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Mortkin's invasion

The Slaughter at Volganof was a series of events that met their climax within the Imperial province of Ostland, where the dreaded Lord Mortkin lay siege to the city of Volganof.[1a]

Overview

The Empire would soon come into a terrible reckoning with the Lord of the Fell Legion in 2515 IC. However, in order to fully understand those events, one must go further back and examine the events of the 3 years prior.

In 2512 IC, the Realm of Chaos waxed and spread. The savage Norsemen, seeing this as a sign of the favour of their Dark Gods, began to once again spill out of the North to ravage the civilized lands of the south. The only warnings of their raids were the harsh blaring of warhorns and bellowed oaths to cruel gods. The Northmen tore their way through the lands of Kislev and soon came upon the Empire, burning cities and towns and turning aside whole armies. Their attacks grew even more deadly in the coming years, and the longships of the Chaos Marauders began streaming in greater numbers from Norsca when the ice broke, ravaging the coastlands of the Empire. In response, the Imperial Navy sent an armada of warships to the Sea of Claws to stem the tide of raiders, and in addition, Nordland redoubled its coastal patrols. However, it was Ostland that took the most aggressive steps of all.[1a]

Led by Elector Count Valmir von Raukov and his son and heir, Oleg von Raukov, the province of Ostland girded itself for war. Valmir von Raukov, a war-like man by nature, had suggested the unthinkable - to launch reprisal raids into the lands of the Enemy, into the unholy lands of Norsca just as as Sigmar himself had done in ages past. With a new, massive army of mustered state-troops, Valmir led the raids in 2513, putting several coastal towns of Norsca to the torch. Valmir's raids, for all their bluster, did not manage to penetrate very far inland, and were primarily contained to the Norscan coastline. There, his armies managed to put several Norse villages to the sword.[1a]

His son, Oleg, had perhaps exceeded his father in that regard, having destroyed many settlements along the Norscan coast as well; among them were the coastal towns of Aarvik and Ulfennik. Valmir and his heir returned late in the year with the carven prows of longships and the beams of a greathall to mark the destruction of 7 Norscan villages. Much of the Empire, noble and commoner alike, toasted the accomplishments of the von Raukovs, announcing Valmir as a true hero of Sigmar's realm. Others however, protested, fearing that these audacious attacks would draw the ire of the Norsemen, or worse, that of their Dark Gods.[1a]

But what followed in the year 2515 still causes a shudder to those who survived...[1a]

The Attacks of 2515

In this year, the attacks on the Empire were unlike anything seen in recent memory. The roiling storms within the Realm of Chaos burst forth with unbridled fury. The skies blazed with multi-coloured lightning, searingly vibrant against the oncoming blackness. Spring meltings brought a wave of northern barbarians, although in fact this was little more than the displaced tribes that had been driven away by the growing wars further north.[1b]

Encouraged by the rampant Winds of Chaos, more attacks followed. Any army descended from Norsca across the Sea of Claws. It set towns along the coasts ablaze, but was neither large nor bold enough to threaten the major cities and keeps. Another even larger host plunged southwards on a broad front into Kislev, causing a swathe of destruction. Although much momentum dissipated in the endless steppes, some of the farflung warbands of that wave bypassed the border forts of Ostland and caused much havoc in that province. The third attack was led by Prince Sigvald the Magnificent.[1b]

Sigvald's army blazed through Kislev and into Ostland on a three month rampage until it was finally blunted at the Battle of the Temple of Skulls. A coalition of many Imperial states had come to aid the beleaguered province of Ostland, who, beset by so many dangers had put forth a call for help. But these attacks were just a foreshadowing of what was to come.[1b]

The Heart of the Invasion

The most powerful thrust, the true black-heart of the invasion, followed hard on the heels of its forerunners. This was no warm-weathered raid, content merely to plunder the rich lands of the south. At its head was Lord Mortkin, a favoured scion of Chaos, a king of kings and leader of many tribes. This horde of iron-bound warriors, barbaric tribes, and hell-spawned Daemons was the most powerful army to cross the borders of the Empire in an age. Fear ran before the Chaos host and in their wake was left only smouldering ruin and grisly tributes to their bloodthirsty gods. It seemed that naught could stem this evil tide and that a new era of darkness was about to descend upon the Old World...[1b]

They Came from the North

Volganof Invading Army

Past Troll Country, and far into the Northern Wastes there reside barbaric tribes divided into factions beyond counting. In 2515, these warriors united under a single banner and began an epic tale of devastation and invasion.[1c]

War at the Top of the World

Near the Polar Gates the landscape writhed as supernatural beings strained against the ever-thinning veil between them and reality. So great was the surge of magical power that pure energy leaked through the barrier. Those attuned to magic suffered waking visions, and beguiling assurances of immortality could be heard by those willing to listen. Armies congregated, drawn to the promise of eternal glory. Under tormented skies the contest for domination raged. The Champions of Chaos were pitted against each other in a battle for ultimate power. Sorcerers, fuelled by limitless energy, unleashed titanic magics. The unending War of the Realm of Chaos had spilled through into the lands of Men. The free-for-all slaughter amused the gods. Yet no mortal yet stepped forward to claim mastery over the gathering hordes.[1c]

Who Will Rise to Lead Them?

Amongst the mightiest of dark champions, several did not join the tumultuous clash. Archaon and his elite followers, the Swords of Chaos, were away in the Worlds Edge Mountains, seeking long-lost artefacts. Quixiom, the three-headed Sorcerer and favoured of Tzeentch, had shapeshifted so that he might dwell in far-off cities of men and was currently studying under the Daemon-aided sorcerers of Araby. Lord Mortkin, the Black-iron Reaver, was mired in glowering gloom.[1c]

Knowledge of the Empire's reprisal attacks along the coast of Norsca had travelled throughout the Northern Wastes. Some tribes howled in rage and indignation, others welcomed the attacks, pleased to fight against men anxious for battle. Lord Mortkin, leader of the Fell Legion, and ruler of many warriors, had not spoke since hearing of the raids. By chance, the coastal town of Ulfennik, the place he had once called home, had been razed to the ground. Locking himself away, he brooded deep within his fortress of blackest iron.[1c]

It is said that in a bitter fury Lord Mortkin made a pact with the Chaos Gods. When he emerged from his self-imposed solitude, he did so with a single-minded purpose. Lord Mortkin strode forth, with the full might of the Fell Legion, to stop the aimless fighting, unite the hordes of Chaos and lead them southwards to destroy the weakling nations of men. To aid his dread cause, a host of Daemons, under the command of the Bloodthirster Kargharak, emerged at his flank. Lord Mortkin's forces arrived upon the battlefield and began to lay waste to all who would not bow before him.[1c]

Zakhar, the Master of the Coven of the Eternal Eye, was the first to join, maintaining that he had seen the gods promise victory to Lord Mortkin. This was an easy claim to believe, for Lord Mortkin smashed the other champions aside with ease. Already at his bidding marched a legion of black-armoured warriors, a host of Daemons and even a mighty Dragon flew to join his cause. Lord Hackbile quickly followed Zakhar, pledging his Plague Army to Lord Mortkin. Many lesser lords and barbarian kings also bent a knee to their new leader, but others defied and were soon destroyed. After eight days of butchery, Lord Mortkin led a unified host southwards.[1d]

Kislev in Flames

As the separate armies under Lord Mortkin began their advance they continued to absorb barbaric tribes and newly materialised Daemons into their number. Those who refused to join were crushed or driven before the oncoming host.[1d]

The lands of Kislev, still covered in melting snow, were beset by displaced reavers. The countryside was aflame as warbands laid waste to all they encountered. Many nomadic horse-tribes were able to keep on the move, avoiding danger for a while, but the discordant warbands were so numerous and widespread that no few of the horsemen were trapped. Hemmed in on all sides, their blood soon warmed the icy ground.[1d]

Through the maelstrom of raiders marched a formidable spearhead, an army that angled directly for Ostland. In the ruins of the scorched town of Tzeskagrad, Lord Mortkin paused the endless columns and commanded Zkhar to perform the Ritual of the Shrivelled Hands, an accursed spell that would help locate the Beastmen and summon them to war.[1d]

The Beasts of the Woods

Heeding the voices of his daemonic advisors, Lord Mortkin wished to re-establish the old bond with the Children of Chaos, the Beastmen. Messengers rode out to seek what lay hidden in the twisted forests. Pointed along trackless paths by sinister shrivelled hand talismans taken from the doomed people of Tzeskagrad, the messengers rode in search of Ul-Ruk the Red, chieftain of the largest warherd in the Forest of Shadows.[1d]

Before the herd's trophy mound, riders presented the hundreds of shrivelled hands to three cowled Bray-Shamans. The Bray-Shamans foresaw darkling dreams of slaughter and nodded ascent to their leader. With a thunderous bellow, Ul-Ruk summoned the warherd. Within days many cloven hoofs marched northwards to join Lord Mortkin's forces.[1d]

Heading Straight for Ostland

Lord Mortkin held his horde together, allowing none to stray. The whispered Daemon-counsel of his many advisors told him how best to cripple the Empire, but Lord Mortkin had other ideas and heeded naught but his own plan.[1d]

Ostland Under Siege

Volganof Defenders

In 2514 IC, after the last raids into Norsca returned home, Valmir von Raukov received an urgent summons from Emperor Karl Franz. Tension was rife between the Empire and Bretonnia, due to border troubles along the Grey Mountains. Hoping a show of strength at the council would intimidate King Leoncoeur, Karl Franz requested that many attend, including Valmir, his most warlike Elector Count. This took Valmir far from his lands as the invasion began. He left control of the province to his sons, trusting in their judgement and the strength of the Ostforts.[1e]

Sons of the Elector Count

It is told that Valmir von Raukov had many offspring, but this might only be rumour spread about a warrior-leader who was often on campaign. Certainly Valmir only claimed two children as his own. His wife, the Countess Ivana, bore Valmir two sons, the heirs to the ruling throne of Ostland - Vassily and Oleg, two men of greatly different character.[1e]

Vassily was the eldest son and the man in line to inherit the rule of Ostland. He was widely regarded as frail and sickly, and was, frankly, an embarrassment to his warlike father. Certainly Vassily was shrewd and was behind many unscrupulous dealings. In several cases, such as the disastrous border agreement with Count Theoderic Gausser of Nordland, only military action by Vassily's younger brother had saved the situation.[1e]

The younger brother was more like his father, a bold leader of men and a warrior born. Since achieving manhood, Oleg had led countless patrols into the Forest of Shadows, earning well his promotion to Captain. The youngest von Raukov famously chose to fight on foot, marching at the fore of his own unit of Greatswords, the Scarlet Bulls. At the brief but bloody Battle of the North March, against the forces of Nordland, Oleg and the Scarlet Bulls turned defeat into victory by decimating several units and slaying the enemy commander - Baron Nactmann.[1e]

In subsequent campaigns Oleg tracked down and destroyed predatory herds of Beastmen near Wolfenburg and cast down their fell monolith. It was he who toppled the Skull Tower of Ravenhill, a beacon to all evil creatures that was found on the edges of the eastern hills. After such heroics, Oleg was appointed as Grand Marshal of Ostland, a senior military leader under his father. It was Oleg who led the retaliatory raids into Norsca, including the ruthless attack of 2514. The timber and leviathan-bone longhouses of the Sea-kings were cast down and the chief coastal towns of Aarvik and Ulfennik were razed to the ground. No longer would the dragon-prowed longships launch in reaver fleets from those ports. All of Norsca cursed Oleg's name, and many were the vows of vengeance proffered to the brutal gods of those savage people.[1e]

War Looms

Not long after Valmir von Raukov rode southwards, even before the snows of winter had begun to melt, there were grim tales along the border of Ostland. Ferocious creatures and many warbands were wandering the plains of Kislev. The Beastmen that dwelt in the Forest of Shadows were becoming bolder and many dark things stirred in the night.[1e]

Even as word from the north drifted in, Oleg von Raukov wasted no time in counsel. He deployed many of the newly mustered state troops into the Ostforts along the northernmost border and then led a sizeable force into Kislev, joining with Pitr Sergeyev, a great Kovnik (Captain) of Erengrad. There, with his fast-moving cavalry allies, Oleg hoped to confront and destroy any invaders on the plains before they could reach Ostland.[1e]

Battle on the Banks of the Lynsk

At first the old alliance stood firm against the threat from the north. Individually powerful, the Chaos warbands that despoiled the lands lacked leadership, allowing the quick-moving Kislevite cavalry and the tactically minded Grand Marshal Raukov to destroy the marauders piecemeal. But the skies darkened, heralding the arrival of a new force. The far-riding Kislevite scouts made sightings of Lord Mortkin's spearhead. Against the obvious might of such a foe Pitr Sergeyev suggested falling back behind a screen of mounted archers, a classic Kislev manoeuvre. But Oleg, ever-reckless, convinced the Kovnik to join the Ostlanders in making a stand on the hills before the River Lynsk. It was to prove an ill choice.[1f]

Lord Mortkin sent the horsemen of the Scourge of the North tribe to his right flank. His own Fell Legion formed to the front. Human strength and steel were pitted against Chaos Armour and the corrupt gifts of their patron gods. The Chaos numbers were too great. With an earth-shattering charge, the Brass Riders, dark knights on metal behemoths, broke through the centre of the Human army. A massacre followed.[1f]

Retreat to the Ostforts

The shattered Winged Lancers broke for Erengrad, only to be ridden down by the Scourge of the North tribesmen. Lord Mortkin released the Daemon Host to chase the fleeing Ostlanders. The swiftest of the creatures - hooded devil-hounds the colour of blood and ghastly she-Daemons atop snake-tongued lizards - destroyed much of the routing army. The waters of the Lynsk ran red.[1f]

The timber palisades of the Ostforts proved no defence against the fury of such unnatural foes. By nightfall flames marked the site of each border fort. Survivors streamed from the ruined watchtowers. Rallying those he could, Oleg von Raukov headed for the walled city of Volganof. There he hoped to regroup his shattered army. Urgent messengers were sent to nearby provinces - this was no raid but an invasion capable of wiping Ostland off the map.[1f]

The Hunt for Von Raukov

Amidst the ruin came a rumour - the fell-handed lord that led the northern host was seeking Oleg von Raukov. Everywhere the invaders sought word of any of the von Raukov family. After crossing the Lynsk, Lord Mortkin ordered his army to spread out to search and destroy. The Daemons of Kargharak slew all they found in the town of Zundap. Bohsenfels was hard-pressed by the slime-encrusted warriors of Lord Hackbile's Plague Army and only the timely arrival of Baron Beckburg's army out of Ferlangen prevented another massacre. Ostland was burning.[1f]

Ostland does not Stand Alone

Although not above political squabbles, the provinces and city-states of the Empire pull together at need. With Ostland under siege, many armies were mustered from throughout that vast nation. The roads resounded to the drums of war as many armies marched north. The riverways, the great arteries of the Empire, were clogged with ships rushing to aid their beleaguered brethren.[1f]

No aid would be in time to save Castle Raukov. The Fell Legion advanced to that ancestral stronghold in hopes of catching some of the royal family. Indeed, Vassily von Raukov had hoped to avoid the invasion, cowering behind the walls of his forefathers. It was not to be.[1f]

Steam-driven metal siege towers rolled forward, shrugging off innumerable cannonballs. Such infernal devices had never before been seen in the Empire - they bore the sterling craftsmanship of the Dwarfs, yet were cruelly devised and covered in leering faces and foul runes. Even as they reduced the walls to rubble, Vassily and his bodyguard fled via secret tunnels, making their way towards the city of Volganof. All others, including Ivana von Raukov, were never heard from again.[1f]

All Forces Head for Volganof

Volganof is one of the largest cities of Ostland, but unlike the provincial capital of Wolfenburg, it is fully enclosed by a massive thick wall replete with towers and battlements.[1f]

It was to Volganof that refugees fled, filling the cramped cobblestone streets. Soldiers too straggled into the city, leaving behind them burnt and ruined forts and towns. In some cases the hounds of Chaos were at their heels, chasing the ragged survivors to the very gates of the city. So it was that Lord Mortkin heard of this bastion-city and ordered all of his armies to converge upon Volganof.[1f]

At the Gates of Volganof

With growing dread the city guard atop the battlements watched the hordes of Chaos emerge from the Forest of Shadows. Volganof's walls had never been breached, but now it stood surrounded by a foe unlike any other.[1g]

The Noose Draws Tight

Rumour of the advancing Chaos armies ran rampant through the over-crowded city of Volganof. Ever refugee that came through the gates brought a new tale of horror - that the barbarians were burning everything as they advanced, that prisoners were eaten alive. Survivors from the towns of Bohsenfels and Zundap claimed that Daemons and monstrous creatures had joined the Northmen, while towns to the south added that the Beastmen had risen out of the Forest of Shadows and that no roads were safe. The few survivors from Kludburgh refused to recount the atrocities they had seen. All were now trapped in Volganof.[1g]

In this atmosphere of growing despair a solid wall of unnatural black cloud appeared over Volganof. It grew so gloomy that the surrounding Forest of Shadows could barely be discerned from the watchtowers. Yet something was out there, for the trees on the edge of the cursed woods swayed and shook, as if a great body of troops and fell beasts was gathering.[1g]

To the harsh blaring of a thousand horns, Lord Mortkin appeared out of the blackest shadows. He was flanked on his right by a towering Daemon, a bat-winged monstrosity that roared its bloodlusting challenge for all to hear. On the Chaos Lord's left hovered a floating island, a great hunt of ground ripped from the earth itself to serve as a mount for Zakhar, matchless Chaos Sorcerer and master of the Coven of the Eternal Eye. Despite the terrifying wonder inspired by such fell lieutenants, it was upon Lord Mortkin himself that all eyes were inexorably drawn.[1g]

Mounted atop a Daemon-beast made of hatred and living brass, the massive armoured form of the Chaos Lord was wreathed in an aura of power so dreadful to gaze upon that it stung an onlooker's soul. So much eldritch energy was being channelled into the warrior king that iridescent flames flickered around him. Here truly was the chosen champion of those who-should-not-be-named. A lord of kings, crowned in flame.[1g]

From the void behind the iron helmet came an ultimatum that echoed across the distance, booming loud for all to hear: "Surrender von Raukov to me, or I will crush your city. All of Volganof will die. I swear to the gods your suffering will be great. You have a single day to decide your fate".[1g]

After speaking he stared for a while upon the high walls of Volganof before turning back to the enveloping gloom.[1g]

Ultimatum

Stunned by the obvious might of the Chaos Lord, soon all of Volganof began to talk. From high-born nobles to soldiers, craftsmen to innkeepers, there was no doubt as to whom the armoured barbarian king had referred - Oleg von Raukov, true son of the Elector Count and pride of Ostland. So outraged and overwhelming was the cry of refusal - that Oleg should be allowed to leave the gates of Volganof - that the few cowardly dissenters who would give up their commander without a fight dared not speak their minds.[1a]

This stubborn spirit, for which Ostlanders have long been famed, helped to convince Oleg not to give himself up - for surely the ruthless invaders would only slaughter him and attack Volganof regardless? The Ostland phrase "A wolf at the door is still a wolf" came to mind. All knew the ravenous wolves of the north would not leave without much bloodshed.[1g]

The following day, when once again, to the blast of many horns, Lord Mortkin emerged from the forest he was answered not in human voice, but with tongues of fire. Every cannon atop the walls of Volganof fired a single shot - the muzzle flashes blazing bright in the permanent dusk that had settled over the city.[1g]

At such extreme range there was little chance of a cannonball scoring a direct hit, yet the shots seemed to vanish in the shadowy murk.[1g]

Still, Volganof's answer had been made.[1g]

Zakhar Unleashed

Lord Mortkin raised his axe and flames erupted along its blade. At this gesture the woods heaved as the Forest of Shadows disgorged its hidden horde. There advanced, in a solid mass, all the nightmarish troops of Chaos - fur-clad barbarian tribes, beast-headed men, and legions of hulking warriors encased in hell-forged armour. Loathsome and gangly-limbed Trolls lurched from under the eaves, along with bull-headed Minotaurs and packs baying devil-hounds. Bursting above the canopy strode Giants, smashing aside trees as a man might brush aside tall grass. The ground shook as the warhost formed up in companies beneath the foul banners upon which were scrawled venerations to the dark powers.[1h]

As the throng halted at some unseen signal, all eyes turned to Zakhar. The chanting of his unholy acolytes increased in pace and volume as, slowly, the floating island began to rise higher. The levitating land mass began to spin, rotating on an unseen axis. Seven peals of thunder rolled across the churning black clouds.[1h]

Standing tall in the middle of the coven, Zakhar reached skywards, beginning to glow with a bluish nimbus. High-pitched maniacal laughter could be heard as untold energy coursed from the heavens into Zakhar's outstretched hands. When the charged could no longer be contained, the multi-hued ball of living lightning was hurled by the Covenmaster. It struck the walls of Volganof and blasted them asunder, vapourising stone and defender alike. Seven times Zakhar's magics smote the battlements and seven times they wrought gaping holes.[1h]

Foward, for Ostland

As the survivors picked themselves off the ground and shook off the dust of crushed stone, a low moan could be heard from the defenders. They had placed much hope in the tall and seemingly impregnable walls of Volganof and now they had been irreparably breached before the battle had even begun. Yet even as the howls of the northern invaders began to rise, Oleg von Raukov stepped into one of the still-smoking gaps in the once proud walls.[1h]

Loud he spoke: "Hold fast, men of Ostland. Where walls fall, there must stand men. But I will not be pulled from Volganof like a beast from a trap! Who will join me in taking the fight to our foe? Who will sally out with me?"[1h]

Such bravery could not be denied, and everywhere along the still-standing walls stout-hearted Captains and emboldened champions picked up the warcry. Every Ostlander knew it was better to die fighting. And so, amidst the looming dark, a new plan was hastily formulated. The walls and breaches must be manned, but to the south, against Lord Mortkin himself, there launched as strong a counter-attack as could be mustered. The Imperial forces advanced out from the breaches.[1h]

All-Out Warfare: The Battle for Volganof

So began the Battle for Volganof. Neither force expected mercy, nor would any be given. Heroic clashes and fell-handed deeds awaited both sides and many tales and sagas celebrate (or condemn) the acts done this day.[1h]

The City Besieged

At Mortkin's signal the Chaos invaders surged forwards. Leading the charge were dozens of tribes of Norsemen, all eager to win glory. They hoped to attract, through deed of battle, the eyes of their Dark Gods.[1i]

Along the city walls the defenders were not waiting idle. Handgunners discharged their weapons, handed their gun to a loader, accepted a new firearm and, almost without needing to aim, fired again into the oncoming mass. Crews struggled to fire and reload war machines; others manhandled artillery pieces into the gaps in the wall, ready to repel the attackers with multiple volleys or blasts of grapeshot.[1i]

But it was at the south walls, where Oleg von Raukov led his counter-attack out of the gates, that Lord Mortkin put forth his real strength. It was there that he released the howling fury of Kargharak and his Daemonhost. They drove deep into the enemy and there was much slaughter. As of yet, Mortkin held in check the matchless warriors of his own Fell Legion.[1i]

Man versus Daemon

The volleys from the walls of Volganof failed to blunt the thrust of the onrushing Daemons. Kragharak, enraged beyond measure, carved a swathe through the Northmen of his own side in his haste to get to grips with the foe. Regiments fled from the sight of such monstrous rage, only to be cut down by the inhuman fiends in his vanguard. There stalked bright red Bloodletters, pale prancing Daemonettes and many more nightmarish creatures hungry for the destruction of all that men hold dear. Regiments of Volganof City Guard fell, slain and trampled before the onslaught.[1i]

Behind the Daemonhost followed clanking metal siege towers moving forwards by some power or foul enchantment. If the Daemons could sweep all before them, the beastly machines would topple the remaining walls. Shots from monstrous Chaos Hellcannons arced over the walls, setting the city alight.[1i]

The men of the Empire were driven backwards, but they did not yet turn to run. Brave Captains held the line as soldier after soldier stepped up to replace the slain. Against Kargharak himself, no strike had yet proved telling. Spears snapped against his impenetrable hide and his axe swept away ranks at a time. The rapid push back threatened to become a rout at any time.[1i]

At that moment the Bechafen Halberdiers stepped forwards into legend. Having marched from Ostermark to aid their brothers, the purple and yellow-clad soldiers entered the battleline in time to repel a Bloodletter charge. Seeing his minions dispatched, Kargharak turned his attentions to the men of Ostermark. Undaunted, the unit raised their halberds as one, presenting a forest of blades. The enraged Bloodthirster struck like a thunderbolt, his impact sending bodies high into the air and slaying the unit's Captain.[1i]

Yet the proud sons of Bechafen stood firm, striking the unholy beast again and again. Soon the Greater Daemon's hide was oozing ichor from dozens of rents. With all the strength he could muster, Sergeant Oberwald drove his sword hilt-deep into the hell-spawn's chest.[1i]

Incandescent with rage, Kargharak picked up the Sergeant and squeezed. Beneath such incomparable strength and limitless fury, Oberwald was pulped, unrecognizable in death as ever having been a man. Yet this atrocious deed only inspired the remaining Bechafen Halberdiers. They hacked the Greater Daemon down. He slew many more of the Imperial soldiers in his writhing death throes, but Kargharak did not rise again.[1i]

The Briefest Hopes

With the downfall of their champion, the Daemonhost wavered. Again, the voice of Oleg von Raukov rang out: "To me, to me, men of the Empire. Press forward and fear no foe! Victory can be ours, fight on!"[1i]

Once again, the hearts of the Ostlanders and their allies rallied and once again, the Imperial forces pressed forward. One of the monstrous siege towers was overrun - it toppled with a resounding crash. The lightly armoured barbarians fell in droves before the resurgence, but those warriors encased in hell-forged armour proved tougher opposition. When these were encountered, the momentum failed. The Daemonhost, driven back and much reduced, put up a ferocious fight around their Blood Banner, before it too was cast down, hacked apart by the Greatswords of the Stalwart Bulls.[1i]

At this, a hearty cheer rose from the men fighting outside of the city and was picked up by soldiers on the walls. For perhaps the first time, the men of Volganof began to hope that they might live to see the true light of the sun.[1i]

The Fell Legion

Lord Mortkin, his armoured form full to bursting with dark energies, knew it was time to enter the fray. At last the Fell Legion advanced beneath banners of black and red. None could stand before them.[1i]

The Black-iron Reavers were all but impervious to harm beneath their hulking armour. The Crimson Reapers, wielding enormous axes, clove men in twain with every blow. The walls of Volganof shook when the lumbering Juggernauts of the Brass Riders began their thunderous charge. There flew Skulex the Great, breathing clouds of fire upon the black and white uniformed soldiers of Ostland.[1i]

As his counter-attacking army evaporated, even Oleg von Raukov could not stop the flight to the walls. Many of the surviving soldiers flung down their weapons and fled, but those nearest the young Grand Marshal and his Stalwart Bulls gave ground only begrudgingly. This rearguard action allowed many regiments to escape to the battered walls of Volganof.[1i]

Backs to the Walls

At last, only the Stalwart Bulls remained outside the walls, and they were soon pressed back into the gap. Twice the Black-iron Reavers charged and twice they were repelled with much loss of life. The ground was slippery with spilt blood. Oleg's blade, gifted to him by the Ice Queen of Kislev, shone bright and cold in the dim light. Panting heavily, the battle-worn Greatswords waited for the next attack.[1j]

Then the hordes parted and all saw why the defenders were granted a brief reprieve. Lord Mortkin, at the head of the Crimson Reavers, had arrived. Death was in their gaze, as they strode forth into the gap. Slicing through swords, platemail, and bodies, Mortkin made his way straight for von Raukov, who, although weary with a long day of battle, did not flinch, but leapt forward to meet the attack.[1j]

Three times Oleg struck, but it was not for mortal man to destroy the commander of the Fell Legion. Having weathered the smaller man's flurry of desperate blows, it was time to unleash his own. With a single swipe that would have felled a Giant, Mortkin smote Oleg, whose body crumbled. Although mortally wounded, the valiant man struggled to rise, to strike once more. Mercilessly, the Chaos Lord strode upon him, snuffing out the last of his life beneath an armoured heel. For a single, surreal moment, the battlefront was stilled. Then, in the distance, came a blaring of horns.[1j]

The Reiksguard Arrive

Bursting from the Forest of Shadows along the Gloomroad, with many a horn call and cries of 'For the Emperor', the Reiksguard arrived onto the field of battle. Shining resplendent in their silver armour, they rode over several units of barbarians lurking near the woods. As the knights formed up, at their head could be seen Kurt Helborg, the Grand Master of the Order and Reikmarshal of the Empire. At his side galloped Ludwig Schwarzhelm, the bearer of the Emperor's personal standard, the awe-inspiring banner glowing brightly in the darkness. Foremost amongst their ranks rode Valmir von Raukov, the Elector Count of Ostland, and a righteous vengeance blazed in his eyes as his banner was unfurled.[1j]

Power Incarnate

Lord Mortkin stood over the body of the fallen von Raukov, gazing down upon the broken man. Oleg was the pride of Ostland and had fought bravely against a foe he could not hope to best. In the distance the horns of the Reiksguard trumpeted clearly. It was as the Daemon-whispers had promised. He had been forewarned they would arrive at such a time and Mortkin had held back half of the Beastman warherd of Ul-Ruk the Red to deal with them, although this command had rankled with the bloodthirsty Children of Chaos.[1j]

All he had to do was give the signal for the Beastmen to advance out of the woods against the cavalry and final victory was assured. He felt power flow in his veins, the Winds of Magic supplying so much dark energy he could feel it throbbing in a corona around him. This, Lord Mortkin knew, was only the beginning of the real battle. Already, far to the north, an even larger host of Daemons was tearing through the ever-thinning veil between the worlds. An even greater gathering of the tribes was congregating, ready to march south and join him. He was the mighty vessel chosen to enact the great plans of the gods. And yet, now his mind was clear. He had taken the vengeance he sought and now his part was over.[1j]

Mortkin had met every challenge. He had heard a hundred thousand voices chant his name. Now all he longed for was an ending. He dropped his axe. With both hands he removed the helmet from atop his head, tossing it onto the piled mounds of the fallen. Loud, he spoke these words for all to hear.

"Wergild is paid. Let Volganof burn to pay for my home of Ulfennik. Never again will I return there. My saga is ended. I choose now to die as a man, my will my own. I go now, too late mayhap, to the halls of my fathers."[1j]

With his oath spoken, the aura about Lord Mortkin dimmed, the bitter gods, perhaps, taking back that which they had given. The Crimson Reapers awoke from their amazement too late to safeguard their lord. The tide of battle swept over the Chaos Champion. Once again, battle was joined.[1j]

As Lord Mortkin fell, the veil of gloom was rent and slanting rays of sun shone down upon the battlefield. The disparate armies of Chaos were instantly shorn of the driving will that had held them together. Rumour raced across the killing fields. Half of the invaders, including Skulex the Great, broke the field, some skulking into the forest, or turning upon each other, settling old scores through combat. Yet so mighty was the host, that even bereft of half its number, the battle was not yet decided.[1k]

Ul-Ruk the Red

The Beastlord Ul-Ruk the Red waited in the woods for a signal that never came. Pushed beyond limits, his bestial rage boiled over. He would wait no longer, instead ordering his warherd into the smoking city. Only by sacking Volganof itself, feasting upon its citizens and tearing down its towers, could the Beastmen wash clean the anguish of taking orders. Bursting from the woods, the Beastmen tipped the scales again in favour of the invaders. They drove the defenders from several of the breaches and ran amok in the city. The streets ran with blood and the Beastmen took vengeance on any that crossed their path, be they warriors of the north or soldiers of the Empire.[1k]

Where Falleth the King?

It had been the Scarlet Curs, filled with hate over the death of Oleg von Raukov, that had overrun the despondent Lord Mortkin in the breach of the southern wall. The Crimson Reapers, Lord Mortkin's bodyguard, had been too stunned and too slow to intervene. Now their lord had fallen. Enraged at their loss, the Crimson Reapers waded into the fray, laying waste to all who stood between them and their fallen liege. The blood-splattered warriors fought their way through the press of Empire troops until they formed a circle around the crumpled form of their lord. The remnants of the Scarlet Curs threw down their halberds and fled. No living foe would advance into the courtyard to challenge the fallen leader's bodyguard, although volleys of gunfire and cannonballs tore through the battered remnants of the Crimson Reapers. They heeded it not. Grief-stricken, they bore the body within the walls of Volganof and there, fore a time, none dared approach them.[1k]

The Charge of the Reiksguard

On the Emperor's orders the Reiksguard had night-marched northwards to reach Ostland and confront the foe. Now that he saw the size of the horde before him, their leader, Kurt Helborg, did not question his orders, but instead bellowed out the only command necessary - "charge!" Before they could reach the gates of Volganof they had to ride through many of the invaders. There stood the remaining Daemons, vengeful for their earlier losses, Lord Hackbile and his Plague Army, and innumerable barbarians, still eager for their share of what lay in the breached and burning city.[1k]

Into the hellish multitude the Knights of the Empire crashed, cleaving through the enemy until they came to the ruins of the southern wall. There a last great challenged stood waiting.[1k]

Metal-bound Juggernauts steamed and pawed out divots the size of shallow graves. The Brass Riders, dealers of untold death, sought to grind the pride of the Empire beneath steel-hooves. Kurt Helborg, feeling the oncoming thunder of that charge, ordered the Reiskguard to lower lances and galloped to meet them. The earth-shaking collision of those units meeting was equalled only by the white-hot fury of their combat. Many fell, hacked down or stampeded over, but in the end it was the Runefangs of Kurt Helbog and Valmir von Raukov that made the difference. Slicing through armour and metal beast alike, the two, along with Ludwig Schwarzhelm, ensured that not a single Brass Rider escaped.[1k]

With the fall of the Brass Riders, all of the invaders who remained on the field saw their hopes of conquest vanish. There was still fierce fighting within the city walls, but the forces that had not penetrated into the city now began to vanish back into the forest. Yet all the same, it was too late for city of Volganof.[1k]

Funeral Pyre for a Fallen Lord

While the final clashes occurred on the plains outside the gates, inside Volganof swirled a maelstrom of many smaller battles. Warbands roamed the streets and desperate defenders manned hastily constructed barricades. But too many of the invaders had stormed within the walls and everywhere the city burned. Citizens and soldiers alike streamed out of the gates eager to escape the hell within the walls.[1k]

For many long hours the Crimson Reapers fought off the Empire soldiers, Beastmen and fellow Northmen who accused them of turning traitor. But they made no effort to leave, even as the flames, grown unchecked, washed over the whole of Volganof. Eventually the tall towers and proud walls collapsed and the flames scoured the city, utterly consuming the last faithful remnants of the Crimson Reapers. And so, in the end, the very city of Volganof became a funeral pyre for the last of the Fell Legion and their mighty Lord.[1k]

Aftermath

The city of Volganof burned for three days. Ash, piled rubble and blackened timbers were all that remained. Relief columns arrived in time to help the survivors. Soon a great camp sprang up, although it was some miles away from where the city once stood. The sun shone brightly, or would have, save for the vast flocks of carrion birds that wheeled in the skies. Their feasting was great indeed and to this day the ravens, bloodbeaks and crows of that area of the Forest of Shadows still seem both over-abundant and over-large.[1l]

Of the enemy, few were seen, save the wounded too hurt to travel far. These were shown no mercy. It is said Lord Hackbile and his Plague Army carved their way through the city of Volganof, escaping through the nothernmost breaches and making for Kislev and beyond. Some barbarians fled alongside them, but most fell on the arduous journey, picked off by the vengeful horse-tribes of that land.[1l]

The Beastmen, glutted on human flesh, escaped back into the forest while fire overtook the city. It was the fervent hope of the many that lost relatives in the Slaughter of Volganof, that it was the cleansing flames that claimed their loved ones and not the brutish half-beasts. To this day the name of Ul-Ruk the Red will still draw curses from any Ostlander.[1l]

The homecoming for Valmir von Raukov was a bitter one. His forts were in ruins, his lands despoiled. He wept openly at the loss of wife and ancestral home. But many said it was the loss of his favoured son that hit the Elector Count the hardest. In mourning, Valmir remains inconsolable. Vassily, found unconscious in the ruins, has recovered his health, but has not yet found the forgiveness of his father.[1l]

Before leading the much-reduced Reiksguard back to Altdorf, Kurt Helborg looked over the makeshift camp, full of refugees and the wounded. He turned to his longtime firend and comrade-in-arms Ludwig Schwarzhelm. "I am shaken Ludwig. I do not think, as do others, that it was our arrival upon the battlefield that won this victory - if victory we can call it. If their lord had not ceased fighting, I do not believe we could have beaten them. Victory was in his grasp, yet by all accounts he just gave up. What manner of man was he?"[1l]

Ludwig, a man of grim disposition and few words was thoughtful for a moment - for he though likewise. Neither had mentioned it, but if the invading army had stayed together, they might have marched all the way to Altdorf. After a thoughtful pause Ludwig said: "Maybe that's it? Maybe, in the end, perhaps Mortkin wasn't one of those... things. Maybe he was just a man after all?"

"Still" Kurt Helborg said, already putting the matter behind him, "Take some solace Ludwig. The northlands will be quiet for a long time after this battle."[1l]

And yet, as the coming years would show, this would not turn out to be true.[1l]

Source

  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy Battles Core (8th Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 452
    • 1b: pg. 453
    • 1c: pg. 454
    • 1d: pg. 455
    • 1e: pg. 458
    • 1f: pg. 459
    • 1g: pg. 462
    • 1h: pg. 463
    • 1i: pg. 464
    • 1j: pg. 465
    • 1k: pg. 466
    • 1l: pg. 467

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