Robbie MacNiven’s first Age of Sigmar short story, Heartwood is a tale of the sylvaneth exploring one branch (sorry) of their arboreal kingdom, and the role branchwyches play in their society. When Nellas the Harvester is wounded defending the Wyldwood from invading Rotbringers, she returns to the heart of her domain bearing with her the lifeseeds of fallen sylvaneth to be planted and born anew. The question remains, however, whether she also bears with her a taint that might yet spell doom for the Wyldwood and her household.
At its heart a story of the conflict between two age-old enemies, this proves an opportunity to develop Nellas’ nature and role in a measured, characterful way, showcasing both her warlike and peaceful aspects. In battle she’s ferocious, but it’s when we explore the Wyldwood with her in peace that the story turns from interesting to beautiful. MacNiven paints a vivid, almost hypnotising picture of sylvaneth life and the harmonious cycle in which they exist, while subtly introducing character archetypes without compromising the integrity of what is a powerful, arresting tale. Whether you read this as a standalone e-short or as part of the Sylvaneth collection, this is as good an Age of Sigmar story as you’ll find. Excellent stuff.