~ Chapter One ~
Athos looked upon the field of battle. Around him, his forces made ready for first-contact with the enemy. Across the broken landscape, dotted with withered trees, long drained of life by the recent incursion of Nurgle’s corruption, were gathered a multitude of orruks. Bonesplitterz, these particular brutes named themselves, though Athos cared little what names they chose for themselves. He cared not the name of his enemy – only their death concerned him.
War-horns blared to life from within the rudimentary formations of the orruks, dozens all at once. The horde started to chant and roar broken-speech challenges to their opponents, taunting them to action. Throughout their midst, Athos could see the shapes of hulking warlords barking orders at the smaller brethren that surrounded them. There were others as well – sorcerers – judging by their dress; all feathers and special ornaments of bone and wood that the orruks reserved only for their shamans.
They’ll prove a more difficult challenge, Athos thought. A far greater one than all the rest of their ilk combined. The Stormcast were the greatest warriors of Sigmar’s hosts, each and every one of their kind a warrior of unparalleled skill, stamina, and strength…but strength of arms could only do so much against a foe who wielded the chaotic power of raw magic, the ability to rip chunks of Earth from the ground, or else twist the fabric of nature to their destructive will.
“The orruks are out in number this morning.” It was Calanius, the Lord-Relictor of their force. He had come to stand beside Athos to survey the enemy before battle was joined. In his right hand, the Relictor carried his prized banner, decorated with gothic depictions of a Stormcast soul’s returning to their God-King's embrace.
“They’ll die all the same, few or many, it matters not,” Athos replied. “It’s their sorcerers that worry me. I count a dozen at least, though there’s almost surely more of them skulking about.”
“We’ll handle it,” Calanius told him matter of factly. “We always do.”
We do, Athos merely thought, because we cannot die. If we fail, we’ll merely come back again. That is our gift, and in other ways, our curse.
Though not all resented the immortality bestowed upon the Stormcast by their God, some were…less enthusiastic. Athos had had a family once, a loving wife and daughter, though he could remember little of them now. Their faces were blurry images in his mind's eye, and their voices were muffled echoes. Athos wondered how much longer it would be before those lingering thoughts faded as well. How much longer would it be before he forgot them entirely? He wondered if he would ever see them again. A lifetime ago, death had offered the promise of reunion, no matter what came, but now…
“The orruks are moving, Lord-Castellant." Calanius's voice, calling him back to the present. “We should begin," the Lord-Relictor then told him as Athos returned to the present.
He saw the orruks then, a seething tide of green flesh and bone-weapons, and all of it pouring directly towards the forward lines of the Stormcast formations. Athos clenched one steel gauntlet around the hilt of the warhammer he carried. He pulled the weapon loose from the bonds on his back and raised it high for all around him to see. The weapon's steel-head glinted with the sunlight of the new morning.
“Aye,” Athos spoke. “By Sigmar’s grace, let us bring swift death to these foul beasts.”
A cold intelligence watched the storm of battle rage. Over a burning fire, the Gaunt-Summoner, One of the Nine, chanted eldritch words of power. The words of his God. His prayers were answered, and foul power poured from the flames. His minions danced and flayed their limbs about the ritual, chanting in a variety of alien tongues. Their devotion, their energy, their very life-force, gave power to the ritual.
From far away, the Gaunt-Summonder heard the warhorns of the orruks, and he knew the time had come. From within his robing he produced an old book, wrapped in the skin of flayed man. As his elongated fingers opened it, the cries of a thousand damned souls screamed from within its pages. He cackled, knowing each of the voice's many names. In his freehand, the Seventh of the Nine raised a dagger, its twin-faces etched with ancient runes chiseled by the talon of Tzeentch itself.
The wailing of the damned grew louder. The Gaunt-Summoner hissed through multiple rows of fanged teeth, and then he plunged the dagger down, directly into the pages of the book. The world shuddered. It was begun.
The starting locations for the Stormcast and Bonesplitterz forces. Meanwhile, the Gaunt-Summoner and his cult perform an unholy ritual, unbeknownst to either force.
The Stormcast forces advance, splitting their forces into three prongs. Priority switches to the savage orruks, who gleefully bellow as they surge forward.
The orruks rush forward and charge headlong into their hated foes. After a fierce round of combat, the smaller unit of Liberators are wiped out to a man by the Bonesplitterz boar riders. All across the front, bodies begin to pile. In the heavens above, the sky trembles.
Just as it appears the Stormcast will be overrun, the surrounding woods break, and a swarm of Sylvaneth pour forth from the shadows of Ghyran's foliage - directly into the already engaged Bonesplitterz!