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Expanding the Story




When I first started the Free Dwarfs of Bowland Blog all that time ago, I had an idea in my head of what the place the Free Dwarfs lived in looked like. I lived near to a geographical feature called the Trough of Bowland , situated in the ancient Forest of Bowland an area still today owned by the Duke of Lancaster , who is also the Sovereign of the Country so it is Royal Land and the tenants are granted land by the King of England. Of Course this is an over simplification but the setting was such that my Free Dwarfs fit neatly into the story , refugees granted land in a forgotten part of the country by a "beneficent" King. the shape of the Trough of Bowland is a ring of low hills surrounding a small plateau with rocky terrain around the middle , this looks almost like one single mountain that was hollow until the roof collapsed, so in the Free Dwarfs Background , this is what it became and I worked this into the army basing by having rocks and statues and columns on the bases.



As they were Free dwarfs the Original army was almost exclusively Brock Riders and this continued for a while, but when it came time to expand the army I wanted them to be different to the usual run of the mill Imperial Dwarfs that were about. So I turned to my background once again and decided that as the Free Dwarf of Bowland hold was in the Middle of the FOREST of Bowland I would make the next part of the Free Dwarfs Rangers and so I converted the whole army to be Rangers, not just the Rangers , even down to the Brock Riders


Since then My Reader will know that a new direction has been taken by the Free Dwarfs , when the new Raven Clan split from the Original Free Dwarfs and headed Northwards to help free the Halpi Mountains, well now that the initial army is nearly complete I wanted to add extra units to them and inspired by the Pride of a King novel I read and reviewed I wanted the new unit to be Rangers.

So with that in mind I have written a short background to introduce the concept of what the Rangers can do to help the Free Dwarf Raven Clan.


So I am happy to present the latest piece of Background for the Free Dwarfs, Enjoy !


"Anything happening?”

Artur rolled his eyes and whispered out of the corner of his mouth over his shoulder “do you mean in the 30 seconds since you last asked Sir?” he could almost feel the heat of the Younger Dwarfs blush as he turned to head back down from the vantage point between two small pine trees overlooking the small mountain pass.

“Keep a watch and let me know if anything does happen Artur” his Leader whispered as he slid away towards the next sentry position.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be the second to know” Artur muttered so that the patrol commander would not hear him, Artur grimaced to himself and then settled back to resume his slow scans of the distant valley floor, his White grey and blue cloak blending in with the snowy Mountain terrain and rendering him all but invisible in his sheltered post.

Malach slithered back down the slight slope towards the small bowl shaped depression he had chosen for their overnight halt, he still felt the slight twinge of embarrassment after the taciturn veterans retort but he told himself it was all part of his job as the commander of the small Ranger Patrol of the Raven Clan. Veterans like Artur were always grumpy it seemed to Malach, but he was in charge and they would get used to it once he proved himself to them. This was his first assignment as a Ranger Leader but he was an experienced Ranger himself, otherwise he wouldn’t be here, would he? He pushed his nervous thoughts to the back of his mind as he approached the centre of the Patrol Harbour then froze as he heard the slight “snick” of a crossbow safety being disengaged.

“Halt” said a low gruff voice “Who goes there?”

Malach whispered “Brock”

There was a brief pause and then the countersign “Bait” was returned to him as a blurry shape rose up from his left and he heard the sound of the safety being re-engaged on the Rangers crossbow. The Ranger threw back their hood to reveal a mass of braided red hair above a freckled face.

“Advance and be recognised” she said in a considerably more melodic voice than previous.

Malach stepped forwards and also pulled his hood off his head and moved his face wrap away from his mouth. He took a deep breath of the frigid night air as he gazed around the sleeping forms of the rest of the Patrol huddled under their expansive cloaks in the small copse of stunted Pine Trees. They were part of the network of Patrols that were scouring the Mountains during the spring thaw in order to be the first line of defence against any efforts to locate the Free Dwarf Raven Clans Stronghold of Caer y Cudd.

Since the Raven Clan had left the Free Dwarf hold of Bowland in Estacarr as part of their promised aid to the Berserker King Sveri Egilax they had undertaken to hold open the Mountain passes to the North East of Cwl Gen and to prevent the probes of the Abyssal scum from Deigfell and their Ratkin creations from Helddu. The full might of the Clan had been assembled and marched from the Port of Helgarth, over the Mountains and had established a base under the Mountain known as Cadair Dyrwig, named for a famous Scion of the Raven Clan. Once the hold was secured the Clan sent out its Patrols to reconnoitre the mountains towards the Enemy Holds, this resulted in several clashes between Ratkin and Abyssal Dwarf forces and the small companies sent out from Caer y Cudd.

Now they were back in the Halpi Mountains, one of the first priorities for the Raven Clan was to re-establish their relationship with the giant Mountain Ravens that they derived their name from. Prior to the cataclysm that had forced them to leave their holds and homes the Raven Clan had been famed for the number of Brave Dwarf warriors riding the Giant Mountain Ravens they could field, their holds adapted to provide access to the Sky like giant eyrie’s built into the Mountains. Always considered a breed apart from the rest of the earth dwelling Free Dwarfs almost on a par with the Fearsome Dwarf Berserkers due to their reckless and freedom loving nature and their joy in battle as the swooped down to tear their foes limb from limb or blast them off the mountainside with their Black Powder Grenades. Part of Malach’s job as a Patrol Commander was to watch out for Raven Nests to report to the StoneClaw riders back at the Hold.

“It will be dawn soon” Malach said to the flame Haired Dwarf Maid Ygritte “Time to get up and ready” she nodded and began to move quietly around the campsite rousing the lumps and hummocks that had seemed part of the natural landscape just moments previously.

Once the Rangers were ready to move, Malach was consulting his map for the next leg of their patrol when a low whistle sounded across the snowy slope. Instantly the Free Dwarfs crouched under their cloaks, crossbows covering all points of the perimeter of their campsite. Malach looked up to see Artur slowly waving his hand to Malach, Malach gave the hand signal for hold here and moved cautiously up the slope towards Artur. Reaching the older Dwarf they both went prone for the last few feet until they reached the edge of the shallow valley and peered over its lip.

Malach instantly saw what the Veteran Ranger had spotted, trudging in a ragged line up the Pass below them were several dozen twisted Ratkin Warriors and a handful of stocky figures dressed in Purple and Brass Armour and carrying cruel looking whips and swords, it was obviously a raiding party of Abyssal Dwarfs and their slaves probing the borders of Caer y Cudd and they outnumbered his little command by at least two to one.

“Keep an eye on them” Malach hissed to Artur and slithered backwards down the slope to the rest of the Patrol who were waiting below.

He beckoned to one of the Rangers who safed his crossbow before moving over to his Leader.

“Let the Hold know the cursed of Ariagful are testing the pass again, Cynraeg” Malach said

The Other Ranger slung his Crossbow on its canvas sling and tugged off his right glove, he scraped a thin layer of powdery snow off a nearby rocky out crop and laid his hand against it palm down, then he closed his eyes and took several long slow breaths. Malach watched him and thanked Dianek that Lord Osric had chosen to attach Ranger trained Junior Stone Priests to each of the outlying patrols, providing them with a means whereby they could transmit messages directly back to the hold via the very rocks of the Mountain itself.

Cynraeg opened his eyes and nodded to Malach before pulling on his glove and recovering his crossbow. Malach tapped the stock of his crossbow with a knuckle to attract the attention of the other members of the patrol, when they were all looking at him he swiftly hand signed their direction of travel, further up the pass and their formation, single file with flankers , once they all nodded their acknowledgement he gave a low whistle and then turned as Artur slithered down the slope towards him, Artur shook his head to indicate no change in the behaviour of the Abyssal Dwarf Party and once he was back in the ranks Malach signalled for them to move. He would need to choose his ground very carefully if his small Patrol was going to have any chance of stopping the Abyssal scum from forcing their way through the pass.


Skrith was cold, from the tip of his wormlike tail to the end of his pointed snout he was cold, how he hated the cold but he feared the lash of the Masters more, he glanced over his shoulder at the nearest Abyssal Dwarf, at the twisted visage that stared back from under the brim of an ornate brass helmet.

“Eyes front Scum, watch where you’re going” the Dwarf punctuated his command with a flick of the heavy iron tipped whip he carried , catching Skrith just below his shoulder and causing him to hiss in pain as he turned his head back and stared at the featureless rocks and snow of the seemingly endless pass, gripping his crude long knife and ragged shield tighter Skrith pushed on through the snow, the cold momentarily forgotten in the heat of his anger at his cruel Masters.

Keled furled his whip and glared at the back of the impudent slave before looking around at the snow lined rocks around him, he licked his lips nervously as his gaze darted around him. Rocks snow and stunted Pines were all he could see but the Free Dwarfs were out there, he knew it. Slave parties had gone missing in this pass before Winter and there were rumours of Free Dwarfs reclaiming more old holds in the area since the fall of Cwl Gen to Sveri Egilax last Year, the last thing Keled wanted was to walk into an ambush! even if he survived his OverMaster  would probably take the loss of valuable slaves out of his Flesh, the thought made him shiver with supressed dread and excitement and he gripped his whip tighter as the war party trudged on.


With curt commands and hand signals Malach deployed his Rangers in the Rocks and trees above a point in the Pass where a large boulderslide had narrowed the trail to almost single file, with no way to use their superior numbers to overwhelm the small number of Dwarfs and plenty of cover to shoot from, Malach was confident that this was the best place to hold the Abyssal Dwarf Raiding party. As the Dwarfs took their positions Artur briefly locked gaze with Malach, the veteran Ranger nodded and gave a thumbs up gesture before settling into his position, Malach returned the gesture before moving down the line to check on the others in the patrol but now with a boosted sense of confidence, if Artur was happy with the deployment, Malach thought, then he must be doing something right!


Keled frowned as he realised that the Slaves were bunching up at the front, he angrily strode forwards to see what was going on, waving his whip and sword at the small knot of nervous looking Ratkin,

“Keep Moving” he yelled “you pathetic worms! Who told you to stop?” vaguely Keled realised that the path here was a lot narrower and he couldn’t see very far ahead, as some instinct belatedly informed his anger clouded mind that this was a good place for an ambush the lead Slaves seemingly sprouted small, feathered sticks from their heads and chests. As a crossbow quarrel splintered against the Ornate Brass Breastplate of his armour Keled came out of his stupor and backpedalled quickly while shouting “Ambush!”


Malach watched as the initial volley of the Rangers ambush killed or wounded 10 or so of the enemy Ratkin and nearly claimed the Abyssal Dwarf who was obviously their leader, as this Dwarf retreated the others raised their whips and swords and proceeded to drive the Reluctant Ratkin in front of them, a living wall of fur surging up the pass as fast as they could go. Malach shouted at his Rangers to fire independently but even as he loaded and fired his own crossbow he knew that there were too many slaves to kill before they swarmed up the valley sides and swarmed his tiny command. However as the deadly crossbow bolts found their targets amongst the scurrying Slaves and they began to be punched off their feet by the high velocity missiles being shot into their midst, the nerve of the brutally abused slave warriors began to fail and despite the Slavemasters threats and blows with their whips and swords, the Ratkin assault began to falter and the Rangers appeared to be gaining the upper hand from their prepared positions. As he paused to glance along the lines of the ambush to check on the wellbeing of his warriors,  Malach noticed one of the brass armoured abyssal Dwarfs standing off to one side with his arms raised and what appeared to be black smoke pouring from his mouth into the ground , as he watched in horror a large glassy black fist punched through the ground and snow in front of the gesticulating Dwarf.

“Iron Castor!” Malach screamed as he redirected his shot at the Spellcasting Dwarf but he knew it was too far away to have any effect.

The Golem erupted out of the earth and lumbered towards the Boulder slide, it paused only briefly as if to get its bearings and Malach knew its controlling Ironcaster was locating his Rangers through the Golems eyes, again he fired at the Iron caster but the range was too great and his quarrel clattered harmlessly into the rocky ground, the Golem reached forwards and plucked a struggling Ranger up with one gigantic fist meanwhile bring the other down crushingly on another Dwarfs ambush position with deadly effect before casually squeezing the life from its other luckless victim.

At the sight of this the Ratkin sprang forwards with renewed vigour and their Slavemasters doubled their efforts to goad them to finish the job, Malach clenched his Fists in despair as he saw his carefully laid ambush start to crumble under the vicious assault. He was about to give the order to break contact and retreat when there was a sudden gust of air across his back, before Malach’s stunned eyes there was a succession of explosions that threw broken Ratkin bodies around like tossed dolls, overhead there was a chorus of raucous cries and several large Ravens swooped down on the Abyssal Dwarfs, their riders throwing grenades and stabbing with sharp tipped spears. The Ironcaster was blasted by a well aimed grenade and as he sprawled helpless on the ground his golem sagged like a puppet with cut strings before it too was shattered by several well aimed grenades from a succession of whooping Raven Riders passing overhead. Malach and his Rangers were yelling and waving madly as the Raven Cavalry chased the remaining Ratkin and Abyssal Dwarfs back down the Pass in full and panicked retreat.


As night fell over the battle site Malach stood watching his Rangers tending their wounded and preparing the dead for return to the Hold for burial , he say Artur crouching by a fire stirring a pot of stew with his good hand while his other was fastened in a sling , he saw Cynraeg speaking quietly with the Stoneclaws Stonepriest , both of them looking pale and weary from all the healing they had performed and he saw Ygritte passing hot food around the Raven riders, whose shadowed forms were all around protecting the camp in case any Ratkin or Abyssal dwarf Stragglers were about, Malach was tired and saddened by the losses to his Rangers but he knew that they would eventually be successful in driving the invaders out of these Mountains and making them home again where Free Dwarfs could raise families and live happy lives.

 

 

Keled ducked down again behind the rocks when he heard rather than saw a Raven gliding over the top of his hiding place, he was already rehearsing his excuses in his mind of what to say to the Overmaster about the defeat of his company, he would blame the feckless Slaves and the lacklustre performance of the obviously sub standard Ironcaster he had been saddled with , yes that would be the best way to go , to shift the blame from himself. Keled let a cruel smile appear on his lips just as he felt the ragged edge of a knife slice into his neck………..

 

Skrith licked the evil Dwarfs blood off his rust blade and scurried down the pass, now he could find somewhere he would never be cold again……. Warmth and no more whips, yes that would suit Skrith just fine ….

 

 

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