Chapter 3 – They are here
Two days later, on a bright but chilly spring morning, Stadthouder Adriaanus Manstien, Sheriff Albertus and the consigniliari of Montalban stood waiting in the middle of the road, just inside the main town gate . The huge, forged iron gate was thrown wide open, its portcullis raised. The town's guard lined up in front of them outside the gate, on either side of the road leading into the town. Halberdiers on the left, Handgunners on the right. The company of Greatswords stood to attention on one side of the road inside the town a little way past the gate. The dismounted Demigryph Knights stood on the other side of the road facing the Greatswords.
Stadthouder Manstien made the decision to leave the Demigryphs in the city's menagerie. They were nervous animals at the best of times and it would be one less thing to worry about. The Demigryph Knights, proud sons and fathers of nobel houses and wealthy merchant families, were not pleased about this decision. The Stadthouder knew he would have to grant a few of them a private audience later in his cabinet room. They were certain to protest their displeasure at having to stand like peasants and ordinary guards to meet the Knights Excelsior. The Stadthouder had already heard some of the grizzled Greatswords jeer at the dismounted knights opposite “Where's your coo-coo bird, son?” Every time Sheriff Albertus boomed “Silence in the ranks!”
And so they waited. And waited some more. The Greatswords grew tired and began to lean on their Zweihander swords. The Halberdiers were put at rest and the hand gunners were allowed to put down their guns. Sheriff Albertus shouted up to the gate guard aloft the battlements. “Can you see anything?” “No my lord” was the reply. Some of the consigniliari began to complain. Another practical joke by the festival committee, they argued. Then finally came the cry from the battlements. “My lord, they are here!”
A double column of 30 Knights Excelsior Liberators with warhammers and shields, marched briskly up the road towards the city gate. In locked step, they covered the distance in no time at all. Manstien could hear them singing a rousing marching hymn. “As I walk the valleys of Shyish, the lord Sigmar is my guiding light. My resolve, my strength, my righteous fury,...”. Their officer was at the head of the column , marching in silence. Manstien noticed they did not wear golden plate armour but white plate. Sheriff Albertus shouted orders to all around him. Sergeants and captains were redressing ranks and files. Drum rolls came from the far end of the files and the shouts of ‘present arms’ were heard getting ever closer. The Knights Excelsior slowed their pace and silently, they marched past the guard regiments. Under the gate they halted in front of Manstien, Albertus and the party of consigniliari.
Stadhouder Manstien looked up to the Stormcast officer in front of him. Dressed in his ornate white battle helmet he stood at one and a half times the Stadthouder's height. The warrior was like a perfect white statue. Manstien's eye twitched nervously. “W..Welcome”, Manstien stuttered. “Welcome. The city and people of Montalban bid the Knights Excelsior welcome. May your stay with us be most agreeable.” The Stormcast officer in unblemished battle plate, decorated with leather scrolls fluttering in the draft, looked down at Manstien. Slowly he raised his arms and removed his helmet. The look on his face made Manstien wish he had kept his helmet on. Manstien looked into the face of the man like a rat hypnotized by a snake.
The officer raised his gaze to peer over the heads of the welcoming party and across into the city. He took a long sniff of the air three times, once centre, once left and once right. Sheriff Albertus, who stood next to Manstien, kicked the shins of the Stadthouder. Manstien looked at him “Hmmm?” Then the Stadthouder remembered the young page behind him with the velvet pillow and a large golden key on it. He grabbed the pillow with both hands and held it up aloft to the Stormcast officer. “As Stadthouder of this city, I, Adriaanus Manstien, hereby offer the Knights Excelsior the keys of the city gate and the freedom of the city”. The Knight Excelsior finally answered, still looking over Manstien's head: “My name is Germanus Graghus and I am Lord Veritant of the Knights Excelsior.” He looked down at Manstien. “You can keep your key. We don’t use keys to enter a city.” Manstien was a bit startled. “It is just a symbol, my Lord Veritant.” The Knight Excelsior just nodded. “Thank you for welcoming us. Where do we stay?”
Sheriff Albertus took the Knights Excelsior to the guards barracks. Luckily it was not far away. As the Stormcasts marched through the city streets, with the Greatswords behind them forming a guard of honour, the streets filled up with citizens eager to catch a glimpse of the fabled storm warriors of Sigmar. As they walked, shouts turned to murmurs and then to silence. Everybody was overawed by their presence and the aura of solemnity they projected all around them.
Once the Stormcasts had entered the barracks, the doors were closed behind them and the Greatswords took up guard position outside the barrack's gate. Inside, Sheriff Albertus took the Lord Veritant through the building, explaining where he would find everything and when their provisions would arrive. The sheriff couldn’t help but noticing how the Lord Veritant seemed to sniff the air as he entered each new room. Finally the Lord Veritant turned around to him and said: “Thank you. This will be all”. “My Lord” answered Albertus. He took a slight bow, turned around and marched out of the barracks without even once looking back. Once Albertus closed the gate door behind him, Germanus Graghus, the Lord Veritant turned to his nearest Knight Excelsior companion. “This place stinks of chaos and every other foul thing to be found in the realms”.