I wrote more stories, continuing in my work of making a short for each of the 15 careers. Today I feature the two characters who were missed out in the first batch - one for Kerillian, and two for Kruber. Might be the last until next weekend, I’m gonna be away from a keyboard this week. But I’ll get 'em all.
As before, these take liberties (as there are many unknown details).
Kill them all.
She heard it in her dreams, the voice. His voice. The whisper of the Bloody-Handed God.
At one time it had been a soft sound, like a breeze blowing through grass. Beautiful, easy to overlook, but there all the same.
Over time it had grown. The Lord of Murder had spoken to her more and more clearly.
You are special, the voice had told her. I won’t reject you like your own people.
He was not one of the gods her people held in high esteem, but the one exalted most by their Druchii cousins . . . those fools who has begun the civil war, so many millenia ago. Their rage would never be sated after their pride had been so bruised, no amount of blood would wash it away. But that didn’t stop them from trying.
Try as she might, she had never shaken the feeling that she was too good at killing. She wasn’t even a hunter at hunter, not truly. She was a killer. Each time she gutted a rat, it was an exultation of violence, not a clean kill. Her penance called for death, not brutality, yet the latter is what she did in the name of it.
Sometimes she wondered if the Spellsinger knew what he had unleashed upon the world outside Loren? He certainly wouldn’t care, but she wondered if he knew.
He had to know. Perhaps it was even the deeper reason for her banishment. An Asrai wasn’t a bloody murderer.
Yet you are more than simply an Asrai, the voice spoke in her dreams. It told her - showed her - so much. An ancestor. Perhaps male? Perhaps female? In the dreams it was impossible to tell, and the way they shifted reminded her uneasily of She-Who-Thirsts. But this was not the foul hand of a Chaos God in her dream. Deep inside, she knew it was Khaine, that he spoke truly.
Far off, in both time and distance, she saw a city, a city of her dark cousins. She saw death and ruin for its rulers, with some escaping into the night, into the mountains. Into the shadows.
Those shadows had become their home . . . for some. For others, they had fled further, through time uncounted, until finding a forest.
And their cousins there had warily accepted them as kin.
Their shadow hung over her still.
Part of her balked at the bloodthirst and the shadow. She was not one of the mad Druchii . . . even if one of her ancestors had been.
Yet they had cast her out, hadn’t they? Given her an impossible goal before she could return to Loren’s holy forests. The insult and shame burned inside her, feeding her hate.
Ah, if only the mayflies knew just how strong the feelings ran in her blood! But they were just too simple to ever understand. Their lives just leaves blowing in the wind, all the permanence of insects. She could blink, and they’d all be gone. Even the Dwarf.
One couldn’t be friends for something so ephemeral. How such children could ever believe they were experiencing the fullness of life astounded her.
The voice would whisper to her again . . . their brief flashes of life did have a purpose, as the perfect sacrifice . . .
Try as she might, she couldn’t make herself truly want to kill them. Even the Dwarf. They had proven stalwart allies.
A compromise was in order . . . Khaine offered her the way out, a way to embrace her true self and not betray those who trusted her.
The Ratmen . . . their lives, as wretched as they were, would be her sacrifice.
How many times already had she slid a knife through gaps in the plates of a black-fur’s armor? And oh the sweet feeling of slitting their Warlord’s throat in Stromdorf . . . There would be more. Even her dreams without Khaine spoke of that.
Willingly, she would embrace the shadows.
The floor always won.
It was a saying he’d heard his father say more than once - often while laying upon it. After a good season’s harvest, or a particularly good deal, he’d buy a heady amount of that golden liquor one of their neighbors used to distill.
Taal take him, he couldn’t remember the bloke’s name. He was dead now - long before the Ratmen. No one was even sure what it had been, he’d taken a fever and gone to bed, and never got up.
But yeah, his father would buy a lot at once. Spent a pretty penny on it, it was better stuff than his own crude attempts at brewing. Would say he was stocking up so it’d last awhile, but then he’d drink most of it in just a week or two.
Laying on the floor of his own room, watching it slowly spin around him, Kruber often remembered his father.
By Taal, he hadn’t really wanted to turn out like him. Not the worst sort of father, but he’d never been nothin, either. Just a farmer - he raised good cows, but that wasn’t the kinda thing that made one famous, not unless they were truly Taal-blessed or somethin.
Kruber held up a hand, watching it shake. Never used to do that, not before he’d lost his regiment. He hadn’t drunk so much back then. Occasionally met the floor, of course, often with some pretty lass in his arms. But it was reasonably under control back then.
Now he got why his father drunk so much. He’d lost his own parents to Beastmen. Seen their bodies afterwards. Lost his sister and a brother. Some of his own siblings, too, to the pox. All the drinking, it really helped you forget the faces. Blurred them enough that you could tolerate it.
Some folks chewed the weirdroot, or weird stuff that he’d heard came from far-off Cathay. Too expensive for his ilk, though. Alcohol had to do.
What was he doing with himself?
His memories were as blurry at the moment as his vision, but a few things did stand out besides his dad. Sun-dappled forests, where he’d gone hunting. Wasn’t exactly legal, right? Being a poacher. But a young lad had to have meat to grow. He’d become a damn fine shot, even won a few unofficial contests with neighbors of all ages. Put an arrow through the eye of a doe at four hundred yards. Forty yards, he corrected himself. Don’t go gettin all showy, even in your head. Drawing too much attention got you in trouble. Especially in your head.
He needed to keep himself well-grounded. He was the only semi-sane one in the bunch. Lohner was as canny as a bag of weasels, Saltzpyre had his head halfway up Sigmar’s rear-end, the Dwarf . . . well, he was a good sort, for a Dwarf. But he’d never gotten those folks, they had their weird ways. Sienna was as much an addict of that fire as he was of alcohol - worse, really. And Kerillian . . . Well, Elves were a hell of a lot more of a pain in the ass than he’d ever imagined. And Taal don’t get him started on that creepy old bat Oleysa! The way she looked at him . . .
He shuddered. He didn’t want to be around any of em, really. They were great mates in a fight, but beyond that they were a hopeless lot.
Like him, really. Taal save him, what should he do . . . ?
Taal . . .
The god of his ancestors was often something he just said as an exclamation. Sure, sometimes he thought about Him, but most of the time it was just a learned habit.
But those sun-dappled forests . . . He kept thinking of them at odd times.
Maybe it was more than him remembering good times. The freedom, the escape from what others expected from him. It was . . . Well, in a lot of ways, it was what Taal represented, didn’t it?
Maybe it was a message to him.
He knew he’d feel stupid about it later, but tears welled in the corners of his eyes. It wasn’t like he could just run off, not when there was still big important stuff to do. Folks to help, or at least avenge. But maybe he could do it in Taal’s name. For real, not just sayin words. Then, when it was over, he could go off and live alone like he wanted. No one else to worry about, no one to worry over him. Just be free, and die alone when the time came.
Praise to Taal, Lord of the Wild Places. The prayer came more easily when he really meant it, and he said it again and again, as a promise to himself and to his god.
Kruber looked in the cracked mirror, tipping his hat a bit more. Yeah, like that . . . looked pretty good, didn’t it? He smiled a bit, but then closed his mouth as he realized it made him look a bit less menacing - and, well, his teeth weren’t in that great a shape.
Ah, that was fine. No one ever said a good merc had to have nice teeth! Didn’t hurt when looking for a good gal to spend the night with, but a bit of coin helped a hell of a lot more.
Now he’d just need to get some more coins. He could earn it, his sword-arm was still in great shape.
Thoughts of his future free company flooded his mind. Taal, he was really gonna do it! After avenging Helmgart, saving Ubersreik, he’d had sell-swords by the dozen begging to be in his group!
Especially if Sienna was along. Most wizards still bothered him on some level, but she was a good egg, if a bit too happy with the burning. But that was fine, not like she was gonna burn him up! I mean, there had been a couple close calls, when she’d been spell-flingin, but . . .
Nah, it’d be fine. Better than fine.
He quashed uneasy thoughts down. He didn’t like to look down there, not if he could help it. Too much alcohol would always get him looking back. Especially if it was the cheap stuff.
No more of that for him! He’d get good Tilean wines in the future! Or Bugman’s! Hm, maybe if he got enough of that, Bardin would join his band, too . . .
If he had three of the Ubersreik Five, that’d let him raise his prices even more . . . He knew without even asking that neither Saltzpyre nor Kerillian would ever go in on this. They had standards that were way too high, in more ways than one.
Ah, he wouldn’t miss em. Life was just a stream of meetings and goodbyes. Best to make the karls you could, and not look back.
Reaching back up to adjust his hat, see how it looked from a different angle, he realized it’d look a whole lot better if it had a feather, too. A really big one.
Resigning his commission had been the best thing he’d ever done. Not that he was glad about his lads . . . damn, that was a wound that’d never heal. Good lads, the lot of em. Except Günter. He’d been a real jerk, but still, he hadn’t deserved to die like that . . .
His mind went back for a moment. It had been like a hole had been torn in the world itself, leading to pure, terrifying blackness. He’d seen the faces of dozens as they’d been sucked in, and just . . . stopped existing. And he’d been one of them, if Müller hadn’t given him a good shove . . .
He looked away from the mirror, not wanting to see himself anymore. Going to a chair, he sat down and reached for a bottle.
Just a drink. Just one.