitancy as if reluctant to allow several dozen leaders of the Warriors of Chaos onto its wooden surface. Yet the bridge came down. The archers and musket men upon the fortress’ formidable battlements raised their weapons as the generals of Prince Tibalt Von Saarland rode hard up the mountain trail and across the drawbridge. Bjorn admired the monument created by towers built upon towers, surrounded by battlements and enough fortifications to turn an army back. Silver and ebony standards emblazoned with the burnished lily wavered on the castle walls. Alas, an army of the Empire that could be worthy of fighting.

Bjorn pulled on the reigns of his war horse as he crossed through the portcullises and into a vast courtyard that teemed with rank upon rank of Empire troops arrayed in their respective units. The men of Sigmar kept their swords at their hilts, except a regiment of men whom stood nearest the entrance into the castle proper. Their uniforms were more rich and pompous than the usual state troop regiment, vibrant silver and ebony patterns marked their clothes beneath their breastplates. They carried expensive gear, from their helms to the glistening great swords that were held pointed to the floor.

Lord Tibalt’s troops twisted and turned, stepped back and forward again with timed precision as they made a path for the Northmen to approach the Castle. A simple servant rushed and took Bjorn’s mount by the reigns and allowed him to leap off. His massive greaves thundered against the granite pavement of the courtyard. He heard several hawking sounds as he tore his helmet away with an unclenched fist. Then the other leaders of the Northmen raid were by his side.

Amongst the champions of the men beyond the wastes were several prominent figures: Dag Frost—Eye, Ymir the Implacable, and Floki Ironside himself. While Dag Frost—Eye was merely a humble sorcerer, robed in ornamental and priestly attire, the latter individuals were truly giants amongst men. Armored in thickened steel from head to toe, their gait lent them the appearance of demi-gods, capable of slaying a hundred men on their own before becoming overwhelmed. Their aura of intimidation was only made more lucid by the vile blessings of the Gods. Demonic weapons quietly wheezed and screamed in their scabbards, their armor echoed with the souls of the dead, and their eyes held the looks of men not of this world.

Floki’s shadow cast a permanent darkness over Bjorn as he strode to stand beside him. Through the grill in his rounded helm decorated with Ram’s horns, his voice dripped with a demonic strain both brutal and terrifying. He chose not to look at Bjorn as he spoke.

Floki tore away his helm and revealed a grizzled, scarred, and weather beaten face plastered in intricate black war paint. Veins within his eyes appeared bloated and made his eyes slightly red. Short and uncombed raven hair clung in clusters across the pallid skin of his face. “The champion of the Alle’? It has been too long to excuse us not speaking to one another. I have trusted your tribe with many privileges, asked much of them… and they have always prevailed. Yet as I search around for the slave driver that I deemed your commander, I can only find you amongst us? Where is that fool they call Lief?”

Bjorn nodded curtly, careful not to share stares with his temperamental commander. “Fallen in battle against the Dark Elves. Like a true warrior should.”

“An untimely death,” Floki grinned savagely. “May the Gods skin his hide in the afterlife. I suppose we must become more familiar with one another, you and I. For I must know my commanders if they are to lead in this army. Come, there is talk to be had. Shameful, despicable discussion, with outsiders! Weaklings of the faith of Sigmar! How low we have been brought down!”

A trio of trumpet blasts thundered from the higher bastions of the castle and the gateway into the main hall buckled backwards with a peel of thunder. Several of the Northmen quietly laughed as several mere mortals, dressed in flamboyant clothes, emerged into the courtyard. At the head of them was an older gentlemen, clasped in a silver breastplate and clothed in ebony and silver silk clothes. Thick arm bands made his shirt around the shoulders puff outward. Pulled over his breeches was a ebony tabard emblazoned with a burnished lily. His face was ruggedly handsome and clean shaven, his skin a roasted chestnut color and features angular and sharp. He was surprisingly tall too and built like a bear, the rest of his attendants were dwarfed by his presence.

A herald waved his hand about dramatically, calling to the assembled Northmen.“May I present Lord Tibalt Von Saarland!”

Tibalt wasted no time on ceremony, he gracefully moved down the steps and into the courtyard. He wore a weak smirk, tense but not timid. There was no fear in him, Bjorn could not blame him with so many troops at his disposal. He flaunted around the gathered Knights of Chaos, appraising them with a furious eye. He grunted several times, once in disapproval and twice in satisfaction. “Greetings, those from the northern wastes! Forgive my curiosity, you barbarians are so transformed by remote life in those wastelands. You will also forgive me if I do not shake hands…”

Ymir growled from beneath his helmet, a gesture that had mortal men scurrying to draw their blades. Tibalt stayed their weapons with one raised hand. “We have come because your forces raised white flags as they revealed themselves. You have strategic advantage, why stay your men from crushing your rivals – no, your nemesis?”

Tibalt placed a hand on the hilt of his blade and nodded once in acknowledgement to the giant in his midst. “Straight to business, eh? Yes, it is true that I sought to discuss terms with you when I was first notified of your arrival in the area. As you no doubt witnessed in the fields outside of Brubach, I am currently fighting a war against another enemy. When fighting such a war so close to my stronghold, I can ill afford to waste good soldiers trying to expel your army as well.”

Floki wheezed in hysterical laughter and made several men flinch with a shrug of his shoulders. “You hear that, boys? The noble lord admits that he cannot repel us, so he asks us away instead. Did you think we would simply leave in peace because you offered the hand of understanding over the axe like a weakling!?”

“You are only a handful of men, perhaps imbued with unholy powers, but normal in the scheme of things. As you can see, I have a few hundred more men in this castle than you do. I already know of you and your exploits through Nordland, commander Floki. I know that you were repulsed at Erenburg and won a victory at Pale Pass. I also know that you are stranded here, your ships burned by pirates. I wonder what will become of your heathen army, demoralized and pitiful as they are, if they were to fight on without their more famous commanders?”

Floki rolled his eyes, but Bjorn could tell that he considered his next words carefully. “So what shall the good lord request in exchange for the safety of my army? What makes him think he needs to discuss anything at all, if he is so confident in victory?”

“Simple.” Tibalt quipped. “Shall we talk inside my hall? Away from all of these prying eyes?”

Floki grunted in approval. “Lead on.”

***
Tibalt threw back another cup of wine, the war table reverberated as he slammed the chalice back onto the heavy oak. “Fight for me, for my country, and alongside my people against the villains that advance upon my land.”

Bjorn huffed in disbelief, then scoffed. “As mercenaries? Are you mad? We’ve been adventuring and pillaging your people for months now! Why would you trust ‘barbarians’ like us?”

Tibalt smiled knowingly. “Northmen live for plunder and riches, right? I understand why most of Nordland would have grievance with you, but it is worth noting that your armies have never caused trouble in my lands. My enemies, a league of Barons from Brettonnia, have been raiding my and a number of other Lords’ lands for the better part of a year now. It is an invasion! I always knew this day would come, when a border stronghold would fall and allow those cheese—eating scum to march further into the Empire.
“Many settlements and more powerful lands have fallen to their depredations and now my lands are next. What you saw today in those fields is but a taste of the blood those barons and I have shed from each other. So far I have manage to maintain an advantage by winning key struggles throughout the region. Unfortunately, your abrupt presence has robbed me of any chance to capitalize upon my fortunes. A siege is now likely. A siege concerning this fortress, Saarland, if you weren’t aware.”

Ymir chuckled, swallowed the last dregs of his ale, and belched loudly. “How much are you willing to pay?”

Dag interjected. “What is the enemy’s strength?”

Bjorn spoke up. “Who are these Brettonians? Another faction within the Empire?”

Tibalt addressed each question in turn. “Firstly, I shall pay you with an entire fleet of ships in one of the towns that have yet to be ransacked. And a third of them will be laden with enough silver and gold that they can carry. Secondly, the League of Barons have a superior numerical advantage over us, but only by a slim margin. If your armies decide to fight alongside ours, I am confident we can achieve victory. Thirdly, these Brets are an archaic society, still shackled to the ideas of feudalism. They are of their own Kingdom and are longtime rivals of the Empire.”

Bjorn leaned over the table to exchange glances with a silent Floki. “These ‘Brets’ sound like a challenge. Plus, a fleet of ships…”

Floki grumbled quietly to himself, then drowned out every other present voice. “And what’s to hold you to your word, Tibalt Von Saarland? What is to keep you from cutting all of our heads off once you have achieved victory against the Brettonians?”

Tibalt pointed to his noggin with a sly grin. “You must think long term, Floki Ironside. I do not desire to hire you just to repel these savages from our walls. I want them out of Nordland! I would be crazy to try and betray you in my own halls, where any of your men could break free and dash my brains against my fine granite floors. I won’t risk destroying my army trying to betray you when there are Brettonians on my doorstep, constantly threatening to swoop down like the vultures they are! If your warriors could fight alongside mine until reinforcements can be mustered form the neighboring proinces-“

Floki bristled with anger. “You would have us stay and fight until another army from the Empire can come in and surround us? Do you think us fools?”

“Now, now,” Tibalt raised a hand in the air, vainly attempting to quiet the murmurs of discontent in the hall. “Let me finish! Let me finish! … Now, arrangements can be made for an exchange of a fleet for your army, Floki, before Empire forces arrive to help us drive the Brets back into their own lands.”

Floki nodded hesitantly, considering his options. “That deal better happen before any agreements are made. Understand? I want nothing left to chance!”

Tibalt agreed swiftly. “Of course, of course. Let us discuss the details.”
 

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Interesting change in the storyline.

Tibalt's dancing with the devil, here. I'm looking forwards to see whether or not the new allies honour each other.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks, Beavis, I haven't updated Gods' Hall in a long time. Been focused primarily on the New Word, but it will receive some attention soon :good:.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Perhaps I'm focusing way too much on battles, here, but would I like to think that you guys like to see the battles, at least:grin:.

In the fields outside of Zwesten Village​

The night sky was shrouded by a thick, roiling blanket of dark clouds. Moonlight could not guide Bjorn through the wheat fields, but only the fanning flames of a hundred torches waving back and forth across the shadows. Five hundred Northmen followed the small pinpoints of light as if they were signs from the Gods themselves. They charged across the open fields, grinding fresh golden wheat into the muddy earth beneath their boots.

The village bells began to ring at the sonorous sound of their war cries, things made of guttural and primal noise. The village of Zwesten was built upon a series of overlooking hills, its cluttered and bustling districts rising and falling along the slopes in such a way that they made entering the village a potential chokepoint for anyone brave enough to assault it. No matter the direction, the buildings were arrayed so that enemy forces were funneled through the gateless entrance into a district courtyard. A prime killing ground, Bjorn thought. Yet in spite of the fact that a decent garrison protected this village, the Northmen were goaded into offense by the chance to win the enemy’s food and winter supplies.

Loki shouted over the battle cries as a hail of arrows descended upon the Northmen. “Shields up! Keep your damn shields up!”

The Archers garrisoned along Zwesten’s towers were highly disciplined and well trained. They effortlessly spotted weaknesses in the Northmen’s defenses and picked them apart, shield or not, and barbaric warrior after warrior vanished in the wheat fields below. The survivors immediately began to form a shield wall around those bearing torches, as they quickly became prime targets.

“Kirkegard!” Bjorn called. “Blow the horn!”

Kirkegard raised the war horn from beside Bjorn and played a long, mournful note that resonated throughout the battlefield. Right on cue, the very air was filled with the thunder of cannon barrages from Tibalt’s artillery regiments. Entire swathes of defensive towers and battlements imploded with a quaking boom that sounded reminiscent of the world’s end. Regiments of Longbow men screamed to their deaths as they were dragged into and crushed beneath an avalanche of stone.

“Alle’! Scatter!” Bjorn shoved apart the phalanx of shields protecting him from archer fire. He raised his mace and longsword high and led the charge through the winding uphill path into Zwesten’s Temple District. “Into the village!”

Fire raced through Bjorn’s legs as he climbed the high path. Arrows darted through the dark, lodging themselves into the dirt trail around his feet as he rushed into the village proper. The Bretonnians obviously had not been suspecting an attack. Several unfamiliar soldiers stood guard in the streets. They were burly, skin burnished from long hours laboring beneath the sun. Draped over their chainmail was cloth dyed in the colors of their Lords. In this case, ginger and royal blue coinciding side by side.

The Men—at—Arms showed surprising defiance as they charged forward with their rectangular shields, nearly as tall as themselves. They formed a wall of shields of their own and lifted their spears overhead as they charged to block off the Northmen’s route into the village. Bjorn could sense Loki, Kirkegard, and Ingmar by his side, and shouted a war cry as he threw himself into the shield wall.

Bjorn clashed shoulder—first into the center of the shield wall, twisted away from a sure spear thrust, and countered with a vicious uppercut of his elbow that cracked against the Bret’s nose and flipped the steel cap off his head. The peasant recoiled, spat a wad of blood, and bashed with his shield. The force sent Bjorn reeling backward into his comrades, whom simply pushed him back into the fore of the fight. The same peasant had used the break in the combat to retract his spear for another thrust. As his opponent lunged forward again, Bjorn lashed out with his foot and smiled as he heard toes crunch beneath his boot. The Man—at—Arms stumbled forward, nearly collapsing. Bjorn allowed him to come forward and finished him with a downward thrust through the man’s spine.

Across the rest of the melee, the Bretonnians held the line admirably. They answered the wild and reckless rage of the Northmen with practiced thrust that left several of the men from the northern wastes scattered on the roadside, dying and clutching at their wounds.

The warning bells continued ringing.

Urgent shouts gave way to cries of bravery as enemy reinforcements trickled in from the surrounding Temples. More Men—at—Arms joined the shield wall against the pressing Northmen until there were a hundred defending against five hundred. The small group of Knights that Bjorn had brought with the raiding party quickly made their way to the front of the battle and began tearing into the mortal phalanx. Shields cracked and shattered against wicked battleaxes and Warhammers, armor and flesh alike was cleaved in twain by great claymores and longswords.

“Loki!” Bjorn spun away from a downward thrust meant to crunch through his shoulder blade. His longsword came up in a diagonal arc that severed the offending hand at the wrist. “Tell Arles to gather some men from the rear and take care of those archers! Their sniping at our backs!”

“Gwaahhh!!!” Loki brought his axe downward directly upon a peasant’s steel cap. The blow cleaved him from head to chest. He stared at Bjorn with unbridled fury, but eventually relented and vanished from the battle.

“Ahh!!!” A Chaos Knight screamed, three spear shafts embedded through his stomach, shoulder, and thigh. One by one, the weapons were ripped free and the Northman was allowed to die.

Kirkegard parried another blow with his shield. “The shield wall is too strong! We won’t break it!”

Bjorn howled over the chaos. “Marauders! Jump!”

The Marauders. They were simple folk back in the northern wastes and common warriors at best. But they were good when a situation required speed and agility over the mailed hammer that were the Knights of Chaos. They came on in their simple tunics and leather breeches, some even stripped down to nothing but their fur hides. They rushed over Bjorn and his Knights all at once, surmounted them effortlessly, and landed in the midst of the Bretonnian shield wall.

Simple axes, swords, and shields quickly gained an advantage at such close quarters. The Marauders were brutal in their efficiency, slicing throats and splitting skulls with single blows before they dispatched another soldier the next moment.

Bjorn quickly shoved himself into the nearest Bretonnian with all of his weight and pushed into the shield wall as it began to break apart. His mace whipped around and crunched against the back of a skull. His longsword hacked through a spear haft, allowing another Northman to slay his opponent with a swing of his blade. Another Men—at—Arms scrambled away from him, but it was too late. Bjorn rushed into him with all of his might and trampled him underfoot with his heavy steel boots. He finished the broken corpse with a thrust of his sword.

Sounds of fighting pervaded all of Zwesten when the Alle’ finished the rest of the Bretonnians. The aftermath was a thick floor of gore, blood, and corpses left in the road that the Warriors of Chaos were content to leave behind. Of the party that Bjorn commanded before the raid began, several dozen were dead. The wounded were afflicted beyond saving.

Kirkegard rushed from scattered group to group as they paused to take rest.

Zwesten’s Temple District was surprisingly lavish, celebrated by tall monuments of Sigmar and his champions. The roads that interconnected inside this district were littered with rose petals and lit with braziers of incense. It was a blatant sign that this quaint village had the potential of becoming a town, perhaps a city, one day. Bjorn studied the Temple of Sigmar, a vast bulwark of stone and granite and shut from within by mighty bronze doors.

“Kirkegard, Ingmar!” Bjorn’s friends quickly approached him. “Find some soldiers with a taste for burning. Start razing this district to the ground. Spare no one.”
 
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