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The darkest night, the brightest dawn. PDF Print
Thursday, 06 October 2005
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The darkest night, the brightest dawn.
Page 2
It was the seventeenth day of the siege when the city of Hergig, capital of the Imperial province of Hochland, finally fell to the forces of Styrkaar. For the last five days, the troops of Count Leudenhof had been joined by the brave knights of Bretonnia, but the walls had finally been breached by the arcane war machines of the Skaven and the allies forced to retreat. Thankfully, the valiant defence had bought time for virtually all of the civilian population to be evacuated to Schoppendorf, but the loss of the city was still a grievous blow to the defenders of the Empire. With Hergig burning behind him, Styrkaar now advanced on Schoppendorf. The servant of Slaanesh was not interested in plundered wealth from the vaults of the city; he wanted the humans that had fled before him, and he knew where they now hid. Behind the walls, the Bretonnian force stood ready to sally. Their leader, Marquis Etien de Rochefort, had vowed revenge on Styrkaar who had evaded him at the Struhelspan and at the fall of Hergig. Now he swore that the Slaaneshi leader would not escape him again.

The forces of Chaos arrived before the gates of Schoppendorf on the evening of the day after the fall of Hergig. Combat was not to be joined in earnest until the following morning, although there were many skirmishes during the night and the fires of the camps seemed to fill the plain. Within the leaders took counsel and it was decided that attack was the best form of defence – the Bretonnians would take the war to the enemy.

There were many great captains of Bretonnia there. Sir Robert de Giselles, Sir Gaspard de Chabennes, Sir Guillaume le Courageux, Sir Ryant de Cooke and Sir Etienne d’Arden to name but a few. But the leader of the force on that day was the great grail knight of Quenelles, Sir Etien de Rochefort. He who had dealt the death-blow to Krell at the Battle of La Maisontaal thirty years before sought now to do the same to another servant of Chaos.

The morning sun shone red through the smoke from the burning city to the east. It seemed at first that the light was insufficient to raise the shadow from the ground before the gates, but it slowly became clear that this was the darkness of countless black-armoured knights of chaos that no light save the light of an avenging sword could clear. “To arms!” rang out the cry. Horns sounded, cannons roared their defiance, and the gates of Schoppendorf swung open to let flow a tide of light. The Bretonnian knights, the sun gleaming from their armour, sallied forth in all their might. Banners flying, standards raised, horns blowing, swords waving, battle between light and dark was joined; and at the very front rode Sir Etien, proud on his horse and with the light of the Grail in his eyes.

From the very first it was clear that the favoured of Slaanesh could not stand before the blessed of the Lady. The Goddess of the Bretonnians smiled on them that day and granted them the victory, while the God of Chaos turned his face from those that called upon him, for he took equal delight in the agony of their defeat as in the ecstasy of their victory. In desperation, Styrkaar sought to do what he hade evaded previously, he dared combat with Sir Etien de Rochefort.

Now was the reckoning come. Now was the time when the fate of Schoppendorf rested in the balance. Now were these two who had opposed each other at a distance since the siege of Zundap finally come face to face. A path opened across the battlefield, and through it Sir Etien saw Styrkaar sat on a great serpent-like steed atop a mound of bodies. Feeling the bright eyes of the grail knight upon him, Styrkaar turned to face his foe.

Almost a hundred yards separated them, but the great Bretonnian warhorse and the Slaaneshi serpent closed the distance in seconds. Sparks flew as swords met armour, brilliant white blazing across the black of Styrkaar’s chest and sickly purple against the shining breast plate of Sir Etien. Both fell from their steeds, and both rose once more to their feet. Again they clashed together, neither sparing a thought for defence as they sought to take down their foe, dropping their shields to wield their swords two handed. Sir Etien thrust his sword deep into the side of the Slaaneshi champion, giving him what seemed to be a mortal wound. But Styrkaar’s convulsions tore the sword from the Bretonnian’s hands, leaving him defenceless as Styrkaar turned to hew him. The blow stuck, Styrkaar fell across his own steed and commanded it to bear him from that place, leaving Sir Etien motionless on the ground.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 06 October 2005 )
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