Getting Ahead, Chapter One
A Flintloque Scenario by Tony Harwood
Adapted from an Image by Pete Barfield
Terrible reports are flooding the desks of the leaders of the Grande Armee du Norde, reports which tell of a horror which threatens to completely destroy the morale of the retreating Ferach Elves. Can Marshal Ney find someone to neutralize this threat ?
During the first few months of their flight from the Witchlands, the Ferach had thought they had seen it all.
Sadly, they were wrong.
Reports were coming in from the remains of the Grande Armee du Norde, horrifying reports that caught the attention of the armies most senior members.
It had been terrible enough for the Elves already. Facing death not just at the hands of the relentless enemy but by hypothermia and starvation as well. Desertions had gone down not because of the Elves loyal beliefs but because they simply had nowhere else to go.
Despite the morale situation standing orders for the Grande Armee du Norde had been amended in a most gruesome way - all dead; friend or foe, were to be beheaded, preventing the risk of the corpses being re-animated, armed and used against them.
At first this order had been treated with distain. When had an Elf, noble born, ever treated an enemy with such disrespect? Let alone their own friends! This view did not last long however. When the first attacks of the Undead Zombies came, shambling foot by foot through the falling snow, eyes fixed in a glazed stare, the Elves recognized that stare as that of their fellow soldiers, last seen as they had marched into Moskova!
As the retreat continued the once noble Ferach had became hardened realists. The sight of Headless comrades who had fallen victim to starvation, cold or those bastard Cossacks was feared much less than the thought of seeing their dead friends reanimated and attacking them.
That was when these new reports began to appear.
At first they were dismissed as the mad ramblings of those Elves whose minds had simply shattered during the retreat. However as the number of sightings increased and stories began to spread amongst the exhausted troops, the already shaky morale of the emancipated army was in danger of breaking apart completely.
Those reports told of Headless Zombies!
How could this be possible? Perceived wisdom was that a beheaded Zombie was a dead Zombie and that a beheaded corpse could not be re-animated. Was this some horrible mistake? Were the reports wrong? Whatever the truth it had to be sorted out now - before every single surviving member of the Grande Armee du Norde gave in to fear.
There had been rumours that the Headless Zombies were in fact Fleschless Dwarven Infantry, their lack of height causing the confusion, but no one was willing to discount the sheer number of reports and anyway, most Ferach had encountered re-animated Dwarves during the long retreat and even in the snow and it was not easy to confuse the two.
Marshal Ney dispatched scouts to the rear to confirm if this atrocious story was true. It did not take long before an exhausted courier on a starving horse arrived with an urgent dispatch; sealed for Ney’s eyes only. The dispatch contained the news that all at headquarters had been dreading. The Headless Zombies were indeed real. Ney laughed a grim laugh as he read the report. Real – was that the correct term for anything that came after them? Real Undead Headless Zombies leading the attack against the already exhausted and demoralized Rear Guard!
Something had to be done. The Grande Armee du Norde was in danger of crumbling completely.
Marshal Galahad Ney convened an urgent briefing.
“Can no one offer me a solution?”, asked Ney looking over the senior members of the Armee assembled in front of him.
At the very back of the windblown tent a soft cough was dimly heard and all eyes turned on a young lieutenant – a translator remembered Ney, as the bespectacled youth stepped forward.
“You could try Margahrah.” said Lieutenant Étienne Aignan.
“Margahrah? Just who exactly is Margahrah? He’s not one of my contingent.” replied Ney.
“Margahrah was the head of the Lyonesse Commissariat. His reputation as an investigator was almost legendary. If anyone could solve this mystery, then Margahrah could.”
Ney, a patient Elf, sighed. Recent events were taking their toll on even him.
“What use is a Lyonesse Commissariat to me, Aignan? I want someone here, someone we can dispatch now!”
The young lieutenant faltered slightly, but continued “Margahrah is here now Marshal. He is with Bethar’s contingent, he is working with the Quartermasters. He is the officer in charge of the gold we use to buy our supplies.”
Ney mentally noted all of this and immediately sent a runner to bring Margahrah before him.
Aignan relaxed, perhaps this recommendation of his would secure him a place amongst Ney’s staff and take him away from the terrifying Undead...
Margahrah came at once to see Ney, regardless of his own thoughts about the Marshall an order was an order. Ney, used to the elegant lines of most Elves was surprised to find a ruddy cheeked and round faced, almost school master like, figure in front of him. Dressed, not in uniform as an Elf of his position should be, but in the traditional black garb of the Commissariat with a huge fur-lined coat pulled around his shoulders.
“How long have you been in these Gods forsaken Witchlands?” asked Ney.
“Not long, just a couple of days.” replied Margahrah.
Ney looked deflated, his disappointment as easy to read as the morning dispatches.
“But I was here during the advance,” continued Margahrah, “I spent six months with the Emperor before being posted back to Lyonesse. I was tasked with delivering some personal papers.” He met Ney’s gaze directly, without flinching. “The Emperors own, personal papers.”
Ney was impressed, here was an Elf trusted by the Emperor himself.
Ney wasted no time in bringing Margahrah up to speed with the news reports of the latest battlefield horrors. As the briefing went by he became more and more impressed with the calm and measured manner in which Margahrah took in the information, stopping only occasionally to clarify some point or other. Finally, with all the rumours and tales laid bare for Margahrah to digest, Ney told Margahrah of his new command. Twenty-four Elves handpicked from his best infantry.
Margahrah raised an eyebrow. “Infantry?” Was the single word question from Margahrah.
“Yes. The horses are useless unless you want to eat them?”
Margahrah was quick in preparing for his task. The very next morning he was at the head of a small column marching through the slushy snow into the early morning sun and thumbing through sheets of wind blown paper – re-reading the many reports that had been filtered through to him via headquarters, looking for anything they may have missed.
By midday the weather had brightened a little, thought Margahrah, well at least there was no new snow. He sat with his back against a withered tree, his eyes closed and contemplated all the notes and comments he had read.
The reports of Headless Zombies had started just over three weeks ago with the first comments being ignored as idle gossip and malicious rumour. There were no reports of the existence of the horrors from either the screening cavalry to the North or the main retreat which was being organised slightly South of Margahrah and his group, using the main roads to secure as much equipment and stores as possible.
Most of the reports spoke of lost ammunition wagons, stockpiles of equipment, clogged roads and starving troops. There was even a single report of some lost Halflings, actually a group of Halfling Deserters. What were those little buggers doing so far North? The headquarter staff had been too worried about Cossack attacks to take any action on anything but the most imperative and urgent of subject matter so hadn’t investigated the Halflings.
Other reports spoke of the horrors inflicted by the bands of marauding Cossacks who harried the retreating army at every step. Margahrah shuddered at the thought of the beasts that had been unleashed against Mordred’s Grande Armee.
As the details of the reports flitted through his mind; being examined, sorted and filed away, Margahrah sighed. He was used to a better organised intelligence service and was disappointed that the disorganised scraps that had been handed to him were nothing more than hurried notes, hardly worth the paper they were written on. After an hour he returned to reading the notes, determined to find something he may have missed. Before long the paper crumpled, the watered ink words having become indecipherable in the cold damp air. Margahrah laughed to himself, perhaps that was best. The information as it stood in his head would have to do.
As the sun began its slow decline into sunset, Margahrah called Petre – the most experienced and the highest ranking soldier of his command. “We will make our way East in the hope of meeting up with the main Rear Guard. It is my intention to capture one of these Headless creatures and examine it.”
Margahrah was impressed with the soldier’s professionalism. Even if Petre had an opinion he didn’t show it. After the briefest of pauses he simply nodded and turned back to his compatriots who were stamping their feet in an attempt to shake off the bitter cold.
As they set off Margahrah heard some of the less experienced Ferach muttering under their steaming breath. Questioning why they were on this mission and not helping to secure a route back to Urop. Why they weren’t helping the Grande Armee to get out of this God forsaken wasteland, out of this nightmare. He could not blame them.
For a day and a half, Margahrah went over the intelligence reports in his mind again and again, all the while leading the group in their march ever Eastward. There was little in way of conversation, the bitter frozen winds tore all stamina from their very beings. The soldiers trudged one foot at a time into soft slushy snow, every step jarring against rock hard frozen mud.
Suddenly a shrill whistle cut through the roar of the blustery wind, all were immediately alert, eyes scouring the landscape for any signs of danger. From the un-kept road ahead a single scout returned with news that the Rear Guard had been spotted.
Margahrah led his men through the ranks of the rear guard. He had read the reports but nothing prepared him for the sheer lack of hope in the eyes of every single Elf there. Well, that was about to change. He had a mission for them, they were going hunting for Headless Zombies.
Headless Zombies - Modified, Painted and Based by Tony Harwood
Chapter One: Margahrah’s Plan
Major Le Blanc and his Rear Guard have indeed seen the Headless Zombies. They are being used in small numbers alongside normal Undead (if indeed there is such a thing) with the aim of demoralizing the retreating troops completely, slowing them down, giving the heavier armed Undead Cossacks time to catch up and permanently deal with the Ferach.
They way in which they are being used has given Margahrah the opportunity he needs. The Headless Zombies are moving ahead of the main Undead force, with minimal support and only a few Vampyres and Liches. He and some of his section may have a chance of getting close to an enemy section, close enough to capture one of the Headless Undead. Margahrah has reasoned the best course of action is to get hold of one of the abominations and see if they can figure out how they are being reanimated.
Note: DITS below refers to 5026 Flintloque: Death in the Snow
Margahrah’s Elves – Margahrah himself is detailed below. Generate a section of eight Elves to accompany him using the normal creation rules (DITS, p.42) or alternatively use the example section (DITS, p.53)
Acting Captain Margahrah, formally of the Commissariat Dept. of Lyonesse
Veteran Ferach Militia
Margahrah carries an Exquisite Quality Sword given to him by none other than the Emperor
himself and a pair of hand engraved Ferach Elf Duelling Pistols.
Margahrah saw almost everything a member of the commissariat back in Lyonesse and as a result is not fazed by many things and benefits from the ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ trait (DITS, p.53). As a non commissioned officer unknown to Ney’s contingent he suffers from the ‘Raised from the Ranks’ flaw (DITS, p.52).
The Undead – Generate a section of Undead using the normal creation rules (DITS, p.42). You may include one Vampyre and one Liche, the rest must be Zombies / Skeletons. Alternatively use the example section (DITS, p.59). Either way, all of the Fresh Zombies are Headless, see the special rules section below.
Map and Set Up
This scenario should be setup on a 3’ by 3’ skirmish table. It is set in the frozen Witchlands of the Star Wraith and as such is covered in snow. In the centre of the table you should use the terrain you have at your disposal to create a ruined abbey. It is here that the Undead have taken shelter for the middle of the day. There should be a road leading to the abbey with no cover within 10cm of it. Place some terrain items across the rest of the table, some small copses of hardy trees, stone walling, rocks, snow drifts etc. If there are two of you playing take it in turns or dice for their placement randomly. Due to the snow, anywhere except the road counts as Difficult Terrain, Snow Drifts count as Bogging Terrain.
Margahrah and his Elves are not placed on the table at the start of the game, see the sneaking rules below.
The Undead begin anywhere within the ruined abbey.
Scenario Objectives & Game Length
Margahrah and his Elves must capture a living Headless Zombie and get it off the table with as few casualties as possible.
The Undead must prevent the Elves from achieving their goal.
Sneaking: Margahrah and his Elves all start the game sneaking. Use the rules as presented in Alternative Armies’ fourth Distractions and Asides supplement, it can be found online on Orcs in the Webbe here. They are not deployed on the table at the start of the game as normal. place a ‘Sneaky Starting Point Counter’ for every miniatures starting place and follow the sneaking rules as written, the rules were for Flintloque Reloaded (2nd Edition) but just replace Falter speed for Half Step March.
The key to this mechanic working and creating a good game is honesty!
Headless Zombies (Sanity Rules): None of the Elves, Margahrah included, have encountered the terrifying abominations of Headless Zombies before. Because of this, the first time each character comes within 15cm of one (if they are sneaking or not) they must roll D5 and add that many Shaken tokens to their figure modified by the numbers below.
Within 5cm of Section Leader -2
Within 15cm of Section Leader -1
In this scenario, figures may have more than one Shaken Token. They only remove one when instructed to do so in the standard rules (see Morale Check, DITS, p.71). This may mean they still have more left affecting them the following turn.
Getting Ahead(less Zombie): To try and capture a Headless Zombie an Elf must engage it in hand to hand combat and declare before rolling the die that they are attempting to take it prisoner rather than kill it. If the Steady Check result shows at least one Hit would be scored they are considered captured, the Zombie is then controlled by the Elf player but must stay in base to base contact with the capturing Elf.
If the Elf holding the Headless Zombie is pushed back, taken Out of Action or removed from the table then control of the Zombie passes to the original player (note that in this scenario if hits are scored during a Steady Check after Melee the winning player can choose to push back instead of causing hits). During the movement phase the Elf can let the Zombie go as a free action, if this happens control passes back to the Undead player immediately.
Whilst escorting the captured Zombie the Elf can move no faster than the Zombie’s Slow March rate. Confusion and Brain Freeze can still affect the Zombie but it still moves at Slow March as it is being guided/pushed by the Elf.
The controlling Elf cannot fire any weapons whilst escorting the Zombie and also suffers a -2 penalty to Melee.
Foul Weather: If you have access to the Grapeshotte rulebook then you can use the Foul Weather rules (p.21). Roll 1D10 before play begins, on a 1-5 there is no adverse weather. On a roll of 6-8 it is Windy for the scenario, on a roll of 9 it is Snowing and on a roll of 10 there is a Blizzard. All characters in play are counted as having a Wrapped Lock.
If it is snowing any sneaking characters get a +15% bonus, if it is a blizzard they get +30%
Solitaire Play: You can play this scenario solitaire using the normal rules (DITS, p.90) to control the Undead force. Honesty with the sneaking rolls is even more important in this case!
The whole concept for the ‘Getting Ahead’ mini-campaign came out of an idea of mine for a short story – a White Liar tale actually, which just grew and grew. I knew that the Headless Zombies would be a fun thing to bring to the Flintloque table and given the battered morale the Elves were suffering on their retreat from Moskova, just what affect these abominations would have on the already demoralized Ferach.
I initially saw this first scenario as a simple Ferach vs Undead battle on a cold and snow swept battle ground. With Margahrah being able to either capture or pick up a dead Headless Zombie without too much problem. The Sneaking and optional Foul Weather rules gave it that little twist that defines a Flintloque scenario.
I see Margahrah as a cross between Inspector Morse and a school teacher at my senior school – an ex military man and a maths teacher - intelligent but a pragmatist, even towards the Undead.
Coming in 2012...
Getting Ahead – Chapter Two: “The Long and Short Of It...”
Margahrah and his men discover the terrible secret behind the Headless abominations! Can he find the source of this evil and neutralize it before it’s too late for the whole Grande Armee du Norde?
This article was originally published on Alternative Armies' content portal, Barking Irons, and is reproduced here with permission.