The Battle of Five Armies

Prologue

King Belegor stood on the battlements of his stronghold, observing the movement below. The dwarf engineers of his half-brother Baragor cut down trees to build siege engines. Belegor smirked, there would be no hope for them. He had no doubt of the skill of his enemies, but no amount of siege towers and battering rams would be enough to prepare them for the battle to come. A loud boom broke his concentration and he saw a cannonball almost hit one of the engineers who hunkered down behind a cut down tree. The gnomes he had paid to arm his battlements with black powder weaponry laughed at the dwarf who was crawling for better cover. The next shot from the other swivel gun missed him by inches.
“Stop wasting ammunition!” Grunted Belegor.

Gorgi Killshot, the leader of his artillery detachment yelled something in the crude gnomish language and the laughing seized. Belegor hated the gnomes, he hated a lot of things these days, but most of all he hated his half-brother Baragor who thought he could just march to his doorstep with an army and defy his rightful rule.
“I want them to reach the walls, only then we can truly crush them, crush their spirits”. Holgar, the gatekeeper of the stronghold nodded.
“They will be ready soon my lord” he replied.
“Yes, but we have been ready for this for a long time. There will be no throne for my half-brother to sit on."

THE WAR FOR ALLGRIMMS SUCCESSION  

Chapter I

Arrows flew back and forth trough the air, Thorgen Wallbuilder and his engineers kept on pushing the battering ram towards the gate despite of the incoming projectiles. Fjodor Rednose, the thane of famed clan Brunni, watched sadly as his lord Baragor's bodyguard, Hammers of the Valley, pushed a siege tower next to the wall. The siege tower, although built by dwarfs, was not occupied by them. Earlier that morning the leaders of the alliance had had some sort of a debate on who should lead the vanguard and somehow they'd reached the conclusion that the elven lord, calling himself "The Bright Emissary", would be the first one to attack the walls with his Swordmasters. This did not sit well with Fjodor and he could only imagine how it would feel like to his king. He looked at a dead elf lying on the ground next to him, muddy and rotting. This elf was not a part of the mysterious force that joined the siege army just a day before the attack, he had been lying there for at least a month. Could this dead elf be the reason for this unexpected arrival of a new ally?
“We must join the attack” Said Fjodor's wife Helga the Fierce, the champion of his axemen. Fjodor nodded and put on his plumed helm, taking a two-handed grip on his great axe.
“Axemen of Clan Brunni! Our king Baragor needs us to silence those guns on the wall, and we shall deliver, charge!” The fearsome warriors clad in red and blue took their ladders to the wall.

Duke Elgar watched the forces hit against the wall and he was glad he had not yet committed any of his forces to the fray. He was not afraid of the bloodbath, no, he was a knight of Bretonnia and he had always known he would meet his end in a glorious battle, but such waste of life he was witnessing made him sad. The mighty elven warriors clad in cloaks made from fur of a white lion were climbing the wall with ropes, taking a volley after volley from the red-hooded gnome archers above them. Of the ten huntsmen the Bright Emissary had brought with him only half ever reached the battlements, and these were nobles who had been training in the arts of war many times longer any man could hope to live.

On the right flank the retinue of the Bright Emissary attacked the dwarfs defending the wall. Elgar could see a shirtless orange-haired dwarf berserker walk to the ramp of the siege tower issuing a challenge to the elven lord. This brave gesture spoke to Elgar, who had always favored single combat over a mindless slaughter of a war. The duel between the elven lord and the dwarf champion did not last for more than a few of seconds, the headless dwarf falling from the ramp. The rest of the grey-cloaked dwarf warriors fared a little better against the wrath of the sword masters. In the middle the dwarf named Fjodor Rednose, whom he had made friends with, led his brave (although drunken) axemen atop the wall, one of them getting decapitated by a close range shot from a swivel gun.
“Should we join our allies my lord?” asked Elwin Drakespear, the knight champion of Elgar's retinue.
“Not yet Elwin. Remember that no matter what end this sorrowful siege comes to we must protect the realm. It is better that we commit only after we see where our forces are needed the most”.



The distant cries and sounds of explosions unnerved Guddi Gundersson. He was watching the battle unfold atop of the Mole Hill, his loyal townsmen behind him. Although Guddi was the Mayor of Mole Hill, a mining village named after the hill they were standing on, he did not enjoy the responsibility at the moment. He had given the loyalty his militia men to the cause of King Baragor, believing that he could make the blue valley safe again. Belegor, the current king of the blue mountain keep, had let goblins and other wicked creatures pass the lands unchallenged and constant raids threatened the villages of the valley. Even so, now that he was watching the carnage from afar he wondered if he had made the right choice for his people. Ten of his marksmen had joined the siege force and who knew if they would ever come back.

A mighty bellow made Guddi's blood chill and as he turned around, he saw a gigantic figure coming out of the woods straight towards his village. “Giant!” cried the villagers running here and there in panic. Guddi knew this giant, it had been the scourge of his people before, Big Krunk was the name given to it by the goblins and it was here again. Logansson brothers turned their swivel gun in haste to face the new threat, but their first shot was wide and hit the roof of Magilla Mudfeet, the village druid's hut.
“Watch where you point that thing!” cried the woman. At the same time Bertrand the Brigand, the famous bowman, came out of the brewery finishing a stout of ale with his Bowmen of Bercerac following him. Their eyes widened as they realized that there was a giant coming towards them not far away. The bowmen loosed a volley on the beast, but the great drinking contest last night had left its mark on their accuracy and not a single arrow hit the giant. The mighty killer laughed as it strode over a barricade built to protect the village. Guddi knew there was no wall that could protect them from this threat. Bertrand and his bowmen ran back inside the brewery. Understandable, thought Guddi, but his men could not get to cover before the beast would reach them.



The winds of magic flowed strong on the battlefield and even though Hugo was no wizard, not even close, he could feel it when Barabas the Wise summoned his powers to smite the gnomes on the stronghold wall. There was an explosion on one of the towers, followed by screams of pain and Hugo was sure this was because some spell Barabas had set loose on the enemy.
“We must reach the stronghold fast, our mission lies there” said the venerable wizard.
“Then what are we waiting for, lets go!” roared Bronn the Berserker and started running towards the fight. Bronn was a peculiar figure thought Hugo. He was at least two meters tall and wore only a loincloth and a cape of bearskin, still he had never seen the barbarian to show any caution or worry for his own life. Hugo thought such a man would be easy to spot on a battlefield, and a good target for enemy archers. Barabas and the rest started running towards the stronghold and Hugo had a quick glance at all of his companions. Bronn might be interesting, but there were no ordinary characters among them. Arduin the Ranger let an arrow go, but Hugo could not see if it reached the walls or hit anything. Drunn the Slayer ran as fast as he could with his stumpy legs, his face in a permanent grin with teeth bared. Bruna the Bard was the second dwarf of the seven, but he couldn't have been any more different from the violent slayer. He wore a leather armor (instead of just pants and a headband) and preferred to fight with a short bow. Then there was the White Knight, possibly the strangest of the companions. He was a man, or at least Hugo was pretty sure this was the case, a hulking creature clad in a white full plate armor and scrolls. Still this was no ordinary man as far as Hugo knew; he had seen many men in his time, tall men, short men, violent barbarian men such as Bronn and fine noble men like Duke Elgar he had met couple days earlier in the camp, but the knight was different from all of them.

The White Knight was taller than Bronn, much taller, and he fought with a cavalry lance even thought he took to the battlefield on foot. The knight protected Barabas and for that task he carried a huge pavise shield, usually used only by heavy infantry in the more stationary tasks, but the knight used the shield with the ease a normal man could use a buckler. Hugo was scared of the giant man, even though he had protected them in many dire situations. He reeked of death and never spoke a word, or ate, or slept, or died even when impaled by a horn of a rampaging rhinox. Surrounded by such might Hugo was wondering what was his reason to even be in the company of seven, or the suspicious seven, as they where known by others. As they ran towards the keep, Hugo heard the howls.



Chapter II

The gate was breached and dwarf siege engineers armed with pickaxes flowed into the courtyard. They were met with a surprise, a band of trolls found in the caverns below the fort and enslaved by its dwarf denizens. Thorgen Wallbuilder managed to duck when a huge war hammer swung over him and took the life of two of his men. The siege engineers retaliated fast and started hacking the trolls with their heavy pickaxes, but all of their efforts seemed to come to nothing. Thorgen hacked the arm off from one of the trolls, but it started growing back as soon as it fell. Thurr and Jurgen were eaten and Grungi Halfman lost his head from a brutal swing of a clawed hand, but they would not back down.

King Belegor admired their courage, they were dwarfs after all, and had the situation been different he would have happily let them change to his side. He looked up and saw that the walls were almost lost. Hrurr Fellaxe was dead and his Grey Cloaks were executed with swift blade strokes by the elves. The elven commander had killed at least four of his warriors, including Hrurr, and was now walking down the stairs blade and armor red from dwarf blood. In the middle of the wall, just above the gate, Belegor saw Fjodor Rednose's warriors charge the organ gun Gorgi Killshot had turned at the elves. Five dwarfs were cut down by a brutal salvo, their mail armor and shields offering no protection against the terrifying weapon. Black Bronn Bronsson was the first one to reach the gun and armed only with the clan banner and a helm in his other hand he struck one of the gnomes, breaking its neck. Gorgi jumped from the battlements to save his life as the rest of his artillery crew was cut down by the furious drunken axemen.

Now the elf sword masters were down at the courtyard and attacked the trolls who were beating the siege engineers mercilessly, Thorgen Wallbuilder laid at the ground wounded or dead. Belegor felt nothing but contempt for the elves, but even he had to admit that the grace and efficiency with which they killed all five trolls in a matter of seconds was impressive.
“Ruegar!” he yelled at the commander of his personal guard.
“Yes master” hissed Ruegar the Red, a short, hunched dwarf with a red beard and a dark cape bearing an icon of a red eye.
“The walls are lost and the trolls slain, we will make our last stand in the tower”. Ruegar nodded and gave the orders to the stoneguard, Belegor's personal regiment of hardened warriors in full plate armor the color of dark skies. Just then Belegor heard distant horns and the howls of wolves. Finally his allies were here.








“Wolves!” somebody screamed, followed by terrifying cries for help from the Mole Hill village. Elgar turned his attention to the source of the screams and saw goblin wolf riders running through the fields towards the village.
“What should we do my lord?” asked Elwin Drakespear. Elgar glanced at the battle raging on the walls and then back to the village. He saw Guddi Gundersson lead his brave militia to face the giant, their spears wounding the beast, but they would be overcome by the hundred wolves heading their way.
“We will do as knights should, we will protect the realm. Turn around - we are heading for Mole Hill!” The Bretonnian army turned to face the new threat, bowmen loosing a volley after volley at the advancing greenskins and the men-at-arms forming a shieldwall to protect the backs of the forces breaching the castle walls.

Chieftain Dogbreth grinned as he strode on his black wolf towards the brewery he was tasked to pillage. The raiders armed with bows screening the army were already engaged in a light cavalry battle with the mounted yeomen of Bretonnia. Dogbreth enjoyed the villagers' desperate cries he would soon reach and silence, but just as he was about to give the command to dismount, a volley of arrows cut down six of his warriors. Another volley followed and two more goblins fell, their wolves running away. The arrows were coming from the brewery and he could see bowmen he recognized as the famous Bowmen of Bergerac he had heard many cautionary tales of.
“Forward!” he screamed and his regiment started advancing towards the brewery, arrows flying over their heads.

Duke Elgar saw his loyal castellan Beren and his light cavalry being chased off by the wolves. One of his knights was already killed by a lucky arrow loosed somewhere behind them, hitting the neck of the unsuspecting knight. They were surrounded by vile goblins and wolves and his men-at-arms were almost killed to a man by the wild hobhounds. Elgar realized that this could well be his final battle and it saddened him that it would be against such lowly creatures as goblins. He saw Guddi Gundersson bravely kill a giant with a stab to the kneeling beast's neck and thought that if there would be someone on this forsaken battlefield he would sacrifice his own life (and possibly the lifes of his loyal knights) for, it would be for the people of this village. He saw a huge mob of wolf riders advance on the dwarfs defending the hill and gave the order.
“Knights of Bretonnia, charge!”




Fjodor finished the last of the gnome archers, cutting the creature in two with one strike. The elven warriors in white fur cloaks thanked him. Only two of these brave creatures lived, their white and green outfits now dark red from the blood and viscera.
“What is your name, brave dwarf?” asked the leader of the unit.
“Fjodor Rednose, of clan Brunni! And yours.. elf?”.
“I am Althwin Longstride,  huntsman to the Calarion family. I thank you for your assistance.” Fjodor did not like elves too much, in his opinion their attitude was too superior, but this elf was a warrior like him, and like him the elf and his men were armed with great axes.
“It is nothing! What say you if we finish this fight together?” Althwin nodded and the two elves accompanied rest of the clan Brunni's axemen towards the stairs leading to the courtyard. Fjodor saw the Bright Emissary standing in the courtyard with the remaining of his sword masters.
“King Belegor! My name is Elrahil Calarion and you killed my brother”. King Belegor came to the battlements of the dark tower, his face grim and his armor adorned with the heads of his three cousins who were loyal to Baragor.
“ Is that so, elf? I have killed so many in my time. Not many elves though, but I think that will change today.”  Elrahil was furious.
“ You shot him in cold blood a month ago in front of your castle. He was carrying a white banner and requested an audience.” Belegor laughed.
“There is no audience in this world I would grant to your kind, elf!” Another figure appeared to the battlements, but this was no dwarf. A tall man wearing a strange cape with skulls for shoulder guards and a huge iron helm. The figure murmured some words and cast an evil spell on the elves. Dark energy surrounded the sword masters. Elrahil did not let this stop him, as he was no ordinary warrior. Fjodor had witnessed the elf lord cast spells in the battle and still wear a heavy armor as well as wield a two-handed sword with a grace superior to the other sword masters. Elrahil's troops broke the door of the tower and a bloody melee broke out with the dwarfs inside.



Some form of dark magic guarded the tower, making the elves weaker and no matter how hard they fought they fell one by one. Only Elrahil and his champion remained and they retreated from the tower. Belegor marched out, behind him Holgar Holgersson the gatekeeper and the rest of the stoneguard.
“You want to fight me, elf? I did not order your brother killed. I was in the dungeons below at the time, but I did order his body to be left to rot as a reminder that we do not like visitors.” Elrahil took a two handed grip on his great sword.
“I, Elrahil Calarion, sentence you, King Belegor, to die” A mighty duel broke out between the two superb combatants. The grace in Elrahil's swordwork was no more and pure rage was the only thing left. Blows were exchanged with such a ferocity that no other warrior present would have had any kind of chance to survive it more than a few seconds. Suddenly Elrahil found an opening in Belegor's guard and thrust his sword straight through the kings clavicle, breaking bone and tearing muscle in the process. He drew his sword out and black ichor-like blood gushed out of the mortal wound. He had killed the chaotic king, of that Elrahil was certain, but the cost was dire, as every last one of his sword masters were killed and he had no idea where the rest of his force was, or if they were even alive.

Fjodor watched the events unfold from the stairs about twenty meters behind the elven warrior. Baragor and his guard arrived beside them, they had been delayed by an ambush set up by orc slaves. Now all of the defenders were routed except for the Stoneguard and the Dark Emissary atop the tower. Elrahil was just about to wipe his blade clean, when King Belegor, presumed dead, suddenly stood up and grabbed his sword by the blade. The stunned elven warrior did not have time to react as Belegor lifted his maul, The Kingslayer, and delivered a mighty strike straight the elf's head. Elrahil's finely crafted helm protected him, but such was the strength behind the blow that it broke his neck, killing him. Althwin of the White Lions was in a shock. He felt everything going black around him. Baragor ordered a charge and the Hammers of the Valley and Clan Brunni's axes advanced on the dread foe.



Hugo was scared, really scared. There was killing all around him and Arduin and Drunn of the Suspicious Seven laid dead on the ground.
“We cannot reach the castle” said Bronn. “We must! If we don't all of this has been for nothing”. Bronn looked Barabas deep in the eyes and said
“You are already wounded, what good do you think we can do in there?” Hugo looked sadly at the men of Bretonnia who were chased down by wolves. He saw chariots at the distance, one of them clearly the commander of this army of evil creatures, a huge goblin riding a chariot pulled by a gigantic white wolf.
“They are all going to die” Hugo whimpered.  Barabas glanced at the battlefield, thinking for what felt like an eternity. He did not flinch even when arrows whistled right past his head.
“So be it” Barabas turned to Bronn. “Let the beast out, my friend”. Bronn smiled and let out a blood-chilling roar. Right before Hugo's eyes he turned into a gargantuan bear as big as a giant. The five living members of the Suspicious Seven charged at the chariots and their wolf riders, Bronn running through a wagon made from scrap pieces of wood and operated by tiny greenskins. The wolf riders fired arrows at the beast with a little effect and panic started spreading in the goblin ranks. Bronn destroyed another chariot, smashing it into pieces and ripping the wolves pulling it in chunks of meat. The king of the goblins turned his chariot around trying to avoid the bear, but Bronn caught him, hurling the goblin across the battlefield and crushing his chariot to splinters. Still alive but badly hurt, the goblin commander did what the rest of his army on this side of the battle did and ran. Bronn let out a roar that was heard all the way to the Mole Hill and turned back into a man. Awestruck Hugo stared at the berseker laying on the ground.
“ Is...is he dead?” he managed to ask. Barabas turned and started to walk towards the village.
“No, he is just sleeping, but we must go now, if we are to do any good for the people of this valley”.









Elgar fought hard, but it was a losing battle. All of his knights were dead or gravely wounded on the ground and his horse was going to die soon. A new giant had emerged on the battlefield, crushing one of his knights with a tree trunk before being killed itself by a sudden charge of Elgars loyal castellan Beren and his mounted yeomen. Also the yeomen were now dead and Elgar had ordered Beren to retreat.  He was all alone against many, like the knights in the stories his wet nurse told him when he was just a boy. He thrust his blessed sword into agaping maw of a giant wolf, but the goblin on the back of the beast managed to stab him with a crooked spear. Elgar gave a final glance at the Mole Hill; mayor Gundersson was still alive, but his militia was under swift attacks from bands of wolf riders. One more thrust of his sword killed another goblin, but the red-eyed creatures overpowered him and he succumbed to the wounds. Last thing Elgar saw was the dark banner carried by a laughing goblin chief dressed in a grotesque knight's armour, the banner bore a crudely painted picture of a severed head bleeding bright red streams of blood from its neck. Elgar hoped his head would not make a trophy for some goblin, and after that there was only darkness.



Just moments after Elgar had passed, the four members still active from suspicious seven charged the goblins, the White Knight impaling several with his lance. Hugo did his best to secure the body of the noble bretonnian and stabbed one goblin in the face. The goblin did not die from the wound and pushed Hugo to the ground, and just as the cackling creature was about to deliver the killing blow,  Barabas cut its head off.
“It is not your time, little one” the elderly wizard said. The White Knight drove the rest of the goblins off before falling to the ground. The battle for Mole Hill would be soon over. Goddi Gundersson had secured the hilltop, but the Bretonnian camp nearby had been totally ravaged by looting goblins. In the village Bertrand had led his men so effectively that they had killed almost all of the raiders under chieftain Dogbreth taking no casualties in return. The wolf riders had retreated to a hill closeby, no pursuit had been made since that would have been a sure way to get killed. The great goblin army was scattered, but not defeated by any means. Still because goblins were not great independent thinkers it would take them a long time to regroup for an effective offensive and the danger was over at least for a while.

In the courtyard of the stronghold the final battle raged. There were almost a hundred bodies scattered all over the small space and the combatants had to climb on top of dead trolls and other unfortunate warriors. Baragar in all his golden glory charged Belegor who had issued a challenge to him. The winner would claim the castle and the loser would die.
“You are traitor to your true king, brother!” snarled Belegor, striking with Kingslayer. Baragor managed to parry, but the strike had so much power the stumbled over a dead elf.
“You are not fit to be the king, the people have spoken.” Belegor hit Baragor again, this time breaking his left arm with the blow.
“Which people? Our cousins? They do not have voice any longer!” said Belegor, his dark armour's shoulder and helmet spikes mounting the heads of their relatives. Almost all of the warriors from Baragor's bodyguard were dead and only the bearer of the Blue Mountain banner, Halvar Stronbrow remained. Fjodor with his wife and a handful of axemen fought on with Althwin, but the odds were not in their favour and they were forced to retreat.  Atop the tower the Dark Emissary cast spells to drain the life force from the attackers. Baragor got up with great effort and gave a clumsy one-handed lunge with his sword, which Belegor easily dodged, striking his maul straight to the abdomen of the golden dwarf lord. Blood splattered on the golden runic armor.
“There will be no throne for you, or any other usurper here!” roared Belegor. Baragor lifted his sword.
“There is no throne for you either”. He thrust his short sword to Belegor's throat all the way to the hilt. Dark blood gushed out of Belegor's mouth, there was no regenerating from such a wound. The brothers fell together into the pile of bloodied bodies. Halvar Strongbrow cried openly, he had abandoned his lord and retreated near the gate when pushed back by Belegor's remaining Stoneguard. Holgar Holgersson was unbelieving of the fact that his king was dead, and he ordered a retreat to the dungeons under the stronghold. The remaining Stoneguard formed a shieldwall and retreated in order. The battle was over, but there were no winners.

Epilogue

The fighting had seized some hours ago, and hundreds laid dead on the battlefield. The stronghold was mainly taken over by those loyal to Baragor, but the tower and the dungeons still remained in Holgar's hands and it would be a long wait if the attackers would hope to starve them out. Of the Bretonnian contingent only the bowmen survived and the elves suffered as badly with only six remaining from the thirty elite warriors Elrahil Calarion had brought with him for the quest for revenge.

The survivors of the Suspicious Seven sat on top of the hill. Bronn was still sleeping and the White Knight was in some sort of a comatose state, although Barabas assured he would bring the hulking warrior back to life sooner or later. The elderly wizard was not happy - the emissary of ruinous powers had escaped them and was lurking somewhere underground with the remaining warriors loyal to fallen Belegor.

Elyr Luvaris, the leader of the elven Shadow Warriors attached to Elrahil's retinue, walked among the dead looking at the devastation in horror. She had been ordered for rearguard duty by her commander and they had fought the ambushing orc slaves, and after that she led her troops to save the surviving men from the goblin wolf riders. Only now had she heard that Elrahil had fallen. She had also learned the true purpose of their mission, and even though she understood revenge, she found that taking part in a quest unsanctioned by their king had left her honor tarnished. She walked to the camp where rest of the survivors had gathered and sat next to Althwin.
“What will you do now?” she asked the huntsman. Althwin looked her with hatred in his eyes.
“I will go back to our king and ask for his pardon, and then I will gather forces and march back here to end this.”
“So more revenge?” said Elyr with sadness in her voice. Elyr looked at the survivors, one group stood out in her eyes. “Who are those?”
“They are called the Suspicious Seven”. Elyr found the name silly.
“But there are only six of them.”  She looked at the group, the wizard was obviously the leader, next to him sat a halfling eating more than his own share, then there was the bard who was already composing songs of the battle and next to him two huge men laying on the ground. One figure was sitting apart from the others and Elyr recognized the old dwarf as Halvar Strongbrow, but now he was without an armor and dressed like dwarf slayers usually do. Althwin looked at the group.
“Oh so there is! Maybe you should go and ask if they are recruiting”.


2 comments:

  1. Tosi hyvää tekstiä sekä proosan että kielen suhteen! Menee ihan natiivin kirjoittamasta ja oli viihdyttävää luettavaa. Kuvissa on myös mahtava tunnelma, tuli hyvät buustit askartelumotivaatioon! :)

    -Mikko

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    1. Cheers Mikko! Joo täälläkin FB-figuprojektien fiilistely jatkuu.

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