Edge of the Abyss

The Kings of War Global Campaign

Slaughter at the Standing Stones

Kingdoms of Men
VS Nightstalkers
Kevin Branton

Devoted Lady Elanor winced as pain lanced through her head from temple to temple. The buzzing in her mind had been constant for the last several hours, growing steadily as she and the Brotherhood force she commanded rode deeper into the Twilight Glades.

If they weren't on patrol at the Mage Queen's behest, she would have deeply liked the opportunity to admire the verdant woods around her. The trunks of many of its trees were as wide as the cottage she'd grown up in, the canopy so thick it shut out much of the noontime's sunlight. It was shadowy but not frightening. Or at least, it hadn't been until the buzzing had started. Now every scampering rabbit seemed a leaping assassin, every birdsong a dirge.

She shook her head, trying to shut out the droning sound. Her sister in the Devoted order, Melanie, rode up with the same hollow eyes and wearied expression Elanor knew she must be wearing.

"I hear it too," Melanie stated.

Elanor managed a pained smile. "I thought I might be going mad."

"No. Though I fear we may not avoid it if this damnable noise doesn't stop soon."

Elanor raised her left hand to signal a halt. Behind the pair of Devoted, Sir Lambert dipped the bright standard he carried to relay the message to the rest of the column. One of the reconnoiterers was returning from up the little-used path they followed, his form shifting from bright to dim as he rode through the columns of light that punctuated the boughs above.

"Up ahead, my lady," he said quietly as he drew close. "A ruined tower, just as the elven general said."

"And the standing stones she mentioned?" inquired Elanor.

"I saw them." He shivered in his saddle despite the warm air. "There was something... odd about them."

"Magic?" asked Melanie.

"Maybe but none I've seen before. It's just...."

"Go on."

His eyes became glassy, voice distant. "It's odd, my lady but I... I smelled brimstone, heard the roar of a hundred Abyssal throats. I could see them coming at me just like... well, just like my first battle." He shook his head, eyelids clamped shut. His composure returned as he opened them. "Something's moving around there though. Something real."

"We must investigate," Elanor stated. "The task of protecting these stones was assigned to us by our hosts. We cannot refuse it." She looked to Melanie, who nodded her agreement. The buzzing in Elanor's head increased, as if her skull had become a hive of raging wasps. She ignored it.

A quick glance to Sir Lambert and the order was given. The Brotherhood column formed up into a loose battleline and began picking its way through the trees.

Deployment - A bird's-eye view of the battlefield
Deployment - Villeins stand ready between Knights of the Orders of the Forsaken and the Redemption.
Deployment - Villein Reconnoiterers and Spearmen prepare to advance into the copse, alongside the Knights of the Order of the Abyssal Hunt.
Deployment - Blade dancers gather near the ruined tower, accompanied by a High Priestess of the Abyss.
Deployment - A horde of crossbowmen take position near a second High Priestess of the Abyss and her Reaper Guard escort.
Deployment - A bolt thrower gains a commanding view of the field atop a nearby hilltop. Nearby, cagey Dark Knights prepare to attack.
Turn 1 - The Blade Dancers and the High Priestess of the Abyss sprint forward, eager to spill blood.
Turn 1 - The Reaper Guard advance upon their lady's order while she remains to reinforce the crossbowmen.
Turn 1 - High-pitched, reptilian roars accompany the ringing of steel as the Dark Knights bare their weapons and move forward. Behind them, the bolt thrower and crossbowmen unleash a salvo of black missiles. A troop of Villein bowmen fall to a man. The knights of the Order of Redemption also weather a barrage, startling even their seasoned destriers.
Turn 1 - The Order of the Forsaken race toward the standing stones ahead of them, hoping to beat the Blade Dancers to the prize. Little do they know the Blade Dancers have other plans.
Turn 1 - The left flank of the Brotherhood forces press forward cautiously, wary of both the Twilight Kin's speed and archery. A unit of Spearmen refuse to abandon the Redemption Knights as they calm their steeds. The remaining Bowmen fire on the speeding Blade Dancers but the lithe figures slip past their arrows mid-flight.
Turn 2 - The Blade Dancers storm forward, twirling, cartwheeling, and spinning to the sound of drums and horns. In contrast, the Reaper Guard stalk forward in cold lockstep.
Turn 2 - The Abyssal Hunters move too close and are caught by the Dark Knights! Teeth and claws rip into man and horse alike as the lances skewer the shieldless riders.
Turn 2 - Another salvo from the Crossbowmen and Bolt Thrower rain death upon the Brotherhood forces!
Turn 2 - A unit of Brotherhood Bowmen fall, each man clutching the end of an elven crossbow bolt wet with his own blood. The Blade Dancers sing out praise to their dark muses and eye new targets.
Turn 2 - The spear-sized missiles of the Bolt Thrower once more pierce the ranks of the Order of Redemption. Again, their steeds scream in terror. There must be some foul poison coating those bolts! The Knights of the Abyssal Hunt meet their end in the blood-slicked jaws of the Dark Knights' beasts.
Turn 2 - Seeking to avenge their comrades, the Villeins charge into the front and side of the Dark Knights before they can round to meet the humans.
Turn 2 - A hollow one, but a victory for the Villeins none the less as the Dark Knights quit the field.
Turn 3 - The Blade Dancers strike! Villein Spearmen try to guard the Redemption Knights' flanks but the enemy are too numerous. The Blade Dancers fall on them and the knights with murderers' smiles on their faces. Nearby, the Reaper Guard continue their relentless march toward the enemy. The Twilight Kin's shooting now falls on the Reconnoiterers whose horses are suddenly as frightened as the Redemption's.
Turn 3 - The Order of Redemption manage to repel the Blade Dancers attacks, though the Villein Spearmen were not so lucky. The knights turn to face their foes as the other unit of Spearmen move to take their lost comrades' place in the line.
Turn 3 - Seeing the dire need of their brethren, the Forsaken Knights wing back toward the main battle.
Turn 4 - The valiant hopes of the Order of Forsaken are dashed as they are driven off in a fusillade of fire. As they wing away, they watch in horror as the Order of Redemption knights are dragged down by the Blade Dancers, the elves screeching in euphoria. The Reaper Guard move forward to confront the Spearmen but the Villeins, filled with anger and grief, manage to repel them.
Turn 4 - Exhausted, the Spearmen resign themselves to a final stand. Coming under fire once more, the Reconnoiterers' horses continue to scream and stamp futilely, wide-eyed, as if fighting terrors only they could see. The Devoted and Adjutant retreat to the copse, grinning Blade Dancers hot on their heels. Injured in body and spirit, the damsels and the standard bearer manage to escape. The Mage Queen's forces would learn of their vile kin's victory here, but the sounds of the Villeins' last battlecries would haunt the Devoted and their companion forever.

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Kevin Branton