Louise, my lovely fiancee, is writing a nice and thrilling background story for her Reiklander warband.
Here follows part one of the story that takes the group of men, either too old or to young to join the army, all the way to Mordheim.
Matthew looked at his young master in dismay.
- Why in Sigmar's name would we go to Mordheim?
Sir Nicholas yawned and looked out the window. Autumn was drawing to its close. The sky was grey and the smell of wet leaves clung to their clothes like a scent of decay. He was bored. Bored with the castle and its fainted tapestries, bored with the feasts and endless toasts in his honor, bored with the village and its plain girls. It was all so trivial. The young master looked at his seneschal.
- Bigger prey, he said and smiled.
It wasn't a nice smile and he wasn't a nice man. Matthew knew this, but through the years he had come to accept the flaws of his master. He had known him from child. He had seen him molest animals, bully his peers, and mistreat women. He had done his best to do what the noble's father had failed to do, but his endeavors had come to nothing. Bad blood ran in the family - poor inbred bastards! Even the Lord himself had a streak of madness and his late Mistress had done herself in as a result of his perverted cruelty.
Five months ago the first rumors of war reached the castle and soon after the Noble and his two oldest sons joined the Empirial forces - leaving the youngest with an empty castle and little less to do but hunt and drink and whore.
- Prey? he asked, looking confused. - But there is nothing in Mordheim. Nothing but...
A sudden thought made him hold his tongue. He couldn't mean...
The smile grew bigger.
- And where there is wyrdstone...
Matthew's face turned pale and even in the warm light from the fireplace, he looked like a man facing death.
- But Sir! They are people!
Sir Nicholas laughed.
- People, eh? They are villains, fanatics, beasts, and monsters. They are far less innocent than the cute little rabbits we returned with this afternoon. While dear dad is fighting equals who's only fault is being born on the wrong side of the border, we will go to Mordheim. Assemble the men!
- There are no one left, my Lord. Your father took them all with him. You know this, he added with a wry smile.
- Right, said the nobleman. He looked thoughtful. - Whoever you can find, then. The son of the blacksmith. He has come of age, hasn't he? And Thomas, the hunting master. You can even take my valet, though he won't be of much use, I'm afraid. He has been a great disappointment.
Matthew sighed and reluctantly went to do as told.
Matthew looked apologetic at Robin. The boyish girl had uttered no word of objection when he had passed over the commands of their master. She had managed a weak smile and began packing at once.
As often before he felt the regrets of getting her the place. It had seemed such an innocent lie. With little men left in the village, the housewives could do without help, and she had been unable to make a living. Futile attempts to make it as a bawd in the camps outside the city had left her starving and even less womanly. Only her eyes still held the warmth of a women - her body was that of a lad. And as such she had pleaded him for help, and he had yield. The former valet had just lost his place to one of Sir Nicholas' whims and it had all seemed so simple.
But then he had seen her eyes when the master was about, and he knew she would have been better off starving.
- We will die, you know, he said.
She looked at him and nodded.
- I know. But if only I can get him to see me first..
He sighed and only hoped she would meet her death before that happened.
- I won't go! the boy shouted in a weak attempt to drown the sound of hammer against steel. He looked furious and a sword-in-progress suffered from his misplaced wrath. - I won't!
- You will. We all will. We have no choice and you know it. Going to Mordheim is our only chance, if we want to live. It's a slim chance, but a chance never the less. Get ready, lad. We'll leave in the morning.
John watched the seneschal leave the blacksmith. He then removed a treacherous tear with his dirty sleeve, leaving his face even more sooty. It could have been sweat, he thought to himself, it could have been sweat. Then he threw the sword into the hearth with a roar and sparks filled the air. The sword turned white and then friable - a waste of steel, a waste of life.
An arrow passed him and almost nicked his cheek.
- Be reasonable, Thomas!
The hunting master never removed his eyes from the target.
- Move, he said. His voice steady as his hand.
- We have no choice! Matthew cried.
- They told me I was too old for war. I'm definitely too old for suicidal missions.
Another arrow passed close by and hit its target. Matthew stubbornly stayed where he was.
- You are too old to die? he snorted.
His old friend laughed derisively.
- He can fight his own fights. No more, and that is my final word. I taught him to shoot. I should have taught him to be a man, but that was your job, wasn't it?
Another arrow. Matthew sighed and finally moved.
- I'm sorry, he said in a low voice and left.
The hunting master lowered his crossbow.
- Me too, old friend, me too. His voice was barely audible.
Then he gathered his vast amounts of hunting bows. They would need them.
They left in the morning. Sir Nicholas was in fine feather and whistled a well known tune. Something rather sultry, if Matthew weren't mistaken. Robin looked almost happy. Madly in love with a madman, Matthew thought. John didn't mutter a word. He looked at every tree, every stone, as if seeing it for the very last time. And perhaps he was. Thomas looked as grumpy as a dwarf, righteous as an elf, and fierce as a mercenary, and Matthew thought it best not to look twice. Instead he turned his eyes to the sky. A storm was coming.