Siege of Sorrow

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The Siege of Sorrow was a battle of the Soul Wars fought between the defenders of Lethis and the Legion of Grief. The Legion of Grief under Lady Olynder was sent by Nagash to destroy the city and open the Stormvault known as the Midnight Tomb which contained a powerful entity that had served Nagash in the past. After a bloody battle between the alliance of defenders and the Legion of Grief the city was ultimately saved but the Midnight Tomb was opened and the entity sealed beneath, revealed to be Orpheon Katakros was released alongside several Endless Spells that ravaged most of the city which had already been heavily damaged by the hordes of undead.[1]

Background

The city of Lethis is a strategic link between the Realm of Azyr and the contested lands of Shyish, however unknown to most beneath the gardens of Lethis Mausoleum lies a network of ossuaries and shrines and at the center lies a towering mausoleum of obsidian known as the Midnight Tomb defended by the Anvils of the Heldenhammer. This is in fact a Stormvault containing shards of long forgotten gods of death, rogue Shyishian magic and other creations of necromantic power. At the heart is an entity bound within an arcane void, its immense energy used to power the Penumbral Engines that cloaked the complex.[1a]

During the Necroquake the entity was awakened and its roar of bitter fury reached all the way to Nagashizzar where its former master ruled. Nagash already enraged with Sigmar was further enraged upon learning about the newest betrayal. He summoned his Mortarch of Grief, Lady Olynder and ordered her to tear open the vaults beneath the city and to kill every mortal after subjecting them to the deepest despair.[1a]

Prelude

Lady Olynder summoned her armies of Nighthaunt while her betrothed the Craven King Kurdoss Valentian called forth several powerful Wight Kings and Necromancers whose shambling minions would provide men-at-arms for the procession of death. The army marched to the Deific Mons. In ancient times the demigods and titans of Shyish gathered here and its doorways alone are large enough for a thousand troops to march through abreast. The wailing processing swept into the fortress in an unending tide seeping into every corner while swirling clouds of spirit hosts covered it's tallest towers. Such was the power of the gathering a growing despair seeped into the hearts of Slaaneshi revelers as far as Bacchanalia.[1a]

A Swifthawk Agent from an advanced scouting mission returned half-insane with fear and grief with the news of the massive ethereal host that is vast enough to cover the peaks of the Deific Mons. Immediately calls for aid were sent to both their allies and to Azyrheim. [1a]

The skies of Lethis were patrolled by the Kharadron Overlords from Barak-Nar under the command of Admiral Bryge Colsstarn who ran a aether gold mining operation above the Defic Mons but was abandoned due to the Legion of Grief. The admiral intended to recover the pump-station but was also attracted by the offer of privateer work and the rumors of treasure beneath the city. Beneath the Dwindlesea lies a whirlway known only to the Idoneth Deepkin of the Ionarch Enclave. In recent times the aelves from the deep had begun to open ties with Humans and the envoy to Lethis Soulscryer Nammos had been intrigued by the memory-eating powers of the Penumbral Engines. Fyreslayer mercenaries from the Greyfyrd Lodge had campaigned for Lethis for months, fighting the deadwalker hordes that appeared in the aftermath of the Necroquake. However ties had been deteriorating with higher fees being demanded and the shipment of Ur-Gold intended to be used to pay the mercenaries disappearing under mysterious circumstances. The ill-tempered leader of the Fyreslayers, Runeson Graegar was placated for the time being with promises of additional payments. Finally the Tenebrous Court led by the Ghoul King Maldoros had pledged to protect the city. The Lord-Relictors of the Anvils of the Heldenhammer seeing that the horrors committed by the Flesh-Eater Courts are not of evil nature but due to their insanity sent several envoys to the Ghoul King who in his madness saw them as diplomats from a tottering kingdom who sought his protection. [1a]

The Battle on Lake Lethis

The battle began with a great wave of spectral undead, thousands upon thousands of Nighthaunts forming a mass of churning spirit-stuff as large as the harbour wall of Lethis itself. The air had turned biting cold with rimefrost forming on the hulls of fishing ships. The wave devoured the fishing ships in its way and many fishermen were overtaken by fear and fell overboard into the enchanted waters below. The defenders of the city would have been caught off-guard if not for the arrival of the Idoneth Deepkin under King Ecraviir Blacktide who had been warned by the Soulscryers who had detected the tormented soul-stuff of the Nighthaunts. Protected from the memory-eating properties of the water by their own magic, King Blacktide led a phalanx of hundreds of elite Akhelian Guard upon his own steed the Deepmare Savrentis which crashed into the nighthaunt vanguard and blasted them with their enchanted lances in a storm of spectral energy. More Idoneth forces including a massive Leviadon arrived from the deep, some crashing through the hulls of fishing ships fleeing back to the city but soon the undead were in retreat pursued by the aelves. The Ionarch vanguard was followed by Namarti thralls who gathered up the confused and terrified sailors as the aelves considered their souls to be more important to the Ionarch than their families left behind, loved ones that are no longer remembered by the fishermen.[1b][2]

The Idoneth chased the Nighthaunt all the way to the northern edge of the great lake where they realised the scale of the horror that awaited Lethis. An even larger swarm of spectral undead now surrounded the Idoneth who had begun to take serious losses with even the elite Akhelians being dragged from their mounts by grave-cold talons. The corpses of Namarti began to pile up on the shores and even the massive Leviadon Grymscale was killed, its hide withered by potent necromancy. King Blacktide saw hundreds of skeletal figures pouring from the forest, marching in lockstep with their spears levelled to surround the Namarti on the shore. He commanded his remaining Akhelians to charge towards the Deathrattle but they were blocked by even more Nighthaunts led by a Knight of Shrouds. It was then storm clouds with lighting arcs of blazing amethyst began to gather and suddenly the clouds parted as great columns of violet lightning slammed straight into the Nighthaunt mass. From the lightning came the Stormcast Eternals of the Anvils of the Heldenhammer led by Lord-Celestant Ossiach Vanderghule of the Soulguard Chamber. Vanderghule led the charge upon his dracoth and together with with the Idoneth Deepkin wiped out the undead army. However in that moment of victory, Vanderghule saw that a massive emerald cloud was descending from the northern sky and beneath it the ground crawled with untold numbers of the dead. The Lord-Celestant knew this was not a natural phenomenon of Shyish and he saw that in the emerald cloud was a massive host of Nighthaunt with scythe-wielding spectral riders at the front and on the ground was a tide of flesh and bone created by thousands upon thousands of deadwalkers and deathrattle. [1b][3]

Knowing that the coming army was too vast even for the combined Idoneth and Stormcast armies the Lord-Celestant ordered a retreat. The rear guards slammed their shields to form a wall of onyx sigmarite while the rest retreated, stepping back rank by rank while singing a mournful dirge. As the charging Hexwraiths slammed into the rearguard the sky was lit by the lighting-spirits of the slain stormcasts while horrorghasts summoned by the spectral wizards took on the face of Nagash himself and fed on the growing fear. Even though the rearguard fought with grim determination to buy time it became obvious that the defenders would be overrun. It was then the Greyfyrd Fyreslayers led by Runeson Graegar attacked the undead vanguard. Despite being bitter about the owed payments he had no option but to seek refuge behind the walls of the city with the rest. Fyresteel axes and the supernatural heat of molten lava spewed by Magmadroths burned through the ectoplasmic bodies of nighthaunts, scattering them to aether. Vanderghule's attempt to thank him was refused by Graegar who claimed that the fellowship with the Greyfyrd had been broken by the delay in payment.[1b]

The Siege of Sorrow

The Raven City had faced many sieges by undead armies but all were repulsed, however the Legion of Grief was beyond any such invasion. It was Lord-Ordinator Arthreus who was responsible for the organisation of city defences. The outer wall of was already built in a hexagrammatic pattern that channeled the cleansing light of Azyr and in the aftermath of the Necroquake he had directed the Dispossessed work crews in the creation of intricate sluice-works in the masonry which were then filled with raw celestium. As long as the walls stood he believed that it would stop the nighthaunt from simply sweeping though the walls and if they tried they would be seared by the holy emanations. Under his directions Devoted warpriests supplied artillery crews with Azyrite starwater and javelins of blessed chamonic silver while the Northern walls were defended by Celestar Ballistas to wreak carnage upon the enemy ranks. The Blackshore Guard, the militia of Lethis was fully mobilised and entire regiments of black-coated Freeguild Handgunners lined the walls with faces of grim determination and alongside the mortals stood retinues of Liberators and Paladins of the Anvils of Heldenhammer. Behind this first line of defence the Sacrosanct Chambers, the Grave Brethren and Sempiternals sprinkled blessed starwater over ley lines and drew wards that would cause agony to ethereal beings that would attempt to breach the sanctified gardens. Most of the Idoneth were stationed in the defense of mausoleum because the agile mounts of the Akhelian Knights being more effective in open spaces as well as to be closer to the secrets of the Stormvault.[1b]

As the Legion of Grief covered the horizon the people of Lethis began to hang charms on their doors and pray to Sigmar and Morrda. There prayers were answered and in Azyr Sigmar summoned the Celestant-Prime, the Avenging Angel and the wielder of Ghal Maraz. The Celestant-Prime became the embodiment of the Anvils of the Heldenhammer, his armour in black sigmarite and the spirits of those who had sacrificed themselves to their cause swirling around him. Stormcasts Eternals were occupied with numerous campaigns across the mortal realms in the aftermath of the Necroquake but thousands of Devoted of Sigmar answered his call, many joining knowing that they are marching to their deaths. The leader of the crusade was Excelsior Warpriest Pravus Morningstar, the High Acclamator of Azyrheim and one of Sigmar's most trusted servants. However the force had little time to muster with mere hours before the realmgate to Lethis would close for weeks. Suddenly in Lethis a spear of heavenly light pierced the veil and through it came Celestant-Prime followed by a host of flagellants and a procession of faithful carying banners and bones of saints. Celestant-Prime spoke in whispers both comforting and achingly sad at the time and the words echoed in the minds of the citizens of Lethis, "You are not forgotten, children of Sigmar and death will not have its due this day". He immediately called a council of war and the Fyreslayers were placated with an offer of even greater payment from the vaults of Azyrheim.[1b]

City besieged

The deadwalker horde that approached the city walls blotted out the ground for miles, covering everything in a sea of rotten yellow-brown flesh. Amid that ocean of the dead came giant siege towers created by Deathmage cabals from bone and sinew as well as giant battering rams created from gargant skeletons capped by stone hammerheads. A line of fire appeared across the undead horde as helstorm batteries fired the first volleys sending rotten body parts flying up into the sky as the immense charges filled with blessed shrapnel lobbed by starsilver mortars exploded. The subsequent barrage of great-cannons blew apart siege engines while devastating fire balls were unleashed by the ships of the Kharadron Overlords. They fired aethermatic volley cannons and dropped clusters of grudgesettler bombs whilst the grundstock marines fired at the nighthaunts attempting to swarm the vessels and in the middle of the formation was Admiral Bryge Colsstarn's ship the Ironclad Dealbreaker.[1c]

However for every siege tower destroyed two or more drew closer and those that reached the parapets slammed their skull-shaped siege rammed onto the walls and unleashed hordes of Zombies and Dire Wolves upon the wall of silver halberds of the Blackshore Guard. From the skies came hordes of Chainrasps that attacked with wraith-daggers and chains while Bladegheist Revenants cut through the ranks as a cyclone of spinning blades. Many of the people of Lethis were however unyielding and fought back, while those that ran were cut down and their souls taken by Spirit Torments. The sight of the Anvils of the Heldenhammer fighting kept the morale high and Lord-Celestant Vanderghule led by example, neither gheist or deadwalker could break the Stormcast line. Fyreslayers under Runeson Graegar had shattered the undead vanguard and fought their way through to the Square of Martyrs but once they regrouped the Greyfyrd suddenly fell upon the undefended flanks of the Stormcast Eternals and opened the Onyx Gate. This created a new breach for the undead to enter the city. Unknown to their supposed allies Runeson Graegar had been approached by the servants of Nagash who paid him well in chests Ur-Gold.[1c]

Through the gate came Lady Olynder accompanied by her consort Kurdoss Valentian leading the hosts of Nighthaunt. The Mortarch of Grief emanated a crushing weight of loss and tragedy that caused the Blackshore Guard to drop their weapons and fall to their knees, weeping and tearing their skin off in a grief stricken frenzy. Other defenders retreated into the labyrinth streets, firing their guns while the Necromancers upon their palanquins fired black bolts of deathly fire. The Stormcasts were surrounded, most either sent back to Azyr or their souls captured within the rusted locks of Spirit Torments. Vanderghule and Graegar met face to face but the Lord-Celestant was defeated and his soul sent to Azyr even before his body fell to the ground. Lady Olynder led her forces to attack the entrance to the Midnight Tomb and the Craven King seeing that Stormcast forces were divided between the Mausoleum and the Grand Necropolis led the remaining forces and his Greyfyrd allies against the Stormkeep so Lady Olynder can breach the Stormvault uninterrupted.[1c]

Battle at the Grand Necropolis

The Grand Necropolis, the Stormkeep of the Anvils of the Heldenhammer towered above the city, its tallest spires scraping the clouds. Its sheer-walled surface was covered in Ballista towers and murder holes while the fortifications were designed to trap any besieger in an overlapping web of artillery fire and Judicator arrows. Enchantments repulsed daemons and spirits while the Stormkeep was surrounded by a moat of holy starwater. However the approaching horde of undead which had been further reinforced by the reanimated dead of the city overwhelmed them. Necromancers marched zombies in the thousands into the moat till they piled up to create a bridge. Upon this bridge of rotting corpses Runeson Graegar led a charge of Magmadroths that unleashed streams of flame upon the Stormcasts guarding the great gate while the riders struck the rest but in turn many of the beasts fell to hammers and crackling arrows. Then came the Craven King and his horde of Nighthaunt who overwhelmed the enchantments through sheer numbers, Dreadscythe Harridans and Hexwraiths fell on clusters of archers and artillery nests allowing Runemasters to hammer runes of breaching upon the fortress walls while Magmadroths spat a torrent of flame at the portcullis. [1c]

Suddenly blazing comets rained down from the sky to explode among the Greyfyrd which was followed by Prosecutors hurling stormcall javelins that struck as bolts of celestial lightning. While death rained on the frontline chants of the Devoted of Sigmar echoed through the city as Pravus Morningstar charged and his host of wild-eyed flagellants crashed into the rear of the undead army. It was then the Celestant-Prime himself joined the battle, diving into battle he splintered the skull of Graegar's Magmadroth into pieces with a blow from Ghal Maraz. When the runeson's hearthguard came to his aid each one of them were blasted away, their rune-marked flesh and fyresteel no match against the legendary hammer and in the end only Graegar remained. The Celestant-Prime pronounced Graegar's soul to be damned both in this life and others before splintering his skull into bloody fragments. Onlookers saw a halo of purplish flame engulf the dead runeson's body which was then drawn into the Great Shatterer. As the Celestant-Prime turned towards the remaining Greyfyrd forces the Khadoran Overlords descended firing upon the fyreslayers as Grundstock marines and Arkanaut companies jumped from the gunwales while firing their guns on the fyreslayers who refused to back down from the fight. This was followed by a merciless massacre that saw the thousands of fyreslayers that joined the battle being reduced to a few hundred and the remnants of the undead host led by the frustrated Craven King retreating. The surviving Greyfyrds would ultimately take the long walk and the become Doomseekers. [1c]

Breaching of the Midnight Tomb

The Sacrosanct Chambers under Lord-Arcanum Ghalmorian defended the mausoleum gardens from the endless tide of undead attempting to enter the Midnight Tomb below. Nighthaunt were banished in the hundreds, their spectral bodies broken by weapons enchanted with heavenly magic while Lord-Exorcists drained the souls into their redemption caches to judge each of then and the unworthy were banished to the aether. Ghalmorian himself rode his Celestial Dracoline, unleashing thunderous storms of Azyrite magic. King Ecraviir and his Akhelian Guard swept the open gardens, their weapons scything through ended hordes. But the undead hordes kept coming, breaking through the arcane wards through sheer numbers and the line of sequitors had begun to fall apart. Seeing the situation Ghalmorian ordered a retreat into the guardian chamber of the Midnight Tomb while the Evocators created a web of burning lightning. [1c]

In a desperate last gambit Ghalmorian ordered his evocators to break open the subsidiary chambers of the tomb which contained relics whose power was smothered by the Penumbral Engines and rune-sealed caskets. As they were opened and released they began to reawaken and Ghalmorian took the Shield of the Pale Knight which is a large shield made of invictunite and the bones of a long dead saint while King Ecraviir took the sword Gheistbane, a shard of pure amethyst magic that can devour the spirit essance of any being living or dead. King Ecraviir swept through halls, each arc of his sword devouring the spectral bodies of Nighthaunt while the Shield of the Pale Knight bathed Ghalmorian and his evocators in a radiant glow that repelled undead attacks as they retreated to the heart of the Midnight Tomb. Lady Olynder also ordered her troops to break open the vaults suffused with death magic, resulting in many Endless Spells of death and entropy being released. Olynder released a shard of Lauchon the Soulseeker and commanded the shard of the long-dead god to seek the powerful entity trapped within the tomb.[1c]

At the heart of the Tomb the combined forces of the Stormcast and Idoneth were being overwhelmed by the undead hordes as Olynder herself joined the battle. Ghalmorian led a charge of Evocators upon Dracolines and Akhelian Knights but failed to reach Olynder and as he attempted to unleash a storm of celestial lightning he was dragged to the ground by a Lord-Executioner and was finished off by Bladeghast Revenants while King Ecraviir was forced to keep fighting a hopeless battle. Black rose vines grew from Olynder and rose up to the rune wards that kept a hanging orb of darkness locked and they began to slowly pry open the locks.[1c]

Ride of the Tenebrous Court

Suddenly came a terrible sound and the stench of carrion. The Freeguildsmen still fighting upon the walls saw Tenebrous Court led by King Maldoros upon his Zombie Dragon marching from the east accompanied by Vanguard-Palladors. The court saw the Legion of Grief as an army of monsters assaulting a gleaming city while his own being its saviors. The necromancers of the Legion of Grief initially thought them to be reinforcements and when the Tenebrous Court charged they were unprepared and were overrun and devoured. Lord-Relictors attempted corral as many Mordants as possible towards the Midnight Tomb but many gave into their hunger and went killing indiscriminately. Adding to the chaos horrorghasts summoned by Nighthaunt mages grew in power, feeding on the fear of the city's populace while Shards of Valagharr released from the Midnight Tomb orbited the battle, ensnaring the souls of helpless victims. [1c]

As the the Flesh Eater's threatened to run out of control the Celestant-Prime landed before Ghoul King Maldoros. Maldoros saw the Avenging Angel as a wise spirit of an ancestor and the susurrus of deathly voices emnating from the Celestant-Prime soothed his insanity and focused the minds of his minions. Then gathering both the remaining Stormcasts and the forces of the Tenebrous Court the Celestant-Prime led the charge towards the Midnight Tomb. [1c]

Cataclysm

While the main force of the Legion of Grief had been defeated the Celestant-Prime knew the danger posed by the enity sealed within the Stormvault and swept through the catacombs of the Midnight Tomb followed by a host of Prosecutors. The Avenging Angel crashed into the central chamber and there fought with Lady Olynder, Ghal Maraz clashing with the Staff of Midnight. Even that foul artifact of dark magic was no match for the Great Shatterer and the Mortarch of Grief was driven backwards as she wailed. At that moment Olynder signaled one of her handmaidens who took a hourglass filled with pure grave-sand and smashed it. Instantly the Celestant-Prime's armour began to buckle and rust but before he was dispatched back to Azyr he took one horrified look at the orb above as it burst open in a blinding explosion.[1c]

Aftermath

The city was Lethis was devastated and for miles stretching from the city center to the eastern gate were ruins and corpses. However ultimately the city survived and the Freeguild began immediately clearing the remaining undead in the city. Sigmar looked at the people of Lethis with pride but he knew that the entity released would bring death to millions upon millions. In Azyr a manifestation of Teclis confronted Sigmar and criticised turning the Enlightenment Engines gifted by him into the Penumbral Engines and refused to march the armies of Hysh against Nagash but accepted that one day he will need the aid of Azyr before disappearing. Sigmar then summoned his greatest generals with a booming crash of thunder. [1e]

Sources