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Old story, but now with pictures (6th and final part now added)

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Padre:
A long time ago, in this very chair, I posted a story. I can't remember who, but someone said it'd be better with pictures, and I promised I would try to find time to put them in. Tonight I found some time.

Here is the first part of the Fall of Bragovo, now with pictures ...

The Fall of Bragovo Keep

[An unofficial story based, without permission, upon the Warhammer intellectual property owned by Games Workshop Ltd.]

For days the army of Karak Izor had toiled northwards through the mountainous valleys. For hours on end the only sounds heard were the grinding of their wagons’ and machines’ axles and the constant clatter of their armour. Otherwise the land would have been deathly silent. Hardly anything alive had dwelled there for years, and what little life there was kept very quiet.



Above the marching column, high in the cold mountain air, circled ragged, winged creatures, black as night. The dwarfs knew these flying beasts were monstrous, undead bats, and could see that it was more magic than nature that held them aloft, for the beasts’ wings were riddled with holes. Yet Lord Durnegar would not order his gyrocopters to chase them away. He had other intentions for his flying machines.

Let them watch, he decided. Let the Vampire Queen know fear as my mighty host approaches.

Twice before the dwarfs of Karak Izor had attacked the realm of the Vampire Queen of Bragovo. Once they had advanced up this very same valley and met the Queen’s forces in the field of battle. That struggle they had won, but it cost them so dearly they could not march on, for to assault the keep with what little they had left would surely have lead to failure. The second time they had skirted the mountains to the south and advanced upon the ruined town of Tyravna, where the Queen’s necromantic servants dwelt. But there they had been outmanoeuvred by the foe - a sudden attack from the wooded hillside upon their flank had resulted in the capture of Thane Ergarson, their commander. He was dragged away to face long months of torment in the dungeons of Bragovo. His dwarven soldiers, reeling from this blow against them, and hard pressed to their front as more and more undead spewed from the graveyards surrounding the dilapidated town, retreated to begin the long march home to Karak Izor.

This time, however, their Lord Durnegar led the army, and he had mustered a far greater force than those previously brought hither. More than this, he had fashioned this army for just one purpose, the battering of Bragovo. Four mighty cannons were hauled by long lines of mules and asses, though the dwarf crews were still forced to add their weight heaving and pushing whenever the rocky ground became too uneven (which in this rarely trodden valley was often). This battery of cast-iron pieces would pound the keep’s walls to rubble, an ambition made more likely by the fact each individual engine was accompanied by a skilled engineer to improve its aim. Experts in the sulphurous art of black powder had come from as far as Karak Norn and Karak Hirn to take service in this army, bringing strangely fashioned mathematical instruments the like of which Durnegar had never before seen. Two bolt throwers and an organ gun were also being hauled in the artillery train, ready to gouge through rank upon rank of the enemy’s undead legions should the Queen’s army emerge before the walls. The brace of gyrocopters would fly over the walls to search out the Queen’s necromancers; while the two marching regiments of warriors were burdened with stout ladders as well as their arms and armour, all the better to find access into the keep. As for the rest of the force, another three full regiments, they would wield crossbows and handguns, enough surely to cut down any forces that attempted to sally out against the artillery? More subtly, Durnegar intended that at least one of these regiments would approach the Keep from the southern flank, to confuse the defenders as to his true intentions.

Yes, Lord Durnegar was certain he had fashioned a mighty host. His plan was to move quickly, to batter the walls down even as his regiments marched upon them, to give the enemy little time to summon up more undead warriors or wield infernal magics against his warriors.

Only one light glowed in the entire, mighty keep of Bragovo, a lantern flickering at successive windows as it made its way up the massively tall tower at the heart of the fortress. Its bearer, one Van Gurten, a necromancer so old he had almost forgotten his own name, was straining at the climb. Inside his shrunken chest his withered heart beat furiously to send clotted blood churning through thin veins. But he never slackened his pace. He had to speak to his Queen. He knew she would be angered by the disturbance - she always was - but he had no choice in the matter.



For months now, the Vampire Queen Balsheba had lain silent and motionless upon her hard, stone bed. The tower-top room in which she slumbered had become so cold that icy stalactites hung from the beams. Her last command to Van Gurten, one he had heard many times before, was to keep living things out of her realm. She reviled life, all life, anything with warm blood and vigour. Although by nature she must feed on blood, she had not done so for many moons. Merely the thought of it disgusted her. She would rather dwell on death than un-death. So she slept, for long months, mimicking true death as best she could. The only living creatures for leagues around Bragovo were bats, ghouls and her two necromancers. The first were too small to trouble her (and besides by their blood sucking nature they were, of sorts, her kin). The second were so tainted by death and their hunger for the rotten and putrid that she could not smell life in them. The last were so old, having cheated true death many times, that they barely smelt of anything at all – apart from perhaps dust and mould.

Queen Balsheba had not been sleeping well. Nightmares had wracked her sleep for several days now, growing steadily worse. They began with warmth and light, then turned into singing and feasting. Even unconscious, and only a whisker away from complete death, she could smell the approach of the dwarfs. Worse still, she shared their dreams, which to her were night terrors, and so her sleep had faltered.
 
Then she awoke with a dry scream so piercing that her chamber’s stalactites shattered and sent showers of ice cascading into the room. The necromancer Van Gurten, who had one moment before dared to touch her shoulder, fell stumbling backwards, shocked by the scream, then bewildered by the myriad, sparkling points of light dancing around him as the falling ice reflected his lantern’s flame.

Now came that dangerously sweet voice, which lulled him every time, seductive in its destruction, somehow both promising and terrible...

“Why do you wake me?”

Knowing full well that his Queen was entirely uninterested in courtly pleasantries, in banter, gossip and such things, he answered as briefly as he could.

“The dwarfs have come again, my queen, this time with an army much stronger than before. They approach the castle now.”

Before he had finished she knew what he had to tell her, for she remembered in that instant her dreams and recognised them for what they were. And she recalled that in her dreams she had even made plans for the defence of her keep.

With a leap she was off her marble bed, and filled with all the vigour her kind could muster. For this was why she slept so long. Disgusted by her need to drink of red blood, she instead death-slept the years away, so that whenever she did act her strength was not sapped, and her last, loathed meal would sustain her still for what she must do.

“Summon every creature I command,” she ordered. “Fill the courtyard with soldiers, line the battlements with my Grave Guard, and have bats await upon the towers. My Black Knights will array themselves to the north of the castle, in the dark shadow of its walls. You will make them so silent that not one sound, not the tiniest jangling of a harness can be heard from them.”

The necromancer bowed low as she strolled regally to the window, then he turned and left the room, leaving only meagre moonlight to provide illumination for the chamber. The Vampire Queen of Bragovo did not need such light. She could see the approaching army well enough. For a moment her sleepiness returned, made her pensive.  The sun, nothing more than a scarlet glow, was creeping above the valley, bathing the advancing columns in a blood red light. Was this an omen? she thought.


Just as dawn broke, and as the gyrocopter scouts had promised, the castle came into view. Though not yet more than a sliver above the horizon, the sun gave enough light to reveal the keep’s silhouette.

Durnegar had no need to give orders. His engineers and veterans already knew his plans. They also knew the land and this castle, as it had been built by dwarfs, and ruled by them until the Vampire Queen had captured it through guile. Already Durnegar’s company of Rangers were marching off towards the southern wall where the gate lay, in advance of the main host. And yes, movement could just be discerned upon that wall, the defending forces apparently now expecting the attack from that quarter. Meanwhile the remainder of his army moved slowly, even for dwarfs, for they moved only at the speed at which the cannons could be hauled. The assault was to be timed perfectly. Overhead a gyrocopter swooped down, it’s pilot waving to Durnegar and shouting one word.

“Look!” came the cry, barely audible over the clatter of the steam-powered machine.

The pilot pointed off to the north of the castle. Lord Durnegar leapt onto a rocky outcrop to gain some height. Using his brass perspective glass he peered into the shadowy gloom to see, just before they disappeared, a large body of skeletal horsemen backing slowly away, trying to hide themselves more effectively in the darkness.



“Ha!” cried the Dwarf Lord, “Too late. I know you’re there.”

Then he turned to his second in command, the Dwarf Lord Karthzak, and laughed.

“Do they think us fools?” he asked. “Do they think us so slow witted that we would not notice such tricks? They shall soon learn the truth.”

The great battery was finally in place - a long line of machines the like of which had never before been seen in this remote valley. Two wagons, loaded with budge barrels brimming with black powder, rolled into place behind. The Vampire Queen watched all this, nauseated by the proximity of so much life, her deceptively delicate hands clutching viciously at the window’s sill. With nothing more than a thought she beckoned her swarms of bats and fell bats to gather, and willed ever more warriors to stir themselves into un-life.



Meanwhile, with a wave of his arm, Durnegar gave his command. The ensuing boom was so loud that the entire valley seemed to resonate with the blast as the first barrage of cannon balls was thrown at the walls. Each and every one found its target, and immediately cracks spread through the great hewn blocks, while the parapet tumbled down to reveal the ancient warriors standing there. Surely living soldiers would have clutched at their ears, gagged at the dust and debris, or at least flinched? Not these soldiers. They were long dead, their faces nothing more than grinning skulls. With mindless unconcern and a discipline that only they could exhibit in the face of such a barrage, they turned and calmly marched down from the walls to take position in the courtyard behind. It was plain to Balsheba that to leave them upon the walls would result only the entire regiment being buried when the wall collapsed.

“Again!” cried Durnegar, even though no such command was needed. His artillery crews were already loading frantically.

When the second blast came, the ancient wall visibly bent under the force of the blow. As the echoes rebounded down the valley, the smoke cleared and the engineers could see it was still standing. Their chief, an old veteran who had attended many such a siege, turned to a young-beard beside him and winked.

“We could fart on it now and it would fall!” he joked.

The beardling grinned. Then, his ears not yet so old as to have been deafened by the guns, he turned to look towards a new sound. Drums. The advance had begun. Two columns of dwarf warriors marched forwards, their banners unfurled at the front, their drums sounding almost pathetic after the thunderous roar of the guns.

Just as the cannon balls were rolled down the barrels for the third time, ready to be pounded into place with ramrods, something moved from the wall. Silent, and what with the smoke almost invisible, the grey, ghostly form of a banshee issued through the very stone itself and headed straight for the cannons.



“Ignore it,” ordered the chief engineer, “We cannot harm it.”

Then, knowing that the younger warriors may need a little more encouragement, he joked: “See how even the ghosts flee the fall of the castle?”


Should I do another photo session and continue?

cisse:
Yes, please continue. Very interesting read, and nicely illustrated with the pictures!

I do indeed remember reading this story before (not all of it though, my memory isn't that good) but with pictures it's even better.  :-)

Warlord:
I also remember this story, and I believe the pictures make it that much more fantastic.

Holland:
great story and pics.

keep it going with the pics

 :::cheers:::

wissenlander:
I must've missed this the first go around, but thanks for taking the time to add pictures. :::cheers:::

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