The forces of Order managed to gain entry to the Ironholds in the last battle, and they are now in position to take the Mercurial Gate. Will the forces of Chaos be able to rally to its defence in time?
The Story So Far
The combined forces of Stormcast Eternals and Fyreslayers were now just one long march away from the Mercurial Gate. Fortunately, the moving parts of the Ironholds had configured themselves so a single bridge could carry them the rest of the way, a span of metal so wide a thousand men could march side-by-side. To add to their luck, the bulk of the defenders were still fighting at the outer walls, against the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers Sigmar had sent as a distraction.
Maintaining a great pace, they finally reached the Citadel of the Ironholds in the centre of the Molten Sea, home to the Mercurial Gate. However, as they approached, its gates opened to reveal Archaon himself, at the head of an army of Chaos Warriors and the Varanguard.
Archaon had discovered Sigmar’s plans to take the All-Gates and resolved to halt the Stormcasts at the All-Gate. As he rode forward at the head of his army, the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers prayed they could at least slow the Everchosen down so just a few might reach the Mercurial Gate.
This is another battle that is crucial to the campaign but in fact only uses small forces – there is not much room for error for either side!
Retributors x 10 (two units of 5)
Liberators x 10 (two units of 5)
Runefather on Magmadroth
Hearthguard Berzerkers x 10
The combined forces of Stormcast Eternals and Fyreslayers have suffered losses just getting into the Ironholds, and their numbers are few. However, they stiull have their hardhitting units, such as the Magmadroth, Lord-Celestant and Retributors.
Archaon, Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse
Varanguard x 3
Chaos Warriors x 24 (two units of 12)
This is a solid Everchosen force, backed up by the Overlords of Chaos Battalion, which not only allows Archaon to mark an enemy unit for destruction by the Varanguard (re-rolling all hits and wounds), it also means Archaon will know who goes first in each round, meaning he cannot be caught out by the dreaded double turn!
The aim for the forces of Order in this battle is to breach the main gate of the Citadel of the Ironholds within six rounds or, at least, deal significant damage to it. However, while they can run or retreat and still charge in this battle, the Everchosen can recycle destroyed units and their fortress whispers fear and doubt into the minds of the attackers, lowering their Bravery.
In addition, the Mercurial Gate Time of War sheet is also being used, meaning towers can turn in place to crush unfortunate units and Chaos Wizards can hamper enemies with the Whisphered Words spell.
The Stormcasts formed a solid formation as they approached the Mercurial Gate, Liberators leading while Retributors followed close behind, all under the watchful eyes of the Lord-Celestant. The Fyreslayers, fewer in number spread out far to the left flank, hoping to slip past the forces of the Everchosen.
Archaon was eager to meet the forces of Order and scatter them to the furthest reaches of the realm. At the fore of his army, he led the Varanguard and Chaos Warriors onto the bridge to meet the Stormcasts.
Battle Round One
Taking advantage of the slow approach of the Stormcasts, the Chaos Warriors garrisoned the Ironskull Bastion and Skull Keep.
From here they watched the advance of their enemies in positions they knew to be highly defensible.
Archaon had nothing defensive in mind, however. He soared ahead, the Varanguard and Gaunt Summoner racing to keep up. As his disc propelled him forward, the Gaunt Summoner enacted several arcane rituals. As a Mystic Shield enveloped the Everchosen, dark, Chaotic whispers ran threw the heads of the Stormcasts and Fyreslayers, causing them to doubt the righteousness of their cause.
The Lord-Celestant was the first to shake off his doubts and in a loud, clear voice, he ordered his forces forward at full tilt. As the Runefather’s Magmadroth spat a high arcing glob of lava that smeared itself across the armour of one of the Varanguard, the Stormcasts caused the bridge to tremor under their feet as they pounded forward. With a cry of ‘Only the Faithful!’ the Retributors and one retinue of Liberators charged into the Everchosen and his Varanguard.
The Varanguard had been waiting for this reckless attack and they countercharged, skewering all five of the Retributors who had ran into them upon their glaives before a single hammer could be swung. Archaon, meanwhile, had been surrounded by ten Stormcasts but he casually hacked down at them with the Slayer of Kings while ignoring the few injuries Dorghar sustained in return. Two Retributors were quickly killed, one swallowed by the Nurglesque head of Dorghar, who promptly vomited the corrupted remains back at another. This broke the nerve of one Retributor who, for the first time during the entirety of the Realmgate Wars, turned and ran.
Battle Round Two
With a grinding of gears, the Ironskull Bastion turned in place, catching the Liberators off guard and crushing one in its powerful mechanism, and narrowly missing Archaon.
The Lord-Celestant and Runefather both saw the danger in the centre of the bridge as the slaying of the Retributors had now left the Varanguard free to roam the battlefield, and they moved to counter the threat. The Hearthguard Berzerkers, meanwhile, ran past the Skull Keep, trusting the nearby retinue of Liberators to tie up the Chaos Warriors within.
Lumbering towards the Varanguard, the Magmadroth spat another stream of lava at them before it crashed into their ranks.
The Runefather’s Latchkey Axe snaked out and took the head off one, while the Magmadroth’s horns speared another from his mount. Turning clumsily, the Magmadroth swung its horned tail and crushed the life from the third. By the time the Lord-Celestant arrived, there was precious little for him to do.
However, just a few yards away, Archaon dispatched the last Retributor and two Liberators, causing the survivors to flee the battlefield.
Feeling the thrill of battle, Archaon quickly threw a Mystic Shield over himself and Dorghar, while the Gaunt Summoner concentrated his arcane powers upon the Runefather. He unleashed a Fractal Mindstorm, which pounded the consciousness of both Duardin and Magmadroth, then hurled an Arcane Bolt, leaving the Runefather reeling and critically wounded.
Before the Runefather could recover, Archaon had urged Dorghar into the air, and the great beast landed heavily behind the two Heroes of Order.
As the Gaunt Summoner floated to the side of the Everchosen, Chaos Warriors left the Ironskull Bastion. At an order from Archaon, they charged into the side of the Lord-Celestant and Runefather, before Dorghar’s shadow enveloped them all.
Utterly trapped, the Lord-Celestant and Runefather were quickly killed by Archaon and his warriors.
Battle Round Three
While the forces of Order had taken punishing losses, the last Liberators had trapped the Chaos Warriors in the Skull Keep, giving the Hearthguard Berzerkers a free run. Wit the Mercurial Gate in sight, they began to pick up the pace.
However, unbeknownst to them, the Chaos Warriors had dispatched the last of the Liberators. They did see a new wave of Varanguard approaching the battlefield, and knew they had to move quickly if they were to complete their mission.
Alas, the Fyreslayers did not move quickly enough, for Chaos Warriors and Archaon swept round both sides of the Skull Keep, neatly boxing the Hearthguard in.
Dorghar surged forward, and Archaon grinned savagely as he hacked through the Fyreslayers in mere seconds.
The Mercurial Gate remained in the hands of the Everchosen…
That was fast – and bloody!
The forces of Order could have fought somewhat harder than they did, and it may well have made all the difference. Between the Retributors and Heroes, Archaon lost more than half of his wounds, and the Hearthguard managed to get to within spitting distance of the gate. If the Retributors had not taken such hideous casualties in the first round, they would have been able to pin the Chaos Warriors in place, and maybe even drive Archaon from the battlefield.
However as it turned out, they just could not recover from those initial hits (especially from the Varanguard!) and while the Heroes and Liberators managed to lock Chaos units in place for a couple of rounds, they lost their steam too quickly, allowing the Hearthguard to be caught.
The Story Continues…
A tragedy for Sigmar, and his first real loss in the All-Gates campaign – the Mercurial Gate will remain in the hands of Chaos! However, this is far from the end of the campaign, and there are five other All-Gates to be fought for. Next time, we will travel to the Realm of Beasts to watch the battle for the All-Gate that lies there – however, a new force will be appearing to muck up the plans of both Archaon and Sigmar…