Saturday, 1 October 2022

The Harrowmark: The Twisted Oak, Part 13

Epilogue

Kalyustar brooded in the deepest crypt of the mausoleum where the Cursed Company had retreated after conceiding the Twisted Oak to the Rotmoons.
'You did well in the eyes of the Master', the Shadeglass Skull's voice came, for once sooting and devoid of its usual mocking tones.
'He too is no stranger to meddlesome brutes and vermins tampering with His plans. But He and His servants have time as their ally. And what does he do with time, Soulchemist?'
"He gather strength and soldiers and plans His next move... Once again, you're right old friend. I should follow in the footsteps of the Master!"
Kalyustar rose from the chair he had been sitting and walked to the crypt altar. There, seething with the cold energies of Shyish, sat the skulls where the power of the Twisted Oak had been stored. It was less than he had wanted, but it would have been enough to try something that so far only the Vampire Lords of the Vyrkos dynasty had achieved.
The necromancer lifted the two skulls and smashed them together. Amethyst sparks flew around his hands as he started to intone a summoning incantation.
The amethyst sparks coalesced in a globe of necrotic energy, skulls appearing and fading across it, their jaws open wide in silent screams. Then the globe darted upwards, flewing straight through the shaft bringing the musty air of the Harrowmark down into the crypt.
"It is done, old friend. Now we wait".
It wasn't long before a deep, rumbling moan and heavy footsteps sounded outsyde the mausoleum doors.
Kalyustar opened them wide and there, next to the engraved lintels, they waited, awkwardly shuffling their feet, their arms hanging slack along their bodies, guts spilling out of deep wounds.
'Deadwalker Ogors. Good, Soulchemist, good!'
"Yes, my friend! If it is only brute force that DaLeeva and his crew understand, i'll give them some like they have never seen before".



This has been an amazingly entertaining campaign, even though it was on a COVID hiatus for two whole years and, towards the end of it, I couldn't post about it as regularly as I'd liked.
The games were all tense and fought to the very last, all the while giving plenty of opportunities to develop a good story.
One thing those game thought me is that you need a careful balance between numbers and muscles when playing Warcry. Not knowing what the battle conditions will be until the very last moment before starting to fight means that going for pure elite or horde warbands might find you at a disadvantage. Gamewise, this means that I had to add some elite fighters to the Cursed Company.
Narratively, however, Ididn't want to go for any vampire. Kalyustar is not likely to share power, and a necromancer will inevitably fell under the sway of even a lesser vampire like a Bloodknight. Luckly, the release of rules for the Kosargi Nightguard gave me the perfect choice: big, strong, mindless zombies, easy for Kalyustar to control.
I had two Mournfang Cavalry bodies in my bits box and all I had to do was repositioning the legs so that they stood rather than sit astride a saddle. This also allowed me to give the legs the typical unnatural angles of zombie legs.


Similarly, I had to glue the Glutton hands, arms and heads at unusual angles to keep the feeling of a shambling zombie. Then, I carved holes in the exposed flesh and eyes and filled the gutplate holes with rolls of greenstuff to represent spilling guts. Finally, I sculpted flaps of torn skin above the spilling guts and around some of rents I had carved.


The final touches before painting were the addition of weapons embedded into the zombies bodies, all taken from the Glutton sprue, and rebuilding the belts. For that, I glued the buckles from a gut plate on the right and then sculpted the end of the belt on the left.


Painting wise, I stuck with the dirty yellow and black uniforms and worn metals of the Cursed Company, going for a rotten green for the ogors flesh.


I painted the guts with Bugman's Glow, followed by washes of Carrobourg Crimson and Druchi Violet and finally a liberal coat of Blood for the Blood God, giving the feeling they are still wet, as if the belly bursted recently. For the wounds I instead wanted an old, scabby look, achieved by sparingly applying Blood for the Blood God over blotches of Typhus Corrosion.

Monday, 26 September 2022

The Harrowmark: The Twisted Oak, Part 12

The Blood Moon

'It is time, Soulchemist!'
The Shadeglass Skull's voice called to Kalyustar, intruding into a dream of brightly uniformed humans cheering a masked wizard.
'Lunaghast is about to rise, Soulchemist!'.
The cheering faces turned into grinning skulls and the bright uniforms into faded blacks and yellows as Kalyustar opened his eyes. A grimoire, skulls and candles were laying on the lid of a sarcophagus. A lodestone laced with gravesand had been driven through the roots of a dark-barked oak. Skeletons stood at the ready all around.
'Everything is ready. Your servants prepared everything for the ritual. The Twisted Oak's power is yours to take, Soulchemist...'.
Memories came back to Kalyustar's mind. The search fo the Twisted Oak and its power, key to vengeance against Sigmar's servants that betrayed him so long ago. The attack of Alarielle's followers, the spear of the Kurnoth Hunter piercing his shoulder as he approached the bloated trunk of the Twisted Oak. And what else... Grellem Vallkern's blade flaring above him?
'This is of no consequence, Soulchemist!' the Shadeglass Skull voice came in imperiously. 'What matters is the will of the Master... and your plans for the Twisted Oak's power'.
"You're right, old friend. Grellem Vallkern, take command and let none come close'. The Wight King nodded and the skeletons jerked into positions around the Twisted Oak.
As he opened the grimoire, the dream he had been awakened from flashed into Kalyustar's eyes. Has it been a dream? Or was it a memory? Could it have been a glimpse of a different future?
'This too, is of no consequence, Soulchemist! What matters is the will of the Master. Begin the ritual!'
'Yes, old friend. Power and vengeance will be mine'. A ghastly glare sipped out of Kalyustar's mask eyeslits as he intoned the first words of the spell that would have siphoned the power of the Cursed Oak.



Kalyustar's voice sounded loud as the reddish hue of rising Lunaghast started to tinge the night sky. Suddenly, the raucos warcries of the Rotmoons boomed out of the canopy as the orruk approached the ring of skeleton sentries around the Twisted Oak.


Blades rang as the frenzied orruks charged forth, rusty nails held in their chunky fists. The line of skeletons held true, not even the massive Kaptain DaLeeva breaking through.


Kalyustar kept his attention on the ritual, the necrotic energies held by the Twisted Oak starting to flow through the loadstone and into the skulls lined on the sarcophagus.


Grellem Vallkern and the Seneschals came forward, bolstering the skeletons' line and holding back the second wave of the Rotmoons.


More power flowed through the loadstone, enough that Kalyustar could divert his attention to raise back some skeletons to pin down DaLeeva.


The Cursed Company started to buckle under the unrelenting assault of the Rotmoons. Even though some more orruks were felled, Dragante managed to open a breach into the skeletons' line.


To Tambor's maddened drumming, DaLeeva and El Doctoro barged through the breach and reached the loadstone, hammering the rusty nails down with their bare fists.


The sorcerous backlash almost stunned Kalyustar, but the necromancer stepped back from the sarcophagus and redirected the wild magical energies against Awkwardo. The orruk withered in seconds.


Bortagno felled anther skeleton while Dragante barged Rhedgar aside and drove another nail into the loadstone.


Kalyustar rushed back toward the sarcophagus, desperately trying again to prevent the backlash to disrupt the ritual.


It was too late. The loadstone cracked and splintered, magical energies starting to flow back into the Twisted Oak's trunk and roots.
'Grab what you can, Soulchemist! Lunaghast is setting and the orruks had the best of you... again...'
"Do not mock me, friend! But you are right. Cursed Caompany, retreat!" As the Cursed Company filed away Kalyustar spied the orruks putting their axes to the Twisted Oak. Vengeance against the men that bretrayed him was still his goal, but now he had one more score to settle with DaLeeva and his brutes.


***
Saul's version of the story is here.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

The Harrowmark: The Twisted Oak, Part 11

Interlude: Wheels within Wheels

The Thief of Wits contemplated the results of its schemes about the Prime Dominion of Hysh. He had not secured the map that would have taken it to the Umbral Web, that was true. Still, Alti's maddened plan had come to the result the Changer of Ways always wanted. The Ur-River had bursted its banks,weakening the barriers between Realms. But now, something was interfeering with the Architect of Fate's Great Scheme.
For too long had the Twisted Oak of the Harromark shackled aetheric energies that Tzeentch wanted loose at precisely the same time as parts of Ghur and Chamon bleeded into each other. And just when the Rotmoons and the Cursed Company were close to fight for it, Alarielle had sent her followers to keep the Oak safe from predation. Tiuthen's party needed to be drawn away so that orruk and undead could fight for and kill the Twisted Oak.
A plan quickly formed into the daemon's mind. All that was needed was to lure the Sylvaneth noble to a vital node into the Realmroots by threatening it. so it was that the Thief of Wits despatched Ak'glar Xamolomax, a powerful Ogroid Thaumaturge and his coven to the Harrowmark.

Ak'glar's cloven hoof ringed nine times over the gravestones, the discordant sound clear like the most refined language to his Tzaangor servants. They approached two key geomantic nodes, preparing to twist them and wither the Realmroots.


As the Thief of Wits had predicted, the servants of Alarielle emerged from the woods, words of abjuration on their lips.


Ak'glar coordinated the sorcerous fire of the Kairic Acolytes, slowing the advance of the Wild Hunters.


Tiuthen and his personal guard advanced to reclaim one of the nodes taken by the Tzaangor.


Paralax Quiverbloom cast away the charm that kept him and his followers hidden, ready to threaten y a third geomantic node held by a Wildwood Ranger.


Tzaangor blades and Eternal Guard spears clashed, and soon blood was drenching the soil. But Tiuthen did reclaim one og the nodes.


A Branchwych emerged from the shadows, her scythe swinging at Ak'glar.


The wildwood Ranger and the wild Hunters mounted a spirited defense, felling Paralax and helding his Acolytes away from the geomantic node.


Suddenly, a loud moaning sounded near the node where the fighting was raging. Drawn by the blood, the zombies of the Harrowmark had come to feed.


Tiuthen's guard felled another Tzaangor and moved on to reclaim one more node.


Wounded and with control of the field slipping from his hands, Ak'glar gave in to his bestial fury. Soon, all that was left of the Branchwych was just a pile of kindlings.


The Zombies shambled onto the embattled Arcanites and Wanderers, turning the combat into a bloodbath.


Like the expert hunter he was, Tiuthen kept Ak'glar at a distance with his spear. Still, the raging Thaumaturge managed to push close to a node, the changefire erupting from his staff corrupting it to its very core.


The Thief of Wits watched with pleasure as Ak'glar withdrew, leaving Tiuthen with a sense of achievement. Now, drawn closer to Wortbad, his band of ragged survivors would have been drawn in a pointless fight with a Rotmoons' raiding party. Meanwhile, the rest of the orruk pirates and Kalyustar's Cursed Company would have clashed for the Twisted Oak and finally broke it. The Changer of Ways was mighty pleased.