We are back to the Realm of Fire for this battle (Balance of Power really does hop about the Realms quite a bit!), where the Stormcasts are about to do something very unwise…
The Story So Far
The Stormcasts had forged (well, bought) an alliance with the Fyreslayers of Vostarg Lodge, and had fought their way to the walls of the Bloodkeep. It was here that the Stormcasts revealed their intentions.
The Bloodkeep was not just a centre of Khornate power within the Realm of Fire – it was also the prison in which Khorne kept Skarbrand locked up when the daemon was not busy killing things. This was achieved by the use of a mighty artefact called the Brass Chain, whose links granted complete power and control over Skarbrand.
Sigmar had ordered the Stormcasts to steal the Brass Chain, allowing the God-King to keep Skarbrand (and thus one of Khorne’s most potent weapons) out of the Realmgate Wars. Things looked good as the Stormcast approached the Bloodkeep with their Fyreslayer allies, as the fortress appeared really quiet – none of the normal roars and growls of Skarbrand’s raging could be heard. With the Fyreslayers offering to tunnel into the Bloodkeep’s courtyard, thus avoiding its outer defences, it looked like the Stormcasts would be able to snatch the Brass Chain from under Khorne’s nose before anyone noticed.
Unless, of course, there was a slight chance that Skarbrand had been banished elsewhere in the Mortal Realms and was even now hurtling back towards Bloodkeep…
The Stormcasts and Fyreslayers have broken into a quiet part of the Bloodkeep, but the full fury of Khorne is on its way, and fast!
Bloodbound & Daemons of Khorne
Blood Warriors x 25 (three units)
Chaos Warriors x 12
Skullreapers x 5
Bloodletters x 30 (three units of 10)
Overlord Bastion (the Brassheart)
Only two units are guaranteed to start on the table, with on average another one or two units joining them, and the rest appearing later in the battle. On paper, this looks like quite a compact little force. However, just a brief inspection shows that there are over 70 models here and they have not been packed out with Bloodreavers as normal – this is an extremely hard-hitting Khornate force, even before you count the presence of Skarbrand!
Lord-Celestant on Dracoth
Liberators x 25 (five units of 5)
Judicators x 5
Prosecutors x 9 (three units of 3)
Runefather on Magmadroth
Hearthguard Berzerkers x 5
Auric Hearthguard x 5
Vulkite Berzerkers x 20 (two units of 10)
The forces of Order can just about match the Khornate defenders in numbers, but they have little in the way of hard-hitting power. The bulk of the Stormcasts are made up from Liberators and Prosecutors, and there are no Paladins at all. The leaders of both are mounted on beasts, and the Grimwrath Berzerker is always worth keeping an eye on, but will they be enough to beat back Skarbrand and his friends?
The dilemma raised in the Battleplan’s title is a choice the forces of Order will have to make during the battle. As the forces of Khorne grow more numerous, will they press onto the bastion and try to steal the Brass Chain (for a major victory), or will they cut their losses and just try to escape (granting a minor victory)?
The Bloodbound had a solid garrison in the Brassheart, two strong retinues of Blood Warriors, led by an Exalted Deathbringer.
The combined Stormcast and Fyreslayer army flocked around the bastion, intent on gaining entry before anyone else within the Bloodkeep even knew they were there. Unfortunately, their entry had been noted both Blood Warriors and Bloodletters threw themselves into the forces of Order.
But where was Skarbrand?
Battle Round One
The Lord-Relictor commenced hostilities by raising his reliquary staff high into the sky and calling a bolt of lightning down upon the Brassheart, frying a Blood Warrior instantly. Crossbow fire from the Judicators raked the bastion but it was the Knight-Azyros who was to do the most damage. Unveiling his lantern, Bloodletter and Blood Warrior alike shrieked in pain as Sigmar’s light burned through them – many Chaos worshippers and daemons were dispatched by this one simple move.
The Prosecutors, leading a retinue of Vulkite Berzerkers, turned and headed away from the Brassheart, eager to secure the escape from the Bloodkeep, while the Runefather on his Magmadroth and Lord-Celestant on his Dracoth both charged the bastion, slaying most of the defenders. The Grimwrath Berzerker followed close behind with his Hearthguard, killing more Blood Warriors upon the ramparts.
The Magmadroth put its front claws on the side of the Brassheart and its tongue snapped out, grabbing the Exalted Deathbringer. The Chaos champion was brought down to ground level, where the Magmadroth could eat him in peace.
This proved too much for the lone surviving Blood Warrior, who used a secret tunnel to escape the Brassheart, leaving it wide open for the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers.
Meanwhile, just a short distance away, the first Bloodletters to race onto the battlefield were being fairly hammered by a combined defence from both Liberators and Vulkite Berzerkers.
Then Skarbrand appeared.
Leading a force of Chaos Warriors and Skullreapers, he charged into where the fighting was thickest, while the Skullreapers raced ahead to try to cut off the fleeing Prosecutors.
They cut down two of the Prosecutors instantly but the third flitted away out of reach and continued on to the tunnel dug by the Fyreslayers.
Meanwhile, the Knight-Azyros turned to face Skarbrand, eager to prove his worth in a fight for the ages.
He thrust his blade forward and managed to score a telling hit upon the massive daemon. Unfortunately, this just made Skarbrand angry, and as Slaughter sent three Liberators back to Azyrheim, Carnage ended the Knight-Azyros quickly and brutally.
Battle Round Two
The first Prosecutors reached the Fyreslayer tunnel and, tucking in their wings, dove down to safety, even as the Hearthguard Berzerkers occupied the Brassheart.
The Grimwrath Berzerker was going to join them to help look for the Brass Chain, but he had already seen both the Lord-Celestant and Runefather turn to face Skarbrand. There was no way he was going to let anyone else get the glory for felling the daemon, so he left the Brassheart, hoping he could get into the action before the Magmadroth and Dracoth could get the other Heroes into the fight.
Taking a slightly more strategic approach, the Lord-Relictor and Knight-Heraldor both trotted towards the Brassheart to help the Hearthguard find the precious artefact,
With a mighty roar, the Runefather urged his Magmadroth forward and, together, they ploughed into Skarbrand. However, this rush had caught the Lord-Celestant off balance, and he was unable to get into the fight in time.
As the Magmadroth approached at speed, Skarbrand seemed almost sanguine, even slow to react, until a Liberator armed with a Grandblade swung his weapon, biting deep into Skarbrand’s leg.
The daemon’s howl echoed around Bloodkeep, and Skarbrand sprang into action. The Grandblade-wielding Liberator was the first to fall, and he was rapidly joined by another three of his comrades who had strayed too close as they fought Blood Warriors – then Skarbrand turned his attention to the Magmadroth.
Carnage bit deep and the creature shrieked as a huge plume of lava erupted from its flank, searing Skarbrand and boiling the last of the Auric Hearthguard. Mustering the last of its strength, the Magmadroth swung its tail hard into Skarbrand’s chest, causing the daemon to actually take a step back, such was the force of the blow.
Raising his axes to the sky, Skarbrand bellowed for more of Khorne’s faithful to join him in wiping out the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers – and you don’t get to worship Khorne long by disobeying Skarbrand. More Blood Warriors arrived on the battlefield, cutting off the Vulkite Berzerkers who had been nearing the escape tunnel, and bogging down the Liberators and Judicators who had been about to garrison the Brassheart.
Around the tunnel’s entrance, the Skullreapers had now taken up position and were attacking any Stormcast who came close, starting with a lone Prosecutor.
Meanwhile, the Runefather continued to face off against Skarbrand.
It was a short fight. The Magmadroth was quickly slain by Skarbrand’s axes, the two Liberators who were also killed almost no more than collateral damage. By this time, Skarbrand was bleeding from dozens of heavy wounds, but this simply made him all the angrier.
A lone Liberator, unseen by Skarbrand in his rage, managed to flank the daemon and launched a series of punishing attacks that proved strong enough to lay it low – unfortunately, Skarbrand’s armour proved up to the task, robbing the Liberator of becoming a true legend among the Stormcasts.
Further away, the Vulkite Berzerkers fought hard against the Blood Warriors who had trapped them, their shields a defence that proved too hard for the Blood Warriors to breach. The Fyreslayers counterattacks, in return, were punishing in the extreme.
However, the fight was slowly turning against the forces of Order, with a large number of Fyreslayers and Liberators falling to sword and axe across the battlefield.
Battle Round Three
Skarbrand roared, and his anger was potent enough to boil a nearby Liberator-Prime in his armour, even as the daemon contemptuously killed the Liberator who had come so close to banishing him.
Meanwhile, the Exalted Deathbringer led a single Blood Warrior to the Brassheart, knowing that the flow of blood alone would not win this battle – the Hearthguard Berzerkers had to be ejected from the Brassheart before they could be joined by the Lord-Relictor and Knight-Heraldor.
The Lord-Celestant steeled himself, knowing that one good charge could run Skarbrand down, but also painfully aware that one swing from the daemon’s massive axe could end his fight in seconds.
Just then, a gruff voice was heard from within the Brassheart.
“‘ere, is this what you lot were looking for?”
As, within the Bloodkeep’s courtyard, the few surviving fighters on both sides continued to grind one another down, the Hearthguard Berzerkers peered over the battlements of the Brassheart with goofy grins – the Brass Chain had been found…
This was a win for the forces of Order but, I think we can all agree, with Skarbrand still alive and swinging, there is no way the Stormcasts will be able to get the Brass Chain out of the Bloodkeep and back to Azyrheim – they will have no choice but to retreat and consider further plans.
The Stormcasts came very, very close to winning this battle in the second round, due mainly to the supreme effectiveness of the Knight-Azyros and his lantern – it was just a shame the Hero did not last long against Skarbrand.
And, speaking of Skarbrand… wow! That daemon really is just an engine of destruction, quite happy sweeping aside foot soldiers or pulling apart Heroes alike.
As it turns out, this is by no means the last we have seen of Skarbrand, and he will be popping up in quite a central role in the next campaign book, Godbeasts.
Still, we have some more fighting to do before we get there.
The Story Continues…
Unbeknownst to any of the combatants in this fight, the Stormcasts’ attack on the Brassheart released a magical sigil that had been trapped there. This sigil is, right now, fluttering its way back to the Realm of Metal where it will have tremendous implications for all participants in the Realmgate Wars.
But that is for the future!
Next time, we will be going back to the Realm of Life, as the Lady of Vines has almost reached her destination…