The Second Assault Upon Viadaza
Excerpt from: The Holiest of Armies, A History of the Disciplinati di Morr
As spring came to a close in the year 2403 it seemed inevitable that bloody, civil war would engulf the state of Remas, despite the threats presented by both Razger’s brutes and the foul armies of the vampire duchess. Two factions, very different in nature, vied to wrest complete control of the realm from each other. Father Carradalio now ruled the city and eastern district of Palomtrina with an iron rod. The noble houses were powerless, the overlord held hostage, the streets, and indeed the very houses, patrolled and policed by his fanatical dedicants. But he did not rule the entire realm, for the Arch-Lector Bernado and the veteran army of Remas held the south-western district of Frascoti. Duke Guidobaldi of Pavona, his own realm brutally ravaged by the double army of ogres that had so recently threatened Remas, busied himself with brokering a peace between the Reman factions, while his son’s grievous wounds were tended by the city’s finest (surviving) doctors. His efforts seemed to be of no avail, however, for eventually the Reman army left its fortified camp and marched aggressively upon the city, intending that their erstwhile allies the Pavonans would join them in their enterprise.
Rumours were rife. Were one to give equal countenance to all that was said, it seemed each and every party intended to harm each and every other, and that not one, single honest agreement had been made. Every lord and priest plotted assassinations and treachery, so that each in return was the target of the same, and that the factions were divided even within themselves – what with Reman soldiers being secret Morrite dedicants and some of the Disciplinati inwardly yearning for the return of the church-proper and secular authority. Although the Reman army now advanced against the city, its walls manned by Disciplinati defenders, some said both sides had secretly agreed to turn upon the Pavonans, while others claimed the Pavonans had sided with both factions, leaving their true intentions a mystery but treacherous either way. The truth will never be known, for even those who plotted could not be certain of others’ minds, and perhaps had not even decided what they themselves would really do when push came to the shove. The outcome balanced upon a knife’s edge, and everyone had a well-honed knife to hand.
Yet out of all this suspicion and turmoil, just as everything seemed to come to a head, an agreement was reached, as unexpected as it was sudden. The Praepositus Generalis of the Disciplinati di Morr, Father Carradalio, accepted the terms offered by the Arch-Lector Bernado, and both sides despite suspicions and distrust, remained true to their promises. War was averted. While Duke Guidobaldo and his ragged army of Pavonans slinked away, perhaps simply to remove themselves from any repercussions arising from the exposure of their duplicity, the two ‘most holy’ Morrite clergy in Tilea – one the radical, fanatical leader of the low church, the other the official, noble ruler of the high church – embraced each other.
Father Carradalio knelt before the holy pontiff, humbly confessed his sins and professed obedience to the Church of Morr. In return he was not only granted forgiveness but praised for his steadfast obedience to Morr’s revealed will and given command of the now officially recognised Disciplinati di Morr brotherhood. The arch-lector had personally witnessed what such dedicants were capable of in battle – how they alone could be relied upon to stand and fight to a man even in the face of all the terrors the vampires’ armies possessed – so he now commanded them to march forthwith from the city to seek battle with the foe.
Perhaps Father Carradalio knew full well that to attempt to hold the city against the Reman army, the anointed father of the church and the will of the majority of citizens, would prove disastrous? Why would he allow such turmoil to distract him when all he ever wanted was to serve the great god Morr in the war against the undead, and all he had ever done was in pursuit of that goal? (This included the cruelties a truly hard-heart required.) As for the arch-lector, a man experienced in politics, who had himself faced the undead in battle, perhaps he too saw the folly of engaging in a war that would weaken both the army under his command and the very fanatics best suited to fight against the true and terrible enemy? They both knew this was a time for war, but not civil war. Their common enemy threatened a fate much worse than that they presented to each other, a threat so great it made any disagreements between them seem trivial, despite having caused such turmoil and suffering.
No time was wasted, the Disciplinati di Morr being ever ready for any action or order, driven by their fanatical desire to prove themselves (with every thought and action) the perfect servants of Morr, the agents of his righteous vengeance and anger, his very weapons. Of course, the arch-lector and the citizens were keen to see them go, for no city could endure their fervent scrutiny for long, nor could it thrive whilst subject to their attentions. Within half a week the ‘Holiest of Armies’ departed and began its march to Urbimo. There they met with an order of Morrite dedicants of almost exactly like minds, who they happily incorporated into the army, thus swelling to an even greater strength. They parted Urbimo only two days later, such was their keenness to face the foe. Besides, Father Carradalio knew full well that to tarry even a little while could bring disaster to such an army, its warriors filled to the brim with a lust for battle, barely able to contain a frenzied fury which made them wont to scourge their own flesh to the very bone.
They aimed to cross the River Trantino to the south of Viadaza, for they had not the patience to go by way of the bridge at Scorcio. Father Carradalio led the army, his admonitor Brother Vincenzo by his side. He refused any mount or carriage, and would have only the scouts ahead of him, being too fearless to demand his bodyguard stay ever-close, but too wise to forego the necessity of scouts to a marching army. Besides, the army itself was his bodyguard. Should any enemy have approached they would have found themselves overwhelmed by a great swarm of dedicants ecstatically happy to martyr themselves in the defence of such an instrument of Holy Morr as he.
Morr himself visited Carradalio’s dreams to reveal the enemy’s whereabouts. Carradalio thus announced to his lieutenants that two cities now contained the enemy’s armies, and that they would take Viadaza first for it had so long threatened Urbimo and was port through which the vampires could channel reinforcements elsewhere. Besides, he declared, the men to the south should and could face the other army, while he and the Disciplinati would strike at the vampires’ very hearts: Adolfo’s city of Viadaza, Maria’s city of Ebino and the foul origin of their current corruption, Miragliano.
Carradalio marched with sword drawn, not just leading the column, but also the prayers they chanted and the hymns they sang.
The prayers maintained the army’s fervour, lending them a strength which belied the meagre rations of the past days and weeks, for the words had sufficient power in them to stir the winds of magic. The hymns lifted the dedicants’ spirits too, just as any marching song might do in any army. These encouragements were bolstered further by the prayers being offered by the many priests and monks accompanying the army. Each body of dedicants had spiritual guides, either rectors assigned to them by Father Carradalio, or the shepherd’s marshals who had first guided them in their dedication to Morr, or both.
Furthermore, there was barely a hill of significance they passed that did not have a knot of priests upon it, channelling the encouraging will of Morr to wash down upon his warriors.
Marching immediately behind the Praepositus Generalis were a company of Reman citizen-dedicants. These were the men who had seized the city upon Father Carradalio’s command, tearing through the streets to slay any hired bravi or nobleman’s servant who stood in their way. Wholly obedient, they questioned no order, not even in their own hearts or minds, for they believed that their god spoke through Carradalio, that his words were divine in origin. Their robes still carried the blood stains from that struggle, as well as that of their own blood, born of the scars of their flagellations.
Behind them marched the dedicants of Pontremola, who had been even more brutal than their Reman counterparts in purging their own villages. Indeed, they had gone too far, for in their fury many innocents had died, and so their self-proclaimed prophet had been executed and they had been admonished. Yet these events had served to strengthened their resolve to serve Morr in body and soul, and they were imbued with not one iota’s less fervour than the rest of the army.
Next came Carradalio’s torch-bearing bodyguard, always ensuring that half their number carried flames, that they might be ready in but a moment to light the other torches. There was magic woven into the flames, so that they shone with a light both natural and other-worldly, capable of burning even creatures of the ether.
Then came the tolling bell upon its carriage. This was brother to that which had been lost on the field at Ebino, and it sang with almost exactly the same sombre tone. Sacred texts adorned its mount, bearing the words that its accompanying guards quietly chanted over and over.
Behind the bell marched more Reman dedicants, made up of those foreigners who had travelled from all over the Old World to live in the holy city. They carried enormous, heavy, and viciously barbed flails of iron, capable of killing a man merely by falling upon him, which they swung in hard-learned and painfully practiced motions. A much greater number had left Remas, and still more fell daily as a consequence of the slightest miss-step or a moment’s bad timing, yet still they continued for such was their dedication to martyrdom that they no longer cared for anything but their holy, wild and deadly cavortings. It was such as these who convinced Carradalio of the need to reach the foe as quickly as possible. To linger even a day too long could critically sap his army’s strength. As he famously said to the arch-lector during his public profession of his sins, in explanation of the Disciplinati’s hasty and violent seizure of the city: [i]“The fuse has been lit, and we needs must place the charge before it bursts.”[/i] To which the arch-lector had graciously agreed it would be a terrible waste to be hoist by one’s own petard.
Next in the column trundled maestro Angelo da Leoni’s engine of war, his ‘[i]Cannone Luminoso[/i]’ with its impressive array of giant lenses. By now it had become common knowledge in the city that this machine had been abandoned by the maestro when he instead had chosen to work on his steam engine for the Arch-Lector Calictus II, yet it was also known that the lenses had since been proven effective enough to melt several men, and that da Leoni had declared with confidence that the piercing light it emitted would burn the undead even more readily than the living. Father Carradalio hoped it would wash its rays against Vaidaza’s parapets, scorching the foul flesh of whatever stood there, but although he had prayed for guidance upon how best to employ such an engine, Morr ignored his requests.
Then came the most recent recruits to the holy army – the dedicants of Urbimo. They, like the Pontremolans, had gone to great and terrible lengths to cleanse their settlement of sin. In fact, they had gone much further, for they had not just run violently through the streets in a riot of religiously inspired hatred, fighting any opposition, but had calmly gathered up all those they considered guilty of even the most minor of crimes, including those merely suspected of such (even on the flimsiest of evidence), and put them to death. This they did to be certain of an effective purging, even if it was at the cost of the death of many innocents, even members of their own family. They had executed them publicly, one after the other, and in the grisliest of ways, by burnings and quarterings, or combinations thereof. They believed the suffering not only cleansed the guilty victims’ souls but ensured Morr would pour his righteous blessing upon the whole of Urbimo, especially the dedicants who proved themselves so thoroughly committed that they could punish even their own neighbours and family. Amongst their number were grey-robed monks from the Morrite monastery Sacra di San Antamo on the rocky promontory to the north-west of Urbimo. The rest, being the bulk of their number, were still garbed in their peasant clothes, albeit favouring the Morrite hues of grey and red.
Marching behind the Urbiman dedicants was a substantial number of soldiers. Barone Pietro of Urbimo had brought his household guard of light horsemen with him, as well as the single small company of Compagnia del Sole crossbowmen left behind as a token act of mercy when the all the rest of the mercenaries marched away leaving the Urbimans unprotected in this time of need. Some of his horsemen rode with the barone, but most were acting as outriders and scouts, with the aforementioned blessing of Father Carradalio. Of course, many more of the barone’s subjects were part of the holy army, but he recognised that as Morrite dedicants any authority he had over them was little more than nominal. They had been willingly absorbed into the Disciplinati di Morr and were now Carradalios to command. Not that the barone cared over much, for he too shared enough fear to make him almost as much a Morrite cultist as them.
And there was the standing guard of the city of Remas, known as the Palace Guard, consisting almost entirely of mercenaries from the northern Empire, commanded by Captain Vogel. Their presence was something of an act of penance, for Vogel had not only failed to lift a finger to halt the Disciplinati’s uprising and seizure of the city but was known to have secretly agreed with Carradalio not to interfere beyond ensuring the personal safety of the highest clergymen. In return he had been promised the reward of becoming commander of the city’s entire regular forces, and a doubling in the size of his company, along with a proportionate increase in his pay. The arch-lector had decided he could hardly forgive Father Carradalio his sins and not Captain Vogel, nor did he want to dismiss and disperse a body of soldiers such as the guard in a time of war. So they too were forgiven and ordered to accompany the holy army upon the march to face the Vampire Duchess’s armies.
Their main company, men-at-arms carrying either halberds or great-swords, marched immediately behind the compagnia’s crossbowmen …
… whilst at their rear came their own crossbow as well as the army’s artillery – Vogel’s brace of cannons. Captain Vogel had voiced his little confidence in the maestro’s war-machine, resurrected as it was from the scrap-heap, hoping instead his own pets, his ‘pocket pistols’ as he was wont to call them, would do what was required to punch a real hole in the enemy’s defences.
This was the army that marched to Viadaza to face the vampire duchess herself.
The Second Assault Upon Viadaza
Part One: Deployment and Vanguard Moves
Once more Viadaza was to be the site of bloody conflict.
In Autumn 2401 the dead had risen to tear their way through the streets until there were none alive in the entire city. In Summer 2402 Arch-Lector Calictus II’s grand army had broken through the walls to retake the city from the living dead, forcing the vampire Lord Adolfo to flee. In the Spring of 2403 the city yet again fell to the undead, this time almost without a fight, and although plenty of blood was shed, belonging to many of the foolish souls remaining in the city, this time a number were spared so that they might serve the cruel church of Nagash through their enforced, tormented prayers.
Now, in the summer of 2403, an army the like of which had never before been seen in Tilea approached to wrest Viadaza from the undead again. The ‘Holiest Army’ they called themselves, consisting almost entirely of religious fanatics, the flagellating dedicants of the Disciplinatic di Morr.
The city’s walls had been repaired since the Summer of 2402. Corpses were burned in huge heaps in the streets in an attempt to ensure they could never be resurrected to serve the vampires again, while the damage to the walls inflicted during the assault had been repaired, and the earthwork bastion, studded with stormpoles, which sat before the gate had, in a spirit of optimism, been cleared away to give easier access so that the city could recover and even thrive once more through trade. Thus it was that the Holiest Army of Morr faced an unbroken wall, studded with towers, with an expanse of open ground, bereft of trees, cottages or cover of any kind.
Not that they needed to conceal themselves as they approached, for the enemy had no artillery to employ against them, nor handguns or even bows. The duchess’ second-in-command, the bestial vampire Lord Adolfo, his magically re-vivified blood tainted by an orcen tinge, watched the approaching army from the southern-most tower, his ghouls occupying the walls and towers around him. This was the same stretch of wall he had attempted to defend during the last assault. Perhaps he had chosen to put himself there deliberately, to test himself and prove he was capable of doing that which he failed to do previously?
The other walls and towers were held by the vampire duchess’s graveguard, while a large horde of fly-ridden zombies staggered before the gate, and a regiment of skeletal warriors marched outside the northern wall. Inside the city were a body of black knights and a spirit host, both of which were capable of moving through the stone walls to attack the foe.
(Game Note: See appendix below for a diagram of the wall sections and a brief discussion of the siege/assault rules.)
The Holiest Army had built a great wooden siege tower, in the old style, presuming the enemy was unlikely to have cannon or any kind of war engines to hurl missiles at it. A large body of cultists pushed this towards the tower upon which Lord Adolfo waited, while another regiment of cultists advanced upon the very left flank.
Upon the other side of the tower, towards the centre of the Disciplinati’s line, marched a company of mercenaries with crossbows, then a large regiment of cultists containing both the Praepositus Generalis Father Carradalio and his admonitor, Brother Vincenzo. The soldiers of the Remas city guard occupied the right of the centre, consisting of crossbows, two cannons and a regiment of men-at-arms, the latter containing the disgraced condottieri Captain Vogel and the Urbiman priest of Morr. Beyond these, upon the right flank, was da Leoni’s ‘Cannone Luminoso’, then Carradalio’s bodyguard, then the horde of Urbiman cultists. Upon the extreme right was a company of cultist crossbowmen, behind which trotted Barone Pietro Cybo and his guard of light horsemen (at first unsure as to what their role could be in an assault such as this, but then nervously aware that they might well be fighting that day when they saw the enemy outside the walls).
Behind the army was the baggage train, with yet more lesser clergy and cultists to guard it. Carradalio was very keen to ensure this was kept safe, for if he was to lead his army deep into the enemy’s territory, to strike a blow into the very heart of their realm, then he would need his well-stocked baggage train intact.
Of course, he knew that the casualties his fanatical followers would accrue would be significant, even in victory, and so each subsequent battle would be fought with rapidly decreasing numbers. But those soldiers he had would always need meat and drink. Indeed, the inevitable dwindling of his army’s strength would lend itself to the supplies in the baggage train proving sufficient for his campaign, bolstered (as with all armies) by whatever they could take along the way.
A stench wafted from the city, coming as no surprise to the attacking force, which was made all the more sickly by the still-rotting walking corpses posted directly in front of the gate.
Father Carradalio’s plan was simple. He intended to utilise the fanaticism of his troops – their fearless determination to fight to the very last man – to obtain a foothold upon at least two points along the city’s stone circumvallation, from which to fan out along the parapets, subsequently fighting without the disadvantage of being upon ladders. On the right he intended the dedicants pushing the siege tower …
… to assault the corner tower at the same moment the leftmost regiment …
… climbed over the southern wall. That way the ghouls (and Lord Adolfo) would be attacked from two sides, and the casualties caused could be so swiftly delivered that necromantic magic would be unable to resurrect their losses sufficiently quickly.
Whilst that attack was delivered, the cannons …
… would concentrate first upon the gate and then upon a wall, hopefully creating two access points which could be employed if the walls proved too difficult an obstacle, while the massed regiments of cultists …
… and Reman guardsmen would seek to enter at whichever point seemed most amenable to a speedy attack (after dealing with the massed zombies between them and the wall). On the far right of the line, the Urbiman peasant cultists …
… were ordered to attack the skeletons threatening the army’s flank and then support the other troops as best they could. The army’s significant number of crossbowmen were to concentrate their shooting at the defenders on the walls (able to aim over the heads of the massed troops advancing in front of them) in the hope that even if the casualties they caused were re-raised, the magic efforts required to do so would diminish the number of spells hurled from the walls at the advancing army. In support of the crossbowmen, the war engine was to target anything of significance its crew could spot upon the walls or aim to pierce the multiple ranks of either of the undead regiments outside the walls.
The vampire duchess had plans of her own. Besides manning the walls ([i]Note: see appendix for GM-ruled dispersal of defenders on the walls[/i]) she had boldly placed two regiments outside the walls – the skeletons and zombies – and to support them she had cunningly concealed two ethereal companies – her spirit hosts and black riders – behind the nearby walls so that they could sally out upon her command.
Her own mount awaited her near the knights, held by a skeletal servant, in case she herself decided to sally out with them! To lend necromantic support to nearly all her troops, she had placed herself at the northern end of the walls, Lord Adolfo at the southern end, and her necromancer …
… in a tower between the two of them.
For some time the attackers waited impatiently, as the tower was pushed steadily towards the walls (Game note: As per 6th Ed WFB siege rules, a 2D6 ‘vanguard’ style move) …
… until suddenly there was a blare of horns and thunderous roll of drumming, and the army as a whole began to advance.
The fight to follow.
A very brief summary of the assault battle rules:
I based the rules on the 6th ed WFB siege appendix, modified for 8th and with some of the 8th ed building assault rules added in to make the end result more compatible with 8th ed.
An assault game lasts 7 not 6 turns, and the aim is to control more wall or tower sections at the end of turn 7 than the opponent. There are lose, draw, minor victory and major victory results, themselves with campaign consequences, and themselves a modified version of our usual campaign rules regarding casualties etc.
I GM’d the sections to consist of the following…
The defender is allowed to split large regiments (30+) into two equal halves, then each half regiment or entire small regiment can occupy up to two neighbouring sections, again splitting in half to do so. Thus 40 ghouls could split then split again to occupy four adjacent sections with 10 ghouls on each. This seems fair enough, even though a break from normal practice ‘in the field’ because at the end of the day the companies on the walls are simply ordered to stand there and fight whatever comes at them.
I never specified on the day, but if a player had raised the question I would have had to say, that little sub-companies of regiments divided this way cannot move away from their adjacent sub-companies, and so cannot start behaving as a truly independent company, unless a character was with them in which case I would have allowed it. The other companies, without characters, would have stayed on the wall they deployed on originally. Characters can move from section to adjacent section, thus moving from sub-company to sub-company one turn at a time.
Walls (but not towers) can be attacked with ladders – with die modifiers much favouring the defenders (eg. defenders +1 to hit, attackers at -1; attackers can only use hand weapons), and extra rules such as that the defenders count as being within the effect of an army standard and can re-roll break tests. More figures fight than in 6th ed – up to 9 attackers per section, up to 12 defenders (provided they have the numbers left to do so). It should be hard to take a castle wall!
Cannons pound the walls using the rules exactly as presented in 6th ed WFB. Once collapsed then walls simply become rocky ground, with the defenders counting as being behind a hard obstacle.
Siege towers are like 6th ed, but with more figures fighting as a modified version of building assault rules from 8th ed.
Part Two: Turns 1 & 2
As the huge siege tower trundled on, the cultists to its left marched more speedily, soon catching up with it.
In the centre of the field the generalis praepositus wasted no time in ordering his own regiment of cultists on, towards the gate and mob of stinking undead guards. As they moved their bell rang out, its sombre tone part and parcel of the practices they employed to bring on a furiously frenzied state of being.
The city guard in the centre of the line stayed put for now, but on the right the large crowd of Urbimans advanced, with their lord riding up behind them.
The crew on the cannone luminoso chose the regiment of skeletons to be their first target …
… hoping to scorch right through the foe to bring down a whole file. By turning two geared, iron wheels, they rotated the screw-like shaft running the engine’s length, finely adjusting the distances dividing the giant lenses better to suit the range of their intended flash. Then the engineer opened the shutter of a leaden lantern containing the eerily glowing gem responsible for initiating the process. The loosed light projected out to reflect via two concave mirrors onto the first of the several linearly-placed lenses. The glass of each lens was fashioned from a potent combination of molten, fine, white sand and pounded warpstone, subsequently ground precisely into shape to ensure the light penetrating through each of them was not only concentrated but incrementally fed by the winds of magic, transforming from a ray of bright, hot light laced with raw magic into a beam of such heat as could turn a man to ash at a distance of hundreds of yards, and of such potent magical power as could instantly dissolve even the otherworldly forms of ethereal creatures.
A light now appeared in the rear-most, largest lens – that which the maestro da Leoni had called the ‘bonaventure lens’ – tinged blood red but piercingly bright at its core.
The engine began to shake, its component parts clattering so much that the draught horses, selected specifically for their docility and ability to withstand the sounds of battle, began to buck and strain at their harnesses. The engineer, clutching the rattling railing which hemmed his platform, felt his stomach knot as he realised that this was going to be a more massive blast than any they had achieved in Remas during their practises. His rim of white hair suddenly stood on end, and he could hear a fizzing sort of sound accompanied by the distinctive smell of singed wool which presumably was coming from his own robes.
There was a sound akin to a giant intake of breath, and then a searing bolt was loosed through and from the machine which stretched right over to the skeletons, tearing apart an entire file of five into tiny fragments of scorched bone and dust. This was followed immediately by a loud cracking sound as the mizzen-lens (being the second last last) broke in two. All hint of the light instantly vanished, and for a moment the engine’s crew felt the breath sucked from their lungs.
(Game Note: Luminark works as a bound item – an irresistibly cast bolt from a bound item breaks said item and makes it unusable for the rest of the game!)
Once they had recovered, and quite literally regained their breath, the engineer scrutinised the cracked lens. His shoulders slumped as he realised that what had just happened would be the engine’s only contribution to the battle. He caught himself just in time before taking Morr’s name in vain and began a prayer of cleansing to wash away any taint of his sinful intention.
The cannons, however, had much more luck. The first sent a ball right through the zombies, spattering five of them, then continued straight into the city’s gate, shattering the wood so badly that the hole thus made was sufficient even for men to enter (if a little uncomfortably). The second sent a shot smashing into the wall upon which the duchess herself was stood, shaking it somewhat. The three companies of crossbows took down several handfuls of zombies, skeletons and ghouls.
Upon the southernmost tower, Lord Adolfo scowled at the approaching siege tower. It had been fashioned somewhat simply of large planks, its only decorations being a huge painted cloth upon the front and a flag atop. Both these sported variations of the same design, an emblem Adolfo had seen previously in both life and undeath. It was one of the more popular symbols of Morr, consisting of an hourglass containing the sands of time, flanked by two raven wings.
It was not trepidation he felt, nor anger, and certainly not fear, but rather impatience. He yearned to tear apart whoever lurked within the tower, to rend them limb from limb and bathe in their blood. And he wanted to do it now!
As the skeletons to the north of the city advanced, and the zombies shuffled a little forwards, the vampires and necromancer on the walls conjured what magic they could (Game note: magic dice 10:9 due to several dispel pool boosting artefacts in the Holiest Army) to resurrect several of the fallen zombies and skeletons. The duchess herself focused her hocus pocus on the Urbimans, conjuring Curse of Years upon them to kill nine immediately.
Carradalio’s followers, itching to fight after many weeks of self-scourging, now thought it was the time to charge, but the siege tower failed to reach the walls, and the cultists failed to reach either the zombies or the skeletons. The exertions of their rapid march had obviously had an effect upon them, yet their failure did not diminish their desire to attack one jot. The army’s priests prayed to Morr to lift the curse upon the Urbimans …
… which the god of death graciously granted, but otherwise the holy men could effect little else. Both cannons further shook the wall upon which the duchess stood (Game Note: now up to +3 on all future rolls on the damage chart) which at last made her wonder whether she ought to remain there, risking the ignominious fate of becoming buried in rubble.
The other vampire lord, Adolfo, was also (in his own way) in a thoughtful mood. So keen was his passion to slay the occupants of the approaching tower that he failed even register the large body of cultists advancing beside the tower, heading for the currently unguarded wall behind the tower.
Once again crossbow bolts were loosed by the dozen, this time with arrows from the horse soldiers too, but these volleys caused only a peppering of casualties, insufficient in number for the vampires or necromancer to even notice.
The spirit hosts, being the bound souls of Viadaza’s most ancient warriors, now issued through the stone of the northern walls. Their ethereal forms seemed woven of shadows, the upper reaches of which were (impossibly) imbued with a greenish glow.
The vampires employed a cursed book to wither the dedicants accompanying Carradalio and his admonitor, Brother Vincenzo, though to look at them you would barely have noticed the difference such was their fury and fervour for the fight.
Necromantic magic summoned a body of zombies to threaten the flank of the Urbimans …
.. then the vampires returned their attentions upon the weakened flagellants in the centre to lay low five of them with the Gaze of Nagash. Of course, none of this dampened the violent enthusiasm of the advancing army.
Part Three: Turn 3
Now the Holiest of armies launched several charges. In such close proximity to the foe, the dedicant crossbow could not restrain themselves and so charged into the newly raised zombies despite the entreaties of their shepherd to restrain themselves.
Despite their small size their flagellations caused the death of four of their own number, and such was the fury this self-mutilation instilled that they tore down eight of the zombies with the further loss of only one more of their own. The remaining zombies all collapsed as the magic re-vivifying their rotting frames petered out.
(Game Note: As GM creating the Disciplinati di Morr house rules – by modifying the Empire flagellant rules – I had forgotten to remove ‘The End is Nigh’ rule from this unit’s listing, which would have made much more sense with a missile unit. Who would create such a small sized unit if they were subject to that rule? It will probably be removed before the next conflict)
Gripped by a similar lust for battle, Father Carradalio and Brother Vincenzo jointly led their own regiment into the swollen mass of zombies before the gate.
Carradalio personally cut down two of them, while his warriors slaughtered another thirteen. The still moving zombies reeled from the blow, unable to inflict any harm back, and fifteen more of them collapsed as they also succumbed to the effects of diminishing magic.
(Note: The Undead player realised at the end of the game that he should have put out only 30 of the zombies, but because the models were all magnetized to the movement base and he usually fielded 60 he accidentally fielded twice the size he should have. If that mistake had not occurred, the cultists would have destroyed the unit totally in this turn. There’s always a few mistakes creep in to battles, although they are mostly mine!)
On the left of the attackers’ line, the siege tower at last reached the tower and lowered its drawbridge, allowing the halberd-wielding cultists to pour forwards. Four of their own number perished to their frenzied flagellations, but the god Morr filled the rest with an overwhelming bloodlust as a consequence. They now cared not a jot for their own defence, only that they could rain blows down upon the foe.
But the vampire Lord Adolfo was waiting for them, and they now discovered just what such a creature was capable of.
Eight of the cultists died from his attentions. (Game note: Strigoi ghoul king with Sword of Bloodshed and vampiric Red Fury.) The ghouls on the tower with Adolfo butchered three more of the cultists, while eight of their own number died. The Disciplinati di Morr dedicants had failed to take the wall-tower, losing both the initial impetus of their attack and also their frenzied mania. They would not break and run, determined as they were to die to a man in Morr’s service. That did not mean that they would win, only that if they lost none would be left alive.
One of the dedicants climbing the ladders to reach the fighting platform, whilst corpse after corpse tumbled down from the mayhem above, glanced over to the regiment making for the neighbouring wall. In a sickening moment of clarity it occurred to him that unless the others ascended the wall almost immediately, attacking whatever was defending the tower immediately, then his own regiment would perish to a man before they even got into the fight. Not that he was afraid of death, for he was blessed by Morr, just that he realised that if the others were too late, then whatever was killing his own comrades so quickly would simply turn on them to do the same. And then neither wall nor tower would be taken. For a moment he felt a pang of despair, but he brushed the feeling away with an angry shout and continued his climb.
While these fights broiled, the priests managed to dispel the withering curse affecting the Urbimans. One cannon again shook the wall violently (yet it still did not fall) but the other failed even to shoot, and the hail of crossbow bolts shot up at the walls did little more than clatter and clunk against the stones.
The skeletons to the north of the walls chose not to wait for the enemy and hurled themselves into the horde of Urbimans before them.
The ancient, undead warriors brought down three of the dedicants, merely matching the harm the dedicants own scourging had caused to themselves. Such was their frenzy that the Urbimans failed to notice and cut down a dozen skeletons.
Near the now open gate Father Carradalio’s sword continued its bloody work, hewing apart another pair of zombies. These two truly dead corpses were joined by eighteen more. Only four of the dedicants perished, three by their own flails! The last half dozen zombies fell as all vestiges of the magic animating them vanished. The way to the gate was clear.
The Necromancer upon the tower now read from his book, conjuring a curse which sapped the strength of the dedicants upon the siege-tower, so that some even struggled to ascend the ladders. This did not help their fight. Three died from their own flagellations, eight more from Adolfo’s attentions and a further two perished at the hands of the ghouls. What few were left fought on (Game Note: Unbreakable) but more of them were coming to the realisation that the regiment approaching the wall with ladders was not going to make it in time to save their complete obliteration, and that this would probably mean that regiment would be destroyed in turn.
The Duchess Maria finally decided to quit the unstable wall and join her Black Knights in the yard below.
She commanded them to move forwards a little towards the gate, for she intended to charge whatever came through it.
Part Four: The End
Just as Father Carradalio was about to order his regiment to charge through the broken gate, Brother Vincenzo shouted, “No, Father! They are waiting in strength.” He had seen the undead horse soldiers massed within and knew that if any who entered there would likely be cut down to a man.
Father Carradalio nodded, then pointed at the wall by the gate, commanding, “Ladders. Up!” at which the dedicants rushed to place the ladders and begin their climb.
What resulted was short, but bloody, work, even though neither the priests’ prayers nor Brother Vincenzo’s holy, burning water harmed the foe. Four dedicants collapsed from their own self-punishment, and another four were slain by the ghouls upon the parapet, but Carradalio beheaded two of the foe, Vincenzo another and the dedicants smashed five skulls. The few ghouls left scuttled away and with a leap Carradalio and the first of his dedicants were on the wall.
(Note: See Appendix below for actual ‘in game’ version of this moment!)
The climb was considerably easier for the cultists at the southern wall. As they clambered over …
… they did not yet know that the vampire Lord Adolfo and his ghouls had already defeated the dedicants on the siege tower. All forty were either dead or maimed so badly they could no longer fight (many wounded by their own hands).
Outside the walls the crossbow carrying cultists charged into the flank of the much diminished regiment of skeletons …
… and between them and the Urbimans they cut every last one down. The crossbowmen, realising that the spirit hosts were behind them, moved over the bony remnants to put a better distance between them and a foe they could not hope to harm, while the Urbimans reformed themselves as they realised they could become the spirit hosts’ chosen target.
Behind the Urbimans, the torch-wielding dedicants of the praepositus generalis’ bodyguard manoeuvred as best they could, frustrated in their efforts, knowing that their blessed, burning torches could easily dispatch the spirits if only they could get to them.
(Game note: Home rule – Blessed Torch Flames. Flaming, close combat attacks. Cause Fear in war-beasts, cavalry & chariots. Affect Flammable (p.69 BRB) & Regeneration (p.74 BRB) abilities. Able to wound ethereal creatures.)
While one cannon was being made ready again after its earlier misfire, the other cannon sent a shot that brought down the parapet of the wall where until moments before the duchess had been standing. Four of the grave guard became buried in the rubble, and three more succumbed to the crossbow bolts and light horsemen’s arrows which found their marks much more easily now that there was no wall in the way. The rest of the guards simply stood as they were, entirely bereft of any trepidation concerning whether the wall was about to collapse fully.
At the very moment the leading dedicants upon the captured, southern wall turned towards the door into the tower, it burst open with such force as to rip it off its hinges, and Lord Adolfo, filled with a furious rage, leaped out to tear into them.
He was followed by his ghouls and the fight that ensued was even bloodier than the previous. Adolfo alone killed eleven cultists, while the ghouls cut down another nine. What with another cultist perishing from his own self scourging, it all added up to twenty dead cultists, while only seven of the ghouls had been killed. Of course, the dedicants of the Disciplinati di Morr fought on, more and more clambering over the parapet to die almost instantly, even though none now harboured any hope that they might survive.
Father Carradalio, however, and what few warriors were left to his regiment, were doing better, losing only five of their number whilst killing nearly twice as many ghouls. Such was the weakening of the necromantic forces binding the ghouls, that the necromancer with them now succumbed to true death, along with the one or two ghouls remaining.
Just before entering the round tower beside him, Carradalio looked down into the city and his eyes locked with his greatest enemy, the vampire duchess herself.
She was sitting side-saddle upon her red-barded steed, looking deceptively delicate in her posture, but there was nothing but pure evil in her eyes. Carradalio smiled, such was his joy at leading his holy warriors into battle, knowing that Morr was by his side. The duchess snarled and watched through narrowed eyes as the priest stepped through the door out of her sight. He had but three warriors left with him, and his admonitor Brother Vincenzo, yet he still had confidence that victory would be his. Captain Vogel’s elite palace guard were approaching the gate with the Urbiman priest amongst them. The cannons were still booming and every undead warrior outside the city had been killed.
What he did not know, until he got to the top of the tower, was that Adolfo had now slain the entire second regiment of dedicants attacking the southern wall. With a little help from his ghouls (and the enemy themselves) he had obliterated 70 dedicants. All the while he had been reanimating his fallen soldiers so that when he left the wall and hurtled down the street immediately behind, heading towards the duchess, he still had ten ghouls with him.
The spirit hosts passed back through the city walls, intending to attack whatever force attempted to climb the northern wall even as it did so. The duchess now decided that her black knights could surely deal with whatever came through the gate on their own, so she leaped from her mount and made her way into the round tower immediately north of the gate, with a mind to fight her way through whomsoever got in her way and kill the laughing priest. Before she could reach the wall on the southern side of the gate, however, Captain Vogel and the palace guard employed the same ladders Carradalio and the cultists had used to ascend the wall also.
Meanwhile Father Carradalio had reached the round tower’s top …
… and peered over to spy Adolfo loping down the street below. (Game Note: Magic pools 7:4) Feeling Morr’s wrath flow through him, he cast Morr’s Curse upon the vampire (-1S, -1T, -1Ld) followed by Morr’s Glare (on 6,6,6,5!!!), which stung so badly that Adolfo stumbled and almost fell (He had lost 2 of 3 wounds!)
The battered wall occupied by grave guard had been hit several more times and was now on the verge of complete collapse – a man leaning up on it might cause it to topple. Several more skeletons had been killed by crossbow bolts, and the rest of the Holiest Army’s regiments had moved closer to the walls. The Urbimans and a company of crossbowmen were ready to attempt charges to capture more of the walls.
The Duchess Maria had sensed her servant’s anguish at the stinging power of the enemy’s prayers, and it suddenly dawned on her that if she and Adolfo attacked the walls and the tower they could almost certainly cut down all opposition and most likely even the two priests of Morr, but there was a small but real chance she could fail. Adolfo had been weakened and if only one Morrite survived that might be sufficient to finish him. She knew not what other tricks these priests had up their sleeves.
The wall behind her was about to collapse, and Morrites were closing in to capture several other sections. She had sent most of her army’s fighting strength away with Biagino, and this guard force she had kept here in Viadaza had proved too weak (if only just) to defend against these cultists. The enemy’s dead were piled high, yet still they came on in frenzied fury – fearing neither death nor undeath, and they fought to the last. If but one remained he would run at her, not away.
Maria loved her undeath, so much she wanted it to last forever. This would not happen if she took needless risks. She made her decision quickly and gave the command immediately.
All her servants heard her, for they were beholden to her will, and could sense her very thoughts. The Black Knights galloped down the high street from the Eastgate …
… while Adolfo led his ghouls down another parallel street – in fact, it was the very same street he had fled down the previous year when the Arch-Lector of Remas had attacked Viadaza. The irony was lost on him.
The rest of her army, the duchess included, slipped away through interconnected cellars and attics, crossing vestibules and arches, down passages and alleyways, towards the waterfront where boats awaited them.
Once again, the undead had yielded Viadaza to a Reman led army. But the duchess was far from defeated, merely inconvenienced. She would raise more servants wheresoever she went and destroy this foe in her own good time.
Their losses in this battle would be much, much harder to replace.
Game Over. End of turn 6 (Turn 7 conceded)
Next Installment: Part 19.2