Lustria - Rumble In the Jungle

Sandmaw War Journal - Entry #5
The Sandmaw Lose a Hero

In the distance, a cruel orc horn sounded a note of mocking challenge. Sounding with it were thousands of guttural cries—a raucous chorus of hate and spite. The orcs had assembled for war, and the whole of Lustria was to be their battlefield.

“You will hold this part of the line,” Kai-Gor ordered down to his Captain Qua-Tli, “Make them come to you. When the time is right, call the charge.”

Qua-Tli saluted the Sandmaw’s warbanner across his chest, “I will General.”

Kai-Gor nodded, then squeezed at his mount’s sides with his taloned feet. The carnosaur Graulla leapt forward into a gallop with a roar between parted jaws. The mighty beast could already smell his opponents’ stink wafting in the humid air. The carnosaur salivated at the thought of so much prey to be had.

Kai-Gor led Graulla to the far end of the Lizardmen line, past a mighty phalanx of Stegadon and Triceradon warbeasts, past hundreds of gnarled Saurus warriors, and on to the extreme left corner of the assembled Lizardmen army. As he passed the True Moon’s formation of Temple Guard, the palanquin of the Slann Mazatl rose from their midst to let the generals of the two armies see one another. The face of the great Slann was unhindered as always by lines of worry or doubt, but Kai-Gor thought he sensed the least bit of apprehension from the wizard, like a frayed edge at the corner of a great tapestry. The Army of the True Moon and the forces of the Sandmaw had joined together to face the Orc horde, but the two lizardmen forces still had not become one in mind or spirit. They would fight together this day, but there was still much to keep them apart.

Kai-Gor turned at the end of the line and wondered if the orcs had similar differences among them. From where he was he could see broad-chested orcs and scuttling goblins, towering giants and bouncing Squigs. Somewhere behind their line he saw scaled wings rise to stretch emerald scales in the blistering midday sun. This would be their Wyvern-rider—his first opponent. As the war drums started he looked out across the field to determine the best course to the beast.

Mazatl started the battle with balls of fire thrown across the field, and soon after the Sandmaw’s Terradons and the True Moon’s jungle swarms were rushing forward to face the orcish line. Giant bows on the back of the Sandmaw’s Triceradons snapped, only to have their bolts thud uselessly against the leather skin of the orc’s giants. Kai-Gor spurred Graulla forward, and loose formations of skinks rushed forward to join him on either side. Ahead of them were two boar chariots and a line of orc bowman. As Kai-Gor watched, the orcs descended into a self-initiated brawl rather than fire their arrows. Kai-Gor ignored the squabbling louts and turned his attention toward the chariots.

He was met instead by the strangest of opponents, a goblin warlord on squig-back bouncing forward with a maniacal gleam in his eyes. He raised a crooked blade and called a challenge to Kai-Gor. There was no way the Old-Blood could refuse. Kai-Gor reined Graulla to the left and met the strange goblin with spear and shield.

Their fight was brief and brutal. Kai-Gor cut down the goblin while Graulla grabbed the squig and crushed it in his brutal maw. But as the creature died a strange magical reaction occurred. The squig exploded in an emerald sphere of Waaagh-magic that engulfed both Kai-Gor and his mount. Kai-Gor leaned forward to charge Graulla through the conflagration, and together they found themselves on the far side of the battle line.

Kai-Gor rounded his now-frenzied mount back toward the center of the fight, and barreled past a thicket of trees to find the wyvern. But at his arrival, he found the orc’s great beast already slain. The wyvern had been burned and pierced by the bows of the Triceradons, and its master had escaped his mount’s death to hide among the trees. Kai-Gor cursed his luck and looked back to the maelstrom at the center of the battlefield. What he saw was a chaotic sight indeed.

A giant clashed with Mazatl’s temple guard, the lizardmen’s warbeasts bellowed their fierce cries, and in the center of the fray the True Moon’s divine engine burned with its strange magic. Beyond the panic and chaos of the central fighting, Kai-Gor could make out the orc vanguard pushing forward to confront the saurus line. Beyond them, he could see the Sandmaw’s warbanner rippling in the breeze. Kai-Gor felt a moment of immense pride.

And then—in an instant—his pride turned to dread. He heard the wardrums quicken in the Sandmaw ranks, and knew that it was to call a charge. Qua-Tli and his warriors ran forward with a formation of the True Moon’s warriors to clash with a legion of orcs in heavy armor. Their weapons met and a few orcs were felled. But raging in the center of the orc formation was the Greenskin general himself—a savage brute named Grimgor—a warrior who struck forward with blinding speed and furious hate. Qua-Tli met him in challenge, only to be cut down with hardly a thought. The True Moon’s warriors fled at the sight. The Sandmaw ranks held for a moment more, and then were overrun by a wave of rampaging orcs. Kai-Gor watched with bitter rage as their banner fell to be crushed beneath the orcs’ brutal advance.

And in this moment of defeat, Kai-Gor hesitated. He wanted to charge forward, he wanted to punish those who had killed so many of his warriors. But he didn’t know where to attack, where to target Graulla’s bloodlust. To move too far forward would plunge him too deep into the orc center, but to act too far to the rear would divert him from the bulk of the fighting. The battlefield was spinning apart in front of him, and he didn’t know what to do. His warriors were dying on all fronts, but his indecision held him still. Kai-Gor waited for an opportunity that did not come.

The rest of the battle went quickly. The True Moon’s Stegadons broke the orcs at the center of the field while Mazatl rained fire on their survivors from his position on a far hill. Many of the orcs broke to run, and seeing that the bulk of his army had been run down, the orc general called retreat. On his command the fleeing orc units reformed and turned to follow the path Grimgor cut off the field. What remained of the True Moon and Sandmaw forces came together at Mazatl’s position to regroup. Kai-Gor was one of the last to join them.

The twin Skink priests of the Sandmaw sought Kai-Gor out to report as Graulla lumbered up. Both Qori and Qolle were haggard and tired, but were apparently unscathed from their actions in combat. They seemed relieved to find their general in one piece. “It is good to see you Lord,” Qori offered eagerly. Qolle nodded and added, “We saw an explosion and feared the worst.”

“I’m fine,” Kai-Gor replied gruffly, “Where is Qua-Tli?”

The skinks traded looks. Qori said, “He fell in battle General.”

“I know,” Kai-Gor growled, “Where is he? What are the nature of his wounds?”

Qolle swallowed, “They were fatal Lord.”

Kai-Gor’s grimace sharpened, “Then get him ready for transport. We’ll have him to the Temple by morning.”

Qori shook his head, “No Lord, you don’t understand.” Qolle swallowed, “He has been lost Lord. His spirit has passed on.” Qori nodded, “There is nothing more to be done.”

Kai-Gor stared down at his priests for a long moment. Then, looking away, he ordered, “Bring his body to me.”

“But why Lord?” Qolle asked.

Kai-Gor’s anger surged, “Because I won’t have him buried here. He is a hero of our tribe—he belongs in Itlcouzal with the legacy he died for. I will take him there.”

“But what of the war?” Qori questioned.

“The war will wait until I return!” Kai-Gor roared, “Bring him to me! Do as I say!”

The priests stared for a moment more, then bowed and hurried away. Qua-Tli’s body was gathered, wrapped in bandages, and delivered to Kai-Gor. Kai-Gor took his Lieutenant’s body like a pack upon his back. As he hefted the weight, he said softly, “I’m sorry friend.”

Then, with a cry and a kick to Graulla’s ribs, Kai-Gor spurred the Carnosaur away from the bloodied battlefield. Heads turned and the lizardmen’s troubled eyes asked innumerable questions. But not a sound was voiced. His soldiers let their General go to do what he must.

In the distance, a cruel orc horn sounded a note of mocking triumph.

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Sandmaw War Journal - Entry #4
Losses even in Victory

The Scar-Veteran Qua-Tli made his way across the ruined battlefield at a hobbled limp. A wound on his hip showed bloody meat beneath a torn rift in his scales, and the seriousness of the injury left him leaning on the shaft of the Sandmaw’s army standard for support. The Saurus’s scaly lips pulled into a tight grimace with each slow step.

The twin priests Qori and Qolle fell in pace with the Scar-Veteran as he walked, with Qolle leaning close to examine the wound while Qori offered to carry his weapon. Qua-Tli warned the skink away with a low, rumbling growl.

“We can fix this,” Qolle said hopefully, “The priests of the True Moon know a way. They showed us after the last battle.”

“They brought back the Patriarch Triceradon from the brink of death,” Qori followed, “It’s amazing what they know.”

Qua-Tli frowned at the thought. After their first battle with the Ogres, both Triceradons had been beaten so badly that they were barely recognizable as more than meat and bone. The magic of the Temple of the Silent Star had brought back the Matriarch, but the Patriarch had apparently required other methods. Qua-Tli hadn’t known until now.

“What of the Star Temple’s magic?” the Scar-Veteran questioned, “Why must we rely on the True Moon’s priests?”

Qolle offered a shrug, “The temple’s magic is waning.” Qori nodded, and added quickly, “The stars have moved on.”

“Then what of my fallen warriors?” Qua-Tli asked.

“We will save those we can,” Qori answered. His brother finished for him, “The rest will be buried in the sand near the sea.”

Qua-Tli grimaced and looked away. It was as he feared.

The two priests studied Qua-Tli for several seconds, as if trying to understand his mood. After a moment, Qori offered, “It will be okay. We now have two victories against the brutes.” Qolle agreed with a quick nod, “Their losses were worse than ours. They won’t face us again.”

Qua-Tli frowned. He did not believe it.

Qori gestured back toward black-crowned fires at the treeline, “The ogre bodies have been burned according to Popopoyotl’s directions. The corruption of this place will be cleansed with their scattered ashes.”

Qolle nodded and went on, “And to add to their disgrace, the ogre tyrant was released back to what remains of his army. Netzahualcoyotl’s visions show that he’ll kill more of the invaders before fleeing across the sea.”

The Scar-Veteran showed hooked fangs as he sneered, “And this is all according to Lord Mazatl’s directions?”

The priests traded confused looks, then said together, “Yes.”

“And do we do everything the True Moon priests tell us to?”

Again the skinks blinked and exchanged questioning stares. Then—again—they chirped, “Yes.”

Qua-Tli snarled a bit as his weight again came down painfully on his bad leg. He growled, “I’m going to Kai-Gor to report. I’ll see your healers when I am done.”

“Be careful with him,” Qori suggested. Qolle nodded agreement, “He has not been himself.”

Kai-Gor had chosen a position on the hill near where the battle had apexed to direct the follow-up actions of his warriors. Both of Triceradons grazed on the long grass behind him, their beaks occasionally crunching on metallic bits of shattered leadbelcher cannons. The ogres had lost two of their number in explosive misfires when the Triceradons had charged up the hill, and had lost their hunter’s pack moments later. For once the skink crews that rode on the Triceradon’s backs had made it through the battle unscathed, as had the majority of the Sandmaw’s Terradon riders. The skink crews now stretched and chittered to one another in the bright sun, drinking in its warmth as reward for the bravery they had shown.

Qua-Tli frowned at the thought. Had it been bravery or only luck? Had bravery caused the Ogre’s cannons to misfire or caused the hunter’s spear to catch on a crevice in the Triceradon’s frill? Had bravery driven Qua-Tli and his warriors into a charge against the Ogre Tyrant and his ironguts? Was it bravery that had earned them such punishment at the end of the Tyrant’s cudgel and beneath his soldiers’ thundering boots?

Kai-Gor’s Carnosaur Graulla slumbered at the top of the hill with the heat of the jungle sun on its ridged back. The beast had feasted well on the Ogre corpses, and now would sleep for days if given the opportunity. Each of Graulla’s slow breaths hummed with the sound of a low earthquake, warning back any who might come too close. All knew that only Graulla’s master was safe inside the reach of the beast’s rending jaws.

The general of the Sandmaw stood silent and stoic in the shadow cast by his monstrous mount. His eyes moved slowly back and forth over the fields of the battlefield and out to the ocean beyond. From here the glittering beaches of the Lustrian coast were visible, where seabirds swooped and dove above the ocean’s churning waves. The birds’ aerial dances were the first thing in Lustria that had reminded Qua-Tli of home. Wounded as he was, he wanted nothing more than to find a quiet spot and watch them circle.

But first came his report. Qua-Tli dropped to one knee and saluted Kai-Gor with a dip of the Sandmaw’s banner. He said, “General…I’ve come.”

Kai-Gor nodded acknowledgment. His steely gaze felt heavy on Qua-Tli’s shoulders.

Qua-Tli bowed further, “I apologize for my failure in the last battle General…I could not hold the line—not after what they did to Tehotl. I shouldn’t have let him answer the Tyrant’s challenge—I should have gone instead.”

Kai-Gor did not answer. Qua-Tli did not dare look up.

“Twice now I have let my warriors run when they should have held. Twice now they have paid in blood for my mistake. Forgive them General—punish me instead. I have failed you, and deserve your wrath.”

Kai-Gor’s voice came as a slow rumble, “There will be no punishment.”

Qua-Tli was surprised to find no relief in his General’s forgiveness. Instead the pardon pulled at his pride, like a barbed hook turned slowly in his guts. The pain of the feeling brought his gaze up to meet his Kai-Gor’s eyes.

“General, you must see what these victories have cost us. I barely have the warriors I need to redress my ranks. I’ve sent for reinforcements from Hoxitlkil, but even with their help we are still preciously short. Our victories against the ogres have taken scores of my best warriors. Magic can’t return them to us, nor can their skills be replaced. Each warrior we lose is one less we have for the battles to come…and we are so few already.”

“What are you saying Captain?” Kai-Gor asked darkly.

Qua-Tli closed his eyes and lowered his head. He forced the words out despite the treason they represented, “General…I fear this war is destroying us. Every victory costs us more than we have to lose. Mazatl and his priests have the whole of the jungle from which to find reinforcements, but we are few, and our numbers dwindle. Maybe the Gods say it is our fate to be ended here…maybe the Old Ones have chosen to sacrifice our tribe to defeat these invaders. But surely Lord Zhallax would not wish it so. Surely he would want us to survive.”

Qua-Tli’s scaled hand tightened on the shaft of the banner and his lips drew back. His voice rose in fierceness as he said, “If you call this cowardice General, then I am a coward and will accept your judgment. But if this is truth, we must think of the Sandmaw’s future. We can not let the memory of Itlcouzal die here.”

As these words faded on the wind, Kai-Gor shifted forward, and walked slowly down to where Qua-Tli knelt. Qua-Tli heard his general’s bladed spear shift from hand to hand. Full of remorse and shame, Qua-Tli braced himself for the blow to come.

But what he felt instead was Kai-Gor’s hand at his shoulder. He looked up, and saw his general beckon him to stand. The general’s outstretched arm helped lift Qua-Tli to his feet.

Kai-Gor’s words were resolute, “It is not cowardice to long for peace.”

Qua-Tli searched his General’s eyes, and found them different than ever he had seen before. There was no longer anger in them—no burning rage or simmering hate. What remained were only steadfast resolution and immeasurable pride. Kai-Gor seemed stronger now than Qua-Tli could ever have imagined. And the presence of his strength gave Qua-Tli the power to proudly raise his head. It gave him hope.

“This war is penance,” Kai-Gor continued, “It is payment for Zhallax’s gift, and punishment for our long hatreds. We must see it through Qua-Tli. No matter what the price, we must see it through.”

Qua-Tli nodded.

“Rally your warriors,” Kai-Gor followed, “Tell them I honor their sacrifices. Tell them Lord Zhallax watches them and blesses their spirits.”

“I will General.”

Kai-Gor saluted the Sandmaw banner across his chest, then began the slow limp back to his warriors. His back was a little straighter now—his limp less pronounced. He seemed somehow buoyant with new pride.

Kai-Gor looked back to the sea, and whispered a silent prayer. He asked the Old Ones to guide his actions, and for Zhallax’s spirit to protect his tribe. And when that was done he moved back to Graulla and resumed his watchful vigil over his army. The sea birds whirled and the waves crashed, and for a moment the war was far away.

Kai-Gor knew it would not last.

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Mother's Day
Sometimes a gal just has to crush something

The Myaghan celebrated with almost a desperate fury. They had proven victorious against the Daemonic host but the battle had shaken their collective resolve as had little before. The very unnaturalness of their foes had left them seeking any excuse for a feast – not that they needed one, especially in light of the victory. All the same, there hung in the air an edge, a burning need to find revelry and forget the horrors they had seen.

None of this made “Ma” Oghul any happier. She was unable to join the fights or even the belching contests. The daemons had struck her a dolorous blow and she was resting and recovering on a pile of skins. Two of the Ironguts had offered to help her to the table and had nearly lost their hands in exchange. She would not be helped and she would not be seen as an invalid. Gongoro had said nothing to her, rightly recognizing that doing so would be to acknowledge that she was injured…again. Still, she couldn’t help but notice the concern in her son’s eyes. Such worry would be, if not the death of her, the death of her long and storied career.

Twice now, her boys had made it further than she did across the battlefield, with Jubei or Francois coming back in the aftermath to help her from the field. Sure, she was not the youngest of Ogresses, but she was more than a match for any of the so-called ogres in this army, with the possible exception of her darling baby boy. It was time she reestablished just who she was – “Ma” Oghul, slayer of the Reikland Cavaliers, the Maneater that knocked Duke Gasconne of Bretonnia from his Pegasus with a single swing of her pin.

Something had to be done.

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Sandmaw War Journal - Entry #3
The Lizardmen Armies Collide in Battle

In the second month of the Sandmaw’s Lustria campaign, the coming of thick storm clouds on the horizon drew the attention of Qori and Qolle. When the clouds began to move against the wind, the twin priests knew to seek out their general. “A great power comes,” Qori reported beneath the sound of distant thunder. Qolle nodded and added, “It is an army of the Old Ones.”

The Old-Blood Kai-Gor raised his leathery lips to show gleaming fangs. This was the moment he had been waiting for—this was the chance to show the Gods his might. He snarled a series of commands to his waiting Lieutenants, then mounted the Carnosaur Graulla to lead his troops to battle.

Kai-Gor met the Army of the True Moon on a narrow isthmus between fetid ponds, on the assumption that the water would force his opponents to meet the vanguard of his forces head on. Qua-Tli and his Saurus warriors were deployed near the center of the formation, with his Triceradon warbeasts positioned beyond them to protect either flanks. Skink formations took their places on the wings, one in a set of jungle trees, the other in the ruins of an ancient shrine. Qori and Qolle again decided to divide their magics, with Qori leading an element of skink skirmishers on the battlefield, and Qolle wielding magic from behind the Temple of the Silent Star.

The army that emerged to face them was like the reflection of a twisted mirror. The Army of the True Moon boasted Saurus and Skink formations that marched in the same ranks and carried the same stone-tipped weapons. The warbeasts of the opposing army groaned and snarled in similar tones, despite the dissimilarities of their actual size or gait. If anything, the True Moon’s line was more impressive than the Sandmaw’s, for among their ranks lumbered an ancient Stegadon crowned by a gleaming Engine of the Gods. Though the sunlight had disappeared behind the rising storms, the arcane engine still gleamed as the beast brought it forth, as if radiating the power of an internal sun.

But none of these wonders gave the Sandmaw so much pause as the regiment at the right center of the True Moon’s formation. These ranks were made up of Saurus in ceremonial armor, warriors armed with bladed weapons on long staves. They marched together as if they were one creature, as if nothing could separate them. And then—from within their ranks—rose a truly ancient creature, a Slann of the old world known as Mazatl. He spoke a single word and gouts of flame leapt from his webbed hands. The magical fire sought out Kai-Gor in a flashing bolt, and washed over him to punishing effect.

Kai-Gor ordered the charge from beneath the flames, and his soldiers surged forward across the wind-lashed field. As they ran, thunderbolts flashed through the heavens and liquid fire arced out from the True Moon’s salamanders. Some of this fire landed on a Triceradon mount and literally burned the crew from its back. At this insult, the Tricerdaon flew into a terrible rage and ran down the beasts before they could escape.

Kai-Gor and Graulla ended up by themselves on the right side of the charge, spearheading an attack on the True Moon’s Stegadon warbeast. The other Triceradon was by his side for a moment, only to be intercepted by a sea of swarming snakes and lizards. The Triceradon bent down, and with a flip of its titanic head it sent the tiny creatures flying. The remaining swarms were quickly trampled out, but the delay was enough to separate Kai-Gor from all other allies.

The True Moon’s Stegadon braced itself as Graulla lowered its head and bellowed a roar, and stood its ground a moment as Kai-Gor tried to spear the Skink priest Popopoyotl from its back. But through both beasts were mighty, the Carnosaur had the advantage in claw and fang. With a lunging bite Graulla caught the Stegadon by the throat and wrenched mercilessly at its leathery flesh. The beast toppled, the engine of the gods fell, and the Skink priest was swatted aside by a lash of Graulla’s tail.

It was then that the True Moon struck back. To the Sandmaw’s surprise, their Skink skirmishers slipped easily into the waters of the mires, and launched ranged attacks outward even as they treaded water. A phalanx of the True Moon’s Saurus warriors caught the Triceradon left in Kai-Gor’s wake, and overwhelmed it with crushing blows of their axes and jungle swords. Kai-Gor turned in time to see a squad of Qua-Tli’s warriors struck by strange fire that walked like foes among their ranks. And then the Slann turned his attention to Kai-Gor himself.

Mazatl said a single word, and a lance of unstoppable fire speared out to envelop Kai-Gor and his mount. The flame seared the Old-Blood’s armor and penetrated well beneath, charring his blood-red scales to the color of burnt coal. Kai-Gor tumbled backward from his saddle as Graulla charged on in a frenzied rage.

Kai-Gor struggled to breathe as the battle raged on. The True Moon’s Saurus overran their Triceradon foe, only to find themselves bogged down in the same waters that had protected their Skinks. Qori and his skirmishers circled to surround the hapless Saurus as the Sandmaw’s Razordons poured in volleys of jagged barbs from the trees. Qua-Tli ordered his Saurus blocks into a two way charge that caught the Slann’s guard from the front and the rear, while Graulla and the remaining Triceradon pinned them in from behind. The Sandmaw’s Terradons swooped overhead and added a barrage of tumbling boulders to the frenzied combat. Mazatl’s Temple Guard began to fall, but not without taking several of their attackers with them. Their casualties mounted from the Sandmaw’s onslaught, but the Temple Guard stood their ground despite the innumerable odds against them. They did not give a single inch as they died to protect the Slann at the center of their ranks.

Kai-Gor sneered ruefully as he picked himself up, he cursed the old ones as he challenged them with his anger. “Look,” he growled, “Your servant fights alone. Not even your powers are enough to save him.”

But even as he said this, a new fire formed in Mazatl’s grip and washed down over the Carnosaur Graulla. The mighty beast roared with pain as the heat peeled back the scales along its snout and ridged back. The warbeast whimpered, then fell limply into the mud. Kai-Gor’s eyes grew wide. His blood boiled.

“Look!” he demanded again to the unhearing Gods, “We do not need you! We do not care for you! We are the Sandmaw and we are strong! We will not forgive what you did to us!”

The Slann cast again, and new fires erupted among Qua-Tli’s warriors. The fire leapt from Saurus to Saurus, scouring their skin and baking their bones. Scores fell, and Qua-Tli desperately called for order. But even as the last of the Temple Guard were hacked down, the Sandmaw’s offensive broke. The Saurus regiments fled, leaving the Slann to stand alone.

Kai-Gor forced himself up on his spear and bellowed his challenge to the turbulent heavens, “No! No, you will not break us! You will not escape us! You will not forget us!”

The Sandmaw’s drums sounded in defiant thunder and the Saurus regiments reformed. They turned back to the isolated Slann and prepared for a final charge. None of the True Moon remained to protect him.

“Now you will know our pain,” Kai-Gor roared into the raging storm, “Now your servant will be taken from you as our Lord Zhallax was taken from us. Venerable Zhallax died for us, let this fool die for you.”

And in the midst of the storm’s tempest, in the center of fire and battle, Kai-Gor was greeted by a voice long forgotten to his ears. They were the words of his former master, spoken from a realm beyond sight.

“There has been enough killing Kai-Gor.”

The clouds broke suddenly above, and a beam of transcendent light fell to illuminate the battlefield. Combatants on both side of the battle raised their heads, and felt the presence of the departed Slann Zhallax.

“The Gods have heard your anger Sandmaw,” Zhallax’s voice whispered in their minds, “So let it be satiated. The old ones have called you home, so call yourselves outcasts no more. The forces of chaos converge against the defenders of order, so forget your old hatreds, and reforge your shattered hearts.”

With this the spirit passed, and the clouds closed behind it. A gentle rain began to fall across the battlefield, easing the burns on Kai-Gor’s skin, and washing the blood from the many combatants’ open wounds.

Qori crossed the battlefield to his general and bowed deep, “My lord, your injuries are grievous. We must get you to the temple to—”

“No,” the Old-Blood interrupted, “See to their wounded first. Save who you can. My wounds will wait.”

The Skink dutifully ducked through a bow, then hurried off to carry out his general’s orders. As he went he passed his brother Qolle, and the two priests shared an uncertain smile.

Qolle was burned a bloodied from a miscast spell sent to him from the Slann, but despite his injuries the Skink’s voice found hope as he addressed his general. He said, “My Lord, this is a glorious day. We are not forgotten.”

Kai-Gor nodded in agreement, then looked pensively away. The rain washed over him, and his anger fell away with it. In that moment, he felt strangely hollow without his rage to support him. He felt alone in his remorse.

“Go and speak with the Slann Priest,” Kai-Gor ordered solemnly, “Tell him we are here to serve.”

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First Contact
The Myaghan meets the neighbors

Tyrant Gongoro the Corpulent was pleased.

They had been in the Jungle barely a few days when Jubei, Maneater and Ninja of the army, reported that their march forward to clear a pair of trade routes for the human settlers in Skeggi was about to meet resistance. An army of the indigenous population was moving in force and, if Jubei was any judge, they were headed straight for the Myaghan.

The chalk-white Tyrant gazed into the abattoir of the tribe’s maw-pit, finding the mixture of rotting flesh and rippling pools of blood oddly soothing. “Guyuk,” the Tyrant turned to his Butcher, “what do the omens say?”

The Butcher looked at his lord for a moment with his piggish eyes and his jowly face creased in a grin. “The Maw favors us. Though the lizards have great and terrible magics, we must meet them if we are to establish our place in this new world.”

The Tyrant nodded and turned to his Bruisers and Ironguts. “What say my war leaders? Are you tired of marching to no purpose?”

“Yes, Tyrant”

“Are you ready to do battle?”

“Yes, Tyrant!”

“Are you hungry?”

“YES, TYRANT!”

Gongoro stood and hefted his Tenderizer, made from a wagon axle and bristling with ugly metal spikes. “Let the Bellowers howl. The Myaghan will go meet our new neighbors.” The ogres began to fall out rapidly, their iron-shod boots thundering on the jungle floor.


Gongoro looked across the battlefield at his enemy. They outnumbered him at least four-to-one, with not a few creatures that were as large as his Bulls. Jubei had reported that the small ones carried poison weapons. Gongoro hated poison but it was a hazard of the occupation – it helped the smaller creatures even the odds against an Ogre.

Gongoro had put the giant they had enslaved, who only answered to “Ed”, in the center of his line, the better to draw their hated poisons. From there his Ogres had spread out across the battlefield. The Leadbelchers had gone climbing up a hill to, as they put it, “get a better vantage point.” Gongoro had grumbled that their infernal guns didn’t go much further than a good charge but there was no arguing with them over their purpose – especially since Old Bat the Thunderfist was deaf as a post.

Guyuk had joined up with Ma and her boys. Seeing his mother sharing his battlefield filled Gongoro with an odd sense of pride. Now it was time to show both her and the oddly-staring lizards across the field what it meant to do battle with the Myaghan of the Bloodskull Heights.

The Ogre line advanced rapidly, though Gongoro noted Ma coming up short to taunt the odd Ogre-lizards and their little Gnoblar-lizard pets out to fight. Guyuk commenced to his normal battle ritual of eating a variety of brains, bones, and viscera, but both the little Gnoblar-lizards and the Tyrant Toad on his floating chair (which Gongoro coveted) muttered in odd tones and nothing happened, other than Guyuk occasionally turning green. Well, thought Gongoro, if the Maw will not save us today, I suppose we’ll simply have to bash their heads in. Gongoro’s head turned to see Temur bellowing at his bulls and saw what set off the bellowing. One of the four-legged ones had vomited flame at Arbat Negan and one of the bulls was busily trying to put himself out. The little ones and the Toad again began to chant and he saw one of the groups of medium lizards grip their weapons tighter. That was quite enough of that.

Gongoro ordered the charge.

The fighting was quick and bloody. Ed flailed his heavy slave chains about the Saurus and Gongoro called out his enemy’s best fighter. Guyuk did the same and both results were bloody and left little good meat to be had. On the other hand, Guyuk got a good laugh when his second challenge resulted in one the little Butchers (Butcherlars?) dashing behind the Ogre-Lizards. The Ogre-lizards laid into the Maneaters, knocking Ma for a loop, but Jubei and Francois slaughtered the little lizards and their larger compatriots. When the lizards broke and ran, the Tyrant Toad seemed to frown and the army of lizards melted away from the field.

Gongoro considered pursuing them when he noticed that Arbat Qoyor was still coming around from behind a copse of trees. He beat them soundly for cowardice and force-fed Bat his own cannon (knowing he had a spare). Gongoro raged at them for falling behind and then tended his mother, who cursed her two compatriots at a volume that could be heard on both coasts.

Still, a few beratings later and the Myaghan realized they had won their first battle. A feast was organized with Skink-ka-bobs and Saurus steaks. Soon, the victories would allow trade to expand towards Skeggi and the gold would flow.

So far, so good, thought the Bloodskull Tyrant.

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Sandmaw War Journal - Entry #2
The Sandmaw Stand Victorious

The day began with strange stirrings in the peaks west of the Temple of the Silent Star. The Scar-Veteran Qua-Tli, ever-vigilant in his duty as Kai-Gor’s chief lieutenant, did not wait for his general’s orders to send Terradon riders out to scout the peaks. He was already organizing the Sandmaw’s warriors into defensive lines when the riders returned with their report. They described hordes of strange creatures with wiry hair, hunched postures, and shrill, angry voices. Qua-Tli looked to the twin priests Qori and Qolle, but the skink chieftains could not make sense of the description. They had never seen such a beast.

Of the Sandmaw, only the Oldblood Kai-Gor was ancient enough to remember fighting the chaos incursions into Lustria. Only he remembered a time when the Lizardmen race had defended their cities against relentless hordes intent of despoilment and desecration. He looked away from his commanders and recounted the siege of Quetza, the sweeping waves of death brought by the great plague, and other hideous memories of warfare against the servants of the horned rat. He used the Lizardmen’s word for the creatures, then added the one they called themselves — Skaven.

Defensive lines were quickly set in order, with Qua-Tli’s saurus warriors taking the center of the formation on either side of their general and his carnosaur. The Sandmaw’s Triceradon battlemounts rumbled forward on either flank while Razordons were prodded by their handlers to take position on the end of the right line. Skink skirmishers moved to fill the gaps while Qori and Qolle worked out a strategy to lead them. It was decided that Qori would move forward with the troops to deliver magical aid while Qolle held back to pray at the temple for divine assistance. The brothers bid one another the best of luck and hurried to find their places.

As this was happening, formations of brown and black rodents were descending from the mountain peaks in a mad cacophony of clinking blades, ringing bells, and high, black shrieking. On one end of their dark masses were massive, mutant rat ogres and hordes of impossibly-large black rats. On the other were endless columns of rat warriors and madly chanting censer bearers. And at their center, standing between walls of mad-eyed plague monks, was the Rat Lord Nurglitch himself, riding on a giant frothing rat and flanked by endless servants of murder.

The Skaven began forward, and Kai-Gor ordered his forces to cautiously advance to meet them. When one of the rat ogres separated from the Skaven line, Kai-Gor ordered all his forces to pour fire into it. It took a lightning bolt from Qori, a flight of poisoned javelins, and a bolt from a Triceradon’s massive bow to bring the ogre down.

As the creature fell, the Rat Lord gestured a crooked paw and a cloud of pestilent magic settled into the ranks of Qua-Tli’s warriors. The saurus began to cough and wheeze, and within minutes scores were falling from their ranks. Kai-Gor saw his ranks begin to dwindle and knew he could wait no longer. He roared an order into the sky behind him, and on his command his Terradon scouts rushed forward.

Nurglitch’s plague monks saw the Terradons come forward and alight gracefully in the field just in front of them. Their riders bid the flying reptiles to screech a challenge, a sound that came like scratching glass against bare metal. The rats’ ferocity pulled them into a rushed charge, despite the sudden protests of Nurglitch and his lieutenants. The rat’s rage and bloodlust hurled them forward to attack in a choking storm of gnashing teeth and glinting steel. But just as they closed within striking distance, the Terradons once again took to the sky. And from where they had been, a wall of scaly muscle and ancient weapons rushed in to fill the gap.

Kai-Gor’s carnosaur, both Triceradons, and the whole of Qua-Tli spearguard met the rats at the center of the field. Horns crashed against rat flesh, jagged teeth found blood, and spears surged forward through the Skaven ranks. A score were felled before the first of the Skaven managed an attack back, and while the plague monks of Thursla held their place on the left flank, the right flank crumpled beneath the impact of the Triceradon Patriarch’s fury.

In the midst of this melee, Kai-Gor called a duel to the Plague Lord, a challenge which Nurglitch met with malice-fueled pride. Kai-Gor thrust his spear forward to open the duel, and caught the Skaven warlord with a glancing blow that elicited little more than a grimace. Then, even as Nurglitch prepared his counterattack, Kai-Gor’s carnosaur Graulla surged forward and snatched up the Skaven general in its rending jaws. The last the rats heard from their master was a hateful screech as Graulla shook him like a bloody rag doll. The mighty beast threw the warlord down into the dirt and then surged after what remained of his regiment.

Thus did Kai-Gor, the Triceradon Patriarch, and a cluster of Qori’s skinks end up by themselves at the far side of the Skaven line. Qua-Tli remained behind with his spearman at the battleline—as his general had directed him to. But as the Triceradon Matriarch succumbed to the attacks of Thursla’s plague monks and the poisons of his foul censer, the Scar-Veteran found himself alone between waves of crashing rats. Qua-Tli killed as many as he could before the waves of Skaven broke over him and buried his warriors beneath clasping black claws.

Kai-Gor turned and howled with rage as he saw his lieutenant fall. With a guttural command he led the remaining Triceradon and Qori’s skinks into a new charge, which first targeted Thursla’s monks, and then moved on to run down the rest of the rat horde. As these blows fell, a second block of saurus warriors charged into a flank of the rat formation, and a band of desperate skinks lifted their shields to block their path forward. Many of the skinks fell against the rat’s weapons, but enough held to let Kai-Gor’s charge do its work. With bloody shrieks and defiant hisses, the last of the rat formations were run down beneath Graulla’s talons. The day was won.

But at what cost? As the Sandmaw’s terradons led the remaining Skaven censer bearers back into the jungle, Kai-Gor grimaced over Qua-Tli’s broken body. At the same time, the Triceradon Patriarch crossed the field to stare in confusion and grief at the unmoving body of its fallen mate. The beast began to bellow in despair as Kai-Gor dismounted to recover the Sandmaw’s Army Standard.

It was then that Qolle returned from the temple with wide eyes. Qori had some words for his brother, and wondered aloud what had become of the comets from the heavens he had promised at the beginning of the battle. Qolle pushed past him, and bowed before his general. “Lord,” said the skink in his quick-paced, bird-like speech, “The gods have given me a vision. Bring the fallen into the temple quickly, before night has fallen.”

Kai-Gor studied his subordinate with some suspicion, but directed his warriors to follow Qolle’s direction. Qua-Tli was carried from the field, and the Triceradon Matriarch was hauled back using the strength of her mate. As the sun set over the tree-tops, the silent star came into prominence and stared down on the temple with white-blue light. The skinks priests stared in rapturous thrall as the temple’s ancient magic took hold.

In the star’s light the bodies of the fallen first came to glow, then slowly rose from their death slumber. Their wounds closed themselves, and their skin took color again. Qua-Tli turned round where he stood, then asked the twin priests what had happened. “A blessing from the Old Ones”, Qori answered. Qolle nodded and quickly followed, “The gift of life renewed.”

Kai-Gor stood apart from these events, his jaws clenched, his expression tight and distrustful. He had come to Lustria in what he thought to be defiance of the Gods’ will. But now it seemed that they would bless him, despite his challenge to them…despite the cold rage that still rumbled at his heart. Why would they give him such a gift? Was it because he had pleased them with the Skaven’s defeat? Or was it something else…something beyond his ability to understand…

The next morning the Sandmaw moved up into the mountains and flushed out the remaining Skaven from the burrows they had dug there. In the process they discovered a horde of treasure beneath the rocks, treasure that had apparently gone undiscovered by the Skaven themselves in their haste to find meat and murder. It was another blessing, and Kai-Gor’s mind turned again in uncomfortable introspection.

The twin priests were watching their general in this time, and came forward to ask if they could be of help with his thoughts. Kai-Gor only scowled, and assured them that he had no need. Qori and Qolle exchanged troubled looks for a moment, then spoke again. “Perhaps the Gods have use for us yet General,” Qolle offered. Qori followed in the same tone, “Perhaps they led us here to help.”

Kai-Gor considered them with long contemplation before turning slowly away. These were not the thoughts that he wished, these were not the concerns of a general on the march. This was not the path he had chosen for his tribe.

But, with a taste of grim irony in his throat, Kai-Gor let himself wonder if this was the path that had been chosen for them.

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Fate Frowns on the True Moon
Ogres vs. True Moon Lizards - battle 1

Netzahualcoyotl suppressed a shudder as the ogres began marching forward, but the very ground under his feet also seemed to tremble with fear and the wildlife in a nearby cluster of trees fled for safer environs. The wet breath of the kroxigor behind him reeked of spoiled meat. Both kroxigors stood almost perfectly still, only the soft creaking of the leather on their weapon handles giving away their restless grip. The skinks surrounding them, however, shifted constantly, eager to run – although whether that eagerness was directed forward or away the priest could not tell. But Iztpapalotl, the brave tasked to lead the mighty kroxigors, kept them in line, in spite of the strange appearance his stolen headgear presented.

This was Netzahualcoyotl’s first real battle, the first time he had been involved in more than a skirmish with infiltrators. Not that he was worried. Mazatl had easily crushed every spell the feeble, grotesque ogre mage had tried to cast. They had a Slann among them; they would be fine. He had absolute faith in the strength of his own magic, as well – until it failed him.

Seared by the backlash from his first attempt at a spell, hearing the roar of the kroxigor who had been hit and seeing the two skinks next to him fall burning from the blast, Netzahualcoyotl, priest of the True Moon, began to doubt.

Face to face, the ogre mage no longer seemed so weak and the freaks who bellowed beside him bore weapons capable of horrible damage. As ogres and kroxigors traded deadly blows over his head, the priest tried again to cast, calling lightning from the sky down on his foes. The ogre mage pulled a rumpled scroll from beneath his bloody apron and with a few guttural words reduced the threatening rumble of thunder to nothing. The ogre good naturedly grinned at the priest, almost seeming to invite Netzahualcoyotl to share in his moment of triumph. The skink was not amused.

By the time the mage shouted a challenge at Netzahualcoyotl, Centehua and his rangers had all been stomped under metal boots, Tecocol had fallen to the tyrant, and his own unit had lost many – including one of the kroxigors and Iztpapalotl himself. Having watched his brave fall, the priest retreated from the laughing ogre, slipping back to stand behind the remaining kroxigor. Moments later, when the same kroxigor turned to flee, Netzahualcoyotl had just long enough to spit a disbelieving curse before he fell beneath the clawed feet.

He was doubly surprised when Itzpapalotl pulled him from beneath the kroxigor, which was being held up by two battered sauruses: first because the brave – while sorely wounded – was not dead, second because the same was true of himself. Netzahualcoyotl had a gouge across his shoulder bandaged while Popopoyotl filled him in on what had happened after he had been so unceremoniously crushed. Tecocol and nearly half of his sauruses were dead. The salamanders had run off and would need to be recovered. The Temple Guard had turned to flee, against the angry orders of Tla Loc. If the younger priest in his silly bird skull lacked humility in describing his own triumph against a unit of ogres, Netzahualcoyotl could hardly blame him. He and Eztli, the stegadon, had been the only ones to count an unmitigated success.

“Have we been abandoned by the gods?” Netzahualcoyotl wondered aloud.

“Never!” Popopoyotl retorted immediately, obviously shocked at the suggestion. He sniffed and thought for a moment. “Perhaps we have angered them. One of the ogre bulls is not dead yet. I shall bandage his wounds. We can sacrifice him to appease the powers. What a giant heart he must have! Surely it will please.” He scampered off, excited at the prospect. Netzahualcoyotl did not share the younger’s glee, but he could not argue against the plan, for he had no better.

And when, after the sacrificial ceremony, the skinks hunting down their salamanders found a weathered – but serviceable – stronghold, with spawning pools just waiting for a priest’s hand, there was little bitterness in Netzahualcoyotl’s congratulations to his compatriot. After all, it must have worked.

“Next time we fight them, the gods will favor us,” Popopoyotl assured him.

“Next time…?” Netzahualcoyotl blinked at the other priest. He had not even considered a “next time.” Surely there was something more they could do to avert another disaster.

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Prophecy

Netzahualcoyotl held his nostrils close to the plaque, breathing in the scent of millennia. Things were falling together in his mind as another prophecy made itself clear. He closed his thoughts to the scampering and muttering of Popopoyotl behind him; that one could never sit for quiet study. So it fell, as always, to Netzahualcoyotl to decipher the revered plaques, to read the signs and portents. He was sure that his lord and master, Mazatl, in venerable repose on his litter nearby, lent his mighty thoughts to the process. A visceral thrill made his head crest stretch suddenly when the Old Ones’ wisdom coalesced. He lowered his quill to the unbaked clay beside him and began to write:

Filth pours from the crevasses to conquer with corrupted air.

Heralds of the false moon gibber in the dark.

Ravenous, corpulent greed trudges forward on metal feet.

The Lost, the Heretics return.

The compass closes on its center.

Netzahualcoyotl started at the rasp of Popopoyotl’s voice beside him. “What does it mean?”

“War. It comes at us from many sides, like a raptor strike.” The priest’s rapture at communing with the prophecies was rapidly chilling, replaced with practicality. There were things that needed doing, but first among them was explaining to his jittery peer. “The Xa’kota have destroyed the guardians of Quetza.” Popopoyotl shifted nervously at the mention of the rat spawn and whispered a prayer to Sotek, but Netzahualcoyotl continued. “Chaos approaches, many ranks of Xlanax spreading corruption through our jungles. They will reach us at about the same time as the Zec’za’khanx, who lust for food and gold equally. And last, our brothers, changed and without divine guidance, who follow a Warrior even in times of peace.”

“Defend.”

Both skinks jumped at the croaking syllables, and Netzahualcoyotl felt the quill slip from his fingers. He turned to find Mazatl’s eyes open, the first time the priest had ever seen them so. Popopoyotl raced to his master’s side, gently and unnecessarily wiping the Slann’s chin. After a moment more of awe, the skinks exchanged a look and Netzahualcoyotl was out of the chamber, sprinting past the ranks of Temple Guard to the training grounds outside.

Tla Loc, Revered Guardian and – in his mind – first servant of Mazatl, was overseeing a fresh spawning of sauruses. They were still damp from the pool and clumsy with their equipment, but he would soon see that remedied. A commotion drew his attention away from the unblooded and focused it on the small white body that barely seemed to touch the ground in its hurry to reach him. When the priest arrived and immediately knelt at his feet, Tla Loc’s gaze shifted from slightly predatory interest to grave concentration.

“Mazatl, prophet of the True Moon, has spoken. War is upon us. I pass leadership to you.” Netzahualcoyotl raised his hands above his crest, offering a small gold tablet as he spoke. “Mazatl leads us to battle; you are his second, Revered One.”

As one, the sauruses – normally taciturn and motionless – roared a challenge to the sky.

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Landfall

The docks of Skeggi rang with the sounds of drunken and desperate Northmen in the humid jungle night. The wooden barricade that surrounded the town creaked heavily in the breeze and the singing had a strange, haunted quality to it. These men had arrived with visions of gold and plunder and had met a thousand different ways to die in the unforgiving wilderness. That the Maiden of Marienburg had failed to arrive as scheduled meant that a dozen of them, men who had carefully hoarded the means to get themselves back home, were now living in constant fear of being torn to shreds by the envious or, worse, tossed outside the protective barricade. But ships did not come in at night and the Northmen were attempting to drink their fears away. As a result, no one was at the dock when the Maiden came sailing into port, smashing a small rowboat and crumpling its prow upon the dock.

Plank after plank of wood came slamming down between the sinking ship and the rickety pier. The crash of the timbers drew some of the lesser drunks from the alehouse. When the first figure came off of the boat, the men could not believe their eyes. The boards of the pier cracked under the sledgehammer force of massive, iron-shod boots. Splashes on the other side of the boat drew the spectators’ eyes to white-furred monstrosities, their strange weapons leaving ice trails in the water. Three of the pier’s boards gave way with sickening cracks as the massive forms made their way to shore. As their steps multiplied upon the shore, the impact of their strides could be felt all throughout the town, like a herd of Bretonnian heavy horses rumbling up from the sea. Several of the Northmen readied axes or clubs while others waved at them to not draw the attention of the mountainous newcomers. Finally, one set of strides, slower than the rest, shook the earth like a great hammer. Even as each massive figure came into view, it became clear that, behind them, an even larger figure strode, each step eating up yards of distance.

Torvald Tuddingsson was as close to a local authority as one got in this lawless campsite. Several of the more civic-minded Northmen had dragged him from his table in the back of the alehouse and had shoved him out in front of the gaggle of raiders that made up the local population. Torvald found that his sobriety grew rapidly as the figures, which he now saw were Ogres of the Mountains of Mourn, came into the torchlight of the main (in fact, only) street in Skeggi. Many of them were dressed in typical Ogre fare: shirtless, dirty and dark trousers, and the iron-toed boots that, Torvald knew from bearing witness several years ago, could tear a man’s head clean from his shoulders with a solid kick. Many of them wore the iron gloves that Ogres proved so fond of. One surprisingly foppish Ogre, dressed in bright colors and with a massive white feather plume pierced through his forehead, came through the gathering throng and peered down at the Northmen.

“Who’s in charge here?”

Torvald swore to murder the many of his comrades that gestured in his general direction. “I’m Torvald Tuddingsson. How may I help you?”

The Ogre fop grinned, showing a startling number of teeth. “Not me, Torvald. I just needed to identify you for the Ogarlisen, the Tyrant.” Torvald blanched. A tyrant meant that this was a tribe – but they were also clearly a mercenary force of some sort, with several Ogres rapidly unloading supplies from the slowly sinking ship in the harbor. The ogres parted, their heads bowing respectfully, as a figure even larger than the fop, though not so large as the man-mountain that stood outside the light, thudded forward. The sight set the Northmen murmuring and Torvald was at a loss for words.

He had to be at least 12 feet tall, with heavy metal plates rattling from his toes to the bowl-shaped helm on his head. His gutplate was the size of an Imperial greatshield and a pair of curving Rhinox horns jutted forward from it. Over his shoulder was a weapon that was longer than Torvald was tall and as thick around as a tree. But that was not what shocked these men, inured to the terrors of Chaos and, even now, living with the daily threat of violent death. This Ogre’s skin was as white as chalk, with filthy fingers indicating that this was not simply some sort of paint. In addition, his face was marked with wide swaths of red, wildly exaggerating his eyes and mouth and giving him the appearance of some sort of angry deity. The fop nodded his head to this freakish creature.

“Sir, this is Torvald Tuddingsson. Torvald, it is my honor to present Gongoro the Corpulent, Ogarlisen of the Myaghan of the Bloodskull Heights.”

Torvald made several attempts to swallow, finally succeeded, then spoke, first in a squeak and then with a voice that almost did not quaver. “A pleasure, General.” He was both delighted and concerned that he recognized the word the fop had been using as a corruption of a plainsman word for General, “What brings you to Lustria?”

Gongoro’s painted face shifted as he broke out a half-grin. “We heard that this was the place to make one’s fortune.” The Tyrant looked over the ramshackle camp. “Is this what passes for ‘Fortune’ in Northman circles?”

Several of the raiders, spurred on by liquid courage, grumbled at the insult, but Torvald waved his hands at them in panic before making a sound that sounded like a cross between a chuckle, a cough, and a sob, “No, General. The Jungle is a dangerous place and we’re still working on driving our way deeper into it.”

Gongoro rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I see. Jubei, bring me that map.” Torvald could no longer keep his jaw from opening in surprise when a massive ogre, dressed in the cotton robes of far-off Nippon, brought a rolled-up parchment to the Tyrant. Gongoro perused the paper for a moment and then looked back at the utterly confused Northmen. “Men of the North, I make you this offer now. We will go into the Jungle and make a clear road from here to the island of the Amazons. You may use it for trade and transport and you will pay us a small fee for the privilege. Accept and you will find your fortunes improving. Refuse and you become our first meal in our new homes. What say you?”

Torvald almost blurted out before Gongoro was finished, “We accept!”

The Tyrant nodded with satisfaction. “Then open your gates. We’ve a maw-pit to consecrate before we can bed down for the night. Francois will be your contact for payment of tribute.” The Tyrant gestured to the foppish ogre who grinned at the Northmen, who had collectively discovered their sobriety in the past twenty minutes. As the gates came open, the ogres tromped out into the night, their march a rumble of thunder rolling into the jungle.

One of the other Northmen put his hand on Torvald’s shoulder, “They’ll come back to eat us too, you know.”

“Unless we make it worth their while not to.” The Northmen considered that as they scattered to their homes, rolling thunder heading away from them.

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Return of the Plagues

   Sickly gray clouds choke the first rays of daylight dawning over Quetza. The city lies in ruins, plagued by the feverish memories of lost battles and long dead mage-priests. Beneath the once glorious roads and buildings remain the festering warrens of Clan Pestilens, uninhabited but for the guardian snakes of Sotek.

   Thunder rumbles in the distance, and lightning cracks against the temple, heralding a time of change. The earth trembles beneath the city, caving in the warrens and crushing Sotek’s champions. Buildings collapse in on themselves, their faded golden décor shattering against the overgrown jungle floor.

   And then the rain came. It fell in sheets of dark, putrid green, the smell of rot and sewage permeating everything it touched. The city was befouled in a matter of minutes, and droves of the remaining guardian serpents fled, losing their connection to Sotek upon leaving Quetza’s boundaries.

   It is under this foul maelstrom that Nurglitch’s faithful return to take the city that was once theirs, and their bells will be their only warning. Their plagues devour the body and the spirit, their numbers crush their opposition, and their blades will gut any who stand in their way.

   The Skaven are coming.

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