The Butcher's Siege
"How are we to hold them. Their numbers are endless it seems. How many foul greenskins does the butchering ogre Kurzan count under his demand. How many ogres, how many Joten tribes has he subdued and forced under his banner? Even the damned corsairs and pirates that ply the Nor-Westor Seas in rivalry have put aside their petty squabbles and united together to blockade our ports. The rails are broken, nothing moving in or out. Any army coming to relieve us won't make it without being engaged and likely wiped out. We are alone, how can we hold!?" groaned Pierre, the young soldier clearly struggling with battle fatigue and a bit of fear. High King Cormac overheard all this, walking the walls as he was want to do. He strolled over and sat with the young soldier and two other sentries.
"My leige!" the youth spoke, startled, bowing deeply, blushing. "I am sorry I didn't see you there."
"No apologies lad, and nae need ta be so formal. Up here, amongst you all, I'm just Cormac. Nae crown upon this head, just a helm, same as yerself. We all soldiers now. I watched ye fight earlier today Pierre. When those damed Bloody Spear Orks got a foothold on the wall, ye reacted boldly and swiftly, rallying the men around you, and risked it all to plug the breach. Damn it boy, but yer boldness saved the day!" The dwarven high king took a deep breath. "Asides yer observations are pretty well spot on, at their base. However answer me this. Why ye lookin' at their total numbers? What's that matter laddie?"
Pierre swallowed hard, under the inquisitive, but not hostile, gaze of his High King, this hero, the Goblin-Reaver, the Cleaver of Blackdale Ridge, Cormac Ironcliffe, searching for an answer. "Because." he said taking a deep breath, "Eventually those numbers, the weight of them, will bury us and the city. They simply have enough bodies."
Cormac shook his head sagely, replaying again a conversation he'd had many times this night instead of sleeping, knowing that the defenders needed their leader. He was the Cleaver of Blackdale Ridge, the Goblin-Reaver, the Deathsinger. He was no mere mortal dwarf to these men, his legend was an epic and he needed to be more than the High King now. He needed to be the legend. Indominatible, undeniable, unravaged by time, even as he felt the weight of his nearly five centuries very keenly in his joints, especially knees and shoulders. He sat by their barrel fire, removing his helm, and locking eyes with Pierre first, but the other two as well, insuring he had their complete attention. "Aye. they do." he whispered softly. "However, yer forgetting a key fact Pierre. How many siege towers and ladders and grappling lines do they have. How many can they get to the walls under the withering hail of cannon fire? Thirty at a time was it, in the last assault? Maybe forty?" The three men nodded, confusion all over their face. Cormac clapped his hands and gave them a grin, "Then yer lookin' at it all wrong nae boy. Ignore their numbers, that nae matter. They can only come at us forty at a time. That's it. That's the number that matters. So long as that fact is true, as it will be at every wall they attempt to assault within the city, and even in the tunnels of the Cavern Quarters should they breach here and get within the city. The only place where that is no longer fact is most of the Docklands Quarters, but the buildings be so thick an' th' streets so narrow an' windin' we can turn that level of t'e city into a charnel house. Nae we may be outnumbered, but so long as we hold any part o' our fine city, an' as long as men and women such as us be willin' an' able ta fight back, them numbers are worthless. Mere words upon the air. Don't think on it, don't dwell on it. Keep yer focus on the things ye can effect and can change. Just like ye did earlier t'day, when that breach opened up.
"With all due respect sir, ye truly believe we can win?" Pierre asked bluntly.
High King Cormac gave him a knowing grin, a look Pierre found uncomfortable. There was something primal, visceral, almost animalistic about the smile. Something wholly viscious. "If I nary believed that, I wouldn't be on these walls side ya lads." All of a sudden, there was a great and guttural shrieking from the walls beyond, frenzied screams of blood and death, as the great green tide pushed itself forward like a wave for the walls again. Cormac rose, letting his halberd lean against the back rail of the wall's walkway behind him, letting his rifle swing around on its strap to hand, leveling it. He could tell the attack would be focused right here this time, for the orks had damaged the outer portcullis of the main gate in the last assault, and this would embolden them. He also knew his speech would help, but his presence would be worth a thousand fold more to the soldiers here, whom were struggling with morale. "Nae here they come again. I think I'll stay wit' ye lads and lasses if'n ye don't mind. When we sees off this wee sortie, I'll insure a proper cask of aged whiskey makes it up here, an' share a dram or two wit' ye all."
Excerpt from a detailed account from the Butcher's Siege, published in the Geata Gazetter as part of one of the many feel good stories about High King Cormac that have run since his death.
In the autumn of 1525, reports started flowing in from the regions on the frontier of Suranth, specifically near the Battered Skull Range. Raiding activity had increased drastically, and the many tribes of Greenskins, foul goblins and orks, were also showing more than their typical savagery. Many times raids were reported to consist of not just one of the small tribes assaulting a forgotten village, but two or three tribes, working together, full on sacking and razing entire villages and frontier towns. Over the winter slowly the stories began to emerge, traveling through the northern reaches of the Tundra Realms, of a brutal and cunning leader amongst the Greenskins. A dark and evil figure gifted by the Fallen God of Wrath himself, Iracundia. Kurzan the Butcher, an immense ogre of titanic strength wielding a monstrous zweihander known as Spine-shearer. It was said his immense strength and presence was unifying the countless ork and goblin tribes that lived and fought all about the Battered Skull Range and the caverns and tunnel systems throughout the range. Stories of his host claimed even the few ogre and joten tribes that made the Battered Skull Range home had been cowed under his banner. 'Kurzan the Butcher' the beast was dubbed by the stories and tales of the horrors the greenskin host visited upon settlements they sacked gifting this new champion of Iracundia with a tile.
High King Cormac was not ideal, and before winter was out, had an army rallied in Geata-Iarainn, and come spring, some fifteen thousand Suranthi troops, with another five thousand navy troops setting sail, as stories reached him of a large allegiance of pirates and corsairs to the west were intending to come and blockade the city of Geata Iarainn. However that intelligence in specific was a lie, and with the naval power weakened, the fleet, including the Wolves of the Sea, out far enough to not be easily reached if reached at all, the first stages moved in. Almost overnight, some thirty odd corsair and pirate ships moved in to blockade access to the bay that housed the capital's port, coming in along the coastline in the dark, coming from the south and east. At the same time, the greenskin host, moving boldly through the tundra and along the dangerous lands of the Needles, moved into the Irontip Range with great speed. Before the first week of spring was over, Geata-Iarainn would be under siege. Reports of the host ranging out against them would be the first great hurdle for leadership of the city. Kurzan's hordes were said to number anywhere from eighty to one hundred thousand, including no less than some five thousand joten and ogres. Morale in the city was suffering mightily, for in sending the Navy, they'd weakened substantially the city's veteran core of experienced fighters. In fact, under his adopted son Twaren Storm-born, High King Cormac had even sent half of his elite royal guard regiment, Baraz's Brawlers, a battle group of two hundred Iron Dragons, the most elite infantry troops of the Suranthi Armed Forces. The city's core would only consist of a little under a two thousand professional warriors, even fewer of those soldiers, most mercenaries or private sector fighters, body guards for richer clientele. Besides this, it would be up to levies, swiftly organized and trained to some basic standard, to hold the city. Those whom called Geata-Iarainn home would have to defend it, despite not being professional soldiers. It would be up to High King Cormac, his son Morgrym, Knight-Commander of the Storm-Lancers, along with Storm-Father Noisgruam, head of Kartheartian Faith, and Arch-Magister Tobias Bellemore to be inspiring figures of strength and leadership. The naval blockade started two weeks before Kurzan's army arrived, giving them some time to make final preparations, and they had not been idle through the winter, having already made some very difficult leadership decisions, decisions that though they could not know it at the time, though in many cases unpopular or bad for morale when made, would become key factors in the coming weeks. These decisions included;
These decisions, unpopular as they were, would play a massive role in the coming battles and seige.