Dwarf Ironclads Ironclads march at the forefront of the armies of the Dwarfs. Heavily armoured in thick plate that a non-Dwarf would struggle to bear, such is the endurance of the Dwarfs that Ironclads have been known to march 50 miles in a single day and night, moving at a brisk trot that they can keep up seemingly forever. An Ironclad‟s armour is thickest about the Dwarf‟s head and shoulders, for many of their foes are taller and strike downwards. The Dwarfs for their part prefer to concentrate on the lower portions of their foe, aiming for the ankles in particular, a technique the Ironclads refer to as “Cutting them down to size”. All Dwarfs favour short-hafted heavy weapons suitable for hewing and crushing. Dwarfs have poor reach compared to other races, fancy fencing does little for them, while longer weapons will in any case become easily fouled on the walls of their tunnels. The Ironclad fighting technique epitomises the Dwarven way of war. They lure their opponent into attacking first, trusting to their rugged physique and thick armour to protect them. Then, once the foe has come within reach, the Dwarf will respond in unhurried, deadly manner, smashing and hewing, warhammers and axes being the most common arms among their kind for this purpose. While underground, Ironclads ordinarily carry “short arms” versions of these, combined with a shield which they will lock with those of their fellows and hunker down behind. Above ground they might carry “long arms” - two-handed versions of their warhammers and axes, huge things whose weight alone can pulverise the skull of a horse. Dwarf Ironwatch Dwarfs were the first to master the art of blackpowder. Initially its power was harnessed in blasting tunnels and halls, only later were its explosive properties applied to the art of ballistics, a field of which the Dwarf are pre-eminent masters. Dwarf guns are a relatively recent invention, being but over a century since the first primitive handgun was employed in a tunnel war by the creative, if deeply misfortunate, Dwarf engineer Wain „Iron Tube‟ Steef. Steef might only have been able count his greatest achievements on the fingers on one hand (as he had but three remaining by the time of his early demise, this is less impressive than it sounds), but his greatest legacy - the gun, has transformed warfare. Since Steef‟s days, the gun has rapidly developed, and in these enlightened times hardly ever poses a threat to its bearer. Other peoples have seized upon the weapon, but the Dwarfs remain at the forefront of modernity: rifled barrels, standardised charges, cap-fired flashpans, spring-loaded trigger mechanisms and decorative pipe holders make Dwarf guns the best in the world. Even now, Dwarf inventors are experimenting with cartridge shot and rune-activated firestones, although these latter remain the province of only the very wealthiest lords. Dwarf Ironwatch regiments drill endlessly. A speciality is the deadly “creeping dragon” formation, where ranks of Dwarfs discharge their weapons turn by turn. Under the cover of a withering bombardment of shot, the Dwarfs advance slowly, those ranks with charged weapons filtering through those who have discharged theirs, giving them time to reload and repeat the process. By the time the Ironwatch arrive at the enemy‟s line, there are usually precious few warriors left to offer resistance to the Dwarfs‟ stout warhammers.The bows used by other races are too big and unwieldy to employ in the underground realm of the Dwarfs. For ranged combat, Dwarfs have traditionally relied on compact yet powerful crossbows, “Like the bows of others”, they say, “only much better” (modesty is not chief among Dwarven virtues). Dwarf crossbows often sport elaborate loading and cocking mechanisms, designed to increase their rate of fire, the weapon‟s only real weakness. Dwarf crossbowmen will boast until they are purple in the face about their own particular improvements to their weaponry, and not hollowly. The best of such innovations are generally adopted by their whole regiment, as such each Dwarf crossbow troop often has slightly different capabilities. A favoured Dwarf tactic is to combine crossbow troops with Ironclads. A rank of Ironclads will kneel, shields forward, protecting crossbowmen behind them who can fire over their helmets, often using their fellow Dwarves‟ flat heads to steady their aim. Once the enemy closes, the crossbowmen will withdraw, allowing further lines of Ironclads to take their place. Storm of Iron The gentle breeze ruffled the King's beard as he stood surveying the troops below him, hidden. His Scouts has been tracking the Orc raiding party's progress for nearly a week and the trail of mayhem and chaos had been appalling with villages, mines and outposts all laid to waste. War King Grafe shifted his heavy armour and tightened the straps holding it in place. He lifted his mighty warhammer in his right arm and gently rested it against his shield. He knew his War Engineers had laid traps across the entrance to the valley to stop the inevitable Orc route and his Ironwatch were positioned above the valley with crossbows and rifles at the ready. At the valley head were his Ironbelchers, a huge array of cannons and Organ guns, and even two of rare Fire Belchers, all primed with Cannonball and Grapeshot. By Grafe's side were his King's retinue, a unit of 50 heavily armoured Ironclads, ranked 10 wide and 5 deep, the core of the Dwarf Army. To their left and right more units of Ironclads stood, and between them units of Shield Breakers, their huge two-handed weapons at the ready. Cold wind blew colder rain onto the line of Dwarfs, ragged sheets of almost mist that made the air barely distinguishable from the moorland mires they’d been tramping through for weeks. It was as if the air had become water, and wherever a veil of the rain draped itself, it left beards soaked and bones chilled. But there was more here to steal the heat from a warm heart. Dwarfs stood beleaguered, weapons gripped in numb hands as they fought against the dead for their lives. A scythe whistled down toward the head of Guddri Stonebrow, a nimbus of witchfire about it. His eyes widened. He had not thought to die this way, out here, away from the warmth of hearth and home, away from the comfort of tight stone walls, under the pitiless open sky. He brought up his shield and axe, a reflex instilled by endless drills under the earth. He knew them to be useless. He’d seen the spirit’s weapon slide through the axes of his comrades as if they weren’t there, though its blade killed sure enough. Old sergeant Freg would be disappointed in him, he thought, and he prepared to die at the hands of the Wraiths. Ancient, dead and utterly evil, how could he, a mere bondsman, hope to fight against such a spirit? The wind was suddenly knocked from his as the solid body of a Dwarf cannoned in to him. He went down hard, loosening a tooth. He pushed free of the sodden earth as quickly as he was able, tangling himself in his cloak. He wiped mud free of his eyes in time to see Lord Garrek come up from a roll, his warhammer blazing with holy fire, runes aglow. The Wraith twisted about Lord Garrek, trailing the ethereal remnants of its grave-garb about him. A hideous, piercing shriek filled the mist, causing the Dwarfs to falter in their fight against the Wraith’s lesser servants, bronzearmoured warriors first dead in some antediluvian age. The Wraith lunged at the Lord like a snake, scythe sweeping across towards Garrek’s midriff, its skull face leering. Garrek blocked the attack elegantly with his massive hammer. Sparks of magic crackling into the air where the two weapons met. The Wraith drew back, and shrieked again. “That’s right, laddy, frightened of this, aren’t ye?” said Garrek, circling round his opponent. “It’ll have piece of you and that’s not the way it goes, is it? Think again! No agricultural implement’s going to stop me, no matter what manner of apparition wields it. Listen, spirit! I am Garrek Heavyhand of the Free Clans, and I have come for what is rightfully mine, and I intend to send you and yours to the utterdark before I claim it!” With that he raised his warhammer and struck. The Wraith attempted to catch the blow, but the haft of its weapon snapped, as a real, solid scythe would had it been hit by Garrek’s hammer. The curved blade fell, dissipating into the mist before it hit the floor. The head of the heirloom of the Heavyhands continued forward, exploding the creature’s ribcage with a roar of magical flame, and it died a second time with a terrible cry Guddri knew would haunt his nights forever. Garrek smiled grimly, about him his clansmen were finishing off the remainder of the Wraith’s guard. Several of the Revenants had collapsed as their lord had died, others fought on, but their unnatural vitality was ebbing away. Garrek tugged the tattered remnants of the Wraith’s shroud from the hammer’s head and turned to Guddri. “What are ye doing lying about there lad?” he gestured to the barrows looming out of the fog. “There’s treasure to be won!” The huge orc warband continued rolling into the valley – a raucous, malodorous horde of filth, bringing death and destroying everything in its path. The anticipation clenched Grafe, and his beard bristled with rage. "Let them have hell!" he yelled, shortly followed by a different roar as cannons, rifles, crossbows and Organ guns ripped into the orc lines. Grafe's legs struggled to keep him upright as he barrelled down the hill, only just carrying his weight and armour as he and his cohort smashed into the first rank of orc troops. By then he already knew this battle was won...and he quite enjoyed charging the enemy for a change – it being a rare event for any Dwarf army.