Valdane's Chronicles

A Return to Thaur - Part 3

The Battle of Hope's End.

Distant, again, the incessant bell begins to sound. Corren and his men shudder. An adjutant in the corner begins to weep. Corren explains that the bell sounds every few days – but when the rains come, it’s worse. Furthermore, the men that he has sent out to investigate never returned.

Suddenly, the door opens, and another Mournful Guard explains that the fog has returned. The Mournful Guard take up their arms and head outside.

The acolytes join them – walking out into the still air of the main square.

Hope’s End’s is deathly silent besides the incessant ringing of the bell.

Then, bright glowing lights, barely visible through the fog arc high over the walls. As they sail closer, the acolytes see that they’re crude glass firebombs – the first of which slam into a few timber homes and burst into flames.

Screams start sounding from within the village as those caught in the open run for shelter. The screams intensify from the south, and groups of villagers run past the Imperial defenders. The cause is clear – a great shattering crack, and suddenly the south gate is open.

Visible through the fog, the acolytes see the first wave of enemies pouring into the village.

The smell precedes them – a great mob of dead shambling forward with incessant hunger. The unfortunate few villagers caught in their path are pulled down to the ground and devoured alive.

Then, handfuls of dirty, tattered combatants fan out into the settlement behind their undead companions. They take off in numerous directions, slaying and pillaging all they can find.

Behind them all, great rickety carts trundle forward, atop which cages full of tortured and flayed souls scream for their lives. Some of them are dead, others rotting alive. Great pustules burst open, spreading clouds of choking black flies.

The enemy spreads out quickly into Hope’s End.

The acolytes take to the fight, first focusing on saving the main contingent of Mournful Guard who have become hopelessly surrounded by the dead.

Taeric dives in headlong, cleaving through the rotting mob. Theo joins him.

Ishamael, instead, stays back, laying down sheets of cleansing flame. It’s not long before the first wave of foes falls.

Then, the acolytes split up.

Near the main gate, a sorcerer and his minions have already set to work raising the dead villagers, swelling the ranks of the acolytes’ undead foes. Additionally, another group of cultists has moved deep into the village and begun to set fire to a variety of buildings. A small group of them break off from the main assault and head for Hope’s End’s grain stores.

Ishamael sets off after them while the others focus on the sorcerer. The acolyte-psyker manipulates the cultists’ own weapons against them – stealing the fire from their torches before exterminating them all in a blazing inferno. He lingers just long enough to extinguish the fires from a few of the neighbouring dwellings and storage yards.

Meanwhile, Theo charges into the sorcerer’s entourage, meeting face to face with the conjurer’s protective wall of dead. With gnashing teeth and clawing hands, the dead find purchase – dragging the crusader down.

Seeing the acolyte’s vulnerability, the sorcerer strides in and cleaves a mighty blow with his staff. Although appearing as nothing more than a piece of rotted yew, the staff easily punctures Theo’s armour, plunging deep into his side and burning his soul with its ruinous powers.

Taeric dives into the fray, helping his comrade. With their combined might, the two warriors dispatch many of the dead – as well as the foul conjurer.

Ishamael and Koth arrive in time to clean up the stragglers.

Then, right as the acolytes think that victory has been assured, they hear the slopping sounds of wet, heavy footsteps – gargling and great sloshing of liquid – throaty, deep belches.

Then they smell it – rotten meat, death, infection. Heavy clouds of flies burst from the fog around them. With them, two figures shamble forward. Tall, single-horned beings, covered in a slick, mucus and dozens of pustules. Single milky eyes stare out of their grotesque, unholy visages.

They slice at the air in front of them with giant rusted cleavers as their powerful frames slam back and forth along the rain-soaked ground.

Instead of collapsing at the sight of the sanity-shattering creatures, the acolytes are strengthened in their resolve.

+++++

In the decades to come, Inquisitorial scholars would note that although the Battle of Hope’s End was short in nature, it marked a pivotal turning point in the first century of Inquisitor Valdane’s lengthy and illustrious career.

As the fog finally lifted over the small hamlet, scores of the archenemy lay dead or dying, and two of Nurgle’s creations were cast back into the Warp. Here, among Thaur’s dark, rainy forests, Valdane’s acolytes would win the first of their many future victories over the daemonic.

Ultimately, however, even with their success, it was clear that Hope’s End lay indefensible. As such, plans were struck to relocate the surviving villagers to the Sororitas Monastery at Maraic and that the few fighting men remaining would make for the true source of the dead – the ruins of Thaur’s Great Ossuaria.

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