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Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)


Tilea, IC 2401

To see the new, 'improved' version of the campaign, where the earlier pictures are being replaced with better ones, and in which I am editing the posts to improve the text, then please take a look at my own website ...


To see the slowly growing video version of this campaign (which spurred me to edit and rework the pictures) see my YouTube channel at ...


The Living

It has been a long day already, thought Biagino, and it is not yet ended. His sandaled feet ached, his grey, woollen cassock chafed and his worries refused to be forgotten. Unused to such exercise, his whole frame, of which there was a surfeit, complained in a variety of fashions from the neck down. As a priest of Morr he had rarely been asked to hurry, and although often expected to stand for hours on end when officiating the internment of the rich and powerful, church grounds were not usually as uneven as this present path. He did not complain, however, as he did not wish to appear weak. Considering what they were escaping from, it simply would not do for a Morrite cleric to show fear. If anyone in the company was expected stand this test, it was him.

The company had been wordless now for the best part of an hour, ever since they entered the woods - the silent trees had been all that was needed to tip everyone into their own private thoughts. Not that their passage was quiet. The loads upon the mules’ backs clattered and jingled, the hooves thudded as they threw up clods of clayey soil, whilst the armoured plates on the four knights and their mounts at the head of little column added another clinking and scraping layer of sound. With trees growing thickly on both sides of the track the noise was muffled, and so less likely to be heard elsewhere in the woods.

They were currently somewhere south of Ebino, having already crossed the river there. They had not stayed upon the road, Lord Guglielmo preferring instead to move parallel to it along a much lesser used track. Fearing that the evil power now ruling Miragliano might already reach this far, he had decided it was best not to make things too easy for the foe by travelling openly along the obvious and well-trod route. And so now they traversed through rarely visited woods.

Suddenly, the man walking beside Biagino, a tall servant called Bertoldo who swaggered along with a woodsman’s axe on his shoulders as if it were a weapon for battle and he himself were a soldier, spoke.

“We ain’t exactly what you’d call an army, are we?”

His voice was oddly discordant with the mood of the party, more like a comment made on a quiet afternoon at an alehouse table. “I mean, four knights – one a Lord, I grant you – a pair of squires and us lot.”

One of the mules behind them seemed to take exception to Bertoldo’s unexpected words and brayed in the peculiar manner of such beasts, pulling stubbornly on his rope.


Biagino frowned. “I can assure you, even though I walk here at your side, and freely admit to having supped with you and some of the other servants on occasion, that I am not, as you say, one of you lot. I am an ordained priest of Morr, ‘father’ not ‘brother’, and would be grateful if you address me as such.”

The priest thought that making such a comment would prove that he too was similarly unperturbed by their present situation. Such subtlety was wasted on the Bertoldo, however, who simply nodded absently, as if only half listening.

“Not an army at all,” he repeated, dreamily.

“’Not an army at all, father’,” corrected Biagano half-heartedly, already losing interest in pressing the point concerning his status. “Why?” he asked instead, “Were you expecting an army? We are heading away from trouble, at least for now, not towards it. We are certainly not looking to fight a battle. Or I should say, we are expecting to fight a battle, but only when Lord Guglielmo has obtained an army. Until then, we are merely what we are.”

“Well if we ain’t an army,” said Bertoldo, pointing forwards, "then why is noble Sir Benedetto carrying Duke Alessandro’s battle standard?”

Up ahead, riding beside Lord Guglielmo, Sir Benedetto was indeed carrying the Sforta standard, green within an orange border, emblazoned with the image of a monstrous, coiled serpent in the act of consuming a naked man.


“A banner can be carried by one man,” Biagino answered, somewhat confused. “A knight at that. It doesn’t have to be at the head of an army.”

“I suppose not,” yielded Bertoldo, his subsequent intake of breath pregnant with another question. The priest did not have to wait long. “So why are we carrying Duke Alessandro’s banner, when he is our enemy?”

“Alessandro is now our enemy, of that there is no doubt. He can never be otherwise, for he can never be cured of what he has become, only destroyed. But he is no longer duke.”

That got Bertoldo’s attention. He looked at Biagino with real confusion writ across his face.


“Duke Alessandro is dead,” continued the priest. “Assuming his son is dead too, which seems certain from the reports, then Lord Guglielmo is duke. By rights, the banner is his now.”

“Never thought of that,” admitted the servant. “The duke is dead.”

“And that is why the duke has become our enemy. The worst wickedness in the eyes of Morr is that of vampires, for not only is their vile existence a sinful corruption of all that is right, but they then add insult to injury by raising the dead to serve them.”

“Of that I have never had any doubt, father,” said Bertoldo. “Their naughtiness surely surpasses everyone else’s. Yet … if Duke Alessandro were to command us now, his lawful subjects…”

“We were his subjects, before. But that which speaks with the duke’s voice now is not the duke. Duke Alessandro is gone, supplanted by the demonic spirit that now inhabitants his animated corpse. We owe his corpse no loyalty, only respect. And all chance to show that respect has been taken from us by the demon. That which now calls itself the duke of Miragliano is our enemy, and is indeed the enemy of all mankind. He is a blasphemy, a foul corruption mocking Morr.”

Bertoldo smiled, as if his dreamy musings had quite suddenly turned to happiness. “So we’re not traitors, nor thieves, nor even shirking our duties,” he exclaimed.

“No,” agreed Biagino. “We were once and yet still remain good and loyal subjects …”

“… of the living duke,” said Bertoldo, finishing Biagino’s words for him.

A few moments passed, just enough to make the priest begin to believe the servant was satisfied and might well fall silent once more.


Then Bertoldo piped up again.

“You know the duke would live a lot longer if we just carried on southwards, forgot the whole raising an army business and settled down somewhere safe.”

Biagino did not know where to begin. Losing the will to explain the matter further, not least to a mere servant such as Bertoldo, he was sorely tempted simply to tell the man to hold his tongue, then perhaps to lecture a little upon a servant’s place in the world. But then he remembered his own father had been little better than Bertoldo in station, and the thought was enough to make him try again.

“First, if the duke were to do as you suggest then he would be duke merely in title. Is a shepherd without a flock truly a shepherd?”

“But Duke Guglielmo never had a flock,” answered Bertoldo.

An answer was not what Biagino had intended at all. His question had been rhetorical.

Bertoldo obviously had no idea. “He never ruled Miragliano. He just governed Udolpho in his uncle’s name.”

Trying but failing to hide his exasperation, the priest asked, "Then answer me this. Do you call a shepherd who has no flock and never had a flock before, a shepherd?”

“Probably not,” said Bertoldo. “I’d say he was just a man who wants to be a shepherd.”

Biagino let the thought take a proper root in Bertoldo’s mind for a moment. Then continued, “Don’t get me wrong. Lord Guglielmo is the rightful possessor of the title. He has the blood, and was next in line to inherit. He is by all that is right and lawful the duke. It helps, however, if he has something to be duke of!”

“I have it, father,” said Bertoldo, as if he had just managed to secure a slippery fish that had been writhing in his hands close to escape. “And second?”

Only momentarily satisfied at his apparent success at explaining things, this last comment had Biagino confused.


“You said ‘first’,” explained the servant, “so I thought there’d be a second.”

Gods, but I am tired. “There is a second, though it ought to be first in the minds of all men of faith and sense. Second, it is the duty of all men, Tileans in particular I would say, to fight wickedness and evil. If everyone went south and settled as you so bravely suggest, then who would there be to defend against our enemy? We all die. There is no running away from that. If we do not fight and defeat that which would steal our souls, then we are all doomed.”

“Doomed,” echoed Berdoldo.

At last, he fell silent again. Biagino was left wondering whether his attempts to explain had failed altogether to reassure the servant. Then that concern was washed away by another. Oh, my aching feet.
At the head of the column, Duke Guglielmo rode behind a blunderbuss armed coachman. There was no coach.


He carried his helm beneath his arm, the better to see the woods around him; his sword unsheathed, ready for a fight; and he bore a fixed expression, brooding and stern. He was like unto an equestrian statue, but seated upon a living horse.


Inside his mind, however, there was turmoil.



There are (now) six players. The characters in the piece above are 'non-player' characters (NPCs). They should appear in later stories too If a player or an event somehow kills them though, then they won't! I will do these illustrated story pieces from NPCs' viewpoints, interspersed with battle reports, modeling reports and various other pieces. It will hopefully be a vivid way for the six players to gain insights and a feel for the world. I can't really do stuff from the players' perspective as they are playing the game, I am not them, and most important they may not want the other players knowing what they're up to!

The Vampire Duke Allessandro who is mentioned in the above piece is one of the six players. The player is busy painting his army. He once sold an entire VC army, a few years ago, so now he is painting a new one! Me, I've got scenery to make and mercenaries to paint. Lots of mercenaries.

This story (and the next) serve as prologues, I suppose. Then I will continue with more stories and the battle reports - as I am running this campaign (like the All That Glitters sequence) this will be more connected and comprehensible, with a full background and a much clearer picture of events, than the campaigns I merely took part in and wrote from my own character's perspectives. As I write this note this campaign is ongoing, and so at some point the (daily) posts will slow down to my real time production rate. I am current'y half way through a battle report.

Do please feel free to comment, as I might get ideas and such like that way that I can incorporate.


The Green Corsairs

The storm had finally subsided just before daybreak, and as the roaring thunder, lashing rain and rushing wind all diminished, so too did the shouting. There had been a lot of shouting through the night, mainly by Sea Boss Scarback, the product of anger, frustration and a pressing need not to let things get any worse. Then again, Scarback was not that sure things could get worse.

As the day dawned Scarback could see that all his ships were gone, either consumed by fire in the fight, lost to the sea or destroyed by the black rocks. Perhaps the skaven always intended that the tempest should hit moments after they engaged in battle, but more likely they simply attacked when the opportunity presented itself, regardless of the weather. Either way, the storm had very much added to the Green Corsairs’ misery.

Even by greenskin standards, the ratmen seemed oblivious to the dangers that the approaching storm presented, a carelessness further proved by the unstable weaponry they employed. The diabolical machines affixed to their bows vomited long, sparking streams of unnaturally green-tinged flames, and their first blast had washed over the galley Bashdemall from bow to stern, killing the crew before they could even leap into the sea. Their second blast had gone catastrophically wrong as the machine burst and blew the entire front half of the skaven ship to pieces, yet this misfortune did nothing to help balance the odds, for the skaven vessels outnumbered the Green Corsairs three to one. Just as the storm hit, the Hullsplitter was boarded by a swarm of ratmen, so that every single orc aboard was matched by uncountable foes. The rest of Scarback’s fleet, attempting at that very moment to turn and so avoid the sheets of fire, had suddenly found themselves cruelly embayed on a lee shore, and so suffered more from the storm than the battle. Scarback’s flagship, the Doombringer, had been driven onto the black rocks by the wind, while the smaller ships Cracker and Orc’s Whelp had both just managed to avoid the same fate, being subsequently yanked out to sea by a rip current. Whether they escaped the Skaven vessels as well as the rocks was anybody’s guess.

The luckiest ship, perhaps, was the Mancrusher, for she had somehow skirted the rocks and run ashore on the one little beach along this particular stretch of the Tilean coast. She was named after a memorable incident when a Sartosan boarder had fallen between her hull and that of the ship he was leaping from, only to be ground into a red smear on the hulls of both ships. The Mancrusher’s smear was later made permanent with an artistic coating of red paint, but it now lay hidden by shadows as she lay careened sharply over on the sand. It would be possible to put her to sea again, but only if Scarback was willing to leave two thirds of his force behind. And he was not.

Scarback had drawn his blade, all the better to point with as he barked his commands, as well as to cut down several contrary goblins who had apparently forgotten who he was in their panic and confusion. Clad in a long coat torn from the bloated corpse of an already fat man his crew fished from the sea a few months back, with his brightly patterned scarf wound about his waist, he took a moment to consider what exactly he might do next.


His first mate Jalgador, whose own viciously curved cutlass had also chastised a goblin or two that night, pointed out to sea. “That’s Doombringer’s mast. She can’t be deep. Y’reckon we can get some stuff off ‘er?”

Boss Scarback peered out into the slowly lightening gloom until he could make it out too – just two feet of mast head, which would not be visible at all if it were not for the raggedy pennant dangling soggily from it. “No-one would come up again if they went under there, the waves and the rocks would see to that, a hammer and anvil to break their bones and crush the air from their lungs.”

“We gots lots o’stuff already,” interrupted the goblin trader Poglin Fangface, who was standing between the two orcs. His oversized panache feather hung heavily from his ragged black hat, and the clawed toes of his left foot stuck out of the hole at the end of his boot. “We gots it piled up behind the rocks.”

Neither orc looked at him, Jaglador merely grunting an acknowledgement. Still staring at the tip of his lost ship’s mast, Scarback was not so sure that ‘lots o’stuff’ was enough. “We got powder? Good powder?” he asked.

“Three barrels, not countin’ what the lads ‘ad about themselves,” answered Poglin. “Only them that went under for a bit has got soggy powder, the rest is good.”

“We got guns?”

“A brace of ‘em,” said the goblin. “And not little swivels, these is minions. And we got more’n a score of iron roundshot. The powder’s enough to keep ‘em hot for an hour or two.”

“How d’ya get them?” asked Jaglador.

“They’re the chasers from the Mancrusher. Fell right off ‘er onto the sand.”

Boss Scarback now noticed another one of his orcs was coming up the slope towards them, Hogg Yellowtongue, a musket on his shoulder. One of his other guards gave a welcoming ‘ho!’


Hogg had not been in Scarback’s boat, so his presence meant that at least some others from the Doombringer must have got to the shore. Scarback’s quartermaster was on the rocks down below closer to the water, leaning on a long spear. Over the sound of the surf he could not possibly have heard what they had just talked about, but Scarback knew he was probably thinking over the matter of salvage too.

“We ain’t getting anything off her,” Boss Scarback shouted loud enough for the quartermaster to hear. “Look all you like, but she’s lost and all that was on her.”

Jaglador suddenly looked worried. “Boss,” he said, “we ain’t lost the stone, ‘ave we?”

Scarback grinned. “No Jag, we still got it.” He turned to look at the goblin trader. “It’s safe, ain’t it Poggy? You done what I told yer?”

“Two o’ my lads is doin’ it right now boss. We’ll bury it deep and lay a rock o’er the spot. It’s inland a bit, like you said.”


“Good,” said Scarback. “Deep is good, deep is best. Them rats’ll know where it is if it ain’t put deep. They’s hungry for it, enough to try to take it from us. Now if they attack again, they still won’t get. No way. Now they’s gonna have to pay dear if they want it. An’ I mean dear. I’ll have ships and rat’s heads and a pile o’ shiny stuff, and that’s just fer starters. I wants payment and recompense for injuries received.”

“How we gonna get all that?” asked Jaglador.

“Give it time, Jaggy boy. Let ‘em realise it ain’t gone down with the ships, and then they needs must find us. When they see we ain’t carrying it, then they’ll know they gotta pay.” He would have to kill the two goblins who buried it, of course, otherwise they might blab - maybe kill Poglin too, but only if necessary as the trader was useful.

Blissfully ignorant of what Scarback was thinking, Poglin hefted his blunderbuss onto his shoulder, used the back of his free hand to wipe snot from his nose, and asked, “What we do in the meantime, then? Where do we go?”

“Well,” said Scarback, “we don’t stay here. We go, and quickly. Make ‘em think we’re in a rush to get away, like we’re taking the stone with us.”

The other remnants of Scarback’s pirates, mostly goblins, had gathered upon some flat ground inshore from the rocky beach. A few entire companies had survived the chaos of the night, having managed to get into the towed boats, but most were the rag tag remnants of crews lost either in the battle or to the storm and sea. Poglin had mustered every goblin he could find, ordering them to recover anything of any worth whatsoever from the Mancrusher, the wrecks and the surf.


Beside the pair of minions rescued from the ship, the shot and budge barrels, was a pile of casks, boxes, rope and tools. All the salvaged weapons were being carried or had been tucked in belts, as Scarback had ordered everyone made ready for a tussle in case the rats land a force. No one felt particularly safe on the beach, for if even the skaven did not come to finish them off, some local Tileans might take exception to their uninvited presence. Now the goblins were awaiting orders. Heavily armed with cutlasses, pistols, handguns and axes, they looked like a force to be reckoned with.


But Scarback knew better. The goblins could prove useful, but never on their own. Poglin’s rabble made a lot of noise, and were ugly to boot, but if his force was to be taken seriously, he needed as many orcs as he could get. Luckily an entire company of crossbow-armed orcs, the biggest and meanest of the three such companies he had on his ships, had made it to the shore a couple of miles to the south and had marched through the rocky hills to join the other survivors.


With these and his own boys forming the core, the goblins adding numbers, and the artillery pieces some punch, Scarback was satisfied he had just the sort of force he needed for what he intended to do next. “Just a matter of decidin’ where to go,” he declared, as much to himself as to the others.

“What about Viadaza?” suggested Jaglador. “Lord Adolfo will take us on again, if the price is right.”

“No,” said Scarback. “Not without ships he won’t. He don’t use the likes of us in his land army. ‘Cos that’s what we are now – soldiers not sailors. Time was his papa Magledy the Sharp would’ve found us some scrapping to do, but that all changed when Magledy took the whole city and had every greenskin on the streets killed. Adolfo won’t change the law for the likes of us. If we offered our service to him, he’d disarm us, break us up and put us on the galleys as slaves. No, Jaggy boy, we gotta go somewhere we gets to stick together, do some honest scrapping for our pay, and bide our time until the rats get to thinkin’ they have to make a deal. And until they work that out, we ain’t all lonely but instead is part of a bigger mob.”

“So where to?” asked Jaglador.

“Whoever will ‘ave us. Urbimo down to Alcente, there’s plenty might need some muscle. I’ve heard that a Waagh has crossed the Black Gulf, maybe someone will pay us to ‘ave a go at them?”

Poglin began to emit a strange whining noise, then checked himself. “Fightin’ greenskins from the Badlands? There could be millions of ‘em!”

Scarback laughed. “We won’t be on our lonesome. Besides, I don’t mind who I kills or how many I kills, as long as there’s pay for food and drink on the way, and some plunder to be had for all me efforts.”

Now it was Jaglador who laughed. “I could do with the food now. My belly is gurgulating something rotten.”


Two prologues done. Now for some (illustrated) background history before we return to the events unfolding in the campaign ...

A Recent History of Tilea, Part One
This written for the wise Lord Fazi Duccio by Master Lamberto Petruzzi of Astiano, the work being completed in Spring of the year IC2401

My Lord may I humbly present this useful summary concerning the great events over the last century in the realm of Tilea. I am grateful for the works of Uther von Gelburg for my account concerning the years up to the middle of the twenty fourth century.

A map of northern Tilea drawn in IC2341

In the earliest years of the twenty fourth century the infamous ‘Tilean Terror’ consumed much of northern Tilea. Vast hordes of ratto uomo swarmed from the Blighted Marshes to despoil and poison the land. Most respected scholars now agree that this verminous tide was born of the summoning of a vile chaos god, whose guiding power briefly united the usually quarrelsome clans. Udolpho was utterly ruined, its entire population massacred, and shortly afterwards Toscania became afflicted with a particularly virulent plague of boils and buboes. Desperately employing fire in an effort to cleanse the most diseased quarters, the Toscanians were unable to contain what they themselves had begun and the entire city subsequently burned to the ground. To this day Toscania remains a ruinous pile of blackened stones.


Ebino also suffered a grievous affliction, but commanded by the condottiere duke Bardollomao Colleoni, its people managed to thwart the besiegers’ attempts at infiltration. Nevertheless, every Ebinan village was razed, all its castles and manor houses, and the petty realm was left in a sad and sorry state, so that even today it is barely recovered. The great city of Miragliano, however, survived the turmoil. Its people, living upon the edge of the great swamp, had developed immunities to the fevers arising from the foetid waters, and its substantial garrison remained strong enough to hold the city’s mighty walls against all assaults. Most crucially it was well supplied from the sea, and just as importantly could not be undermined on account of its vast moat.

The beginning of the end of the Terror came in 2309 when a great battle took place before the city of Ravola. The Ravolans, aided by Lord Francis d’Este’s army of Brettonians, scattered a massive swarm of rat men, after which the enemy’s attacks stuttered out. The swarm never reached further southwards than the villages and farms around Viadaza and Scoccio, where there they were finally defeated in a series of engagements fighting mercenaries and militia in the employ of the Trantian Lord Jolenzo de Medizi.

In 2322, encouraged by both Remas and Pavona, and led by able militia captains, the populace of Urbimo rose up to shake off the yoke of Trantian rule. By this time the ‘War of the Tilean Sea’ had already begun, in which the resurgent ratto uomo committed uncountable acts of piracy, both petty and large, and fought several full-fleet battles. In 2332 the rat men besieged the city of Portomaggiore. Fearing they might be next to suffer, Luccinni and Raverno contracted to dispatch a large relief force, while an allied Sartosan fleet struck from the sea, and together these lifted the siege. Portomaggiore, keen to retain independence, subsequently endured years of hardship repaying the debts incurred.

In 2336, fifteen years after the death of the great Jolenzo de Medizi, and grown tired of what they claimed was the tyrannical rule of his son Piero de Medizi, the people of Trantio, in an action not dissimilar to the ‘Urbimo Uprising’, assaulted every one of the Medizi clan they could lay their hands on, hounding them out of their palatial residences, imprisoning some, murdering others. This became known as the ‘Liberation of Trantio’. Piero de Medizi and a band of loyal armed retainers fled the city with all the treasure they could carry and rode off into exile.

Pietro Soldoli, subsequently to become the Gonfaloniere of Trantio, is seen here encountering a band of Piero de Medizi’s looting brigante during the Liberation of Trantio in 2336.

Trantio then declared itself a Republic once again, and began the struggle to regain what they lost during Piero’s rule, including a drawn out conflict to regain the port of Urbimo. In 2337, the government and mob of Urbimo declared their Captain General Enrico Videlli to be a traitor - accusing him of plotting with Trantio to return their town to its rule. When they subsequently beheaded him they gained a new enemy, Enrico’s condottiere brother Videllozo Videlli.

In 2343 Frederigo Ordini, Arch-Lector of the Church of Morr and Reman Overlord declared a Holy War against the Skaven Menace. He assembled a massive army consisting of the traditional Reman legions, contingents sent by nearly every Tilean state great and small, and every mercenary company the wealthy church’s gold could buy, including the famous Compagnia del Sole.

Here Frederigo inspects a brigade of Pavonan soldiers assembled for the Holy War

A huge fleet, the like of which had not been amassed in the living memory of a dwarf, carried the army and towed hundreds of flat bottomed barges (specially designed to negotiate the marshes) across the Tilean Sea to the mouth of the river Berselli. But the expedition into the Blighted Marshes proved to be a disaster, with nearly every soldier perishing over the next year, either through disease, starvation or injury. This failure rocked the Church of Morr as Tileans everywhere questioned how a supposedly divinely inspired war could fail. Riots broke out in Remas, and charges were brought against the Arch-Lector accusing him of agreeing a secret alliance with certain Skaven clans.

A Secret Meeting at the ruined Tempio Dimenticato in Remas in IC 3242

When it was learned that a newly emergent Skaven alliance had indeed wrested control of Skavenblight, gaining power as its rivals’ strength was sapped in the war against the doomed Morrite expedition, the suspicions grew into open accusations. No great trial was ever held, but Ordini’s reputation was ruined, and the Church of Morr, by far the most influential of all Tilean churches, suffered ignominy. The only exception to this newfound shame for the Church of Morr was the ‘Sagrannalian’ sect in the city of Trantio. There, the radical, reforming priest Father Sagrannalo had been preaching against corruption and decadence within the church for many years. As he now seemed to have been proved right all along, his influence grew mightily.

The Remans declared that never again would their Overlord be a churchman of any kind – that civil authority and military power should be kept separate from religious authority. The new overlord, Duke Giovanni Matuzzi, re-established order to the Reman state and ruled so successfully that he began a dynasty which has held power ever since. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this rule is that the standing army of Remas became composed almost entirely of foreign mercenaries. Remans, Tileans even, were thought too liable to be swayed by the leaders of the Church of Morr. Although the standing army has both shrunk and grown in the intervening decades, occasionally necessitating the use of locally raised militia, its core ‘alien’ nature has been maintained, even growing more exotic. Currently the Reman army’s professional soldiers even include a large regiment of Cathayans.

Several years after the Holy War debacle, the new Arch-Lector of Morr made a proclamation, read by priests throughout Tilea, in which he declared that the disgrace belonged solely to Frederigo Ordini, who had succumbed to the temptations of worldly power, and that the church had now been fully purged of all such corruptions to become re-sanctified in the eyes of Morr. Today, even after all this time, the church may not quite as influential as it once was, yet it is without doubt the most powerful church throughout the realm, its traditional influence deeply rooted in the heart and soul of common Tileans, perhaps explaining why the current Arch Lector, Calictus II, feels able to criticize the princely rulers of Tilea for failing to march immediately against the Undead Lord of Miragliano.

In the middle years of the 24th century the city state of Pavona enjoyed a renaissance under the able guidance of Duchess Elisabetta. The actual ruler, Duke Alfonso de Montefeldo, was often incapacitated by illness, and thus relied upon his wife Elisabetta to fulfil various responsibilities. She was both refined and fashionable, and gathered a great entourage of artists and poets to make her court reputedly the most cultivated in Tilea. Throughout the city building work transformed the old fashioned, fortified towers into ornate and delicate palatial residences, relying on the city’s walls for defence. Pavona contributed to several conflicts, sending a very large contingent of its young gentlemen and men at arms to serve in the Arch-Lector’s Holy War (see the illustration above) and providing several companies of condottieri and gifted engineers to serve in the Bastard’s War (see below). In 2358 a large force of wild men and goblinoids burst through the defences of the Stretto Pass, large enough to threaten Pavona’s doom, but the walls proved strong and the men at arms, militia and mercenaries led several sallies out at the enemy, each time preventing some scheme for assault, such as the construction of wooden siege towers, and the damning of the River Remo in an ambitious attempt to flood the city. Pavonan warriors from across the realm returned in force, and along with a goodly number of Astiano and Scozzese soldiers, arrived just in time to save the city, and chased the foul foe from the realm, cutting nigh upon every one of them down as they fled through the pass. As the bells sounded and the victory celebrations and feasting began, the Duchess finally died. It was said that she had waited to know whether her beloved city was safe before she finally yielded. Her daughter Salanna succeeded her, and ruled jointly with her husband Luigi Gondi of Verezzo for many years, Much of their rule was a happy one, though a terrible plague visited the city in 2387 during which time not only did a good third of the populace suffer and die, overwhelming the capacity of the gravediggers as well as the priests of Morr to preside over their proper burial. So it was that the unburied (or improperly interned) dead were believed to walk the streets in the hours of darkness during two nightmarish months. Even now many folk consider the darkest hours of the Pavonan night to be a cursed time – not peaceful and quiet under a star filled sky, but eerily silent and inhabited by distorted shadows that seem to possess a wicked will of their own. No other city in Tilea lights as many lanterns and torches at night as Trantio. No other city is as quiet. Duchess Salana’s son, Duke Guidobaldo Gondi, now rules this city.

In the year 2352 King Ferronso Perrotto of Luccini died in somewhat suspicious circumstances leaving no obviously legitimate heir to rule his empire. His two bastard sons, Scoroncolo and Gismondo - the governors of Mintopua and Capelli respectively - went to war over the matter, and bloody conflict (‘The Bastards’ War’) engulfed the whole of the southern tip of Tilea. Sartosan Pirates, hired by the governor of Alcente to assist in the defence of the city, took possession of it instead. Pavezzano’s walls were battered down by siege engines, and at one point the population of Capelli fled desperately to seek shelter in the sylvan realm of Sussurio Wood.

Portomaggiore, heavily indebted both to Luccini and the Sartosan admiral Gran Strozzi, and barely clinging to independence, stopped paying the Luccinian portion of their debts as soon as it became clear that Luccini was unable to spare forces to argue the matter with them. Gran Strozzi, however, continued his stranglehold on Portomaggioren trade. Supported by soldiers and funds sent by exiled elders currently residing in Ridraffa and Remas, the Portomaggioran council of elders declared the Gran Strozzi debt also repaid the morning after every Sartosan ship in the city’s harbour had been simultaneously burned in a coordinated act of sabotage. A year later, Gran Strozzi himself died at sea, fighting against Gismondo of Luccini, and the question of the loan died with him.

The city of Luccini emerged from the Bastard’s War very much impoverished, with Scoroncolo the victor. His descendant still rules there, the boy King Ferronso III, but the days of its glory seem ever more distant as the years roll by. King Ferronso is nearing the age of majority, however, and is gradually taking more and more control from his council. Many believe him to be much like his great grandfather, the great Ferronso I. He has recently contracted the service of the infamous Arabyan mercenary company, Gedik Mamidous’ Sons of the Desert. This is presumed to be in response to the threat presented by Khurnag’s Waagh!

The Republic of Trantio finally accepted defeat in its long drawn-out war to regain control of Urbimo in 2349, a decision helped by the fact that they were somewhat more concerned with countering the activities of a large force of greenskins who had spewed from the Border Princes along the Via Nano to roam the Trantine Hills raiding the outlying settlements of Trantio, Pavona and Astiano. This had long been a recurring problem, but this time the goblinoid strength was greater than ever before. The famous Trantian Gonfaloniere Soldoli died in one of the skirmishes, after which the ancient prophet of Morr, Father Sagrannalo, buoyed to even greater influence since the fall of the Arch-Lector Ordini, spurred the people of the city to form the strongest militia force ever made and scour the hills clean of every goblin and orc. In 2350, inspired by his successes and growing ever more manic with old age, Sagrannalo declared the ‘Holiest War’, intending to utilise his new army of Trantio to cleanse the other princely states of Tilea of corruption.

Father Sagrannalo declares his ‘Holiest War’ in Trantio in 2350

Although many of the militia subsequently deserted, thousands of fanatics followed him to attack and ‘cleanse’ towns and villages, until defeated by a condottiere mercenary force in battle outside Stiani. Trantio had to pay dearly to compensate for the damage done by Sagrannalo’s fanatics – by now several city states were allied against them, threatening to gain reparations through acts of war. Trantio declared its new policy was to stay out of other states’ affairs. But exiled ruler Piero Medizi, supported by his condottieri son Liovvani, took advantage of the bad feeling against Trantio stirred up by Sagrannalo’s ‘Holiest War’, and aided by loyalists within Trantio (the sinister ‘Bigi’) took possession of the city in a cunningly and brutally combined coup and assault. The entire Albinni family (traditional rivals of the Medizi) were slaughtered - man, woman and child - and many who were believed to have Sagrannalian tendencies were put to the sword. A new tyrannical rule began, first under Prince Piero, then his son Liovvani, and now Liovanni’s son, Girenzo Medizi. The first two ruled Trantio with an iron grip, and Prince Girenzo is no exception.

Once their war against Trantio came to a conclusion, the people of Urbimo looked forward to peace and prosperity, but it was not to be. The condottieri Videllozo Videlli, who had been unwilling to ally with the Republic of Trantio (an action which might be seen as admission that his executed brother had indeed been plotting with the Trantians), joined with Liovvani Medizi, son of the returned prince of Trantio. Thus began the second, long, war between Urbimo and Trantio (2352 – 2359). What little assistance Pavona and Remas were willing to provide, either publicly or secretly, allowed the Urbimans to hold on to their city for years. Only when Piero Medizi died and Liovvani returned to Trantio did events turn in their favour again. Videllozo was wounded by a crossbow quarrel, and took ship intended to sail to the great city of Miragliano where the famous doctor Jacopo practised his reputedly miraculous skills. An Urbiman ship gave chase, however, and both ships were lost at sea. Urbimo remains fiercely independent, its walls made stronger than ever.


A Recent History of Tilea, Part Two

A map of the entire Tilean Peninsula

In 2355 the wizard lord Niccolo Bentiglovio of Campogrotta, the third Bentiglovio to rule in succession, had ruled for more twenty years. His reign was widely reputed tyrannical, and his provisionate consisted of a large regiment of Ogres, bolstered - as if this were necessary - by veteran mercenaries reportedly more cruel than any other in Tilea.

A company of brutes patrolling the night-time streets of Campogrotta in 2353

As a consequence not only was the wizard lord’s rule over his own people terrible, but his reputation darkened across Tilea. In 2350 he had proclaimed the elite of Ravola to be foreign invaders (ironic in that his strength lay with a force that was not even human) and this obviously created a particular friction between him and his northern neighbours, involving several skirmishes. Still his city thrived economically, as a healthy trade flowed along the Carraia del Ferro (the Iron Road) between this city and Dwarfen mines of Karak Borgo in the neighbouring Vaults. It was also believed that Lord Niccolo ended the friction that once existed between Campogrotta and the denizens of Tettoverde Forest (believed to be a secretive tribe of sylvan elves). As it is no easy thing to remain on friendly terms at one and the same time with these two inimical races, it perhaps is odd that he was so hated by his own people and other Tilean states. In 2355 most of his ogres left upon some errand of their own, without Lord Niccolo’s leave to do so. They were not gone long, but even so it was long enough for the people of the city to rise up in rebellion and burn down Lord Niccolo’s palace with him inside: thus ended his reign.

Most of the populace then fled the city and headed westwards when the Ogres returned. It is commonly joked that the ogres had been back in the city for a fortnight before they realised that their lord and master was no longer alive. More surprisingly the Ogres did not plunder or destroy the city (well, only a little bit, and much of its wealth had been removed by the refugees) but instead left once more, this time being absent for many years. Three decades passed and the city re-established itself, even began to thrive. A merchant filled Republican Council ruled the city, and goods were sent in quantity down the River Tarano to be traded in Viadaza and Remas and further afield. Then in 2388 a strange, old man arrived at the city gates declaring that he was the Wizard Lord Bentivoglio, claiming he had never perished and had so returned to take back what was his. The people laughed for this fool had no army, no ogres, and they chased him away. The event became little more than a tavern tale, and the city continued to prosper. Twelve years later, in 2400, the old man returned – or at least a man claiming to be him returned - this time he did indeed have a regiment of ogres and within two days the city was his. The fighting was brutal, the ogres cruel. Brutality and cruelty now curse the city, for ‘Niccolo Returned’ took possession of a palazzo and settled into obscurity, while the Ogre Tyrant Razger Boulderguts ruled in practise. He sent envoys to his Tilean neighbours declaring his governorship in Lord Niccolo’s name, and is even rumoured to have recommenced trade with the dwarfs of Karak Borgo. One courtly wit in Remas remarked that just as the first Lord Niccolo’s ogres failed to notice that he was gone, the dwarfs have also yet to notice that Ogres have replaced the men of Tilea – after all, both races are taller than dwarfs! Meanwhile the people of Campogrotta live in fearful obedience, and in ever harder circumstances as the ogres steadily consume the city’s wealth.

The ruler of Ravola, Prince Sigismondo d’Este, son of the Bretonnian Lord Francis d’Este, died in 2361. Most of the city state’s ruling elite were descendants the knights who came with Lord Francis in 2309 to fight the ratto uomo, who stubbornly clung to their ancestors’ traditions in peace and war. Prince Sigismondo left no male heir as his eldest son had died from a jousting wound, and his youngest had been lost questing in the Vaults to chase down the orcen warrior who had killed his squire. The Bretonnian king’s official ambassador, Sir Gorrin de Bordelaux, with permanent residence in the city and a seat upon Sigismondo’s privy council, declared that the new ruler should be the noble winner of a grand tourney and the knights of Ravola (who some say are more Bretonnian than the Bretonnians) clamoured to agree. A date was set, with enough time for even more landless knights to travel south through the Nuvolonc Pass from the homeland. Deliberate or now, Sir Gorrin’s tourney was to double the knightly strength in Ravola, for many stayed even after the joust, making little keeps for themselves and a handful of serfs each in the open land of Usola south of the city. The winner of the tourney, one Galleac the Red, duly became the new Prince of Ravola. When he in turn became mortally ill in 2388, having begotten only daughters, the Ravolan knights could barely contain their excitement. The precedent had been set, and once more a grand tourney was held to decide the new ruler. This time Giacomo Uberti of Olessi, a Tilean, who tricked his way into the lists, won. An argument erupted, leading to another touney somewhat bloodier than the first - a great tumult in which several many knights perished – Giacomo was finally accepted. He had been a knight to begin with, but his title was considered insufficient in comparison with true Bretonnian knighthood, so the Bretonnian king’s ambassador, Sir Baelan of Couronne, knighted Giacomo in the Bretonnian manner, and made him vow to rule in the Bretonnian way. This he has done and continues to do, despite the grumblings of some more traditional Ravolan knights.

Alcente emerged from the Bastards’ War with a new Grand Council containing a majority of Sartosan Pirates. Happily for the city state it turned out that a good number of these Sartosan captains were tired of the constant struggle of a pirate’s life, and were happy to begin a privileged life of wealth and safety. Within years it was no longer the fashion to refer to any on the council as other than citizens and merchants, and the city prospered. In 2399, however, the city was threatened by the greenskin Waagh led by the orc warlord Khurnag which spilled into the Golfo di Pavezzo. At first the Waagh’s main strength attacked different targets, with Pavezzano putting up a brave but ultimately futile resistance lasting several months, and Monte Castello holding out much longer against a massive force of besiegers until the greenskins fell into disarray after a vicious disagreement led to murder and mayhem in their camp. Capelli and Alcente faced weaker greenskin sorties and small raiding parties, but they were both aware it was merely a taste of what was likely to come. It was too late to defeat the Waagh at sea, for it had already crossed the Black Gulf and was now receiving a steady stream of reinforcements from the Border Princes, either overland or crossing the narrow Bay of Wrecks. Alcente knew from historical experience that asking for aid from Sartosa would be inviting a different kind of trouble, and so too would asking Luccini to help. So it was that they turned to the powerful northern trading company of the VMC (Vereenigde Marienburg Compagnie), who already had many agents and warehouses in the city, to ask for help. Terms were agreed regarding future trade and a share in political power, and mercenaries were hired. Earlier this year the first of the VMC’s own northerner regiments arrived at Alcente, proof that the company had every intention on honouring their agreement reaping the future profits.

Early in the 24th century the condottiere Andrea Dornida, who was due to retire as captain-general of the Reman army, was granted governorship of his home city of Viadaza by his Reman masters. The consequence, as unexpected as it was sudden, was that he threw off the yoke of Reman rule and, supported by alliance with the Sforta of Miragliano, he made Viadaza his own. A small army of lawyers and priests gathered to prove his family’s ancient rights as Viadaza’s first family and the people proclaimed him their saviour from Reman domination. Soon, however, he began acting against the Sforta’s wishes too, making it obvious he wanted nothing more to do with their regime, and thus quickly fell out of favour with them. During the time of ‘The Terror’, when the Miraglianese Sforta were somewhat distracted, he established an aristocratic republic in Viadaza ruled in theory by twenty three noble clans (including the Cydo, Griseldi, Dornida, Filleschi, Pallavacano and Spidola), but in practice controlled by Dornida. He then went on to make the Viadazan navy a force to be reckoned with, and so successful was he in his endeavours that his fleet came out of the War of the Tilean Sea stronger than it had been before conflict began.

Under Andrea’s guidance the city grew rich through sea trade, including the chattel slavery business. Certainly the twenty three noble families became very wealthy. Men and women from all across the globe, whether outcasts, convicts, or born slaves, also halflings and even half-orcs, were bought and sold in Viadaza’s bustling markets. Sea faring dark-elf slavers often traded in the city, and Viadazan slaving vessels usually included half-orcs and other greenskins amongst the crews, although who by law such sailors had to remain in certain city quarters if they disembarked. It was visitors and servants such as these that gave the city an ill reputation. Worst of all, it was also widely believed that ‘Father Andrea’ was a leading member of the feared and hated Assassin’s Guild - the slippery, secret, and deadly society supposedly spanning all Tilea. In IC2351 Andrea, unlike most of his enemies, died of old age, leaving two old sons to rule after him. Their chaotic rule lasted less than a year, as they killed each other – one used a blade, then died from the poison smeared upon the handle of the same blade. The chaos then spiralled as the city fragmented, every ward and quarter fighting against the rest. Ratto Uomo were witnessed openly in the streets, in the sunlight, and no day went by without bloodshed, turmoil and grief. At least seven different people claimed to rule the city, but in truth each only held a portion, and there was much left ruled by none of those seven.

One of the seven was a half-orc called Magledy the Sharp, who for the best part of a year controlled the docks and wharves, leading an army of sea dogs and cut-throats. He had been Andrea’s harbour master, governing the previously troublesome dock workers for half a dozen years with an iron grip. Magledy the Sharp proved a cunning leader, and in one night of carefully planned riots and well-timed assaults, removed five of his rivals. The sixth, a ferocious matron called Lady Beatrice (or ‘Bloody Betty’), successfully fled the city This led to Magledy’s tyrannical rule of the entire city. But tyranny seemed to suit Viadaza, and the city slowly but surely regained the wealth it had boasted at the height of Andrea’s rule, with ample trade of a dubious nature. Magledy proclaimed that the assertion he was half orc was a vile and libellous lie, and that in truth he was as human as the best of Tileans – a sea dog and proud of it. To prove this in 2354 he had every goblin and orc in the city killed, be they pit-slaves or galley-slaves. Only those serving on board ships were spared. Still to this day the Viadazans have the legal right to slay any goblinoid they find on the streets on sight, yet even so, hundreds stride the decks of the ships in the harbour every day. In the same year Magledy married the Lady Vanozza, daughter of wizard lord Niccolo Bentiglovio of Campogrotta, with whom he then had several children. His first son, Adolfo Appuntito, born in 2363, succeeded his father in 2383 and has been Lord of Viadaza ever since. In some ways the city has become a slightly less disturbing place during his rule, for the slave trading is now performed more secretly, away from the public gaze, and there aren’t quite so many fighting pits surrounded by shouting crowds. Fewer rotting corpses hang from spikes over the gates, and Dark Elves do not walk the streets leading chained chattel slaves by the hundred to their ships. But the galleys are still rowed by greenskins, and once again people say that Viadaza is the chief home of the Assassins’ Guild. Adolfo’s mother, the septuagenarian Lady Vanozza, still lives, though is rarely seen.


A Recent History of Tilea, Part 3

Miragliano eventually thrived after the Tilean Terror, although initially faltering for a while as an ill-governed Republic. In 2322 the condottiere general Ludo Sforta took possession of the city in one terrible night of violence and riot. Ruling at first with a heavy fist, his most loyal mercenary captains rewarded with the best titles and mot profitable commands, he ensured the city-state was securely his, but later he encouraged art and natural philosophy to flourish. Many wonders created during this time, including machines apparently magical in nature. After Ludo’s death in 2343, his brother Lord Francesco Sforta became regent during the minority of Ludo’s son Duke Marsilio Sforta. Lord Francesco enjoyed a much wider array of sports and pleasures, indulging in luxuries of every imaginable kind, and many who had once busied themselves with more serene arts and careful fabrications were now caught up in a swirl of pomp and festival, spectacular jousts and cavalcades. Lord Francesco was jealous of his own power, very cruel to those who displeased him, and even when the young Duke came of age in 2348 and should have taken the reigns himself, Lord Francesco continued his rule, while the city’s magistrates and captains strove all the harder to prove their loyalty to him.

The young Duke Marsilio walking the walls of Miragliano in 2347 with his favourite companion, Gellafno the Halfling, who was in truth (like all his servants) a spy for Lord Francesco.

Lord Francesco’s nephew remained merely Duke by name, and then not even that, for young Marsilio finally lost his wits and became a gibbering fool. Surrounded by luxury and toys, but no-one he could trust, he lived a long life of insanity, and bore no heirs.

Lord Francesco was aided in his rule by his brother Lord Gianpaolo Sforta, governor of Udolpho. This once beautiful city had been rebuilt from the ruins left by the skaven siege of 2303. Udolpho’s walls were not just repaired but improved, and the palace made twice as grand as previously, yet much of the city’s populace continued to dwell in ramshackle huts atop the ruins and rubble, or down in amongst cellars and dungeons buried beneath. Lord Gianpaolo Sforta’s governorship of Udolpho began in 2341, and he became famous for his interest in alchemy, constructing a castle-laboratory of extraordinary proportions from which strangely hued smoke constantly belched forth, wreathing the bubbling moats about it in noisome miasmas.

In the ten years from 2363 to 2373 three successive wars were fought against the skaven. Each time the skaven would splash and scuttle forth from the marshes in great numbers, a wave of fur and fangs, slave warriors set on carving a swathe of destruction. Each time the army of Miragliano, bolstered by condottiere mercenaries, and cleverly commanded by Francesco and Gianpaolo, would find some weak point at which to strike: once it was the enemy commander, next the explosive destruction of a store of warpstone, then finally an attack at the foe’s rear during the brightest hour of the day. Each time panic would be caused, spreading like an infection through the ratto uomo rank and file. From there on in the war would become a matter of chasing and breaking the disarrayed rats in their thousands. Clan legions would make a stand here, or become bottled up there, resulting in bloody of engagements, but in the end they too would yield to fear and flight.

Upon Lord Francesco’s death in 2375, his own son, Allessandro, became regent in his place. And when Allessandro’s cousin Marsilio died in 2377, he inherited the title of Duke to go with his actual power. Duke Allesandro proved to have inherited some of his father’s and grandfather’s interest in the arts and natural philosophy, but his true fascination was in the application of such for war. Rumours abound concerning his activities and methods, including that he and his now ancient uncle Gianpaolo used captured ratto uomo to bring to life the diabolical machines captured from the foe during the Tilean Terror and the War of the Tilean Sea, and that they poisoned the already foul waters of the Blighted marshes in such a way that for several leagues no life at all, neither beast, fowl, fish nor flora, none of the foul creatures that used to call the brackish waters home, could survive. In 2384, after a plague that finally killed his uncle, and threatened to end Duke Allesandro’s life, the famous Miraglianese Doctor Jacopo was commanded to administer solely to the Duke, and was kept prisoner for this purpose in the palace. The Duke made a full recovery the week after Doctor Jacopo took his own life. It was reported that the doctor had been slowly poisoning Alessandro until eventually the guilt of his deed drove him to suicide. The subsequent lack of poisoned potions allowed the Duke to recover.

Alessandro went back to his works and experiments. A new tower was constructed in the palace that rose nearly a hundred feet higher than any other tower in the city, and many other lesser buildings which were still more magnificent than everything in the surrounding streets. Another strange experiment spilled a potent magic into the swamps, until the vast mass of dead things lying with the foetid stink stirred themselves and began splashing westwards. Even the ratto uomo grew afraid of the Lord of Miragliano then, believing he had taken their own already tainted magics and horribly twisted them in new ways. Life for the people of Miragliano became strangely contradictory, for all were glad that such a deadly blow had been dealt against the skaven, a race previously known to swarm back in double the numbers whatever was done to them, but at the same time terrible darkness seemed to shroud the city as their ruler engaged in ever darker experiments and engaged ever more fearful servants. The fears would soon prove well founded!

The Duchess Maria Colleoni of Ebino (granddaughter of Duke Ludo Sforta of Miragliano), aided by her court of Miraglianese advisers, also grew concerned regarding events in Miragliano. It was the Duchess who first recognised what her cousin had actually become, and she acted quickly. Employing the famous regiment of ‘Ironside’ dwarfs, as well as several companies of experienced condottieri mercenaries, she had watchtowers made and defences dug to defend the roads and settlements of her realm, and summoned all the clerics and priests of Morr she could to assist in warding off the evil. It is said that even Ebino’s old enemy, the Arrabiatti Brotherhood, the ragged brigands who hold occasional court in the ruins of Toscania, have promised to lend their arms if it comes to battle. And so she and her people wait for the day when the vampire Duke turns his gaze eastward, praying morning, noon and night to Morr that he will deliver them in their hour of need.

Soon all of Tilea learned that Duke Alessandro was a vampire, and that all who dwelt in his city lived in fear of the undead who now guarded their gates and patrolled their walls. With all the wars that had been fought within the boundaries of Miragliano, there was no shortage of the dead to revive. It is said now that the vampire Duke has an army of the dead that rivals any mortal army in the realm. And if it is commanded to war, then all it can do is grow – for every soldier who dies in battle against it will surely rise to swell its ranks.


A Weakening of the Faith

Like many Ridraffan tradesmen, for that was what he was even though he traded in gold rather than for gold, Master Boldshin had servants who left every evening to return to their own homes. Noblemen had servants packed in cellars and attics, or tucked under the stairs, who could be called upon even in the night, but in the city of Ridraffa such practise was considered above the station of a tradesmen. Besides, the fact that Master Boldshin was a dwarf in itself made it more difficult for him to employ manservants - few humans would wish to live under his roof. Nor would most of the rather limited supply of dwarfs in the city be willing to serve him either. Most young dwarfs yearned to find their fortune in engineering, masonry, carpentry, smithing – making things. Usury was not a common ambition among them. As the decades went by those same young dwarfs might well realise the error of their ways as the profits to be made became apparent, but by then they would look to become their own master and not serve some other dwarf.

Right now, as he struggled down the stone stairs in his grey night-shirt and blue striped bed hat, a spluttering candlestick in one hand and Arnholf clutched tight in the other, his famously long beard not just reaching the floor but straying dangerously underfoot, Master Boldshin was regretting his lack of nocturnal help.


His house was strong, built of grey stone with walls as thick as those on a watchtower, as any counting house should be considering the coffers of gold and silver often stored within. The surrounding houses were more traditionally Tilean in style, built in stone, but with shuttered windows and red tiled roofs, rather than the barred windows and strengthened slates on his house. It was not guards he needed, just someone to run down the stairs and answer the door.

He strongly suspected it was a dwarf banging at his door – there was something dwarven about the steady persistence of the rapping. Of course, he himself would not normally knock in such a manner, for he had adapted to Tilean fashions and the ways of men. Only when he was calling about a long, unpaid debt, would the wood take such a beating, often from the clubs carried by the heavies he had hired for the purpose.

“Give an old dwarf a moment,” he cried somewhat breathlessly, almost at the bottom. “The hour is late, I am tired and in no fit state to rush.” The beating ceased, hopefully just in time to forestall shouted complaints from his nearest neighbours. He dragged the three solid, iron bolts back, taking satisfaction from the reassuringly heavy clunk they made, then, just before turning the huge key, he stopped. Best take a look see first. Leaning forwards he placed his eye at the peek hole and peered through. He could see a green hat, a large and floppy thing, and the fingers of a brass hand clutching a smooth and milky rock. Is that what was bashing on my door? he wondered. What sort of visitor is this? It was definitely a dwarf, for otherwise Boldshin would have found himself looking at the fellow’s chest, not his hat.

“Who is it?” he asked, his hand resting on the key but yet to turn.

“Cousin Glammerscale, that’s who it is. And I am wondering when you became so timid, Boldshin, and afraid to so much as open a door.”

Master Boldshin was so surprised to hear the name that at first the insult did not register with him. He had not seen his cousin for many a decade, and they had parted on bad terms. Then the echo of Glammerscale’s words in his mind finally caught his attention.“Timid!” he snapped, beginning the two turns of the key that would be required to unlock the door. “My caution is not timidity but common sense. Have you forgotten my trade, cousin?” He pulled upon the door. “An unwary moneylender is not likely to thrive.”


Even though he had already glimpsed the floppy hat, the sight of his cousin caught him by surprise. The brass fingers and the orb they held proved to be the head of a wizard’s staff, which in the hands of a dwarf seemed to him ridiculous. Nor was it just the staff that marked his cousin out as a wizard. The hem of Glammerscale’s orange coat was decorated with silver moons and suns, and beneath his arm he clutched two large tomes bound in leather, no doubt stuffed with arcane knowledge of a most undwarfen kind. The ensemble was not improved by the red tinted eye glasses he had perched on his nose, his eyes peering over their horned rims.

It was not that Boldshin did not know Glammerscale claimed to be a practitioner of the magical arts – it was the very thing that had caused them to part their ways all those years ago – just that actually witnessing his cousin garbed and accoutred as a wizard took his breath away.

“Erm …” he said.


“The word you are looking for," suggested Glammerscale, "is ‘Hello’, or maybe ‘Good day’, or if I may be so bold as to advise you on the etiquette appropriate for such an occasion, perhaps ‘Welcome’ followed quickly by, and this is merely a suggestion, ‘Come in’.”

“You did it?”

The wizard dwarf’s eyes narrowed as they looked over the top of his strange spectacles. “You talk less than I remember, but make as little sense. Cousin, will you let us in? I must speak with you.”

Boldshin looked past Glammerscale at the two dwarfs behind him. They were plainly clad, neatly trimmed, silent and obviously well fed. It irked him that his insane cousin turned wizard could apparently find dwarfen servants while a prosperous fellow such as himself had to make do with part-time men. This thought added a tinge of frustration to his confusion, and did nothing to improve his foul mood. Better get them of the doorstep he decided, before the neighbours see them.


“Come inside, quick now. Do not linger there.”

Glammerscale grinned knowingly, then he and his two companions followed Boldshin in. After some kafuffle over where best to lay the books, where exactly everyone should sit or stand and some embarrassing questions concerning Arnulf the stuffed bear, the little company settled to drink some ale and talk.

“I have to ask, cousin,” enquired Glammerscale. “What is it I have done?”

The question apparently confused Boldshin. “At the threshold,” clarified the wizard, “you said I ‘did it’? Such a statement demands a response, I reckon, and I willing to give one I can assure you. If only I knew what was being said.”

“Oh,” said Boldshin. “I meant only that you are a wizard. Or at least, you appear to be one.”

“I am one,” Glammerscale replied quickly. “Surely you remember me well enough to know that I am not the sort of dwarf to feign accomplishments I have not earned, nor claim abilities I do not possess. I do not claim to be a wizard merely because my name sounds right. And before you ask, no, I will not cast a spell to prove the truth of my claim.”

“No, do not.” Mild panic laced Boldshin’s voice as he imagined magically conjured flames washing through the room, singeing every precious thing in it in the process.

The wizard dwarf smiled. “Then we are agreed on what not to do. I am glad. But what concerns me is quite the opposite.”

Boldshin was beginning to wonder if his cousin was deliberately trying to confuse him. “The opposite being …?”

“What to do.”

Now Boldshin understood. He gulped down a large mouthful of ale, wiped his whiskers on the sleeve of his night-gown, and resolved, as it was his house and he was the host, to take more control of the conversation. “First things first. Cousin, why are you here? Last I heard you were living in Pavona, apprenticed to a grey beard Tilean who was nevertheless younger than you by many years.”

“Until a mere month ago I was indeed in Pavona, but no longer an apprentice, as I thought we had already established. Until quite suddenly it became apparent that I, along with every other dwarf in the city, had outstayed my welcome.”

“Every dwarf?”

“All of us, even those of less eccentric bents, being of course every other dwarf in the city. My good servants and I left the very day of Duke Guidobaldo’s decree. Those who stayed to voice complaint followed only days later, though in a rather less comfortable fashion.”

This news was as unexpected as just about everything else since Boldshin had opened the door to his cousin. “Why?” he asked.

“It seemed the sensible thing to do. I knew the way the wind was blowing, so to speak, and to linger would be most foolish.”

“No,” said Boldshin, now convinced his cousin was deliberately walking one step to the left of the conversation. “I mean why have the dwarfs been cast out?”

Glammerscale laughed again. “It’s a good thing you are asking me, for I believe most Pavonan dwarfs would struggle to make sense of their banishment – those who tarried when we left were surely having difficulty getting their heads around it. You see, the duke is a religious man, becoming ever moreso in latter years, and his faith has manifested as a most jealous love his own god to the cost of all other gods, especially those not of the Tilean churches of men. There is no longer a place for Grungi, Grimnir or Valaya in Pavona, nor for those who pray to them. You must have heard the boast that not one stone in any Pavonan temple was carved by a dwarf. Well, it would seem that now they don’t want dwarfs even near their precious temples.”

This was not good. Boldshin was already reckoning up what was owed to him by several Pavonans, and what losses would be incurred if they decided to take their dislike of dwarfs a step further and renege on their debts.

Glammerscale apparently failed to notice his cousin’s distraction. “Pavonans have never been known for their fondness of strangers. I do not think I have ever seen an elf in the city, though many a dwarf would say that was no bad thing, and the only ogres I have witnessed there were brought to die in a fighting pit. I have seen Bretonnians mocked by ruffians in the street, as if their very presence somehow besmirched the architecture of so fashionable a city. Duchess Elisabetta prettified the city, and made it a place of learning too. That’s the very reason I went there. But the Pavonans grew arrogant with it, thinking themselves better than others. The plague of 87 turned that arrogance into suspicion, and although no-one ever blamed the dwarfs for it, I think the Duke now believes that our continued presence so weakens the strength and purity of their faith that the curse left by the plague could not be lifted. It is a city dedicated to Morr, and yet every night is haunted by restless souls. That contradiction has gnawed away at the Pavonans until now they act desperately, and cruelly, to amend their ways.”

That’s not so bad, thought Boldshin. If the Pavonans were looking to purify themselves, and put things right before their god, then leaving lawful debts unpaid would not be the way to go about it. Among various duties, Morrites were supposed to settle their debts before they left this life, or put in place a means to honour them, so that their souls were not in any way lured back by the concerns of the living world.

He realised Glammerscale was still speaking. “… so I shan’t stay long, I imagine. Just until I can settle the matter of my property and possessions, and find a place to continue my studies.”

“You’re staying?”

“In times like these I should think you would not want to remain so isolated. Let us hope the good people of Ridraffa don’t follow Pavona’s lead.”

Boldshin could not argue, not with his cousin. He was both stern and unforgiving when he had to be with debtors, but they were men, not dwarfs. Besides, his cousin was not only right, he had brought two servants. Being one of four dwarfs in times of trouble had to be better than being alone.


Everything Astiano Has to Offer

The walled town of Astiano, upon the Via Aurelia, beside the River Remo

The Pavonans had been complaining about the tolls for some time, but the people of Astiano cared not a jot. It was their road, their stretch of river – they should be able to charge whatever they like for passage. Yes, it was the Pavonans best trade route to the north and west of Tilea, but the folk of Astiano could not help that. Just a matter iof geography. Besides, the Pavonans were no doubt still able to make a profit from their trade.

Now, however, the situation has taken a turn for the worse. The Pavonans had gone from angry words, complaints, petitions and paper battles to war. An army was approaching, with artillery and massed ranks of foot. It appeared very much like they were going to make a serious attempt at storming the walls. Which meant the people of Astiano had to make a serious attempt at defending their town.

The trouble was, there was not much time - certainly not time enough to hire more mercenaries. So it was that they mustered everything they had and reviewed it, marching out to drill before the walls.


Two pieces of artillery were in working order, and powder and shot was found for both. The company of Condotta marksmen armed with handguns who had been guarding the gates were the only professional soldiers they had …


… apart from the condotta captain to whom the company belonged to. He would now command the entire garrison.


Every caravan guard, bodyguard and bravi in the town was mustered into a regiment, proudly carrying the town’s colours.


While every other able bodied man was pressed into service, whether they were servants, peasants, or apprentices. A ramshackle lot they made, but surely able to defend a castle wall.


497 pts plus 2 cannons

Condotta Captain 54 points.

M4 WS5 BS5 S4 T4 W2 I5 A3 Ld8
Hand weapon, heavy armor (+2 points), additional hand weapon (+2 points)

12 Condotta Marksmen 9 points per = 133 pts

M4 WS3 BS3 S3 T3 W1 I3 A1 Ld7
Equipment: hand weapon, light armor, handgun, full command

20 Bravi: 7 points per = 165 points

M4 WS4 BS3 S3 T3 W1 I4 A1 Ld7
Hand weapon, shields (+1 point), light armour (+1 point), full command

10 Brigands 7 points per = 70

M5 WS2 BS4 S3 T3 W1 I3 A1 Ld6
Equipment: hand weapon, short bow.

Special rules: skirmishers.

25 Peasants 3 points per = 75 points

M4 WS2 BS3 S3 T3 W1 I2 A1 Ld6
Equipment: hand weapon.

2 Great Cannons = 220 points
As an Empire Great Cannon. May have up to two additional crewmen (+5 points per model).


Battle: The Assault on Astiano


Captain Bramante employed his spy glass to scrutinise the foe as they approached over the open ground before the town’s northern walls. When he saw that the foe meant to assault with artillery and ladders alone, he ordered every company onto the walls, except for the small company of brigands – they were to wait behind the wall until he could decide which tower they could be best employed in.

(Scenario Rules in a nutshell: Wall, Tower and Gate damage as per 6th ed WFB rules. Ladder assaults only possible against walls, using a modified version of the 8th ed building rules giving the defenders +1 to hit and the poor fellers hanging on the ladders -1 to hit. Game length 7 turns, victory decided upon how many wall and tower sections are held at the end of turn 7.)

As the Pavonan force, an army entirely liveried in blue and white, arrayed themselves in a neat line for the assault, one of the defending artillery sent a lucky shot smashing into one of their cannons. Refusing to allow this unlucky start to the fight to dismay them, the Pavonan crew of the second great cannon fired at the gate, smashing it open with their first shot – a sight which made them instantly forget what had just happened to their other cannon. A cheer went through the lines and the entire army marched forwards, handgunners and bowmen included.


Having shouted orders to send the short-bow armed brigands to the gate tower only moments before the gate was shattered, Captain Bramante now needed no spy glass to study the foe.


“Steady lads,” he shouted as the striped flag of Astiano fluttered beside him. “Let’s see what else our own artillery and handguns can do to them before we worry about the broken gate.”

Several of the bravi nodded, deciding if they needed to descend to defend the gate then they would – it was still no easy thing for the enemy to burst through a defended tower. (Normal building rules would now apply to the gateless tower.)

But just then the foe delivered a second, equally unexpected and cruel blow, for they had a wizard in their midst who conjured a fireball and sent it washing over the wall to hit the bravi full on, singing all of them and killing eight. As a consequence even the captain joined them as they ran screaming (and smoking) from the parapet. (Note: Failed a double LD test – another assault scenario rule was that defenders on castle walls re-roll LD tests as if their Army Standard was nearby.[/i])

They did, however, rally once they were down on the ground, and the initial shock had worn off. “That’s it,” shouted the captain. “Looks like we will be defending the gate after all!”

Outside, every Pavonan could see the ruinous state of the gate …


… but only one regiment, a body of swordsmen led by several officers including one fully armoured nobleman mounted on horse, was headed directly towards it. The rest had their ladders and were approaching the walls.


Needless to say, perhaps, it was the swordsmen who now received a hail of arrows, roundshot and bullets. A good number fell, but they did not run.

Further from the walls, the Pavonans had dragged a volley gun up within range, the crew of which were now debating whether they should risk a shot or two in light of the fact that their bullets would very likely have very little effect against a foe sheltered behind stone walls, and every shot risked disaster for a gun as dangerously unstable as theirs.


They took a vote, and decided two to one that they were here so they might as well join in. Thus followed four volleys in a row, until the barrels were glowing red and several component parts has shaken loose. Their efforts added considerable noise to the battle, a veritable thunder storm of blasts, but failed to harm the foe at all. The crew, however, were happy. They were not only alive, and their engine had proved itself reliable.

Now it was the turn of the mercenary handgunners to receive the wizard's attention. As they loaded their pieces, glancing nervously over the crenulations at the approaching regiments, they could indeed see him clearly – he was the only man not garbed in blue and white.


As they feared, he had a fireball for them too – five fell screaming from the parapet as the wooden bottles on their bandoliers exploded like grenadoes. The survivors, veterans of several years' service, were made of tougher stuff than the bravi, and went on loading, each vowing they would make the foe pay for the death of their comrades.

While the Pavonan attackers sent a storm of bullets and arrows bouncing off the stone walls, Captain Bramanti led his rallied bravi in good order towards the gate.


Upon the other side, the mounted knight and his surviving swordsmen – another noblemen and the wizard amongst them too – had reached to gate and set about storming it immediately.


Along the walls the Pavonan halberdiers had also reached the wall and as the assembled peasants, labourers and apprentices of the town hurled stones at them, began laying their assault ladders against the stone.


Now the real battle began. The nobleman at the gate, none other than Lord Polcario of Pavona, son of the ruling Duke, led his swordsmen between the splintered remnants and made mincemeat of the defending brigands. When he then burst through the inner gate …


… he was immediately met by the good captain and his colourful band of bravi.


Meanwhile, as the handgunners on the wall beside the gate fought to the very last man against the halberdiers below them …


… elsewhere the town's defence crumbled. Captain Bramanti was cut down by the young Lord Polcario, after which his surviving bravi broke and fled down the main street of the town, rallying only long enough to look back at the walls and see that their cause was lost. The peasants were driven (almost easily) from the walls. They too rallied, and waving pitchforks and scythes in the air, foolishly launched a charge against the inside of the walls, no defended by halberdiers. The Pavonans were laughing as they struck deadly blows with their halberds and chased the peasants away for good.

The walls and gates were taken. The defenders were running for the other gates, not even stopping to loot on their way.

Astiano had fallen.


The Chancellors

Spring IC2401
Just across the bridge from the southern gate of Scorccio.

There was sufficient breeze to whip the flag in a lively fashion, revealing the white baton and yellow half-sun emblem of the Compagnia del Sole. Its bearer was the black-bearded Banhaltte, a sturdily built ensign born far to the north in the Empire, who had served the company just as long as any other present member. Like most ensigns, it was not just the flag that marked him out, but also his elaborate clothes. His helmet was ringed with an upstanding crown of yellow and white ostrich feathers, his parti-coloured breeches slit in the shape of the company’s emblem, trimmed with braid, and his long beard was of a northern fashion. Ahead of him rode two of the company’s chancellors, Ottaviano and Baccio. They too wore the company’s colours of burgundy and blue, the company's emblem embroidered upon their left shoulders. Ottaviano was upon a grey rouncey, his companion on a black. Earlier they had been busy preparing for the trip, then conversing with the guards on the gate regarding their right to pass. Now that they were properly on their way, Baccio picked up a conversation they had begun the night before.

“How about Urbimo?” he asked. “Would they hire us?”


Ottaviano rode with his arm crooked, hand on hip, one of several affectations he believed made him appear more gentlemanly. “Urbimo is prosperous enough to afford the whole company, I’ll grant you that, but its old enemy Trantio has laid aside all ambitions to re-conquer it. The Trantians went to war over the matter in the time of the Republic, and as the tyrant Prince Girenzo hates everything the Republic did, not least its rebellion against his family’s rule, he is unlikely to want to continue the policy over Urbimo. Besides, if there was still enmity between the two, it would be very bad form for us to leave our current employer and join immediately with his enemy.”

“We’re mercenaries. What do we care what Prince Girenzo thinks when we’re no longer contracted to him?”

“I would not care at all,” Ottaviano said. “But who would later want to hire us knowing that we might so easily, simply for coin, join their foe and turn against them?”

“But you just said that Trantio and Urbimo are not at war.”

“That does not make them friends. Besides, the point I was trying to make is that if Urbimo is no longer threatened by Trantio then why would they need to hire a company the size of ours?”

The Compagnia del Sole was biggest condotta force in the whole Tilean Peninsula, and could claim an almost wholly unblemished reputation arising from the quality of their soldiers and the honour of their commanders. They had never before divided their strength to take separate contracts, except for the odd occasion when some amongst them had left the company to take employment as a new, distinct company. Currently they had halberdiers and pikemen, artillery and heavy horse, crossbowmen both mounted and upon foot, as well as a small town’s worth of dependents and hangers on, and they drilled every morning to maintain their readiness and prove their worth. For the last two years Prince Girenzo of Trantio had marched them about the Trantine Hills upon manoeuvres, even fought mock battles with them, and had found no fault. He paraded them through his city’s streets almost monthly and never once found any real reason to complain. Best of all, he had seemed happy so far to merely play at soldiers with them, requiring no actual fighting. Now however, as the eighth week before the end of the ‘Ferma’ period of their contract had passed without an agreement being reached concerning re-employment, the company was allowed to send forth its chancellors to negotiate with potential new employers. It was not that the company really wanted to leave Prince Girenzo’s employment, rather that they wanted to demonstrate the bids made by others to convince him to agree to better pay. Their commander, the condottiere general Micheletto Fortebraccio, believed that Girenzo had tired of drill and manoeuvres and was finally ready to make war, which bode well for the negotiation of new and better terms.

Baccio was not yet ready to yield on the matter of Urbimo. “Miragliano is close enough to pose a threat to Urbimo, surely? Is not every state in the north afeared concerning the Vampire Duke’s intentions?”

This made Ottaviano laugh. Baccio’s habit of not thinking things through was well ingrained. Still smiling, he looked his friend in the eye. “So you want to fight the already dead? You want to face deadly vampires and poison clawed ghouls and foul, stinking hordes of zombies?”

“Well … no,” admitted Baccio, apparently confused by his friend’s merriment at the prospect. “But to be paid well would be good.”

To be paid well is everything, thought Ottaviano. “If Urbimo did not offer us better terms than Prince Girenzo, then we could not demand improved terms from him.”

“Surely they are willing to pay generously for us to defend them against the horrors in the north.”

“Not when they know the vampire duke cannot yet reach Urbimo, nor for some time. They’re clever merchants, who pay no unnecessary expenses. Supposing the Duke of Miragliano does sally forth, he must first get past Ebino and Viadaza. I have a doubt they will stand idly by as the walking dead shamble through their realm. And like I said, that’s supposing he leaves Miragliano. Who knows what a vampire wants? Perhaps he will simply sit where he is, ruling his bony court and drinking goblets of blood? ”

“He could cross the gulf,” suggested Baccio.

“I do not think the dead steer ships,” answered Ottaviano. Yet even as he said it, he felt a distinct lack of conviction.

“Dead sailors do!” Baccio spoke Ottaviano’s fears for him.

Ottaviano pondered a moment. Undead ships were not unheard of – there was once a whole fleet of zombie pirates who preyed upon visitors to the shores of Lustria. Vampire named Harkon commanded them. “It’s much more likely the vampire duke has dead soldiers and peasants, not dead sailors. What sort of seamen would stay in Miragliano when all hell was breaking loose? Any sailor worth his salt would have got away, and quick.”

“I suppose,” Baccio muttered, grudgingly.

“Tell me,” asked Ottaviano, narrowing his eyes, “Why does Urbimo fascinate you so?”

“In truth?” said Baccio. “Because it is not far away.”

“Ha! So it is idleness that makes you keen!”

The jibe made Baccio frown. “Not so. It is simply an added expense for us to travel far, and if the journey takes too long then there is less time left to re-negotiate with Prince Girenzo. I was thinking of the practicalities.” Suddenly, he perked up. “If not Urbimo, then what about Lord Guglielmo? They say he escaped his uncle’s deathly turning and is looking to gather a force to claim what is now rightfully his. They say the Church of Morr will surely back him, make it another Holy War.”

Ottaviano laughed louder than before. Tilea had enough of Holy Wars – they had even tried a Holiest War. All such things proved ultimately to be the product of worldly ambition. It’s all about the pay “We’ll get no good terms from Lord Guglielmo. He has no means to pay us. No doubt he would promise us great rewards, to be paid after his victory, but tell that to Prince Girenzo and he would no doubt happily offer to pay us with even better promises. We want gold, not promises.”

“It was a stupid idea anyway,” Baccio admitted apologetically, “for it would mean we not only had to fight the undead but must also march right into their hellish domain.”


The party was passing a thatched cottage, along the hedge lined road that led from the bridge. Behind Banhaltte the standard bearer marched the chancellors’ guard, four halberdiers - two sergeants in armour and two more lightly armoured rank and file soldiers. Bringing up the rear was the young servant Donno leading a mule laden with supplies for the journey. The general had offered more guards to accompany them, but Ottaviano did not see the need. Mercenaries looking for a new contract were hardly likely to be carrying much gold, and so were unlikely to attract the attention of robbers. Anyone else would think twice at the sight of their banner, rather than their number. Few would want to make an enemy of the Compagnia del Sole. They might be mercenaries but they looked after their own, and there was honour amongst them. The company had both the urge and the means to exact vengeance.


Baccio fell silent for a while. The flag fluttered, hooves clopped, harnesses jangled. Eventually he spoke again. “If we did gain an offer of terms in some far away place, and Prince Girenzo refuses to match them, then the whole company will be forced to slog it all the way there.”

“That might not be so bad at all, especially if we head southwards. Would you not rather fight greenskins than the undead? The southern cities and towns are looking to better their defences, no doubt, now that the Waagh had taken root in the lands around Monte Castello. Luccini is hiring Mamidous’ Sons of the Desert, even building barracks for them. Alcente has hired northerners to help them, or sold itself to them - no-one seems sure about the exact terms. Whatever the agreement, an army of Marienburgers guards them.”

Baccio snorted. “So, not much work for us then?”

“On the contrary, Baccio, once Raverno agrees upon a proper government, or some tyrant grabs the reigns for himself, then they can do something about opposing the Waagh. And who’s to say that Remas, Pavona, Raverno, Portomaggiore, even Luccini and Alcente, believe they have sufficient strength to counter the threat. In this worrying time any or all might offer us better terms compared to the Medizi prince.”

Braccio nodded whilst looking off into the distance, then turned to look at his comrade. “General Fortebraccio said it will be only a matter of weeks before Prince Girenzo marches us to war, and not against Miragliano or goblins. In truth, Ottavio - our mission, new contracts - are we trying to leave Trantio just as the real fighting starts?”

“Never think that,” commanded Ottaviano. “We are the Compagnia del Sole, Myrmidia’s free sons. We do not shirk battle, nor would we shun a chance for plunder. ‘Aut spoliis opimis aut mors gloriosa’. I suggest you look at the situation in either of two ways. If you want to feel noble, then you can believe we take employment fighting greenskins or the undead because we would rather kill those than fellow Tileans. Surely it is right and proper that Tileans should stand together against such threats, instead than squabbling amongst themselves? If, however, you want to feel clever, then tell yourself that we are looking for employment because that way Prince Girenzo is forced to offer us better terms. He will want to lose us just at the moment he needs us.”

It was Braccio’s turn to smile now. “I suppose the first way, the noble way, is something you have rehearsed ready for the ears of our prospective employers.”

“Ah, you know me well,” exclaimed Ottaviano. Perhaps his friend was finally waking up. “As you obviously doubt I be so nobly motivated, then you may as well hear my true thoughts upon the matter. If we are to serve the prince in war, then he can bloody well pay a good price for us. We do not sell ourselves cheaply. If instead we are to go south, then perchance it will mean nothing more than parading our strength for some southern lord so that the greenskins take fright and look elsewhere for their cruel sports. If it were for me to choose, I would say south, where our very presence in the field may be sufficient to break the foe’s resolve. The walking dead in the north have forgotten how to be afraid, they will never flee but instead come straight at us, no matter how strong we are. Our men would die, then worse still, rise again to fight us.”

Ottaviano wondered if the men behind could hear him. Glancing around he decided maybe Banhaltte could, but not the others. That was not so bad. Banhaltte was a veteran and had no doubt fathomed the depths of mercenary thinking a long time ago.
Perhaps Braccio caught sight of the glance, and knew it for what it was, for he now spoke quietly. “So, let me get this right. You don’t want us to fight the undead, under any terms. What you do want is either better terms from Prince Girenzo to fight his neighbours, or adequate terms to go south and scare the greenskins away.”

“You have it. Except there might well be just be enough gold in the north to keep us here. The company have fought the undead before, and survived to tell the tale.”

“Oh, so in the end it is all about the pay?”

Ottaviano grinned broadly, and patted his purse hanging from his saddle pommel to make the coins chink.

“Has it ever been anything else?"


A Monstrous Assault

The man was nervous, and not just because he was addressing his master, Sir Fromony of Terme. He stared wide eyed from his scallop-edged, yellow hood and fidgeted constantly, clasping and unclasping the rim of the buckler hanging from his belt. He was armed, unusually, with a large-bladed adze, something Sir Fromony believed would be a very clumsy weapon, yet which would leave grievous wounds indeed upon its victims. Nor was his choice of weapon the only oddity about the man, for he also wore armour solely upon his knees and his elbows, as if his joints were the most precious parts of his body and as such warranted extra protection. How Sir Fromony had not noticed such an unusual sort of fellow amongst his lesser servants before he could not say.


These thoughts distracted the old knight just enough that he failed momentarily to hear what the man said.

“You saw how many of them?” he asked.

“In truth, your honour, I thought at first it was just one of them, come up from the south like they do. A bodyguard for a merchant or some such – your honour will know how the south is riddled with all sorts of hired thugs. And I freely admit I almost left then and there, your honour, but I decided I ought to see who or what the brute was guarding, so that I might give a better report to the sergeant …”

Sir Fromony was starting to get annoyed, something a more observant man than this peasant soldier would have quickly noticed. He looked down sternly from his green barded horse, his forked white beard framing his frowning mouth, whilst behind him Mainet his squire rolled his eyes.


“Answer the question will you?” he barked, so halting the man’s rambling account. “How many?”

“Yes, your honour. Sorry, your honour. The one I saw was but one of half a dozen.”

That did not sound too bad. “Only a half a dozen?”

“No, your honour,” said the man shaking his head, “if I might be so bold. That half a dozen was but one of several such companies. I couldn’t stay to count them all, for they was all strung out along the road, see, and there were goblins with them, sneaky looking gits they were with eyes dancing every which way.”

“You were seen?” asked the knight.

“Oh no, not I, your honour. I was in the shadows, and gone before any beady little eyes could alight on me. All the better to come back with a report see”

“Is this all you can tell us, or did you see anything else? Flags? Men? Baggage or machines?” He hefted his mace as if to point at the peasant. “Be precise.” If such is possible!

Screwing up his eyes (perhaps imagining what such a mace might do to his skull) the peasant made an answer. “Their banners were raggedy things, clattering bones and such, not furled but not exactly fluttering either. The one at the front had a red and yellow flag as well as all the grisly bits. There was beasts, aye, and big ‘uns at that. I saw one very clear. Like a giant cow it was, funny sort of horns though, with the thickest sort of skin I ever seen, and dragging a mess of wood and iron with goblins clambering upon it.”

“The flag,” asked Sir Fromony, “Gules two bars-gemel, Or?”

“Gule-gemmy or what, your honour?”

Fromony felt foolish for speaking that way to a peasant, although compared to the worry now knotting his stomach concerning this enemy force, this new emotion paled into insignificance. He tried again. “A red field, two pairs of yellow stripes?”

“Can’t say for certain, for the breeze wasn’t up to much, but red with yellow stripes seems just right for what I did see.”

Campogrotta – it has to be. It seemed that the recently (and most mysteriously) returned wizard lord Nicolo Bentiglovio did not intend to live out the remainder of his unusually long life in peace, and he still had his regiment of brutes, the army of Ogres which had long brought shame to his rule. For many decades – beyond the span of an ordinary mortal - the wizard lord had seemed satisfied with the cruel, tyrannical rule of Campogrotta, jealously guarding his secrets. Today, however, he marched upon the fortress of Terme.

Sir Fromony knew his day’s hunt was over.


Now, if he did not move fast, he would become the prey. He had a castle to defend and, if that was to happen, he must send word to Duke Giacomo and hope relief was dispatched without delay. Turning to his hunt companions he gave his instructions, starting with his knightly guard.

“Sir Eudes, ride with all haste to Ravola and tell the Duke of our need. We shall of course hold as best we can, but to an Ogre our walls are half the height and so do not present quite the same challenge.”

Sir Eudes nodded his assent, pulled upon his reigns to turn his horse about, then spurred the beast into a gallop. Luckily he was not armed and armoured as for battle, but wore only mail and a half helm, and carried only a hunting spear. Provided the enemy did not hinder him, he would make it to Ravola before dark.

Sir Fromony turned next to his crossbowman. “Landri, you will go and look at this foe and discover their true strength.” Gesturing at the yellow hooded peasant he added, “Take this man with you if you wish, he seems to know the lie of the land well enough to have stayed hidden.”

Last he addressed his squire. “Mainet, with me.”

The party divided. As Sir Fromony rode he could not stop the flood of concerns and regrets assailing him – the ditch which should have been cleared, the wall that needed strengthening, the incomplete hoarding clinging to the western parapets, and most of all the recent departure of a band of knights for Bretonnia. He could have done with them now, to stiffen his garrison.

Yet the castle could surely hold for a little while, hopefully long enough for relief to come.


So, is this one 'fun' so far? Does it 'work'? And why do I keep using 'apostrophes'?

This, my current, campaign is an attempt to bring everything I have practiced and learned up until now into the best I can make it. It's not a quick process (RL to blame, and my painting speed), but it is very involving.



The castellan of Terme Castle, Sir Fromony Dalguinnac had arrayed his limited force as best he could. All he had to defend the fortress were longbowmen and men at arms – mere peasants bolstered with only a handful of yeomen – and they were not even sufficiently numerous to man every wall and tower. It took some careful thought as to where to place each of his three companies so that they could move quickly enough to wherever they were needed. His men at arms, which he personally commanded, guarded the gate, while his archers flanked him, one company on a wall to the left, the other on the tower to the right.


Although they were twice as tall as a man, Sir Fromony was pretty certain that the Ogrish foe would not be able to scale the towers, so the archers to his right were instructed to move to the defence of the wall beside them if the foe made for it. This disposition still left stretches of undefended walls, but the enemy were surely not so numerous as to be able to attack all at once, and all he and his men had to do was buy time for he had sent for relief and knew full well that his master, Lord Giacomo Uberti, would not abandon Terme Castle to its fate.

As the red and yellow standard of Ravola was placed upon the battlement beside him, Sir Fromony peered over the crenulated parapet at the foe mustering upon the rocky ground before the walls. He wore his heavy armour of polished steel, and atop his helm sprouted a red fleur de lys crest, a twist of yellow braiding decorating its base.


He could see that two large companies of grey fleshed brutes made up the main strength, their grisly banners of bones, skins and the looted shields of old foes held at their fore. Upon one flank a shaggy beast dragged some sort of trebuchet, whilst upon the other was a company carrying cannon barrels – no carriages, no trucks, just the barrels. These brutes were strong enough to discharge cannons as if they were handguns! They were hauling plenty of ladders, suggesting that they intended to climb the walls rather than batter at them with shot and then assault them. And they were moving with haste, for at the very moment their companies were finally sorted into ranks and files a bellowing cry immediately signalled the advance and they came on.


If the relief did not come right now, Terme was surely doomed. No almost wholly peasant garrison could stand against such fearsome assailants, even protected by castle walls. Sir Fromony heard shouted commands to ‘loose’ from both his left and right, and volleys of arrows arced impressively from the walls. It was a sight which momentarily gave him hope – surely such a storm of sharpened steel would sting any foe? But to his horror, as the arrows landed, not one of the Ogres fell. Umpteen shafts could be seen, hanging from their chests, arms and shoulders, bouncing about as the ogres marched on, yet not one of the grey-skinned brutes seemed remotely perturbed.


The large contraption pulled by the hairy beast proved indeed to be a species of trebuchet, for suddenly a timber and iron arm swung up to hurl its own ragged cloud of missiles in the opposite direction. Sir Fromony wondered to himself why they were not throwing large rocks, and watched with mild confusion as the remarkably well placed shot resulted in a mere clattering against the castle gate. (Note: The Ogre player had forgotten that the scraplauncher – and there is a clue in the name – did not employ stones as ammunition but merely scrap iron. All he could recall as he gleefully watched the dice roll a direct hit on the gate was that the rules said it worked something like a stone thrower. Oh, how we laughed when we discovered the sad truth. :lol:)

Then came the joyful answer to Sir Fromony’s prayers – the sweet sound of horn blasts, followed quickly by the thunderous beat of heavy hooves. The relief had come, and not a moment too soon! (Note: a 3+ chance from the second turn onwards for the relief to arrive, as per ambush rules.) Two large bodies of gorgeously bedecked knights came hurtling through the morning mists like heroes from some legendary tale of knightly courage (and immaculate timing).


And just as they arrived, a cannon-carrying ogre did succumb to a second volley of arrows from the walls. These two events meant men of the garrison had every reason to cheer, and cheer they did. Their joy, however, was suddenly cut short as the ogres, showing remarkable alacrity for such hulking creatures, charged at the walls. It became obvious they knew full well the danger they were in, what with lance-armed knights to their rear, and that with this in mind they intended to gain the sanctuary of the walls before the knights could prick at them. For Sir Fromony, the thought that the foe might be acting out of fear, failed entirely to reassure him. All it meant was that they redoubled their pace. One company reached the walls with terrifying speed, laid their ladders promptly and began their climb …


… while the cannon-wielding ogres spun about to point their cruel muzzles at the Knights Errant among the advancing chivalry.


The Slaughtermaster with them conjured up a bonecrushing spell to kill two of the Knights Errant, then conjured up further magic to enfold him and his unit in magical protection. The cannons now blasted and felled another knight, whilst a load of scrap clattered off the young knights’ armour. Meanwhile, up at the wall the Ogres climbed quickly and surely, ripping a yeoman warder right off the wall to send him tumbling horribly to his death, the sight of this, along with the death of several more archers, sapped all courage from the defenders who leaped down into the courtyard leaving the Ogres to clamber over onto the parapet. While several ogres jeered and laughed at the running archers, the rest calmly turned to see if the knights had caught up with their comrades, as if taking the wall had been little more than a walk up a hill.


The knights of the relief force could see that the foe’s trebuchet pulling beast was threatening to charge. Unwilling to be so distracted, the Knights of the Realm charged across the Knight’s Errant's front to slam into the cannon-wielding Ogres, hoping to burst through and gallop along the base of the walls and so reach the second company of brutes before they too took a wall.


In this they had some success, driving one of their lances right through an ogre in the first impact, then riding down the rest and they fled, even felling the Slaughtermaster himself. In a somewhat ungainly fashion their mounts made their way over the piled corpses and towards the wall. They could see the enemy up ahead, but could they reach them in time?


While the scraplaunching monster shuffled unsurely towards the Knights Errant (Note: A stunning failed charge roll of 2,1,1!) the footslogging ogres wasted no time themselves. Hurtling at, then up, the walls, they hacked down several foes and sent the rest, Sir Fromony amongst them, fleeing into the courtyard.


Outside the chivalry was dismayed. They had come, by mere moments, too late. The Ogres were up and over the walls, and the screams from within the castle, as well as the peasants tumbling from the walls to thud into the rocky ground beneath, made it very clear that Terme had fallen. The knights had no ladders, and the ogres were laughing as they drew up their own to leave none outside. The gate was locked and barred, and showed no signs of opening.

Frustrated, the Knights Errant threw themselves at the only foe they could, chasing the Ogres chariot-cum-stonethrower across the field to watch it smash itself to pieces trying to cross a hedge (Note: 1 on dangerous terrain, 6 for wounds.) Inside the castle two bruisers leaped from the wall, leaving the other ogres in possession, and charged across the courtyard to make mincemeat of the momentarily rallied archers.


(Note: Interestingly you can compare the rather contrasting painting styles of my friend and myself, as he borrowed a figure from my own collection to serve as his army standard. Mine = cartoon, cell shaded. His = realistic and subtle. You know, my figures never seem to fit in with anyone else’s collection!)

The castle was all but taken, and all that remained was the butchering or capture of the last of the garrison, an activity the ogres took grisly pleasure in. What became of Sir Fromony nobody knows, but most would say it is not hard to guess.

Meanwhile the Ogres’ commander, the fearsome tyrant Razger Boulderguts, was not happy. He had come to fight, something which he did not feel he had done. Outside the knights were galloping up and down, apparently unsure as to what they should do next.

“Come out,” cried one of them. “Come out and fight!” Others now joined in, adding mockery to the suggestion, “You came here to hide did you?” one shouted. “See how the Ogres run?” jeered another.

Then one of them, a paladin bedecked in a surcoat and barding of red-bordered blue, bearing a white griffon rampant upon his shield and a drake’s head crest to his helm, ordered silence. This gained, he now shouted, “I challenge any one of you to single combat. Come out, if you dare, if you any semblance of honour. Come out and face me one on one!”

Boulderguts, not an Ogre ever to suffer doubt, laughed. His god had answered his prayer – here was his chance to sate his bloodlust. He ordered the gate opened and strode boldly out before it, hefting a rusty and blooded blade bigger than a man in one hand, and an ironbound war-mallet heavier than a man in the other.

“You!” he bawled. “You want to fight? Then fight!”

With a roar he launched into a run, whilst the paladin spurred his destrier to charge. (Note: We agreed that both would count as charging.)


When they met there was a mighty crunch as Bouldergut’s gut-plate horns thrust through mail and deep into horse flesh. The ogre tyrant’s armour glittered magically as the knight’s frantic blows simply glanced off it. Then, after pausing for a moment as if to consider which weapon to favour, Bouldergut swung with his huge blade and sliced right through both the horse’s head and the paladin.

As the ogre tyrant let loose a bellowing victory roar, the knights, knowing that single combat had been offered and accepted, decided to combine honour and common sense and ride back to Ravola.

They had some bad news to deliver.


Oh dear, the poor knight doesn't seem to have stood much of a chance!

It's reading pretty well so far, although I must admit that the actual battle reports are my favourite parts. It's just nice to see two painted armies going for it.

Also, I think your cel shaded style is perfect for this sort of thing, it photographs really cleanly.


An excerpt from Bonacorso Fidelibus’s work: “The Many Wars of the Early 25th Century” Concerning the Spring of 2401

Things were stirring in Tilea, although perhaps not quite what people expected. In the far north, contrary to the fearful concerns of many, Miragliano’s vampire duke had been quiet. No shambling legions had yet spilled forth to spread the waking nightmare of undeath. Yet the fear had not lessened, for few had supposed that the living dead would move quickly. Surely the evil duke was even now strengthening his cold grip upon his realm, weeding out the living wherever they hid, then killing them in order to create more servants?

The vampire duke’s nephew, Guglielmo Sforta, fled Udolpho and successfully made his way to Viadazza, though it was said he had little in the way of strength with him – certainly no army. One might suppose he was merely a pretender to his uncle’s title, but many claimed, including the Church of Morr, that as Duke Allesandro had died then the honour has indeed already legally and fully passed on to Guglielmo as his heir. Guglielmo had been made welcome in Viadazza, feasting with the city’s greatest as an honoured guest of Lord Adolpho, where he petitioned all who would listen to aid him in cleansing Miragliano. Indeed, Lord Adolpho was amassing his not insignificant fleet, surely in light of the very real threat Miragliano presented?  Whether or not he intended to take the war to the foe by sailing into Miragliano’s harbour was another matter altogether, as a fleet could be used instead to supply or escape a beseiged city.

So it was that Archlector Calictus II of the Holy Church of Morr made the following proclamation, to be read throughout Tilea:

Good people of Tilea, faithful servants of Morr and all the lawful gods, heed me for I speak with the voice of Morr to deliver dire warnings. Dark days have come, as a power most vile and most evil threatens every man, woman and child in our lands. We know greenskins raid in the south. We know that the foul ratto uomo scuttle beneath us sowing their poisonous corruptions. Yet these threats pale into insignificance compared to the wickedness in the north. For there, in Miragliano, an evil has arisen which is beyond mere sinfulness, beyond violence and hate, but is a triple heresy - for it is an insult to most holy Morr, an insult to his holy Church, and an insult to his people; it is a wickedness in direct opposition to Morr’s will, a usurping of the church’s rightful jurisdictions, and a terror to all in Tilea. Hundreds, thousands, of souls belonging to Morr have been twisted and tortured to become trapped in this realm, then made to kill the living so that even more souls might be reaped. If this wickedness is allowed free reign then all that is good will be destroyed; all that is ours, even our very souls, will be taken from us. Now is the time for the rulers of Tilea to accept their duty and so do what is noble, just and lawful, as well as entirely necessary. All those who can bear arms must march forth to cleanse the north of corruption. Let no prince be so unworthy as to shirk this duty. Let no council be so bickerous as to fail to act. Let no condottieri be so cowardly as to seek employment elsewhere. Let all our prayers be to Morr, for it is he who must guide us and bless us in our endeavours. Let our cry be ‘northwards’, for it is there that the fate of all those now living in Tilea will be decided!

Yet, as has been said already, the undead had so far been quiet. Rather, it was from the lands east of Miragliano that news of war came. The great castle at Terme, guarding the road north to Ravola and the Nuvolonc Pass, had been taken and burned. Corpses floated down the River Iseo to become caught on the footings of the bridge at Ebino, and the sky above Usola had become blackened by smoke. This was the work of an army of Ogres led by a brute called Boulderguts, brought over the mountains by the returning wizard-lord Nicolo of Campogrotta. They looted the castle of everything of worth, enslaved what few of the inhabitants they did not kill, and then marched further north. Whether Duke Giacomo of Ravola could make a stand against this threat was yet to be seen. Some said that Lord Totto of the Arrabiatti Brotherhood must be laughing to see the fate of Giacomo’s Bretonnian knights, while others said he cried for the poor serfs killed by their masters’ sides. What few were left simply raised their eyes and said a man who isn’t real can neither laugh nor cry. What the dwarfs of Karak Borgo thought of these events no one could say, for none were willing to risk travelling the Iron Road through Campogrotta now that the Wizard Lord Niccolo’s tyranny had resumed.

But it was not just outsiders who stirred trouble in the land. Lord Polcario, son of Duke Guidobaldi, had captured the town of Astiano in a bold attack. The Astianans had provoked Pavona’s wrath by tolling all mercantile goods upon both the road and the river. Perhaps they believed that with the Greenskin Waagh in the south the Pavonans would not dare to strike back at them? Not so. A blue and white army cut their way through the town’s gate in a lightning assault and so took Astiano with barely a loss of their own. The realm of Pavona was thus grown – stretching westwards along the river Remo. Furthermore, Duke Guidobaldi seemed to have believed that the dwarfen moneylenders of Pavona had a hand in encouraging Astiano’s greedy boldness, and as a consequence banished all dwarfs from his realm, conveniently decreeing their goods forfeit.

There were sightings of a force of greenskins upon the hilly coast of Caretello. At first it was feared that another <em>Waagh</em> had landed, and that the southern city states would be attacked from both flanks, but it transpired that these were Sea Boss Scarback’s Green Corsairs, an infamous company of rovers who have served as part of several Sartosan fleets, and once as mercenaries in Viadazza's pay.  It was commonly presumed that they were looking for employment – and if they did not get it, then they would simply take what they needed. They were not the only company making enquiries, for the famous Compagnia del Sole’s contract to Trantio was drawing to a close. Renewal negotiations were ongoing, but if they proved unfruitful, then this most famous company – a veritable army in itself – might soon find itself serving a new master. Duchess Maria Colleoni of Ebino, faced with a vampire lord to her west and a rampaging army of Ogres to her east, was said to be reckoning up every scrap of gold and silver, even the copper pennies, in her treasury, praying she had enough to hire such a force, if only to pay the first installments necessary to seal a contract.

In the far south warlord Khurnag’s Waagh remained concentrated upon the western coast of the Bay of Wrecks, especially around the massively fortified fortress town of Monte Castello. Nothing had been heard of Lord Roberto’s garrison there for nearly a month, and no ships had returned from the castle. Those sailors who risked approaching the mouth of the bay reported that the greenskin fleet was grown much larger, and that fires were burning all around Monte Castello, as well as in the hills stretching to the south. The beating of drums was heard and the blaring of horns, both somehow sounding louder in the hours of darkness.


Deliberations. Part One: Defence

Summer 2401, The walled city of Ebino, northern Tilea

“I cannot understand why Lord Guglielmo rode past us upon his flight. Have I offended him? Is Ebino of no worth? Or are we so clearly doomed that he dare not visit us, never mind ask us for help?”

The Duchess Maria had been nursing this grievance ever since she heard of Guglielmo’s passage. She was family, as the granddaughter of Duke Ludo Sforta she was Guglielmo’s first cousin. Her little city of Ebino was Miragliano’s neighbour, and for years enjoyed not unfriendly relations. Lord Guglielmo had met the Duchess upon several occasions, fostering a familiarity she had thought genuine. Yet he had fled from his vampiric uncle’s terrible new rule not to Ebino and her, but to Viadaza and Lord Adolpho, a beast of a man with orc in his blood.

No-one answered her immediately, which did not bode well. The dwarfs, both Captain Urginbrow of her Ironsides and her chief engineer Welleg, simply stared, as if the matter were so outwith their ken that an answer could not be expected of them. Captain Urginbrow was dressed as always in plate amour, his beard concealing the breastplate even down to his tassets. He wore no helm, but his bald pate seemed perfectly formed for such, as if it were crafted for a helm rather than the other way around. Welleg was hooded in grey cloth and bore a huge, iron headed mallet that he obviously had not thought to lay down before attending the council. His fur-lined, green jerkin was decorated sparsely with iron studs, making him appear as if he had been lightly peppered with leadshot. He had the sort of bulbous nose many dwarfs were gifted with, and the flatness of the rest of his face was accentuated rather than diminished by a protruding bottom lip caused by his underbite. All in all, not the sort of face that promised wit and wisdom, yet he was rightly renowned for his skill with engines of war.


Both men in the chamber were similarly silent. Her mercenary commander, Captain Sir Giorgio, wore a furrowed brow as if wrestling with mental turmoil, while the Morrite priest Father Remiro was apparently engaged in silent prayer. Perhaps he was seeking enlightenment?

“Well,” asked the Duchess, “why did he not come?”

Sir Giorgio cleared his throat, “We have sent a messenger to Viadaza to enquire of him what he intends, your grace, but as yet have received no answer.”

“I know about the message,” said the Duchess, a note of exasperation in her tone. “And I know that no word has come back. In lieu of that, I would like your thoughts upon the matter.”

She presented quite a contrast to the armed and armoured soldiers in the chamber, as well as to the priest in his dark grey woollen robes and plain cap of maroon cloth. Her light brown hair was fastened up fancily in the Reman fashion, with a band of tight curls to frame her brow and bunched ringlets upon either side. Her dress was of dark green silk damask, edged at her low cut neck line and sleeves with fine, white lace point. She wore gold at her neck, wrist and upon her breast.


It was Father Remiro who ventured an opinion first, gesturing dramatically as he so often did – this time presenting his arms as if he were weighing the matter in the air before him. “Your grace, it may well be that Lord Guglielmo was not thinking clearly, neither acting sensibly nor in his best interests. To discover that one’s uncle and liege lord has become so evilly corrupted as to embrace undeath, and that he intends to massacre his own people and plunge his entire realm into an unliving nightmare, can be no easy thing. It would unhinge the best of minds, certainly those not prepared by their faith in Morr to stand up against such horrors.”


The Duchess was not convinced. She had the measure of Lord Guglielmo and he had never given her reason to suspect he was weak. Quite the opposite – he appeared sure of his nobility and purpose, and very much a leader of men. “A man so afeared would run to the nearest safe haven, surely? If he did not come here, then perhaps he thinks Ebino is not safe? Perhaps he knows what his uncle intends next and travelled accordingly”

“I reckon it’s more likely his lordship couldn’t come here,” said the Ironside Captain Urginbrow. “If he was chased from Miragliano by dead and deadly things, then he would go whichever way he could to escape.”

Sir Giorgio was nodding. “We know the vampire duke’s foul servants came close, the tracks we found proved the peasants’ frightful reports were not false. Mounted men, or at least things that were once men. Perhaps they followed Lord Guglielmo then turned aside?” He pointed with his gauntleted hand at the large map laid upon the table.


“They were seen here in the orchard by the mill at Rucai, not far at all from the road, and here where the road fords the Valgetty.”

“If they were pursuing him, then why would they turn aside?” said the Duchess. “Such creatures are not easily distracted from their purpose. If they were scouting my lands, then they were sent to do so.”

“Lord Guglielmo might have shaken them off with some trick, perhaps?” offered Sir Giorgio. “He may have led them along the road, giving the impression he was heading here, then cunningly snuck off southwards.”

“If that were so,” said the Duchess, “and his move towards us was merely a ruse, then it still leaves my question unanswered.”

The mood in the chamber was darkening, something the Duchess would not have thought possible concerning the peril they all faced. Perhaps her line of enquiry seemed desperate? Harping on about why Guglielmo had not come was hardly likely to lift her men’s spirits, and besides, as no answer was forthcoming, it served no real purpose. She looked down at the map, traced her finger along the line marking the road. “Well, it’s all by the by. He did not come. We must of course consider what we can do, what we should do, not what he did not do.”

Sir Giorgio obviously took this as permission to say something that had been on his mind. “By your leave, your grace, we could – considering how many good dwarfen folk dwell within our walls – we could send to Barak Borgo for aid.” He turned to address the two dwarfs directly, “Surely your brethren would be willing to help us against such a monstrous foe?”

To all but the engineer’s surprise, Captain Urginbrow issued a snort of laughter. “You are wrong, commander. They may be distant kin, but they owe us nothing, neither love nor even respect. They look upon us …” Here he stopped, turned to bow to the duchess, and said, “No offence to you, your grace, nor to the good folk of this city, for I speak the karak dwarf’s mind and not my own.” Then to Sir Giorgio, “… They look upon us as no better than men, and for no more reason than that we chose to live among you. They are proud to the point of folly, and they love only their own.”

“And, your grace,” said the priest, “Karak Borgo is many leagues from here. If they were to send help it would surely come too late.”

“Then you believe that the abomination will strike at us soon?” asked the Duchess.

“I fear so. That which he has become will still possess the living Duke’s memories, and will revel in corrupting all that was once his – including those he once held dear, even his kin.”

“If his outriders have tried to count us,” added the captain, “then he must at the least be considering it. If they succeeded in their count - and who is to say where they crept in the darkest hours of the night - he will know we are not strong.”

“But our defences, the moat, my ironsides and your mercenaries, every able bodied man we have practising drill – is this not strength?”

“Ebino has never been strong in comparison to Miragliano, and now that the duke has fashioned an army from hell, summoning long dead soldiers, it has become terrifying also. We can do all that we can to prepare, but we cannot stop men fearing the walking dead. How did you put it, captain Urginbrow: ‘dead and deadly things’.”

The duchess untangled her delicately entwined fingers and placed her hands on her hips. “I shall stand with my brave soldiers, and if needs be I shall perish in the defence of mine own.”

The men looked aghast, Father Remiro almost tripping over his words to discourage her. “Your grace, there is no need for you to put yourself in danger. You have your soldiers to do that. If you were to die here, and your daughter also, then that would be another victory for the foe. If you survive there is hope for the future, for Tilea must surely come to its senses, heed our holy church’s call to arms and cleanse Miragliano. Not the mountain dwarfs, but the faithful of Tilea. ”

Captain Giorgio was keen to add his own discouragement. “Your men will fight better knowing that you are safe, that you have gone for help. To face such horrors when their own noble mistress is in dire peril could only dishearten them. They would surely rather know that you are gathering allies to come to their aid.”

The duchess was apparently not convinced. “Our walls are strong, and we have the Ironsides to stand immovable upon them, two full companies of crossbowmen to shoot from them, and more militia besides. Every wall has been blessed by the priests and brothers of Morr, with charms and wards to fend off evil magics. The moat is deep and our storehouses full to brimming with supplies, carefully gathered and rationed. And the shadow lord Totto of the Arrabiatti promised to come in our hour of need. If Guglielmo receives our plea, then he too must send help. What could he be doing in Viadazza but raising an army?”

“I believe we can hold Ebino for some time, but not indefinitely,” said Captain Giorgio. “The enemy will not flinch from our quarrels as mortal men would do. Their fallen will lie in heaps even as those still standing calmly fill the moat with faggots and the truly dead to fashion a crossing, then raise their ladders beneath torrents of boiling oil without feeling the burning pain. Oh they will burn, oil will do that, but they won’t let it distract them, and will labour until they fall into pieces. And those who do fall may well be raised again. We can indeed hold for some time while they busy themselves fearlessly and steadily to overcome our walls. Such brave defence, however, would be wasted unless a sufficiently strong and timely relief force came to drive the foe away.”

“So you would have me run from Ebino during its greatest trial?”

“Yes your grace,” admitted the Sir Giorgio. “But only because I would have you bring succour to Ebino during its greatest trial.”

“We have sent word to Guglielmo, promised pardons to the Arrabiatti, and the church has preached on our behalf, these will bring succour.”

Captain Urginbrow harrumphed, and all turned to look at him. “Guglielmo passed us by, the Arrabiatti are like the mist that hides a thief not the steel that arms a soldier, and the church can only preach – people have to listen, then believe, then decide, then act. You, your grace, can promise rewards. You can shame the princes into doing what they know they should. You, your grace, will be Ebino standing there right ‘afore them. They can hardly ignore us then.”



Brute Strength

There was precious little time to prepare - certainly not enough to send a plea through the pass for help from the north. Those knights who had ridden south to Terme Castle’s aid had arrived only to see the brutish foe clamber over the walls and drag their ladders up behind them. After then witnessing the death in single combat of the brave paladin Sir Theulenor, they were left stuck outside the castle, unable to help as the awful slaughter began within. Now they had returned to the city of Ravola, and although the foe (busy with looting) was not exactly hot on their heels, it seemed obvious to all that they would come, and soon. The horribly successful surprise attack on the southern fortress would be wasted if they did not march on to catch the city just as ill-prepared. Even Ogres would know that.

So it was that Lord Giacomo ordered that all those who dwelt in the hovels and cottages outside the walls should hurry into the city for safety. They did so very willingly, until the land outside lay silent.


The grey stone city walls were studded with towers built in a variety of styles, the result of many decades of piecemeal extensions and improvements. The gate was a little keep in itself, with a more massive tower to its west. Upon that bigger edifice was mounted the only working war machine currently in Ravola’s possession. It had been carried in pieces from a storehouse no-one had thought it would ever be removed from, and hastily re-built. The floor beneath was strengthened from below. Large chunks of masonry were hoisted up, while the last surviving man in the city to have seen it in action imparted what advice he could to the serfs who were to crew it. No-one, not even the most chivalrous of the knights, complained about its use, for the foe were vicious thugs, with not so much as a trace of honour, and fully deserved such a death. In truth, even the knights wished there were more such engines, and several workshops were ordered to begin fashioning copies with all haste.


The new machines were not to be completed, however, as the ogres, evidently sated with their bloody ransacking of Terme, came thumping into view, their ironshod boots tearing up the ground as they advanced almost as quickly as any destrier. They were not numerous, but such hulking creatures did not need to be. Led by the tyrant Razger Boulderguts, two regiments marched through the abandoned hamlet to the south, their banners of bones and battle trophies clattering a veritable cacophony to accompany their fiendish bellowing.



The order given my Lord Giacomo satisfied some and surprised the rest. He decided his realm’s knightly warriors should not man the walls, but would sally forth to meet the foe in the field. In his speech to his knights he asked them why own such fine mounts if not to use them in the fight? Why possess such horsemanship and skill in arms if not to employ them? And would not the Lady bless them all the more if instead of cowering behind the walls to let arrows and stones do the killing, they rode gallantly and chivalrously to face the foe in the field of battle? Last, he held aloft his lance and sung most lyrically of its virtues, describing how such a weapon, deftly and solidly placed by a man of courage and well-honed skills, could surely skewer even a beast twice the size of an ogre. This last remark with met with the loudest cheer, and every knight hefted his own lance to show their agreement.

And so, after dutifully praying to the Lady that she might bless them, three companies of knights rode through the gate and arrayed themselves in the shadow of the walls. Lord Giacomo, riding a horse barded in heavy black cloth, a large, purple panache adorning his helm and a heavy, and a scarlet cloak to mark him out, rode with five knights (the survivors of those who had fought against him all those years ago in the tourney in which he won the realm).


To his left rode his Knights Errant, ordered to stay close, all the better to receive Lord Giacomo’s shouted commands. Off to the right rode to the largest of his companies, being ten Knights of the Realm. The noble paladin Sir Galwin carried Ravola’s standard, ‘per pales gules and or a bull’s head sable’, upon a striped argent and sable silk flag.


Above the knights, upon the walls, were two score longbowmen and a small company of men at arms, as well as the lone trebuchet, all of whom watched with trepidatious fascination as the armoured riders manoeuvred into position and dressed their ranks and files. Then the attention of both those upon and below the walls was caught by something else which revealed the test was about to begin. The brute bellowing surged and the attackers now came on. The two regiments of bulls came together to the flank of the hamlet, the tyrant Boulderguts raising his huge, cleaver-like sword aloft, its blade still besmeared with the blood of the garrison at Terme.


The only other ogres present, a brace of leadbelchers with their heavy burdens, moved up upon the other side of the hamlet, then released a thunderous blast of iron and lead with no noticeable result. It was a disappointment mirrored by the magics summoned by the limping Slaughtermaster, who also failed to harm the knights. More than one of Giacomo’s men began to believe the Lady had truly blessed them, and thus gained a confidence they had not really possessed before, despite their outward cheers.

Lord Giacomo dipped his lance to signal his command, guiding his own company and the young knights on his left to wheel a little and trot leisurely towards the main bodies of the foe. His intention was to hit the ogres to the flank and front with a synchronised assault from all three companies of knights. If, that is, all went well.


The plan went awry almost immediately. The oblique advance of the Knights Errant had put their flank within sight of the two cannon-carrying ogres. Considering their cannons were now empty, the two ogres now attempted to charge. Left to their own devices the young knights would most certainly have preferred to stand rather than flee from such a base foe, but Lord Giacomo did not intend to waste their lives and so with another gesture of his lance, he ordered them to run. He knew this would hinder his plans somewhat, yet hoped it would not do so irretrievably: the Knights Errant would surely reform beneath the walls, while the leadbelchers would be drawn within range of his many longbows. Then, just a little later than he intended, the young knights could come up and join the fray.


The young knights obeyed and came thundering to the rear of Lord Giacomo’s company, doing so in a manner that appeared so much like a charge that the men at arms upon the wall looked down utter confusion. The tyrant Boulderguts, however, barely noticed. His attention had been entirely upon the foe before him, then was distracted only by the faltering advance of the other regiment of bulls, who had at first seemed intent upon charging Lord Giacomo’s company but for some reason failed to do so. Unhappy at their hesitation, he simply marched his own regiment calmly towards the foe, bawling: “March on, lads. Let them charge us! I am not afraid. Their wooden sticks’ll splinter and snap. Their bones’ll break as we bash their armour in. Let ‘em come. We’ll kill every last one of them and you’ll be sucking their marrow for breakfast!”


Perhaps the Slaughtermaster was not convinced by his master’s speech, or possibly he thought to make sure it came true? Either way, while the tyrant shouted his boasts, the magic wielding ogre summoned up a magical fortitude and stubbornness to bolster the bulls’ natural strength.

Boulderguts’ bravado was rewarded by the charges he asked for. While Sir Galwin’s Knights Errant smashed into the tyrant’s own regiment …


… Lord Giacomo led his own smaller company into the Slaughtermaster’s regiment.


One of the two large companies of longbowmen, who had been placed upon a wall from which their arrows could not reach the foe, had been making their way out of the gate so that they could lend what bloody contribution they could. The trebuchet had so far been incapable of landing anything near the foe, but now, upon witnessing the brave charges of their knights, these men joined with half the other company of Longbowmen still on the walls to send a hail of thirty arrows at the leadbelchers.


One of the brutes, his grey skin fatally pricked from head to foot by arrow heads, collapsed with a wail to the ground. His comrade, keen not to suffer a similar torment, turned and ran.

As the leadbelcher thrashed about in an ever increasing puddle of blood, his waling subsided until replaced by the sound of maniacal laughter. Razger Boulderguts had cut a paladin in two and found the sight of the horse carrying a pair of disembodied, stirruped legs very funny. Despite this horror, the other knights managed to wound the Slaughtermaster and fell an ogre, losing two of their own number. Some amongst them thought for a moment that the foe was giving way, entertaining a brief glimmer of hope that the impact of their lances at full charge could indeed discomfort the foe just as Lord Giacomo had promised. It was not to be, however. The ogres stood firm and the fight went on. (Note: the combat was a draw – I had a feeling this was the turning point, and an early one at that, in the game.)

Lord Giacomo threw himself even more enthusiastically at the foe, becoming entangled in a one-on-one fight against a bruiser. While he and the brute hacked at each other, Giacomo’s armour becoming bent, battered and bloodied, four of his knights fell to the enemy’s battle standard bearer, who waded through them swinging his blade as if he were merely scything hay and not steel clad men. The last knight was cut down by the rest of the ogres so that suddenly Lord Giacomo found that he faced them all alone.


Facing such odds, and filled with despair at the quick slaughter of the men he loved, all the bravery Giacomo had ever known was insufficient. He turned to run, intent on the crazy desire to apologise to the people of Ravola for what he had done, only to be cut down and trampled into the dirt as the bulls hurtled onwards. Upon seeing what lay before them, the ogres happily turned this impetuous motion into a charge and crashing headlong into the stunned young knights beneath the walls.


The knights fighting Boulderguts and his regiment put up a better fight …


… yet they too were doomed. Two by two, then one by one, they fell, until only madness kept them fighting (A snake eyes break test was passed). When finally reduced to one man, being the paladin carrying the standard of Ravola, even madness was not enough to keep him there. Like his Lord only a few moment’s before, he turned and fled …


… and like his Lord, he too was run down and ground into the mud by ironshod feet.

Cruelly, the Knights Errant were easily swept aside, their short lives ending in a combat lasting barely a moment. The victorious ogres simply stepped over their corpses and right up to the walls …


They still had the ladders they had used at Terme. What happened next was something like what had happened that castle, although here there were no knights advancing at their rear so they could take their time. When they did climb, the men on the walls stood no chance, something the ogres knew from the start and the men, even the slowest witted amongst them, knew from the moment they saw the first ogre pluck a defender from the wall, then clamber over to push two more from the parapet to their deaths.

Screams echoed in the streets, mingled with coarse voices crying “Give it hear!” and “Smash it down” and “Where do you think you’re running to little rat runt?” Misery and pain became the order of the day, and by nightfall, Ravola had well and truly fallen.

Never mind a castle, Razger Boulderguts had now captured no less than a city.


Part Two: Attack

Summer 2401, The city of Trantio, central Tilea

As always, Prince Girenzo Medizi of Trantio appeared calm. It did not mean he was content. All his orders, even those to have this person punished or that person tortured, were delivered quietly, assuredly and entirely without expression of the commonly expected emotions such as sadness or anger. Although he was young, his was a cold species of tyranny and most of those who served him closely and often had quickly learned not to search his face nor scrutinize his demeanour to ascertain his mood. These things could only ever be known by his words, which were direct and clear, if necessary determined and cruel.

He wore a long gown of richly embroidered satin-cloth, his hair cut neatly in an unflatteringly practical style, bulging out from a purple cap of velvet. In his right hand he clutched his sword and scabbard, the belt hanging loose, as if he had brought them as an afterthought, a nod to the fact that the meeting was to concern war and that he was speaking in his capacity as Lord General of Trantio’s forces. He had been silent since told of the Pavonan conquest of Astiano, his attention fixed upon the map and the papers detailing his current military strength. Watching him were his chief secretary Master Maconi and the commander of the Compagnia del Sole, Captain-General Micheletto Fortebraccio. The only others on the battlement were the prince’s and the captain-general’s guards.


“It seems Duke Guidobaldo believes we are so afraid of events in the north that we are unwilling, even unable, to protest against his actions. The ambassador we received was without doubt here to gauge our fears concerning Miragliano, but not because Pavona wished to ally with us against the threat. Guidobaldo has other battles in mind, serving his own greed and lust for power. When he ought, by all that is right and proper, to stand beside his neighbours, he looks instead to snatch at what he can like a common cutpurse.”


The town of Astiano was not a possession of Trantio, but the prince had family there, and the merchants of both towns had good trade relations, even if the road between them was in such a poor state as not to warrant a scratch on a map. What annoyed Girenzo, however, was the fact that one neighbour thought to seize another, whilst not only keeping their intentions secret from him, but actively misleading him. And why did Guidobaldo think he had any right to conquer Astiano? If anyone had the right to rule Astiano it was him.

He drew his finger across the map, then tapped at Astiano. “I liked the duke of old, but not the man he has become. While I was busy cleansing this city of heresy and the improper influence of lower clergy and rabble rousers, he was encouraging such follies. Everything has its place in both the heavens and the earth, proper hierarchies both civil and religious. To raise one god above all others is – as our own dear city’s ugly past attests – to topple all rightful authority. The duke is playing with fire, fanning the flames of rebellion, burning down lawful precedents, and why? Greed. Just as the Arch Lector preaches how all Tilean princes should stand together in the service of Morr against the vampire duke, Guidobaldo instead cries ‘For Morr’ as he robs and steals from his neighbours.”

As he fell silent no-one present thought to comment. To speak now, even during the silence, felt like interruption. Eventually, he spoke again.

“I know this duke only too well, but his son, the commander of this army at Astiano – of him I know almost nothing.” He turned to look at his secretary. “Master Maconi?”

Recovering quickly from the discomfort of such a sudden enquiry, Maconi answered. “Your grace, the young Lord Polcario is, from every report I have heard, simply a soldier obedient to his father’s will.”

“Ah, but what kind of soldier?” asked the prince. “Soldiers, like dogs, come in many breeds. Is this boy a pampered lap dog? A turnspit? A hound or a spaniel? A shepherd’s cur or a bold mastiff like our captain general here?”

In response, Fortebraccio simply nodded, taking care not to show any discomfort. None but the prince could know whether the comment was meant to be in jest. Nor was anyone going to ask.

Maconi put his hands upon his hips, an action which accentuated his portly shape. The copious green cloth of his bonnet flopped to one side and the silvered badge of office beneath his black beard glinted in the sun as he answered.


“Oh, definitely a hunting hound, your grace. He is wholly given over to the practise of arms, to riding, hawking and the company of soldiers and knights. This may of course change as he matures, but at present his youthful straightforwardness makes him merely his father’s instrument.”

The prince gave a nod, both a sign of his understanding and that the secretary should stop speaking. “The musician plays the tune.”

Once again he studied the map, tracing the line of a path through the Trantine hills. “What of Guidobaldo’s other ‘instruments’? This army at Astiano – what does it consist of? How many mercenaries? And which companies?”

“Apparently none, your grace. The soldiers are Pavonan, though not mere militia hurriedly raised for the campaign, but contracted soldiers, well-armed and drilled. Astiano fell quickly.”

Once more the prince simply nodded to show he had heard. After a long moment’s silence, he turned to captain-general Fortebraccio. “Did the duke seek your service?”


The captain-general gave a smile of sorts, being one of the few men in the prince’s circle apparently untroubled by nerves in his presence. Of course, if he was, he would hide it, for it would not do for a condottiere to be so easily cowed. His head was uncovered, as he held his yellow feathered hat (a field sign of the Compagnia del Sole’s officers) by his side. His left hand rested on the pommel of his sword, its blade hidden beneath the generous folds of a copious cassock of scarlet cloth. His slashed tunic was blue, thus complementing the cassock to make the company’s colours.

“As was our right, your grace, we dispatched our chancellors to several realms.”

“He did not agree to your terms then?” asked the prince. He had only very recently re-hired the condottiere company, on a contract almost identical to the previous one. But he knew they had looked for better terms before they agreed to his.

“He procrastinated,’ said the captain-general, “while lecturing my chancellors on the proper worship of Morr.”

“As is his wont. Perhaps Sagrannalo’s spirit has returned to haunt us, having taken residence in the body of a foolish duke? Yet … can he be so foolish?”

“His star is in the ascendant,” offered Maconi. “While his son succeeds, his subjects are kept happy. The merchants of Pavona no longer have to pay Astonian tolls, and his citizen soldiers can share the loot they have won. Of course, there are some Pavonans who are not so content, for various reasons.”

He prince fixed his attention upon his secretary. “Are you suggesting,” he said calmly, “that I stir up insurrection amongst the duke’s subjects?”

“It was merely my intention, you grace, to report the situation,” replied Maconi, stumbling a little over his words. “Not to suggest anything at all.”

“Still, it is something we should consider. Who exactly is dissatisfied?”

“Those who remember how the men of Astiano aided them in their hour of need against the hill goblins forty years ago. Those who believe the city cursed by the ghosts of the victims of the plague, unquiet spirits who cannot rest because they know some terrible truth. Those who …”

“This is all by the by,” interrupted the prince. “I don’t want to hear of old men’s grudges, superstitious gossip and alehouse ghost stories. Does anyone of any consequence complain against the duke?”

Maconi pointed to a paper upon the table, one yet to be perused by the prince. “The dwarfen exiles, moneylenders and craftsmen in the main, have expressed their disgust at their banishment, and desire support for their cause.”

“Moneylenders.” Here anyone else would smile. The prince merely tilted his head a little. “Rich, then?”

“Not so much now considering their present circumstances, your grace, by which I mean having been driven from their strong-houses and robbed of their treasures, but with connections, no doubt, and practised in the skill of raising money.”

“And who would no doubt fall over each other in their scramble to raise monies for those who would aid them in their cause?” He picked up the letter in question and briefly perused its contents. “You must enquire as to their terms, master Maconi. Let us see how much gold they can conjure; how generous they are prepared to be for the right cause.”

Maconi bowed silently, and the prince pointed at the captain-general.


“In the meantime we will show our troublesome neighbour both our displeasure and what forces we have at our disposal, whilst ensuring our strength is maintained. I would have this done in such a way that we are able at any moment to turn northwards should the situation require. The soldiers of your company should find such an activity satisfies their lust for action and their desire for rewards. This shall be performed strictly according to the terms of our contract. Do you understand, captain-general?”

Again, General Fortebraccio smiled. “Yes, your grace, I understand. A punishing show of strength, incurring little loss amongst my men. That’s exactly what we do best.”

Prince Girenzo turned the map around so that the captain-general could look upon it the right way up, and launched immediately into instructions as if the whole plan was already carefully weighed and reckoned. It was clear he had not been idle during his silences.


The Duchess Departs

'Capture the Duchess' Battle Scenario

Summer 2401, Ebino, northern Tilea

‘The Vampire Duke Allesandro Sforta of Miragliano is attempting to capture the Duchess Maria of Ebino (his first cousin once removed). She is concealed amongst her Ebinan forces, disguised as a soldier, and is attempting to get away from Ebino to safety. The vampire player will not know which figure represents her. Her own soldiers are committed to helping her escape. To escape successfully (and thus ‘win’ the game) she must get from her deployment zone to the opposite table. The vampire Duke’s deployment zone intersects with the Duchess’s escape zone.

To make things more challenging (otherwise this would be way too easy for the vampire player) there are two little forces coming to help - both part of the background stories already produced for the campaign. Maria’s second cousin (the vampire Duke’s own nephew) Lord Guglielmo is racing to her aid, and she also has an agreement with the shadowy Arrabiatti Brotherhood, who are thus on their way too. Their arrival zones are marked on the long edges of the table.

The Arrabiatti (light horsemen) are the closest, and they will arrive in turn 2 on 4+, in turn 3 on 3+, and from turn 4 onwards on 2+.

Lord Guglielmo has further to travel. He arrives in turn 2 on 6+, in turn 3 on 5+, in turn 4 on 4+ and in the remaining turns on 3+. It is possible that one or both may not actually arrive during the game at all.

If the duchess makes it off the escape table edge she has avoided capture. If she makes it off another table edge she will only escape if her forces kill one of the two Vampires in the Undead army during the six-turn battle. This is because if one vampire dies, the other will be too concerned with maintaining the army’s manifestation in the world of the living to chase off after her.

If the Duchess is captured early, or killed, then the more of the enemy forces the vampire player destroys, the easier they will find it to capture the town of Ebino by siege.



Ebino, Summer, IC2401

The preparations were made, and the Duchess was as ready as she could be for the dangers ahead. Thankfully she was an experienced rider, for if it were not so then her disguise would be useless. She was cloaked in green, armed with a spear, armoured in mail, and wore an iron helm just like the other horsemen in the little company. It had been suggested she join the knights instead, and clothe herself in full plate armour, riding a barded warhorse – an idea the knights themselves had readily supported for then they would have the honour of personally defending their lady. But she herself had refused, for she knew she would be discomfited by the disguise, unstable in the saddle and unable to ride anywhere near as fast as a successful escape was likely to require. Once the knights realised that by not accompanying her they would instead have the ominous honour of sacrificing themselves in combat to fend off the foe rather than simply pelting from the city as fast as their mounts could carry them, then they readily, if somewhat darkly, accepted the idea that the duchess would ride with the light horse.

If only the duchess had heeded the advice of her council and left already, then this desperate ploy would not have been necessary, but she could not be moved (in any sense of the word). Most stubbornly she had insisted she would stay with her people as long as possible and only when it was certain that Ebino could not hope to survive alone would she leave in an attempt to fetch help. Now was indeed the time.

The walls of Ebino were strong, moated and in good repair.

The walls of Ebino were strong, moated and in good repair.


Against any other army such defences would prove a mighty challenge, and a bloody one. Against the already dead, however, they could only delay the inevitable. As long as the vampire commanders re-animated their fallen, their shambling rank and file would press on remorselessly. They did not even have to collect faggots and billets to fill the moat, but could simply pour walking corpses in until a ford was made, and then after the others had crossed, the sodden corpses they had trod upon could arise and claw their own way up the ladders to reinforce them! Even with ample stores of food supplies, which would have counted for much against a mortal foe, Ebino could not hope to withstand a long siege against such an enemy as this. There was also disease to contend with, and the sheer terror of being surrounded by such hellish foes day and night. The duchess was forced finally to accept that unless a substantial relief force were to come, Ebino’s horrible fate was sealed.

The foe proved to be not only terrifying, but numerous as well. Thanks to a westerly breeze, the stench of the zombies and ghouls amongst their ranks preceded them. These proved to be the least of the threats they had to offer: there were also monstrous horrors with blue-tinged flesh, and black armoured knights illuminated by a wickedly hued glow.


A brace of vampires led them, including the vampire duke himself. No-one in Ebino knew who his companion had once been, perhaps some captain of the guard? That was certainly the role he seemed to be playing now, his golden armour marking him out amongst the ranks of a heavily armoured unit of foot soldiers. Their blades glowed green and unnatural, surely a consequence of the potent magical energies binding them to this realm.


The vampire duke rode with a band of hellish knights, their steeds long since bereft of flesh, with eye sockets that burned with a blue light and the ragged remnants of silken ceremonial barding fluttering about their legs. Each rider clutched a sturdy lance, and sported rusting armour of archaic design – the very armour they had been interred in long ago.


Upon the far the right of the vampire duke’s line strode a band of hideous monstrosities, as big as ogres, though ganglier and more horrible to behold. They had pierced themselves with shards of bone, perhaps to stimulate rigour mortis ridden muscles, or perhaps simply to appear more ghastly?


From a tower top near the town gate the dwarfen engineer Welleg could hear the clanking of the levers and wheels that raised the portcullis. From beneath the hood of his red-woollen cloak puffs of smoke emerged, as the cannon crew he commanded busied themselves to ready their machine, stripping off the lead apron from the touch hole, pouring and bruising the powder, and knocking the ash from the slow-match in the linstock over the parapet. Welleg peered over the walls and decided upon his first target.


The gates swung open, and out came the Duchess Maria’s soldiers. One of her two companies of mercenary crossbowmen led the way, rushing off to the right to find a spot from which to launch their bolts. Behind them, marching steady and purposefully to the sound of a brass kettle drum, came the famous Ironsides – each dwarf sporting a banner upon his back. Behind them came her knights, almost wholly armoured from hoof to head.


The race was on!


The Battle (Save the Duchess)

Welleg’s cannon boomed and the ball smashed one of the Black Riders to pieces. The crossbowmen moved boldly off to the flank, between the moat and the road, while the Ironsides regiment marched directly forwards down the road, thus allowing the knights and the light horse to cross the bridge before the gatehouse. Unknown to the foe, the Duchess was now outside the walls. Captain Sir Giorgio was only too aware. He rode ahead of her, in command of the knights, and now began scrutinising the foe’s disposition, desperately determining how best to get the Duchess safely past the foe and away.


The vampire duke’s force simply moved forwards, maintaining a neat front – a goal made easier by the fact that the Black Riders could move directly towards the house in their way, able to move ethereally through it any time they liked. The broken bones of the rider shattered by iron shot moments before now re-knitted themselves together until the rider rode with his comrades once more, as if nought had happened. The dwarfen engineer Welleg, peering through a pocket perspective glass, swore quietly. If a direct hit by 9 lb of iron proved so harmless, then what use was he and his gun? Still, if he could hit the vampire duke, that would surely prove distracting, and distraction was everything when the Duchess was trying to escape.

Suddenly, in front of the undead army, five rotting, blood-smeared zombies burst from the ground …


… a sight which caught Captain Sir Giorgio’s eye immediately. He too swore. There were already too many enemies, and here even more were being summoned. He brought to mind a prayer to Morr, and began repeating the first line, “Mighty Morr, Lord of Death, deliver us from the corruption of Undeath,” over and over. Before him the dwarfs had finally cleared the junction before the moat, creating a gap sufficient for him and his company. Spurring his horse, he led his knights through it, glancing behind to ensure that the light horsemen were following as had been the plan. They were. Just as he began to turn to face the foe once more, he caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye, something beyond the crossbowmen, within the shadow of the walls.


At first his stomach knotted as he thought it must be more undead, but then he saw it was horsemen, living men on living horses, with no banner to mark them out and a mish-mash of arms and armour. The Arrabiatti! They had come as they had promised.

He saw now that one amongst the riders was looking his way, and indeed raised a staff as if to signal him, to say ‘Good Morrow’! White haired, white bearded and robed in faded blue, it was Lord Totto himself.


Perhaps, thought Sir Giorgio - quite surprising himself with in the process – perhaps we can succeed? Lord Totto was a wizard, and apart from blessed priest of Morr there was surely no better ally to have when fighting the already dead. Perhaps the duchess could escape and Ebino could be saved?

Lord Totto and his riders were, of course, ignorant of the plan. But a man such as he could not be so foolish as to not realise something was afoot. Why would so weak a force issue forth from the safety of the walls if not to attempt some sort of breakout, or to target a particular foe? The enemy was far too strong to beat in the open battle. Whatever was happening, Lord Totto had given his word to come to the Duchess’s aid, and he intended to do all that he could. He had already prepared some spells, and what with the Arrabiatti being known as the ‘shadowy brotherhood’ his magics were drawn from the lore of Shadow. Conjuring a Penumbral Pendulum he aimed it at the vampire on foot ahead of him. But its effect fell so short it seemed a pathetic gesture, and with foe’s massed ranks shambling ever closer, he began to wonder whether he had joined a great folly.


A flurry of crossbow bolts flew over Lord Totto’s head and felled four of the recently raised zombies, while Welleg’s second cannon ball ploughed into the earth before the same vampire Totto’s spell had failed to reach. It seemed the demonic creature was blessed with wickedly good fortune. (Game note: I knew he would use ‘Look out sir’ even if I did hit him, but I was desperately clutching at any chance to kill one of the vampires and thus - as per the scenario rules - allow the duchess to leave by any table edge. She could simply stroll off the side.)

The massed regiment of skeletons looked to be preparing to charge Lord Totto’s company, lurching forwards some distance, but their advance slowed and they resumed their previous lethargic pace. As the Black Riders did indeed move through the house as if it were nothing more than mist …


… the vampires redoubled their efforts to conjure up necromantic magics. They were rewarded by the death of one Ironside dwarf as a Curse of Years took hold, and the summoning of eight zombies to reinforce the lone zombie up ahead. The horror that had once been Duke Alessandro watched with dead eyes set in pallid flesh, his snarling mouth revealing wickedly curled fangs.


The dwarfs, marching as best they could down the road, could sense the malignant potency of the debilitating magics wreathing them, but their pace, slow as it was, did not lessen one jot.


Captain Sir Giorgio commanded his knights to reform as swiftly as they could, hoping to do so whilst moving forwards to screen the light horse behind. He knights might have succeeded too, if it were not for the horrors amassed before them – they reformed well enough, but took too long over the action. The light horse funnelled through behind them and took position on the far left, while the dwarfs – although the least well equipped for the task – marched on in their own attempt to screen the duchess’s escape.


Lord Totto sensed that whatever the Ebinan’s were up to, they were doing it on the other side of the road, so he ordered the Arrabiatti to ride behind the crossbowmen, then to halt facing the foe so that he could fathom how best to assist. He could just make out Sir Giorgio shouting encouragement to his men, telling them that their moment had come, and that here and now they would prove their true worth.


Once again Welleg’s piece sent a ball within a whisker of the vampire leading the Grave Guard, and once again the dwarf cursed. A handful of zombies were felled by crossbow bolts. This was not enough. The enemy came on, the remaining zombies charging into the dwarven flank …


… while the ghouls tried but failed to join them. The shambling monstrosities on the far right of the undead line now changed places with the Black Knights, as the vampire duke himself looked suspiciously at the green-cloaked light horse and wondered whether his cousin must be amongst them.


The massed regiments on the undead left, including an ever-swelling horde of zombies, came on too, disheartening all who could see them.


Wicked magics emanated from the vampires: two more dwarfs succumbed to another curse, while a cruelly enchanted gaze killing five of the Arrabiatti, sending the rest, including Lord Totto, galloping towards the town gates simply to remove themselves from the horror of their fallen comrades tortured, lifeless faces.


The dwarfs killed the last of the zombies and now prepared themselves for the real test – before them stood the snarling, viciously clawed crypt horrors. The Ironsides knew they could not allow such a foe to get close to the duchess. Vanhel’s Dance Macabre magically moved the Black Knights even closer, forcing Sir Giorgio’s hand. If he did not charge now he would lose his chance. He could not afford to allow the enemy knights to charge him and his men, so, with a desperate cry (and with the dwarfs also charging by their side) he urged his men on and they thundered boldly into the much more numerous foe.


The Duchess Maria watched grimly, and knew this was likely to be her one and only chance. If her knights could stand for but a few moments, if their armour could protect them against the first blows, she might just be able to make it past the foe and escape. So, breaking off from her escort, she dug her spurs deep into her mount’s flanks and dashed forwards.


Both units of crossbow, on the wall and on the field below, send a flurry of bolts at the Grave Guard and brought down seven. Welleg’s curses grew louder as another shot from his cannon ploughed into the dirt only a foot or so from the vampire. The dwarfs crewing his gun flinched at the fury of his voice, yet busied themselves with reloading regardless, for it is in a dwarf’s nature to see things through to the bitter end.

On the field below the Ironsides were certainly doing so, not only standing firm …


… but even felling one of the horrors. The knights did not fare so well. When they came to grips with the foe, they were also gripped with fear. Sir Giorgio was no longer shouting, but screaming, his bellowing commands having twisted into a tortured and wordless sound.


The foe proved too much for him and his men, and as three knights died, the rest broke and fled. The vampire duke commanded his Black Knights to stand, then turned the body about. He now knew exactly where his cousin was, and he did not intend to lose her.


As the ghouls crashed into the beleaguered dwarfs’ flank, a gust of magical wind allowed a mass of newly summoned undead appeared on the field, reinforcing ever unit that had so far been damaged, as well as creating yet another body of zombies. Umpteen ironsides now fell, and the last few remaining finally succumbed to fear and fled pell-mell away. There was no-one to help the duchess now – every unit on her side of the field, apart from the light horse, was broken, battered, beaten; and the light horse were too far away to help. She was all alone. The vampire duke grinned, revealing his razor-sharp fangs, evil intent writ upon his face. He began to raise his hand, ready to signal the chase, when suddenly the sound of thundering hooves caught his attention. His nephew, Lord Guglielmo, had arrived (Turn 5 – better late than never).


Without hesitation, Guglielmo galloped his veteran knights right up to the undead, while the duchess desperately rode on behind. <em>(Game note: I was cursing the no march move within 8” of the enemy rule!)</em>

The green cloaked horsemen, for want of a better way to sacrifice themselves, now charged into the newly raised zombies. Lord Totto had rallied the last of the shadowy brothers and cast a withering spell against the foe, but it proved weak. Welleg cheered as his next shot flew directly at the vampire, then collapsed to his knees in frustration as he watched a skeleton push the vampire out of harm’s way at the last moment.

When the horrors broke into a run, Lord Totto turned and fled yet again. Foul magics curled after him, bringing down three of his companions and grievously wounding him. He hurtled over the bridge and through the gate, entering the town. He did not linger, however, not even to tend his wounds, but rode right through and left by the far gate. Lord Guglielmo would not flee, instead he braced himself as his uncle and the Black Knights charged, vowing not to yield to fear. (Pass fear test, now 568 points of undead were fighting 185 points of knights and lord!)


The vampire duke laughed gleefully as he closed upon his nephew, and the two joined in personal combat. As living horses whinnied and snorted in terror, their undead counterparts simply ground their teeth. Steel rang as blade clattered against blade. And in the midst two Sforta lords, from both sides of the seam that divides the living and the dead, fought. The outcome was inevitable, even Lord Guglielmo had accepted that, but all that really mattered was how long he could keep the vampire duke occupied.

Somehow, though no living witnesses can explain how it was so, he survived just long enough to save the duchess. Finally, as she fled into the hills, the vampire’s cold blade, a horribly curved butchery tool, carved him in twain.