Turn 1 - 3
The gray curtain of rain rolled back to reveal the marching soldiers. On the traitors´ side, the Iron Guard stood like a rigid wall of steel, two warbands in front, and two slightly behind and to the sides. Far on my left (the traitors´ right), the crossbowmen carefully picked their way across the rubble of a ruined building. The iron-shod hooves of the Mounted Axe clicked on the rain-slick flagstones as they closed immediately behind the shield wall and surveyed their enemy grimly.
The Loyalists had deployed all their warbands from the Iron Guard on the right. They had shouldered their warshields and loosened their formation to be able to negotiate the winding alleys quickly. Behind them followed the cowled judges, their axes loose in their gauntleted hands. On the far right, the crossbowmen double-timed around the block to keep up with their comrades in arms, taking cover on a redoubted bridge high above the battle line.
The other flank was left to the three warbands of macemen – quite a weak anvil to smash the hammer of the Iron Guard against. The Judges had sent them there to act as bait, either to draw the traitors´ Guard towards the left or to strike at their backs if they engaged the Loyalist spears. As they advanced, the traitors´ crossbows moved up to get a good bead on them.
Silently, the hidden Stalker flitted from shadow to shadow, crossing the line of shields unnoticed, and readied itself to strike at the Guards´ unprotected backs once they engaged the enemy line. One of the Judges turned sharply. In the depths of his hood, sharp eyes glittered. Axe ready, he crept toward the shadows. He knew something was there. He could not make anything out against the backdrop of soot-covered gray stone, but he waited for it to make its move. His axe would make sure that move would be its last.
The Nightwalker followed the macemen, stalking silently towards the enemy crossbows.Turn 4
Within charge range of the traitors, the Loyalist Guard closed their ranks. The rims of twenty-two shields grated together. Twenty-two spears clanged into place on the iron rests. The tension mounted until it was a palpable presence in the air. The traitors were ready and chomping at the bit. Only two steps separated the two lines of steel. Then their leader barked an order, and instead of charging, the traitors presented their spears to salute their opponents. (Marius actually spent an action per soldier on this.)
The Loyalist crossbowmen, who had already brought their crossbows to bear on the enemy line, looked at their leader, whose impassive face did not betray any emotion. His sword was out and aslant his line of men, holding them motionless. It did not waver as he looked down on the battle line. No bows sang. Below them, the Judge started to stalk up the bridge towards them, turning his cowled head this way and that, seemingly following something.
The horses were feeling the tension, too. The mounted axemen reined them in sharply as they shifted uneasily on the wet cobblestones.Turn 5
The Loyalists also clashed their spears against their shields in salute of their enemy, then readied themselves. Above them, the leader of the crossbowmen kissed his sword, then raised it high and brought it down. Six crossbowmen had been waiting eagerly for the signal. A hail of steel quarrels struck sparks from the traitors´ shields. Then the lines crashed. Two horsemen flanked the Loyalists, their axes flashing. A Guardsman went down, clutching the stump of his arm. The second Judge intercepted the other rider´s blow. Two strikes from his Truthbringer axe severed the horse´s forelegs, then sent the horseman´s head rolling along the rain-slick street. Both lines pushed against each other, blocking and striking, spear points clanging on shields. Some found their marks. Guardsmen fell on both sides.
The traitors´ crossbows loosed at the macemen, who sprinted across the open ground towards the fray. Three macemen fell as their backs sprouted leather-fletched bolts. Two horsemen gallopped out behind the Guardsmen´s back to meet the knights. One of the crossbowmen suddenly slumped, clutching at a thin iron dirk that had implanted itself in his neck. Other dirks pinged off his comrades´ helmets, causing them to duck and curse.
On the other side, the Loyalist crossbows suddenly found themselves under attack. The first they knew was when their leader was thrown backwards, his throat a mass of blood. The creature ducked and weaved between the soldiers, thrusting iron claws into the belly of the leader´s aide. Then it crouched, hissing, facing down the circle of men who dropped their crossbows and drew their swords. Turn 6
The mounted axe crashed into the macemen. Their cavalry axes flashed, killing knights with long, whirling strokes, but they finally went down under a press of attackers. Iron maces beat the proud warhorses down, pummeled the riders into the ground. Almost without slowing, the bloodied knights ran on. A few quarrels slashed the air, their tips screeching off the wet stone walls, but the macemen were unharmed.
One of the traitors´ crossbowmen pointed at the ruined building´s edge. A hail of bolts peppered the wall. One pinged off an iron helm. The dazed Nightwalker staggered from his hiding place, drawing his blackened blade and hacking wildly at the leader, who parried the stroke with his own straightsword.
On the bridge, the stalking fiend uttered a frightening sound, somewhere between a gurgle and a choked laugh, and launched itself once more at its enemies. It slashed a crossbowman, punched its iron claws into the visor of another. Then suddenly its head seemed to explode, and it slumped, oozing gray matter and black blood. The Judge grimly cleaned his axe on its cloak and rested his foot on the hideous cadaver meaningfully. The soldiers, who had been on the verge of running away, froze in their tracks. For a second, no one moved. Then they hurriedly picked up their crossbows, turned around, and started to reload with shaking fingers. There was something like soft laughter from the deep hood as the Judge turned away.
When the soldiers leaned over the bridge´s parapet, they immediately spotted one of the horsemen who spurred his horse at the second Judge. Before he could reach the gaunt, cowled figure, four bolts struck his horse, and he went down, coming to rest in a puddle of rain that quickly went cloudy with blood. The Judge had not moved. Now he turned his gaze on the opposing Guard. Stepping on the dying man, he turned aside a spear, hacked the head off the shaft of another, and launched himself at the line of warshields. The axe sheared cleanly through a helmeted head. He bashed the second Guardsman down with his shoulder, kicked the shield aside, and brought his axe down a second time. Then he stopped and looked down. A spear had pierced his side. As he watched, the blade was turned in the wound and withdrawn. Cold with fury, blood streaming from his wounded belly, the Judge took a step back. Turn 7
Meanwhile, the Iron Guard had laid into their brothers. The lines dwindled as soldiers fell. The ground was slick and tacky with rain and blood. To slip or stumble meant instant death. Slowly, the traitors seemed to gain the upper hand. The Loyalists held their ground bravely, but one by one, they died as the traitors pressed their advantage. Then the macemen were there. Looking up at the frightening iron banners, even striking at the unprotected backs seemed a daunting prospect. Some slowed visibly, but one warband crashed into the rear of the traitors´ line without breaking stride. Maces rose and fell, beating out a hellish peal on shields and helmets. The traitors´ banner swayed and fell.
In the ruins, the Nightwalker and the crossbowmen´s leader circled each other, their blades out and probing for an opening. The Nightwalker parried a quick thrust, but then the leader moved in, pinning the black sword with his own. He struck out with his armoured elbow, right under the helmet´s chin-guard. With a gurgling sound, the assassin fell. The other crossbowmen sent another hail at the backs of the macemen, but the quarrels fell short. Grimly, the bloodied leader rearranged his men for a last desperate dash.
Under the watchful gaze of the Judge, the Loyalist crossbowmen on the bridge were inspired to impressive feats of marksmanship. Three Iron Guardsmen fell under their relentless hail of bolts, one of them clutching the second banner with nerveless hands. Turn 8
The traitors´ crossbowmen walked into the square, calmly firing their crossbows into the backs of those bands of macemen that had hesitated in fear. Two men went down, and the bloodied remains of the two warbands broke and fled. The crossbows´ leader nodded grimly. This was more to his liking.
At the battle line, maces and spears did their bloody work. The Judge, pressing forward despite his wound, killed a Guardsman, but slipped on his second attack and sprawled on the blood-slick ground. His opponent pinned the axe with his iron-shod boot, then brought the bottom edge of his shield down on the Judge´s throat. When he looked up, he was alone – all his brothers lay dead and dying around him. A wall of spear-points closed in on him.Turn 9
More maces fell in the cobbled square under the withering hail of crossbow bolts. They turned around and ducked behind their round shields, trying to find cover. When the barrage stopped, only two knights rose again. Around them lay shields, maces, bundles of checkered cloaks – the remnants of their slain brothers. They exchanged a quick look, then fled into the alleys.
The tattered remains of the Loyalist Guard closed ranks again. Shields forward, they formed an iron wall. The remaining renegade feinted and thrust, his spear striking upward through a gap in the shields. One Guardsman went down, coughing blood. With a last defiant cry of "Lammon!", the traitor fell on top of the slain Judge as his enemies marched forward and spears pierced him.
Facing seven Guardsmen, a band of crossbowmen and a Judge, the remaining traitors decided discretion was the better part of valor. They slung their crossbows and ducked back into the ruins.
Many valiant men lay broken and white-faced in the square. They stared up at the leaden sky with sightless eyes, the rain washing the cold blood from their wounds. The battle was over, but it had cost a heavy price. On the bridge´s parapet, the Judge turned away and sighed. The crossbows parted uneasily to let him pass.