The Stormcasts, under the leadership of Vandus Hammerhand, have tried to assault the Eldritch Fortress in an attempt to retrieve Ghal Maraz, Sigmar’s own sacred hammer – and they were repulsed.
Now, the Chaos Sorcerer within is casting a mighty spell that will lift the Eldritch Fortress into the Shardgate above it, sending it to the Realm of Chaos where both it and Ghal Maraz will be safely out of Sigmar’s reach…
The Story So Far
The Bleak Horde, under the command of Ephryx, successfully beat the combined armies of the Stormcasts back in the last battle. Following the directions of Kairos Fateweaver, Ephryx is now using the energies of the Stormcast souls he trapped in that fight to power his most mighty of spells.
The entire land around the Eldritch Fortress is now shaking and cracking as this spell begins to lift the castle upwards, towards the Shardgate. If it gets there, not only will the Eldritch Fortress be transported to Tzeentch’s own Crystal Labyrinth within the Realm of Chaos, so too will Ghal Maraz. Once there, it will be unreachable for the Stormcasts and Tzeentch will have gained a powerful weapon in the Realmgate Wars…
The Stormcasts will be fielding the same force as in the last battle (if we want to use a lot of them, we have a limited range of models), while the Bleak Horde and Goretide will be getting a little tweak here and there to keep things interesting.
The Bleak Horde
Skull Keep x 2
Walls x 10
Sorcerer Lord (Ephryx)
Chaos Warriors x 24 (two units of 12)
Chaos Knights x 5
Daemon Prince of Khorne (Lord Khul)
Blood Warriors x 20 (two units of 10)
Bloodreavers x 20
This is very similar to the forces used in the last battle, but the Bleak Horde is swapping out a unit of Chaos Warriors for Knights, while the Goretide loses some Bloodreavers and gains more Blood Warriors instead.
The Daemongale also has some new possibilities, including a Herald on foot, the Changeling, and the Blue Scribes!
Lord-Celestant on Dracoth (Vandus Hammerhand)
Retributors x 10 (two units of 5)
Decimators x 5
Protectors x 5
Liberators x 25 (five units of 5)
Judicators x 10 (two units of 5)
Prosecutors x 9 (three units of 3)
The Stormcasts have a slightly different ploy this time round. In the last assault on the Eldritch Fortress, they needed to either wipe out the Bleak Horde and Goretide or outnumber them within the castle. This time, they need to get at least one unit to the Bleak Horde’s baseline and stay there, searching for Ghal Maraz.
However, there will be a strict (though random) time limit, as the Eldritch Fortress will detach itself from Chamon at any moment, and Ghal Maraz must be found before it reaches the Shardgate!
To help them with this, the Stormcasts have managed to organise themselves into two Battalions. The Prosecutors and a Liberator retinue (those armed with warblades and shields) have formed a Vanguard Wing, while the Judicators and rest of the Liberators have assembled themselves into a Thunderhead Brotherhood.
The Vanguard Wing allows the Liberators to be teleported to the Prosecutors’ position during the battle (may be helpful in taking the fortress), while the Thunderhead Brotherhood allows for the re-rolling of wound rolls so long as the retinues stay close together. Small benefits, but every little helps.
The Chaos forces split their armies this time, the Goretide taking forward positions within the Skull Keeps, while the Bleak Horde kept firmly within the Eldritch Fortress proper, just sending their heavy Knights to join the Lord Khul.
The Stormcasts deployed to face the Goretide, but kept their heavy-hitting units on the flanks, hoping to bypass any distractions and get to the Eldritch Fortress as quickly as possible.
Battle Round One
The Shardgate cracked open once again and the Daemongale blew, dropping Pink Horrors behind the Stormcast line.
Back within the Eldritch Fortress, Ephryx drew upon the power of Tzeentch to summon Screamers, and then steadied the Chaos Warriors who stood motionless atop the walls.
Lord Khul had a different approach. Confident he could defeat the Stormcasts yet again, he gave a great bellow and led his Bloodreavers into the advancing army, flanked by Chaos Knights of Tzeentch. While the Bloodreavers were halted by the first line of Judicators, Lord Khul soared over them and landed squarely in the centre of the Stormcast formations. The Knights spotted a gap between Judicators and Liberators, and started to thread their way after the Daemon Prince.
This time, the Stormcasts were ready for Lord Khul’s lightning attack. Though he felled two Judicators, the Daemon Prince was badly wounded by this rash move.
The Stormcasts on the flanks ignored Lord Khul’s distraction tactics and ran as fast towards the Eldritch Fortress as they could, while those in the centre rallied to finish off the marauding Chaos forces as quickly as possible. A Javelin from a retinue of Prosecutors finished off the Daemon Prince, sending him howling back to the Realm of Fire (where he will no doubt pop up again!), allowing Liberators to start hammering at the Knights who were now cut off from any possible support.
Not even the Bloodreavers could hack their way through the line, and soon most were either dead or fleeing.
Battle Round Two
As Ephryx summoned more Screamers to the battle, the Daemongale continued to blow, dropping more Pink Horrors into the fight. Meanwhile, the Blood Warriors tasked with manning the Skull Keeps watched the Bloodreavers having fun as they got hacked apart, and they could not resist leaving their fortifications to engage the Stormcasts (the decision might also have had something to do with Decimators approaching a Skull Keep). They quickly charged into the leading elements of the Stormcast force.
The Pink Horrors picked their targets carefully and concentrated on the Prosecutors and the Knight-Azyros, thinking these would be easy pickings. Though they managed to wound the Knight-Azyros, the Prosecutors stood firm though. Meanwhile, the Blood Warriors had run right into both Retributors and Decimators, and had already started paying the price.
Healing a Decimator with soothing lightning, the Lord-Relictor led the Stormcast Command closer to the Eldritch Fortress. The Knight-Venator swooped past him to line up on Ephryx with a Starfate Arrow, but it failed to wound the sorcerer, who merely had to fend off the Venator’s Stareagle.
The Blood Warriors finally met their end at the hands of both Decimators and Retributors, and a final charge by Vandus Hammerhand himself wiped out the few survivors.
Battle Round Three
As the Daemongale dropped more Screamers behind the Stormcasts, Sigmar’s warriors ran for the fortress, now all but free of interference from Chaos skirmishers. Just a few Screamers now roamed the battlefield, and these would have to be dealt with quickly before they started to wear down important retinues.
The Knight-Azyros proudly proclaimed one of the Skull Keeps to now be in the possession of Sigmar, while the Decimators, led by Vandus, wiped out the Screamers closest to them.
In the centre, Liberators fought against more Screamers and were deadlocked with the daemons, until the Retributors piled in and slaughtered every last one, while Prosecutors flew high above to start attacking the Chaos Warriors manning the walls of the Eldritch Fortress.
While Ephryx had survived the attentions of the Knight-Venator, he knew he was risking himself by staying on the walls and, in any case, he had seen all he needed. Calling upon Tzeentch, he summoned a Herald, who in turn summoned another Herald on a Disc, who summoned a unit of Flamers. The Chaos defences had been quickly rebuilt and looked worryingly effective.
The Flamers quickly got to work, immolating a retinue of Prosecutors, while a bolt from a Herald managed to wound Vandus.
The last Screamers dived into a unit of Retributors but paid the price, their attacks bouncing off the thick Sigmarite while hammers finished them off.
Battle Round Four
Tzeentch was clearly unhappy with the efforts of Ephryx and the Bleak Horde, as the Daemongale suddenly spluttered and every summoned daemon instantly disappeared from the battlefield. A great cheer erupted from the advancing Stormcasts as, once again, there was now nothing between them and the Eldritch Fortress!
However, Ephryx was ready for this, and he quickly preformed his summoning chain once again, begetting a Herald, who begat a Herald on Disc, who begat Screamers. The Stormcasts began to realise they may never take the Eldritch Fortress while Ephryx was alive to continue summoning more daemons, but the sorcerer had now retreated from the walls and was out of sight within the courtyard.
As one, the Chaos Warriors of the Bleak Horde started to spread out along the length of the walls, ready to plug any gaps the Stormcasts could exploit (you can climb walls in Age of Sigmar, but enemy models can effectively block you from doing so unless you can fly).
The Knight-Vexillor saw his chance and used his standard to call a great comet from the heavens. The massive missile smashed into the Eldritch Fortress, killing a Chaos Warrior and wounding a Herald.
As the Lord-Relictor claimed the second Skull Keep in the name of Sigmar, a retinue of Prosecutors dropped down in front of the wall, readying themselves to hop over. However, defensive wards placed along the wall suddenly activated and seriously injured one of them.
Meanwhile, Vandus led a general advance, goading his Dracoth to unleash its storm breath upon the walls. The Chaos Warriors ducked behind their Runeshields as the bolts came in, but a Herald was less lucky and was fried. In its last throes, it called upon Tzeentch for mercy but the fickle god decided the Herald needed a new lesson, and promptly turned it into Chaos Spawn.
As the Judicators started to take up positions to begin pounding the Chaos Warriors occupying the walls, the lead Prosecutors flew above them to descend upon Ephryx himself. However, the sorcerer was ready for this attack and they failed to hurt him.
Then, there was a great crack that resounded for miles – Ephryx’s conjurations had finally taken effect, and the Eldritch Fortress broke free of the silver plain in which it had been trapped. Now, it rose up into the sky, heading directly for the Shardgate and Tzeentch’s own realm!
Two Judicators only just missed falling into the new abyss behind them but the Stormcasts now had a bigger problem. If the Eldritch Fortress reached the Shardgate then not only they would be lost for all time – so would Ghal Maraz. They had to sweep past the Chaos defences and locate the relic before that happened.
Time was no longer on their side.
Battle Round Five
The Daemongale started to blow hard again, this time dropping twenty Pink Horrors right in front of Vandus and his Paladins, effectively stalling their final advance.
Seeing his old one was broken, Ephryx summoned yet another Herald, and both Heralds concentrated their magical fire upon the Prosecutors assaulting the sorcerer, quickly dropping them. The Stormcast attempt to end the life of Ephryx had failed. Not wanting to risk another attack like that, Ephryx whistled and called the Chaos Spawn into the courtyard to protect him.
The Pink Horrors cackled as they saw Vandus in front of them, and they unleashed waves of pink fire at the Lord-Celestant, badly wounding him. Meanwhile, further along the walls, Liberators and Screamers continued to battle, though neither was willing to give ground.
The Stormcasts continued to advance, but the walls of the Eldritch Fortress were clearly going to be a problem. The Chaos Warriors manning them had so far proved durable against any attack, and Prosecutors were simply not strong enough to shift them.
Sensing this frustration among his brothers, the Knight-Heraldor raised his horn to his lips and blew, sending the full force of Sigmar’s wrath to the walls. Screams erupted as both a Chaos Warrior and a Liberator were hit by falling stone but, unseen to the Stormcasts, a massive piece of masonry was dislodged and fell squarely upon Ephryx. Badly wounded, the sorcerer managed to crawl out from under the rubble, cursing as he went.
In one Skull Keep, the bow-armed Judicators had taken a good position over-seeing the entire Eldritch Fortress, and now rained down arrows upon the Chaos Warriors, quickly killing two of them.
As the Liberators finished off the Screamers they had been engaging, the Knight-Azyros leapt up to the battlements of the fortress, but the Chaos Warriors were ready for him, eager to tear his wings off. A bolt of lightning rocketing skywards signified that the Knight-Azyros’ soul was heading back to Azyrheim.
However, this proved sufficient distraction for the Protectors and Knight-Vexillor, who both charged the Pink Horrors in front of them, causing horrendous casualties.
Battle Round Six
As battle raged on around the Eldritch Fortress, the Daemongale vomited out the Blue Scribes, who alighted gently on the walls.
As Ephryx summoned more Flamers to his cause, the Blue Scribes summoned more Horrors while the Herald nearby threw an Arcane Bolt at Liberators below, killing two of them.
Those Pink Horrors hurled magical flames at the Liberators closest to them, then charged, though they quickly paid for that mistake. The Flamers hurled even more ferocious fire at the Judicators within the Skull Keep, but the walls proved thick enough to resist the heat.
Lord Vandus had been forced to retreat briefly from the concentrated magical fire that had been thrown at him, but a soothing balm of lightning from the Lord-Relictor saw him fighting fit again.
The Knight-Heraldor blew his horn once more in an effort to bring down the walls, and ended up killing two Chaos Warriors and a Flamer. The Judicators in the Skull Keep returned fire on the daemons and finished them off.
Slowly, the Chaos defences were beginning to crack, and while the Chaos Warriors of the Bleak Horde were still standing firm, there were noticeably less of them.
Then, the Prosecutors of the Vanguard Wing played their card, and summoned their retinue of Liberators from across the battlefield.
The Stormcasts were now in position to take the Eldritch Fortress and recover Ghal Maraz. If they could just hold on a little longer and not get pushed back, victory could be theirs…
Battle Round Seven
The Shardgate now seemed awfully close, and the Eldritch Fortress was just metres away from being sucked into Tzeentch’s Crystalline Labyrinth. The Daemongale continued to blow from it, this time dropping the Changeling right next to Vandus as he stood in his Dracoth’s saddle to reach the Chaos Warriors at the top of the wall.
Vandus was badly injured as both the Changeling and newly summoned Pink Horrors hurled Arcane Bolts at him, but he cunningly saw through the Changeling’s deception that might otherwise have seen him put his celestial hammer through his own Dracoth’s skull.
On the other side of the fortress, Pink Horrors, the Blue Scribes and the Herald hurled magical fire down upon the Liberators just outside their walls, killing all of them. However, more Liberators and Retributors were already moving up to take their place.
One one side of the fortress, a huge melee had erupted as Chaos Warriors sallied out to engage the oncoming Stormcasts, supported by Pink Horrors, the Blue Scribes and Herald. Casualties were heavy on both sides, but this action forced the Stormcasts back from the fortress and effectively stalled the entire advance on the right flank.
However, on the opposite side of the battlefield, it was a different story. Enough space had been cleared on the walls for Retributors and Prosecutors to mount a credible joint attack.
The Herald positioned there was dispatched quickly by two-handed hammers, while the Chaos Warriors were distracted long enough for Vandus to send the Changeling back to Tzeentch.
Then, the Knight-Venator saw his chance…
Flying high above the battlefield, he dropped down into the courtyard of the Eldritch Fortress and quickly found Ephryx cowering in a corner. He lined up the sorcerer with his bow and unleashed an arrow, piercing Ephryx’s heart.
With their leader gone and Stormcasts on the walls, the remainder of the Bleak Horde beat a quick retreat and fled deeper into the Eldritch Fortress. Vandus scoured the area and quickly found Ghal Maraz, holding the artefact triumphantly above his head.
Sigmar, finally, had his hammer back!
This battle went a different way from the last, which is interesting considering how little the forces had changed previously. The two main differences were, I think, slightly different Battleplan objectives and some proper tactics from the Stormcasts – specifically, they placed most of their characters and Paladins on one flank, and it just went in like a train on the left flank (which was the only one that fell – the Bleak Horde stalled the advance on the right).
There was a fair bit of carnage on both sides, which is always good to see, and an alarming number of Tzeentch Chaos Warriors managed to survive the fight! Daemons (both summoned and those who dropped automatically every turn from the Daemongale) had less of an overall effect on the battle, partially because Pink Horrors were forced into close combat (where they suck, frankly) and partly because the Stormcasts had learned lessons from the last battle and knew to strike down Flamers wherever they presented their ugly faces.
It also has to be noted that Tzeentch is fickle, and not only turned a Herald into Spawn but also, at one point, withdrew all daemons on the battlefield, something the god had done in the last battle too.
Both players agreed that Tzeentch was, quote, ‘a bit of a dick’.
Still, despite being beaten back in their first assault, the forces of Sigmar have finally (and just in the nick of time!) been triumphant and, as I type this, Ghal Maraz is on its way back to the Celestial Realm to be reunited with its owner!
The Story Continues…
This battle marks the end of the Quest for Ghal Maraz campaign book, and what a journey it has been! The forces of Sigmar have done well in the Realm of Metal, though they have barely scratched the surface there, but they have also (it has to be said) taken a bit of a kicking in the Realm of Life, with their forces accompanying Alarielle as they flee Nurgle’s armies.
We will be taking a look at what has been happening elsewhere on the Realms for the next three or four weeks, but we are already gearing up to play through the next campaign book, Balance of Power.