|General Rikarht von Hess and the Weissguard Greatswords peer over the battlements at Volgin's approaching siege towers.|
Today's post is a (very) short story from the World that Was if you're an Age of Sigmar player, or the World that Still Is if you're that way inclined. It's set during an event that we actually played through years ago in the Hochland campaign... not that it's necessary to know the context for the story to make sense. Enjoy!
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The Greatest Achievement of Jonas Ostkamp
When the recruiting sergeant had told Jonas Ostkamp about the armour, pay and food given to those who served in the Weissguard Greatswords, the concept of standing one's ground under any circumstance had been abstract, and the hunger had been very real.
Now it was the other way round.
Fort Schippel, the Empire’s last bastion in Eastern Hochland, was surrounded by a throng of Norsemen. Attempts to destroy their siege towers had failed. There was no relief column coming. The Norse drummed out rhythms on their shields and screamed praises to their gods.
As the Weissguard formed up on the western curtain wall of Fort Schippel, Jonas made a point of joining the front rank in Karl's usual spot.
“What’re you doing?” Karl hissed, forced to line up behind him.
Jonas replied over his shoulder, “You've got kids. I don't.”
He looked out over the Norse army. The two siege towers were within a hundred metres now, and the details were clearer; the hides stretched over them seemed to twist and flex of their own accord. The bodies of Imperial soldiers hung from it, such that they'd be crushed when the tower connected with the wall. From within the towers came guttural Norse war chants.
There was a quiet clatter of armour as men made way for General von Hess. He took his place in the front rank too, the symbolism obvious: the time for strategy was over. Now they had to keep their nerve, and hold against whatever came running down the ramps of those towers.
The whistle and krump of mortar shells created momentary holes in the barbarian ranks that vanished all too quickly. Handgunners and crossbowmen fired from the cannon ports set into the walls, but they couldn't do anything to the towers. Neither could the cannons themselves, corroded beyond use the night before by the enemy's sorcery.
Jonas had never really known what he'd wanted, beyond not being hungry and finding someone to warm his bed. There was no point wishing he'd stayed at home on the farm; that had been burnt down, his parents now living in the Tussenhof refugee camps.
He'd never been this scared in open battle. Fleeing was a good way to get killed, but still, knowing you had the option of retreating if things weren't going well… this felt different.
To his left, facing the other siege tower, stood a regiment of elven swordsmen. One of them seemed sensed Jonas’ stare and looked back at him. If the elf was making a facial expression, it was hidden by their helm.
Not one for rhetoric, the general simply opted to give Jonas and the others a final word of advice. “They'll want to break us with their best warriors. That means heavy armour. Aim your thrusts carefully,” he said. Jonas and many of the others in the front rank shifted their grip on their zweihanders, holding the leather sleeve above the crossguard as though they were holding spears.
The empty eye sockets of the cadavers tied to the tower seemed to stare at him just before they disappeared from view, then as they were crushed, the ramp slammed down on the crenelations.
A single figure stepped unhurriedly onto the ramp. He was a giant, made bigger by his armour, the fur mantle over his shoulders, and the horns on his helmet. This had to be the Norse leader, Volgin. He held aloft a weapon that any man of Hochland would recognise: the Blade of the First Knight. Von Rüdiger's sword. So that was the fate of the Silver Drakes’ grand master, missing all these months. If Volgin had triumphed against Hochland's finest warrior, no-one present could stand against him in single combat. He drew his own blade, and issued a challenge against the hopelessly outclassed General von Hess.
The General had anticipated something like this, and had no intention of making life easy for the Norseman. Behind the curtain wall stood three wizards waiting to influence this clash, and amplify the abilities of Fort Schippel's defenders.
Von Hess readied his zweihander.
Volgin began his charge down the ramp, and behind him came heavily armoured warriors: his elite. Volgin crashed into the front rank and knocked von Hess back, out of Jonas’ site, and Jonas looked to his own defence.
Strength flowed into him - the wizards’ doing, presumably - and he braced himself as the nearest warrior charged at him. The sheer armoured bulk of the Norseman, combined with the frenzied speed of the charge, meant Jonas had no chance of stopping him, and that’d mean an enemy penetrating deep into the ranks and getting up close, where the reach of the zweihanders would be of little use. That would be disastrous for Karl and everyone else.
With the warrior's neck and armpits hidden from view by a tower shield, and the ramp atop the crenelations giving the Norseman a massive height advantage, Jonas’ options were limited.
Jonas aimed the point of his zweihander carefully, and made his thrust, accepting the consequences.
The tip of the blade went through the warrior's boot and bit against the wood of the ramp, turning the warrior's charge into a fall.
Even as he fell, the warrior aimed his sword point, using his momentum to drive it home. Jonas felt steel glide into his neck. He tried to scream; no sound came.
The weight of the falling warrior crashed over him, and they both fell onto the flagstones. Jonas’ last hope was that he'd given Karl and the others the chance they needed to kill the warrior and face whoever came next out of the mouth of that siege tower.
With no blood reaching his head and his vision darkening, Jonas would never know.
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