Total War

The world, a grave.

Content of the article: "The world, a grave."

My name is Mannfred von Carstein, and I am the last man.

My rule began as it should: my rivals destroyed, my family brought to heel, my Sylvania united and strong. The empire was far away. The dwarfs and orcs were weak. I was satisfied to rule Sylvania, and I ruled well.

Then, out of the north, Chaos arrived. The worthless empire of man buckled under their attack. One by one the human, dwarfen, and orc kingdoms fell to the hordes of the damned, which swept around my lands like a fiery tide. Every day brought news: more cities laid waste or mortal realm destroyed.

But I was strong. My armies knew no fear. Even death was no defeat, for my legions were death itself, and the servants of the dark gods could still bleed.

When they came for me, for my Sylvania, I filled the skies with wings, and filled their hearts with fear. My legions of bats and gheists were too terrible for even the scions of the ruinous powers. One by one their armies broke and fled and were consumed by fang and shadow, for the woods have a thousand eyes, and Sylvania has one master.

Finally, I did what the empire and elves and dwarfs could not: I descended on the army of the Everchosen himself. Archaon faced my winged legions…and was consumed. After all, he was only a man, while I am beyond life and death.

My mind filled with dreams, not dark but glorious: I would sweep back Chaos, rebuild the ruined cities, and stitch the Old World back together under my rule, strong and eternal. From the broken remnants of the mortal realms, I would forge a new world, a grateful world, with myself, Mannfred von Carstein, emperor of all. It was easy to dream such dreams while I stood atop the corpses of a thousand Chaos warriors.

Then Archaon returned, not with one army, but four.

I fought, of course. But each battle sapped my strength, and as mighty as I was, I was still only one man; I could not be everywhere at once. So one by one my cities slipped through my fingers, and were destroyed: the work of centuries reduced to rubble in a day. Finally, I was pushed back to my last southern stronghold. The endless armies of Chaos approached, slavering for conquest and revenge.

Reason told me the fight was hopeless, that my only chance for survival–perhaps the survival of the world–lay in flight. So fly I did, atop my decaying dragon, at the head of a decaying army. On that day, all the dead marched, and my Sylvania fell from darkness into damnation.

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I marched south, through the mountains, hoping to find new lands and fresh prey to rejuvenate my army and rekindle my plans. I had lost lands and battles before; I would return. I could be patient. After all, I had time.

But the lands of the border princes were no longer filled with the clatter of battle, only silence. Chaos had been here before, and left nothing in its wake. I pressed south, into Tilea, hoping for fat cities to rule. I found only ruins. And behind me, the distant laughter of thirsting gods.

Ruined Tilea was too small, and too close to the north, so I took to the sea and went east, trusting to the mountains to stave off the invaders. On the coast of the south, I found something I did not expect: life. Scattered dwarfen kingdoms still clung to the coasts and canyons of the Badlands. And where there is life, there is hope, and where there is blood, there is power. I landed, raised a fresh army, and attacked.

Their strongholds fell easily enough, but the world itself conspired to foil my dreams of a safe, southern kingdom. I could not settle the dwarfen lands, only despoil them to refill my diminishing coffers, and move on. There would be no empire here, only war without respite. I took what I could, and headed west, leaving the dwarfs to skulk in their holes and await their end.

Tilea it would have to be. I resettled its two cities, and began to rebuild. For the first time in thirty turns, my army reinforced. It was like taking a breath after drowning…I assume. I don’t breathe.

My new position seemed secure enough. To my north, the mountain passes, easily defended. To my west, and to my surprise, more signs of life: the Tileans themselves, who had apparently migrated west into Estalia when Chaos descended on their home. They foolishly refused my generous offers of trade and alliance, but no matter. Before long, they would serve.

I rebuilt Tilea’s cities and began to lay new plans for conquest. It was then that I received news from the north: at long last, the false empire of Karl Franz was no more. All for the best: one less rival to crush. I raised new armies, and prepared to conquer Estalia.

Then, as I should have expected, Chaos arrived: a horde of horrors, led by what used to be a man. My own forces had just reached full strength, and so I fought, darkness against fire, horror against horror. I had run long enough.

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I lost. My forces were green, so far from the dark magics of my homeland, and the legions of Chaos were honed on the whetstone of a hundred cities burned and a dozen kingdoms destroyed. My armies crushed, my new cities lost, I fled again, once more across the sea, this time west.

When I passed the southern coast of Estalia and the kingdom of Tilea-in-Exile, their capitol was assailed by a Chaos army. As I rounded the horn and headed north, they had managed to beat back the attack. Their strength and resolve was impressive; if only they had been willing to serve me. By the time I arrived in Bretonnia, there was no more word from the south: only the laughter of thirsting gods. Tilea and Estalia, lands and peoples both, were no more.

Bretonnia had been beautiful: a fearful peasantry, a glorious nobility, and a sorcerous master. Skies filled with wings, cities filled with magic. Just like home.

Now, the graceful towers were ruins, the green fields laid waste, the sky filled with ash and fire. No more peasants, no more knights, no more Lady. No sign of the armies of Chaos either, only their bloody, blasted footprints. I settled into the old citadel of the long-dead Fay Enchantress, and once more began to rebuild.

Chaos’s influence was weak here: Tilea had been more corrupted. I set up vampiric alters, and began to heal the broken earth with soothing darkness. My strategic position was perfect: from here, my armies would sweep across the Old World, west to east, marching against the sun. Myself, Manfred von Carstein, savior of all. It was easy to dream such dreams while I hid at the edge of the world.

But I was not alone. To the north, a realm of Beastmen squatted in ruined cities, stretching from the western coast into the old Empire as far as my scouts could reach. No matter: they would be a fine first target for my reconquest of the continent. For though servants of chaos, they still lived and breathed and bled.

I had just begun to prepare my attack on the Beastmen, when, like every cursed sunrise of every damned new day, Chaos arrived.

This time, I simply withdrew: put to sea with what forces I had, and watched Bretonnia fall back into Chaos. No more thralls, no more counts, no more dark magic. Only ruins, and the screams of a thousand barbarians and countless gibbering horrors…and, so very close now, the laughter of thirsting gods.

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Now, I’m sailing south once more. I have a new plan, to make my way from ruin to ruin, building up my forces until I’m ready to truly begin my glorious reconquest. I will begin again as many times as I must. I have plenty of lands to choose from. The world is very quiet now.

And I have time: as many lifetimes as it takes. In the coming years and decades, perhaps the forces of Chaos will turn on each other. Perhaps their living servants will starve without lands to raid, and their demonic allies dwindle without zealots to worship them or victims to consume. Perhaps in a century or two, when both mortal and demon have gone, I can resettle an empty world at my leisure, and rule not as count or emperor but creator-god of a new world, a grateful world, that knows life only because I will it.

That is a task worthy of the true von Carstein.

Source: reddit.com

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