Siege of the Eightpoints

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Siege of the Eightpoints
Slaves to Darkness vs Ossiarch Bonereapers 01.jpg
Conflict Soul Wars
Location Eightpoints
Outcome Ongoing
Chaos Breaks Siege of Varanspire
Katakros takes Endgate ans establishes stronghold within Eightpoints
Katakros' soul wounded by Archaon
Lady Olynder expelled by Be'lakor
Be'lakor cursed with death by Lady Olynder
Combatants
{{{3}}} Grand Alliance of Death
{{{3}}} Ossiarch Bonereapers
{{{3}}} Mortis Praetorians
{{{3}}} Stalliarch Lords
{{{3}}} Crematorians
{{{3}}} Null Myriad
{{{3}}} Nighthaunt
{{{3}}}Legion of Grief
{{{3}}} Grand Alliance of Chaos
{{{3}}} Slaves to Darkness
{{{3}}} Host of the Everchosen
{{{3}}} Darkoath
{{{3}}} Legion of Chaos Ascendant
{{{3}}} Legion of the First Prince
Commanders
{{{3}}} Orpheon Katakros (WIA)
{{{3}}} Arch-Kavalos Zandtos (WIA)

{{{3}}}Lady Olynder (Banished)

{{{3}}} Kurdoss Valentian
{{{3}}} Archaon the Everchosen
{{{3}}} Tongueless Lord
{{{3}}} Namon Saskarid (KIA)
{{{3}}} Marakarr Blood-Sky
{{{3}}} Gutrot Spume

{{{3}}}Be'lakor (WIA)

Losses/Survivors
Heavy
Destruction of the Mortis Praetorians
Heavy
Complete annihilation of many warbands


Siege of the Eightpoints is a conflict of the Soul Wars during which the armies of Death under Orpheon Katakros alongside Olynder laid siege to the Chaos-held Eightpoints under the rule of Archaon the Everchosen. [1]

Background

Since the Necroquake and the beginning of the Soul Wars the undead armies of Nagash have swept across the Mortal Realms, overrunning and destroying many Free Cites and attacking the decentralised empires of Chaos. The mortal armies of the Dark Gods were already embroiled in grinding wars of attrition against the God-King’s forces and plagued by a drastic increase in greenskin raids now found themselves swarmed by spectral horrors and shambling hordes of risen dead. [1a]

The fortified sub-realm of the Eightpoints lies at the very centre of the cosmos, equidistant from each of the Eight Realms connected to them by immense arcway portals. It is a strategic location of unmatched importance and the domain of Archaon the Everchosen, Exalted Grand Marshal of Chaos whose stronghold, the Varanspire – a monumental fortress-citadel haloed by a swirling crown of infernal magic from which spills the raw, protean energy of Chaos into reality. The loss of many important transitory routes during the Realmgate Wars greatly impacted on the Everchosen’s ability to redirect his hordes across such distances in an instant, isolating many Chaos fiefdoms. Still, only a fool would question the dominance of the Dark Gods in the Mortal Realms. Sigmar’s great cities occupy but a small bridgehead in a near-infinite expanse of territory. While the Eightpoints and the Varanspire still stand, the armies of the Everchosen cannot truly be defeated, and the threat of their dark crusades will always loom on the horizon.[1a]

Nagash still remembers when Archaon himself cut him down before the gates of Nagashizzar, and the bite of the Everchosen’s dread sword, the Slayer of Kings. If the control of the Arcways were seized and fortified by undead sentinels unfailingly loyal to Nagash, it would further strengthen his grasp upon the Mortal Realms but even for Nagash’s near-limitless legions, such a conquest would be tremendously costly, with no surety of success. But now Nagash has a being whose mastery of the battlefield perhaps exceeds even that of the Three-Eyed King, Orpheon Katakros who was freed by Lady Olynder and the Legion of Grief from Lethis during the Siege of Sorrow.[1a]

Prelude

The Endgate connecting Shyish to the Eightpoints has been under constant siege by waves of undead. Thus Archaon ordered the construction of the fortress of Karheight to guard the gate to Gothizzar in the Realm of Death. An immense edifice fashioned from cursed metal and reinforced by the darkest sorceries, this Dreadhold had been constructed to allow the forces of Chaos to fall back though the Endgate in case Gothizzar fell, ensuring that anything attacking through the Endgate could be immediately contained and destroyed. Katakros in turn had prepared for this and called Lady Olynder to bring her Nighthaunt armies that could not be contained by mere physical fortifications.[1a][1b]

In addition the Necroquake had caused manifestations of living magic that swept across the Eightpoints, transforming entire regions into desolate wastelands ruled by untapped magic. Worse still, these living spells coalesced into hunting packs, drawn instinctively together to better bring ruin down upon their prey. Even the Everchosen’s most powerful sorcerers could barely contain these rogue magics while scores of lesser conjurers were slain in failed attempts to bind spells to their will. All who dwelt within Archaon’s domain swiftly learnt to flee when they saw the blazing light of magic upon the horizon. Further Archaon himself was absent from his dark throne, taking away the majority of his elite Varanguard with him in order to free Slaanesh. The great lords of the Eightpoints would have to face the full might of Nagash’s legions alone. [1b]

The command of the Varanspire garrison fell to the Chaos Lord Namon Saskarid a veteran of the Bone Wars of Shyish, Saskarid had long battled against Nagash’s armies at the Everchosen’s side and was whispered to be close to rising up to become a member of the Varanguard itself. In such turbulent times, any of the arcways could come under assault, and so all had to be safeguarded at all costs. From his warcamp at the foot of the Varanspire, Saskarid attempted to organise a continent-spanning defence against potential threats, even as the Eightpoints was brutalised by the ongoing effects of the necroquake. The Gaunt Summoner known as the Tongueless Lord sensed the concentration of amethyst magic gathering about the Shyish arcway and worked his rituals to perform haruspicy upon the entrails of still-living prisoners.

His crystals focused upon Dreadhold Karheight at the far edge of the Corpse Wastes. The auguries of Death hung over that place like a funeral shroud. Immediately, he sent a psychopomp messenger to the court of Lord Saskarid, warning him to summon the hordes and make for the Shyish arcway in all haste. Saskarid immediately ordered his coven of Sorcerers to burn the sigil of the Everchosen into the skies above Karheight, rival warbands across the continent ceased their butchery at once and flocked towards the distant symbol and the promise of slaughter. Lord Saskarid mustered his elite guard of Chaos Knights, the Deathsworn and began the march to the Dreadhold upon his Karkadrak mount. [1b]

Battle of Karheight

Meanwhile in Karheight the Endgate spewed hundreds of undead Chaos Warriors, once the defenders of Gothizzar they had been resurrected by Necromancy and thrown at their former comrades on the other side. They made their way across the open ground towards the battlements of the Dreadhold but the trenches stretching before Karheight in zigzagging lines were each filled with molten metal; many of the oncoming horde simply stumbled into these ditches and were instantly incinerated. Great sluice-works built into the fortress wall spat flesh-melting liquid and screaming Marauders hurled axes and javelins down upon the mass of bodies as they lurched unwittingly into the spike-traps and killing pits littering the ground. Cheers and howls of laughter rang along the ramparts of the Dreadhold, but the more experienced Chaos Warriors knew that such cumbersome foes heralded the coming of something far worse. [1b][1c]

The Shyish arcway once more rippled open and an entire Nighthaunt procession poured out of the Endgate, rimefrost spreading before them and creeping across the parapets. Soaring above physical defences Chainrasps descended upon the defenders en-masse, swiping away with rusted, incorporeal weapons that passed through armour and hide to stop the hearts of their victims, Bladegheist Revenants whirled and spun in a dance leaving dozens of corpses in their wage and Spirit Torments drifted eerily above the slaughter, drawing the best souls of the slain into their cursed padlocks. Facing the undead was a massive horde of experienced and deadly followers of Chaos including murderous fiends from the Blood Bulls tribe, reaver champions of the Eyetakers, the gold-encrusted Gilded One's and the flyblown zealots of the Putridae. Even though trails of ectoplasmic matter flowed like blood as gheists were rent by cursed blades that tore through spirit-stuff as surely as if it had been mortal flesh the defenders were driven from the walls and forced to retreat into the central courtyard of Karheight.[1c]

Charge of Saskarid

Just as the undead began to descend upon the surrounded defenders, horns blared in the horizon announcing the arrival of Lord Saskarid who led the charge to Karheight at the head of his Deathsworn knights. The entire fortress was shrouded in emerald light due to the sheer thickness of the storm of Nighthaunts surrounding it. In blinding rays of silver light the Silver Tower of the Tongueless Lord pierced the gloom, limned in the witchfire of the countless daemons that spilled from its ramparts and raced towards the undead. The Gaunt Summoner had unleashed the Unbound Flux, spreaders of insanity and destroyers of reason. Heralds of Tzeentch bombarded the undead with sorcerous flamebolts, each fiery missile exploding in a kaleidoscopic burst of madness that destroyed the minds of even long-dead spirits. The clash of the ethereal and the daemonic unleashed a boom of thunder that split open the earth and sent a shock wave rippling across the battlefield. The Tongueless Lord himself led the aerial attack alongside his most trusted Magisters riding upon Discs of Tzeentch at his side. The sorcerers of Tzeentch melted the walls of the Dreadhold into eldritch streams of boiling gold, smothering scores of Nighthaunts and opening a path for Saskarid and his cavalry charge. [1c]

The Chaos Lord and the Deathsworn charged through the helpless Nighthaunts and inspired by the glorious spectacle of the seneschal of the Varanspire in battle, the defenders of Karheight renewed their efforts, hurling themselves upon their ghostly foes with abandon. However the Nighthaunt host outnumbered the Chaos force many times over, and more were pouring through. A whirling cyclone of gheists rose high into the sky to surround the Silver Tower of the Tongueless Lord and cut off the daemonic reinforcements. The Eightpoints was bathed in an eerie witchlight that blotted out even the raging Chaos portal that encircled the crown of the Varanspire. From hundreds of miles around, the storm of Death could be seen flaring on the horizon. Saskarid was filled with hate and impossible strength by the Chaos Gods and he blasted a path through wave after wave of Chainrasps. But he knew that he could only delay the inevitable and they would soon be overwhelmed. Fighting his way through undead hordes he emerged upon the ramparts of the Dreadhold and looked at the Shyish arcway. It was akin to looking upon a ruined dam, a ceaseless torrent of water bursting through its sundered cracks, except the "water" was composed entirely of incorporeal undead. But upon the Corpse Wastes, the vast expanse of jagged bluffs and open plains that stretched towards the Varanspire, now half-obscured by the dwindling light and chilling mists summoned by the dead another army was charging towards the ruined Dreadhold.[1c]

Drawn by the sigil of the Everchosen an army of Warbands had united as one deadly force. Symbols ranging from the eye of Nochseed, the horned skull of the Untamed Beasts to the devouring serpent of the Splintered Fang were displayed in banners and flesh while Ironclad warriors of the Iron Golems charged alongside sadists of the Unmade. The vanguard consisted of warriors of the Untamed Beasts who hurled hooked harpoons into the mass of Nighthaunts followed by Ogor Breachers of the Iron Golems barreling through the fray. Graceful sword-artists of the Cypher Lords leapt and spun past their undead foes while Raven-cloaked agents of the Corvus Cabal rained destruction from above.[1c]

Arrival of the Veiled Lady

The charge of Saskarid succeeded in pushing back the undead host from the walls of Karheight and it appeared as if the undead host would be pushed back all the way up to the Endgate. But unknown to them this was merely the vanguard of a greater invasion. An aura of freezing cold heralded the coming of the Mortarch of Grief. The wave of utter hopelessness, a choking miasma of grief and loss that drained the will to fight from even the most heartless of killers caused an overwhelming wave of sorrow among the Chaos reinforcements and during this moment three spectral funerary carriages erupted from the Endgate that trailed arcs of balefire as they smashed into the Chaos ranks crushing their bodies beneath their wheels or blasting others with blasts of purple magic. Saskarid’s Deathsworn tried to drive lances through their cloaked coachmen, but the ghostly carriages flickered in and out of reality, and many of the knights’ thrusts struck nothing but empty air. Clouds of black rose petals floated down from the darkening sky only to wither mid air accompanied by a mournful dirge. Two skull-faced, spectral maidens glided through the portal; one was clutching a sealed blackwood casket, the other a shattered hourglass. As they prostrated Lady Olynder entered the Eightpoints. Those who looked upon her were stricken with purest desolation and many warriors simply collapsed to their knees, preferring a quick death over the sheer despair.[1d]

Raising the Staff of Midnight high, the Lady Olynder unleashed a keening wail to summon the full force of Lady Olynder’s retinue. Diamond-shaped formations of Hexwraiths galloped across the skies, blazing with evil balefire and hordes of Chainrasps swept towards the Chaos forces, followed by whirling tempests of Spirit Hosts and Dreadscythe Harridans that shrieked in animalistic fury as they hacked and carved their prey apart. Outnumbered and lost in the grip of primal terror, hundreds of Marauders and entire warbands broke and ran, streaming through the breach in the fortress wall and fleeing across the open plain towards the distant Varanspire.

The Tongueless Lord called his remaining Magisters and soared back to the safety of his Silver Tower, daemons of the Unbound Flux swarming forward to cover his retreat. No sooner had he entered the summit of his great spire than the entire shimmering structure folded in upon itself, disappearing in a blinding burst of cerulean light and abandoning his allies to their fate. Lord Saskarid instead of dishonouring himself in the eyes of the Dark Gods charged towards the white lady, cleaving the spectral mounts from underneath Hexwraith riders with his infernal weapons while Deathsworn knights thundered at his side. Lady Olynder turned towards the Chaos Lord and stretched out a slender hand and curled her fleshless fingers like a dying spider contracting its limbs which caused the skin to slough away from the bones of Chaos Knights. Merely a dozen paces from Olynder the Karkadrak of the Chaos Lord took its last breath. Fallen, Saskarid looked up towards the face of the Mortarch of Grief as she slowly raised her veil, peeling back wisps of ghostly matter. At the moment Lord Namos Saskarid saw the true face of the Veiled Lady he knew a moment of pure terror before his heart burst in his chest.[1d]

Fall of Karheight

The supernatural pall brought forth by Lady Olynder spread out from the Endgate, smothered entire regions in darkness. The Legion of Grief in an ethereal tide engulfed the routed Chaos forces, brutally massacring everyone from Chaos Knight to Marauder as they attempted to run away in sheer terror. Stretches of land that once echoed with the bestial howls of mutated predators and bloodthirsty killers were now eerily silent, the only interruption was by a rhythmic tread of an army on the march and glimpse the glimmer of spear tips in the darkness. Even the scrying crystals of the Tongueless Lord could not penetrate the veil of darkness that the Nighthaunts brought with them. [1d]

The Gaunt Summoner felt fear, not towards the approaching armies of the dead but his own master. With the Chaos Lord gone it would be he that would suffer the full wrath of the Everchosen when Archaon returned. Thus Tongueless Lord turned to his spymasters in the Cult of a Thousand Eyes, the Tzeentchian network with agents embedded all across the Eightpoints, and as they heard their master’s call, they wielded their influence to assemble a fearsome Chaos host while summons and threats were dispatched to each warlord and warlock that dwelt within sight of the Varanspire, demanding they make at once for Karheight. Thus an army of Sorcerers, Daemon Princes and Magisters were assembled and if they failed the Tongueless Lord would unleash an arcane inferno upon them that would obliterate even these cursed wraiths of the underworlds.[1d]

Battle of the Forest of Eyes

With Archaon’s prime castellan slain, there was no single figure to unite the disbanded hordes. Thus multiple Chaos Lords sensed an opportunity to fill the power vacuum and claim their own share of the glory. From the Famine Hills came the Darkoath Warqueen Marakarr Blood-Sky with a vast horde of Marauders so large that when they took to the march, they blotted out the earth for miles around, Lord Crawen Caryx of Fell Keep led the Red Thousand, a host of Chaos Warriors wearing crimson plate, draped in salamander hides and armed with red-hot infernal blades and axes marching beneath the glow of the Gorecradle, a smouldering Chaos Warshrine, Thlorg the Bilespewer came from the bubbling Flesh Marshes riding a Manticore and leading the Blessed Sons, filth-smeared raiders and hulking, pus-bloated warriors in rotten green plate, the fly sigil of Nurgle emblazoned upon their chests. They made their way to the Shyish arcway, picking up stragglers from the disastrous sacking of Karheight along the way. The fleshless spy-birds of Katakros observed the Chaos armies and relayed the information to their master.[1e]

Chaos Resurgent

The Legion of Grief had driven the fleeing Chaos forces back as far as the Forest of Eyes when they encountered the thousands that made up the vanguard of Marakarr Blood-Sky’s army. The Forest of Eyes was so named for the unblinking gaze of the Souleater Spiders, infused with daemonic power they prey upon the souls of the slain. Upon a carpet of skittering, shining bodies, Lady Olynder’s pursuing army crashed into the great Marauder horde that the Warqueen had assembled. The warriors that fell were instantly swallowed up by the tide of tiny arachnids that into the openings of their bodies to tear their spirits and trap them upon the glittering webs that filled the forest. Even the Nighthaunts were not immune to the webs that were spun from strands of unnatural sorcery and could ensnare the dead as easily as the living.[1e]

While Lady Olynder was locked in a war of attrition, the Red Thousand hurled themselves into the fray with Lord Crawen Caryx himself charging at their fore, bellowing his praises to the god he knew as the Butcher King and drove into the flanks of the Legion of Grief. Lady Olynder dispatched a flanking force of Hexwraiths led by Kurdoss Valentian, the Craven King, to drive the Red Thousand back but as they rose into the skies they were set upon by thick clouds of buzzing flies. Thlorg the Bilespewer and a putrid flight of Plague Drones intercepted Valentian’s force while the Sorcerer himself unleashed blasts of acidic bile that sprayed over the Hexwraith riders. Bilespewer had struck a pact with the Droning Guard of Septuklus, a legion of Nurgle daemons that specialised in airborne attack. Valentian and his foremost champions forced their way through the confusing tangle of limbs and membranous wings and plunged to earth, determined to fulfil their Lady’s command only to see a horde of bloated Chaos troops seeping across the Corpse Wastes. With the arrival of the Blessed Sons there was now no path to reach the Red Thousand. [1e]

Tide of Sorcery

The Nighthaunts were driven from the Forest of Eyes back onto the open plain. There a tide of living magic swept towards the Forest of Eyes and struck the rear of Lady Olynder’s procession. Gnashing jaws snapped as Blazing skulls carved winding trails of flame across the ground, followed by a tide of displaced earth and rotting corpses. At the head flew the Tongueless Lord and it swept through the Nighthaunt army in a surge of fire and devastation and the ethereal nature of Lady Olynder’s procession provided no defence. Kurdoss Valentian chose to retreat with the remaining Hexwraiths instead of suffering the lingering agony and humiliation as his shattered essence was slowly reformed while Lady Olynder commanded her procession to fall back to the Shyish arcway. However the spectral legions had performed their task, delaying the armies of Chaos long enough to leave them unprepared to the next wave.[1e]


The Battle of Haradh’s Torment

"Know this - any man or woman who fought at Haradh's Torment and survived will be blessed with the favor of the Ruinous Ones. Anyone who lived through that bloodbath is worthy of bearing a shield for me."

-Marakarr Blood-Sky[1f]

Arrival of the Undefeated One

Katakros the Undefeated entered the Eightpoints upon a necro-titan fashioned from the polished skeletons of slaughtered foes, observing the results of the Legion of Grief from high. Marching through the Endgate in perfect order came the finest many legions of the Ossiarch Bonereapers. They included pristine warriors of the Mortis Praetorians, gleaming cavaliers of the feared Stalliarch Lords on their soul-forged mounts. Katakros had even summoned liege-lords of the Crematorians and the Null Myriad to his grand crusade, along with their elite phalanxes. However the multitudinous hordes of Chaos that dwelt within the Eightpoints outnumbered even the mighty Ossiarch host many times over but emotions as fear or nervousness were alien to the Mortarch of the Necropolis. [1f]

Katakros was determined to draw his foes to battle at a site of his choosing and he chose Haradh’s Torment, a rocky mountain that rose from the Corpse Wastes to the north of the Varanspire, its razor-sharp peaks curled inwards like grasping fangs rising from the earth. With the banks of the acidic Black River on its right and an impassable chain of sharp-rocked cliffs to its left, it was in a highly strategic position. The great, fortified highway to the Endgate passed beneath the mountain, and so any reinforcements marching north to Karheight must pass within its zone of control. Though lines of ballista towers and direflame-spewing emplacements protected the highway, these had been overrun by packs of howling Bladegheist Revenants while ranks of Mortek Guard spearmen advanced up the arterial road to cut down isolated formations of Chaos Warriors as they went.[1f]

Ambush at Impaler's Pass

The narrowest point of the highway lay at Impaler’s Pass, where it carved through the largest of the mountainous edifices, a sheer drop to the gushing Black River on one side. While still a league wide with space enough for the Mortarch to deploy his elite cavalry, the dreaded Kavalos Deathriders it was also sufficiently narrow that enemies advancing towards his army would be forced into a bottleneck. Here, Katakros decreed, his force would hold and defeat an enemy three times their size.[1f]

The tripartite Chaos force was united in an uneasy alliance by the Tongueless Lord. The horde of Marakarr Blood-Sky formed the vanguard, this immense army made its way along the road towards the Shyish arcway under the pitch-blackness of the long night with only the flickering torches of thousands of Marauders and horsemen could be seen. They charged into Impaler's Pass, which was narrow enough that it channelled the immense barbarian horde into a single, vast river of bodies.[1f]

Here the Darkoath Warqueen’s host spied thousands of Ossiarchs standing in tight formation at the far end of a gradually rising slope of scree and bone. Their shields were locked and readied, their nadirite spears glinting dully in the half-light. Blood-Sky’s forces surged forwards to crush their foes into dust. From behind the ranks of the Ossiarch infantry, dozens of Mortek Crawlers crept into position. With their trajectory calculated by war viziers the machines unleashed their volleys of great cauldrons of tormented soul-stuff that bathed the battlefield in ethereal light before smashing down amidst the surging mass of bodies to explode in a screaming eruption of unholy energy, waves of madness and fear bursting forth and striking those nearby instantly dead. Nadirite spears thrust out and tore the life from their and in turn Ossiarch Bonereapers were hacked to pieces by axes or clubbed to dust by flails, but the slight rise of the scree slope gave the Mortek atop it a natural bracing point, while the increasing number of butchered Marauder corpses that littered the ground made it ever more treacherous for Blood-Sky’s own warriors.[1f]

The Darkoath Warqueen herself led the attack upon the leftmost flank of the Ossiarch line to reach the artillery engines and Lord Crawen Caryx and his Red Thousand joined her assault. The heavily armoured Chaos Warriors smashed through the Mortek line. Caryx and his followers excelled when lines of combat splintered into pockets of frenzied brutality. After fighting through broken Ossiarch lines Blood-Sky and Caryx had reached the line of Crawlers, where they set about butchering their skeletal attendants and smashing the winch pulleys and swinging arms of the siege weapons halting the killing rain of necromantic energy. From above, Thlorg the Bilespewer descended alongside his daemonic minions, while the heavy infantry of the Blessed Sons pushed along the very edge of the cliff that dropped to the gushing Black River below. While the Necropolis Stalkers darted forward to drive the elite Blessed Sons they failed each time. Bleeding thick, viscous gore from dozens of wounds, the Blightkings ground on, methodically hacking their undead foes to splinters causing the Mortek lines to fail. For Katakros everything was going as he planned with the Chaos forces taking his bait but he did not show any outward satisfaction.[1f]

Katakros Triumphant

Unknown to the Chaos forces while Mortarch Katakros’ armies were arranging themselves in defensive formation atop the slopes of Haradh’s Torment, Arch-Kavalos Patru Zandtos, the Dark Lance of Ossia had departed the crown of the mountain alongside many hundreds of Ossiarch Cavalry from the Stalliarch Lords. Their soul-constructed steeds allowed Zandtos and his army to ride through a series of deadly switchbacks and steep, treacherous cliffs to the banks of the Black River where the path was even near vertical in some places. Completing their journey without a single loss the cavalry circled behind the Chaos army undetected due to the pall of night summoned by Lady Olynder and her Nighthaunts. Suddenly hundreds of nadirite-shod hooves thundered into the valley of Impaler’s Pass with Arch- Kavalos Patru Zandtos himself riding at the tip of the spear. His glyphs of rank blazed bright green in the darkness as he smashed into a mob of tightly packed Chaos Marauders, his lance bursting through toughened leather and flesh in a messy splatter, his horned steed’s grinding hooves crushing many more foes to paste.[1g]

As the tips of the wedge formations blasted open a path, the greater bulk of the riders widened the breach. Unable to fall back, pressed together too closely to form ranks and repel the ferocious charge, the warriors of Chaos were butchered or were forced to jump into the flesh-melting currents of the Black River while others were ground to a pulp against the cliffs of Haradh’s Torment or simply suffocated amidst a stifling press of bodies. In a single, surgical strike, Zandtos had carved the triumvirate army in two. The Mortek warriors swiftly reformed and came on anew, their numbers buttressed by shattered warriors refashioned into fighting shape by the incantations of Mortisan Boneshapers. Thlorg the Bilespewer was the first to fall, his Manticore impaled by the lance of Zandtos causing him to fall down only for his head to be crushed by the hooves of the Dark Lance’s war-steed a split second after he looked up.[1g]

The Red Thousand was lost to battle madness beneath the glare of the Gorecradle, with Lord Crawen Caryx, drenched in blood and bone-dust, carving apart all who strayed near him with his reaperblade even as the Ossiarchs began to encircle him. All the while, the Tongueless Lord’s magic sent whirling gouts of witchflame tearing through the Bonereapers’ ranks, transmuting many Mortek Guard into bubbling pools of molten metal and in turn Mortisan Soulreapers sent icy bolts of cursed soul-energy that dragged his arcane barriers to their limits. Marakarr Blood-Sky saw that the battle was lost and gathering her foremost tribal chieftains to her side, she sent their warriors crashing into the undead cavalry, trying to drive them from the mouth of Impaler’s Pass and force open a route to freedom. The sheer numbers of Marauder Horsemen hurling axes and javelins at the Ossiarch riders created a rain of missiles that seemed like a downpour of steel rain while other Kavalos Deathriders dragged down by barbarians to be hacked and torn apart. Arch-Kavalos Zandtos seeing that the enemy was regrouping and that his Deathriders would soon be caught by the sheer mass of onrushing troops, commanded his warriors to rally towards him. Marakarr Blood-Sky drove her warriors onwards, forcing them through the small gap left by the retreating cavalry and out of the meat-grinder of Impaler’s Pass while Ossiarchs were distracted by the last stand of the Red Thousand. The Red Thousand destroyed many times its number but were in the end killed off until only Crawen Caryx, still stood, impaled a dozen times by nadirite spears and roaring his defiance at the dead. Mortarch Katakros gave an almost imperceptible nod of respect and then ordered his Necropolis Stalkers forward to dismember him. With the battle over in a masscre, Katakros did not pursue the routed enemies, instead began his work on the next phase of his strategy of conquest.[1g]

Siege of the Arx Terminus

While Katakros had won a magnificent victory the Eightpoints was immense and home to endless throngs of Chaos worshippers. Facing large numbers. warped and untrustworthy terrain and the predatory madness of the region’s monstrous wildlife he could not afford to wait for the arrival of supply lines. Thus a stronghold of bone and soulmatter that would act as a supply post from which to reinforce his armies while also being able to break any one seeing to besiege it was needed. Thus did the Mortarch of the Necropolis give the order to fall back to the Endgate. Gothizzar Harvesters began scooping up torn remains of the dead, stripping the flesh with iron-hard fingers and then depositing the ivory remnants in the gory receptacles upon their ridged backs while great caravans of the macabre devices trailed back towards the ruins of Karheight. With the vast haul of bones and soul-stuff harvested from the battlefield of Haradh’s Torment and Lady Olynder’s many victories across the Corpse Wastes, Mortisan engineers were able to achieve remarkable results in a very short timeframe. The near mindless necro-thralls of the builder caste received these materials and, under the direction of their masters, began to construct Katakros’ grand vision. Soon, the black iron buttresses of the Chaos Dreadhold had been almost entirely reshaped or torn down, replaced with winding towers of bone and sinew reaching ever higher like gigantic spinal columns. Mortisan Boneshapers sculpted vicious impaling hooks that would line the walls of the ever expanding Ossiarch stronghold while Soulmasons installed Mortek Crawlers, soulspear launchers and a variety of other hideously lethal war machines in key defensive positions along the bone walls. Mortarch Katakros himself directed its construction, adjusting the defences to the minutest detail, ordering spirit-hurling siege weapons to be deployed so as to cover the widest possible area and extending the perimeter walls so that they would funnel any besiegers into a series of murderous channels. [1g]

The new fortress resembled a bony hand reaching out through the Endgate, each of its seven ‘fingers’ a formidably fortified wall in its own right, lined with traps and weapon emplacements. Beneath it was subterranean catacombs stretching deep beneath the earth. Home to workshops and soul-rendering chambers of the Mortisan caste, they also contained sepulchral cantonments and weapon foundries large enough to create thousands of fresh Ossiarch soldiers each day, as long as it had a steady supply of materials. A far larger tower rose from the centre of the structure, from its summit, Katakros could oversee every facet of the Arx Terminus and conduct with precision any defence that might be required. Katakros named this massive fortress the "Arx Terminus" and awaited a test of its capabilities. [1g]

The Arx Terminus Besieged

Already, more Chaos forces were converging on the Endgate, the majority haileing from the Bloodbound Warhorde known as The Flayed, known for wearing the bleached bones of those they butchered as armour, and ritually flaying their own flesh before battle in a gruesome offering to the Blood God. They were led by the Mighty Lord of Khorne Ghorun Thrax, a pale and silent giant that speaks only when battle was joined, even then roaring indecipherable threats and oaths in an ancient tongue that can be understood only by Khorne’s daemonic servants but nonetheless inspired a furious battle-frenzy in those who heard it.

The Chaos host spilled over the horizon as a great tide of tattooed flesh and muscle. Soon they poured between the fingers of the Arx Terminus and soul-reaper ballistae spat torrents of pure death magic from the walls, blasting scores to dust and ash while great chains of magically reinforced bone erupted from the earth to corral the attackers and making them easy targets for the necromantic artillery. Skull-capped siege towers forged from brass rumbled towards the walls to disgorging thousands of battle-mad Bloodreavers and Blood Warriors but Mortek defenders on the walls methodically slew each figure that rushed at them, while teams of labour-thralls upended amphorae filled with tormented spirit-matter that turned those below into leathery corpses. Three times did The Flayed push beyond the walls into the interior of the fortress and one time Ghorun Thrax himself led an assault that smashed open the gates of the Mortarch’s Seat. where he and his most fearsome Skullreapers were met by formations of Immortis Guard, who carved the raging fiends apart with their glaives while scythe-wielding Mortisan priests reaped the spirits of the living. After cleaving apart two Morghast Archai, Thrax was struck by a hail of necromantic energy from several Deathmages that withered the flesh on his right arm and one side of his face. The howling Lord of Khorne was driven from the tower and sent hurtling over the wall of the Arx Terminus. While this did not kill him, the Flayed lost all cohesion and degenerated into mindless savagery and were either killed off or forced to flee. [1g]

The other worshippers of Chaos faced a similar fate. The splayed-hand design of the Arx Terminus was such that the arcane weapons mounted upon each outstretched wall could cover the next, creating an all-encompassing web of fire and necromantic magic that the besiegers were forced to endure before they even reached the fortifications. The bodies of those that died formed a rampart for their fellows, but the Mortisan priests used their necromantic spells upon the corpse piles, commanding them to ensnare and tear apart those who set foot upon them. Chaos Gargants tore and smashed at the walls but the Arx Terminus was designed to withstand such punishment and even as the walls were damaged Boneshapers and Soulmasons wove spells of remaking that knitted together fractures and closed breaches. The Mortek Crawlers that lined the walls continued to fill the skies with a deadly rain of glowing balefire that unleashed madness and terror wherever it fell. With no way past the deadly interlocking defences of the Arx Terminus the Chaos armies were torn apart as a satisfied Katakros observed from above. The tattered remnants were soon fleeing from the shadow of the Arx Terminus, leaving their dead behind as yet more fodder for the Ossiarch legions.[1g]

Advance Towards Varanspire

With the highways cleared all the way to the Citadel of Ruin and the most pressing of his enemies routed, the Mortarch of the Necropolis began the advance towards Archaon's center of power. While the Tongueless Lord hurled horde after horde at the oncoming Ossiarchs each was crushed and the relentless march continued. At the Gate of Flayed Hearts, thousands of purple-skinned beastmen and hulking Bullgors emerged from the twisted copses to attack the flanks of his columns and Katakros himself disembowelled the one-eyed Bray-Shaman that led this ambush. At the Bridge of Molten Screams, Necropolis Stalkers and a retinue of his elite Immortis Guard fought for more than a day to find a way through the ferocious defence upheld by the Carrion Hounds’ chosen shields. Mounted Marauders attacked the columns of marching undead to delay the Mortarch’s advance but were swiftly driven off either by Zandtos and his Stalliarch Lords or by the Mortek warriors’ spears. [1h]

Katakros left nothing alive in his wake, totems and pillars of worship were smashed asunder, forests burned and fleeing foes scythed down by Deathriders. The decree of Katakros was ‘Leave nought but ash and silence,’ and his warriors fulfilled his order with merciless precision, transforming the anarchic wilderness of the Eightpoints into a sterile wasteland. The Mortarch sub-divided his forces into smaller cohorts as they progressed and when such a detachment encountered a sizeable enemy force, they would form squares and give battle while the Emissarian caste dispatched urgent messages to nearby forces. The enemy is lured by the chance of victory against an outnumbered foe, only for Ossiarch reinforcements to swiftly appear upon the horizon. The necro-factories of the Arx Terminus devoured shipment after shipment of bone taken in the aftermath of Olynder and Katakros' victories and provided a continuous stream of Mortek reinforcements. Racing ahead of the Ossiarch cohorts were Lady Olynder's Nighthaunts. The battle at the Forest of Eyes had depleted the Legion of Grief, but the aura of death and horror that swirled about the Arx Terminus provided fine fodder for the Veiled Lady. She summoned forth fresh hosts of Chainrasps and other spectral killers from the underworlds and, under a pall of choking sorrow, resumed her war against the living with greater intensity than before.[1h]

Battle of Angazkul-Grend

The armies of Death marched through the armoured bridge-forts on the border of the Corpse Wastes and into the industrial hellscapes beyond. Known as Angazkul-Grend meaning Ironskull Forgesprawl in the tongue of its corrupted duardin slavemasters, here gargantuan forge-bellows spew sulphur and ash into the air while masses of withered and tormented slaves toil their agonising lives away to fashion the weapons and daemon engines for Archaon’s endless legions. Immense chitinous behemoths thrust spiked proboscises deep into the earth, eagerly lapping up the cursed metals that flowed far beneath the crust of the Eightpoints. The blackened, skeletal outlines of nightmarish factories stretched into the distance as far as the eye could see. Katakros planned to raze it to the ground.[1h]

During the first phase Mortek Crawlers bombarded the industrial sprawl, each emerald missile unleashing a swirling cloud of tormented spirit-stuff and the sheer intensity of the barrage caused vast areas of Angazkul-Grend to be swallowed up by raging spirit-storms that spread like wildfire. When the bombardment ended Mortek Guard advanced into the tangled, metal jungle but Angazkul-Grend would not fall easily. The duardin slavemasters unleashed their daemonic siege-cannons and other deranged creations while labyrinthine alleys and smoke-spewing workhouses were used for ambushes by packs of Chaos Warriors. An entire district of of Angazkul-Grend was controlled by the deranged cultists known as the Unmade and they launched constant raids upon the undead interlopers. [1h]

But in the end defiance faltered and the Ossiarchs dragged out all living beings and slew them, leaving piles of bodies for the Harvester engines and when a structure was too heavily defended it was bombarded with steles inscribed with soul-shredding curses. Battling through the forgesprawl the formations of Mortek Guard reached the far side of the forge-sprawl and emerged upon the banks of the Soulsplinter River, an enormous, winding tributary filled with screaming, burning souls instead of water. Beyond it was the outer fortresses of the Citadel of Ruin, Katakros had finally arrived at the gates of Varanspire.[1h]

Battle of the Varanspire

Archaon's Wrath

The arrival of the Everchosen was heralded by a large number of supernatural phenomena such as mountains ranges erupting in torrents of boiling blood, plains writhing as each blade of razorgrass instantly transformed into a hissing, three-headed serpent. Clouds of crimson, violet and viridescent flame screamed across the skies, lakes boiled, Forests burned and the Dark Gods roared in triumph. Then came a black host, resplendent in the ruinous panoply of Chaos joined by daemonic forms that boiled from the skies in untold numbers. Bloodthirsters flew alongside Screamers of Tzeentch and flocks of filth-dripping Plague Drones while Seeker Chariots of Slaanesh charged in search of fresh souls to torment. It was the Legion of Chaos Ascendant, a force of purest desolation unleashed only on rare occasions when the Ruinous Powers made common cause. Leading this army was Archaon the Everchosen himself.[1i]

Katakros immediately dispatched a volley of orders and with efficiency that would have been impossible for any mortal army, the Ossiarch formations turned to meet this new enemy. They formed a line along the banks of the Soulsplinter River. Despite himself, the Mortarch of the Necropolis felt a shiver of anticipation ripple through his lifeless form. This was the battle he had been fashioned for, a test beyond anything that he had yet faced. If his death mask of a face had been capable of forming the expression, Katakros would have smiled broadly.[1i]

Archaon was furious at being forced to abandon his quest to free Slaanesh giving the aelven gods an opportunity to move Slaanesh to some other hidden corner of Uhl-Gysh. The Varanguard drove their own daemonic steeds in the wake of their master. The Eight Circles had sent their mightiest killers to scour the Eightpoints clean and these were the Knights of the Empty Throne, heralds of the Everchosen. Mortek Crawlers unleashed streams of witchfire into the sky which fell into the mass of advancing bodies, blasting armoured riders from their mounts. At the command of his liege-lord, Arch-Kavalos Zandtos led his Deathriders forward in their thus-far-impenetrable wedge formations towards the charging Varanguard. Kavalos riders were flying through the air in pieces, smashed by the heavier daemonic steeds of the Varanguard but in turn Zandtos and his champions managed to thrust their lances through helms into warped and twisted faces. However the Deathriders could not shatter their foes with the force of their momentum and the Varanguard repelled their every desperate charge. Archaon himself sent Dorghar straight into the heart of the Deathrider formation which lashed out with hooves and whip-like tails while its three daemonic heads ate ossified armour and cursed soul-stuff. Zandtos fell on the banks of the Soulsplinter and his body was crushed to splinters. His retainers retrieved the soultrap gem, weapons and marks of office that belonged to the Arch-Kavalos so the Dark Lance of Ossia would be remade anew. Katakros had expected it and Zandtos had bought time for the Mortarch to fully deploy his army.[1i]

Arrival of the Dark Master

Lady Olynder’s legion was sweeping above the ruins of Angazkul-Grend, screaming towards the flank of the Everchosen’s host. However the tide of gheists were engulfed by snaking bolts of shadow magic and bursting from the black clouds came the bat-winged form of Be’lakor, the Dark Master and the Legion of the First Prince, formed of the daemonic footsoldiers of Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle and Slaanesh. His own immense daemonic force crashed into the Nighthaunts as a wave, their cursed blades and unnatural magic more lethal to the ethereal forces than the weapons of mortals. [1i]

With Olynder's forces locked in combat the Ossiarchs were in even greater peril as warhosts of Slaanesh smashed into the formations of the Mortek line. The normally fractious Hedonites of Slaanesh put aside all differences, the Invaders of the Lurid Haze battled alongside the Pretenders of the Faultless Blades and the Godseekers of the Scarlet Cavalcade. Surrounded by a miasma of sickly incense, the worshippers of Slaanesh eagerly indulged their passion for violence. But even they could not breach the formations of the Bonereapers. Through the Soulsplinter River came Plague bearers of the Munificent Wanderers, led by the Great Unclean One known as Thrombolhox the Giving who were welcomed by Katakros’ elite Mortis Praetorians and the shore was soon clogged with rotten blood and fragments of splintered bone. Then filth-stained sails appeared on the horizon as plague-hulks drifted down the Soulsplinter River, bearing the corroded trident of the Drowned Men , the followers of Gutrot Spume. The rotting hulls vomited hordes of bloated Blightkings that fell upon the Ossiarch legions. Despite this relentless onslaught Katakros’ flanks held strong, and his Mortek Crawlers continued to rain death and were able to grind down their enemies. [1i]

Katakros ordered his Morghast troops to support Lady Olynder, and the armoured sentinels took to the skies. But before they could reach Lady Olynder they were struck by a storm of blazing red comets. Encased in armour of midnight black, four Bloodthirsters of the Baleful Lord's had intercepted them and sent several Morghast Archai tumbling from the sky but Morghast Harbingers counterattacked by leaping upon the backs of the greater daemons to hack and stab.[1i]

The Tide Turns

The Ossiarch legions fought with unflinching skill and even lesser Ossiarchs managed to slay many times their number before being destroying. The Ossiarch Bonereapers formed an island of black and bleached bone amidst a sea of many-coloured forms, its borders slowly eroding. Katakros unleashed all of his Gothizzar Harvesters into the assault and they scythed, smashed and trampled through the Chaos hordes. Kept unnaturally sharp by Shyishan magic, the Harvesters’ blade-limbs could hew through even the thickest daemonic hide and the Great Unclean One known as Grolthlurrp the Merry was carved by a dozen Harvesters while his rancid innards were dragged out by their subsidiary limbs. Despite the resistance the Legion of Chaos Ascendant drove its way through the Ossiarchs’ shieldwall. [1i]

To the warbands and reaver hordes of the Eightpoints, the slaughter was akin to a vision of glory and they charged from their lairs to fight alongside the infernal creatures that they worshipped as gods. The Mortek line wavered even as Hekatos officers reshaped their lines with consummate skill but it was like trying to plug the holes in a broken dam and for every foe killed ten more surged forward to take their place.[1i]

Suddenly Be’lakor struck a blow against Lady Olynder, driving the Blade of Shadows through her as she unleashed a death-scream that rose above the clangour of battle and stole the life from many who heard it. While even Be’lakor’s ensorcelled sword could not end the curse of Lady Olynder her essence was banished from the Eightpoints. Without her leadership the Nighthaunts were swiftly overrun by the Legion of the First Prince. Sensing that the end was near Katakros sent forth his reserve formations, including the Scions Praetoris, the most trusted champions amongst his elite Immortis Guard. Each of them were created from the souls of warriors who had fought with him for centuries beyond counting. Despite slaying countless enemies even they could not change the inevitable.[1i]

The Duel

As Dorghar circled the battlefield on high, Archaon saw the leader of the enemy. Unlike Archaon, Katakros did not fight at the forefront of his armies and instead he observed from a ridge of razor-sharp rocks overlooking the banks of the Soulsplinter River. Phalanxes of Immortis Guard stood sentinel over their master, and a twenty-strong retinue of Morghast Archai formed a shield of ossified armour around him.The sheer fury coursing through Archaon’s veins as he met the skeletal lord’s gaze caused hot blood to pour from the skies, and the Soulsplinter burst its banks in a flood of molten soul-stuff, drowning undead and daemonic beings alike. Archaon upon the Steed of the Apocalypse crashed into the Ossiarch general and entire volleys of cursed spirits unleashed against him were devoured by Dorghar’s monstrous heads or the necromantic magic dissolved in the heat of the Everchosen's rage. Katakros raised Inda-Khaat and took up the Shield Immortis to meet the Everchosen.[1i]

Archaon completely destroyed the bodyguards of the Mortarch and Katakros gestured forwards with Inda-Khaat ordering his attendants to charge forward. His Prime Necrophoros, bearing aloft the Mortarch’s personal banner, managed to wound Dorghar before a backhand swing of the Everchosen’s blade took off his skull and Karash, his Liege-Immortis, exchanged a flurry of blows but was soon bitten in half by the daemonic beast and in the end all met a violent end.[1i]

Katakros shrugged off his robe and stepped forwards ignoring the threats by Archaon. Katakros fended off the jaws of one head with the Shield Immortis and sank his glaive into the beast’s neck and as the beast reared away, Archaon slammed his blade into the Mortarch’s shoulder, gouging through bone and armour. Katakros ducked aside, each subsequent blow missing him by mere inches as they duelled at impossible speed and fury. Then Dorghar struck and Katakros raised his shield a fraction too slowly. Monstrous jaws clamped around his chest and then the Slayer of Kings descended and blackness consumed him.[1i]

Aftermath

While the Battle of the Varanspire resulted in the Ossiarch Bonereapers’ vast army being wiped out and the destruction of Mortarch Katakros's body while Lady Olynder was banished back to Shyish. But Death now controlled the Endgate and Katakros took another body in the Arx Terminus where lines of new bodies were being built for Katakros so each time he falls he will rise again within the fortress with even greater knowledge about the enemy. However despite his resurrection normally removing the pain of previous wounds Katakros noted that the the wound caused by the Slayer of Kings to his previous body continued to cause him pain.[1j]

Katakros sent summons for more reinforcements from Shyish and the Impaler's Pass was reinforced and more Chaos Dreadholds were put under siege. The defences of the Endgate were being continuously upgraded with more interlocking networks of ballista towers and defensive trenches, building a second line of defences in case the Arx Terminus falls.[1j]


Sources

  • 1: Soul Wars: Wrath of the Everchosen
    • 1a: An Age of Strife, pg.6-9
    • 1b: Domain of Archaon, pg.13-15
    • 1c: Long Haunted Night , pg.20-21
    • 1d: The Veiled Lady , pg.24-25
    • 1e: A Tide of Sorcery , pg.26-27
    • 1f: The Undefeated One , pg.30-31
    • 1g: Katakros Triumphant , pg.32-35
    • 1h: Relentless Conquest , pg.40-41
    • 1i: Archaon's Wrath , pg.42-45
    • 1j: Deathless Glory, pg.48