The twisted, baying creatures came on in a great mass, howling and screaming at the darkening sky. Some shambled on all fours like dogs, others ran upright and looked almost human like but only bounding for in loping strides. Some of the mass of demons wielded giant axes, twice the size of a manling, others bore whips. Some didn't use weapons, but gliding through the shadows or calling upon the fiery magics.
As the sun glittered off the peaks of the mountain around them, a host of dwarfs stood grimly watching the fresh wave of warped horrors sweep up into the valley of the Grim Batol. For five long days they had stood against the horde pouring from the South. The sky seethed with magical energy above them, pulsing with unnatural vigour. Storm clouds tinged with blue and purple roiled in the air above the dark host.
At the head of the army stood the High Thane of the Wildhammers, but this is not a tale of Khardros Wildhammer but of Ragnar Bearclaw who was naught but a beardling who had earned his right to fight by the Thane's side in the unit of his body guard and lead it. His bright orange beard was stained with dirt and blood and he held his glimmering rune covered hammer heavily in his hand, holding his shield by his side loosely in the other arm. Around him the other guard picked up their hammers, axes and shields and closed around the High Thane. preparing for for the fresh onslaught. It was a Dwarf standing to Ragnar's left, Godri Stonehewer, who broke the grim silence.
'D'ye think there'll be many more o' 'em?' he asked, hefting his hammer in his right hand. 'Only I 'aven't 'ad a beer in three days.'
Ragnar chuckled and looked across towards Godri. 'Where did ya find beer three days ago?' He said with a weary grin. 'Ah 'aven't 'ad a drop since tha' first day.'
'Well,' Godri replied, avoiding the Gaurdsman's gaze, 'there may 'ave been a barrel or two tha' were missed when we was givin' out the rations.'
'Godri!' snapped Ragnar, genuinely angry. 'There's gid fighter's back there wi' blood in their mouths that 'ave 'ad tae put up wi' that elf-spit fer three days, an' ye 'ad yer own beer? If ah survive this we'll be 'avin' words!'
Godri didn't reply, but shuffled his feat and kept his gaze firmly on the ground.
' 'eads up,' someone called from further down the line. The dwarf throng was silent as they kept their gazes locked on the beasts of the Nether as they approached, and above the howling and baying of the twisted monsters, the clear trumpet call of the Wildhammer archers could be heard, marshalling their line.
The unnatural tide of demons mutated in with the smaller bodies of Dark Iron Dwarfs was now some five hundred yards away and Ragnar could smell their disgusting stench. In the dim light, a storm of white-shafted arrows lifted into the air from the archers and fell down amongst the horde, punching through demonic hide and the leathery skin of Dark Irons. Another volley followed swiftly after, then another and another. The ground of the valley was littered with the dead and dying, dozens of arrow-pierced corpses strewn across the slope in front of Ragnar and the High Thane's army. Still, the beasts rushed on, heedless of their casualties. Now they were now only two hundred yards away.
Three arrows burning with a deep red flame arced high into the air.
'Right, that's us.' said Ragnar. He nodded to Thundir to his right. The dwarf lifted his curling horn to his lips and blew a long blast that resounded of the valley walls.
The noise gradually increased as the dwarfs marched forwards, the echoes of the horn call and the roaring of the Nether beasts now drowned out by the tramp of iron-shod feet, the clinking of chainmail and the thump of hammers and axes on shields.
Like a wall of iron, the dwarf line advanced down the slope as another salvo of arrows whistled over their heads. The scattered groups of clawed and axe wielding monsters clashed into the shieldwall. Growling, howling and screeching their wordless challenge met with gruff battle cries and shouted oaths.
'Let ma strikes be 'ard an' wi' out mercy!' bellowed Ragnar as a creature three times his height jumped at him, lashing out with a huge curving sword. Ragnar ducked lower and swept his hammer from right to left in a low arc, the gleaming mace impacting with a meaty thump on the demons hip, the resounding force breaking the red skinned demon's back.
As the limp corpse tumbled down the hill, Ragnar stepped forward and brought his mace in a return blow, striking the head of a 'Cousin' Dark Iron, the head crushing with a disgusting 'crunching' sound. Thick blood that stank of rotten fish fountained over Ragnar, sticking to the plates of his iron armour. Gobbets caught in his matted beard, making him gag and proving how corrupted the Dark Iron Dwarfs were. It was going to be a long day.