Mortal Empires, Part XVII - Chaos Rising

During the winter of 2504 IC Franz took the opportunity to meet with delegates from the High Elves and the Wood Elves, and to sign trade agreements and conclude formal military alliances with these resurgent nations. The advantage of flying mounts was the unprecedented mobility they conferred, and Franz was able to leave his army wintering at Wolfenburg to fly back to Altdorf to be present at these negotiations. He was now accompanied by a personal bodyguard of Imperial captains on pegasi. Inspired by the Emperor's feats of arm, Ludenhof, Haupt-Anderssen and even Countess Von Liebwitz were breaking in their own griffon mounts in the hopes of emulating him. Ludenhof, a keen lover of hunting birds of all kinds, was personally raising the griffon he was given by Franz when Hochland bent the knee in 2503 IC. The griffon, now over a year old, was rapidly developing a close rapport with its master. Even at such a tender age Ludenhof was able to ride the beast for short periods. Other aspiring lords took note, and followed his example.

Todbringer was a notable exception. The old Elector was a valiant warrior and a formidable general, but terrified of heights. He feigned indifference at the sight of lords on their mounts. The Grand Theogonist also eschewed flying mounts, but for different reasons. Volkmar the Grim rode into battle atop his mobile pulpit, which itself was a formidable relic of power. Volkmar's armies attracted thousands of flagellants, penitents and fanatics, and the presence of the War Altar of Sigmar drove them into greater paroxysms of fury. The Supreme Patriarch of the Colleges of Magic, Balthasar Gelt, was already an accomplished flyer, and rode a pegasus of his own. With their leadership able to cover vast distances on the backs of these flying steeds, the Empire was able to meet quickly and often on matters of importance. Magic was another means of communication, but it was unreliable and prone to being blocked or interfered with by spellcasters inimical to the Empire. It could also be intercepted and read, or even altered. Handwritten messages under seal were still the preferred method of communication, conveyed either by horseback, raven or pegasi. The Empire husbanded its meager stable of flying mounts for two purposes - as winged steeds for lords and heroes in battle, or as mounts for important messengers.

Imperial lands in the summer of 2505 IC, stretching as far west as Gisoreux in Bretonnia to Erengrad in the north-east Troll Country. 

The alliances with the High Elves and Wood Elves gave the Empire some much needed security. Wary of the Vampire Counts Franz hoped that these new agreements would act as a deterrent to Mannfred's ambitions while the Empire set about the task of ridding the Old World of the Norscan scourge once and for all. The Dark Elves also rebuffed every diplomatic sally sent by Franz. By all accounts they were the undisputed masters of the sea, and raided and pillaged wherever they pleased. Ulthuan was a nation under siege, and its trade routes to the Old World were in constant peril. The destruction of the Dwarf Empire came as a complete shock to the Forces of Order. Even the High Elves with their millennia long enmity acknowledged the role of the Dawi as a bulwark against the Orcs, Chaos and all the other agents of darkness and entropy. That burden would now fall on the Empire. Indeed, the Empire was serving as the last bastion of free Dawi, and the provinces of the Empire were hard-pressed to provide food and shelter to accommodate the thousands of refugees streaming from the World's Edge Mountains. The Dwarves were joined by Tileans, Estalians and men and women from the Border Princes all fleeing the dominion of the Vampire Counts.

At the onset of spring 2505 IC Franz began a new offensive against the Norscans. Using Wolfenburg as a staging area Ludenhof and Franz attacked and captured cities in the Troll Country and the Oblast region. These settlements were poorly defended and easily taken, and Franz was able to secure the port of Erengrad, a crucial harbor in the Sea of Kislev. Ludenhof split from Franz and headed east towards Kislev. With the aid of the cossacks and exiled Kislevites his army liberated the towns of Praag, Kislev and Volksgrad. Ludenhof drew up ambitious plans to rebuild the shattered nation of Kislev, and re-tasked the Imperial engineers who had rebuilt the central Empire in the previous year towards this undertaking.

In the north Todbringer crossed the Sea of Claws in ships built during the winter furlough, and took the fight to the Norscans in their own lands for the very first time. Todbringer was merciless in his desire for vengeance. Norscan settlements were torched, and their inhabitants butchered. No quarter was given, and non-combatants suffered terribly for the sins of their marauding menfolk. In late summer Franz also reached the lands of Norsca by the overland route through the Troll Country. Between Todbringer and Franz the Varg and the Skaeling reaped the Empire's retribution as settlement after settlement fell to the avenging generals. The aim of both generals was simple. They would wreak such havoc on the Norscans that future generations would think twice about ever reaving in the south again. As winter approached Franz and Todbringer found their advance slowed to a crawl by the inclement weather on the Norscan peninsula. Both armies had prepared suitable winter quarters, but all plans to continue the offensive were discarded when the first true Chaos armies appeared north-east of Volksgrad in Belyevobota Pass.

The Chaos invasion begins.

The Norscans were known worshipers of the Chaos Gods, but for the most part were humans like the citizens of the Empire and Kislev. True Chaos armies were another thing entirely. Warped by the corrupting power of the Chaos Wastes the rank and file of Chaos might have been men once, but who knew what vestiges of their humanity remained inside their all-enclosing armor of black meteoric metal, and in the hideous deformities they bore proudly as favors from their dark gods. The Skaeling and the Varg were beaten, but it seemed that they were merely a vanguard in a larger invasion.

Chaos appeared in my campaign around turn 190, which is 70 turns longer than in the first Total War game. This marks the first time that I've seen Chaos in Total War 2 in the Mortal Empires campaign. It looks like Chaos armies have appeared all over the map, not just in the traditional spawn point north-east of Kislev, because I can see Chaos armies marauding in other continents. When Chaos comes they come as four distinct factions. The Warriors of Chaos and the Warherds of Chaos appear in the Chaos Wastes as they did previously in the first Total War title. In Total War 2 they are joined by the Servants of Chaos, who appear in the seas north of Ulthuan and east of Naggarond. Another faction called Puppets of Chaos also joins the fray, but to date I don't know where they spawn. I'm betting they spawn either in the Lands of the Dead or in Lustria.

Just a note on time and dates. The Warhammer world has a 400 day year, and its weeks are 8 days long. Since game time in Total War 2 is reckoned in turns, I've taken the convention that each turn is a week. Thus 50 turns in game equals one year in the fiction. Karl Franz was crowned in 2502 IC in Warhammer lore, and over 150 turns have elapsed, so by that estimate it is now sometime in 2505 IC, three years after Franz's coronation. My reckoning goes something like this:

Turns 1-50 = 2502 IC
Turns 51-100 = 2503 IC
Turns 101-150 = 2504 IC
Turn 151-200 = 2505 IC

Chaos appeared around turn 190, which would make it the winter of 2505 IC by my crude calendar system.