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Avenger III: Gathering the Host PDF Print
Thursday, 13 March 2008
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Avenger III: Gathering the Host
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Coreaux has overcome the curse of vampirism, and freed the forest of taint. But even at the peak of his power, can he persuade the king to support him? And will his dark powers finally become revealed? In the darkness of an oncoming storm, Coreaux looks to the North and East for aid …


Coreaux looked out over his lands: they stretched as far as his eye could see; yet he knew his crusade was getting nowhere. Seven years had passed since the mission had started, and since then he had been acclaimed throughout Bretonnia for his astounding military skills and prowess in war. Yet he knew he was getting nowhere.
    The only land he had gained was simply wasteland: land that no one else wanted, and that had long held few visitors, and not even skaven infested. His army was too small for anything more. To the north, his lands in Bastonne were flourishing: day-by-day more merchants came, not put off by his proclamations (widely regarded as arrogance: he had received no ‘go ahead’ from the king) that it was now part of Mousillon. But to the south … he held a vast quantity of land, yet for all intents and purposes it was nothing. Geographically his small amount of lands in Bastonne was barely visible on a map, whereas this was a massive proportion of Mousillon: probably about a tenth in total.
    But politically, it was nothing. No citizens apart from the odd wanderer. No economy. No enemies, no real conquests.
    His army claimed it was the greatest achievement since Gilles le Breton cleansed Bretonnia, but he knew it was not so. Even the few battles he had fought would have failed but for his fighting ability.
    To his warriors, it was a mighty conquest. To everyone else it was yet another insignificant attempt to cleanse Mousillon.
    In short, the campaign was failing, and he could do nothing. The king had not given his support, choosing to remain neutral, and other dukes had looked the other way when he asked for aid. The duke of Bastonne had nearly started a war over his announcement about his lands now being part of Mousillon.
    He smiled ruefully. Landuin had been like him: powerful in person but without the resources to fully cleanse Mousillon.
    But, of course, the other dukes regarded that as folly. They scorned him for his love of growing things, rejected him because of his heritage.
    He knew he had one solution: to ask for foreign help. Louencour would disapprove of course, but he didn’t care any more. So long as Louencour didn’t attack him, he was fine.
    But that caused a bigger problem. To do so, he himself would need to leave as a diplomat … and he had no spare time to waste. He had no one he could trust at the moment: no one he could leave to continue the campaign. Which would mean he needed a trustworthy servant …
    It was annoying. It meant he had to find someone trustworthy, deal with Louencour tactically, and then find willing allies. And to do one, he needed to do the other: each was vital, and needed to be done fast. And he had no time.

The door opened, and a guard poked his head through:
    “My lord, there’s a messenger here to see you. He says it’s urgent. He’s from the king,” he proclaimed, and Coreaux sighed, and replied in a weary voice.
    “Tell him he can see me now, then,” he ordered, and waited. He did not have to wait long: the herald impudently burst through the door, in a state best described as “righteous fury”. He spoke in his arrogant voice as if he owned the castle.
    “This is madness! You have no knights! How can you hope to reclaim lands that are not yours with this rabble? This is an out—“ Coreaux stood, dwarfing the fairly short man. His sword eased in its scabbard. He knew it was a declaration of war, yet he did not care: this was his hall, not Louencour’s palace. When he spoke, his voice was quiet yet powerful.
    “How dare you? You burst in here like some animal and speak to me like a piece of common filth. You may be allowed to speak so in your lord’s halls, yet never here. Do not presume you are of a greater rank than me: for you are not. What is the message? Speak quickly.”
    The messenger swallowed, and looked nervous, but his voice was steady. “His majesty ordered me to persuade you not to continue this madness, and if not, declare your judgement, as he saw fit to entrust to me, and me alone. That was all.”
    “My greetings to your master. You speak of matters beyond your reckoning. Political currents are fine, and I do not expect you to understand why I spoke thus. But I am prepared: my forces are ready, and throughout the lands we are proclaimed as heroes equal to those from the days of legend.”
    “And the wise call you fools! My lord Coreaux: I would not abandon my king’s aid so rashly. Do not act without thought. I know your host is weary: many have had to eat insects. Illness is rife. You are an extraordinary man, but you cannot contend with the combined might of the enemies of Bretonnia thus! I beg you, lord: do not throw away your life, for you may have a part in the war to come. We have not forsaken Mousillon, and we have not forgotten it. Do not believe otherwise, for you are making a massive mistake! If you go to war, you’re all going to die!”
    “I appreciate your concern, yet this is a matter of honour. My family were killed by foulness from this land, as were all my followers. Do you think I will let them die and not avenge their deaths?” Coreaux’s knuckles were white on his sword hilt, his face pained by past memories.
    “No! I do not say that … I just believe this is not the best way to have vengeance. Join with us, do not make enemies of us.” The herald swallowed. “You are a remarkable man, Coreaux of Mousillon. I remember you as a child: bright and joyful. Do not throw away that past. I was once your friend: yet I see nothing of that child in you. You are as hard as stone. Do not destroy yourself with a hunger for vengeance.”
    Coreaux blinked, and studied the man’s face. It looked so different … worn by care. “Jean?” he asked quietly, and the man nodded. Coreaux looked sad, yet he did not greet him as an old friend: he stood motionless.
    “It is good to see you. I could do with a friend in these dark times. Yet I will not abandon my quest: nay, I will continue for the sake of my family and those whom I loved. Instead, I ask you this: join me. Your family was lost too. I can see you have done well in society; will you not support my cause for the sake of an old friend. We will not lose, never, not if I have allies. Can you not persuade Louencour to help me?”
    “I can try, but I will fail. I can aid you, but I have a mere hundred knights. Friend: I can do little.”
    “One hundred is as good as a million. I would rather have one loyal friend by my side than a thousand knights. Come, Jean: join me.”
    Jean hesitated, yet he was already persuaded. His voice held real emotion as it spoke. “For old times sake, I will ride alongside your forces. I would do no less. And by my sword, we shall ride together to free our land.”


The next days passed like lightning: Jean sent word to the king, and Coreaux bore the long hours without mental pain or hurt, for after seven years, he had a friend fighting alongside him.
    But on the third day, bad tidings came: the king had officially declared him and Jean enemies of the crown. On the fourth, their force was more than decimated by a series of sudden skaven ambushes. But through this, Jean remained confident: more knights came day by day, and they steadily hacked a bloody path to Mousillon itself: if they could take the city, the land would be theirs.
    On the fifth, Coreaux left to find aid: two of his problems were resolved, yet another presented itself: he had a lack of troops, though more than enough food.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 March 2008 )
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