The sky was iron grey. The coming storm painted the lush green plains in an evil green, its hue almost neon. Memnar and Bruul were standing at the front of the World Eaters’ force, looking down into the valley basin that would form the stage for today’s battle.
“Almost like an arena, eh brother?” Bruul asked.
“Aye, and we know well how to fight in those.” Memnar looked at the sky: “This weather is ill news, though. It’ll be a downpour before long”
“Don’t tell me a Huntsman of the 4th is afraid of a few drops?”
“Visibility will be poor. The ground will turn into mud. But the water is the least of our concerns, to be sure.” Memnar pointed at the advancing enemy force, visible to the south: “Something is different.”
Bruul nodded. This was not what they had expected. The Xenos were advancing, seemingly to meet the World Eaters head on. This was uncommon. And their lines seemed different too. Instead of fast skimmers and the lithe forms of the Eldar warriors, they could make out huge, misshapen creatures, like nightmares become flesh.
Suddenly thunder growled in the distance and jagged lightning danced across the sky. The first drops of rain were quick to follow.
Suddenly, there was some unrest among the legionnaires at their back. Bruul and Memnar turned around to see Lord Charun marching through the ranks and appearing at the front line. There was murder in his eyes.
“Hunters of the 4th assault company”, he roared, “we march into battle today to reclaim our pride.”
“He must mean his own pride”, Bruul muttered under his breath. “I don’t recall losing mine.”
“It seems the enemy wants to meet us head on”, Charun continued. “By all means, let us grant their wish! No one can hope to defeat the World Eaters at close quarters!”
A cheer went up around them, but Bruul and Memnar just looked at each other knowingly. It was happening again.
The rain had intensified, battering down in huge sheets of water now. Memnar cleared his throat and spoke up:
“My lord, these Xenos are devious. It seems strange that they would move to meet us in the open. Something is amiss here. Maybe we should…”
His voice faltered when Charun turned to face him. In three short steps, he had reached Memnar. Charun’s teeth were bared, and there was something horrifyingly feral in the Huntmaster’s eyes.
“Stand down, Hunter!”, he hissed, “Stand down or stand back! Either way, I will have my hunt. I will have my revenge. Be careful, lest you end up as the first kill this day.”
Memnar stared back for a moment, then bowed his head. “I did not mean to presume, my lord. Lead the way.”
Charun’s eyes were slits now. “I shall, hunter. Khorne knows I shall.” He marched past Memnar to the front of the lines.
Charun drew his nightmare weapon. Its azure glow bathing him in a ghostly glare. The rain was falling heavily now, but it instantly evaporated where it hit the daemonsword’s blade.
“Looks like there are two daemons on the battlefield this day.” Bruul muttered.
“Aye, and it’s the unbound one that scares me.” Memnar gazed at Charun for a moment longer. Then he put on his helmet. “Take care brother, lest you become the prey.”
“And you.” Bruul answered. Their respective squads fell into formation behind them.
“Harriers, with me!”, Charun roared, “Hunters, show the enemy no mercy. Give no quarter. TEAR. THEM. APART!”
If only it had been that easy… But I am getting ahead of myself! So first things first: Let me start with a warning, perhaps: This post will be rather wordy, so if you like your blogging brief and succinct, you might be better served elsewhere.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the next game in our ongoing campaign for the fate of the Haestia system. This time, it was cousin Andy’s Dark Eldar against my World Eaters again. We played at 1.000 points per side and, very true to the piece of background above, decided on annihilation as the mission type.
1000 points were admittedly a bit of a tight fit for me, but I managed to take along two squads of eight Berzerkers in Rhinos, one fully kitted out squad of eight Raptors, one Chaos Dreadnought for heavy fire support and, of course, Lord Charun who would join the Raptors.
Cousin Andy’s army was a combination of fast and deadly (the usual fast skimmers with a dash of firepower) and slow and deadly (two Chronoi and a squad of Grotestques, the latter one accompanied by Urien Rakarth). His troop choices were a rather small unit of Kabalite warriors and a bigger unit of Wracks. Also, we once again had the opportunity of using the FLGS’s amazing terrain:
The table at the beginning of the game. It all went downhill from here…
After deploying our troops, we rolled for first turn and cousin Andy came out on top. Things didn’t get too ugly for me (yet), though: His attempts to destroy my Rhinos failed, and he spent most time maneuvring his models through the narrow space between two ruins.
When my turn came up, I was still a little unsure about how to proceed: My Rhinos moved towards the enemy at full speed, of course, but my Raptors were in a bit of a fix: Everything they could have hurt was hidden away in transports, while everything that wasn’t in transport looked like bad news. In true World Eaters fashion, I didn’t think things through and advanced on the Grotesques, hoping to rough them up a bit during the shooting phase. On the right flank, my Dread missed to hurt anything with his Autocannon, but at least he didn’t flip out and shoot at my own people.
I should have known in advance that these guys were trouble. Just look at them!
When cousin Andy’s turn came up, things started to get rather unpleasant for me: Following the law of nature that the most recently painted model will always be taken out of the game first, Khoron the Undying was instantly destroyed when cousin Andy’s Ravager took a pot shot at him. “The Undying” indeed…
One of my Rhinos was immobilised, leaving the Berzerkers riding in it stranded pretty far away from where they actually needed to be. On the right flank, my other squad of Berzerkers was approached by the skimmer carrying the Wracks: this looked like a nice occasion for combat, so I decided to disembark the squad and prepare for battle.
My Raptors and Andy’s Grotesques soon found themselves locked in combat. At last, the workface of battle! But even though my brave World Eaters dished out quite a lot of damage, the Grotesques just rolled with the punches: not really a surprise at three wounds per model. Cousin Andy also had all kinds of evil gadgets in place to neutralise my attacks. At least the Grotesques didn’t do that much damage, but the overall result was still a little underwhelming, to say the least.
Charun and his Harriers rushing into the thick of it…
Things did pick up a bit in my next turn, when the Berzerkers on the left flank managed to immobilise and stun Andy’s venom. And while the combat between Charun’s Raptors and the Grotesques continued to be a rather grueling affair, the World Eaters actually managed to cause enough damage for the monsters to run away. Keep in mind, though, that none of them had yet been killed by my valiant legionnaires…
On the right flank, things also didn’t look all that promising, because the Wracks turned out to be quite a damage sponge as well.
…and coming face to face with cousin Andy’s Grotesques
When it was cousin Andy’s turn again, things really began to go south for me: On the left flank, a Chronos attacked my Berzerker squad, showering them with all kinds of corrosive liquids. Let me tell you this: Template weapons can be very bad news…
In the center, the Grotesques had managed to pull themselves together once more, so the battle continued. And my once proud Raptor squad started to melt away like a snowball on a particularly warm day in hell. Things didn’t look any better on my right, with the Wracks slowly chewing through my second Berzerker squad.
All of this wasn’t helped by the fact that I played with the strategic farsight of a chimpanzee on fire, making all kinds of tactical blunders and stupid decisions. This game was coming to an end, and it was not going to be a happy one…
A couple of minutes after this picture was taken, I started removing my models from the table by the boatload.
The top of turn three saw my army completely annihilated — not a single model was left. One of my Rhinos and a lone Skull Champion had been the last to go, vapourised by shots from Andy’s Ravager and a bazillion of shots from the Kabalite Warriors, respectively.
The day was lost. And probably in the worst possible way. To add insult to injury, let me just show you the models I actually did manage to take out. Take a look:
I managed to take out TWO models all in all. I had also done all kinds of damage to cousin Andy’s vehicles and dealt a ton of damage to his grotesques, but in the end, those two up there were actually all I actually managed to kill. Quite an achievement for an army that’s supposedly great in close quarters combat…
I have to give it to cousin Andy though: He managed to be quite a gentleman about it. Mabe he was a little too gleeful for my taste when rolling about 25 dice to shoot at my last man standing, but I won’t hold it against him.
The day’s work done, cousin Andy’s abomination takes a moment to catch some rays.
Without a doubt, I had been pounded into the ground. The World Eaters had lost a hex on the campaign map. Unfortunately, this also meant that I would have 50 points less to buy equipment during the next phase of our campaign. But for the time being, this was far outweighed by the feeling of utter defeat…
Dark Eldar troops securing ruins in the Y’lanth’Ine basin after driving back the 4th assault company
Well, that was a bit of a disaster, wasn’t it? Looks like Charun has a lot to answer for. Speaking of which…
The spaceport’s tactical control center had been converted to serve as the 4th assault company’s command post for the Haestia campaign. A projection of the Mardias subcontinent was hanging in the middle of the room, casting a sickly green light on the attendees. The Huntmasters and their commanding officers were standing around in loose groups, conversing in hushed voices as they waited for Lord Lorimar.
Bardolf looked around. The amount of officers was astonishing. It seemed that much of the company had been assembled by now. The campaign was proving to be a challenge, but the World Eaters would rise to it.
“It has been some time, Bardolf.”
The voice was impossibly deep and metallic. Like it came from an iron grave. In a way, it did. Bardolf turned around to face Khoron the Undying. The Dreadnought’s huge frame was imposing, even for a warrior of the fourth. Bardolf had to look up to direct his gaze at the face Khoron had been wearing for the last millennia: a brass mask, wrought in the shape of a skull. Bardolf bowed his head respectfully.
“Well met, older brother. Indeed, it has been too long.” He looked up again. “I did not realise that you had made planetfall already.”
Khoron laughed. The sound recalled sheets of metal grinding against each other. A strange sound for a Dreadnought. Khoron took a step forward and Bardolf could see fresh damage on his armoured form. “Oh, I have been here for a while. As a matter of fact, I was quite honoured to accompany our brother Charun on his latest …sortie.”
“And quite a sortie it was”, came a new voice. Bardolf turned around to face the new arrival. It belonged to Hokar, Lorimar’s Master of the Guard. His Terminator armour was exquisitely crafted, forming a cowl in the shape of a snarling skull that cast a shadow over his pale features. His expression was utterly inscrutable. Nothing new there.
“I salute you, hunter”, Bardolf addressed him, “I thought you were campaigning in the Diammar sector.”
Hokar’s eyes were like shards of volcanic glass. “Indeed I was. But your inability to keep our brother Charun in check managed to end my hunt somewhat…prematurely. Or did you think our Lord Lorimar brought the majority of the company here for a spot of hiking?”
Bardolf let the slight pass without comment. “What of the first hunter?”
Hokar let out a sigh: “Skarn is hunting to the south. He has set his sights on the secondary Hive.”
Bardolf shook his head: “There is nothing there. The Hive has become a necropolis.”
“Then he shall find enough skulls at least.”, came a booming voice. Deracin joined them, the bionic implants that covered his scarred head glinting in the green half-light.
Bardolf looked at the Keeper of the Forge: “I am glad to see you are well, brother.”
Deracin guffawed: “I was a lot better when you didn’t get my Daemon Engines all shot up, Bardolf. See if I grant you any heavy fire support again.” But there was a glint of humour in his eyes.
Bardolf indulged him: “Grant it to Skarn, then. Maybe he has need of firepower, conquering that boneyard.”
“First hunter Skarn is scouting out the enemies’ defense at my behest.” The voice was not loud, but commanded instant attention.
Nobody knelt when Lorimar entered. To kneel was to be a slave, and no member of the World Eaters legion would ever be a slave again. At least, not to any mortal. But the Huntmasters bowed their heads in unison as their lord marched to the center of the cavernous chamber. His personal guard spread out around him in a wide circle, their only sound the soft scraping of their heavy armour.
“I salute you, hunters.”
Hokar addressed him: “We welcome you, Master of the Hunt. The council is assembled.”
Lorimar looked at each of them in turn. “I have called you here to discuss our strategy. This hunt has proven to be more challenging than we expected.”
“Aye, the hunters in charge do seem rather …challenged to me”, Deracin smirked. Bardolf noticed Charun in the distance, his face twisting into a sneer. He shot a sideways glance at Deracin and stepped forward.
“The Eldar have been a resourceful opponent thus far. We have begun to suspect that they are guarding something very important to their race. Some kind of artifact. This is the fulcrum on which their morale is turning. Take the artifact, and you break their resistance.” He glanced at Charun: “Unfortunately, a number of dubious tactical decisions have seen us defeated time and again, and the artifact has eluded us. We were rash where we should have been more cautious.”
Charun stepped forward as well, staring at Bardolf: “Your overcautious ways ill befit an officer of the XIIth Astartes legion, brother”
“As does your stupidity”, Bardolf replied.
“Since when is it stupid to do battle? It is what we live for!”
Bardolf felt his anger rising. “It is always foolish to pick battles you cannot hope to win. If you continue, your rope will have more black twists than red ‘ere long. Can you not feel it, Charun? The dirt of Mardias in your wounds, chafing against the inside of your armour?”
“The loss of the artifact was not my fault. The Eldar used vile sorcery.”
“Indeed”, Deracin growled, “whoever could have suspected that the Eldar would stoop so low as to use witchraft?” That earned him a number of low chuckles. Before Charun could turn to face him, Huntmaster Bafram spoke up:
“It seems that we should be sorry for actually doing battle instead of only sitting within our walls now. If so, I may have to go around making excuses to my prey before long, eh Bardolf?” There was a murmur of consenting voices, and Bardolf felt himself growing tense. Charun may have been a madman, but he was not without support within the company. Bardolf spoke again:
“We are hunters, not beasts. What we hunt, we take down. That is our way. It has always been our way. What of a hunter who forgets that, I ask? Can he be called a hunter at all? Or has he become something different?”
There was something dangerous in Charun’s voice when he answered, something barely restrained: “You want to lecture me on hunting, Bardolf? Don’t make a fool of yourself! I have been hunting, while you were safe behind the walls of Antilia.
“All that you have been hunting are ghosts! Instead, you should have exercised some caution”
“Your caution could be considered cowardice.”
“And your recklessness could be considered insanity”. Bardolf left the word hanging in the air, the accusation plain to understand. Indeed, the mood in the room had changed. The assembled Huntmasters understood what was at stake here.
As did Charun: His face was a mask of hatred, he almost spat his next words into Bardolf’s face. “Would you like to continue this argument under more …fitting circumstances, my brother? Should we perhaps conduct this discussion on the Hot Dust, do you think? Let us see who is right then!”
“Enough!” The word was no more than a low growl, but it was enough to stop everyone in their tracks. Lorimar gazed at each of them in turn, his expression unreadable.
“I have need of a war council, yet all I hear is an assembly of old crones endlessly bickering. I am growing tired of this.” He turned to Charun:
“You will deploy to the southern plains with your retinue to form a reinforcement for Skarn’s hunting party. The Harriers still at the Y’lanth’Ine basin will remain where they are. Syrax, I trust you will command them wisely until such time as Huntmaster Charun rejoins you.”
Charun’s second in command seemed to have discovered something entirely mesmerizing on the floor in front of him. “Yes, m’lord”, he muttered in a low voice.
“My lord,” Charun seemed incredulous. “I beg you reconsider. There is little strategic value to the southern plains. I could serve the company better if I…”
Lorimar’s voice was icy: “The decision in what capacity you might benefit the company most is mine. Not yours. You may take your leave.”, he adressed the room in general: ““This meeting is adjourned. We shall speak more soon. May your prey be a worthy one. Bardolf and Khoron, you are staying with me. I would speak with you some more.”
The Huntmasters and their lieutenants left. Charun continued glowering for a moment, then he abruptly turned around and marched from the room as well. Bardolf could see that he was seething with ill-contained rage. He turned to Lord Lorimar:
“Charun is no longer sane. He cannot be trusted!”
“Charun is our brother. He has earned our trust. And our respect” Lorimar’s eyes were like cold fire.
Bardolf could not hold his gaze. Then Lorimar turned to Khoron: “What say you, old friend? I would hear your counsel.”
“This fighting amongst ourselves is unwise”, the Dreadnought growled. “A house divided cannot stand. Still, Bardolf has a point.”
Lorimar sighed: “The Butcher’s Nails have transformed Charun. They have transformed us all. Made us more than men. And less.” He was staring into space, at something only he could see.
“My lord, I am only concerned for the company’s survival.”
Lorimar turned to face Bardolf. “As am I. Charun is my concern. The plains of Mardias are yours.” Bardolf inclined his head. The discussion was over. “What of the other factions?”, Lorimar asked.
“It seems the Necrontyr have been sleeping for so long that they might have forgotten how to wake up altogether. We have only had superficial contact and some isolated sightings. For some reason, they are holding back.”
“And the Daemonkin at Candolfus?”
Khoron answered in his abyssal growl: “We cannot know who is in ascendance, so we had best be careful. The whole affair has the stench of Tzeentch upon it.”
“Aye.” Lorimar seemed lost in thought for a few moments, then he gazed at Bardolf:
“Gather a hunting party. I would look upon this prey with my own eyes. We march at first light.”
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!