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Story of the Black Torrent Guard, present day.
Benedictus was warmed by the silence, the emptiness welcomed him, drawing him into its blanketing darkness. Comforted by the wisps of frankincense that curled passed his nose, he breathed deeply becoming lighter with each breath. The numbing cold that crept up from the granite floor was soon forgotten as he slipped further into his solace. Slowly the weight of his armour disappeared as all the world became a distant memory. Swaying slightly, his balance lost Benedictus snapped awake. Damn, he thought to himself. Stay awake. The Chaplain of the Order of the Antler closed the silent prayer with a long baritone chant, the chapel amplifying the lines of Al-Ulric, beckoning Benedictus to slip into unconsciousness. The meagre light that filtered through the leadlight caught dust motes as they fell slowly to earth, beams of multicoloured radiance reflected off the attending knights’ brightly polished armour casting bizarre patterns against the multitude of tapestries that adorned the walls. Benedictus looked down to his own tarnished grey armour, it seemed to drink the light. Rather apt, he thought.
“Brother Benedictus, welcome back. You were the last person I expected to disturb our prayers.” The unjustified swagger of the Brother Octavian carried him across the room with an ease that was unusual for someone of his girth. This was last person Benedictus wished to see. The years had not been good to him he noted, sporting several pox scars across his face, his blotted gut almost too large for the already exceptional breastplate worn by the fool. Quick brown eyes assessed Benedictus, they hovered around the cross that adorned his neck. “So it is true, the Emperor himself gifted you with the Imperial Cross. It is such an honour for one of our order to bear it, Congratulations.” The words almost oozed from the corner of his mouth. Benedictus drew a heavy breath, shifting his weight uncomfortably, he searched the room for a friendly face. The reply was unconcerned.
“Actually it was Reiksmarshall Hellborg who presented me with the Cross, the Emperor was called away with affairs of state.” Somehow this fat disgrace already knew that, he was sure of it. A small smile played across Octavian’s blubbery lips. The knights present during the ceremony slowly filed out, leaving a few of the more pious, who still remained at prayer.
“Ah, well still an honour to be sure. I must ask to the purpose of your visit Brother?” Yes, you must ask questions to which you already know the answer, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to validate your existence, thought the General. Pausing to compose himself, he continued to look to the exits. The chaplain sanctified the room with his censer chanting as he did so.
“I come to pay my respects to the Order and seek council with the Circle.” Benedictus smiled to himself, the spasm that crossed Octavian’s face when he mentioned the Circle was barely hidden. So Octavian, you have not managed to win yourself a seat yet, well considering you need to pass a trial by combat, you never will. Benedictus grew tried of this ludicrous banter, his gaze still hung at the chapel doors.
“Well I fear the Circle will need your council as well Brother, dark times have descended. It is as if the land weeps for our departed Grand Master, may Sigmar keep him close.” The Chaplain makes the sign of Morr as he continues chanting. “Our Order has been petitioned to give arms to assist in many causes, and some of our valiant brothers have not returned, including Brother Ricard.” Benedictus retched, Ricard is missing. And this fool seeks to use this news to his own sick devices. Enough, thought the General.
“If you will excuse me Brother.” Benedictus marched through the common halls, his boots pounding the flag stones. Lesser knights found their backs hastily against the walls as they fumbled to salute his passing. Almost running down the inner service stair case he found his way into the training yard. Hard grey light met him as the sun struggled to find it way through the cloud. The sounds of steel ringing as two young combatants fought within the yard to the cheers of the other initiates.
“Get your shield up fool! It will not help you at your feet.” Master-at-Arms Brother Bracus screamed at the students as they tried to beat the other into submission. The taller of the pair was on the advantage, with strong lunges and brutal overhand swings he continued to push his opponent back. Struggling to avoid the blows the smaller of the pair kept balance as he danced to the sides making quick thrusts into his opponent’s flank but was unable to pass the shield that would raise to meet him. Getting frustrated the boy slipped hitting the ground hard, the cheers from the spectators grew fanatical and the death blow came from above,
“Sword side boy!” Benedictus yelled not knowing if he heard. The Master-at-Arms looked to Benedictus and smiled, but quickly returned to the fight. As the savage swing drew close the prone student drops his shield and rolls to the left, parries the blow to the right and kicks the legs out from under his enraged opponent. The boy falls and as the dust settles the smaller of the two has the tourney sword at his enemy throat.
“Yield.” Demands the victor, the conquered sword falls to the ground with wild and raucous cheers from the onlookers. The defeated initiate’s body goes limp, the only movement the rapid rise and fall of his chest. Brother Bracus roars with laughter clapping the victor on the back.
“You’ve done well pup. The boy beamed with pride in his tutor’s praise, humility it would seem was not lost on him though, thought Benedictus as the boy helped his opponent to his feet. “All of you up and at attention, now! Bracus roared his commands, he roared when ever he spoke. Couple that with his grey beard, wild long hair and steely blue eyes it was little wonder he had held the name Old Wolf for longer than Benedictus had known him. The boys formed rank and stood at attention, eyes forward, unmoving. The Old Wolf prowled up the line a mere inch from the squires faces stopping every so often to sniff. Still the dramatic, the Old Wolf had done this to Benedictus when he was just an initiate, I can smell your fear boy, he remembered him saying. “We have an honoured guest here today pups. Let me present to you the one, the only, General Benedictus; Commander of the Black Torrent Guard, Brother of our Order, Knight of the Circle, Imperial Marshall by award of Emperor Karl Franz, bearer of the Imperial Cross for outstanding courage in the face of the Great Enemy, victor of the battle for Alhbeck Bridge, rumoured to be endowed with the greatest manhood in all the Empire,”
“Enough Old Wolf, these boys don’t need to hear your bawdy jokes. But make sure to mention that last part to the lasses down at the Silver Hoof, maybe I’ll get a free beer or at least better service.” The Old Wolf through his head back in laughter, Benedictus joined him. The two embraced warmly as brothers.
“It is good to have you back, what has it been fifteen years?”
“Aye, it is good to see you. I was hoping to see Ricard also” The Old Wolf feel silent, his expression was of obvious discomfort. His eyes quickly scanned the yard. The two orbs of steel connected with Benedictus. Was the Old Wolf afraid?
“Pups, you are dismissed. Return to the dorm and make yourselves presentable for the Chaplain’s lessons this afternoon. The boys made their departure slowly some stopping to shake hands with the General. “Wilhelm, the Old Wolf called to the small champion of the practice yard. “We will be needing a cupbearer to attend us. Run to the kitchen and fetch some cheese and cold sausage, and return to my solar. And bring wine!”
Bracus’ solar was a simple affair, a small round room beneath his bedchamber in the east tower. A small table was positioned in front of the only window in the room which was little more than an arrow slit. A Tilean carpet covered the majority of the floor, it was damaged where it lay in front of the hearth which was cold from the previous night. The Old Wolf lit the stump of a large tallow candle, the flame sputtered struggling to remain alight. Outside a storm was rolling in from the north.
“You have arrived at a dark time Ben. The Order is not what it used to be. There was a tap at the door. The Old Wolf opened it a crack. “Come in Wilhelm, place the food on the table and pour the General and myself a cup, as the young boy entered Bracus searched the hall, closing the door with a curse. “You know as well as I do Ben that we lost a lot of good men to the Storm, too many. Those that remained behind to keep house were cowards and fools.” Wilhelm artfully pored the local vintage, Benedictus noted his intensity. The boy could be no older than thirteen years, almost a man but not quite. His thick black hair was peculiar as was his hawkish nose. He noticed the General’s stare and quickly retreated to the wall, eyes down cast.
“You remained behind.” Benedictus tested, the reaction was not hard to predict.
“Don’t try and play me Ben, the bloody Circle would not let me ride to war. Too old they said, Experience needed for the young they said. The Old Wolf took a long draught of wine. “I should have been there! In the thick of it where I belong. I raged when they left Ben, left me here to tend to boys, old women and queers. And what’s worse, Octavian was named castellan. How that fat fool has survived here I do not know.”
“The men that returned were not the men that left, I know that best of all. The things we saw sent many men mad, including some of our Order. But that is not why I am here.”
“Why are you here Ben, for more knights for His Majesty’s service? To have your armour polished?”
“I have been seconded to the service of the Count by the Emperor himself. His Imperial Majesty has ordered the Black Torrent Guard back into active service. My men have had but a single month with what is left of there families, their homes and I am to take them north. To fight the Great Enemy once again” The Old Wolf stared into Benedictus eyes.
“Why have you come Ben?”
“I have come to place the Order’s banner back into its place in the great hall. I have come to relinquish my place in the circle. And I have come for you and Ricard.”
“You mean for me to travel with you? To fight?”
“And die if needs be, but I have a feeling I will not return from this adventure. I have been so close to death that I could see myself being ushered into Morr’s Realm. You don’t escape death on so many occasions without having to pay your dues and this assignment only further proves that. You, I think would jump at the chance to march to the farthest reaches of the world, fighting hell spawn and heretics. And end worthy of song, eh Old Wolf?” The man’s eyes were distant, his mind’s eye carrying him to the far flung reaches of the world to die in glorious combat. The old man had no children, no family, he lived for his Order and Benedictus knew the only end fitting for such a man was to die for it and the Empire.
“Now I’m only comin’ cause you asked me to, you know. Because you need me. Bracus’ voice almost shook with the excitement, a faint smile crossed his lips but only for a moment as the present concerns brought him back to the present day. “Ben, you need to know Ricard is dead. I know Octavian told you he was missing and indeed he believes it to be true. We had to keep it secret so the fat bastard would fear his return, Ricard is the only one who can keep him in line.”
“How did he die?” The news wounded Benedictus deeply, Ricard had been his best friend and companion all his life. But death was not a new feeling for the General.
“His sister and her family arrived here about three months ago. Their village had been plundered by broken men. Women had been raped, old men and boys murdered in ways most foul. They were not even followers of the Enemy, not Beastmen or Norse but men like us. Deserters from the armies during the war, traitors. Ben, we both know Ricard was not the best at keeping his vows. You know what he was like, he loved life. He loved a woman too. Not like when you were young when you and he would sneak out the eastern postern gate to Silver Hoof to enjoy a bit of drink and some warm company. He loved her and see bore him a son. The Old Wolf’s gaze moved to young Wilhelm. “He has more of his mother in him but anyone who cares to look can see it.” Benedictus had indeed noticed, the boy was not a complete likeness but the hair and nose gave it away. The boy was not so dumb not to know they were discussing him. “Once Ricard had learnt that his lover had been killed he flew into a rage and rode out to bring the men to justice. But I dare say what Ricard did to those men would hardly be called justice. All that returned to us was Wilhelm.”
“Well I will be needing a squire to attend me and he is of age. The circle will not refuse me on that. Boy, I was a great friend to your father and he to me. What happened to him and to your mother was a great evil but these are dark times, darker than any of us truly know.” The boy was almost at tears, his childish pride tried to hide it but the pain was all too easy to see.
“Old Wolf, ready yourself and the boy. Tomorrow we ride for Talagaad. The regiment is marshalling there, heralds have been sent to all towns in the State calling the men of the Black Torrent Guard back together. Some will return, new men will join and once you have put then through there paces we march north to war. But right now I need to sleep.”
This is the first installment of the Black Torrent Guard, the marshalling of the troops is next. Any feed back or commentary would be welcome.
Last edited by Origin; October 25th, 2006 at 00:22.
Very very good. I particularly like the respelling of the Ahlbeck bridge in Germany as the battle he won at. Very good fluff.
The only minor negative is that occasionally you called Ricard Richard. But excellent fluff.
Thank you for the feed back. I think i have found all the 'Richards' and expunged them.
I was trying to capture a bit of the of more human elements of the principal characters in my army. I'm still trying to figure out how my Battle Wizard will be effected by this art. I would imagine that it would depend on what lore he\she (haven't decided yet, wanting to incorporate the role of a woman in the army probably in the form of a beast mage) would use.
I will try to get the next installment out shortly.
To help you out the only female mage in the old world, at least of human origin, that I know of is the Ice Queen of Kislev. Altdorf wasn't really touched by the Storm of Chaos, mainly because the colleges of magic dwell there, and Archaon wanted to destroy the shrine of Ulric first.
This link tells you a bit about the founding of the colleges of magic, and about the 8 different lores and their respective colleges.
Hope it helps :ninja:
Benedictus stopped a moment to take in the surrounds. Iâ€™m on the damned bridge again. The sky was a blazing orange to the west, the last light of the day burning bright before being extinguished by the black night to the east. A chill breeze blew from the north, the sweat on his face began to cool. Ben was vaguely aware of his name being called, a whisper on the breeze. He looked down to his hands, they were armoured, carrying a sword but not his. He was covered in blood. A soldier moved into view. He looked like he was screaming at him but Ben could not hear a word, silence engulfed him. The soldier pointed, Ben followed his hand.
The bridge was covered in corpses or what would soon be corpses, black blood pooled in the mortar of the stone. The soldier gestured to the far end of the bridge. The Enemyâ€™s side. Men in the trappings of red and yellow held rank against the fell warriors form the north. The armoured giants cleaved them apart, the line was braking. Ben could feel himself moving forward, as his pace increased the world became a blur, all but the Enemy. The borrowed sword was raised as he threw himself into a gap formed by another in red and yellow that fell limp to the stones. The world exploded, the screams of the dying, the harsh scrap of steal on steal, the foul war cries of the Enemy, the pleas for mercy from the men under his feet. A ribbon of blue metal craved a trail of crimson through the air as Ben danced. The taste of blood was on his lips, the stink of fear in his nose. The world descended into a red haze, his weapon an extension of his body. He could feel the sweat bite as the blade past through armour, flesh and bone. His soul called to the Gods to bear witness to the power he held. His weapon was twisted from his hand as the lifeless body of one of his victim fell to the ground. He moved over the corpse, his boot on its chest. His hand grasped the handle, wrenching the blade from the soldierâ€™s body, the yellow of the uniform absorbed by red. The boy was choking on his own blood, it came up in fits as he grasped for breath. Pathetic. He brought the blade down in a savage arch severing the childâ€™s head. Another skull for the throne. Ben woke screaming.
His heart felt as if it would pound its way out of his chest, his breath was ragged. The room was dark, the faint silhouettes of the spartan furniture played with the daemons in Benâ€™s mind. He roused himself from bed, moving to the large windows Ben threw open the heavy drapes to let in the morning light. His regiment was billeted within the grounds of the abounded manse which had been given over to him by the Count. Rows of white tents, covered in dew glittered in the morning light. A clear blue sky and the first rays of the sun made their way over the horizon, the warmth of the light on Benâ€™s face quickly dispelled the horrors of the night. There was a quiet knock on the door.
â€œCome in Wilhelm. The boy quietly slipped into the room with a wash basin full of cold water and a hard bar of soap. Placing it gently at the foot of the bed he retreated to the end of the room. He is so sheepish, does he fear me? Ben had often wondered why the young boy acted the way he did. I am sure he is not a coward, maybe i just stank of death. He had caught him once staring so hard at his scars that his eyes almost popped out of his skull. Maybe I should send him to Nuln, save him this bloodshed at least until he is older. Maybe Von Hourst would take him in? Ben quickly washed the nights sweat from his body, wearing his soldiers grab and great cloak he went to find breakfast with Wilhelm in tow.
Ben entered the kitchens to see the table empty except for the Old Wolf who was dinning on hard boiled eggs, cold bacon and a horn of mead. â€œBen you have to try this stuff. He took another long draught wiping the droplets of his beard with his sleeve. â€œI have never had anything like it, itâ€™s excellent.â€? Bracus leaned back on the raw pine chair with a look of contentment in his eye and a small smile on his lips.
â€œThey make that stuff up in Ostland, but originally the drink comes from Norsca.â€? Ben seated himself while Wilhelm fetched some food.
â€œYou look half dead Ben. Has some wild woman been keeping you up in the night eh?â€? The Old Wolf roared with laughter before Ben had a chance to respond. The Old Wolfâ€™s mood had improved with every step he had taken away from the Orderâ€™s Citadel. Just the other day Ben had to have him dragged to bed when he had past out in the mud after some drinking game. He was well loved by the men in camp at least by the those he did not drill.
â€œI was going over the supply ledger last night, I did not get much sleep.â€? Wilhelm placed a plate on the table for Ben and himself, sat and started eating.
â€œLook the boy has an appetite. What about you? I havenâ€™t seen you eat in days. Have some of this mead thatâ€™ll get you fired up.â€? The Old Wolf drained his horn and moved to a small barrel, filled his and another and gave it to Ben.
â€œWhere are the kitchen staff?â€? Usually the kitchen was alive with activity at this time in the morning. Baking, preparing the huge stews for the men. The place was not the same without fat Tanya beating the scallions with her wooden spoon that never stirs anything.
â€œWillow took â€˜em down to the docks to help with the supplies that arrived this morning. Word has it more men have arrived from Hermdorf. About time if you ask me, we have been waiting here a whole month Ben. Too bloody long, Iâ€™ll die of old age before I see battle.â€? The Old Wolf had taken to calling Samwel, Willow. He said it was because he was incredibly slender and anyone stronger than a gentle breeze would make him bend. Despite that Samwel was a very adept scribe and quartermaster, he served Ben well in the past even if he was a little officious.
â€œThe Halberdiers from Hermdorf have arrived? That is excellent, they are good men and have served me well. They will be of great help to you, veteran troops and highly disciplined their sergeant Beric is a man of your tastes. Although I dare say he drinks more. Ben stabbed at his food, slowly pushing it around the plate. He ate a small piece of over cooked bacon, the cold grease made his stomach turn. He pushed the plate away from him and settled for the mead. Wilhelm and the Old Wolf exchanged a look but said nothing. â€œSo with the Hermdorf men that will bring us to almost full compliment. We are just waiting on fresh artillery from the south and the Emperorâ€™s contingent.â€?
â€œYou seem to have friends in high places Ben. Just what marvels is the Imperial Majesty sending you?â€?
â€œModern troops it would seem. Although I believe that it will be equipment more than men. Arquebuses mostly but who knows what the Imperial Engineers will send us. Most likely something with three triggers and one barrel. The Old Wolf roared with laughter, small bits of egg flying from his mouth as he did so. â€œSome men from the Pistoleer Corps hopefully and we are still waiting on our representative from the Colleges of Magic.â€? The Old Wolf scowled and spat. Wilhelm looked as if he had seen a ghost.
â€œMagic! That stuff is bad news Ben. The men will not like it. Damn it I donâ€™t like it, makes me nervous with some witch marching beside us. Its ill luck and bad news I say.â€? Ben sighed. Superstition it seems still runs deep, even within the best of us.
â€œI do not even begin to believe to understand the Art the wizards practice but all I will say is that once we make contact with the enemy you will be glad to have them and the tools they will bring for us. Magus the Pious himself founded the Colleges and if a man such as he saw its worth then who are we to argue?â€? Ben had once held the Old Wolfâ€™s opinions as his own, until he saw the horrors of the enemy, the power they could wield. It was strange for him to think that he would feel safer with a wizard than without one.
â€œSo what other treasures of the modern world will his Majesty send to us? A bomb strapped to a pigeon?â€? He roared at his own joke. No one laughed at the Old Wolfâ€™s jokes louder than he did. The original communication from the Emperor detailed very little of the regiments objectives, only that they were important and had Imperial backing. That meant money and it also meant that Ben would likely have to share command. The Emperor was sending a personal envoy to attend to the army and bear the Emperorâ€™s orders. Some fool no doubt with more frills than brains.
â€œWe are to be attended by a personal representative of the Emperor and he will be attended by a contingent of the Emperorâ€™s own Greatswords. When they arrive we will be issued our final orders and from there we depart. Ben stood, drained his horn of the last remaining mead and flicked his breakfast out the window to the dogs. â€œI will ride to the docks today to check over the supplies. Wilhelm remain with the Old Wolf today he will need your help. I will be back before sunset.â€?
Ben loved to ride. To him it was freedom. The manse that housed the Black Torrent Guard laid a small number of leagues from the riverside town of Talagaad. The ride there was a simple affair of following a shallow rutted road that was over grown with an ill kept hedge. At this early hour the chill of the night still clung to the earth. Dew slowly melted as the sun began its stately climb into the sky, the touch of its light warmed Benâ€™s skin. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath to better catch the feeling. The sun on your back and a horse beneath you this is how men were meant to live. It feels like home.
â€œWe all feel at home under the Sun. But we are only at home for half of our lives. If only we could chase the sun.â€? The voice was melodic, beautiful. She had managed to ride right up to Ben without a sound or being noticed. Mounted on a small brown mare the rider was dressed in simple but well made clothing, good boots and riding leathers, a light traveling cloak with saddle bags that looked empty. The woman was all together unremarkable except for her hair which was as light as spun gold and her eyes that were of a deep azure. Despite having been totally caught by surprise Ben was not afraid, nor shocked. This woman contained a warmth not unlike the sun, welcoming him. He smiled at her and continued to ride, she matched pace remaining beside.
â€œSo, are you a phantom conjured from my imagination?â€? She replied with a laugh. Ben was bewitched by her, the way she moved, the curve of her neck, the fullness of her lips, the sound of her laugh.
â€œAre you that lonely Ben? Her eyes bore deep into his, they held him tight. He felt himself falling, lost in the knowledge hidden within her. She appears from nowhere, knows what I am thinking and knows my name. She could only beâ€¦ â€œYes Ben I am. But you give me too much credit, our Art is as much drama as it is knowledge. People of my ilk grow adept at moving unseen and unheard, the Empire is not a friendly place for us. Anybody can read a man, especially someone who is oblivious to the world around him as he rides in the Sun. And who would I be if I did not recognise the great General Benedictus, Champion of the Empire. But I must not be rude, I am Lyanna, Imperial Battle Mage of the Order of Light at your service.â€? She finished with a small bow and a smile.
â€œWell Iâ€™m glad you have arrived soon we will be able to get under way. I must ask you Lyanna, what do you know of our objectives?â€? Ben studied her reaction, there was only a wry smile.
â€œWhat I need to know General, only what I need to know.â€?
Well that is it for the next installment. I found it some what difficult to write. I knew where i wanted to go with it but found it hard to get there without rabbiting on. that's most likely why the beginning is a bit long winded and the ending a bit short. But hey there is always the next installment, the arrival of the Emperor's Envoy.
Once again any comments and critique is welcome.
Last edited by Origin; October 31st, 2006 at 03:42.
Again very nicely written Origin.
If I might be so bold as to make a couple of suggestions:
1) Could you make speech bold, thoughts in Italic and everything else just normal type. It would make the text a little easier to read
2) I do not remember ever hearing tale of any female mages in the empire. They are generally viewed with more suspicion than the male mages, and most are burned at the stake if they display any talent for the work. If you wish to use a female mage I would prepare a convincing back story. Perhaps she was discovered as an orphan by one of the college leaders?
All good otherwise, keep it up. :ninja:
Considering that the current Emperor has been a great advocate of the Colleges i would imagine he as set an example to follow, maybe making it 'fashionable' for nobles to have a child who studies the Art. I believe that the educated side of the Empire would be less inclined to superstition than the peasantry, they would not understand it but i doubt they would burn their daughter at the stake if she showed a small amount of talent. I think at worst they would be mildly embarrassed and have her sent far away to be with others of her kind.
Once again thanks for the feed back.