Heinrich sat hunched over maps and letters and rubbed tired eyes. He wore an illusion of a distinguished old gentleman today but he knew under his scarred fingers was truly the fetid gray flesh of a stitched-together monster. To the northeast, the World’s Edge Mountains, the North Stir, the Misty Wood, and Waldenhof. The Slayer Kings were marching and there was nothing to be done. Mystic Sendings would go forth, Elize would have to hold the line. Wailing towers, blasphemous bulwarks, corpse balls, she and her necromancers would have to be raising the dead of both sides as quickly as they fell. But perhaps, just perhaps…
His eyes kept drifting back to the Misty Wood. ‘Blackroot,’ he whispered to himself. If Blackroot could exert his influence over the wood, twist the Beast Ways flowing through them, maybe the Chaos Warherd could emerge right into the rear lines of the Slayer Kings. With the mountains to the east, Hel Fenn to the west, and Waldenhof’s walls in front of them the dwarves would be smashed to pieces. The Viscount would have to be very convincing, and the Misty Wood and likely the Tangled Wood south of it would still likely be added to the twisted treant’s demesnes.
Looking to the opposite corner of Sylvania and the empty plains and hills around Schwartzhafen he tried to imagine the marching treemen of the Glade Lords and shook his head. The vast plains of Averland would be the obvious place to engage, away from the cover of trees the elves would be exposed to cavalry and artillery. But the Wall of Faith removed that option, thankfully apart from the Ghoul Wood to the east of Schartzhafen, the entire area was ancient burial mounds and empty bogs. And the Ghoul Wood was infested with the Crooked Eye, no, now the Dead Eye tribe of greenskins. The elves were expecting to face the legions of the undead, but if Wealdmaer commanded his Waaagh to ambush the elves anywhere north of Schwartzhafen the elves would have nowhere to retreat to short of the Hunger Wood leagues and leagues away to the north. Better still, Wealdmaer could forewarn the greenskins that they would be fighting trees and they could attack with fire and axes and the surprised elves would … ‘BURN.’
Heinrich sat bolt upright as the firelord’s sinister voice burst into his mind unbidden, laughing. Black flames licked along Heinrich’s arms and—as they had been more often lately—were beginning to be tipped by hints of blue. With effort Heinrich suppressed the primordial flames once more but images of the greenskins setting tree-creatures alight as they writhed around unable to extinguish themselves still danced in his mind’s eye. His concentration ruined, the Warden stood and stalked out into the night to clear his thoughts.
Deep in the night Heinrich returned to his maps and letters and came across the Grand Marshal’s notes on the deep enmity between the High Elves and the Wood Elves. There was some history there, some order the Wood Elves disobeyed, staying behind in some war with dwarves and some resentment at feeling abandoned or shunned by the High Elves that had fled across the sea. But how to use it?
It wasn’t for hours later when reading an intelligence report about disgruntled Imperials that Heinrich found his answer. The High Elves were cautious, taking their time. Their deliberate pace was incensing the soldiers of the Empire who burned to take their vengeance on the lords of the night in Sylvania. The connection wasn’t immediately apparent but slowly a weakness began to appear. Since the Sisterhood was going to be attending, this was precisely the kind of manipulation they excelled at but lacking their direct intervention perhaps the Viscount’s charm or Heinrich’s own forgeries could be pressed into service. He would have to bring it up prior to the Count’s gathering so Ziegfried could press for Neferata’s assistance in infiltrating the Wood Elves with her agents. The High Elves might have good reason to be taking their time, but it could be perceived as arrogance or worse, the callous disregard for the lives of their erstwhile allies the Slayer Kings or the Wood Elves. With the right words whispered in the right ears, every day the High Elves didn’t arrive, every moment they delayed, every Wood Elf that fell in battle would be a deliberate slight, an act of war, by the High Elves. The arrogant and haughty creatures that name themselves High and tarry cautiously protecting their precious lives while the ancient creatures of the forest are slaughtered by greenskins.
If the Dead Eye tribe could hold on long enough, or even if they couldn’t, by the time the High Elves finally arrived with the Empire the Wood Elves would be murderous. If the greenskins could rout to the north, directly into the path of the High Elves that would be best, but even if their forces converged closer to Templehof the damage would already be done. The Empire would be angered given their long journey, the forced delay the High Elves had put upon them, and the accusations and hatred of the Wood Elves that our misinformation, no, our valid interpretation of events had manipulated them into bringing to bear. The High Elves patience would already be tested by the Empire’s constant grumbling and be forcibly put on the defensive by the accusations of the Wood Elves. The resulting unstable maelstrom of emotions compounded by the ancient enmity of all three peoples could be catastrophic in any number of ways and all of them would benefit the Count’s ritual.
It would all come down to blood and steel and fire in the end. It always did. But after the ambushes and machinations and infighting, only then would the Dire Pack be unleashed on their archers. Only then would the Chillgheists ride down their cavalry. Only then would the Mortis Engines unleash all the Dark Magic collected from the devastation. And only then would the Claw of Nagash unleash its corruption on the remaining forces. The Wind of Death would tear bodies asunder. The Purple Sun of Xereus would descend once more. And in the end Nagash would rise once more.
Or everyone would be destroyed.
With Archaeon’s legions of daemons on the march that most likely would be the outcome in any case.