Raven's folly

In the distance, the undead leader could see a vast wall being erected. A wall that would shield the Successor Kingdoms from the great storm that would soon sure across the land. Orcs in nightmarish numbers were posed to strike in an avalanche of blood and violence at the Kingdoms. One that could, in theory, destroy them. Raven Hax would help it happen. The keeps and libraries of these lands would hold great treasure and knowledge for the lich, and he intended to take all he could in the ensuing chaos. Much of the wall was well-defended. Ogre mercenaries patrolled the vast lands alongside human companies. Elves rode the plains smashing aside Orcish warbands as Dwarven artillery slew demons of the Abyss in droves. But the lich’s hunger for power overrode his caution. He still stung from his inability to defeat the mountain folk at Rhyn Dufaris and now he would take his anger out on whoever guarded the fortifications before him. As his forces drew closer, he smiled as he saw who they were. Dwarfs. It would be perfect revenge he felt, to destroy this dwarven army and erase the stain on his pride he had suffered.

A lone sentry tower stood among the rolling hills, the dwarfs within spotted his host as they advanced. Soon the sounds of trumpets and drums summoned the guardians to war. Large units of Ironclads and Sheildbreakers formed in the center as guns in the tower on nearby hills were manned. Vicious brocks and their riders cantered forward as a forest of pikes moved up in support. Strange multi-barrelled weapons were hauled up, ready to fire at any foe that drew near as a unit of dwarfs with long rifles dug in on a hilltop. All this the lich took in impassively, but not what things he saw next. First was dwarven mystics, heads bowed as they touched the earth as if in prayer. The earth answered as golems of stone and dirt rose before them, forming a living wall that he’d be hard-pressed to beat. Next, was an even more shocking sight. What appeared to be a dragon was actually a machine, powered by steam and runes. It lumbered ahead as the sun glinted off of its metallic hide. Jaws snapping at his children angrily as some primitive sentience showed behind its emerald eyes. He gazed at his stone and metal enemies warily, now unsure of his victory. But then a familiar figure rode forth on a large armored bear. It was the Dwarf lord he had faced in the Halpi Mountains. Raven Hax felt his anger swell and he ordered his army up.

Loping Werewolves and floating wraiths faced down the steel behemoth on the right, as his lesser children, fallen villagers, and long-dead soldiers marched to the high ground next to them. Shambling knights took to the center, facing down the Dwarf King. His greatest warrior, Lord Armon the exiled, stood next to his honor guard of mummies readying to pull berserkers from their mounts and slaughter them. The Crimson Men, Raven Hax’s vampire contingent, rode to the far left. Their eagerness to try their hand at smashing down the stone monstrosities before them was evident. Revenants stood at their side, ready to lend support in the attack. The lich’s sorcerous war-engines were split, one on the left to dual the tower guns and the other ready to hurl balefire skulls on the right. Raven Hax flew on wings of blackness to his position as he looked over his army. A new sense of confidence went through him as he landed. His acolytes flashed dark lighting into the sky, signaling that all was ready. Without a word, the undead lord willed his forces forward. They obeyed.

Raven Hax sneered as the fighting started. His Vampires overextended themselves, forgetting the stone priests’ ability to hasten their ward’s movement, and were overwhelmed by the stone warriors. They fled the battlefield fewer in number. Then the Dwarven King shot forward into his knights, striking them furiously. His balefire artillery got a lucky hit on the tower cannon, scattering the crew but leaving the weapon operational. The Clockwork monster charged his wraiths swatting their semi-corporeal forms into dust. The mounted berserkers clashed with Lord Armon’s bodyguards, both sides hacking each other down savagely. His children shambled toward the living slowly, unable to reach the dwarven lines. Things took a turn for the better when his Lycanthropes pounced onto the metal beast before them and began ripping large chunks from it. It fell back from this assault, and into the outstretched claws of a zombie hoard. It was left broken, leaking steam and oil as the undead forces moved on. But things elsewhere weren’t as good, the Dwarf Lord had defeated his knights and looked ready to ride down one of his necromancers. That is until Armon burst forth, smacking aside bear claws and axe blows. The lich looked away, sure his ancient pharaoh would be able to win the day. The earthen humanoids stalked ahead and the undead commander sent his revenants forward to block them. He was hoping they and his magic would be able to stop them.

Seeing the zombies with their backs turned, the dwarf infantry charged. They slew a great many of them before the dead turned to attack the mountain folk back. But failing to take into account the skeletal spearmen, or perhaps overconfident in their ability to kill the undead before them, were in turn assailed in the rear by these bony warriors. Trapped between these relentless forces, they were swiftly annihilated. The werewolves nimbly bounded to the tower base and jumped up the walls, ripping the gun crew apart in a storm of gore. The pike-wielding dwarfs now faced two hordes of undead, and the blood-covered Lycans alone. Raven Hax watched in concern as the elementals crushed his undead guard mercilessly. Few remained active, and the lich was forced to raise the least damaged back to their feet. The battered dead barely pushed the large foes back, dealing very little hurt in return.

Howling in rage, the Dwarven King kept up his attack on his desiccated adversary. But every gash he or his mount inflicted, closed up in gouts of black magic. But the dwarf didn’t give up, too stubborn to give ground. He narrowed his eyes and redoubled his efforts. The old noble fought on impassively, with hardly any sound. The brock riders finally broke the mummies before them, urging their furry mounts to stop mauling pieces of old flesh, and turned to help their embattled lord. Disaster struck as the dark pharaoh plunged his blade deep into the armored bear’s chest. It roared in agony as it was lifted up and pushed onto its back, trapping its rider beneath it. Crazed shouts stopped Armon from finishing off the helpless king. He had just enough time to break the dying bear’s neck before the frothing dwarves and badgers reached him.

A lucky cannon round exploded among the animated corpses and not even the rantings of his mad acolyte nearby were enough to keep the magic holding them up flowing. They fell like lifeless puppets, ending the threat to they held to the living… for the time being. Emboldened, a unit of hammer-wielding dwarfs marched forward, facing down the skeleton warriors. The bulwarkers cheered as the zombies fell. Be they celebrated too soon as the bloodthirsty man-wolves, done with their tower prey, slammed in their flank. Bodies flew through the air with each powerful swipe the beasts made, causing the dwarven detachment to panic and flee. The last horde of mountain folk quickly turned as they saw their comrades run, trying in vain to keep both foes to their front.

Old armor and bone shattered under the earthen assault and Raven Hax failed to keep his wall of undead up. Necromantic energy left the cadavers, leaving the lich facing the blank stares of stone by himself. Summoning his will, he flew away from the danger on dark wings closer to where some of his army still stood. Gun crews panicked and ran as the Lycan monsters rampaged toward them. Few escaped the onslaught and the weapons were taken out of the fight for good. The undead spearmen had engaged the last of the living forces, but neither gained the upper hand. Dark magic flowed into the dead, raising more from the dwarven dead. But it took all of Raven Hax and his follower’s skills to keep his children fighting. The lich looked behind him wearily, seeing the stone golems and their priests following him. His forces would be overwhelmed when they joined the fight. Even his werewolves would be unable to turn the tide. He shrieked in anger, and bitterly recalled what was left of his army. Hedrick the Mad, one of his leaders, raged at the order. The invigorating presence he lent to the army left the undead as he fell back, bitterly cursing as he did so. Colm, his other acolyte, skilled with mending the dead, sadly turn away from the last of Hax’s children and fled. Armon backed away from the berserkers when the call went out. Luckily, movement from under the dead bear distracted his foes and they hardly noticed the wall of sand and scrabs the dark pharaoh threw up to cover his escape. Raven Hax swallowed his pride rancorously as he coalesced shadows around his Warband, hiding them as they pulled back. He turned away from the battlefield, and his dreams of looting the Successor Kingdoms dashed. But he wasn’t done yet, something from his nightmares called to him. If he followed it, he’d find the power he sought.

Raven Hax looked back to the victorious mountain folk as they cheered loudly. Their King had dragged himself from under his fallen mount, bloody but alive. He stumbled to his feet, shrugging off aid as his furious face sought his enemies. Unable to see the undead under the veils of darkness, The Dwarf Lord shouted into the sky, swearing vengeance for his dead kinsmen. He swore an eternal grudge against the unliving in all forms. He damned the name Raven Hax, vowing to hunt down the lich and destroy him. More cheers accompanied these words, and all present gladly swore these oaths to their King. The undead master turned away, his defeat echoing in his mind. Let them try he thought. Because this wasn’t the end of Raven Hax, no, this was just the beginning…

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