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  1. Chapter 5 – King for a Day On the morning of the carnival procession, thousands of festival revellers started making their way to the main market square to see the The Burial of the Sardine. The city guild of carpenters had built two large spectator stands on either side of the square. One was for the Stadthouder and the consigniliari of the town, the other for the Lord Veritant and the Knights Excelsior. Manstien had send a herald to the barracks days ago with an official invitation to come and watch this unique event as the guests of honour. The Lord Veritant had yet to send a reply. As Manstien, the consigniliari and their families arrived to take up their spaces on the stand, a loud murmur rose from the crowds at one end of the square. The Knights Excelsior were coming! The Knights marched up to their tribune stand, ascended the steps and took their places. “Thanks for letting me know” Manstien thought wryly, but he understood by now that manners and protocol were not particular strengths of Germanus Graghus. What he did not like was that they had brought their warhammers and shields with them. A Stormcast warrior can never be seen without them he mused, but still it was unsettling. Below Sheriff Albertus gave instructions to the units of Halberdiers who were tasked with guarding spectator stands. More Halberdiers whose job it was to control the crowd also stood alongside the procession route. Once everyone knew what they had to do, Albertus joined Manstien on the stand. Soon trumpets blared at one end of the square and the start of the procession came into view. First to be brought out were the bones of Holy Michael the Hermit, the legendary founder of the city. The relics were carried in a heavy altar which was held aloft at each of its four corners by representatives of the city's guilds. The group marched slowly whilst singing hymns to revered saint. Holy Michael’s skeleton stood upright on the carriage, wrapped in his hermit habit, his skeletal arms clutching a large pole which was topped by a golden warhammer. Holy Michael could speak the tongue of the demigryphs so he bore the wings of a cup demigryph. As the carriage passed, festival goers dropped down on one knee and clasped their hands together above their lowered heads. Manstien and the dignitaries followed suit but not the Knights Excelsior. They gazed in amazement at the passing skeleton. Then came the March of the Dead. A large column of procession participants all dressed in black robes onto which the bones and rib cages of the long dead were stitched on. Wearing skulls as face masks, many carried burial caskets with the skeletal remains of their long gone illustrious family members. Dancers representing the souls of the Montalbani people darted in and out of the column, resplendent in their long, green robes. They howled prayers to the gods of the dead to have mercy on the souls of their departed family members. As the column passed the stands, Manstien noticed how the Knights Excelsior opposite them appeared to become increasingly agitated. A few of the Stormcasts began to turn towards the Lord Veritant. “Do you think they are enjoying the procession so far?” he asked Albertus next to him. “Theirs may not be our idea of enjoyment, my Lord” was Albertus' reply. Manstien started to feel decidedly sick. This invitation of his was a bad idea he now realised. But too late. Next in the procession were the Guilds of the City; butchers, weavers, spinners and blacksmiths. All holding their guild banners high as they passed the cheering crowds. Then came the March of the Diseased. This large column commemorated how the city of Montalban, which was situated in the realm of Ghyran, was once struck, hundreds of years ago, with a devastating plague. When all the citizens had perished, legend told how Holy Michael the Hermit cleansed the city and founded it anew. Semi naked procession participants with grotesque painted boils on their bodies, wobbled on crutches past the tribunes, while holding animal entrails high up to the sky. They howled to the sky beseeching the gods of disease and pestilence to have mercy on their souls and bodies. At the rear of this column were the mutilated and poorest citizens, their bodies broken and twisted, disfigured by malnutrition and leprosy. Manstien saw several Stormcasts arguing with the Lord Veritant who remained standing still. Then came the March of The Blood Reavers, a column which commemorated how the city was almost slaughtered to a single soul by an army of blood thirsty marauders and blood demons. These men were the strongest and largest in the city. They were an awesome sight, dressed in animal pelts, spiked leather belts and bearing large spiked clubs. A rowdy lot, they threw buckets of foul smelling animal blood over themselves and the crowds shouting “We want blood! We need to see blood every day!” Unfortunately, in their enthiousiasm, some of them got carried away and started throwing blood into the Stormcast stand. Manstien's knees began to buckle. He gripped hold of Albertus who was standing next to him as he noticed the Lord Veritant's face turning as red as the blood that was splattered on his white battle plate. More procession floats passed by, some funded by the merchants of the city, others depicted the lives of famous city elders. Finally came the last act of the carnival. This was the float of the King for a Day. Since time immemorial, on the day of The Burial of the Sardine, the humblest citizen of Montalban was crowned Prince of the carnival and King for a Day. The stadthouder would hand over the chain of office to him and until daybreak the next morning the city was ruled by the King for a Day. This year the guild of the carpenters had built a large float in the shape of a merchant ship. It was placed on top of a sturdy, long carriage with many large wheels. When it appeared on the square, the crowds began roaring in joy. Hundreds of people pulled and pushed the float forward with ropes and their bare hands. On the sides of the vessel the words Rex Diem, King for a Day were written in large red letters . On top of it sat Bert and next to him stood his court jester. When Manstien saw Bert on top of the float, he whispered to Albertus “Holy Michael, he is even uglier than last year”. Bert was not an ordinary human. He was as large as a troll, three times the height of an ordinary citizen. Nobody could figure out if he was a giant or a troll. Many years ago Bert had arrived in the city and took up residence down town in the poorest quarter of the city. Bert couldn't tell where he came from but he liked Montalban and spent his days helping out where he could amongst the ordinary folk. People had grown to like him and considered him as one of their own. Each year they elected him as the humblest citizen for the festival. Bert was good natured, except when he was angry of course and in that event no building was safe from his enormous destructive strength. Sheriff Albertus would only dare intervene when Bert's rage had subsided. Bert sat on the float holding on to the sides as it rocked its way forward towards the stands. He wore a large wooden crown on his head, made from a barrel cut in half, and around his neck hung a large sign on which was written “Sigmar”. Manstien recognised the court jester as the city's resident poet, a man he thoroughly disliked. For official occasions he would write beautiful verses, but he was more famous for writing scandalous satires about Manstien and the other consigniliari. Manstien had heard several such songs in the taverns, disgusting tales about his person and his dubious ancestry. When the Rex Diem came to a halt in front of the spectator stand of the consigniliari, the roar of the crowds grew louder and louder “Rex Diem ! Rex Diem !” Suddenly a ladder was put against the sides of the float. The crowd pulling the float parted and cleared a path from the stand to the ladder. As Manstien began to descend the stand steps and walked over to the ladder the noise grew even more in intensity. From somewhere in the crowd, a large piece of heavy chain, painted in gold., was handed to him. He took it and draped it over both arms as he began to climb the ladder. Once on top. he took the chain and offered it to Bert who stood up. The crowd suddenly fell silent. Wobbling precariously on top of the ladder, Manstien began “ I, stadthouder Manstien, hereby offer you the chain of command. I hereby crown you, Bert the First, Prince Laus Stultitiae and King for a Day”. The crowd cheered as Bert took hold of the chain and put it around his neck. Bert then turned to the court jester who shouted something in Bert's ear. Bert raised his hand and the crowd fell silent again. “Me”, Bert began, “I hereby call myself Sigmar the Stupid the First. And now I will show how to greet me as your Lord Sigmar!” Bert turned around, lowered his pants and as he bent over, farted so loud both ends of the market square could hear it. Manstien sunk to a place where only people staring death in the eye inhabit. He had no blood left, no feeling, no other emotion that the sheer horror of what had just happened and the knowledge that his life was over. He must have fallen off the ladder. Somebody must have caught him. He was no longer aware of what was happening. The crowds surrounding him in the square convulsed with laughter. They had never seen or heard such an audacious thing in their lives. But amidst the laughter of thousands of voices, no one heard the enraged screams of the Knights Excelsior as Lord Veritant Germanus Graghus and his thirty Stormcasts leapt from their spectator stand, smashing their warhammers on the crowds below them.
  2. 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”.
  3. I've been thinking about the Free Cities of Order, and, a Chaos player myself, thought about converting a city for my Tzeentch. The effective background is this: a city in Ulgu, the citizens of which believe in Tzeentch as religion, and as such a vast horde of arcanites have amassed in the area. The city, known as Strayhelm, is populated bu aelfs, humans and Stormcast, all of which have felt the corrupting power of The Architect flow through their veins. If you have any ideas about a non-order free city please post them, so anything from a lumbering orruk tribe situated on the back of the very first aleguzzler gargant to the not-quite alive citizens of a corpse-farming city in Shyish...
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