Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Shadows Return: Game 6

The damp night air was filled with howls and shrieks as the Witch Elves capered in the flickering firelight around the altar of Khaine. Wounded High Elves were dragged into groups nearby, under the close guard of the Executioners. They would soon be sacrificed, and their blood added to the cauldron. Already their fallen general’s head had been mounted on one of the spikes of the altar, to the jubilation of the surrounding Witches.

Their own general had also fallen; cut down by the Asur prince’s blade. But Erathi was not yet finished. The wounded Death Hag had dragged herself up the steps of the altar, her blood leaving a trail behind her as it pumped from the mortal wound between her ribs. As the last of her strength left her, she hauled herself up to the rim of the bubbling cauldron of blood and with a final dedication to her bloody god, she toppled in. The cauldron attendants standing nearby brandished their ceremonial daggers overhead and gave ululating shrieks of triumph as they witnessed her final sacrifice. Her blood would be pleasing to Khaine.

It was into this scene that the Sorceress Moreki arrived, swooping down upon the wings of her Dark Pegasus. Shortly behind her came the shattered remnant of her army, trotting in from the darkness – a pitiful handful of Darkshards and Dreadspears, led by a slightly crestfallen-looking Assassin. 

Dropping from the back of her mount, the Sorceress strode up to the foot of the altar. The attendants moved immediately to prevent her from ascending. She was not devoted to Khaine – the stairs were not hers to climb. 

Moreki halted. “Where are your leaders?” she asked them with a sneer. Her fingers adjusted their grip upon her sorcerer’s staff – a reminder for them of her power. It was not really a threat. Not really.

Not yet.

“They have fallen.” There was no deference in the Witch Elf’s response, but nor was there any obvious hostility. “Their sacrifice is pleasing to Khaine.”

Moreki suppressed a sigh. These Khainite zealots were so tiresome. On the other hand, the power vacuum was convenient. “Then you are in need of new leadership,” she said this loudly so that others nearby would hear and take heed. “I will assume command of your army.”

The frenzied shrieking of the Witch Elves quieted and then died out completely. All of the assembled Druchii were now focused on what was taking place. Would anyone challenge her right to seize power?

One of the Witch Elf champions hissed and shoved her way past her comrades, then stopped and drew a poisoned blade with each hand. She glared at Moreki in a manner that the cauldron attendant had not. Perhaps she just didn’t like Sorcerers.  She snarled as she spoke, “We are the brides of Khaine. We will not bow to some upstart conjurer!”

Her snarls turned quickly to shrieks as dark energies flayed the skin from her bones with a back-handed gesture from Moreki. Within moments she was nothing more than a pile of bones in a silly metal bikini. Some of the surrounding Witch Elves hissed and growled, but none of them made a move toward the Sorceress.

“Is there anyone else?” she asked in a mocking voice.

It was at this moment that the light of the fires around them seemed to dim. The quiet bubbling of the cauldron rose steadily until it was boiling violently, steaming blood sloshing over the sides and onto the altar around it. A deep red glow emanated from the liquid, and as all turned their focus upon it, a dark silhouette rose from its depths.

“What manner of coup is this, Moreki? Do you dare to try and steal control of my army?” The voice that spoke was that of Erathi, however it had another, underlying tone that seemed to give it a strength and menace that it had lacked previously.

Moreki smiled sourly at this new arrival. Perhaps this was not going to go as well as she had hoped. “Hello, my sister.”

Last weekend saw a first for our campaign: all 8 players were present, and everyone played a game on the same day. This means I have a lot of catching up to do in terms of writing up the battles. I have decided to start with the smallest and quickest game.

The battle was essentially Blood and Glory. The generals were trying to kill each other as my Supreme Sorceress (basically the sole survivor in my previous game) tried to "recruit" Tim's Dark Elves to her cause.

A game where I only used a Sorceress would have been a bit weird, so I included a couple of units that best represented what might have actually escaped the previous encounter. Even so, it would not have been a legal army under standard 8th edition rules - the Lord section was blown out by the only model that actually mattered.

We decided Tim's Death Hag was not dead from the previous battle after all, and the rest of the stuff is basically a cut-down version of his earlier army. The Harpies were an afterthought to try to counter the nonsense of a flying Sorceress scooting around against an army with no magic and no shooting. Tim's army was actually a few hundred points larger than mine, but this felt fitting given the circumstances. I had the "power character" in Moreki, anyway.

Game 6: Murder and Magic

The figure that stepped from the cauldron was indeed Erathi, however she had been somehow changed. The wound that had slain her was gone without a trace; wiped clean by the grace of Khaine. Her eyes glowed a deep red as she stared at her sister; she maintained that stare as she climbed effortlessly from the boiling cauldron and stood beside it. She may also have been taller than she was previously, or perhaps that was Moreki’s imagination in light of her apparent transformation.

The Sorceress stepped back unconsciously as the risen Death Hag stepped forward, and as Erathi continued down the stairs she lost her nerve entirely and fled back to the relative safety of her Dark Pegasus, hauling herself gracelessly into the saddle and preparing to immediately take flight.

Erathi’s mocking voice chased her as she retreated, “It is not Khaine’s will that you should so lightly steal that which belongs to him.” The effortless power of her voice made it seem like she was right behind Moreki’s ear, and it was all she could do not to squeak and turn around in an unseemly manner. “If you wish to command this army, then you must earn it in a trial by blood.”

It was only once her Dark Pegasus was safely in the air overhead that Moreki recovered her wits enough to respond. “It is hardly my fault that you got yourself killed in a foolish challenge,” she retorted. “How is it that Khaine should see you as a worthy commander when you cannot even best a weak princeling of the Asur?” 

If her jibe had any effect upon her sister, it did not show. “Khaine has shown me his plans,” she spoke the words adoringly, as though remembering something delightful. “Join me now and you may yet play a part in their inevitable fulfilment.”

Part of Moreki was tempted to throw her lot in with her god-touched sibling, but a far greater part of her was proud, and confident in her own power. She would never bow to one of these addled Khaine-worshippers, even if it was her own sister. 

“I think not, Erathi. I am not victim to the same madness as you. If you must die again for me to take my place at the head of this army, then so be it.”
Tim's Dark Elves, looking very dark. This photo was taken at about 5pm, by which point the hall was even darker than it had been earlier in the afternoon. A better photographer would have noticed and adjusted. I am only just good enough to know that a better photographer would have done better...
My mighty army. There is an Assassin in the Dreadspears, but he is camera-shy.
Erathi slums it with the peasantry and walks into battle this time.
The battle lines, such as they were, were drawn quickly. Moreki’s own troops had had the good sense to keep slightly clear of the crazed Witch Elves, and had pulled back considerably as the confrontation between the two sisters took shape.  The Sorceress swept around to join them on her Dark Pegasus, and turned to see her rival had already taken her place at the head of a regiment of Executioners, who had temporarily abandoned their duty of watching the wounded prisoners. Packs of Witch Elves surrounded them. All were already advancing upon Moreki’s position. Harpies circled overhead in the half-light. 
Erathi's Khainite forces advance. Note the use of particularly hideous movement trays for the tiny flocks of Harpies, in an effort to distract and/or offend me. Such deviousness.
The Crossbowmen opened fire upon the Witch Elves, but the toll they took did little to slow their advance. Moreki realized the safest place might not be in amongst her troops after all, and took to the air. She summoned power to her and blasted the Executioners with a whole volley of searing bolts of dark energy. The situation resulted in a lack of concentration however, and she lost control during the spell. She gasped as magical backlash struck her mind, furthering her confusion and lack of control. 
The Crossbows open up on the Witch Elves and cull them quite effectively.
Moreki blasts half the Executioners with Doombolt, but miscasts and rolls a 10, losing 2 spells and 2 levels. That was not quite the plan.
So many enemies. So dark.
The Spearmen had advanced to shield the flank of the Crossbowmen, but came to regret that decision when half of the Witch Elf army erupted in shrieks and charged down the hill toward them. Their leader called a hasty withdrawal, however this did not go as planned. Their orderly retreat collapsed into chaos as the Assassin hiding in their midst showed his true allegiances and struck out at his comrades. As the Spearmen tried to fend off the enemy amongst them, the Witch Elves fell upon them from behind and they were slaughtered. The Assassin vanished into the darkness, his work completed for now.
No, what are you all doing?? I chose to flee the charge, but only rolled 5 inches and the Witches rolled the 9 they needed to get me. Clearly my troops were working against me!
I didn't stand and shoot at the Harpies, as the Witch Elves were just waiting for me to do so. When I held my fire, they very sensibly decided to let the Harpies go it alone.
Harpies threw themselves against the Crossbowmen as they focused their attentions upon the Witch Elves. Although their attentions were elsewhere, the Crossbowmen were still Elves and were more than a match for their assailants. Swords and knives were whipped from their sheaths and more than half of the Harpies were dead before their charge struck home. The remainder held their position however, distracting the Crossbowmen from their true purpose.

Still dazed from her previous carelessness, Moreki struck out around her with the remaining magic she could still command. Repeatedly she leeched the lives from the enemy Witch Elves, however the departing souls slipped through her grasp and she was unable to harness them for her own ends. 
Moreki repositions herself and settles for using Soul Stealer and Chillwind now that Doombolt was gone. She cast Soul Stealer 4 times during the game. Only one was a direct hit, but unlike last game she was unable to gain even a single wound from the damage she inflicted. Just couldn't roll a 4+.
Witch Elves right in the faces (and flank) of the Crossbows.
Erathi’s Executioners were almost upon their prey when the Crossbowmen struck out and finished the last of the Harpies. To the Death Hag’s disgust, her entourage became confused by developments and panicked, turning and retreating up the hill and dragging their mistress with them. The Crossbowmen took advantage of this reprieve to snatch up their weapons and riddle the remaining Witch Elves with black-feathered bolts. The last shrieking Witch collapsed almost at their feet. They had gotten very close.
OK so looking at the photos, it seems like it might have been the shooting of the Witch Elves that panicked the Executioners. It doesn't matter. What matters is what Erathi will do to them later for their cowardice.
If the Crossbowmen believed themselves to be safe however, they were wrong. More Harpies descended upon them whilst at the same time another pack of Witch Elves set upon their flank. Outnumbered and out-maneuvered, they fought bravely nonetheless and held their ground though half their number fell to poisoned blades and raking talons.
This is not cool. On the bright side, there are not that many Witch Elves there. I think Moreki might have hit them pretty hard with magic the previous turn.
Things are not looking all that great for Moreki and her friends.
Moreki was still shaking her had to try to clear it as she saw the situation that had befallen her Crossbowmen. They were the last of her allies, and she needed to act if she did not wish to end up entirely alone. Pulling about on the reins of her Dark Pegasus, she swept down and charged into the flank of the Witch Elves. She snarled as she did so, as though some form of the feral lunacy of the Witch Elves all around her was taking hold of her too. She lashed out with her knife as her mount drove in with its horns and hooves. The Crossbowmen fought harder as well, heartened by their leader’s ill-advised efforts.  The last of the Harpies fell as they pressed forward, but it was not without cost. Only a single Crossbowman remained, and he turned to find a single Witch Elf remaining as Moreki bore down upon her.
What lunacy is this? Who would charge a Sorceress into combat when she has perfectly good spells to cast? In my defense, Soul Stealer can be cast out of combat, so I was really only losing Chillwind. And besides, Flying around and avoiding the enemy all game is boring.
Oops, we didn't wipe them out. This might get nasty.
The folly of the Sorceress’ actions became apparent as a fresh wave of Witch Elves charged into the fray, cackling at this unexpected opportunity to put the enemy leader to the sword. Realising her plight, she retained just enough clarity of wit to call out a challenge to the Hag leading the charge. Perhaps she could rely upon her enemy’s pride to buy her some time. The other Witches hissed in frustration as their champion accepted the challenge and stepped forward to exchange blows with the Sorceress. The Hag leapt in, unleashed a flurry of stabs and slashes, however none of the blows landed as the circlet on Moreki’s brow began to glow with power. Strikes that should have taken the Sorceress in the throat passed harmlessly over her shoulder, and slashes at her otherwise unprotected midriff fell surprisingly short. The Hag’s confusion was short-lived however, as Moreki drove her own blade into the distracted Witch Elf’s heart.
Indulging in a little stabby-stabby shank-shank as the enemy reinforcements close in.
Look, I never claimed it was a good plan.
The remaining Witch Elves crowded toward the Sorceress, however she remained unexpectedly difficult prey. She lashed out around her and her steed did likewise, and somehow they appeared to have the measure of their assailants.

The final Crossbowman took advantage of the confusion to strike down the remaining Witch Elf he was facing, however he had not time to savour his victory. Having regained their nerve and being extremely keen to redeem themselves in the balefully glowing eyes of their mistress, the Executioners charged down the hill and into the poor Crossbowman. He stood his ground gamely and struck out at Erathi, however he was cut down in a flash.
Erathi makes very, very short work of the Crossbowman. But then has to overrun because of her Frenzy, so it buys me another turn.
More Witch Elves piled into the flank of Moreki as she struck savagely about her. She was now truly alone and largely surrounded, but she found herself no longer caring. She laughed as she cried out a fresh challenge, and the Hag of the newly arrived Witches arrogantly accepted. This time the duel was long, but the result was the same; the Sorceress cried out triumphantly as her Dark Pegasus stood over her fallen opponent.
More Witch Elves eh? Bring it! I got 5+ ward saves for days! Actually I think I had passed 5 out of 6 by the time things came to a head. Mad skills.
Witch Elves crashed against Moreki like waves breaking on the shore and she laughed and reveled in her apparent invulnerability, however it could not last forever. The next challenge to ring out was not her own; Erathi had at last reached her through the scrum. She turned to face her sister, and her reckless courage fled in the face of those blazing red eyes.
Erathi arrives. Up until this point I was invincible. Then she landed 5 wounds with 5 attacks, and I passed... 0 saves. No more mojo for me.
Moreki pulled about on the reins of her mount to drive it towards her sister, but Erathi was far too fast and assured in her movements. Whipping around beneath the raking horns of the Dark Pegasus, she rose on the other side and then leapt up at the Sorceress. Her blade moved faster than Moreki’s eye could follow, and she slid limply from the saddle, bleeding from several mortal wounds that had been delivered in the space of that single leap.

As Moreki lay on the ground and the light faded from her eyes, she dimly saw the silhouette of her sister standing over her. “It is a pity that you chose the Sorcerer’s path, sister. With spirit like that, Khaine may have had a use for you…”


  1. Really enjoying these reports, Hoods, especially the intro / outro fluff bits. So much character!