Author Topic: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story [Library]  (Read 110211 times)

Offline Douchie

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Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story [Library]
« on: February 20, 2007, 03:53:56 PM »
Added to the Library: http://www.warhammer-empire.com/library/tales/iron1.php

Hello all,

This piece of work started life as a brief history of my empire army. Needless to say the thing has gotten steadily out of hand. As is the case with most of my projects.

I will post the background in small manageable parts so that you don't get prematurely bored with it (He says with fingers crossed)

Army link in  Brush and pallet  http://warhammer-empire.com/theforum/index.php?topic=39846.0

Part I
The Pieces move

Heinrich Voltz sat huddled under his grey winter blanket, his back resting against the wall of an old barn. Both his arms and legs still ached from the forced march of the last two days. He yarned and slowly stretched himself out of his slumber.

As he opened his eyes the sunlight of the new dawn shone from the glittering puddles of water that covered the cobblestone courtyard of the Manor house. The brightness of the sun light made him flinch. It had been a restless night for the men of his regiment and Heinrich wished he was back warm and dry in his own bed.

The storm had only abated a few hours earlier and everything was still waterlogged. Heinrich’s wet jacket stuck to his body like a second skin. His leather waistcoat and blanket had completely failed to keep out the rain. Heinrich shivered intensely and could feel the first signs of a fever. The young swordsman coughed before lifting the blanket back over his head. His vain attempt to escape reality and return to a state of slumber failed miserably.

His uniform was still only a couple of weeks old; yet it barely resembled the smart green and yellow tabard and troos he had been awarded upon completing his training. The knees and elbows of the uniform had already started to scuff and wear away. One of his knees even sported a patch that he had cut from his grey blanket. The proud green and yellow slashes of his uniform had faded to a degree where they simply appeared as different shades of brown.

During his swift induction to campaign life Heinrich had acquired a studded leather waistcoat at his own expense. The State of Stirland suffered from a severe lack of wealth, which meant that very few men were lucky enough to obtain a breastplate or any form of armour from the Quartermaster General. Many soldiers had to make do with what they scavenged for themselves as spoils of war.

Heinrich had, like countless others who enlisted into the Stirland State Army, been required to attain much of his equipment personally. Along with his studded leather jacket he had bought his huge, now waterlogged, blanket, a sturdy leather backpack, lantern, flint, polish, sowing kit, whetstone, skull cap and spare socks.

The soldier lamented upon spending a whole gold crown on the ravens skull he now wore on a brittle silver chain around his neck. The priest of Morr had promised that it would provide protection for evil spirits. Heinrich just hoped it would prove adequate protection against Sylvanias invading armies.

Huddled under the heavy blanket Heinrich thumbed his, now almost empty, money pouch. He had spent almost all of the six gold crowns he had received upon completing training. Most he had paid straight back to the hand of the Quartermaster General as payment for the equipment he needed. Had he been duped to sign up by the promise of six gold crowns? The simple answer to that was yes.

He had three copper coins left to last him until the next pay packet arrived from Wurtbad. With the State now in open war with the Undead, Heinrich would soon find out how far away that eagerly awaited day actually was.

The recruit frowned as he remembered the smile on the face of the Quartermaster General. He had handed back four of his six gold crowns as soon as he had received them. It was a common ploy by the Stirland Army. In this way it recouped much of its expended funds. The gold coins could then be offered to the next lucky recruit.

It was not like an enlisted man could refuse to buy this ‘vital’ equipment from the army stores. Attending the Regiments’ morning assembly with an incomplete kit was the fastest way to be flogged and thrown into the stockade.

After spending many water soaked nights feeling quite aggrieved by the situation, Heinrich had decided to accept his lot in life. The young recruit had come to realise that he was actually far luckier than many of men who served in Stirland’s Army.

As a cadet he had excelled during his training and as a result had been hand picked into the 14th Regiment of foot. The 14th was unit of swordsmen known across the Old World as the Iron Skulls.

The ‘Iron Skulls’ were unlike many other regiments in service. With the Scarlet Guard Halberdiers and Count’s Greatswords aside, very few others were so well maintained. Low morale was almost unknown even during times of dire peril.

All of this was down to the Units Commander, Baron Mikel Von Schroeder. The Baron personally supplied his swordsmen with their uniforms, shields and side arms.

Such actions did much to endear Von Schroeder to his men. Many of the Barons’ peers knew that he had inherited much debt along with his title. Despite years of campaigning and plunder he was not a rich man, even by the lowly standards of Stirland.

Baron Von Schroeder’s regiment were considered quite a rarity among the units that made up the core of Stirland’s armed forces for other reasons, beyond that of the quality of their equipment.

Many of the existing state regiments were armed with either half-pike spears or halberds. These units were much cheaper to equip and maintain than a unit of swordsmen, thus proving less of a demand upon the States already overstretched economy. Further more it was much easier to train the under-educated masses of rural Stirland in the ordered drill used by such units.

Swordsmen needed to be skilled fencers and were often romantic figures that hailed from the urban centres of a province. A recruiting ground that was very uncommon in the agricultural heartlands of the empire.

The regiment was further distinguished by the dark red kite shaped shields that they carried into battle. Each of the shields sported a skull motif that had been carved out of bone by craftsmen in Wurtbad. Despite all of his bellyaching, Heinrich was proud to be a member of such a renowned regiment.

Heinrich eventually forced himself to stand up and look for food. He shook the water from his blanket as best he could. It was then folded tightly and tucked through his belts so that it came to rest on his left hip. He ran his hand backwards through his short blond hair, flicking the water from it as he looked around.

Other swordsmen flittered around the courtyard of the walled manor house. The smell of breakfast was already in the air and the young recruit’s empty stomach ached in anticipation of his first proper meal in days.

Opening his backpack, Heinrich reached inside and fumbled enthusiastically for his tin dish and fork. Feeling his way through the many items that he had managed to stuff into his bag Heinrich was unaware of Corporal Steinman’s approach.

‘Not so fast soldier!’ barked the ill tempered Corporal. ‘Breakfast is for heroes Herr Voltz’

Heinrich’s head sagged and he let out a long sigh rather louder then he had intended. He looked up promptly to assess whether the Corporal had heard his protest. Unfortunately for the recruit he had, and a firm hand grabbed his shoulder and lifted him to his feet.

‘Seems to me that we have a slacker in our ranks’ announced the red faced corporal to no one in particular, but loud enough for everyone in the courtyard to hear.

To Heinrich’s relief no one seemed to acknowledge Steinman’s outburst and simply continued with their morning tasks.
‘My apologies corporal, I only…’ stammered Heinrich, only to be cut off in mid sentence.

‘Get you equipment in order!’ barked Steinman, ignoring the soldier’s futile defence. ‘I need volunteers for reconnaissance duty.’

‘Yes Sir!’ conceded Heinrich with a salute.

His tone came across dejected even through he had tried to cover the disappointment in his voice. It was best not to give the Corporal too many reasons to reprimand him. Over the Steinman’s shoulder he could see that the men of his company had raided the nearby Chicken coup and slaughtered a pot bellied pig.

Heinrich realised that he would miss out on a relative feast. The young swordsman was somewhat crestfallen as Corporal Steinman passed him half a ration of dried meat. Dejected Heinrich shoved the dubious looking supplies into his backpack. He was surprised that soldiers could be expected to survive on such poor quality food.

‘Beef jerky... again’ he conceded silently.

Heinrich followed the plump corporal across the courtyard with his head down. His concentration was fixed on cramming his personal effects back into his backpack while getting his other equipment in order.

His sword, shield, belts, hat, skull cap and back pack all had to be checked and straightened. Every few steps Heinrich looked up to find the corporal had out distanced him. The recruit had to brake into a jog to keep up with Steinman’s brisk pace every time he fell behind.

Corporal Steinman came to a sudden stop a few yards from the door of the farmhouse, where two other men were standing. The look on their faces told its own story. It was clear that they too had missed out on the luxury of a cooked breakfast. Heinrich still had his head down and had failed to notice that the corporal had stopped until the last possible moment. Looking up he saw the back of Steinman only inches from his face. Heinrich threw himself off balance in and attempt to avoid crashing into the ill tempered Corporal and instead fell into the mud at his feet.

‘Up! Clumsy Oaf’ Shouted Steinman with a sly kick to the young mans chest.

Heinrich stumbled to his feet as quickly as possible to avoid any further punishment. He took up position beside the other two men and stood to attention.

‘Muller… Schilbaden’ Boomed Steinman pointing at each man in turn.

‘Take this… Fool… with you and scout the road ahead as far as the Rohrwald Forest.

The Iron skulls will follow you as soon as we are reinforced by the rest of Von Schroeder’s column.’
Kurt Muller and Albrecht Schilbaden nodded as Steinman continued.

‘And keep your damn eyes open! Recent reports from local huntsmen have it that small groups of Undead have been raiding as far west as the river Steyr. If you see anything, report back here, to me, immediately. Stay focused and for Sigmar’s sake keep your wits about you… Ok!’

‘Yes Corporal’ the three soldiers answered in unison.


ANTON VON HELMBURG adjusted himself in his saddle with a long winded yawn. His long exhale was more a show of his apathy than an indication of tiredness. He turned to face his second in command, Martin Keats, who had drawn his horse alongside his.

‘Sigmar damn the world, patrol… Again!’ snapped Anton in a tone of utter disgust.

‘Yes Anton, It would seem so’ answered Keats with a sarcastic smile etched as always across his face.

Anton raised his left eyebrow and sighed before continuing.

‘It’s no wonder that Stirland finds itself in such a sorry state!’ Anton paused and gestured to the landscape around him with his hand. ‘When her noble youth is wasted on such menial tasks as this… The sooner I win my bloody spurs as a knight the better for everyone involved… Eh Keats?’

‘Of course cousin, of course.’ agreed Keats, as disinterested with his relative’s constant rambling as ever.

Anton Von Helmburg was a rash young man even by the standards of an Imperial pistolier. He was well noted amongst his peers for his fiery temper and stubborn attitude.

As was the case with most pistoliers, Anton’s father had funded the young man’s armour, clothing, equipment and even his mount. What set him apart from the other young nobles was the sheer quality of the items he displayed about his person.

His family was one of the richest in all of Stirland and Anton made no effort to hide this fact. He wore a grand dark green fur lined coat with gold leaf detail. It had been imported all the way down the River Reik from the ports of Marenburg.

His armour had been crafted by the Dwarven smiths employed in Altdorf. The gold trim and design of the breastplate was a thing of wonder, especially for a man that hadn’t even gained his spurs as a knight.

Anton complemented his grand attire with a red felt riding cap. The hat sported huge swan feathers, which had been dyed many bright and extravagant colours.

The young Lord Von Helmburg looked every part the rich and powerful nobleman. Underneath he was nothing more than a spoilt brat.

He hated Stirland for what it was. A poor backwater province that struggled to hold onto any semblance of its former glories. He hated every man of Stirland. He hated the lazy peasantry and common folk whose ignorance had (in his eyes) perpetuated Stirland’s demise. Contempt for the masses was not a rarity among the aristocracy, however Anton also deeply despised the incompetent ruling class. Sigmar curse them all for failing to recognise his genius, his military prowess and his steadfast devotion to the Sigmarite faith.

In truth Anton did have considerable assets, despite his best efforts to undermine them with his attitude. He was as skilled a swordsman as could be found east of the River Stir. He had mastered the art of pistolier warfare, and had shaped his command of arrogant hot headed nobles into a formidable fighting force.

Unfortunately his over zealous devotion to himself and his own career had done much to hinder his advancement into a knightly order. Anton Von Helmburg could not see past his own greatness and for this he hated the world.

The fourteen pistoliers of Von Helmburg’s command remained stationary upon the Praager Strasse road for several minutes while their commander put the whole world to rights in an extensive and agitated tirade. Only when Keats interjected did Anton’s rambling come to a close to an end. Needless to say the commander’s deputy was submitted to a choice collection of Stirland’s more colourful insults for this interruption.

The unit of pistoliers eventually started down the road towards their destination at the canter. Anton Von Helmburg assumed the lead of the column with all the pomp and ceremony of Karl Franz himself.

The horsemen disappeared down the track towards the small hamlet of Gablitz that lay on the eastern fringe of the Rohrwald Forest. The rest of Baron Von Schroeder’s force was making its way down the same road from Tenneck. The bulk of his column was still miles away and by eleven o’clock that morning was still over half a days march from where Anton Von Helmburg’s Pistoliers had paused for breakfast.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2011, 01:42:50 PM by Douchie »

Offline wissenlander

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2007, 04:48:47 PM »
If all of your writing is like this, it won't be boring.  I like your style, very gritty and the characters are real.  It was a quick read because of the pace and the description was enough to let you know what's going on but wasn't decadent and weighty.  HOOZAH to you!
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Offline Douchie

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2007, 05:28:24 PM »
 Thank you for your kind words Wissenlander. This is my first post in a while so im glad you didn't fall asleep :wink:

Here is the next part of the background-

Again Enjoy!

THE THREE SWORDSMEN were ready with-in a matter of minutes and Corporal Steinman conducted a brief inspection of his men before they set out on the patrol. 

The first man in the line up was the twenty-nine year-old Kurt Muller. This man was a rarity among the soldiers of the Iron skulls who were mostly slim and agile fencers. He was of broad build and one of the few men in the unit above 6 feet tall. He had dark hair and rough beard. He was equipped with an expensive looking breastplate that he had scavenged during his time with the regiment. Kurt had a strong northern accent and hailed from the region of Vorderbergen on the Ostermark border.

Next to the towering figure of Kurt Muller was the older form of Albrecht Schilbaden. He was of standard build and was originally from Stirland’s capital Wurtbad, although he had not set foot there for over a decade. He was one of the oldest men in the regiment at forty-seven. His beard was grey in parts and he wore a standard issue helmet that covered his balding head. He displayed a deep scar above his right eye, which he claimed was an old war wound. In actual fact he had been kicked in the head by a horse in his youth. As a result of this injury his speech was often slow and fragmented.

The third man in the line up of Steinman’s ‘volunteers’ was the most recent addition to the Iron Skulls Regiment. Heinrich Voltz was still only nineteen, but had distinguished himself as a militia man during a number of engagements around the Leithag Hills the year before. His recruitment into the Iron Skulls followed six months of training in Wurtbad. Heinrich was a skilled swordsman even by the standards of his renowned regiment. For reasons unknown to him he had somehow angered the regiment Drillmaster. Corporal Steinman seemed determined to destroy his self belief one way or another. 

In actually fact the Drillmaster’s close attention was born out of the simple fact that Heinrich was the most recent member of the regiment. Corporal Steinman was an orthodox style of leader and always gave a fresh recruit the harshest of inductions into the Iron Skulls Regiment. In his eyes this ensured that by the time a recruit saw action they will have developed a ‘healthy fear’ of him. Steinman knew that if a recruit feared him enough, then they would follow his commands in the heat of battle without question. The rank and file of the Iron Skulls knew that it was better to die at the hands of the Empire’s enemies than to suffer his wrath after the battle had been won.

Steinman ran through the fine details of the reconnaissance mission with the three men for the second time. Heinrich however, found that he was unable to concentrate fully on the instructions reiterated by Steinman due to the ache in his empty stomach. His gaze shifted towards a number of men frying eggs off to his left. Steinman, who was quick to pounce on any minor indiscretion, noticed immediately that Heinrich’s mind was else where. He knocked the young man to his knees with a firm backhand and followed with an animated verbal assault. This time he managed successfully to draw the attention of every man in the courtyard.

During this distraction Kurt Muller, who was by all standards an extremely competent scavenger, put his skills to good use. Six eggs and several pounds of fresh bacon disappeared from under the nose of a regimental cook. The cook, like everyman in the courtyard, was too intent upon learning about the more interesting details of Heinrich’s lineage, to notice the missing food. Kurt was back in line and standing to attention when Steinman, turned again to address his scouts.

‘Like I said before keep your Sigmar cursed eyes on this one’ sneered the Corporal who proceeded to clip Heinrich around the ear.

‘He won’t be any trouble sir… I’ll vouch for him’ announced Kurt, much to Heinrich’s surprise.

Heinrich Voltz had found it very difficult to even speak to another enlisted man. Corporal Steinman’s constant close attention had made him quite an undesirable man to be associated with. The last few weeks he had felt like a Halfling in Wurtbad. Tolerated but despised. Perhaps now with Herr Muller’s backing he had started to be accepted by the other men.

The three soldiers set off under the watchful eye of Steinman. Passing under the arched gateway the led out of the courtyard. Heinrich turned to Kurt and thanked him for stepping in on his behalf.

‘Well it had to be done lad’ answered the gruff swordsmen. ‘Besides I kind of owe you one’

‘For what?’ questioned Heinrich with a confused look on his face?

‘For our… breakfast son’ interjected Albrecht with a stutter. Kurt took the recruit’s puzzled expression as his cue to toss him an egg from his knapsack. 

Heinrich caught it and smiled at the two older men. His stomach groaned in delight.

‘You took this while Steinman punished me didn’t you?’

‘No Heinrich’ replied Kurt ‘That would be stealing.’

STIENMAN’S VOLUNTEERS MADE a steady pace for the first eight leagues of their journey. Heinrich had at first struggled with the pace that the Iron Skulls marched. Albrecht noticed that the young man was hiding a limp during the regiments’ journey from Tenneck, but had said nothing. Despite the constant dull pain in his leg Heinrich conceded that the further he did march the less he seemed to notice it. The past few days had proven to be more of a problem than usual. The damp conditions, caused by an almost continuous down pour, seemed to aggravate the wound terribly. At least today the good weather seemed to be holding, thought Heinrich.

Heinrich Voltz had received the wound behind his left knee during his first ever engagement.  A zombie had grabbed him by the leg, only to have its arm severed at the elbow. Unfortunately for Heinrich the animated claws of the undead creature continued to close its grip on his limb. Blinded by adrenaline and the heat of battle he had not noticed this until the fight was over. Only the medical skill of his Bretonian colleague Cedric had saved his leg.

‘An… old wound’ stated Albrecht nodding towards Heinrich left leg.

Voltz nodded and continued on. He felt slight embarrassment that his limp had been noticed. The men walked down the road in silence for a few more steps.

‘Vinegar, silkweed and wool!’ exclaimed the older man.

‘I don’t understand’ replied Heinrich looking to Kurt for further explanation.

‘He’s right lad… as always. I used a clump of wool soaked in vinegar and silkweed when I broke me foot. Still use it now on wet days such as this. It lessens the pain and stops it tightening up.’

Albrecht passed Heinrich a leather pouch containing wool, linen and a small bottle of silkweed mixed with vinegar.
‘Keep it’ he added.

The men stopped a few minutes later, by the side of the road. They unburdened themselves of their equipment and prepared for breakfast between a number of large stone blocks. There were eight stones in total. All were about seven feet tall, broader and deeper than the base of a great Oak. The stones were set in a loose circle about thirty paces across. In the centre was a larger stone alter. The land of the Empire was littered by a number of such ancient monuments. Many were already ancient in the time of Sigmar himself. Heinrich was at a loss to their purpose, but was surprised when he felt a niggling feeling of something unnatural when he approached them. A strange burnt smell like that of ozone filled the air. The young man dismissed his concerns, putting them down to his overactive senses. Kurt and Albrecht seemed completely unfazed by the monument and Heinrich was comforted enough by this to enter the perimeter of stones.

 Heinrich’s companions set about using the foreboding features as a wind block. They set a small fire in a matter of minutes. Kurt proceeded to fry the eggs and bacon he had commandeered from the regimental cook. The smell was like heaven to Heinrich, who had not eaten in what seemed like an eternity. He busied himself with rolling up the left leg of his trousers and applying Albrecht’s ointment to his wound.

‘By the blood of Khrone!’ exclaimed Kurt upon catching sight of the wound behind Heinrich’s knee.

‘It looks like you had a run in with a bloody Ogre!’

‘How did you?’ enquired Albrecht who had noticed the wound following Kurt’s outburst.

Heinrich explained about the night-time skirmish and the zombie that wanted to get to know him a little more intimately. The people of Stirland were well noted for their interest in stories and fables. Kurt and Albrecht listened on intently.

As he continued with his tale Heinrich finished wrapping the silkweed and vinegar soaked wool with the linen bandage and tied it off. Pulling his trouser leg down he proceeded to tuck it into his leg brace. The young man stretched his leg and then finished telling his story. He noticed that when he mentioned his Militia Captain. Alfred Marsdon, the two older men exchanged looks.

‘You know him don’t you’ asked Heinrich.

‘We know of him’ replied Kurt ‘He served with the Scarlet Guard Halberdiers’

‘When he wasn’t locked up in the stockade!’ Added Albrecht.

The three men laughed.

‘Yep that’s Alfred’ said Heinrich as he chuckled to himself.

‘He lost a leg at the Battle of Leithag Hills didn’t he?’ questioned Kurt, now quite interested in the recruit’s tale.

‘He did aye’ replied Heinrich looking down at his feet. Heinrich Voltz felt his heart sink a little when he thought of Alfred. The last time he has seen his old commander was when he was carried from the field of battle. A smile found its way back to Heinrich’s face and he began to chuckle again.  He remembered vividly how the old man had fought with two young priests because they forgot to pick up the remnants of his leg. 

‘So that’s what our Corporal Steinman has been complaining about lately’ sniggered Albrecht as Kurt continued to laugh. Seeing a look of confusion again descend on Heinrich’s face he answered the recruit unspoken question.

 ‘Our Corporal Steinman is married to old Alfred’s niece.’

‘And guess who he’s gone to live with, now he can’t look after himself.’ Added Kurt unable to hide his amusement at his corporal’s misfortune.

The men completed their meal in good sprits. Heinrich mopped up his bacon and eggs quickly with a piece of stale bread that he had been saving. Seeing a look of jealousy etched upon Albrecht’s face he quickly split it with his companions, much to the veterans’ gratitude. Kurt patted the young lad on the back and commented that he would fit in just fine.

‘Just don’t go getting yourself killed or anything daft like that lad’ he added.

‘Well I wouldn’t want to upset you now would I?’

‘Ha… wouldn’t want to see…a …grown man cry’ laughed Albrecht.

Kurt almost gagged on his food, surprised by the old mans quip. Spitting out the contains of his mouth he made an attempt to reply, but instead burst into laughter.

The men exchanged more war stories and tales of their home towns. Kurt added to the good humour when he offered around a flask of hot mead he had heated on the fire. When asked by Albrecht where he had ‘found’ it the Northerner simply shrugged. The soldiers drank it quickly, and then forced themselves up with stretches and protests. Once the fire had been put out and their kit secured the three men started off down the track towards their destination.

Most of the region they passed was populated by sporadic farmsteads with high walls and no windows on the lower levels. The buildings were designed like this all along the border with Sylvania. The high walls and out of reach windows turned the farms themselves into little fortresses when attacked. Even a small number of armed men defending such a building could have some hope of holding their assailants at bay.

The region of Eastern Stirland offered little quality. The dead soil made it difficult for a man to grow crops or keep any number of livestock. Stirland’s border with Sylvania offered little but the bleakest of lifestyles for its inhabitants. It often troubled more civilised folk why people still chose to make their homes here. The main reason was that due to harsh reality of the region, it was often overlooked by the Elector Counts’ over-zealous tax collectors. As a result people were able to sustain themselves well enough.

As the three companions continued on, they passed many such farmsteads, but did not encounter another living soul. The local residents had obviously been scared away. Very probably by the same travellers and refugees that Heinrich had seen more and more of during the last few days. In recent weeks the soldiers of Stirland’s Eastern army had encountered many such groups of displaced people. All had exaggerated tales of countless undead legions descending from the borders of Sylvania. Some prayed to Sigmar for their salvation while many more fled west with all the possessions they could carry.

It was only when the sun began to descend behind the hills to the west; the men noticed the movement of horsemen about a half a mile to the North. They were heading in a similar direction to Heinrich’s party. Kurt jogged off toward a ridge further north of the track. Despite taking a closer look he was still unsure as to the identity of the horsemen. Heinrich felt his stomach churn. He had witnessed Undead cavalry once before at the battle of Leithag Hills. The charge of the black knights had almost shattered the Imperial flank. Many had perished by their sword. The thought that the horsemen may have been Undead continued to plague Heinrich. Both Kurt and Albrecht held similar fears. The good mood of the scouts descended into one far more serious. The men felt alienated and alone. They spoke very little for the remainder of the day. Every step felt weighted, but they pushed on regardless.

« Last Edit: February 21, 2007, 04:21:22 PM by Douchie »

Offline wissenlander

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2007, 05:42:24 PM »
Good stories are hard to fall asleep by!
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Offline Waldek-Mat

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2007, 07:19:34 PM »
Very good story, I wait for the next part. :eusa_clap:

Offline Captain Tineal

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2007, 08:18:35 PM »
"That would be stealing..."

Loved that.  Nice work, I'll be waiting for more.
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Offline Lachieo

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2007, 02:54:52 AM »
Wow great story, keep up the good work
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Offline Douchie

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2007, 09:12:44 AM »
Here is the latest instalment. enjoy

THE ARMY OF EASTERN STIRLAND broke camp around the town of Tenneck an hour before sunrise and advanced towards the borders of Sylvania. The town awoke to find the fields around it deserted of the tents and men that had littered the landscape for almost a week. Most of the grass had been trodden to mud by the passage of the soldiers. It would be many days before Tenneck returned to any semblance of normality.

Baron Mikel Von Schroeder sat hunched on his huge black destrier. He had come to a halt by the side of the Praager Strasse road. Around him his entourage were busying themselves with the details of the coming campaign. Mounted messengers arrived and left frequently. Soldiers meandered past the command group in droves and it was clear that the Baron commanded a considerable force. Eight hundred state soldiers made up the elite core of his army. Archers from the Stir River patrol advanced at the head of the column. They were followed by units of spearmen and halberdiers that marched in ordered formations. A number of old war machines were dragged between the units by large oxen and were protected by handgunners from Wurtbad, who marched on their flanks.

The bulk of Von Schroeder’s command was made up by over one thousand militia who had answered the call to arms. These men marched in disorderly bands compared to the formations of the professional soldiers. They were equipped with a wide variety of weaponry that included old fashioned swords, half-pikes, axes, clubs and pistols. The very presence of so many irregulars gave the army an ad hoc, erratic feel.  Priests of Sigmar and Morr walked up and down the line as the companies of men marched by. The preachers inspired the troops with tales of Sigmar and the heroic Count Martin. Groups of men slowed down when passing the warrior priests. Soldiers seemed intent upon hearing as much of their tales as was possible. In the East of Stirland, the whole landscape appeared to be in motion.

The army crested the summit of the hill where Von Schroeder sat and surveyed the terrain to his fore. The column then descended into the valley below like a living stream. A number of men upon recognising their General removed their hats and helmets to cheer to him as they past by. Mikel raised his hand in response and nodded.  The soldiers cheered again and Stirland’s war cry could be heard from further down the line.

‘Victory or Death!’ was the chill call as it rippled down the column. Von Schroeder smiled. The men of Stirland had heart. Ill equipped and poorly supplied, yet they would march on in high spirits regardless of what foe they moved to engage.

The battle of Hel Fenn in 2154 demonstrated Stirland’s stubborn military resolve. A unit of state halberdiers held the line stoically against Manfred Von Carstein’s undead onslaught. The heroic and costly stand bought the Imperial forces time to launch a decisive counter attack. The regiment was renamed the Scarlet Guard after the battle. Mainly due to the fact that almost every survivor was covered in head to toe in their own blood and that of the comrades. In honour of the terrible losses sustained by the regiment, its uniform was changed from the state colours of yellow and green to scarlet red. Von Schroeder knew that they would need every bit of the iron will demonstrated at Hel Fenn in the coming months. 

The Baron Mikel Von Schroeder sat in his saddle awkwardly; he adjusted himself every few minutes in a vain attempt to find some comfort. He had been an officer of foot for most of his career and did not take kindly to horses. While his station as a Baron required that he ride, it was not uncommon to find him marching and fighting along side his troops. The Elector Count of Stirland, Albrech Haupt-Anderssen had scolded him a number of times for what he considered was unfitting behaviour. Upon their last meeting, in the chamber of war in Wurtbad, The Boy Count had advised Mikel;

‘You are a noble man sir. Best that you remember it!’

The Baron frowned as he remembered the confrontation.  The young Elector Count held stern views upon how his subordinates should represent the State of Stirland. He had made it his personal crusade to raise Stirland up from the depths of the depression that had ravaged the land for generations. Von Schroeder had apologised to the Elector Count even though he did not share his views on what makes a good general. To Baron Mikel Von Schroeder honour and bravery were a general’s greatest assets. He knew that once the battle reached its climax he would be where he always was, on foot and fighting where the mêlée was most ferocious.

By night fall the Army of Eastern Stirland was still over twenty leagues from the encampment of the Iron Skull’s Swordsmen. Von Schroeder had sent his own regiment ahead of the main column two days earlier. He required a competent force to hold the advance of the undead incursion if it turned north-west towards Wurtbad. The Baron knew that the Iron Skulls could hold long enough for him to re-enforce them in strength, rather than having to rush blindly into the fray. Von Schroeder had every confidence in his swordsmen and their senior officer. In the Barons absence the 14th was commanded by Henri Frey, a notable Duellist from the northern town of Marburg. Frey was an acute tactician and an excellent fencer. His humble background as the son of a blacksmith had kept him from elevation into the pistoliers; however Von Schroeder had recognised his promise and tutored him from an early age.  Now twenty-eight Henri Frey commanded the Iron Skulls more often than not.

Offline wissenlander

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2007, 01:45:51 PM »
Keep them coming (if possible).  This is good stuff.  My stuff is put to shame by this. :blush:
Me and Wissenlander had babies!

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finding photographic evidense that Wiss smiles is going to be hard...

Offline Mordenkai

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2007, 02:12:52 PM »
Very well written, Sir.

You just made my lunch break perfect.  :biggriin:

Keep 'em coming.

Best regards,


Offline Douchie

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2007, 02:52:41 PM »
Im glad that you are enjoying my work. Wissenlander you are too kind sire! :biggriin:

For those of you that requested more... here you go.

Hostile Encounters

Heinrich, Kurt and Albrecht continued down the track until almost an hour after dark. Each man was unnerved and could feel something close by, as if stalking them. The trio kept an unspoken agreement that they would not make camp until they found adequate protection. Tales of the recent undead incursions in the area weighed heavy on Heinrich’s mind and gave further rise to his caution. The other men shared his concerns. Normally the white glow of Mannslieb, the greater moon, provided a comforting light for those unfortunate enough to travel the roads of the Empire after dark. Tonight however, it failed to relieve their apprehension.  The scouts were all to aware that the lesser moon Morrslieb was higher in the sky than normal. This was often a sign that the ruinous powers were stirring in the land of Sigmar. As the night wore on the lesser moon appeared ever larger and more dominant than its twin.

The combined glow of the two moons illuminated the surrounding landscape under an eerie mystical glare. Even the most common of natural features like rocks, streams and clouds took on a menacing ghostly feel. The branches of trees appeared to reach out hungrily to tear at their clothes. The howl of the wind masked primitive mutterings and chanting just out of ear shot. A heavy mist had slowly crept into the land and now smothered the whole landscape. Each man scanned their surroundings anxiously; in the faint hope they would stumble across somewhere to escape the misery of the night.  As the soldiers marched on, their legs became lost to sight. The unnatural sea of vapour seemed alive. Rising and falling like waves. Even at its most shallow point the living mist reached as high as the knee.

It was Albrecht that first noticed the small farmstead that rose from the barren landscape roughly seventy feet to his left of the track. Heinrich’s fear lifted for a moment, with the hope of salvation. As they moved closer to the buildings, the men fanned out slightly so that they were about six feet apart. They advanced without a sound until they were ten paces from the walled compound.

‘That’s far enough!’ challenged a voice from the gateway.

Heinrich almost jumped out of his skin.

‘We are state soldiers of Stirland and require shelter from this accursed night… We mean you no harm’ answered Kurt with his hands now raised. He advanced slowly towards the gate.

‘I said that’s far enough! Hold fast damn you!’

Kurt paused. And glanced to his side to see both Heinrich and Albrecht crouched with their shields raised and swords in hand. Albrecht looked to Kurt and shook his head.

‘We have marched from Tenneck and require rest’ the lofty northerner responded.

Kurt listened intently for a reply, but none came for well over a minute. He made a move to step forward but heard a distinctive click.

 Kurt threw himself to the ground, as the loud crack of a firearm thundered through the silence of the night. Albrecht instinctively sprinted for the gateway to close the gap before the gunner could re-load. Heinrich followed suit and chased the veteran towards the gate.

Another click. Albrecht lurched to the side and raised his shield as the gun again exploded. Heinrich saw the flash of the gun barrel to the side of the open gate. He led with his shield and smashed it into the waiting man’s face. The man lurched backwards and fell to the ground holding his bloody features. Heinrich levelled his blade to the man's neck.

‘Yield!’ he demanded sternly.

The man lay still, but refused to let go of the smoking pistols he held in his hands.

‘What in Sigmar’s name is this?’ Demanded a voice to Heinrich’s left.

Heinrich Voltz turned slightly so that he could observe who had addressed him. In the darkness he saw a figure emerge from the door of the main farm building. The man on the ground attempted to get up but realised that the swordsmen’s blade had not yet been withdrawn. Heinrich looked down and shook his head.

‘Release my trooper… Now!’ ordered the man as he cautiously approached the gate way.

Three more men filed out of the farm house. They held their ground following a hand gesture from the first man. The authority of his demeanour told Heinrich instantly that this was the leader of the group. An awkward standoff ensued. 

Heinrich held his sword firm and eyed the commander vigilantly. Under his gaze, the man paced carefully into view. A torch on the eastern wall of the courtyard now illuminated him. From his armour and attire Heinrich identified that he was a young nobleman, a pistolier perhaps. As the gentleman turned to face Heinrich, he saw the brace of pistols hanging from his right shoulder.

‘Stand back sir’ answered Heinrich. ‘Or you will lose your trooper’

‘And what then?’ replied the pistolier following Heinrich’s gaze down to the prone man lying at his feet.

Heinrich clenched his sword tighter. The pistolier could see that the cornered man was running out of options. The pistolier took a step back attempting to ease the tension.

KURT PICKED HIMSELF up from the ground. The side of his head sang with pain and he felt blood running freely down his face. Fighting to his knees he felt as though he might choke. The mist had consumed him as he fell and now his nose stung with its arid rotten stench. Regaining his senses he fought to open a large pouch on the side of his belt. Kurt then proceeded to pull out a white silken scarf. Undoubtedly this was yet another item he had ‘acquired’ on his travels. Tearing a strip form it he rapped it tightly around his head and tied it off.

Looking up the tall northerner could see Albrecht crouched with his back against the wall of the farmstead sword and shield in hand. Kurt shrugged off his over-loaded pack and reached for his shield that lay on the ground beside him. The swordsman slowly drew his blade and crept over to the veteran. As he approached the farmstead Kurt could make out voices. One of them was clearly Heinrich’s

‘Put you sword down!’ demanded the other voice.

‘What so that you can shoot at me again? Your man here opened fire without due cause.’ Heinrich tapped his sword on the prone mans chest.

‘An unfortunate mistake I assure you’

‘It was no mistake sir. We introduced ourselves clearly and this…’ Heinrich paused as he realised is mistake.

The only man who knew that he was not alone was the bloodied pistolier at his feet. With a sword resting against his throat he was unlikely to risk sharing this information with his comrades.

  Kurt banged his head against the wall as he heard Heinrich’s slip.

‘Sigmar’s Balls!’ he blurted, as he realised they would soon be discovered.

He was about to make a run for it when something caught his eye.

‘So there are more of you then’ questioned the pistolier as he looked through the small gap between the half closed gate and archway. He couldn’t see anything through the mist and darkness.

‘There were… Yes’ answered the young swordsman looking down towards the man at his feet.

‘And where are they now?’ asked the pistolier. He had already guessed that the gun shots that woke him had very probably claimed the soldier’s companions.

‘That all depends on how good a shot this bastard actually is?’ Heinrich felt an overwhelming desire to plunge his sword into the man’s chest.

The situation inside the court yard was quickly heading towards an inevitable and bloody climax. Before the state of affairs had time to escalate any further a heavy clatter broke the strained silence. The gate behind Heinrich burst fully open. Two more swordsmen tumbled in. For a second the four pistoliers stood in stunned silence. To their surprise, the two intruders paid them no attention, but proceeded to turn quickly and shove the heavy gate closed. A deep thud sounded as it was slammed shut and then another, as the cumbersome wooden latch was crudely dropped into place.

Kurt turned and slouched back against the gate, letting out a sigh of relief as he did so.  As he opened his eyes he could see that everyone was staring at him and Albrecht. Their mouths were open. A look of confusion was etched on the face of each individual. Kurt answered the silent questions with one word that resonated terror the moment it left his mouth.

‘Undead!’ he cried.

All was motion. Heinrich lifted his sword and allowed the pistolier at his feet to rise and stumble over to his companions. The Commander of the pistoliers clicked the fingers of his right hand twice and pointed to a first floor window of the farmhouse. The window over looked the surrounding fields from the direction of the gateway. Two of his men darted inside. Heinrich could hear them climb the stairs frantically.  “Undead!” one of the pistoliers confirmed from the open window.

Heinrich thrust his sword into the ground.

‘Truce?’ he asked as he stepped forward offering the young nobleman his hand.

‘Truce’ confirmed the pistolier with a nod.

 The swordsman left his hand outstretched for the nobleman to accept. Heinrich conceded to himself that the pistolier would find it difficult to look beyond class differences and simply accept the hand of a commoner. Looking into the man’s eyes Heinrich could see that the noble was weighing him up. He started to withdraw his hand. To his surprise the nobleman then reached to accept it, as if he had just reached a conclusion about the young man.

‘I am Martin Keats’ the nobleman added in eloquent Reikspell.

Heinrich introduced himself and the noble nodded again. Then with a bow he moved off to see to his blooded comrade. As far as Heinrich could see the pistolier was ok, despite a few missing teeth and a fat lip. Not that he cared anyway. ‘Stupid son of a whore’ he thought.

‘Should have stabbed the fool’ advised Kurt following the young lads gaze over to the wounded pistolier.

 Seeing a look of concern on the recruit’s face he added

‘I wouldn’t worry about him, I doubt he’s got the balls for vengeance’.

 Heinrich did not reply. It was not the pistolier that worried him. He could feel the slow methodical approach of the dead. The Undead had haunted his dreams since his first encounter with them and now they stalked him once more. He turned emotionlessly and picked up his sword.  Feeling his impending doom approach, Heinrich sought to clear his mind before the coming fight. He loosened his shoulders with a shake and cracked his neck.  He noticed his mouth was dry, but he dismissed the thought instantly.

An explosive crack of a pistol broke the silence, then another. The pistoliers in the farm house had started to pick off the approaching Undead. They must be close now, to be in pistol range thought Heinrich. His whole world shrank. It was just him and the gate in front of him. This was where the assault would come. The eight foot high walls that surrounded the small courtyard were sturdy enough to withstand an attack, but the wooden gate would eventually fall.

Heinrich was so focused that he failed to notice that the pistolier commander and two of his men had taken up position on his left hand side. Kurt and Albrecht were already on his right. One of the pistoliers spat blood and a tooth onto the floor in-front of him, then shot Heinrich an angry look.  Kurt eyed him sternly. Despite what he had said to Heinrich, he knew that the young man would be a problem. There was no way that an arrogant young nobleman would accept such a beating from a commoner. Kurt had seen soldiers hung for less during times of open war. The livid expression that was engraved across the youth’s pox covered face spoke volumes. Kurt knew that he and his comrades would have their necks stretched for certain if he was to survive the night.

Offline Captain Tineal

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2007, 03:25:26 PM »
Cliffhangers.... ahg!  :icon_lol:
I don't know what a pisolires is but it sounds like a musical instrument you play with urine...

Offline Douchie

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2007, 04:37:29 PM »
I hate to leave anyone on a cliffhanger.... honest.  :-D

so here you go....

‘How close are they now?’  Keats shouted to his men on the first floor.

‘About ten feet sir, but they appear to have stopped’.

‘Wonder what they are waiting for’ mused Heinrich out load. No one replied.

Kurt knelt for a moment and offered a prayer to Sigmar. The other men reiterated his words. Keats thumbed a small golden hammer that he wore on a chain around his neck. Time seemed to stretch into minutes and still nothing happened save for the occasional crack of pistol fire from the first floor of the farmhouse.  Keats again asked as to the situation. One of the Pistoliers by the name of Josef began relaying what he saw to his commander.

‘We have hostile forces to the south and east, can’t make out their numbers Sir, but its safe to say its in the hundreds. I can see more movement along the road heading east. They don’t seem interested in us. And Sir’

‘Yes Josef’

‘They are… well… dressed like us. I mean in Stirland state colours. A lot of peasant attire mixed in, but large numbers of ours. It looks like Gablitz has fallen Sir.’

‘May Morr preserve our souls’ said Keats. He looked pale and for the first time a little unnerved.

Heinrich had followed enough of Steinman’s orders that morning to understand that Von Schroeder’s force was marching east to join up with the regiments stationed at Gablitz. Regiments routed from Sylvania the year before had rallied there and refitted for the coming campaign. Over two thousand men at arms and an even larger number of civilians had resided there for the winter. If that force had fallen and the poor souls had been raised from their grave to join the undead army. Sigmar alone knew the sheer size of force that passed only yards from the gates of the small farmstead. Heinrich felt like the courtyard had shrunk in size. The farmstead now seemed a feeble defence against such a force.

A LONE FIGURE STOOD on the grass verge and peered out into the gloom of the night. Raphael Vigee-Lebrun had emerged into the darkness leaving the corpse of his last meal in his carriage. He stood for a moment in a trance his left hand twitching ever so slightly. The rush of strength he derived from feeding left him like this for a short time afterward. Slowly Raphael’s eyes opened as the initial ecstasy of the blood rush subsided. His hearing and vision came back to him and he realised he was now outside.

 It was often the case after feeding that things became vague. Images came back to him slowly at first in waves. Then as his thoughts and memories became stronger Raphael dropped to his knees. The rush of information consumed him quickly. He now remembered clearly how the girl had at first struggled against his embrace. He had toyed with her for a while as he often did, leaving the possibility of escape open to her. Then as the charade became tedious and the hunger took him, he bit deep into her neck. His grip had slackened as her struggling ceased. She surrendered herself completely as the pleasure mortals derived from the embrace consumed her totally. Raphael had lost himself to the blood lust and she had died with a smile on her face.

 Although he had not intended to drain the peasant girl completely, he did not feel pity at her passing. There were plenty more pretty young girls to be found in Stirland anyway. He paid her no further thought as his burley manservant Lucan dragged her body from the carriage and dumped it by the side of the road. Her eyes stared skywards in a vacant expression of pleasure, Lucan closed them gently with his hand. His master stood and looked out into the night like he had just that second realised he was outside. Surveying the darkness Raphael watched for a moment as the undead masses made their disorganised advance over the surrounding fields. A smile found its way to his normally expressionless face, as animated corpses in the green and yellow of Stirland’s state troops moved passed him.

So far everything had gone to plan. All the preparation and intrigue that had consumed much of his long life had come to fruition in the last few years. Sylvania had taken a lot of time and effort to secure.  The time constraints of such a venture were of no consequence. The arisen did not concern themselves with such mortal concepts as the passage of time. The exertion that such grand plans required would have driven even an educated and focused man insane. Raphael Vigee-Lebrun was much more than that. Unlife had given him the time and inclination to look beyond short term goals and focus himself completely on his aim.

Complex and multi layered  webs of intrigue had been woven by Raphael and his siblings. They had set rival blood lines against each other to weaken and fragment the fragile network of alliances that characterised the hierarchy of the arisen. Once undermined these families had either joined his venture or perished. In time even the Council had fallen under his influence. There were those more independent groups that could  not be brought under his direct control. This did not concern him however, the truces and agreements he had put in place would keep them from interfering. At least until he was in a position to remove such nuisances. 

The mortal ruling classes of Sylvania had for the most part been bought with gold and promises of immortality. Its militia force had been infiltrated and rendered ineffectual by the time he staked his claim. Raphael had bathed in the blood Sylvania’s aristocracy in an orgy of death he had thought beyond one so cultured. As he remembered the details of the blood letting he felt the darkness inside revel in the most gruesome of details. He did not realise he was still smiling.

Gablitz had been infiltrated by his sister Rosalind years earlier and the residing burgomiester Victor Von Richter had fallen under her control in a matter of months. Despite being reinforced by the mortals fleeing form Sylvania the town had proven vulnerable and unprepared when assaulted. Raphael still felt a little annoyed with his little sister. She had protected Victor when the undead force has sacked the town . Now the displaced burgomiester acted like he belonged in the presence of the arisen. The man had enough wits about him never to stray to far from his protector’s side. Rosalind’s main weakness had always been with the bonds she formed with her pets. The annoying little man was starting to irritate Raphael more than a mortal man should dare. Still he would not be the first pet of hers that he had disposed of. Raphael sighed. Victor would have to wait for the time being. He accepted that it would be wise to keep at least one of his siblings onside until the campaign for Stirland had ended.

With his thoughts already drifting over his siblings Raphael wondered as to the whereabouts of his brother. Claudius had disappeared following the fiasco of the previous year. The young Lord’s premature invasion of Stirland had ended in defeat at the Battle of Leithag Hills. He had gone into hiding soon afterwards. His failure was of no real consequence and Raphael knew he would forgive Claudius for this rashness. Whenever he decided to show his face that its. He was probably consoling himself in some back water town, by drinking its population dry.

 Weak old Stirland had failed to heed the warnings of the previous year. His spies had reported that no grand alliances had been forged, or even messages requesting aid sent to neighbouring provinces. The Elector Count had failed to muster anywhere near enough troops to hold back the Undead force. Raphael no longer feared the Stirland Rune Fang like many of his predecessors had. Ever since Count Manfred Von Carstein had been cut down by the ancient blade at the battle of Hel Fenn, his race had feared the power of the sword. Raphael did not consider his self immune to the rune blade. He simply knew that the weapon was now wielded by a child. The Boy Count, Albrech Haupt-Anderssen, was not a warrior like Count Martin had been. Raphael had timed his invasion perfectly.

The Vampire was pulled from his thoughts of conquest by the crack of pistol fire. Lucan approached with his head bowed and answered his master unspoken question.

‘Pistoliers my liege. They have found shelter in a farmstead about half a league to the east’ 

‘How many Lucan?’ enquired Raphael tilting his head slightly to left

‘Not many milord, a hand full at most ’

‘Kill them’ he commanded softly before returning to the carriage.
‘Excellent my liege’.

Offline wissenlander

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2007, 04:53:00 PM »
A cliffhanger, followed by another cliffhanger.  The story is developing quite nicely.
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finding photographic evidense that Wiss smiles is going to be hard...

Offline Lachieo

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2007, 09:55:00 AM »
Wow this story rocks, keep it coming :biggriin:
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Offline Douchie

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2007, 10:35:38 AM »
Here's more.

No more cliffhangers I promise  :wink: ....

Keats walked to the stables briskly, returning moments later with a bundle of fire-arms. He distributed them amongst his troopers then tossed the remaining pistols to the swordsmen. He knew that they would need every fire-arm and round when the gate fell.  Even more so if they were forced to shelter in the farmhouse.  Heinrich pushed the pistol through the belt behind his back. The other swordsmen did likewise. Anticipation and fear filled the heart of each man. Heinrich hated this part of a battle. Once the fighting started he knew that he would rely on his instinct and reflexes. There would be no time to think or to fear. At that moment waiting for the inevitable Heinrich did not know which situation he preferred.

Almost half an hour had passed and still the Undead made no advance towards the gate. Pistol fire from the upper window had claimed a score of kills, however many more of the undying still remained. Just as Heinrich thought that the tension was too much to take a haunted groan filled the night. Heinrich felt a shiver run down his spine. Hundreds of broken voices joined the call until all those surrounding the farmstead were bellowing the cry of the Undead. Then as suddenly as it has started the call ended and was replaced by the sound of a hundred footsteps.

‘Here they come!’ cried Josef from the upper window. Fear filled his voice.

Moments later the gate braced itself inwards against the wooden latch. The iron hinges creaked in protest. Heinrich could smell the rotten flesh now and the stench made him retch. A splinter fell form the door after the weighted impact. Keats stepped forward calmly, levelled his pistol through the hole and fired. He repeated this several times until all his pistols had been discharged.  He then moved behind the swordsmen and started to reload. His controlled and unhurried demeanour filled the men in the courtyard with confidence. It was clear that the man was a born leader and Heinrich found some comfort in that. The other two pistoliers stepped forward and repeated the actions of their commander. Their movements were not as confident as their commander, but their actions showed that they were at least competent pistoliers.

Another impact on the gate forced it inward, but still the barricade held firm. Heinrich felt useless as his heart pounded in his chest. He considered drawing the pistol Keats have given him and joining the others. After careful deliberation he decided not to. He would more than likely need it later. He knew he was just frustrated at not being able to influence that battle. He also knew that very soon he would be fighting like a madmen for his life. A third impact forced the hinges at the top of the gate to buckle. Slowly under the weight of those outside the gate tilted inwards and fell almost like the drawbridge of a castle. The men inside stepped back so as not to be crushed underneath, then sprang forward to block the gateway.

Kurt was the first to launch himself into the breach. Showing agility that belied one so broad. He swung both sword and shield wildly. Clattering the first creature through the gate to the ground and decapitating another.

‘Victory or Death!’ he bellowed as his sword smashed through the ribcage of a third corpse.

Kurt kicked it to the ground where it was crushed below the feet of its advancing companions. If the Undead felt any sort of fear from this display of brute force they showed no sign. Those armed with  swords, clubs and pitch forks swung lazily, others tried to garb the swordsmen and pull him into the sea living death that the pushed on behind. Kurt kept them at bay with the wide arch of his sword.

Heinrich and Albrecht moved forward to support their comrade, striking from behind him at any of the Undead that made it past his flanks. The pistoliers all the while continued to pour their supporting fire into the mass of copses. Keats fired the last of his loaded pistols and tossed it into his left hand. Taking hold of the weapon by the barrel  so as to use its heavy handle as a club. He then drew is sabre and advanced into the melee. The young noble fought with an elegance previously unseen by Heinrich. Even the most skilled fencers in his unit of duellists failed to match him for grace and killing prowess.

Still it was not enough. As Kurt began to tire more and more Undead found their way in behind him. The pistolier that Heinrich had bludgeoned earlier broke and ran for the safety of the farm house as four Undead got around the Northerner’s right hand side. Silently they moved to surround Albrecht who was forced back by their advance. The old man held one at bay with his shield and stabbed another through its empty eye socket. As the creature fell his sword became stuck and he lurched forward refusing to let go of the blade. Albrecht managed to keep his hold on the weapon, but was knocked from his feet by a clumsy blow that tore deep into his exposed side. The old man attempted to role clear but was quickly set upon. His last gargled words were for his wife and family before his life was ripped brutally from him. More Undead now moved through the gap in the soldier’s defence.

‘Fallback!’ cried Keats seeing that they would soon be over-run.

In the centre Kurt and Keats fought their way back to the farmhouse one step at a time. Heinrich however, had been pushed back to the far wall near the stables. He and the remaining pistolier now fought back to back. The way to the farm house was still clear, but time was running out. Heinrich’s arms ached. He held his shield high as he had been trained to do and stabbed from behind it time and time again.

‘Now!’ shouted the pistolier and both men turned and ran for the open doorway.

 Kurt and Keats still fought frantically to keep the Undead from it. Heinrich was only meters from safety when the pistolier fell. One of the pursuing Undead tripped him with a lunging blow, struggling to his feet he cried out in pain as his leg was torn open by a rusted blade. The cry of pain stopped Heinrich in his tracks.

Turning around he saw the pistolier lying on his stomach, arm outstretch, a pleading look on his face. Before he knew what was happening Heinrich found himself running back to the fallen man. ‘What in Sigmar’s name are you doing’ cried the voice inside his head. Heinrich had no answer as he reached the pistolier. Swinging his  sword in a figure eight Heinrich sliced the undead creature’s gullet, stomach and legs.  The creature fell back over the prone pistolier. Heinrich turned the man around into the sitting position. He grabbed a leather strap that held his breastplate in place and hauled him towards the doorway. Sweat glistened on the young swordsmen’s forehead as he struggled with the armoured man’s weight.

More creatures moved towards the two men. The pistolier drew two pistols and fired them both at the leading zombies. Only one fell from the impact of the hit. The other creatures closed in and swept over him. Heinrich dropped the pistolier that now battled frantically for his life and swung his blade recklessly into the pursuing group. Heinrich fought for his life against the teeming mass of bodies packed around him.  His shield was torn from his arm and he almost lost his footing as more of the Undead poured into the courtyard. Despite their best efforts Kurt and Keats were forced back through the doorway of the farmhouse. Kurt’s cursing could be heard over the sound of battle as door slammed shut. The young swordsmen knew he was cut off now and alone.

   Heinrich backed away towards the stables. In the few rare moments that he wasn’t desperately parrying enemy blows, he glanced around for the fallen Pistolier. His screams had ended in a high pitched wail and Heinrich knew then that he had perished. He could feel his courage and strength draining from him. The courtyard was now filled with the Undead and all their attention seemed to have turned on him.

He stepped back expecting the cold touch of the stonewall behind him, but it never came. Instead he fell back through the stable doorway as it opened under his weight. Heinrich kicked his legs out hysterically as the leading creature fell to its knees and attempted to bite into him. He caught it square in the face with his boot. The rotten corpse rolled clear of the doorway with its head hanging loose at the shoulders. With the last ounce of strength left in him the young recruit launched his body weight against the door. It slammed shut with a heavy bang. He fumbled for the iron bolt and succeeded in ramming it home. Sitting with his back to the wall he fought to regain his breath.
‘Too close’ He gasped.

Offline Captain Tineal

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2007, 03:23:06 PM »
Well done!  Best installment yet.  I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.
I don't know what a pisolires is but it sounds like a musical instrument you play with urine...

Offline Douchie

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2007, 03:48:57 PM »

INSIDE THE FARMHOUSE Kurt was pressed up against the wall with Keats’ hand firmly against his chest. Anger and adrenaline coursed through his veins. The burly northerner had had to be wrestled from the door when it had been slammed shut. He was all for charging out into the night to die beside the last of his comrades.

   ‘For the love of Sigmar!’ boomed Keats in a commanding tone. ‘There is nothing more to be done.’

   ‘I will not leave my friends to be… eaten. It’s not right.’

   ‘They are gone man’ interjected the pistolier Lucius Weiss, the same pistolier that had shot at him earlier.

Blood still ran freely from the wound to his head. It was all Kurt could do to refrain himself from running the arrogant hot-head through with is blade.

   ‘No thanks to you…. Coward.’ Spat Kurt. The pistolier fumbled for his pistol. A glance from Keats stayed his hand. He turned to face the swordsmen.

   ‘You forget yourself sir.’ Kurt tried to interrupt, but Keats continued ‘Do not pretend to forget you are amongst your betters here. I understand your grief and anger. You are not the only one here to lose a comrade. I grew up with Stefan and served with him on many campaigns. And he lies out there too.’

   ‘Don’t you forget my friend died trying to save him. Even after he had been shot at by your company.’ Kurt’s murderous gaze shifted towards Lucius Weiss. Keats interjected again hoping to ease the tension.

   ‘And may Sigmar preserve his sole for it. He died a true hero. We must honour him yes, but not by throwing away our own lives in some reckless action.’

Keats could see that his words were starting to get through to the enraged swordsmen.

‘We must honour him by taking as many of those foul abominations to the grave with us. The longer we all stay alive the more of them we can kill. Agreed?’ Keats offered his hand to seal the pact. Kurt’s eyes narrowed as he contemplated the nobleman’s words.

   ‘Agreed’ conceded Kurt after a few tense moments. He took the commander’s hand and nodded. His gaze shifted back to the other pistolier. ‘You’ll keep’ he added before grabbing the side of an oak table and dragging it towards the locked door. Keats moved over to help him.

IT WAS DARK INSIDE the stables. The only light came from a lantern at the far end of the long corridor. Either side of this passage were a number of stalls where the pistolier’s horses and livestock from the farmstead had been sheltered. The animals were noticeably spooked by the presence of the Undead outside. The horse in the nearest stall kicked and whined constantly. Heinrich lifted himself to his feet tentatively. He still bled from a dozen minor cuts that he hadn’t noticed until know. He jumped as the main door to the stables thudded. Evidently the Undead wanted to finish what they had started. Heinrich shivered excessively and not from the cold.

   Looking up Heinrich could just about see the wooden beams holding up the thatched roof. The soldier quickly surmised that his most likely escape route would have to be through the roof. If he could make it up there perhaps he could drag himself through the thatch and around the walls toward the farmhouse. It would not be the most enjoyable journey he had ever made, but Heinrich knew that the stable door would not hold forever.

   He walked gingerly past the first stalls. The spooked horse kicked out at the gate as he passed and it clattered loudly. Heinrich instinctively cowered from the impact. Looking up he saw the horse rearing up again. In the red torch light the startled horse took on a demonic appearance. Heinrich hurried past. The other horses and livestock also reacted nervously to his passing. In the last stall to his left a large cart-horse lay on the ground. Its flanks glistened with sweat and foam covered its mouth. Heinrich could see that it was no longer breathing. Poor thing probably died from fear he concluded.

   ‘I know exactly how you feel’ he said silently. Heinrich made the sign of the hammer across this chest. 

   From the far end of the stables Heinrich could hear the door creaking on its hinges as wood splintered from it. ‘Move’ he told himself. He sheathed his sword quickly and bounded up onto the gate of the stall. The animal in the neighbouring stall kicked and groaned nervously. Heinrich kept his focus on climbing. Balancing with his feet on the highest run of the gate he stretched as far as he could. The very tip of his index finger brushed one the beams, but it was too high to gain any sort of a grip.  At that moment the door to the stables exploded open and a wave of Undead burst in. Heinrich instinctively jumped for the thick wooden beam and was rewarded with firm grip. He dangled there precariously for a few moments while fighting to swing his other arm up. He knew that the Undead were closing on him. Praying to Sigmar for extra strength he pulled himself up so that one of his arms wrapped around over beam.

   ‘Sigmar deliver me from evil!’ he cried as his body ached in protest.

   Another loud bang announced an unexpected development. The gate of the first stall burst open and the frightened stead inside crashed out, thrashing a biting its way through the Undead in a fit of terror. Broken bodies few to the ground and were trampled under foot. The much needed diversion allowed the young swordsmen time to swing his legs up and lift himself to safety. His prayers had been answered and he thanked Sigmar from the bottom of his pounding heart.

Offline wissenlander

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2007, 05:56:05 PM »
I just read A Stirlander's Story that you wrote sometime last year I think, is that the battle of Leithag Hills?  I noticed there was a Heinrich present there as well.  Unfortunate that Alfred perished on his last campaign, but that's good story tellin'.

Well, I just read the second part, and he didn't die in that one.  Good stuff, it works either way.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2007, 06:01:50 PM by wissenlander »
Me and Wissenlander had babies!

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finding photographic evidense that Wiss smiles is going to be hard...

Offline Douchie

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2007, 08:10:31 AM »
I wrote 'A Stirlander's Story' a couple of years ago, but my computer at work crashed and daft old me didn't make a hard copy... Doh!!!

I thought I had lost it for ever and completely forgot that I posted it here on the site... Happy Days its not gone!

In answer to your question wissenlander, the 1st story I posted was indeed the battle of Leirhag Hills. or was intended to be. When my computer crashed I decided to start again from a different angle... This time making hard copies!

Shame about olde Albrecht, but that was his fate... However  Heinrich's one legged Militia commander may make a return... well just maybe  :wink:

Offline wissenlander

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #20 on: February 23, 2007, 06:51:13 PM »
I liked that story as well.  I thought the different perspective was really cool.  I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but the fact you only sparingly mentioned Heinrich was interesting.  I think I got that feel more because I had read the stories in the reverse order. :icon_lol:
Me and Wissenlander had babies!

not together.

finding photographic evidense that Wiss smiles is going to be hard...

Offline count von baines

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #21 on: February 23, 2007, 07:57:02 PM »
That was one of the best stories i've read on here.... keep up the good work  :eusa_clap:

Offline Douchie

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #22 on: February 26, 2007, 09:44:33 AM »
Here is that latest part...

KEATS STOOD STOICALLY next to the barricaded door as it shuddered from another impact. All the furniture from the down stairs room had been packed against the only entrance. For the time being it was holding firm. Next to him stood Kurt. He chewed a piece of jerky in one side of his mouth and glanced towards the staircase frequently. Martin Keats had sent Lucius Weiss to replace Josef and the young squire Karl von Hoffenberg upstairs. He was concerned that the two pistoliers on the first floor were expending too much ammunition as they peppered the sea of Undead below. He knew that it would not be wise for them to expend all their ammunition now.

Martin Keats had other reasons for redeploying his men, outside of any tactical considerations he may have had. He wanted to keep as much space between Lucius and the giant swordsman as possible. It had been all he could do to prevent them from tearing each other apart earlier. From the display of brute strength shown by Kurt during the battle for the gateway, he was under no illusions as to who the victor of that encounter would be.

He understood the Swordsmen’s anger. He still sported a wound on his forehead that had been inflicted by the young noble. His older friend had fallen soon after Lucius Weiss had vanished from the court yard. Secretly he too blamed Lucius for the turn of events in the courtyard. Keats was under no illusions. He knew that the gateway would have fallen sooner or later, but he couldn’t help feeling Weiss’ actions had exacerbated the situation. Two of the swordsmen were dead, his good friend Stephan was dead and he was trapped like a rat in a drain pipe with only a hand full of men.

‘If only Anton were here.’ He found himself thinking.

True he could hardly stand being near his younger more arrogant cousin. But Anton always had some harebrained idea to get himself out of situations like this. They had split up following a run in with a pack of dire wolves earlier that day. Keats held no concerns over his cousin’s wellbeing.  Anton would be ok. He always was. Keats also knew that his current situation was dire. Two men had been killed during that first encounter with the wolves and now Stefan was dead. His men obviously knew that they had little chance of escape. Josef was uncharacteristically quite and the Young Squire was pacing again. Still, for the time being they were still alive.

Josef had said very little since coming down stairs and simply busied himself cleaning and reloading his fire arms. He sat at the table that made up part of the barricade across the door. He appeared completely unconcerned about the Undead outside only yards from him. His hand was steady and he did not flinch like the young squire did, whenever the door shuddered. Von Hoffenberg paced anxiously behind him. He held a repeater pistol in his right hand and nervously clicked the hammer of the pistol from home, to primed and back again. He made a conscious effort to avoid eye contact with the other men, all of whom were much older than he. While upstairs he had continued to load and fire is sidearm’s without much thought. Inactivity only fuelled his fears. The endless groaning of the Undead outside did nothing to comfort him.

‘For Sigmar’s sake! Stop that infernal clicking’ barked Josef.

For the first time distracted from his routine. The Squire stopped his pacing and glanced down. Without responding he pulled out the chair next to the other pistolier and sat down. He placed the pistol in the table in front of him and stared vacantly towards the doorway. Keats moved around the table a put a hand on the younger mans shoulder. The squire said nothing.

HEINRICH PULLED HIMSELF up through the gap he had created in the thatch of the stable roof. He had discarded much of his equipment in order to make his escape. He had had to remove his cumbersome leather jerkin to allow him the room to squeeze through the small hole. The swordsmen had questioned the intelligence of removing his only armour. After further thought he concluded that he could not sit forever balancing on the wooden beam. Fear had almost consumed him already. A few moments crouched helplessly above a sea of hungry re-animated corpses had helped to make his mind up. As he emerged fully into the night only Heinrich’s sword and pistol remained strapped to his main belt. His uniform sported a number of new tears, but Heinrich didn’t care. The wind cooled his reddened face. For a moment he forgot his surroundings and felt free.

Movement from over his left shoulder brought him back to reality. Heinrich climbed into a crouched position and drew his blade. Surely a zombie could not have been able to climb to the roof of the stables. Heinrich was quite athletic, despite the old wound on his leg that plagued him and he had struggled ascend to the roof. A gargled wail announced the presence of his new foe. A pail grey face emerged from the crest of the roof and Heinrich stepped back instinctively. The eyes that stared hungrily back at him were dark red and very much alive. The creature’s teeth were needle sharp and looked more like those of a wild cat from Araby than that of a man. Even that of an Undead man. A clawed hand gripped the edge of the thatch, then another. The beast then effortlessly lifted its hairless, emancipated form on to the roof.

‘Ghouls’ gasped the swordsmen ‘fantastic’

Zombies and Skeletons were bad enough, but ghouls terrified him. Living men driven mad by their thirst for human flesh and mutated beyond recognition by the dark powers. The Ghoul tilted its head to one side and grunted twice. Other grunts answered it from below. The creature started to round the swordsmen as the first of its companions clambered up. It came closer but remained outside of Heinrich’s reach. As the second ghoul found its footing Heinrich lunged towards the first. Sensing the swordsmen’s move the creature made to side step, but was caught high on its shoulder. The Ghoul rolled rapidly inside Heinrich’s guard and made to bite at his neck. Heinrich punched it hard in the face with his free hand. The Ghoul lost its footing on the roof top and disappeared into the darkness below.

A second ghoul jumped at Heinrich before he could recover his balance and pushed him flat on to his back. The swordsmen fought frantically to keep the ghoul’s snapping jaws from him. Its claws tore at his chest and bit deeply into his unprotected flesh. Holding the possessed creature at bay with his right arm, Heinrich fumbled for the pistol Keats gave him with the other. Seconds seemed like an eternity. He could feel the pistol digging into his back, but failed time and time again to grip the firearm. His strength began to wane. Heinrich brought his knee up sharply. The Ghoul grunted but held firm. His knee came up again and again. The creature’s hold loosened for but a second and Heinrich was able to seize the firearm.

‘Flesh!’ cried the ghoul in a rasping voice that empathised the sssh. It’s desperation to feed now very clear to the swordsmen. Drool dripped from its fangs. The smell of its breath alone was almost enough to incapacitate him.

‘Not my flesh’ gasped Heinrich pulling the pistol free ‘Eat this!’

He jammed the pistol into the ghoul’s open mouth breaking several of its sharp teeth in the process. Fire and lead exploded from the barrel. Heinrich held his breath as fragments of blood, bone and things he didn’t want to think about covered him. Gun power burnt and blacked his face. He lay still for a moment in shock. Then realisation descended upon him and he let out a long breath. Seconds latter he began to frantically wipe himself clean. The sleeves of his arms however, were as just as bloody and Heinrich only succeeded in spreading the filth further.

Offline count von baines

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #23 on: February 26, 2007, 01:56:21 PM »
ARGH... don't stop now! :-o

Offline Douchie

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Re: Broken Swords and Iron Will - A Stirlander's story
« Reply #24 on: February 26, 2007, 03:14:54 PM »
Ok, Ok here is the next bit just for you Count Von Baines :biggriin:

What was that?’ Blurted the Squire, as a sharp bang echoed through the night.

‘Weiss upstairs more than likely’ answered Josef still cleaning his pistol.

‘Can’t be. That was outside’ corrected Keats as Kurt bolted for the staircase.

‘Stay here’ ordered Keats as the other pistoliers made to stand up.

He turned and quickly followed the swordsmen. As Keats emerged onto the first floor landing he saw Kurt disappear into a doorway to his right. He pursued him quickly. Lucius Weiss stood at a window with is pistol levelled. Before Kurt could reach him he fired. The northerner pushed him firmly to one side as he ran to peer out of the window. Through the darkness he could make out Heinrich stood on the roof of the stables. His sword was drawn and the corpses of two ghouls lay about him. Others closed in around. Kurt shot a confused look at Lucius. 

‘Looked like he needed help’ answered the nobleman in an arrogant tone.

Martin Keats knew Herman better than that. Despite how it may have appeared, the pistolier’s act was not one of charity. Lucius Weiss held grudges longer than a dwarf. He obviously wanted to save the young swordsman for the gallows or simply to prolong his torment. Revenge was personal and Weiss evidently wanted a hand in Heinrich’s demise. Keats caught Lucius’eye as a smirk crossed the pistolier’s face.

Keats had no time to think about the twisted motives of his subordinate. Two more ghouls closed in on the stranded swordsmen. Martin Keats pulled two pistols from their holsters, aimed silently and downed the ghouls with perfect head shots. Both fell limply, like puppets that had just had their strings cut.

‘Move lad!’ shouted Kurt.

   Heinrich glanced back and threw a thumbs up towards the window. He turned swiftly and ran across the stable roof.  Reaching the end of the roof Heinrich dropped down a few feet and started tentatively along the high walls of the farmstead.

A ghoul rushed out of the darkness and across the rooftop after him. Before it drew close enough to strike it was caught in the small of the back by pistol ball. The creature dropped with a howl of pain and fell back into the night. Heinrich’s balance almost failed as the ghoul flashed past his right shoulder. The Undead packed into the courtyard below reached out their arms hungrily. Heinrich recovered enough of his composure to continue on. His knees trembled as he willed himself to put one foot in front of the other. The top of the wall was slightly curved and made it more difficult to keep his footing. Still he edged closer.

Heinrich was now only a few feet from the farmhouse. The closest window of the first floor would still take some effort to reach. It was a good arms length away to the left. It was also well above head height, even though he stood on the high wall of the farm stead. He could feel a hundred undead eyes upon him. Watch and waiting for him to slip and fall. Heinrich reached the wall of the farmhouse and stretched with his left hand. Kurt leaned out of the window and grabbed him firmly by the wrist. The young swordsman was lifted clean off the wall and dragged through the open widow. Kurt didn’t even strain while lifting the stranded man to safety. He collapsed into the shelter of the Farm house. Keats helped the Northerner move Heinrich over to the bed.

Heinrich sat on the edge of the bed with is head in his hands. He panted heavily. Kurt stood next to him and pattered his head softly. The northerner had a beaming smile etched on his battle-scared face. Like that of a proud father upon the birth of his son. Heinrich looked dreadful. The jacket of his uniform was covered in blood and gore. His face was blackened and burnt by gun powder. His blond hair was no longer blond, but had taken on a dark red-brown colour. He sported a number of minor cuts and bruises.

‘You look terrible’ chuckled Kurt, glad to have his comrade back by his side.

 ‘Never one for stating the obvious are you?’ smiled Heinrich.

‘Well mate, I suppose it’s understandable. I doubt most people look as good when they’ve been raised for the dead. You had no right to survive that you know. I Guess Old Sigmar’s been keeping his eye on you.’

‘Something like that.’ agreed the exhausted swordsman, before slipping back onto the bed.

Exhaustion reached out and grabbed him and he was asleep before his head hit the mattress.