A friend and I have been awfully bored lately .We played a couple of games of Mordheim every now and then, since we're both broke and can't really afford to start new Fantasy armies (Well, I can't, anyways. He bought a brand new 2,000 pt. Lizardman army. Damn him, but then again that's why he's broke). Anyways, after five or six games, we decided that it didn't pop as much as we'd like, out of what is more or less a tabletop RPG. What it lacked? A narrative.
Thusly, a narrative we gave it.
The system we conjured up would revolve around two 'Main Character' warbands, one of which will star in each scenario we play, pitted against another warband related to it by some narrative context. My main character warband would von Oberwald's Macabre Menagerie, a Carnival of Chaos warband, and my friend's Lizardmen warband (he doesn't have a name for them, but insists it's purposeful. Apparently they serve a rather mad Slaan, eager to cleanse Mordheim of its Chaos taint). Anyways, to make things fun, I've taken it upon myself to create a narrative for each battle report, instead of simple "this happened on turn one, and this happened on turn two" drivel. Therefore, I present to you...
All Roads Lead to Mordheim
Part 1-1: Paths Are Drawn (von Oberwald's Macabre Menagerie (Carnival of Chaos) vs. Tarlten's Toughest (Ostland Mercenaries))
On The Road to Talabheim
Markus von Oberwald stood bewildered in the center of the forest-bracketed roadway, his twin pistols smoking and a jagged rent torn in his left arm, bloodying his dirty robes and shawl. The eccentric Carnival purveyor’s body was swollen with corruption, his stench exotic, perhaps sickly sweet, in the heady summer air. His two strongmen, Claus and Pierre, were catching their breath, the many knicks, cuts, and bruises on their bodies indicative of their fierce struggle for survival. Their colorful, garish masks were damp with sweat, and their heavy, blunt weapons limp at their sides. Zissou, the company jester, waddled up to them and plopped ineffectually on the ground, dropping his weapons in the bloody muck forming in the roadway. The Moonbeam Three, an act put together some years ago, were sitting beside the company cart, their pitted, distended heads leaning up against the rotten wooden paneling.
“I don’t know what that was about, but they seemed as if they were in a hurry,” von Oberwald observed, shuffling to a doubled over body of one of the beast-things that had assailed their troupe. A piece of shot had blown clean through its torso, and the mud beneath it was a ruddy brown as the blood collected. Markus stomped on the creatures thick skull in anger, shouting a tirade of truly awesome curses drawn from a dozen nations of Man, each one more disparaging of the thing’s ancestors than the last. After one last hate-filled stomp, he bent over, sucking wind. A few other bodies were strewn nearby; one or two more of the beast-things and one of their mastiff-hounds, its front two legs crushed by the troupe strongmen. Markus scanned his company whilst his hands pressed against his thighs for support. Claus, Pierre, Zissou, the Moonbeam Three… Hodden and his two assistants were missing. Standing to his full height, Markus surveyed his immediate surroundings. “Zissou, to your feet. Hodden, Mirka, and Vetter are absent.” Zissou, unable to speak, simple moaned in objection, before rolling his short, corpulent girth to its feet. He hopped about the area, scanning the reeds and treeline for signs of the performers.
“Mirka was taken,” said Claus the Strongman, his words clumsy and slow. “I saw the leader make off with him as they fell back. And Vetter, he was eaten by the beast. I tried to save him.” Markus stiffened with anger, but sighed before crossing to the massive simpleton. The Moonbeam Three winced collectively, knowing Markus for his explosive and violent outbursts. Much to their surprise, the Carnival purveyor spoke warmly to the beast of a man.
“You did well, Claus. Death comes to all things, some more swiftly than others. Our Father tells us this, does he not?” Reaching up a hand, he patted the Strongman on the shoulder, turning to sit on the cart’s rear step. Rubbing his temple painfully, Markus pondered what to do next. Without Hodden, their trip to the villages outside Talabheim would be a disaster. Hodden was their star attraction. Zissou, still out wandering the reeds, was barely tall enough to spot. Were it not for the bells on his hood, he would have been invisible. “Pierre, go assist Zissou, if you would. Boris, check the bodies, see if there isn’t anything we can scavenge. Might as well take this for a boon if we can.” Markus hopped off the cart, going to examine one of the fallen beast-things, while Boris and his two stagehands attended to the others. Nudging the things entrails aside with a boot, he noticed a wet, hempen sack was clutched firmly in the things sinewy grasp. Stooping down, he rent the bag free from its rigor grip. Letting his pistols sit in the crook of his arms, he opened the bag.
He involuntarily gasped. A horde of glittering green gems met his gaze, and almost immediately he felt their sorcerous potential. Power swelled within him and the horrendous sword wound in his arm knit shut as freshly as if left to heal for a week. Still in a state of shock, it took him a few moments to register the hastened shuffling of the company jester crashing through the reeds. Looking up, the bloated little man was hurrying towards him, eager to tug on his dirty robes. With a tentacle hand, he pointed out into the thick woods growing alongside the road.
“What is it, Zissou? Have you found Hodden?” The jester shook his head forcefully, almost bouncing as he pointed, holding up his axe in a show of militarism. Interpreting this as a poor omen, Markus bade the little man to still himself. He urged his company to do the same. After a number of seconds, there was the distinct sound of Imperial speech coming from the forest, followed by a few short shouts and the crunching of underbrush. They were approaching from one side; bounty hunters sent in search of the Beasts. Now Markus knew why the creatures were in such a hurry. Looking about, he realized that when the hunters closed, they would not be able to play themselves off as a simple troupe; their nature as corrupted servants of Chaos would be apparent. The magic of their visual glamour had worn off, and the bloated, split bodies of his men would draw the violent ire of these soldiers enclosing on their position. Markus reloaded his pistols and ordered his men back to the cart. They threw up props as impromptu barricades, and bade the horses pulling the wagon to lay down. The troupe took cover and steeled themselves.
“The show must go on,” Markus stated, pulling back the lever on his handguns. “Let’s give them a performance they’ll not soon forget.”
* * *
Further ahead in the woods, Markus could pick out the shapes of the approaching bounty hunters, men in dirty peasant garb carrying spears, swords, and a few blackpowder weapons. There was some chanting amongst their number, and the forest began to reverberate, the trees shifting and leaves quivering. Inhaling sharply, Markus motioned with his hands and head. Claus and Pierre moved to to the barricades beside the road, as did little Zissou and the Moonbeam Three. Markus himself took cover beside the cart, its driver fused horribly to the wood of its seat. The creature simply moaned and turned a wet-looking eye onto Markus, the horses' reigns laying peacefully in his lap.
“Don't look at me like that, Yuri. A company is nothing without its playwright,” the carnival purveyor said matter-of-factly. “Hopefully this won't take too long.” By now, the bounty hunters had moved to the treeline overlooking the road to Talabheim. Judging from their colors, Markus thought them to be Ostlanders, filthy farm folk and kinsmen, mostly. Dangerous when with ale, more so when given weapons. Markus took laughter at the irony. The very simple-folk he preyed upon were now seeking his life. Not even the Witch Hunter's had caught up with him in his years as a servant for the Lord of Decay, but now it was farmers and brewers out to take his life. The chanting was still ringing in his ears, and he could feel the magic in the spoken words of power. A priest of Taal, no doubt. Yet still for all the shaking in the forest, nothing came to pass. He cautiously slipped from behind the wagon, leveling his pistols at one of the Ostlandian Jaegers.
“Charge!” Markus opened fire, his pistols belching shot in a wave of blackened smoke. The ruddy-looking hunter caught a bullet in the arm, sending him sprawling into the dirt, writhing in pain. On his right, Claus charged up the ridge, reaching for a dirty-looking man of middling years holding a ramshackle handgun. Ducking away from the simpleton's clumsy swing of a sledge, the kinsmen went to cave in the much bigger man's head with a blow from the handgun, but succeeded only in meeting the haft of the brute's corroded weapon.
On Markus' left, one of the Moonbeam Three scrambled up the ridge, burying his axe into a wooden shield carried by the hunter that ran to meet him. The force of the blow sent the man down onto his back, and the stagehand grinned devilishly at the prospect of a kill. Distracted by a bellowing warcry, the stagehand looked up just in time to witness a bear of a man charging him down with a spear in hand. There was a flash of fear as he brought his hands up to defend himself, but it was in vain. The thrust sent him flat and skidding, sliding down the ridge until he stopped, unconscious. Claus fended off another blow from the dirty Jaeger, while one of his allies came to add to the punishment heaped upon the brusied simpleton. A pair of swords flashed in hand, one digging deep into his side, another chopping deep into his neck. Letting his weapon loose, Claus scrabbled at the burbling, bloody wound, falling onto his knees before rolling down the hill towards the cart. Pierre ran to catch his falling brother, stopping him and helping him up before charging up the rise to enact his vengeance. In mimickry of his brother, both the Jaeger gunner and the burly mutant failed to strike a single telling blow, each hurling insults at each other. Admittedly, Pierre thought the Ostlander was better at it, and found his own filthy tongue somewhat lacking.
Little Zissou pulled himself up the rise, swinging manically at the hunter that his Carnival Master had shot. Yet for all his ferocity, the little bloated man couldn't land anything worse than a glancing blow.
“Damn you, fools! Fight harder!” Markus shouted, infinitely disappointed and his cholor rising. In his rising state of ire, hurriedly reloading his pistols, he didn't notice the shapes scuttling towards him. “Aha!” he shouted, aiming his weapons again up the ridge. At the end of his extended arm, was a squirrel, clutching to the fabric of his robe. Markus tilted his head in confusion, looking about his feet only to discover a dozen or more of the vermin gathering about him. “Begone, little ones. This doesn't concern you,” he said, trying to shake the critter from his clothing. In response, the animal barred its teeth, screeching horribly, then leaped upon his face. The others followed suit. After a few seconds clawing at the voracious little buggers, Markus ran howling off into the forest, as the swarm of woodland critters tore him to pieces.
On the hill, the remaining two members of the Moonbeam Three stood shoulder to shoulder, baring their roughshod hatchets at the Ostlanders in front of them. Unperturbed, a man dressed in the eccentric garb of a priest of Taal barreled into their midst, and an old man in soiled military finery followed, a pair of pistols flashing as he shouldered into combat. Pressing closer, Boris, the lead player in the Moonbeam Three, stepped inside the Elder's guard, batting aside the pistol while swinging with his axe. The Elder brought up his other pistol and the axe dug into the wood of its grip, the edge missing the older man's ring finger by a hair. The other stagehand stood ready to intercept the woodland priest, only to slip on something that cracked sickly as he braced himself. Falling flat with a sudden pop, a swarm of rabid-looking woodland vermin tore at his clothes and flesh. He let loose surprised gasps as he crushed and threw the little buggers at nearby trees. He scrambled to his feet a few moments later, only to dive aside as a greataxe burrowed into the soft earth beside him. The priest was frothing.
“Heretic scum!” the Ostlandian Elder shouted, gritting his teeth before headbutting Boris. With a sharp crack, the grisly player reeled. The old man took a step forward, stabbing his one loaded pistol into the cultist's gut, pulling the trigger. A wet thump doubled over his foe, and the Elder spit on the writhing heretic before kicking him in the ribs and sending him packing off into the forest. Whistling, the Elder sent his remaining hunter forward at Pierre, now forced to fend off two of the angry farm-folk. Dodging the spear thrust and directing aside the pair of swords, Pierre rose his hammer for a thunderous blow. The Jaeger took a step back, falling for the feint. Lashing out with a tentacled fist, Pierre broke the man's nose, sending him down into the dirt. Bellowing, the Jaeger's kinsman leapt onto Pierre, forcing him back off the rise and into the road. Looking about him, Pierre found himself alone except for little Zissou still enthusiastically flailing at one of the huntsmen, the taller man fending him off with the tip of his spear.
“Zissou! Let's get out of here, come!” Pierre went to pull the little man away, dragging his hopping girth along as the remainder of the wounded stagehands dragged themselves and their unconscious companion along. Claus stumbled forward alongside Pierre, clutching at his hemorrhaging sword wounds. “This isn't over,” Pierre said, hoisting up onto his shoulders one of the unconscious Moonbeam three. “Not by a league.” Together, they slipped into the forest, as the Ostlandian mercenaries went about looting and defacing their cart, and killing their horses and driver. It would be a bountiful reward for the farm-folk, but those who choose to worship the Dark Gods do not forget a grudge so easily.
Watch this space for Part 1-2: Paths are Drawn (Lizardmen vs. Pit Fighters (A Lost Kroxigor...)) and Part 1-3 (Carnival of Chaos vs. Ostland Mercenaries (Vengeance!))