Friday, 13 December 2013

9) - Storm Warriors

I really, really wanted to read Warblade next and finish the Konrad trilogy but if we are going chronologically then i need to read a couple of others fist.  So we come to Storm Warriors, the third and final tale of Orfeo.  First off once again i have the re-issue cover as above.  I must admit i really like cover for this one.  Forget the figure on the front, its all the shadowy characters in the background combined with the shadows and moonlight that really gives it a sense of a foreboding atmosphere.  The original cover looks like this -

Its a bunch of Dark Elves which is related to the story.  I am sure i saw this cover on an old paint set.  I cant paint so i cant say i took much notice.  Might have been a Golden Demon set.  Pass, i am sure you don't really care.  Reissue one wins again for me.

Ok Brian Craig (Stableford) is back, it does feel like he is the most prolific writer of this era.  The previous ones have been more miss than hit so i hope he finishes the trilogy well.  I will of course keep an eye out for the scene where he is quite clearly tripping when writing and of course everyone's favorite, the strange sexual encounter. 

I really wanted to read Warblade, this better not be rubbish....

Spoiler Barrage!

We start off just where Plague Daemon left off as Orfeo has just finished telling the tale.  As he is about to retire for rest two armed attackers burst in, looks like they mean to kill the Caliph.  Orfeo defeats them with a chair and a candlestick....ok its not as bad as it sounds, Stableford does a good job with this fight.  However he gets nicked by a poisons blade and looses consciousness.  We then get a tripped out dream, already!
I have no idea what happened, something to do with flying, dancing and storms.  This picture makes more sense.
It appears the assassins were actually after Orfeo and the Caliph has hidden him away and pretended he had died.  As he cant go anywhere while he recovers its time for another of his tales!

Now i know i give Brian Stableford some stick on this blog but credit where it is due, the man knows how to set up a fantasy setting.  Previous tales took place in Estallia and the Border Princes and now we are taken to the misty shores of Albion.  Well a smaller island off the coast called Morien to be precise.  We get a brief history of the location, description of its agriculture and troubles as well as details on the three kingdoms.  Its very detailed and its easy to completely immerse yourself in it.  Slight problem though in that in the modern warhammer setting Albion is not that far advanced.
Only time Albion got any Love was back during the Dark Shadows Campaign.
So the current version of Albion does not correspond with this setting and i start to understand why they never did an Orfeo omnibus.  I won't let this spoil it though, i like the setting.  The names though, i am not so sure about.  Its very old Britain, a mix of Arthian legend and welsh.  The main character is the young king Herla of Plennydd and his trusted bard, Trystan.  As much as i enjoy the location set up i have never been convinced by Stablefords character naming.  Still its early doors yet for Storm Warriors.  The start is basically Hera off on a hunt when his father dies and he becomes king.  A mystery stranger shows up and asks him for the antlers of the stag he has hunted.  He says no and gets a cryptic message for his troubles.

We get an early indication of the problems facing the young king and bard, a lot of the nobles are worried about their young age and that the other two kingdoms will take advantage of them.
One island, three kingdoms, will only end in a fight.  And if anyone recognises the game give yourself five points.
The big news on Morien though is the arrival of a band of apparently shipwrecked elves.  Trystan is sent to find out what they want.  When he gets there he finds they are all ready well on the way to building a settlement and that they are indeed shipwrecked.
Luckily the elves had been playing minecraft and were well prepared.
The leader of the elves is Thoron and of course they come in peace.  Trystan detects a bit of a haughty attitude but recognises that the elf is trying to be courteous and thankful.  The elves only need to stay till they can build a new ship, in about three years time.

Trystan spends the night and is assailed by nightmares.  Brian Stableford, strange dreams.... here we go.  At first he dreams of being hunted like a stag which is fair enough.  But then he dreams of shadow daemons who are far too amorous for their own good.  Hands groped at his private parts....yep we have the strange random sexual encounter!  So early on as well!  Oh wait the dreams not finished.  His soul is being twisted into unbearable excitement...he is having a wet dream, when he is staying with the elves, thats a tad embarrassing.  No wait he is left unsated and unrelieved, must have woken up in time.  Trystan then has an audience with Slaanesh who wants his soul.  He does not put two and two together though and blame the elves.  I do, they are clearly Dark Elves.  On his way back he is whisked away from reality as an ancient bard delivers a prophecy to him.  Surprisingly its not about the elves.  But its suitably cryptic to not mean anything at this early stage.

Trystan makes it home and advises King Herla to be wary but treat the elves fairly.  Bit of a filler chapter but it hints that although they are childhood friends there is an element of distrust.  Only a tiny hint but still its there.  So summer goes by without incident other than the elves are building a stone castle and its time for the Kings wedding.  The elves arrive as guests but tension is in the air.

During the day its like a mini Olympics is held.  The elves are allowed to enter 3 events, middle distance run, archery and fencing and to the shock of the crowd (but no warhammer player) they sweep the board.

The Warhammer Olympics features such sports as snotling tossing and skaven shaving.
The politics continue from the day into the evening meal where the elves ask if they can play some music and listen to Trystan playing the harp.  It seems friendly but its another attempt to see who is better.  Surprisingly Trystan wins, however it feels like the elves are manipulating the humans.  Although i have to say the descriptions of the music just feels very airy fairy to me.  I am sure more cultured people will rave about it but to me it feels out of place in a warhammer novel.

So the marriage ceremony goes off without a hitch.  Its an arranged one of course and the bride is beautiful however King Herla is not that interested.  Problem is though, Trystan is very interested.  As time goes by he becomes better friends with the Queen and Herla gets jealous.  Ah typical, life long friendship ruined by a women.  Bros before Hoes Trystan!  We get a bit of a mystery as well where some wedding gifts go missing but show up later, for example a dagger appears in a murdered mans back.  Not sure where this is going.  Trystan gets another Brian Stableford weird sexy dream.

The king grows colder with his wife when Trystan is away and goes hunting.  He always wins the hunt, much to the annoyance of his knights.  It almost becomes open hostility and it looks like the herds are sickening.  Meanwhile Trystan is visited again by the ancient druid and it looks like the elves wedding gifts are cursed but only if the people let them be.  Trystan gives him some cheek that he speaks in riddles and cant just tell him whats going on.  Good lad Trystan, just won back some man points.

Trystan and Herla start to make up and come up with a plan to save the realm.  But before they can enact it the elves invite them to a wedding of their own.  They know its a trap but have no choice but to accept.  When they get there the wedding preparations are under way but it looks like Sir Godwin, who is a crap knight whose land the elves landed on, has given his daughter away to be the bride!

Yes he is.
So to explain, everyone on the island lives by a code, the code of Agam, which is like any bog standard code.  It defines their lives and focuses on your usual stuff like honour and be friendly to those that need it etc.  Well by marrying a human the elves are basically insuring themselves against attack as it will be breaking the code.
The Code of Agam rule number 7 - Never tweak an elf by his right nipple.

Trystan and his wizard counterpart for the elves, Kerewan have a frank exchange.  Trystan basically calls him out on what they are up to and the elf does not deny it, just points out that its the same thing they did by inviting the elves to the kings wedding.  In all seriousness its an interesting take on racism where the marriage should have been a celebration of two races coming together but instead its all about politics again.  Hey they might even make a half-elf, don't think Dungeons and Dragons will like that.

Anyway, what are they moaning about, it could be a lot worse!
Anyway the elves had made a harp and the elf mage Kerewan plays first.  Its laced with magic of course and speaks to everyone's soul.  Trystan has feelings for the kings wife again and its all loved up nonesense.  This really is like a battle of the bands.  Trystan is up next!

By the gods its a daemon harp!!!  Trystan tries to resist but the power is too strong and he starts playing the music of the storm.  It then descends into madness as per Brian Stablefords norm.  I am convinced he must be smoking something when writing these parts.  Trystan is clever though and instead of trying to beat the storm music he instead dissipates it.  The human bride to be admits to being bewitched and King Herla goes to take her away.  The elves though say this is in violation of the code.  There is only one way to settle this....a duel!

My name is King Hera, you corrupted my kingdom, prepare to die!

The duel between Herla and the Elf captain is superb, its really well written and has you on your toes.  Herla is victorious and surprisingly the Slaanesh worshiping elves are gracious in defeat and allow the humans to depart safely.  What the elves didn't mention though was when they could go.  In thick mist they find a farm which should not be there and after speaking with the farmer they find they are in the future.  Not the far far future of 40k but King Herla is nothing but ancient legend.  One of them jumps off his horse and disappears into nothing.  They keep riding and find the castle in ruins before a huge storm appears.  The storm is the Storm Riders, or the Storm Warriors of Slannesh per the book title.  Lost souls who ask Herla and co to join them.  A few of the remaining knights join the spectral host but Herla and the main heroes turn them down.  The hunt is on!

They split up and Herla takes the hunters on.  Each warrior that catches him is killed and he gets stronger and faster with each kill.  Trystan however reads the storm like music, the sound of hoofs like a drum and is able to navigate around them....really thats how he escapes i am not making it up.  Meanwhile up in the clouds Slaanesh appears in the stars and offers Herla to join his ranks again.  He refuses and the storm hunt surrounds him and the remaining knights who are killed and he is the only one left.

Trystan finds the real Bavian, the first druid, held hostage by an evil tree and is able to free him.  Now they must sing using the music of their hearts to save Herla as two hearts in harmony are more powerful by far than one.  What a load of cack.

So they arrive and the three beat the storm hunt, which turns into daemons by singing it to death.  As they go back to the real world Herla dies in Trystans arms.  Anything to avoid more singing.

Herla's death though gave Trystan a perfect back story when he entered Warhammer Factor the next year.
Back to Orfeo and the Caliph to finish the book off.  Orfeo is basically saying that even though the heroes sometimes die and the victory is small, its still worth it if you make other peoples lives better.  Finally he leaves the Caliph who thinks he is either the finest man to have lived or the worlds greatest liar.  Yeah he is probably a liar, the spoony bard!

Well that's Storm Warriors finished.  Highlights include a great backdrop with the isle of Morien, good intrigue and discussion of racism with the elves and a great duel between the king and the elf captain.  Storm Warriors should have been great but as typical with the Orfeo trilogy it suffers from having good highlights with a lot of poor stuff in-between.  The whole music thing which runs through the story is pretty poor.  I understand what Stableford is trying to do and it may be a lot of peoples cup of tea.  Its not mine.

Rating - 4/10

So that is the Orfeo trilogy concluded.  Ive always wondered why it never got its own anthology in later years but i can see why now.  Not only would it be difficult to fit in today's warhammer fluff but it's also just not that good.  Now i am not saying they are bad, just average.  The most frustrating thing is that there are signs of great stuff in them, but it just does not deliver on that promise.

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