The swarming bats in the rear of the allies’ line now swooped in an arc to attack the smaller of the two handgun companies, not the bravi before the gun.
Zanobi, Benedetto and Nofri were in the front rank as the swarm came at them, and the sudden proximity of such fearful foes made their legs weaken, their stomachs churn. Those in the company whose pieces were made ready gave fire, but to no particularly noticeable effect.
When the bats hit them, they became engulfed in a tangle of fur and leathery wings, then pierced all over by claws and teeth. All three were killed, as well as another of their comrades. Those handgunners who survived this initial onslaught failed entirely in their attempts to flee. Indeed, the swarm’s progress was barely slowed by the bloody contact, and as the last of the handgunners splashed lifeless into the soggy ground, the bats crashed into other company. It was all so quick that the second company never even fired a single shot! Barely half managed to draw their blades, the rest making do with the butt of their handguns as the swarm hit them.
Frustrated that he could see so little through the leaded-glass window of the tower chamber, Biagino burst through the door and plunged into the mass of zombies swarming upon the parapet, there to hide amongst them.
Having attempted twice to call the zombies of the swamp, without sensing their presence at all, he now knew that wherever they were, it was too far for them to be brought to the field of battle. He sensed his lieutenant’s magical conjuring and guessed it was another attempt to lure one of the leviathans inhabiting the moat. But nothing came of it, and so he too stared into the water as he wrestled with the winds of magic to make them conform to his own will. He too failed, as the enemy had several wizards, one of whom employed a counter spell to unwind and wash away the winds before they could sufficiently coalesce in the material realm.
(Game Note: First attempt to raise the Leviathon dispel scrolled; second stopped with a 6D dispel roll of 24.)
Rotting Leviathans (from the old ‘Luthor Harkon’ White Dwarf army)
These dwell in the expanded moat, being the preserved remains of ‘crab-like Prometheans’ which rose to the surface during the time of the corruption of Miragliano, carried in by the flood waters.
In their own magic phase, the vampire player may choose a spot in the moat, then roll a scatter die & 2D6 for the distance. (If the spot goes off-table, then the beast can appear in the vampire player’s next turn, as an ‘Ambusher’ (p.79) /‘Reinforcement’ (p.27), arriving within 6” of the point at which the line crossed the table edge, if it gets its 3+ roll.) If the spot is on the table, the player then rolls 1D6 & on a roll of 6, a Leviathan appears. Before rolling the D6, however, they can bolster this attempt by successfully casting Invocation of Nehek on 12+ or 18+ depending on if the beast is raised between 6 and 12 or between 12 and 18 inches away, measuring from the caster to the point in the moat. On a successful casting, the beast appears on a D6 roll of 4, 5 or 6. If the spell fails, the attempt to lure the beast up has hindered the rising, so the player cannot even roll the D6 for a 6 chance. They can try again next and subsequent turns, on 5,6 chance or 3+ using Invocation. (A successful dispelling will thus stop their appearance, or a failed D6 roll.)
If the player is successful, they may attempt summon the other creature in another turn, or even in the same turn if they have another wizard who can cast Invocation of Nehek. Once both leviathans have been raised, however, there are no more others nearby to raise. Note that calling one from beyond the table edge might be the better tactic, but still with a potentially indefinite delay!
Rotting Leviathan – Stats, attributes and special rules as per the old White Dwarf list.
The apprentice wizard Serafina was unnerved by all the deaths so close to her and ran back towards the high ground in the rear, struggling all along to cross the difficult ground.
(Game Note: Anything more than a normal move in the marsh meant taking a dangerous terrain test.)
As the colossus and the ram-raft drew closer to the city walls …
… the dismounted knights mounted the siege tower.
They were commanded by Lord Marcus Portelli, who had been wounded in at Ebino. Despite requiring help to climb the ladder, he nevertheless projected a fearlessness which inspired his men, and he looked the very essence of a warrior as he took his place at the front, leaning upon his huge, iron-barbed mace.
While Father Bernhardt prayed for Morr to protect the dwarf warriors, only one wizardly spell successfully pierced the mystical defences mustered by the vampire and his lieutenants. Five ghouls tumbled from the wall as a banishment took grip on them, yet still, the rest showed no sign of caring, nor even noticing.
Lupo’s crossbowmen slew five more zombies …
… but like the ghouls, the remainder just peered through the crenelations, entirely ignorant of their fellow defenders’ second demise.
Biagino noticed, however, and in a fit of anger he ordered the fell bats and the cairn-wraiths to burst from the defences onto moat, from where they could charge at the foe.
The wraiths moved ethereally through the very stones, to glide eerily and terrifyingly over the water towards the raft carrying the Reman dwarfs, Father Bernhardt and Captain Soldatovya …
… while the monstrous bats flew speedily across the full width of the moat towards the handgunners already engaged with their smaller kin.
Inside the city, the diminished host of spirits drifted towards the gate tower, while the similarly reduced company of ghouls moved to take the spot on the far-left wall the spirits had recently departed. One or two amongst them seem somewhat put out at being commanded so to move, having previously been greedily eyeing the approaching foe.
When they discovered enemies were also approaching this new wall, they satisfied themselves that they had not been denied their share of flesh-meat!
Biagino could now clearly see the approaching dwarfs and the enemies crossing further along the moat. If the deadly cairn-wraiths made short work of dispatching the dwarfs, then it was likely they could move on to one or even more the other rafts before the enemy reached the walls. So it was he attempted to conjure a curse to weaken the foe, only to fumble it when momentarily distracted. While several more spells were either foiled or simply failed, including a further attempt to lure the moat-dwelling leviathans, ever more zombies were successfully raised to swell the horde now defending two stretches of the wall.
The swarming bats quickly sapped the second body of handgunners’ will to fight, killing all who fled away as they became mired in the stinking mud. This meant the fell bats could swoop down on a clear run towards the cannon crew. Yet despite this success, the massive bulk of the enemy lay further along the moat, and so far, there had been no hindrance at all to its passage. The large regiment of Portomaggioran spearmen, who had so bravely assaulted the gate at Ebino after it had been blown to pieces by siege-master Guccio’s petard, recently reinforced with the survivors of several no longer field-worthy companies and regiments, had already boarded a large raft to commence their own crossing.
Desperate to avoid a moat-top combat with the nightmarish wraiths, Captain Soldatovya ordered his mercenary dwarfs to propel the raft as speedily as possible, even if it endangered the lives of some of those aboard.
He was praying they would pass by before the ghastly creatures could sweep around at them.
With a sinking heart, the Kislevite captain recognised their progress was just too slow. Clutching his blade tight, he turned to look at the foe, wracking his brains at how he might survive the inevitable encounter, when suddenly four of the foul spirits disappeared, as a storm of bolts came whistling through the air from Lupo’s crossbowmen. This confused him, for such mundane missiles would not normally be expected to harm ethereal beings.
Serafina had halted her flight and was the first wizard to notice the wraiths. She failed, however, in her subsequent attempt to manifest fireballs to hurl at them. That failure, however, had been perceived by her master, the wizard lord Johannes Deeter, who was close to the carroccio. When he looked through the leafless trees to see what Serafina had been attempting to harm, he too saw the wraiths. Being well versed in the art of fire magic, he had immediately conjured a ‘Rhuinous’ blessing upon Lupo’s crossbowmen, which is why their bolts carried just enough magic to sting the foe, despite their ghostly nature. And sting they did, enough to slay more than half.
An enchanted round-shot was also blasted at the wraiths, but it missed and instead crunched into the wall beyond, while the rest of the allies’ crossbowmen brought down merely a handful of bats and zombies. Even the gunners on the carroccio blasted their swivels at the wall, but again, with little effect. The Ogres, however, had already reached the gate, and had begun swinging the ram to crash repeatedly into the iron-bound, anciently-hard oak. They did not yet know that they were going to be there a long time, for the gate was strong.
The last two wraiths now did exactly what Soldatovya feared and tore into the exposed flank of the dwarfs on the raft.
The raft tipped precariously to one side, as Soldatovya, clad head to toe in armour, knew there was little he could now do but pray for his own soul.
The Kislevite veteran, the portly priest Bendali and each and every dwarf upon the raft would be dead or dying within moments, most taking only as long as it took for the air to run out in their lungs as they fell like stones into the stagnant but deep moat water.
The fell bats swooped gracefully to smash into the artillerist Captain Hans Weidmuller and his cannon crew.
The crew died quickly, while Hans put up a little more of a fight. Bleeding from his wounds, he turned to flee, pursued by the unthinking creatures, and died from their attentions. His demise was unwitnessed by any in the allied army.
While the swirling spirits occupied the gate tower, the bat swarm hove back into view and flew towards the rear of the dwarf crossbowmen.
Biagino concentrated wholly upon his magical efforts and summoned up nigh upon a score more zombies to further swell those on and behind the walls.
He even returned a cairn-wraith into the mortal realm. Beyond these successes, however, nothing he nor his lieutenants tried proved effective, so that still no leviathon could be hailed to attack the multitude of enemies now teeming precariously upon the moat.
As the allies all drew ever closer to the walls, some rafts moving quicker than others.
Serafina, having found an inner peace despite the terrors of the marsh, sent a streaming blast of fireballs into the wraiths, and burned away all trace of them from the waking world.
This left only the bats, large and small, outside the walls, caught up with harassing the crossbowmen at the far left of the allied line. There was nothing now to even slow the massed rank and file in their journey to the walls.
As the living wizards cast magical blessings on the large regiments, Lupo directed his crossbowmen to slay more and more of the zombies …
… while Lord Marcus drew even closer to the wall …
… and the VMC pike regiment crowded on their raft behind waiting their time to climb the siege tower’s ladders and mount the walls.
The captain-general, Lord Alessio, had already reached the far-left wall, and immediately set about assaulting the ghouls defending it.
Despite being fully armoured, he leapt from the platform-top of the siege tower to crash into the foul creatures massed on the parapet, the magical glare of his shield dazzling and paining the ghouls’ eyes. His men followed quickly and obediently, and the slaughter was great, with three of the Sea Wolves falling, but many, many more ghouls. If they had not already suffered injuries to magical attacks, the foul flesh eaters might have delayed the Portomaggioran soldiers a little longer, but they simply did not have the numbers, and Lord Alessio quickly took full possession of the wall.
Despite the moat, despite the marsh, the living were already in the city.
As the bat swarms swooped between the crossbow regiments, the fell bats also careened around at the rear looking for another company to attack.
Biagino cursed and cursed again as neither he nor his lieutenants could summon the leviathans, nor could they manifest any other magic to thwart the enemy. He heard the enemy’s cheers and knew they must have taken at least one wall, and despite having raised a veritable host of zombies to defend two other stretches …
… he knew full well that they could only ever buy him time, not victory.
The foe was too numerous, and the force left to him entirely insufficient to the task of holding the city.
Suddenly he felt an etheric heat and strained to look down into the yard. The colossus was obviously able to see over the walls and had burned away almost all the spirits with a magical gaze, leaving but a handful hidden beneath the stone arch.
Out beyond the moat, the bats had concentrated their last assault on the dwarven crossbows …
… but found them to be a much harder challenge than the handgunners and cannon crew. Meanwhile, Lord Alessio had already led his men from the first wall through the tower and onto the next, before the dismounted knights could mount it from their own siege tower. There Alessio and his men lay furiously into the first large body of zombies, finding the work a tiring but simple act of butchery.
Lord Marcus could only watch as his master hacked and slashed through the stinking mass of rotten flesh, and the Portomaggioran army-standard moved across the wall right in front of him.
It was clear the city was lost.
Every one of Biagino’s cards had been played. The bumper crop he had expected from the corpse-filled, foetid marsh and moat, had proved entirely disappointing.
He had been chased from the very heart of Tilea all the way to Miragliano, and now he knew that if he was to (un)live any longer, he must flee yet again, right now, before the enemy could reach him.
And flee he did.
He knew not whether he would go to the marsh or the mountains, but he did not have time to ponder the matter.
The last of the vampires’ possessions, the once great city of Miragliano, had finally fallen. And so the great war against the Undead had ended.