Iron Kingdoms - 500 Fights
Decurus Marco Toorhvald, Leto Jess, and Auxilus Behlan Isir took the stairs two at a time with Marco setting the pace and Leto’s arguments still chasing him since they received the orders.
“The lord commander called for the leaders of the cohort, so why are we here, Marco?” Leto asked for the third time.
When the trio reached the top of the stairs, Marco rounded on his fellow decuri, “If you hadn’t noticed, Leto, we ARE what’s left of the leaders of the cohort. Now, lets hope the lord commander has a plan …” Marco, turned and headed to the door, rapped once and stepped in at attention, flanked by his fellow soldiers.
The room had once been the solar of a wealthy Llaelese merchant, but had been commandeered to serve as headquarters of the forces defending the Llaelese capital. The Lord Commander, Baron Erig Velanus was standing by an over sized desk shuffling through some papers seemingly ignoring a whining Llaelese dignitary.
“Baron, these are the last of my river barges. General Walleen took my entire fleet when he moved his forces south to face the Khadorans in the Thornwood. Your men stormed aboard like brigands and claimed they were confiscating the boats for the war effort! My business here in Myrwyn will never survive without those vessels!”
Baron Erig, tossed the papers aside and glanced up at the three soldiers who entered the room and came to attention. “Master Trallean, your business here in Myrwyn is at an end,” he replied without glancing to the merchant, “and it is not of my doing. Go talk to the Khadoran Kommandant who marched through your western gates this morning. I have need of those barges and I would advise you to ready yourself to travel if you plan on joining me on the trip back to Cygnar.”
The merchant’s eyes went wide with fright and he hustled out of the room stammering an apology.
Turning his attention to the soldiers, the Baron stepped around the desk, “Who are you? Where is Captain Aldrin or Captain Reathgar?”
Leto and Behlan glanced to Marco. “Dead, Lord Commander. They are both dead.” Marco spoke up. “I am Decuri Marco Toorhvald, King’s Glaive, Eastern Regiment, Second Cohort. This is Decuri Leto Jess of my regiment and Auxilus Behlan Isir, Murkmar Light Lancers, sir!”
“The captains are dead? How many men are left in your cohort, Decuri Marco?”
“Sir! Captain Aldrin fell when he led the counterattack at the Western Gate. Captain Reathgar died during a holding action to destroy the High Street and Rhymer Bridges. We have sustained 50% casualties, sir, but we have destroyed all the bridges across the Black River, except Candle Bridge here. The majority of what remains of the cohort has taken position to hold the bridge. What are your orders, sir?”
Two adjutants, carrying a heavy steamer trunk between them, come from the back room and pause, “this is the last of it, my lord.”
The Baron glances to them and nods, “take it down to the quay and load it on board. See that we are ready to depart.” The men move past the soldiers as the Baron returns his attention to Marco.
“My orders?” the Baron slips on a pair of gloves, “Frankly, I don’t care, decuri. Sound the retreat or surrender your forces, it is all the same; the city is lost. Now if you will excuse me, I have a boat to catch.” The Baron strides past the soldiers and heads out of the room leaving the three still standing at attention.
Stunned silence fills the room for a moment. “What in Morrow’s name are we going to do now?” Leto asks. “The bastard just left us to die.”
“We need to high tail it out of here,” Behlan replies, “and fast. It won’t be long before the Khadorans realize the only way across the river is over that bridge out there.” “What are we going to do, Marco?”
“What are we going to do, Marco?”Leto and Behlan look to the young Stormblade.
Marco blinks a moment, grasping the realization that a lord commander has abandoned his post and left his men to their doom. Glancing out the balcony of the solar, he could make out the barricades erected on the Candle Bridge and the men – remnants of his and Leto’s unit of Stormblades, Behlan’s light cavalry, and ragtag elements of the regular Llaelese and Cygnaran armies. Refugees from the western districts streamed across the bridge seeking refuge and escape from the fighting and pillaging in the city. They crossed the bridge carrying all that was left of their worldly possessions, which more often than not, was simply the clothes on their back.
“Marco!” Leto calls to get his attention, “what are we going to do?”
Marco grips the rail of the balcony tightly, “We are going to hold that bridge.”
The whine of turbines rise in volume before the door burst open and a short, broad, armored figure steps through. Smoke from the fires raging uncontrollably throughout the city sweep in behind him illuminated by the glowing runes etched in the otherwise gray armor. Dark trails of steam rise from the vents on the sides of the mechanikal armor as the turbine’s cry diminishes. The warrior hefts his rune engraved warpick and scans the area.
Raising his visor, blue eyes in a ruddy dwarven face peer out of the helm and look around the warehouse. From behind a large pallet of crates another dwarf steps out, cradling a heavy sledgehammer in both hands.
“Farnur!" the armored dwarf calls, “We have to get out, the Western gate has fallen!”_. Farnur motions to the others huddled behind the crates to get moving. A dozen dwarves ranging in age from elders to children being pulled along by parents rush to the door. Older children carry the babes while all the adults hold any tool that might serve as a weapon if needed. _“Nolan, get these people to safety. I’ll be rounding up any others who got separated.”
Farnur motions to the others huddled behind the crates to get moving. A dozen dwarves ranging in age from elders to children being pulled along by parents rush to the door. Older children carry the babes while all the adults hold any tool that might serve as a weapon if needed.
_“Nolan, get these people to safety. I’ll be rounding up any others who got separated.”Farnur turns to head back to the front offices of the warehouse.
“Farnur, we don’t have time! The Llaelese are routed. I barely made it here past the dragoons. We are behind the lines now.”
“Just get them to the Candle Bridge, lad, the Cygnaran’s will hold the crossing long enough. Now just go!” With that Farnur turns and hurries down the aisle of bushels and crates.
Nolan watches the old dwarf stride off and bit back a reply, Farnur was the elder of the trading company in Myrwyn and, as such, his leader. It was the Law and he was honor bound to obey despite feeling this was the last he would see of the him.
Nolan turns from the doorway and stops suddenly. The dozen refugees of the company look to him, eyes filled with fear and the need to turn to someone to save them. This wasn’t what Nolan expected when he came to Myrwyn to join the Brattengurd Outfitters Trading firm as a security officer. His tasks for “security” so far had been driving steamjacks around to sling cargo coming and going along the Black River or patrolling the warehouse compounds to chase away would be smugglers and thieves. He never expected to be caught in the demise of Llael as Khadoran forces besieged the capital. In particular, he never expected to be responsible for the lives of a dozen members of his ‘adoptive’ family in the middle of a burning city.
“Alright,” Nolan gazes over the group, “ … Gambree and Khaz,” pointing to two of the mechaniks he knew, “take the lead. Head down Frontage Street to the King’s Park. We will cut through there to Candle Bridge. Keep together and keep moving. Don’t lose anyone. I’ll bring up the rear and make sure we are not overtaken. With any luck the Khadorans will be too busy pillaging High Street to take notice of a dozen dwarves on Riverside” The pair nod and grip their tools grimly then headed off, the group falling in quietly behind them.
Luck was a fickle mistress for Nolan as the group made its way through the smoke filled streets. By the time Frontage Street dropped them off at the west end of King’s Park the group had grown to almost 3 dozen refugees of all races and ages. Gambree and Khaz, along with a Gobber archer, named something unpronounceable, but called ‘Flek’, herd the group to the crossroad and wait as Nolan makes his way to the lead.
He curses his luck that no one of greater rank or station had joined the group to take the burden of this flight from him. The park was dim and appeared empty. The lamps that normally lit Park Boulevard all the way to Candle Bridge were all dark. Large snowflakes fall lazily as smoke drifts through the air. Muffled coughs and stifled sobs filter among the group. The way looks clear, but Nolan didn’t like the idea of being caught out in the open. Although, the alternative was a much longer way through side streets and past, what appeared to be, an entire city block ablaze.
“Gambree, Khaz … take the rear and see that everyone keeps up.” Nolan looks to the Gobber with his short bow, “you. Flek? and, you – human,” pointing to a young man carrying a stout pole, “take the flanks, make sure no one gets separated.” With that he turns and motions the group to follow.
The ornamental trees and shrubs of the once beautiful King’s Park offer no cover as the large group heads straight through the open space. Nolan keeps the glimmering lights of Candle Bridge ahead of him but glances around feeling the entire group exposed and in danger. To the left, movement catches his attention and the clatter of steel shod hooves on cobble tell him their luck has run out. A squad of light horsemen, Khadoran Dragoons, emerge from the smoke along Rhymer Street and stop. The leader points to the cluster of refugees stumbling through the park and whistles his group to wheel.
“RUN!” Nolan yells and pushes the nearest refugees onward, “get to the bridge!” He trots north, the turbines on his mechanikal Warcaster armor whirring louder as he fires up the energy in it and his weapon; the runes along the hilt of the warpick glowing brighter. “Flek!” he calls out to the Gobber as he raises his bow to take a shot, “go! get the people to safety. I’ll hold them.” Flek’s face reflects Nolan’s own disbelief in his words, but he simply salutes the dwarf and runs off to encourage greater speed from the group.
Nolan plants his feet and stokes the rune magic in his arms and armor. Black smoke spews from the vents along his ribs and the clockwork capacitor on his warpick spins faster. The runes etched into his weapon flare brightly, the whole effect casting a bluish glow in the smoky air. The captain of the light horsemen pulls up his squad a couple dozen yards short of the squat glowing form assessing the situation.
The refugees continued to run across the sward of the park, heading for the bridge. The dragoons could easily circle the bristling dwarf to run down the refugees, but this act by a lone enemy speaks to honor and demands a response. The Khadoran captain nods to one of his men, who grins at the chance to take the prize and turns his horse before lowering his long spear and spurring the mount to charge.
Surprised that only one horseman comes at him, Nolan doesn’t question his fortune or the Khadoran’s foolishness, but rather raises his hand and focuses his will. Runes glow into existence around his hand and as he closes his fist a wave of energy surges out and slams into the mount. Heat shimmer surrounds the mount and horse flesh burns from the power, knocking the beast to its knees and pitching the rider over the saddle and onto the grass in front of Nolan. As the rider tries to rise, Nolan steps forward and slams the broad side of his pick across the man’s head dropping him unconscious back to the ground.
The captain, now recognizing a warcaster, draw his sabre and yells. The squad surges forward in unison, intent on being rid of the annoying dwarf and capturing the escaping refugees.
Nolan could feel the thunder of the horses through his boots. There was no way he could stop the charge, let alone live through the night, but by the Great Stone Fathers he would see more than one of these brigands fall. Nolan reached deep within himself and focused his will, strengthening the energy field around his armor. He raises his hand as runes flare brightly around his palm. With a shout, he unleashes his arcane power on the charging horsemen. A wave of energy slam into the lead horse, searing the man and beast, knocking them down; bolts of electricity blast the flanking riders and explode in the second rank of the dragoon. The horses stagger and jump, the crackle of static charge playing havoc with muscle and metal. Several men and mounts fall; the charge broken, the remaining riders wheel about and flee into the smoke and darkness.
Nolan opens an eye and quickly feels about for an impaling long spear. Finding himself surprisingly whole, he looks about and is startled as several armored men in the plate of Cygnaran Stormblades step up from behind. Static electricity crackle and leap about the blade of their glaives. The leader raises his visor and looks over Nolan with a critical eye.
“Well met, master dwarf. Your friend here said that we might be of assistance.” The Stormblade motioned to Flek who had accompanied the soldiers.
“Well met indeed, good sirs. Your timing is excellent.” Nolan beamed back, “Have my companions made it to the bridge?”
“Yes. They are safely behind the lines. I am Decuri Marco Toorhvald, King’s Glaive. I … “ Marco pauses a moment, “I am in charge of the defenses here.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Decuri Marco, I am Nolan Langworth Von Halgurhald, of Clan Halgurhald and I am in your debt.”
“It was our duty, Master Nolan, and it was the right thing to do.”
“No, Sir Marco, I owe you my life. By the laws of the Great Stone Fathers such a debt must be paid.”
Marco chuckles a bit, “I am no Sir, Master dwarf …”
“And I am no Master, Sir Marco …” Nolan smiles back.
“Well then, how about just Marco?” offering his hand.
“and simply Nolan. So be it.” shaking it firmly.
Marco considers Nolan for a moment longer, “You are a warcaster, if I am not mistaken. Right now we could use some help with the steamjack we have. We’ve lost our ‘jack marshals, so the thing is useless to us.”
Nolan slings his warpick over his shoulder, “Let’s get to that bridge of yours and I am sure we can come to some arrangement.”
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