Thursday, March 15, 2018

Mortal Empires, Part XIX - Star Crossed Lovers

Previous: Mortal Empires, Part XVIII - Bastion of Mankind

The entry of Mannfred Von Carstein's forces tipped the battle against the Chaos hordes decisively in the Empire's favor. The undead armies were slow, unskilled and easy fodder for the supernatural skill and strength of the Chaos soldiers. But the undead numbered in tens of thousands, and they were relentless. They never tired or became discouraged, but simply marched to their deaths without fear or reservation. Even then a corpse had to be dismembered to stop it from being raised again in the unholy rituals enacted by the night aristocracy after every battle. They swamped the Chaos armies, bogged them down, and wore them down through pure attrition.


Mannfred Von Carstein.

Karl Franz met Mannfed Von Carstein a second time in the ruins of Bechafen, after the Empire attacked a Chaos horde engaged with the undead in the rear. Once again whatever conversation the two had is lost to history. After the talks, however, the dead and the living simply stayed out of each other's way as they engaged the Chaos hordes sweeping southwards from High Pass. On occasion an Imperial army would apply the coup de gras to a Chaos army routed by the undead, or vice versa, but at no point did both armies ever directly work together or fight side by side. Mannfred's movements were conveyed to Franz by means of his envoy, Isoulde Von Carstein, whom Franz had met previously in Wurtbad

Franz greeted Isoulde with warmth and familiarity which surprised both the envoy and Franz's circle of advisers the first time they'd met. Noting the Emperor's reaction, Mannfred instructed Isoulde to encourage the Emperor's interest in her for his own purposes, and the next time she met Franz she was more open, flirtatious and receptive. Franz, for his part, seemed to expect this. Franz was honest, open and sincere in his frequent talks with her. He seemed to know a great deal about her, and his candor was soon reciprocated. The two of them began spending a lot of time in each other's company discussing philosophy, politics, literature and strategy, much to the dismay of the priests and witch hunters of Sigmar. Isoulde was over a century old, but retained the wits and sharpness of her youth, as well as her looks. She also possessed the unnatural strength and speed of her kind. Eschewing any form of armor or protection she was a terror on the battlefield, and serenely unchallenged by the mightiest human warriors who dared bluster to her face. In the battle of Norden Franz was knocked off Deathclaw by a mighty Dragon Ogre and stunned. Only the intervention of Isoulde saved him from being impaled while he lay prostrate on the ground. Isoulde and Deathclaw held off an entire herd of Bestigors and protected the stricken Emperor until the Reiksgard could decisively intervene.

Isoulde Von Carstein. OK, no, it's actually Kate Beckinsale from the Underworld vampire movies.

It was no wonder that Franz, still in his twenties, unmarried and unbetrothed, would be drawn to Isoulde. Such a liaison would be unthinkable in a different time, but the two were careful to avoid acting inappropriately in public. On the campaign it was a different tale however, and soon the two of them were sharing their nights under the same tent. Franz's reputation was such that he was now beyond the reach and reprimands of the Cult of Sigmar, and the Reiksgard, loyal only to the Emperor, took great pains to conceal his nocturnal activities. Still the whispers continued and grew louder, and those who resented Franz for the Treaty of Wurtbad and his perceived desertion of the Dwarf Empire were given more fuel to their fire. Volkmar was particularly wrathful, and he gave the Emperor a dire warning. If ever the day came when the symbol of Sigmar's Hammer caused the Emperor to recoil then Volkmar himself would drive the stake through Franz's heart. Such talk was high treason and punishable by death, but Franz merely nodded his head and assented. 

Balthasar Gelt was less worried about the Emperor's eternal soul and more about his physical well-being. The Supreme Patriarch of the Colleges of Magic was frank and open about his fear of Franz's assassination. Franz waved away all the warnings of his advisers, however, and Isoulde soon became a familiar sight in Franz's court, always appearing after dusk and disappearing before the dawn. She displayed the ability to move around during the day, appearing in major battles at Franz's side, but only when it was overcast, raining or snowing. Even then it was apparent that this effort taxed her and diminished her powers. On the days when the sun shone brilliantly overhead she was conspicuously absent. The fact that she made the effort to appear during the day made Franz love her more, however, and the bond between the two grew ever stronger. Many were convinced that the Emperor was bewitched. In a moment of candor with Gelt and Volkmar, however, the Emperor confessed that he knew Isoulde from the past lives he had lived in his visions. The same visions and experiences which allowed the Emperor to see the future and anticipate his enemy's moves had also allowed him to live several lives in the company of his paramour. He declared that he knew Isoulde in her various incarnations, and while she had betrayed and killed him in some, she had also broken free of Mannfred's influence and grown to love him in others. This was cold comfort for Franz's advisers, who did not know what incarnation of Isoulde awaited Franz in the future.

The intervention of the Vampire Counts in the north-east theater has been decisive. I've been trying to keep a handle on Chaos numbers by leaving one army alive so as to prevent a full wave respawn, but failing spectacularly because vamps would end up killing it and triggering the respawn anyway. But with the Vampire Counts in the fight it's been easy to smash the Chaos incursion. They don't have a chance against the fast cavalry army. They're only dangerous when they attack a city, because in sieges we don't have the space we need to make the fast cavalry style of battle work, and Chaos can leverage their core units - their tough as nails infantry - into battles that favor them, i.e. climbing walls and spanking other infantry. I now have three or four Witch Hunter heroes in play in the theater, however, and they are pivotal in separating the Chaos armies and slowing them down. These heroes have the Block skill, and successful application of Block significantly slows down an army. This means you can separate and string out the enemy advance and then destroy each army in detail, which is what we have been doing. Delaying the Chaos armies also allows the Vampire Counts to catch and destroy some of them, too.

Next: Mortal Empires, Part XX - Druchii Incursions

4 comments:

  1. So the dead and the living are united against chaos? At least now you have a better chance of surviving.

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    1. I reckon I'm going to win this campaign, as long as I keep the Elves happy. Once Chaos is defeated that will be the big showdown between the Vamps and the Empire, and if we can just go one on one our boys can take those smelly undead gits.

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