Well, the last battle saw strike one to Sigmar, capturing the Genesis Gate in the Realm of Life. However, there are many more of the All-Gates to go, and now we travel to the Realm of Metal to observe the battle for the Mercurial Gate.
The Story So Far
The Mercurial Gate, like all of the All-Gates, was buried inside a mighty fortress, the Ironholds. It was said to be built by Grungni, Mastergod of Smiths, and its defences relied not only on walls but also a sea of molten metal and enourmous gears that could move walls and towers to trap any attacker.
Unfortunately for Sigmar, while Grungni would certainly know how to breach the Ironholds, the Mastergod was missing. However, the Stormcasts had managed to contact the Fyreslayers and Sigmar bade the celestial vaults to be almost emptied of gold in exchange for their services. It was Runefather Hursgar-Grimnir who stepped forward with a plan to get into the Ironholds.
The Ironholds could simply not be breached – but their defences could be bypassed. While massive forces of Stormcast Eternals and Fyreslayers would assault the walls to create a distraction, an underground strike force would be engaged in a tunnelling operation to launch an attack from within, using a combined team of Runesmiters and Runemasters to aid in digging beneath the Molten Sea.
The strike force emerged on one of the Bastion Islands within the Molten Sea, within the courtyard of a fortress that had been drained of it troops by the direct assaults. The only defenders remaining were the mindless Ironguard, led by Sorcerer Lord Trispherix. Fyreslayers and Stormcast Eternals fanned out of the new tunnel, aiming to take the gates and towers of the fortress quickly and so gain a foothold within the Ironholds.
These are relatively small forces, as most of the fighting is ging on outside the Ironholds – however, this is the important battle.
Retributors x 10 (two units of 5)
Liberators x 10 (two units of 5)
Judicators x 10 (two units of 5)
Runefather on Magmadroth
Vulkite Berzerkers x 10
For once, the forces of Order have numbers on their side, and the combination of Retributors and a Magmadroth should ensure at least two towers fall under their attacks. However, they will have to fight a lot harder than that to gain a victory as just two towers will not be enough, and there is a lot of ground between them, so they will have trouble redeploying units to make fresh assaults – in short, the tower each unit opts to assault right at the start of the battle must fall, as reinforcements are unlikely. The Stormcasts are using the Hammer and Anvil Battalion, which allows Judicators to shoot in the hero phase, so long as they are close to Liberators.
Sorcerer Lord of Tzeentch
Chaos Warriors x 36 (three units of 12)
Chaos Knights x 5
The Tzeentch army has the reverse problem, as any unit designated to hold a tower is unlikely to gain aid. Fortunately, Chaos Warriors are excellent defensive troops, and the Knights and summoned Pink Horrors (ten of them) might be able to disrupt the forces of Order long enough to gain victory. The Ironguard Battalion is being used by the defenders, which grants additional movement in the hero phase.
The Tzeentch forces start in the four corners of the table, within Skull Keeps and an Overlord Bastion, while the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers begin in the middle of the table, just outside their tunnel. Victory goes to the army that holds the most towers at the end of the fifth round.
As always, however, there are some complications…
The Stormcasts and Fyreslayers are all equipped with demolition charges which can be thrown at any Tzeentch units garrisoning a tower. In return, the Tzeentch army can take advantage of the Mercurial Gate Time of War sheet. This has several effects.
- The towers and walls attached to them can rotate from time to time, crushing any models unfortunate enough to be in their way.
- The Sorcerer Lord can attempt to awaken Argentine, the Silver Wyrm of Anvrok, who is currently sleeping within the Molten Sea. If he awakes, he will drench the battlefield with molten metal, inflicting mortal wounds, well, all over the place. Dracothion will then move in to battle Argentine – if Dracothion can defeat the Silver Wyrm, he will launch a meteoric strike upon the battlefield before disappearing.
- The Sorcerer Lord also has access to the Whispered Words spell, which can hamstrng a unit by inspiring great doubt among its members.
As the combined Stormcast and Fyreslayer force tunnelled up into the courtyard, they saw only empty ground. Success! However, in the Skull Keeps and Overlord Bastion, the Sorcerer Lord watched the intruders emerge and started issuing orders to his Ironguard.
Battle Round One
The forces of Order duly assembled themselves, with the Runefather boasting he and his Vulkite Berzerkers could take a Skull Keep by themselves. The Stormcasts moved into two solid formations, each consisting of Retributors, Judicators and Liberators.
Then, a timely reminder that they were in a dangerous place – one of the Skull Keeps rotated ninety degrees, its mechanism obviously capable of crushing anything unfortunate enough to be too close. This would make assaulting the fortifications a lot more difficult.
The Runefather made good on his promise as his Magmadroth easily outpaced the Vulkite Berzerkers below, and he charged recklessly into a Skull Keep.
His Latchkey Axe snaked out to behead a Chaos Warrior, but the rest proved extremely difficult to root out of the Skull Keep, and their return attacks caused the Magmadroth to start bleeding volcanic blood from a score of wounds.
The Sorcerer Lord felt safe for the time being as he watched the forces of Order split up and attack every tower except his own. Wanting to keep them at bay, he called upon the Changer of Ways for aid, and was rewarded by the appearance of a clutch of giggling Pink Horrors.
Then, with a grinding of massive gears, the Overlord Bastion turned in place, its great walls moving at some speed. It was all too clear that it could easily crush an entire retinue of Stormcasts should it begin moving at the wrong time.
The fight for the Skull Keep continued, with the Runefather being pushed onto the defensive by the stoic Chaos Warriors. His great axe smashed through the armour of two of them, but his Magmadroth was now panting with effort as a multitude of blows rained down upon it.
Battle Round Two
With a thunder of hooves on the metallic ground, a unit of Chaos Knights arrived, and they immediately assembled themselves to cut off one of the Stormcasts’ pushes to the Skull Keeps.
The newly arrived Pink Horrors hurled a weak Arcane Bolt at the Retributors closest to the Overlord Bastion, then cackled as their waves of pink fire simply flowed over the Stormcasts’ armour.
Across the battlefield, the Runefather desperately parried blows as he tried to turn his Magmadroth away from the Skull Keep he had assaulted, but the Chaos Warriors had locked him in. Axes and swords continued to chip away at the Magmadroth until its strength gave out entirely and it sank, immobile, to the ground. Deprived of his mount, the Runefather was an easy target for the Chaos Warriors, and his Vulkite Berzekers howled as they saw their leader knocked senseless by the enemy.
With speed that took the Stormcasts by surprise, the Chaos Knights charged, lowering their glaives as they galloped into a retinue of Retributors.
With momentum on their side, their weapons skewered two Retributors in an instant, but then the Stormcasts hefted their massive hammers and struck back in a flash of bright lightning. Two Chaos Knights were blasted into their broken mounts but, more importantly, the Retributors had completely stalled their charge.
Taking advantage of this, the Lord-Celestant quickly crossed the courtyard, celestial hammers whipping out of his cloak as he gave a steady stream of orders to the Stormcasts closest to him. The glowing hammers flew into the Chaos Knights with a vengeance, smashing one apart before they could react.
As the Retributors worked in unison to drive the Chaos Knights back, the Lord-Celestant charged and, between them, finished the cavalry off with terrible efficiency.
The other retinue of Retributors had reached the Overlord Bastion, but were proving hesitant to get too close to the grinding mechanism that looked as though it could turn the entire tower without warning. As a result, most of the Chaos Warriors inside managed to avoid their deadly blows.
Just a short distance away, a retinue of Liberators took the bait the Sorcerer Lord had offered and charged the Pink Horrors who attempted, unsuccessfully, to back away. The daemons put up little fight, and four fell quickly to the blades of the Stormcasts as Judicators supported them with Boltstorm fire.
Battle Round Three
Feeling ever more confident, the Sorcerer Lord enacted his most powerful ritual yet, awakening the Godbeast Argentine from beneath the Molten Sea. With a great cry that shook the mountains surrounding the Ironholds, the great serpent rose into the sky, molten silver dropping onto the courtyard from its massive body. Three Pink Horrors, a Judicator and a Chaos Warrior were inadvertently drenched and immolated, before Argentine circled in the sky and delivered a massive blast of Warpflame around one of the Skull Keeps.
Three Chaos Warriors, a Retributor, two Liberators and two Judicators were consumed in the inferno, drastically altering the balance of the fight for the Skull Keep. Indeed, there were now few warriors left on either side to contest the tower.
As Argentine swept low over the courtyard and began turning for another pass, the Sorcerer Lord wondered just what he had unleashed, and whether he would be able to control it when the battle had finished. Still, it looked like the Liberators were just about finished with his Pink Horrors, so he hurled an Arcane Bolt at them, which was soon joined by another from the Pink Horrors themselves.
The Chaos Warriors in the Skull Keep that had been struck by Argentine’s Warpflame had been hammered by a Godbeastm, peppered with Skybolt Arrows from Judicators and assaulted by a retinue of Liberators, but they refused to give any ground.
It was not until the Lord-Celestant and the Retributor-Prime both charged the Skull Keep that the last Chaos Warrior finally lost his nerve and ran from the battlefield.
Meanwhile, the Vulkite Berzerkers had finally reached their own Skull Keep, and they leapt over the fallen Magmadroth as they hurled themselves at the Chaos Warriors within. Three Chaos Warriors fell quickly to their axes, the Berzerkers own fury keeping them ignorant of any wounds they received in return.
Battle Round Four
With a grinding of gears, the Stormcasts’ worst fears were realised as the Overlord Bastion turned in place, crushing the entire retinue of Retributors who had been assaulting it.
The news was not all bleak though for, overhead, another great roar echoed around the Ironholds as Dracothion soared into view. Diving down, the massive dragon smashed into Argentine and the two Godbeasts spun and turned as they tried to snap at one another.
Under this titanic battle, the last Retributor-Prime took a now empty Skull Keep as the Lord-Celestant led a retinue of Judicators to lend aid to the Fyreslayers who were still stalled outside their own tower.
On the far side of the battlefield, the retinues of Judicators and Liberators, who had been fighting in close order to support each other up to now, were forced to split their efforts, one heading to the Sorcerer Lord’s Skull Keep, the other to the Overlord Bastion.
Both were now weakly defended, for a single Chaos Warrior held the bastion while the Liberators fancied they could finish off the Sorcerer Lord by themselves.
However, the Sorcerer Lord proved a canny foe, and though he took several nasty cuts from the Stormcasts’ blades, he managed to retreat far into the depths of the Skull Keep before they could corner him.
In response, the Sorcerer Lord summoned more Pink Horrors to join the fight, hoping to distract the Liberators as he made his escape.
However, as the Pink Horrors loosed waves of magical fire, the Liberators turned as one to form a shield wall. Pink fire lapped round the Sigmarite shields but the Stormcasts remained unhurt, until the Sorcerer Lord levelled his malignant staff at one and blasted him with a bolt of arcane energy.
Battle Round Five
As the Liberators turned back to face the Sorcerer Lord, they saw him fiddle with a strange machine built into the Skull Keep and, as he pulled a great lever, the Skull Keep began to turn in place. Unable to get out of the way in time, the Liberators were crushed as the Sorcerer Lord laughed.
At the Overlord Bastion, the Judicators had reached the outer walls, but the lone Chaos Warrior inside was proving elusive, ducking back behind the walls as they levelled their Boltstorm Crossbows, then lashing out with his sword before they could recover.
Overhead, a terrible screech rattled the walls of the Ironholds as Argentine was forced to retreat from battle with Dracothion. Victorious, Dracothion soared high into the sky before diving down to the courtyard, unleashing a torrent of dragon fire on one of the Skull Keeps. Both Chaos Warriors and Vulkite Berzerkers were immolated in the flames, but it seemed as though the Fyreslayers were beginning to get the better of their enemies.
Though badly depleted in number, the Vulkite Berzerkers finally managed to slay the last of the Chaos Warriors, leaving the Skull Keep empty.
The forces of Order had gained their beach head in the Ironholds but it had come at a terrible cost and could in no way be called a victory.
Despite wiping out the last Chaos Warriors in the Skull Keep right at the end of the battle, the forces of Order only took a single tower throughout the actual battle, meaning this was a minor victory for Chaos!
This was hardly the lightning strike the Stormcasts had planned, and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the attack on the Mercurial Gate.
It has to be said, those spinning towers are nasty. Perfectly fine for the defenders but if you are attacking a Dreadhold, you need to do it quickly as it will turn and it will crush your unit – and if it is an elite unit, such as Retributors, that is going to be painful!
And what about Argentine, eh? When the great serpent awoke, it not only dripped molten silver onto the battlefield, it then turned round and absolutely hammered everyone around one of the Skull Keeps! I would say thank Sigmar for Dracothion, but even that ‘friendly’ dragon ended up killing two Fyreslayers.
Overall, this was a short battle involving not too many forces, but it was no less packed with action for that!
The Story Continues…
The forces of Order have gained a foothold, of sorts, within the Ironholds. Now they must strike at the Mercurial Gate itself to claim this fortress and add it to the All-Gates Sigmar is acquiring.