Clan Festerscar: Stoking the Fires

Hey all!  Here to make things difficult for HobbyHammer at the end of the month, right down to the wire!  Hope you guys enjoy this chapter in the twin sagas of Malkk's Clan Festerscar and the Fall of Alpines!


The stench of smoke and burning meat hung heavy in the air around the city of Alpines.  The glow of the fires could be seen for leagues in every direction in the lands of the Brettoni...

...From within the Damned City of Pares, a ghastly figure watched from his throne room with unblinking eyes, the red glow on the horizon only adding to the eerie pale that was cast over his city...

... Within the festive city of Montpieu, the music of the festival of Lumière came to a slow stop as the people of the city began to inhale and whisper as to the fate of the people of Alpines.  A messenger boy was sent to find Resa Moral and seek word from the north...

... Just outside of the city of Alpines, Azhner Skitterblade silently leapt down from the aqueduct that he had followed out of the man-creature's city.  He looked around in a panic to see if he had been followed before he squeak-chittered the signal to the brush.  A pair of lanky beastmen emerged from the thicket nearby.  They brayed their approval at the Eshin rat, who nodded curtly at them.  "Go quick-fast stupid beast-creatures.  Tell your master that Malkk's will is done.  He must complete his part of the bargain now"...

And atop the highest standing ramparts of Alpines, the new master of the city looked out upon his domain of fire and death....

Opstrum Painad looked out across his city.  Fires burned brightly all across it, from the Butcher's district to the very edge of the great walls that had withstood invasion after invasion in the realm of beasts.  He breathed a sigh of despair - small flames licking out from his nostrils as he did so.  

"So this is what I will inherit from the great High King and his usurpers?  The crown is mine, after all of these years of careful manipulation and political backstabbing, and what do I earn for it?  Not but ashes.  And I wasn't even the one to start this fire!"

With a tortured yell, Opstrum threw his head back and spat out a gout of flame, terrifying his new aide - Omer Bollen.  They boy had told him of the deaths of the wretched court.  There were no tears shed from Opstrum, but it was still inconvenient to his machinations that they should die so soon, before he could consolidate his political power under the Painad Banner.

Opstrum shook his head in disgust at all of the wasted efforts of the past dozen years and turned to descend the stairs back into his hellish domain.  "Omer!  Gather what men you can near the well pools in the center of the city.  We must have a plan to deal with this fire, or there'll be nothing left."

As they descended, Opstrum couldn't help but smile.  If the fire didn't kill them, then surely the damned plague would.  As his city - the city his ancestors had build with nothing but bare hands and the wood of the forest that surrounded them - King Opstrum Painad the first began to laugh at his own plight.  It was a slight chuckle at first, but it built into a deep, booming laugh from within him.  As the timbers of his city cracked and burned in the all consuming flame of the Skaven, the city sounded as if it was revolted by the sound of its own king...

"High King Opstrum Painad was quick to act.  Having been crowned in an almost immediate fashion by men who were frightened and weak, they had just signed themselves into debt of the greatest fire mage in the realm of beasts, and heir to the most ancient bloodline of the southern Brettoni. With the controlling of the fires, and the rains that came for the next three days by some miracle of the gods, it was time for the new King to set his affairs in order.  A full half of the Nightwatchmen were burned at the stake for the gross incompetence they had shown in allowing a foul creature to plant a devious device that would kill the old royalty.  From there, Opstrum would place only his most trusted men in command of the Guard.  Placed above all of these men was myself - Omer Bollen.  At the time, I was a mere boy - cowardly, naive, and unprepared for the task at hand. Experience is a hard teacher, and we would all soon find out just how hard a teacher she could be first hand...."
-L'histoire de le Famille Painad
by Omer Bollen, High General of the Alpine Guard

Zulrot meandered within the writhing congregations of Filth that made up his Church of Contagion. He was known as one of the more traditional Plague Priests of the grand crusade of Malkk, favoring to lead from the back of the congregation and stab-kill all of his upstart rivals that came to close to his personal pulpit of power within the congregation.  Zulrot spat a glob of bloody phlegm at the ground in disgust.  Malkk was a weakling; a creature that could not be trusted to do more than nibble on his tail and send far superior generals to do his dirty work. Malkk wished to create the World Sickness and unleash it upon the world.  Zulrot had friends in dark places that told him Malkk lacked one of the great Libers that was needed to create such a concoction.  Tales echoed from the far reaches of the Amber Steppes that Vretch and his pitiful congregation had found one such Liber in a great wurm.  Preposterous.  Zulrot knew that such a weakling would never find something so precious as a Liber.

Zulrot looked about the Deathworld Woods around him.  It was lightly snowing, the white powder starkly contrasting from the sickly greens that his congregations wore.  Far ahead of him he could see the neon green mist of the Plaguesmog Congregation that traveled with him.  A good brew from the smell of it, Zulrot noted.  He would have to comment on it to the young Plague Priest Pustitch and send his minions to steal-get the concoction for his own purposes.  As they trundled through the outskirts of the forest, attempting to stick to the shadows of the great fir trees all around them, something changed on the wind.  Zulrot could smell it.  His whiskers twitched and he narrowed his eyes.  


In the far distance, near to where his Plaguesmog congregation was marching, he could see shapes moving with unnerving purpose.  He felt the musk of fear emit from his warriors around him, and used all of his willpower to keep his own glands from releasing the stench.  What could these creatures be?  "Quick-quick, fetch the slow marchers from behind.  Bring them to the front, go-scurry!"  Zulrot squeaked out the command to no particular underling.  And then, for what seemed like an eternity in the softly falling snow, a lone war cry split the freezing air.


And then the reply chilled Zulrot to his rotten core...


With a sound like thunder collapsing a mountain, the forest all around them came to life as warriors clad in brandished crimson armor exploded from all around them.  There were mere seconds before the warriors were upon them.  Zulrot snarled in fear and, almost as a gut reaction, spat out a foul prayer to the great Horned Rat.  He hated Malkk with everything his soul could muster.  He knew that these foul creatures of the brainless Skull Lord would never have found his congregation without the aid of some one far more sinister.  Zulrot knew that Malkk had betrayed him.  His head would roll and his body would be used as nesting material for the great carrion birds of the moving mountains should Zulrot survive.  He swore it on his own life that he would end Malkk.

The battle lines formed quickly.  If the forces of Chaos wanted to kill him and his warriors, Zulrot would despoil everything within his putrid sight.  (I adapted the mission to play from "On Tainted Ground" from the new Clan Pestilens Battletome)  

The eyes of Vepseudal peered into the Cauldron of pox as he observed Zulrot

The forces of the Bloodbound hid among the trees waiting to ambush the incoming Skaven
Zulrot looked to his left down the lines of his congregation.  The Plague Furnace of the Illuminated swayed in the cold wind, the screams of the madmen carried along the wind towards his warriors. Caecus the Everseeing led his plagueclaw catapult towards a hill in order to better practice his art of perfecting firing solutions.  The Illuminated under Coruk bristled as they saw the forms of the Blood Reavers rounding the forest closest to them.  Zulrot spat a glob of phlegm and turned to the nearest forest, spitting out a feverish prayer to his lord the Great Horned Rat.  Zulrot's eyes began to glow with yellow fury and the wood slowly warped and began to ooze bile onto the blackening snow.  "Go-go forth my children!!  The Great Horned Rat watched over us today!  Kill-kill the non-believers!!!!"  Puss exploded out from the Plaguesmog congregation in front of Zulrot, and a ragged cheer sprang up as the entire horde lurched into motion.

The screaming warriors of the Bloodbound moved forward with little care for tactics or subtlety. They had to fulfill their brutish desires to appease their weak willed god.  Zulrot had nothing but contempt for such creatures.  A loud screech brought Zulrot back from his musings as the battlelines advanced with as much grace as their opponents across the field.  The young plague priest Pustitch was on fire.  It appeared as if the upstart one had incanted a prayer incorrectly and earned the ire of their god for it.  Zulrot snickered beneath the folds of his robes at the gross incompetence of the creature.  

"My lord?"  The thin, raspy voice of Caecus startled Zulrot.  "My lord, may I unleash the foulrain upon our enemies?"  Zulrot smacked the blind skaven on the nose.  "FOOL-CREATURE!  Why have you not already!?  FIRE!!!"

The ancient rat nodded, rubbing his nose.  He lifted one claw into the air and the plagueclaw catapult spat a foul projectile at the horde of Reavers charging headlong towards them.  "Observe the Acid Pox in its glory."

It was over in an instant.  The foulrain fell on the unguarded skin of the bloodthirsty reavers and dissolved it within seconds.  Those that weren't killed in the foul contagion fled in terror, their leaders screaming curses at them and cutting them down as they ran past the hungry blades of their companions.  

I mean seriously, this thing was MVP status, dropping 11 models off the unit and the others fleeing in turn 1.
Zulrot cackled with glee as he watched the carnage unfold before him and his host.  All of a sudden, the battle looked very lopsided in the favor of his congregation.  That was the kind of fight that Zulrot liked of course, he was a red-blooded skaven through and through.  Zulrot began to trot with his personal retinue of Plague Monks.  These were much more trustworthy than the Illuminated's Revivalist.  Coruk served his purpose, but he was a dangerous visionary in his own right...  Hopefully the skaven in his congregation would erase these Khorne scum soon so that they could continue on this dreadful quest to find the mushrooms for Malkk's science experiments.  

Vepseudal watched on with a sly grin creeping onto his
face.  His whiskers twitched, and he turned his attentions to the Khorne...
Suddenly, the fortunes of the Congregation of Zulrot shifted.  A great banner bearer, larger than any other mortal Zulrot had ever seen, bellowed a challenge in cursed tongue to the skies and planted his banner deep into the loamy earth.  An earth shattering clangor made Zulrot's ears bleed as he watched in horror as armored warriors and champions of the Blood God crashed into the ranks of his prized Plaguesmog Congregation.  A quick glance to the far left of his line, and Zulrot's eyes turned into saucers as he saw chain wielding madmen come out of the dense wood to crash into the Illuminated.  In a flash, the numbers of the dead skaven reached into the hundreds.  His Plague Censer bearers were felled in a single, brutal combat.  The Illuminated were slaughtered to a handful of monks.  Coruk dropped his blue plague flame in the snow and fled into the dark woods. Zulrot swore that he could hear the fools shrill screams cut short by one of the Wrathmonger creatures.  Good riddance to the fool, he was more trouble than he was worth to Zulrot.

Zulrot and his personal retinue sprinted into the far forest, despoiling it as they ran.  He could hear the screams of his warriors.  The Illuminated were all either dead or fleeing into the blades of other Khorne warriors.  Zulrot could see some of the fools trying to burrow their way into the ground to escape their eminent destruction.  The Plaguesmog Congregation was crushed under the combined attacks of the Khorne Lord, some kind of priest, and the giant creature that spat blood.  All of the Plague Censer Bearers were dead and dying.

There were ruins up ahead of Zulrot and his entourage stopped cold as they saw doom turn around the corner.  A brazen creature of living metal, red steam venting from every crack and vent on its surface.  With each steam shoot, it sounded like a hundred mortals screaming.  Zulrot tore his gaze away from the beast only to feel his fear musk seep out from him unwillingly.  

Covered in bright cerise armor, splattered with fresh and dried blood, the rider vented blood steam just the same as his mount - but there was something more.  His eyes glowed like blood covered diamonds in a bone colored helm.  This was the master of the Khorne Bloodbound.  He was obviously more cunning that those that fought under him, but just as blood thirty it would appear. The rider raised his ax and leveled it towards Zulrot.  

Zulrot didn't waste a second.  "Go-forth, minions!!!  Attack the monster and bring glory to the Great Horned Rat!"  The Monks chittered and swarmed towards the master of the Red Butchers.  It was as if a green robed wave crashed over the damned leader of the Bloodbound.  Ripping and tearing at the rents in the armor, the rider swung his ax in spraying arcs of viscera.  Plague Monks were thrown a dozen yards by the force of the blows.  Zulrot spat a curse at the bastard champion, a pale green fog wrapping itself around his warriors blades and staves.  The blades dripped with the poisons Zulrot had embedded them with, and they found purchase within the chest plates of the Lord of Khorne.  With the blades sticking out of his chest, the champion of the Blood God reeled up on his brass steed.  He threw his ax into the ground and with a sound like sucking the marrow out of freshly broken bones, reality tore.  Hell fire leapt up from the undulating gate into the realm of the Blood God.  The blazing heat did nothing to the warrior king, who stared for a long, hate filled minute at Zulrot.  A name crept into the corners of his rotten mind - Lord Baudrax.  Zulrot knew deep down that he would see the evil glow of those eyes again, and it terrified him to his puss filled core.

Zulrot and his congregation advanced on the ruins.  He watched as the monks of the congregation set about befouling the arcane structures with puss covered hands and other less than savory methods of disgusting ruination.  The battle was devolving into a few patches of swirling melee and carrion descending on the rest of the field of battle.

Khorne would not allow the day to be won lightly by the weaklings of the Great Horned Rat.

Zulrot looked to the Plague Furnace surrounded by the the beasts and the champions of the Blood God.  His eyes went wide as he saw the Korgorath reach up into the swirling miasma of putrescent disease that enveloped the top of the Furnace.  Its clawed fist closed down around the arch structure of the flailing censer.  Zulrot watched in horror as Pustitch scrambled to the top of the engine of death and squeal as the Korgorath strained with all of its unholy strength.  The cauldrons of filth and smoke rings began to descend as the arch was collapsed from beneath the paws of Pustitch.   The last Zulrot saw of his apprentice was the Korgorath ripping the screaming skaven's skull out and ingesting it.  Zulrot threw up.

With that, the Khorne Bloodbound seemed sated.  The few remaining survivors of the Bloodbound began to throw themselves towards the edge of the forest.  Silence began to settle from the now bubonic forest.  Zulrot looked around at the few remaining followers of his congregation.  Nothing but a score or Plague Monks and the splintered remains of Caecus' Catapult remained.  The silence was broken by the sound of buzzing flies in the distance.

Zulrot's claws balled up into fists of rage.  Malkk would pay.  Oh yes, Malkk would pay dearly.....

Lord Vepseudal leaned back in his throne.  The realm of Chaos was ever changing all around him.  At this moment the sky above him was a bright pink and azure - it was unsettling to the daemon of the Great Horned Rat.  He needed to be outside in order to meet the creatures he sent to observe the death of Zulrot.

The giant flies buzzed through the trees towards the daemon prince of corruption.  Their shapes came into full view.  The giant rat flies came through towards Vepseudal and coalesced into the form of Veermost Seep, the Messenger.


The Messenger bowed low.  "SPEAK CHILD"

"My Lord... Something has changed the Plan."

Vepseudal roared in anger and threw a claw out towards the Messenger, who exploded into a cloud of rat flies.  "SEND MESSAGE TO CHOLOTHRAX.  WE MOVE NOW!!!!"


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