(This post is part 10 of a 10 part series in honor of the Malign Portents event. Part 1, “The Carnival of Vomittongue the Magnificent” is located here, Part 2, “At the Lady’s Command” is available here, Part 3, “The Tin Woodsmen and the Beasts” is available here, Part 4, “The Dead Can’t Sail” is available here”, Part 5, “The Fly and the Raven” is available here, Part 6, “No Honor Among the Dead” is available here, Part 7, “Horticulus Ascendant” is available here, Part 8, “The Road Less Traveled” is available here, and Part 9, “The Malatrice” is available here.)
Ill Weather Friends
They were losing. For all the preparations brother Jericho had seen in the war plans against Nagash, he didn’t recall any contingencies for losing the beachhead and realmgate in Shyish. The notion that the combined might of Horticulus Slimux’s horde and the stormhost might be completely routed was not seriously considered, and yet…here they were, losing reforged by the dozens, their human warriors long since crumbled to dust by the wizards of the dead, and the rotbringers and daemons they’d brought as insurance barely able to support them due to their own mounting losses.
Molex Soulpox was the last of his crew still standing, the captain and first mate had been torn to shreds by countless skeletons, and most of the rest brought down by the tides of vampire cavalry that had charged in behind the shambling and endless hordes of dead. Even as he ascended the hill in front of him, where he could see a few other blightkings holding out, he looked across the field and saw nothing but more tides of the dead, as far as the eyes could see. Horticulus had been busy back at their staging grounds, the forest’s border was shrinking as the dead brought the rot trees falling to the ground, but it became clear that the gardener had been planting extensively inside, turning the small section of Nagash’s domain into a piece of grandfather’s garden. Molex was glad there would be a foothold for the followers of nurgle here, even as the other realmgates would fall. “THE REALM GATE” he shouted to the other warriors on top of the hill, they could see the shimmering passageway to Aqshy with a dwindling guard of stormcast. An undead dragon bearing a vampire lord was incinerating the front lines of the remaining warriors of order.
The heat of the dragon’s flames was melting armor, rendering shields and weapons useless, but the stormcast dared not to break their defensive formation to charge, lest the protection spell they were relying on break. Suddenly, the dragon’s flames let up, and the warriors were surprised to see a serpentine creature, with what appeared to be malformed wings and shrunken legs tearing at the flesh of the undead behemoth. The dragon snapped back at the creature, tearing into its long but slender body, doing wounds that should’ve killed the beast outright. Undeterred, it continued to tear at the dragon, who was slowing and showing signs of loss of control. It appeared the creature’s venom was so strong, it could even damage reanimated tissue. The dragon began to seize, falling over and throwing its rider. The Malatrice pounced, tearing off the dragon’s head, rendering the reanimated creature a pile of rotting meat and not much more. In that instant, a lance pierced the head of the chaos beast, killing it instantly, the vampire lord dropped the handle of his mounted weapon, leaving it in the monster’s skull, and drew his sword to challenge the stormcast. Before he had a chance a flash of light left an enormous hole in his chest. A tall, hideous beastman let out a bray and lifted his staff over his head as a dozen of his pestigors charged in and cut the vampire to pieces before the creature turned to ash. The shaman said a few words over the dead beast he had summoned, a prayer perhaps? He then lifted the skull of the dead dragon and handed it to one of his warriors. The beasts quickly made for the realmgate, the stormcast doing nothing to stop them. Aqshy had worse things to worry about.
As the blightkings fought their way to the realm gate, they saw the dragon fall, and some of their bestial allies abandon them. “Cowards!” Cursed Molex, “What right have they to abandon us what have been chosen by grampy nurgle”
“Beasts always run when they don’t see a way a winnin” responded Dolkin Phlegmus, “that’s why we’re blessed and they’re cursed, there ain’t no life of eternal service destined for any beast.”
“Still, if we make it out, I should like to take that shaman’s head off.” Molex wasn’t looking for an argument, but he couldn’t contain his frustrating at a retreat when their situation was beginning to look dire. The blight kings reached the stormcast just in time to see the battered warriors facing down a spirit host. The lord castellant lifted his lantern and the blazing light of Sigmar burned the spectral things away until nothing remained. The light also singed the flesh of the advancing blightkings, but they did not stop their charge.
A wave of ghouls had rushed onto the battlefield, unlike their dead allies, they were alive, and the blightkings worked best when their toxic blades were cutting down living flesh. The warriors threw themselves into the wave in front of the stormcast, amused to be showing up the golden armored warriors, beating back the advance such that their defensive line was not overwhelmed and held against the tide of ravenous cannibals. As the blight kings fought they laughed and joked to one another, mocking the dead, the reforged, the fearful beastmen, making crude jokes about the miserable creatures they were cutting down by the dozen. The laughter stopped when the crypt fiends reached them. One by one, each of the proud warriors of nurgle fell, their poisonous flesh then stripped unceremoniously from their bodies by the hungry pack.
Molex was the only survivor, but he was locked in combat with two of the brutal creatures and losing ground. He was quickly being overwhelmed by their lesser kin from all sides, he didn’t have long. Despite the certainty of his fate, he fought on, nurgle’s blessing was upon him, his tally this day had been great, he would fall and rise anew in the garden of his master. Just then, a hammer cracked the larger of the crypt fiends in the skull, stunning the beast. Molex took the opportunity to drive his blade into the other’s throat, finally killing it as the toxicity quickly spread to its brain, leaving the creature seizing on the ground. The liberator in front of him made quick work of the other and they soon found themselves back to back, fighting close and keeping each other alive. “You got a good sense’a timin there, golden boy, I think me card was punched.”
The liberator let out a laugh, “I’ve seen your kin take more damage than I can imagine and walk away from a fight, I wager you don’t have much to fear from these pathetic creatures.” His hammer cut the ghouls down 2 and 3 at a time, shattering their skulls and breaking their limbs. Each sword stroke from the blightking left any it touched, even those just nicked, in a convulsing fit. Together, the warriors fought to keep the pressure off the gradually shrinking line of defenses behind them. Each stormcast in the line took a dozen opponents or more with them, but despite their prodigious efforts they were outnumber by so many that each loss took them closer to total collapse.
“Didn’t think I’d die back to back with a whelp of Sigmar, mate, but it’s been an honor to fight with ye,” the Blightking wasn’t tired, but he could see no end to the tides of the dead and he knew this was where he would meet his end, his first one anyway.
“Don’t give up hope, despair will lead you straight to the arms of nurgle,” the liberator laughed at his retort, slipping into a more serious voice he said, “Maybe we’ll meet again, maybe this moment is destiny and we’ll spend the centuries finding each other and seeing who’s the better. I could hope for a worse rival.”
“I hope so, what’s yer name, pretty boy?”
“Jericho, of the Hammers of Sigmar.”
“I’m Molex, by rights the captain of the weeping maid, though I don’t think I’ll get to see the helm in this lifetime.”
As the warriors continued to fight, each was slowing as the weight of injuries mounted on their superhuman bodies. The sky began to beat a hard rain that made the slope they were standing on slick. Their opponents fell even faster, but they were both losing their footing as well. Just as both had fallen and were being overwhelmed, a crack of lightning struck just behind them, ionizing the air, arcing across the forces of death. Another flash, and a brilliance neither warrior had ever seen or could describe lit up the land of the dead.