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Agtor Bruul’s Khornate Warhorde descended upon the Cynder Peaks in a tide of screaming madmen. Against them stood the lodges of the mountain range’s volcanic peaks, chief among them Bael-Grimnir and the Vostarg, emerging from Furios Peak to defend their lands from Chaos.[1a]


Blood flowed freely down the Thousand Stairs. For a week, Bael-Grimnir’s warriors had held back the howling sea of Bloodbound. The road that led up Furios Peak to the gates of the Fyreslayers’ magmahold was littered with the dead. Atop his Magmadroth, the Runefather rode into battle, hacking down wild-eyed warriors. Meanwhile, lines of Vulkite Berzerkers fought shoulder to shoulder, their ur-gold runes blazing in the perpetual twilight caused by the volcanic ash clouds. The Vostargs were no strangers to the wrath of the Dark Gods’ minions, and for as long as the Fyreslayer lodges had worked the mines of Aqshy the armies of Chaos had sought to destroy them. This time, though, it was different. Step by gore-drenched step, the Warhorde was pushing the Fyreslayers back to the gates of their stronghold. For every Bloodbound warrior sent tumbling broken back down into the valley below, a dozen more took his place. Worse, Agtor Bruul and his personal retinue had finally reached the battle. The crimson-armoured Mighty Lord of Khorne rode his Juggernaut across the scorched vale and up toward where Bael and his brave knot of Hearthguard Berzerkers held the stair.[1a]

At the arrival of their lord, the Chaos horde went insane, their war cry drowning out even the ceaseless rumbling of Furios Peak. Cursing his foes with every swing of his axe, Bael ordered his warriors to fall back to the gates. At the same time, he sent a force of Hearthguard to bring down the magmaducts that rose above the hold’s entrance. Sparks flew off stone as the warriors smashed apart the pillars supporting the ducts until, with a bubbling roar, a curtain of lava cascaded down. The wall of liquid rock flowed down onto the stair, cutting the battlefield in two.[1a]

The Fyreslayers formed up before the gates – they were so close to the falling lava that smoke rose from their beards. Glimpsed through the curtain of fire, the shadow of Agtor’s army could be seen massing. Incensed with rage, hundreds of Blood Warriors hurled themselves through the lavafall. Even as they died, the maddened fighters charged into the Fyreslayers, burning, screaming, and striking with melting blades.[1b]

Those first Khornate warriors to force their way in were swiftly dealt with, Vulkite Berzerkers cutting them down in a steady storm of axe blows. Flames from their dying foes licked at the Fyreslayers’ skin, and stray gobbets of magma fell upon their flesh. Filled with the spirit of Grimnir, however, the duardin paid these distractions no mind. Soon, the stairs before the gateway were heaped with dismembered Bloodbound, the air thick with the stench of roasting meat.[1b]

With a gurgling roar, the flow from the magmaducts began to subside, an ancient valve sealing off part of the burning torrent. Bael scowled as a passage opened up through the lavafall. Lumbering through this gap came a pack of Khorgoraths, driven forward by the lash of Bloodstokers. The mutated beasts bellowed in pain and rage as the edges of the magma flow touched them, but charged forward regardless with their masters close behind.[1b]

With a gruff command, the Runefather ordered up his Auric Hearthguard to block the passageway. A line of hard-faced duardin stepped forward, levelling their salamander-headed magmapikes. Bolts of blazing lava flew into the Khorgoraths, setting their twisted flesh aflame and slowing their advance as chunks of molten rock cooled and hardened around their limbs. Though several beasts collapsed, encased in stone, others charged on, crashing into the Fyreslayers.[1b]

Bael’s Magmadroth sunk its burning fangs into a Khorgorath’s side, a jet of black blood turning to noxious mist as it spurted from the wound. From his warthrone, the Runefather brought down a brutal blow, his grandaxe burying itself up to the haft in the Chaos beast. Despite Bael’s victories, the Fyreslayers were being pushed back toward the open gates of their hold. With the Khorgoraths forming a speartip, a flood of Blood Warriors and Bloodreavers was pouring through the gap in the lavafall.[1c]

Beards dripping with the steaming blood of their enemies, the duardin fought on, the magical spirit of Grimnir flowing from their runes lending them astounding strength and endurance.[1c]

Chaos blades glanced off rune-stamped flesh and tall, plumed helms. More than one surprised Bloodbound thought he had dealt a killing blow only to feel the bite of a fyresteel axe a second later. However, the Fyreslayers were still outnumbered many times over, and with every duardin driven to the ground under a flurry of hell-forged blades or snapping fangs, the circle of defenders around the gate grew smaller.[1c]

Bael considered calling up his sons and the lodge’s reserves from below, but their task was to defend it should the gates fall. He swore by Grimnir’s flaming beard that the forge-temple would not be taken. Everything hinged upon holding the invaders in the passage under the lava. With his Hearthguard Berzerkers at his side, the Runefather spurred his Magmadroth toward where the lava curtain parted. Axes smashed through Chaos-forged armour and Khorgoraths were hacked into bloody chunks of meat as Bael carved a path toward the lavafall at the head of the Fyreslayer counter-attack.[1c]

Where the lava had parted, the Runefather and his Hearthguard were a rock upon which the Chaos horde crashed and splintered. A Bloodstoker lunged out of the press, trying to unseat Bael with his barbed whip. The Runefather caught the weapon on his long-hafted axe, hauling the startled warrior up the scalding side of his mount and delivering a skull-cracking headbutt. A Bloodreaver drove his blade into the Magmadroth’s side only to be immolated in a spray of molten blood, while dozens more Chaos followers fell to the vengeful blades of the Hearthguard.[1c][1d]

For a moment, the Runefather thought he had succeeded in containing the Warhorde. Then, Agtor and his Mighty Skullcrushers appeared on the far side of the gap, ranks of fresh warriors at their back. The fell knights’ arrival meant that the duardin’s chances of holding the opening were lost, but Bael hoped he could buy time to get the bulk of his army into the hold. A Vulkite karl stepped forward, a dozen Berzerkers with him. A single look from the karl told Bael they would give him as much time as they could.[1d]

After forcing his way through the gates, Agtor and his horde rampaged through the upper levels of the hold, smashing apart idols and cutting down any duardin that crossed their path. The Furios Peak magmahold was not like any human keep, nor the dreadholds of Chaos. Inside it was a shifting maze of tunnels and gates, the duardin able to change the layout with a pull of a lever or the opening of magma-valves.[1e]

The time bought by Smagrim allowed Bael to ready the defenders, and as he retreated, gates came crashing down throughout the hold, sealing off parts of its depths behind tons of stone or rivers of magma. Soon, only the path to the forge-temple remained. Convinced in the blessings of Khorne, Agtor gladly rode down the road laid out before him, thousands of warriors in his wake.[1e]

The Bloodbound flowed into the forge-temple. For several heartbeats, Agtor looked upon his foe: a line of determined looking duardin, arrayed before the graven statues of their god. Of their leader upon the firedrake, Agtor could see no sign, doubtless fled into the depths or making for some hidden escape route. It mattered not, this place would drown in blood and Agtor’s Bloodsecrator would see it dedicated to Khorne upon the broken bodies of the duardin.[1e]

With a war cry that reverberated through the chamber, the lord and his Skullcrushers charged. As their Juggernauts thundered across the temple, Agtor saw three sets of glowing eyes appear in the shadows behind a massive statue of Grimnir.[1e]

Bael and his sons spurred their Magmadroths out of the shadows, the beasts spewing a sheet of flaming bile into their foes. From hidden corridors, magmapike fire lanced down, and in the space of seconds, hundreds of men had been transformed into pillars of screaming flame.[1f]

Heedless of the duardin closing in on all sides, Agtor and his Juggernaut riders crashed into Bael and his sons. Magmadroths and brass daemons snapped and tore at each other as their riders traded blows. Several devastating lance-thrusts came close to spitting Bael, but the Runefather just managed to turn them aside. Then, as the Magmadroths converged in the centre of battle, they began to blaze with heat – and the Juggernauts began to melt.[1f]

Bael laughed as flame rolled off the three beasts, their lava hearts beating faster as the ancient power of Vulcatrix was unleashed. Upon their stone forge-thrones, the duardin heroes merely smouldered, their weapons punching through armour grown soft from the incredible heat and driving deep into flesh that was already cooking. With a rain of brutal blows, Bael and his sons smashed apart the Khornate knights.[1f]

In his rage, Agtor fought on, but surrounded by the vengeful duardin, his fate was sealed. Bael’s sons impaled the Chaos lord on their wyrmslayer javelins, the serpent tongued spears transfixing the Mighty Lord of Khorne long enough for the Runefather to bring his axe around in a devastating sideways blow. Agtor’s head tumbled across the temple, coming to rest among the remnants of his army.[1f]

Hearthguard Berzerkers had emerged from all sides, charging out of hidden tunnels and secret doors concealed in ornate temple alcoves. A wall of flashing fyresteel axes and belching magmapikes, they were steadily carving and burning through the surrounded Bloodbound. From the forge-temple altar, the Vostarg’s Runemaster and his attendant Runesmiters chanted out the litanies of Grimnir, each verse punctuated by hammers striking ur-gold, and answered by blazing runes in the flesh of Bael’s warriors.[1f]

With a triumphant look at his sons and a savage grin, Bael turned his Magmadroth back toward the battle, raised his latchkey grandaxe, and charged in to finish off those who had dared invade his hold.[1f]