Death in Life (Free Fiction Friday)

Hello all, as I have mentioned in the past, it is my goal to be a much more regular poster on this blog (and a much less poster on social media). I am going to start a regular Friday posting of short stories and flash fiction. It will vary widely in content some will be reposts, some will be new original pieces and I am shooting around a thousand words or so as a target. I am following up yesterday’s post on the narrative Age of Sigmar campaign Shep and I are doing by sharing the narrative for my Ossiarch Bonereapers army, the Harvesters of Sorrow. Enjoy!

Lord Kyrush slid from his mount and walked toward the massive library hall. The psychopomp summons from his master bore an unusual call for haste and that alone had piqued his interest. He didn’t bother the tie the reigns of the skeletal beast to the ornate hitching rail. Some of the other Liege-Kavaloi preferred their steeds to retain some wild spirit thinking that it made the beast more ferocious on the battlefield, but not Kyrush. He preferred loyalty and obedience in all who served him. He had selected the souls bound to his warbeast by hand – two from loyal soldiers that he’d fought alongside millennia ago, when flesh still covered him, and the remainder belonged to those foes who had earned his begrudging respect on the battlefield. Some might see this as a move designed to degrade those who’d opposed him but in truth it was an honor. Of course, their individual personalities had been stripped out and refined but their ferocity and prowess remained. More than once he’d considered letting his mount lead a campaign. If he still possessed lips, they would have curled in a wry smile at the thought.

            The library hall was the largest building in the Dry City of Dur-Surrakan and contained the records of a ten-thousand conquests and hundred times that number of tribes and kingdoms fallen and forgotten over the millennia in the Mortal Realms. The scrolls and tablets were neatly stacked and arrayed on towering shelves, every single one in their proper place.  Kyrush had never bothered to learn the method of organization – it was said that a scribe would spend their first century committing the method to mind and Kyrush lacked the patience. This didn’t mean he found no use for the information stored there, quite the opposite. His study and perfection of war meant that he spent nearly as much time reading as anything else, but his own tupsars were efficient and reliable so there was no need.

            The summons didn’t say where to report, but Kyrush knew his master would be found in one of two places and since the Chartis Kosmoi was on a lower level he made for the map room. Entering the chamber he quickly saw his estimation had been correct.

            Elu-Erashim leaned over roughly hewn tablet as large as a table and dragged his fingers along the symbols etched in the top. Not adorned in his battle gear, the Master of the Bone Tithe was lank and tall – he would have towered over nearly all the intelligent mortal races save the ogor and their intellect was a point of constant debate. His eyes blazed with power, even when he was at rest. Kyrush knelt and awaited his master’s audience. In the past Kyrush had been made to wait days before his lord addressed him, but time has no meaning for the dead, so he waited.

            After a time, the Tithe Master Elu-Erashim took notice of him and turned eyes of balefire on the Liege-Kavalos. When he spoke, the voice echoed in Kyrush’s head alone, for the ossia of the Tithe Lord’s mouth was sealed around a scroll. That papyrus was cause of great mystery in the land of the dead. All of those who bore any sense of curiosity wondered at the words etched and hidden for him alone. Some claimed the papyrus contained a list of the deeds of the greatest dead, others that it was a list of those who’d escaped the tithe. Some swore it contained Elu-Erashim’s life name and was the magic by which Nagash bound him. Some even whispered it bore the darkest secrets of the Great Necromancer himself. Whatever the truth was, most were knew the realms would be cold and dark long before Elu-Erashim himself revealed the glyphs.

            “Lord Kyrush, Conqueror of the Oblate Eternal, I have cause for thy arms, and thy puissance in war. Would that we had a century that I might recall thy deeds, I would recall unto thee a thousand honors thy arm and thy blade have won, worthy Liege.”

            “I exist but to serve the Tithe, my lord. It is neither recognition nor ambition which drive my blade, but service and honor of the Legion.” Kyrush responded as tradition dictated but was surprised at the formality of address. He then noticed the Library’s own Liege-Tupsar was recording the moment on a scroll of vellum.

            Elu-Erashim crossed his arms and bowed. “I address thee thus, Liege-Kavalos Kyrush to commemorate this great day. Lord Nagash’s necroquake has revealed unto us a cache of heroic souls, long hidden by treacherous magics, deep within the heart of the Jade Kingdoms. As thou art aware, long have we sought a foothold eternal within Ghyran from whence to collect the tithes from the living. Within the Vast Wood of Whitkarnelles a great boon has fate decreed be ours. Not a dozen leagues from the soul-vault a Gate long dormant has awoken. The stars of Shyish have revealed unto our Chaldeans an omen of greatness. Within that dark wood shall our glories be written. Thou, oh Master of the Field, shall be the architect of our victory. Lord Katakros himself hath decreed it thus and chosen thee by name to be Emissary of the Tithe.”

            “For the honor of the Legion!” Kyrush cried and slammed his fist into his chest. Although there was no heart beating within his breast he felt a rush of excitement. He had been chosen by the greatest of them all. He would establish this foothold, grow it into a stronghold, and then a necropolis. He would raise statues to honor Nagash and strike fear and awe into the denizens the realm of Life, and harvest a tithe unmatched throughout all of the Mortal Realms.

Crusade to Glory!

As regular readers of this blog will know my friemesis, Shep and I have been really changing our mindset from a tourney-oriented hyper competitive point of view to a more narrative driven. While this has been happening for the last couple of years, it takes time to change and we haven’t been rushing it. There are a few different reasons for this, and I will be getting into that in a future post, but for right now, let’s just accept that we are competitive players who are really enjoying narrative. With the release of the Indomitus set for 40k, there were a few interesting things, but one of the most was the new narrative play called Crusade. The Goonhammer blog has a pretty comprehensive write up and review of the rules for it for Warhammer 40k.

Trust me, this is an Age of Sigmar post, but before we get there I needed to talk a little bit of 9th Edition Warhammer 40,000 and give you a frame of reference. Now, Shep and I started up our new factions for the year, me with Ossiarch Bonereapers – The Harvesters of Sorrow – and he is growing his Stormcast Eternals collection – The Knights Invictus – with a slight focus on the Warrior and Vanguard chambers.

This is our third themed year of doing this sort of thing. First was my Nighthaunts vs. the proto version of his Knights Invictus, and that was a very fun year which started with a very basic small first game that saw the soul of one of his leaders captured within the magical lock of a Spirit Torment and then had to get it back. It culminated with the Knights charging through a Realmgate to recover him and establishing a foothold within Shyish.

Boo!

Last year it was a 40k year and after an abortive start trying out Nurgle it eventually ended with the birth of my Harlequins, The Masque of the Sanguine Dawn. Overall, the year ended up being a bit less narrative and kind of fell apart at the end of the year due to a personal tragedy and some overall disappointing outcomes in trying to set up games beyond just the two of us. That being said, I am pretty happy with how they ended up looking.

Joke’s on you!

This year, we decided to do AoS again and had really big plans for 2020 like the rest of the planet and then COVID happened. Despite that, Shep and I have been working away at our armies and the narrative and even managed to get in a couple of games. We started out using the Path to Glory rules as we developed the narrative. Quick aside, we like to not plan too far ahead, or be too restrictive and let the results of the game kind of influence the flow of where we go.

Unfortunately, the Path to Glory wasn’t really working for us. It didn’t even really give you much of an idea of how to play your army, which is something we were really hoping for in order to help us determine how to grow our forces into something that was interesting visually, story wise, and didn’t absolutely suck on the table. We’d already begun talking about maybe just scrapping the Path to Glory and kind of home-brewing something, which isn’t our go-to because we are still evolving as gamers from competitive tourney players and that just seemed a bridge too far.

And then Indomitus happened. There was that initial rush of new game excitement and we even talked about maybe switching the year to a 40k year (dibs on Necrons!). Games Workshop is really leaning into the multiple ways to play angle (narrative, matched, open), and there was a little bit about Crusade. It seemed much more inline with the kind of gamine we wanted to do and we ended up taking the dive into some home-brew work. Having the structure of Crusade really made it feel more proper to us, and seemed to provide the necessary framework we were looking for. Shep is “running” the narrative campaign this year (I did the last AoS one) and he dove into making the necessary tweaks with a bit of feedback and input from me.

Kyrush the Unyielding, Troika of the Crown Transcendant, Lord Beyond Time, Conquerer of the Oblate Eternal, Bringer of the Ruin of Nations, Master of the Field.

I am pleased to say that it is working out really well for us so far. Giving all of your units names, and watching them “level up” is a nice little bit of helping us own the game and our choices in game. Occasionally the question will arise, “What would Kyrush the Unyielding do?” and that has led to some very memorable moments which will be forthcoming posts in this series.

The Harvesters of Sorrow

If you are interested in taking a look at the ruleset we are using, go for it! Feel free to adapt it to your own liking or run it straight as is.

We also are just using a simple excel spreadsheet to keep track of our units and their glory, experience, and happenings. Here is a look at mine, again feel free to use as you see fit. (this is after the first game – so you can see some experience, etc).

Next time I will share with you the narrative bit that I started writing at the beginning of our campaign and then following that a narrative writeup of the games we have played so far. Thanks for making it this far and let me know what you think!