The penultimate battle of the first half of the Godbeasts campaign is here – and it is a titanic battle within the Ironwarp Citadel as the forces of Order and Chaos vie for control of Ignax, the great Godbeast that hangs in the sky above them like a sun.
The Story So Far
Under the continued attacks by the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers, the Ironwarp Citadel was beginning to fall into the hands of Order – and that was something Archaon the Everchosen simply could not allow. Riding Dorghar, he alighted upon the highest tower of the citadel and stared down at his enemies as they continued their bloody battle against the mortal forces of Khorne.
Then, the Extremis Chamber struck. Having gathered its strength after forcing the initial breach of the Ironwarp Citadel’s defences, the Dracothian Guard now led the way for the final attack, Stormcasts and Fyreslayers moving up quickly behind them to smash the Bloodbound.
Stretching its wings, Dorghar took to the air, carrying Archaon down into the swirling melee. If the Ironwarp Citadel was to be theirs, the tormcast Eternals would have to kill or at least drive Archaon off.
The Ironwarp Citadel is Khorne’s own domain, but now Archaon has arrived to personally oversee the battle, along with just about every luminary in the ranks of the Bloodbound.
Archaon the Everchosen, Exalted Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse
Mighty Lord of Khorne
Mighty Skullcrushers x 6
Bloodcrushers x 6
Wrathmongers x 5
Skullreapers x 5
Bloodreavers x 40 (two units of 20)
Blood Warriors x 25 (two units of 10, one unit of 5)
Chaos Warriors x 12
Just about every mortal Khorne model we have is involved in this battle, all led by Archaon himself. This will be an extremely tough army to crack, but it seems like the Stormcasts have come loaded for bear…
Lord-Celestant on Stardrake
Concussors x 4
Fulminators x 4
Tempestors x 4
Desolators x 4
Liberators x 20 (four units of 5)
Judicators x 10 (two units of 5)
Retributors x 10 (two units of 5)
Runesmiter on Magmadroth
Runeson (Volgrov Burrson)
Vulkite Berzerkers x 30 (three units of 10)
Hearthguard Berzerkers x 10
Auric Hearthguard x 5
This is another joint Stormcast-Fyreslayer force but, this time, the Extremis Chamber is back. So long as the Dracothian Guard can keep the pressure up, the Stormcasts should be able to forge their way ahead in this battle, but while they have two Stardrakes leading them, Archaon is (as always) going to be the foe they have to deal with.
To Kill a King has one simple aim – the Stormcasts have to destroy Archaon (we can assume he will be so badly injured he has to retire from the field – don’t worry, he will be back soon enough!) or drive him off. The latter can be achieved by causing so many wounds that Archaon has to take a special form of Battleshock test, not an easy task in itself!
However, there are (as always) some complications. First, the Stormcasts can re-roll any wound rolls of 1 when attacking Archaon. But that is the only bonus they enjoy.
For his part, Archaion can use three Command Abilities in a hero phase and can use the Command Abilities of any of his underlings. On top of that, he gets a special save against any and all wounds.
The forces of Order deployed along a broad front, with the strongest forces arranged against the nearest wall of the Ironwarp Citadel. However, Fyreslayers and Dracothian Guard were sent to sweep across the plains to annihilate any defenders who were found outside the walls before making their way to the Malefic Gate.
The Bloodbound had been caught off guard by the Stormcasts’ sudden assault and were left scrabbling to gain the walls before the forces of Order swept over them. Only a single retinue of Blood Warriors managed to clamber onto the ramparts as Archaon sat astride Dorghar, ordering his minions forward.
However, the Juggernaut cavalry of the Bloodcrushers and Skullcrushers took to the plain alongside the Khorgorath.
Battle Round One
The eye of the Godbeast Ignax spied the battle developing outside the Ironwarp Fortress, and burning rays lanced down from the sky, seeking the unworthy – and they found them among the Bloodbound. A Bloodreaver and a Blood Warrior simply disappeared as the rays annihilated them and the Khorgorath roared in pain as another sliced across its back.
Within the Overlord Bastion, the Slaughterpriest went about his bloody work, but not with Duardin or Stormcasts. Instead, Bloodreavers were brought to the Altar of Khorne and sacrificed, not to the Blood God, but to the Pyroclasm. The sentient firestorm seemed satisfied with this offering and hung broodily above the Ironwarp Citadel, savouring the thought of more sacrifices.
As Bloodreavers were brought, screaming, to the altar to await the Slaughterpriest’s axe, the presence of Archaon outside the bastion ‘inspired’ others not to run.
At a barked command from the Everchosen, the Bloodbound rushed forward, knowing Archaon would punish them severely if they failed to reach the walls before the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers. Only the Bloodreavers were kept back, their duty to satisfy the Pyroclasm so their betters could fight unhindered.
As the forces of Order advanced, Ignax unleashed solar flares across the heavens, blinding everyone on the battlefield. While this had little effect upon the crazed Bloodbound, the Judicators of the Stormcasts and Auric Hearthguard of the Fyreslayers were dazzled, making their missile weapons quite useless. The Skybolt-armed Judicators instead took up position in the Skull Keep, the Lord-Relictor joining them.
Battle Round Two
The solar flares continued to bathe the battlefield in brilliant radiance, even as the Slaughterpriest dedicated six Bloodreavers to appease the Pyroclasm. Their mounts clawed paws scrabbling at skulls and other fixtures, the Varanguard climbed into the walls, a magical shield granted by Archaon shimmering around them. They were soon joined by Blood Warriors and, on the plains, the cavalry of the Bloodbound shook the ground as they thundered towards the enemy.
They quickly saw the Runesmiter on his Magmadroth, too eager to reach the Malefic Gates, had advanced ahead of the rest of his army and the Bloodcrushers charged in.
The impact of the metal Juggernauts sent the Magmadroth reeling, and the Bloodletters found it an easy mark for their Hellblades. As huge gouts of volcanic blood washed over the Bloodcrushers and nearby Dracothian Guard, the Magmadroth retaliated, shredding a Bloodcrusher with its vicious claws.
As a Liberator bravely sacrifice himself to the Pyroclasm, the forces of Order cheered as they saw the walls of the Ironwarp Citadel ignite into huge columns of flame. The influence of Ignax burned the Bloodbound, immolating three Blood Warriors as their retinues struggled to withstand the intense heat and stay in their defensive positions, wary that the Stormcasts were closing in fast.
As the Stormcasts neared the walls, powerful wards exploded in their faces, injuring a Retributor, even as the Judicators rained Skybolt arrows down onto the Varanguard. The Everchosen’s personal warriors, protected by Archaon’s Mystic Shield, weathered the attack calmly, sustaining barely a scratch. The Drakesworn Templar had planned to assault the walls after the Judicators had swept them clear of the Varanguard but, seeing them almost completely unharmed, he hesitated and did not charge.
The two Star Drakes instead called upon the power of Drachothion and stars fell from the heavens to rain down upon the Ironwarp Citadel. However, the Bloodbound had faced the Extremis Chamber before and they quickly hunkered down on the ramparts, with only a single Skullcrusher outside the walls blasted apart by the impacts.
On the plains, the Dracothian Guard counter-charged the Juggernauts, unleashing a Storm Surge of lightning as they approached. As they crashed into the metal monsters, axes, hammers and glaives hacked through their enemies, killing the Khorgorath and leaving just a single Skullcrusher still fighting.
The Dracothian Guard had proved, once again, they were the superior cavalry, and they now swore to prove the point by finishing the Varanguard they had heard had made an apprentice in the battle.
Battle Round Three
More Bloodreavers were sacrificed to appease the Pyroclasm as Ignax sent a raging heatwave across the battlefield. This drove the Bloodbound to even greater heights of frenzy, and the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers proved not to be immune to its effects either.
Racing forward, the last of the Bloodbound finally gained the walls and, between them, they quickly formed a credible defence against the assault.
As more solar flares from Ignax blinded the forces of Order, the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers began their first determined attack on the gates and walls.
The walls of the Ironwarp Citadel exploded as they were bombarded with arrows, bolts and missiles of lava, but the solar flares caused many shots to go wide. When the dust finally cleared, only a single Chaos Warrior and Skullreaper had been killed. At the gates, the Magmadroth had more luck, throwing gouts of lava across the ramparts to burn three Blood Warriors.
Then, the Drakesworn Templar finally persuaded his Star Drake to charge the walls and engage the Varanguard.
The Star Drake leered over the high walls and plucked one of the Varanguard off his mount, tossing him through the air to land heavily on the rocky ground, where he lay motionless. The other members of the Varanguard thrust down with their Fellspears, digging deep into the Star Drake and forcing a terrible roar of pain.
Battle Round Four
As Ignax granted Dorghar the Legacy of Vulcatrix, its breath turning to fire, Archaon ordered the Bloodbound to hold firm and not leave the walls. The Everchosen solidified the defence by maintaining the Mystic Shield upon his Varanguard.
More solar flares brightened the battlefield, as the Magmadroth hurled itself against the Malefic Gates, but they held fast, locked in place by the Blood Warriors defending it.
Realising that while the walls were heavily defended, the gates could quickly turn into a weak point, the Aspiring Deathbringer ran across the walls to help hold the line.
A great shriek then erupted from the far side of the battlefield as the Fellspears of the Varanguard found their mark and were driven deep into the heart of the Star Drake, killing the beast and sending the Templar crashing to the ground.
The fight intensified outside the gates, as Dracothian Guard and Fyreslayers both lent their weight against it, trying to force a passage into the Ironwarp Citadel. Three Vulkite Berzerkers were blasted by the wards that decorated the gates, a reminder that even the fortress itself was lethal.
The Skybolt armed Judicators in the Skull Keep had planned to continue raining flights of arrows upon the defenders on the walls, but the Judicator-Prime then noticed that the Everchosen himself had flown closer in an effort to continue shielding his Varanguard. Giving the order, he instructed his Judicators to loose a flight at Archaon.
In surprise more than pain, Dorghar’s three heads all barked as arrows thudded into its flank. The damage was minor, but served as a reminder that the Everchosen could be hurt.
At the gates, only the Runesmiter on his Magmadroth could reach the Blood Warrior defenders above them all, joined by the lightning of the Dracoths, the upper reaches of the gates were washed with lighting and lava. Blood Warriors toppled from gates, simultaneously blasted and burnt. Under this sustained assault, the nerve of many broke, and Blood Warriors began to run from the gates to head deeper into the Ironwarp Citadel, uncaring that their cowardice was witnessed by the Everchosen.
Battle Round Five
Once again, the walls of the Ironwarp Citadel blazed with fire as they were set aflame by Ignax, but the Bloodbound were now wary of this and only a Vulkite Berzerker outside the fortress was caught in the inferno.
Another Liberator bravely sacrificed himself to the Pyroclasm but, this time, the firestorm rejected the offering, believing the Stormcasts had far more worthy beings amongst them. A roiling storm of flame tore through the rank of the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers, quickly accounting for a horrific death toll.
Struggling to manage to pain, the Lord-Relictor planted his reliquary staff and called upon Sigmar to aid him. Lightning lanced down from the heavens to strike Archaon, causing the Lord-Relictor to grin under his helmet – at least the Everchosen had now felt some of the pain of the Stormcasts. He was distracted from his gloating by a loud cheer from the other side of the battlefield, voiced by both Stormcast and Fyreslayer.
The Malefic Gates had finally been forced open!
The Dracothian Guard were the first in, but they were quickly followed by the Runesmiter and Vulkite Berzerkers.
As the forces of Order spread out in the Ironwarp Citadel’s courtyard, searching for enemies cowering inside, more defensive wards exploded, striking the Concussors and slaying more Vulkite Berzerkers.
This proved too much for some Fyreslayers and, already ravaged by the Pyroclasm, many Vulkite Berzerkers broke, and ran, despite threats and curses from their Runesmiter.
Seeing the gates fall, the Lord-Celestant spied the Aspiring Deathbringer still on their ramparts, and he urged his Star Drake forward to slay the villain.
However, the Aspiring Deathbringer knew how to use the walls to best effect and he ducked down, the Star Drake’s claws only wounding him. A single Blood Warrior saw his chance for glory and rushed forward to strike at the Lord-Celestant, but the Stormcast caught the blow on his Thundershield. The shield reverberated from the attack, unleashing a titanic peal of thunder that blasted the Blood Warrior where he stood and injure the Aspiring Deathbringer further.
An ash storm then descended upon the battlefield, a further gift from Ignax, limiting everyone’s vision. Archaon chose to withdraw the protection of his Mystic Shield from the Varanguard, and cloaked himself with it instead.
As Bloodbound repositioned themselves along the walls to plug the gaps that had appeared in their lines, others jumped down into the courtyard to halt the rush of the Dracothian Guard.
However, the Exalted Deathbringer had other ideas. Seeing his rival duel the Lord-Celestant, he knew he had to make his own mark so, leading a retinue of Skullreapers, he confronted the Tempestors. Not to be outdone, the Varanguard leapt down too, their massive beasts shaking the ground as they landed in front of a retinue of Retributors.
Sensing the chance to break an entire flank of the Stormcast attack, Archaon goaded Dorghar to take to the air, landing heavily upon the walls.
The Retributors were taken completely by surprise by the Varanguard’s attack, and barely had time to raise hammers as they charged out of the swirling ash storm. Two Retributors were skewered by their Fellspears before they could react, and the Varanguard were gone before any retaliation could be mounted.
The Exalted Deathbringer, however, spat and cursed as the ash storm blinded him. He could hear the Skullreapers rushing forwards to find the Tempestors, but the Deathbringer could see only dust.
The Tempestors too were caught by surprise as the Skullreapers rushed them, but the reactions of their Dracoths were up to the task. Two Skullreapers were torn apart by their teeth and claws, but it was not enough. Once the Skullreapers were close enough, their daemon weapons hungered for Stormcast souls, and two Tempestors were quickly dispatched.
All of a sudden, the Stormcasts’ flank began to look shaky.
Seeing the Aspiring Deathbringer going toe-to-toe with the Lord-Celestant and his Star Drake, a Mighty Lord of Khorne entered the fight, swinging his powerful axe.
Aided by his Flesh Hound, the Lord of Khorne hammered away at the Lord-Celestant, his axe seeking to break reality and slay the Stormcast with one cruel blow. However, the Lord-Celestant had seen him approach and caught the axe again and again on his Thundershield. Twice, the Thundershield peeled with the force of a storm, the sound waves injuring the Lord of Khorne and blasting the life out of the Aspiring Deathbringer.
Truly, the power of the God-King was with him.
Battle Round Six
The Slaughterpriest continued his bloody work, hewing Bloodreavers as their comrades brought them, struggling, to kneel before him. Five Bloodreavers were butchered to appease the Pyroclasm, but the Slaughterpriest failed to follow the proper rites and a terrible firestorm swept through the ranks of the Bloodbound, immolating a Chaos Warrior, Wrathmonger and one of the Varanguard.
High above the walls of the Ironwarp Citadel, Archaon raised the Slayer of Kings and bid the Gods of Chaos lend him their air. It was Khorne who responded, dispatching a veritable legion of daemons – six Bloodcrushers and thirty Bloodletters, all led by a Bloodthirster of Unfettered Fury.
Hurling an Arcane Bolt that blasted a Retributor off his feet, Archaon then descended into the heart of the battle outside the walls.
The Skullreapers rushed towards the Stormcasts defending the Skull Keep, but were met by brave Runeson Burrson, who thrust out with his Wyrmslayer Javelin, piercing the heart of one.
Inside the Citadel, the Bloodthirster led the charge against the Dracothian Guard and Fyreslayers who had breached the gate. The weight of the Juggernauts was telling, as they bowled over a Desolator and ground it into the dirt.
The Bloodthirster seemed confused at having been thrown straight into battle by the Blood God, and its swings were wild and unfocussed. Taking advantage of its lack of attention, the Dracoths of the Concussors savaged the daemon, tearing great rents in its flesh. The Hellblades of the Bloodletters accounted for another Desolator, but only at the cost of one of their own.
As the Varanguard dispatched the last of the Retributors they faced, the Mighty Lord of Khorne aimed a savage swing of his axe at the Star Drake of the Lord-Celestant. As the axe bit deep, reality cracked and a rent in the fabric of space sucked both man and beast from the battlefield, leaving only a coldness in their wake.
Burning rays from Ignax sought the unworthy across the entire battlefield, settling upon a Wrathmonger and Liberator. Both were burned for their sins, leaving only black soot where they had stood.
From within the Skull Keep, the Lord-Relictor could see the next important phase of the battle would be fought at his feet. Raising his reliquary staff, he called upon the power of Sigmar once again, and another bolt of lightning struck the Everchosen.
The heavens then blazed with a brilliant light that dazzled everyone within sight of the Ironwarp Citadel. Like a comet from the sky, the Celestant-Prime smashed into the battlefield, immediately seeking an enemy of Chaos. His eyes immediately locked on the Bloodthirster and the Bloodcrushers near it.
Courting no delay, the Celestant-Prime swept into the fight, hitting with the full weight of the God-King.
The Bloodcrushers had no time to react as the Celestant-Prime hit their rear line. As Ghal Maraz swung, bolts of lightning lashed out and Juggernauts were hurled so high into the air that some cleared the walls of the Ironwarp Citadel itself, landing in craters across the plain outside. Two tried to struggle past the Fyreslayers to escape, but a Dracoth mauled one and the Vulkite Berzerkers finished the last with their axes.
The Hearthguard Berzerkers finally managed to scale the walls of the Ironwarp Citadel, and found themselves face-to-face with a Mighty Lord of Khorne. His lethal axe lashed out once again, slaying three of the Hearthguard. Two more ran from the Citadel, immediately shamed by their own cowardice, but the Karl and one of the Hearthguard stood firm and piled into the Lord with their axes.
The Lord could not defend himself from their berserk attacks and was finally killed where he stood, his Flesh Hound soon following him.
Battle Round Seven
An ash storm swept across the battlefield, limiting everyone’s vision to just a few feet in front of their noses. The Slaughterpriest continued to sacrifice to the Pyroclasm but the sentient firestorm had grown weary of a diet of Bloodreavers and, once again, living flames tore through the Bloodbound.
Heedless of either the ash storm or the Pyroclasm, Archaon threw a Mystic Shield over himself then hurled an Arcane Bolt into the Skull Keep, killing a Judicator.
A small tribe of Bloodreavers finally rebelled against the Slaughterpriest, and they fled the Overlord Bastion. Seeing the Celestant-Prime right in front of them, they hungered for the blood of another, and they charged, screaming foul curses as they ran.
Even the Celestant-Prime was surprised by attack from this quarter, and a Bloodreaver managed to dent one of his armour plates with a Goreaxe before Ghal Maraz descended once more and hammered each Bloodreaver to oblivion.
The land itself rebelled against the presence of the Bloodthirster as it roared and stamped in anger, rents beginning to appear in the walls as they shook and split. One of the Hearthguard Berzerkers fell into a gap, instantly crushed as the walls slammed back together, but the last of the Concussors swung his hammer hard and sure, caving in the skull of the Bloodthirster. Of Khorne’s reinforcements, only the Bloodletters remained. However, they had bought the Everchosen a great deal of time and he had taken advantage of that.
Outside the Ironwarp Citadel, the Skull Keep garrisoned by Judicators and the Lord-Relictor was quickly becoming a focus, and Archaon led a small but potent force against it.
As the Judicators desperately tried to hold back the last of the Varanguard and a Skullreaper, the Lord-Relictor swung his hammer at Archaon, catching Dorghar in one of its heads. This did little more than draw the attention of Dorghar and its Nurglesque head snapped round the Stormcast, swallowing him whole. Invigorated by the power of the Lord-Relictor, some of the wounds on Dorghar began to heal.
As solar flares burst across the sky, the forces of Order started to redirect their assault back to the Skull Keep.
Inside, the Judicators continued to loose volley after volley of their Skybolts into Archaon, but one arrow bounced off his shield and ricocheted back with full force into the helm of one of the Stormcasts.
As the last Desolator raced across the courtyard to finish off the Slaughterpriest skulking in the Overlord Bastion with a blast of lightning, the Celestant-Prime took to the air and then dived, straight into the midst of more than a score of Bloodletters.
Ghal Maraz carved great arcs in the blood-filled air, sweeping daemons with each stroke and launching some high into the sky. When the Celestant-Prime was done, not one Bloodletter remained in the courtyard.
Back in the Skull Keep, the fight was becoming desperate, and relief from the Fulminators and Retributors seemed a long way off.
However, even under assault from the Everchosen himself, the lone Judicator-Prime inside refused to give way. The Skull Keep still held.
Battle Round Eight
Not keen on facing the Celestant-Prime, the last of the Bloodletters leapt from the wall to confront the Fulminators, hoping to at least delay them long enough for Archaon to enact the next stage of his plan.
Though one Dracoth received a nasty slice across its front paw from a Hellblade, the Stormcasts barely noticed as they simply rode right over the daemons.
With his attention focussed solely on defending himself from Archaon, the Judicator-Prime inside the Skull Keep did not notice the last of the Skullreapers gain entry and come up behind him. As the Judicator’s helmet spun through the air from a decapitating strike, Dhorghar bellowed in victory with all three heads.
The Skull Keep had finally fallen.
Burning rays once more lanced down from Ignax to search for the unworthy – but on this battlefield, anyone unworthy had already met their end, and those left were all heroes in their own right.
The Stormcasts, few in number now, continued their mad dash for the Skull Keep, now hoping only to avenge their fallen brothers.
However, Archaon saw he had a more immediate problem, for the Celestant-Prime touched down softly upon the walls of the Ironwarp Citadel and gestured at the Everchosen with Ghal Maraz, an obvious challenge.
Beneath the notice of those titans of the battlefield, the Fulminators lowered their glaives and charged into the Skullreaper, Varanguard and Exalted Deathbringer who, only seconds ago, had been the ones on the attack.
The Deathbringer was thrown heavily against the wall of the Skull Keep by the surge of lighting that the Dracoths rolled before them, while the glaives of the Stormcasts made short work of both Skullreaper and Varanguard.
Arachon was now on his own.
Battle Round Nine
Waving his Cometstrike Sceptre to order the other Stormcasts to keep back, the Celestant-Prime leapt from the ramparts to stand before the Everchosen.
Though Archaon towered above him on the back of Dorghar, the Celestant-Prime was undaunted, for Ghal Maraz shone with the divine power of the God-King. With the briefest of pauses, Everchosen and Stormcast smashed into one another.
Spiralling out of reach of Dorghar’s snapping heads, the Celestant-Prime raised and swung Ghal Maraz again and again, landing terrible blows upon the beast, causing it to howl in pain.
Seeing the Ironwarp Citadel was lost, Archaon saw no profit in continuing to duel the tiny Stormcast, and he ordered Dorghar to take to the sky, leaving the Stormcasts victorious behind him.
The Everchosen had a far greater plan to enact, one that would render the results of this battle fruitless.
That was a titanic battle, with a titanic finish!
Archaon going up against the Celestant-Prime? It just does not get any more epic than that!
The Momentum was very much with the forces of Order throughout the first few turns, with the Dracothian Guard leading the way as usual. However, the Bloodbound managed to steadily whittle them down, blunting their edge, and things looked decidedly shaky when the Bloodthirster turned up!
Only two things really carried the battle for Order, I think. First, that Bloodthirster did nothing. It managed to miss or failed to wound with all of its attacks in every round, only killing one Hearthguard Berzerker, and that was with its special ability. What could have completely reversed the breaching of the gates turned out to be… less than impressive.
The second was the arrival of the Celestant-Prime or, more specifically, Ghal Maraz. If you look back, you will see he arrived on the sixth turn, meaning he was rocking 12 attacks, each with 3+/2+ to hit and wound, with Rend -3 and Damage 3. No wonder he managed t clock two units of Bloodletters in one turn!
However, even then, the final confrontation with Archaon was far from a foregone conclusion. If the Everchosen had just a few more wounds at the start of that fight, he would have survived the Celestant-Prime’s initial rush, and then there would have been every chance he could have finished off the Stormcast with his return attacks…
The Story Continues…
Archaon may have been driven out of the Ironwarp Citadel, but he is far from defeated. Rallying the daemons of Orb Infernia, he is now able to launch a cataclysmic attack on the forces of Order within the Land of the Chained Sun, to finally finish them off and claim the Godbeast Ignax as his prize. However, Runeson Burrson has climbed one of the Great Tethers to hammer the Rune of Binding into Ignax, and now the Fyreslayers have hatched a truly self-destructive plan to stop the Everchosen in his tracks…