Crimson Fields Intro
For six weeks we’d sat within the rickety walls of Fort Straghov attempting to find warmth as the biting wind found its way through every crack in the fort wall, through gap in our blankets, and though every hole in our worn clothes. The cold was so piercing that most men lost a tooth or two to intense chattering. It was the dead of winter, and we, the 2nd company of the 1st battalion of the Altdorf Volunteer Regiment, or should I say the only company of the Altdorf Volunteer Regiment, were left to defend the northern frontier of Kislev. The other three companies never arrived, we know not of the fate of those seven hundred fifty men. Two hundred and seventeen able-bodied lads under my command as the first line of defense against the hordes of Chaos – Sigmar save us!
For six weeks a strange purple wind blew warmth at our faces, ever tempting us to go closer to it in the Norscan mountains; all the while a deep blue wind of ice pierced our backs as we watched the north. After six weeks events began to turn towards a ominous course. First it started with random shouts of agony. One fellow would be leaning against his spear and all of a sudden cry out as if pierced by a blade. We’d run up to the lad and find no wound, yet he writhed in pain. For hours he would wail in agony, and as suddenly as he started, the pain ceased and the lad was fine. And it wasn’t just one soldier… no… every few hours it would strike a different lad. Each man described the pain differently – for some it was stabbing of daggers into their flesh, others felt as if they were being flayed alive, and others still said it was as if they’d been forced to swallow a bucket of nails. I remember my own episode of agony… it was as if every bone in my body was slowly breaking and splintering.
After the days of agony men begin to hear whispers calling them into the wild… Some lads heard the voices of their loved ones, others heard their mothers or sisters. At first the voices called ever so soothingly and sweetly as if we were back at home and it was a warm summer day. We struggled so hard to keep each man within the walls of the fort, but when night came it was hard to keep eyes on everyone. A lad or two slipped through the gate running to their loved one. After they disappeared in the darkness a sudden cry of a man dying echoed in the night. Then the calls of our loved ones turned into those of suffering. Men were driven into madness at the sounds of their mother screaming in pain.
For two weeks in the dead of winter we fought the piercing cold winds of the steppe. For two weeks in the dead of winter we fought pains so torturous that words could not describe them. For two weeks in the dead of winter we fought the voices in our minds calling for mercy. On the fifteenth day there was silence. One hundred and forty three men survived the horrors of Fort Straghov.
On the morning of the sixteenth day each man heard a sinister female laugh echoing through the mountains. For six hours the laugh went on, and at noon it stopped and drums began to sound across the mountain pass. We saw the mountains come to life as forms began to crawl over them… an army was amassing and marching towards us! One hundred and forty three men hanging onto life by sheer will. Hungry, cold, and with heavy hearts we looked on as hundreds, if not thousands, of figures began to descend from the mountains. It was as if Morr’s dark teeth were grinning at us calling us to his realm. One of the younger lads let loose a cry of hopelessness, drew is sword and lunged himself on the blade. We all looked upon his corpse as the snow soaked up his blood, staring and wondering if his course was the smart one. Was it better to quickly end your own life instead of face the savage hordes of Chaos? As our minds battled with this one question a cry broke our thoughts,
‘Riders from the south!’
Everyone ran to the southern palisade and looked south as the sun shined into our eyes. By Sigmar’s Grace! A multitude of riders followed by a column of soldiers flying the Kislevite banner! Salvation! As the first riders rode up they cried out in a rough foreign language. No one knew their tongue so we shrugged and shook our heads. The eldest rider sighed and shook his head at us. He motioned to his horde of riders and they rushed north past the fort towards the gathering mass of Chaos. We knew not what to do. Should we fight with them? Should we hold? It would be suicide to charge the hundreds of Chaos warriors descending onto the plain, surely those riders would stand no chance in a fray. Then we noticed that the riders were riding back and forth, which each pass they would let loose a cloud of arrows into the enemy while staying well out of the range of their bows.
We’d stared at the Kislevite horse-riders for almost an hour as they rained arrows upon the Chaos horde, until finally a woman’s voice called out behind us, ‘Is this how the soldiers of the Empire man their posts and greet allies?’ I turned to see a figure clad in a thick white and blue coat, with deep blue eyes, and apologetically I rushed to her and took her hand as to kiss it, for she had a regal presence about her. As I took her hand a cold sensation shot through my arm and I jerked my hand back.
‘Apologies m’lady,’ I mumbled as my cheeks flared up.
She laughed a hearty laugh, ‘No shame. I’ve yet to meet the man who can bear the touch of an Ice Witch. Marianna of Frosthome, and you commander are…?’
‘Captain Jurgen Kuper of the Altdorf Volunteer Regiment. No commander m’lady, just a soldier.’
She looked around eying the mounds of graves within a bow-shot of the wall. ‘There was much fighting here? So few of you to man this post…’
‘Not a blade drawn for battle in nearly two months. The three other companies of our regiment never made, and of our two hundred and fifty men only one hundred and forty three,’ quickly turning to the fresh corpse of the young lad I corrected myself, ‘err one hundred and forty two remain. We fought other… more sinister things… Madness.”
She nodded and turned her eyes to the north. ‘Such is the way of Chaos, we must fight to preserve our way of life. You and your men captain are relieved of the burden of this post. Kislev and the Ice Witches will keep watch on the northern passes of the Norscan foothills. We shall…. freeze the advance of Chaos if you understand what I mean…’ she said with a smirk. ‘The generals had expected more of your regiment for the coming battle. They will be disappointed.’
‘Coming battle?’ I asked.
‘You march east to the North Lynsk, cross it and head towards Belyavorota… err… High Pass as you call it. Your army amasses near the town of Volksgrad between Praag and High Pass. Kislev will hold Chaos at bay at the northern frontier of our lands. The Empire must act now to strike a blow to shift the tide of this war. Go now, my company of Ungol Riders will escort you as far as the North Lynsk.’
To High Pass? Sigmar spare us. I’d already seen the horrors there… not High Pass again!
~ Jurgen Kuper, Captain of the Altdorf Volunteers Regiment