Bastardry

This is a dark age, a bloody age, an age of daemons and of sorcery.

Bastardry

Postby Gaius Marius » Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:56 am

A short.

‘Come on you stupid bastards,’ muttered Morgheitz in between puffs of his cigar, ‘take me off this hill. You want me off this hill; you need me off this hill.’

The Nordland General was speaking to his opponent: twenty thousand northern marauders that massed upon the plain below. Whole clans of the Empire’s enemies were before him, trampling the snow into slushy ruin as they shook themselves into formations. A long, roughly even line of Norscan warriors had formed: lightly armed troops with serrated axes, longswords and little in the way of armor. Behind them were heavier units, experienced warriors of chaos in heavy coats of mail and plate, with battle axes and warhammers in their gauntleted hands. Towards the very back more inhuman shapes capered: beastmen, spawn and sorcerers. In front of the great chaos host a mighty wedge of horsemen were forming, marauder horsemen and the fearsome Chaos Knights.

‘What are you waiting for you stupid heathen bastards,’ spat the General, drawing his cigar out of his mouth the metal clamp that served him for a left hand, ‘come at me!’

Despite his orders, the Chaos host seemed disinclined to move. Yes they outnumbered the Imperial host by two to one, but Sigmar’s heirs held a strong position atop a steep hill. To attack the Empire army, the heathens would have to storm up half a mile of steep, bramble, ice and stump covered hill, all the while under a heavy fire from Morgheitz strong complement of handgunners and cannon. Those who survived to reach the top would run into a solid wall of halberds that would pin them in place while several hundred Imperial Knights would slam into the embattled warrior’s flanks. Still, the Chaos warhost would need to get around or through Morgheitz’ army somehow if they were to bypass the stony coastline and enter Nordland proper.

‘Damn cowardly Chaos bastards,’ muttered the General again, ‘Never do what I need them to.’

‘Do you need something Lord Morgheitz?’ asked Velathain, the female White Wizard’s voice high and melodious. Velathain was tall, notably taller than the stumpy Morgheitz and seemed to lack a trace of color in her snowy hair, icy skin or near white irises.

‘Yes,’ responded Morgheitz, ‘I need you to get that lot of rat sons of bitches off that plain and charging at me up this hill.’

‘The Light Order focuses for the most part on healing and defensive spells,’ reminded the woman, ‘I doubt if the offensive spells I have would be capable of destroying them at this range.’

The General grumbled at that. The damn Elector couldn’t spare his best general a Gold Wizard to turn the enemy’s armor into burning lead or a Bright Wizard to transmute the whole field into a raging inferno. No, instead Morgheitz was stuck out here with the palest woman he had ever seen who was only good for healing wounds. He grumbled to himself again, before he started thinking.

Morgheitz was old for a soldier, in his late forties with a heavy grey beard that sprawled downwards onto his plate armored chest. His left hand had been eaten by a rat ogre decades before and replaced with a metal clamp that was decent enough at holding reins or a cigar. Before and since then he had killed a lot of the Empire’s enemies, both personally and in control of an army. In that time he had learned more than a few tricks.

‘Do we have any of their prisoners?’ the General asked with an evil gleam in his grey eyes.

‘The ones we took alive at Ormeinhurtz did not survive long,’ the staff Colonel Zieglitz said from behind his mustache, ‘and there were few enough of those anyway.’

‘Damn,’ spat Morgheitz, ‘beheading a few prisoners before the battle usually gets the foe riled up and angry. Especially those chaos bastards, they don’t like it when their friends are on the chopping block.’

The General thought for a few more seconds, before turning to his chief of engineers. Gaius Laugherhelm was tall and fit, with an immaculately trimmed beard and an unlined face that still spoke of youth. Morgheitz hated him in about twenty five different ways, from the man’s silken tights to his fullhead of hair to his brazen damn competence to the way the Light Wizard looked at him. But the Nuln-trained Engineer was still damnably useful in a battle, as were the batteries of cannons, hellblaster volley guns and hellstorm rockets he commanded.

‘Laugherhelm, can any of your guns strike at that lot from here?’

Laugherhelm took a moment to respond, bringing an immaculate spyglass to his eye and studying the Chaos warhost for a few minutes. Morgheitz knew that it was an act designed solely to further infuriate him, the Engineer had of course been studying the enemy army for hours and knew exactly where they were.

‘It appears after a great deal of study that the enemy is at too great a range in order for the devices in the army’s iron company to deal an optimal amount of damage per pound of shot used in the bombardment,’ said the Engineer at last.

‘So you are telling me… no?’ asked Morgheitz.

‘Well… yes.’

‘Damn it,’ muttered Morgheitz, ‘somebody get me the Bastard.’

Nobody was entirely sure who the Bastard really was. A few details were obvious: the man was utterly hairless, tall and built like a dwarven outhouse and the hideous scar across his neck did his already brutish looks no favors. Some in the army claimed he was a former Knight of the Blazing Sun who had been sentenced to hang for murder and then exiled when the rope broke. Others said he was a Kislevite Druzhina who had been exiled from that wintry land for murdering a superior officer in a knife fight that had seen his own throat slashed. Either way, every rumor about the mute warrior’s former life involved some sort of disgrace and violence.

Soon a staff officer had found the giant mute and dragged him from the formation of Greatswords he fought in to the command group. Up close the man was even bigger, his bald head coming up to the mounted Morgheitz’ chest.

‘You understand me?’ asked the General, seeing the giant nod in response.

‘Good,’ said Morgheitz, ‘now I want you to take one of the staff horses and ride it down there.’

The General paused to point at the swirling horde of chaos soldiers with his hook.

‘And kill anything that gets close to you. When the whole lot start moving towards you get your ass back up here.’

The Bastard stared at the horde of marauders below and grunted once to show acknowledgement. He slid his barbute helm onto his head and jumped onto a horse offered by a staff officer. Soon the man was rapidly receding into the distance, his form shrinking as he galloped the horse downhill.

‘Do you honestly think that will work?’ Velathain asked him.

‘Of course, there’s a reason he’s called the Bastard.’
…..

The Bastard didn’t slow the horse as it ran downhill towards the Chaos position. The Norscans had seen him descend and several of their horsemen were riding towards the apparent challenger. His mount shied as it caught a sniff of the not quite equine mounts ridden by the Chaos Knights, but the Bastard merely kicked the beast harder. A mounted marauder, a gangly man with an axe in one hand and a crab claw as the other, was his first target. He didn’t slow the horse, but kicked the tired beast into a full gallop. The Marauder rode faster towards him, giving him a puzzled look as the Greatswordsman’s horse did not swerve away but instead ran pell-mell into the marauder’s mount.

Men and horses were thrown to the ground, both horses shrieking in pain with broken legs. The Bastard, prepared for the shock, was up first and seized the Marauder’s face, using his armored thumbs to pop out the man’s eyes. He silenced the man’ screams with a kick to the larynx and drew his zweihander in one smooth motion as the dying man’s comrades closed in.

The twisting blade of the zweihander struck out with practiced ease, tearing off the soft nose of a marauder’s horse in a welter of blood. Shrieking in pain the animal reared, only for the sword to strike one of its forelegs at the elbow. It collapsed as it came back to earth and the Bastard drove the rider’s nose into his skull with his blade’s pommel. While he struck the man, another Marauder came upon him with a battle axe. The Bastard ducked under its sweep and his sword flashed out to take the chaos warrior’s arm off at the elbow.

The Chaos Knights were upon him now, older more veteran warriors in heavy armor and upon massive destriers. He blocked the downwards swipe of a sword, feeling his zweihander shudder as he did. Another Knight struck at him with an axe and the Bastard caught it on the parrying hooks of his greatsword. He twisted the axe out of the knight’s grip, angling the pommel at the man’s face as he did. He struck the Chaos Knight in the throat, collapsing his windpipe through the mail gorget he wore and knocking him off his mount.

Ignoring the rather evil looking horse’s squeals, the Bastard leapt into the saddle of the armored beast. The first Knight had wheeled around and now charged back at him, blade leveled out like a lance. The Bastard kicked his captured horse to meet the charging chaos warrior, flipping his zweihander around to grip the tip of the blade with both armored fists. As he neared his foe, the Bastard raised the blade high over his head and brought it down like a warhammer, the pointed quillions slamming into the peak of the horse’s head. The charging horse dropped to the ground and cartwheeled forwards, the Chaos Knight on its back was trapped by his stirrups and there was a sickening crunch as his neck broke when he struck the ground with half a ton of horseflesh atop him.

The Bastard paid the dead man no head, instead grabbing the human skinned banner that had been tossed to the ground and kicking the destrier into a gallop. Behind him the formation of mounted marauders and Chaos Knights dissolved as each individual warband sought to cut down the arrogant Imperial who had rode into their midst and seized their colors. Soon the entire wedge of cavalry was chasing the Bastard, who was spurring his horse for everything it had.

Snow exploded at the hooves of the horse as it race up the hillside, hundreds of Chaos cavalry in pursuit close behind. Following them was the entire Chaos host in rapid succession, infantry and sorcerer alike enraged at the mark on their honor.

Atop the hill the engineers and handgunners held their fire under Laugherhelm’s direction. He watched mercilessly as the Bastard’s blown horse fell dead near the summit, forcing the Greatswordsman to run up the hill with the enemy banner, pursuing cavalry barely fifty yards behind. Only when the Bastard had entered the ranks of the halberdiers and the Chaos Knights were twenty yards away did the gunmen let fire.

Each cannon and hellblaster was loaded with grape and every handgunner had put a double charge of powder and shot into their guns. The lead storm ripped into the ranks of Chaos Knights, slaughtering horses, shattering armor and slaying men by the score. Laugherhelm’s last shots were from the hellstorm rockets which rose screaming from the rear of the Imperial formation. Only a few shots landed into the knot of Chaos horsemen, and while they added greatly to the storm of havoc their fiery trails and shrieking passage panicked the Norscan horse, which were unused to the effects of gunpowder.

Even the unwounded Chaos Knights were having difficulty controlling their mounts when two wedges of Knights Panther and Knights of the Blazing Sun slammed into their flanks. Better disciplined than their opponents and aided by the downward slope, the Imperial knights killed hundreds as they launched lance cycle after lance cycle, fresh men constantly slamming home into the disorganized Chaos formation. Soon the northerner cavalry broke and fled downhill, pursued by pistoliers on light horses who gunned down many of the heavier Chaos warriors from behind.

The Chaos infantry paused as they saw the ruin of their cavalry and the still fresh Imperial infantry. But they did not tarry long as the artillery had the range now and was beginning to blow bloody gaps into the Chaos formations. Attempts by the Sorcerers to reap havoc on the Imperial ranks with their magic failed as well, as Velathain and the army’s Warrior Priests managed to block their attacks with light magic and prayers to Sigmar.

By now the Pistoliers had taken positions on the Chaos army’s flanks and were chewing the warriors into bloody pieces with their wheel lock pistols. Desperate the infantry tried to charge, to be met at the apex of the hill by rank after rank of halberds, backed up by mercenary free companies and greatswords. The infantry fight was brutal, with Chaos spawn and demonic hellbeasts ripping killing scores of Imperial troops. But the infantry line held and the Knightly orders massed again, crashing into the marauder’s flanks. Out flanked and locked in the center the Chaos warhost tried to retreat, the battle turning into a bloody rout as their units lost cohesion and were slaughtered by pursuing forces of Knights.

Morgheitz trotted his bloodstained horse through the piles of chaos dead, surrounded by his knot of messengers and staff officers.

‘Send a message to Salzenmund,’ ordered the General, ‘tell the Elector that this invasion force has been destroyed. Send another to the Admiral that if he did his damn job right this wouldn’t have happened. And someone find me the Bastard.’

A staff officer diligently produced the Greatswordsman, who was coated in stiffening blood.

‘Ah good,’ said Morgheitz, ‘Soldier the Bastard know that you are hereby promoted to army Champion.’

He fumbled for a minute, pushing aside his beard to grab a medal pinned to his armor’s surcoat.

‘Take this medal, a symbol of your entrance to the Order of the Dragon.’

‘That’s the Order of the Griffin sir,’ Colonel Zieglitz corrected.

‘That’s what I said wasn’t it damn it! Order of the Griffin and know that you are promoted to the position of champion of the army.’

He tossed the medal to the Zweihander who caught it and stared at the piece of bronze blankly for several moments.

‘He doesn’t speak Reikspell does he?’ asked the General after several minutes.
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Re: Bastardry

Postby fallen inquistor » Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:34 am

Overall, a good little story. The Bastard was a tad on the invincible side (as were the rest of the Imperials) but it works for this kind of story. I don't really have any serious complaints, just minor nitpicks. The lore of Light actually DOES have some pretty destructive spells. It's not just the standard healing "white magic" of most fantasy settings. Of course, the Chaos army could just be out of range. Also, horses don't really have elbows ;) . Joints would probably be a better word. But those are just nitpicks. Great job!
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Re: Bastardry

Postby VictorK » Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:13 pm

Pretty standard little battle report story. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. The story is at its strongest when we're dealing with the imperial characters, they were amusing and strangely believable. There are two schools of Warhammer fiction, the grimdark and the humorous, owing to the twin warring threads of development in the hobby. If you're going to do a battle report story that takes units out of the book and treats the army books as fluff tomes then I definitely advise going humorous...and I was definitely amused. The Bastard fighting portion was well executed, but it is a bit of a power trip, isn't it? Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. It's all about what you want to get out of the piece.
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