I wrote some more stories. The last five for the last five careers! (Foot Knight, Zealot, Battle Wizard, Ranger Veteran, and Waystalker).
If you wanna read the other stories I’ve written, here are links!
Round 1 (Witch Hunter Captain, Ironbreaker, Unchained)
Round 2 (Shade, Huntsman, Mercenary)
Round 3 (Pyromancer, Handmaiden, Bounty Hunter, Slayer)
Damn his eyes, a knighthood.
“Yer old man would cry if he saw you now, Kruber lad,” he said to his own reflection in the cracked mirror.
It was something he’d never even dreamed of. Lied about, once or twice, to impress some gals. They were looking to be impressed, though, so he didn’t feel bad about that. That was chivalrous, right?
He wondered just how much the Reikshammer expected him to take that kind of behaviour. His life hadn’t exactly taught him a lot of courtly manners.
But he was a knight! One of the bucket-heads he’d always been annoyed at for being so full of themselves!
Hell, if he made his way to Nuln, he could probably get introduced to Countess Emmanuelle! He’d always wanted to lay eyes on her, though even in his wildest dreams did he consider more than that. After all, the Reikshammer weren’t exactly the Reiksguard. They fancied themselves well, had more than a few accolades under their belt, but had never single-handedly turned a battle or saved an Emperor.
He grinned in the mirror, reaching up to spin the end of his stylish moustache. At least, the barber-surgeon had told him it was all the rage in Altdorf. He hadn’t been back there in a bit to check.
The sides of his head felt a bit bare, though, without his mutton chops. They’d been great for staying warm, but not so great for getting a pot helm to stay on right.
What a boring thing it was. He’d definitely need to get himself a nicer helmet. Maybe some fancy gromril one! Bardin would probably call him a Dwarf-friend, right? That could get you a lot of places in a Dwarf hold, just as a knighthood did in the Empire.
But mostly it needed to have a nice big feather in it. Couldn’t look proper and dashing without that, could you?
He hefted his shield and sword. They were battered in comparison to his new armor, and it wasn’t exactly at a mirror’s finish, itself. But he’d never been prouder.
He wanted an ale, wanted one bad. Just to celebrate, of course! But for now, he better stick to wine - much more proper for a knight than ale.
Shifting around, he had to admit that the armor was at least well-balanced. It wasn’t nearly as heavy as he’d thought it might be, and it made him practically a steam tank for toughness! He’d mentioned as much to Saltzpyre, and a part of him wondered why the old man had regarded him so oddly afterwards.
Had it been Saltzpyre who had recommended him to the Order?
It was something he’d wondered over. It made the most sense. Victor was probably the only one he knew who a knightly order would listen to. Unless it was Lohner? He was cannier than a sack of Goblins, and Kruber was glad he was on the right side.
Holding up his sword, he made another pose, shoulder first. Yeah, it was nice and angled well for a good shoulder charge - the “old Kruber bash” he’d called it years ago. Never worked quite as well as he had hoped, then, but he’d only had a single pauldron. Now he had a whole suit of armor. And he was a big lad!
Yeah, he could probably bowl right through a whole horde of Skaven . . .
He grinned again, his mind just going back to his fantastic fortune. If he did find his way back to Altdorf, there was a bartender who had thrown him out a few years back that he’d pay a visit to. The man had called him a useless mercenary.
“Well, it’s Sir Kruber now!” he said to the mirror, laughing.
The lash bit whirred through the air in an arc before finding flesh. Small bits of metal were woven into the ends of some of the frayed ends, one for each of his worst sins. They tore into his skin, leaving bright red wounds to punctuate the lighter red stripes. This was the first stroke upon his back on this day, but old marks attested to previous penance.
“Sigmar, bless this sinner and forgive his many failings,” Saltzpyre intoned.
“Guide his arm in striking down those who will not repent their evil ways.”
The air was cut again, and the lashes cut particularly deep, making his body shake with the pain. His voice, however, did not even tremble, and he kept staring up, in the direction of the sky. While inside, he could not see it, but he knew Sigmar was looking down upon him in judgment.
He must not fail.
“Aid me in destroying the foul heretics who threaten your realm.”
“Strengthen my limbs so that I may not slack in following your will.”
“Clear my eyes so I may see the path you have set before me.”
“I will fight until my last breath to defeat thine enemies, O Holy Sigmar.”
Saltzpyre now bent his head, touching the floor. Blood covered his back, and was pooling around his limbs.
His body shivered, and he loathed the weakness of the flesh. It was not worthy of the Glory of Sigmar. Only his soul, if he was strong enough to follow through.
The thoughts of his many failures; to save Ubersreik, that he ever believed that corrupt men could truly guide mankind and the Empire, that he had failed to eradicate all the Skaven, that he had ever trusted a witch . . .
Thinking of his companions brought another pain to him, drawing his face into a grimace.
Kruber, the foolish follower of Taal. Only Sigmar would save them.
Kerillian, the selfish and fickle Elf. Her heathen gods would not avail her when the End came.
Bardin, the loyal Dwarf. The only one amongst them who Sigmar would look on kindly.
And worst of all, the foul witch. He tried not to think even of her name. She had tried to lead him off Sigmar’s path, into the path of Chaos with her warp-tainted magic. But she had failed, and in the end her own hell fires would consume her. True, she was ignorant even of her own failures, but that did not absolve her.
Only blood and faith absolved.
He raised back up, his back screaming with pain as he looked up at the azure-blue sky.
“Hear me, O Sigmar! Hear your humble servant! I will fight the taint of Chaos with every ounce of my will for as long as I draw breath! In your example I go forward!”
His lips curled now into a sneer. His former ‘comrades’ in the Order. Decadent fools, all! They denied the ancient Skaven enemy’s mere existence, even after the bag of skulls he had brought them! Mutants did not have such regular shapes! And the pelts! And the eye-witness accounts, his own among them! The sworn testimonies of the Dwarves of Ubersreik, and Bardin’s as well!
And they had dismissed them all. There were no Ratmen. It had been an attack of a particularly short Beastmen tribe, nothing more.
To hell with them all. Their lack of faith would lead them to perdition. Only those who were willing to sacrifice all would be saved.
Sigmar willed it.
Hold in the breath. Let the power grow within, let the air combine with Aqshy and turn to fire . . .
Hold it until the time of your choosing, then let it come forth, the flame controlled. Precise, deadly.
She could feel the flame within her. And as easily as she could grow the flame, so too could she snuff it out.
It did die, reverted to the tiny spark that always lived within her. It balked, fought, wanted to get free and destroy. But it would obey. It would listen to her.
Because she was in control.
Sienna opened her eyes, and let her breath out. It could easily have been a gout of flame, but she was not afraid of it going loose.
The ritual was one she had learned long ago in the Bright College. It wasn’t precisely accurate to the traditions taught by Teclis of the High Elves generations ago to the founders of the College, but it worked for her.
A deep part of her, the wild woman, hated and scorned such techniques and control. The flame was meant to be free! To burn swiftly and leave naught but ash in its wake!
When she controlled it, though, when she used these ridiculous rituals, she could feel the difference, though. The flames grew hotter. She could cast longer, purge her body of the overheat of Aqshy quicker. Why, she could even ride the wind itself! Only for a moment, but when she did it was beyond anything else. To be one with Aqshy was a monumentally dangerous thing, and if her control slipped for even a moment, even she would be burned to ash by it.
Ah, but to fly free and ride the fire, to burn everything in her path, to make even the most horrible of monsters recoil from her power . . .
A smile curled her lips. She might be old, but she still had bite.
And she wasn’t that old, anyway. She was a perfectly fine age, for a wizard! There were still a lot of good years ahead of her, and after all of this . . . Skaven nonsense was through, she might go travelling again.
Maybe to Kislev, she thought. But no, it was far too cold. Ooh, perhaps off to Ulthuan. Teclis still lived, she could pay him a visit . . .
Control! She brought her thoughts back in line, feeling chagrined. It wasn’t just Aqshy that went astray at times.
It was almost the story of her life. She’d been going astray for most of it. In a way, the Skaven had helped her. After Ubersreik, she’d finally realized just how out of control she had become, how deeply into her addiction to the wind of fire she had sunk.
Just because something was addictive, though, didn’t mean it was all bad. Sometimes she found herself wondering if she could just walk away from it if she wanted. Could she really live like that?
Yes, she reasoned. But what would be the point?
Carefully and slowly, Bardin pulled down the leaves of the ivy that shrouded him, to gaze out upon the filthy raki. A whole group of them were idling about, clearly up to no good.
But then, was a raki ever up to anything that was good?
He was certain not. Turning his head the merest fraction, he looked to his companion, and nodded.
The wutelgi nodded back, barely perceptibly. Admirably still, in this kind of situation, at least. Not doing any of those silly elgi flippy dance-attack moves. At least not until the blades started swinging. Then she could do all she wanted, as far as he cared.
The wind was blowing the stink of the rats to his nostrils. He wished, sometimes, that he hadn’t been born with such a nose - it had a subtle curvature that humans missed, that many Dawi took as a sign of ill-fortune. Few truly believed it, but all took it as a bad sign. It hinted that a Dawi had a future out under the open sky.
And while most of his kind considered that terrible, bordering on a perversion, it worked out well enough for him, hadn’t it? He did indeed like being in the open, most of the time. Not that he minded being in a proper Dwarf hold, of course! But just try telling a Longbeard that the fresh air did one good. A whole lot of grumbling, you’d get for your troubles.
He hefted his crossbow slowly. It wasn’t the motion he worried that might spoil their ambush - raki had terrible vision, especially in daylight - but the sound. Their mangy, filthy ears could pick up the shifting of a chain mail link at a hundred paces! At least, if they weren’t being cowardly and pretending they didn’t hear anything in the hopes that trouble might not come their way.
He had a great big ugly black rat in his sights.
With a few hand signs, he signalled Kerillian just which one he was aiming at, and which one she should target.
Her black eyes pitted him with a glare that made clear she knew exactly which one he was aiming at, and that she was aiming at another.
He almost chuckled. She was a foul-tempered one, but it had grown on him.
Or maybe this all just felt right in a way - not being comrades with a slippery Elf specifically, no, but just having comrades in a war against incredible odds. Relying on their wits and the strength of their arms to carry the day!
He let out a snort of breath. It was enough of a signal.
His crossbow kicked, the stout chord twanging forward to launch the bolt. He heard the sound of her bow also loose.
The ears of the nearest raki twitched; it heard the sound, but even it didn’t have enough time to react.
His bolt took the Stormvermin through its eye, punching straight through and out the other side. It staggered to the side with the blow, the bolt sinking into the tree it was leaning against, pinning it upright, as he had intended.
He wanted to see how the wutelgi topped that!
Her arrow took the other black rat through the back of its neck, the arrow just stopping in the throat. The broad-headed arrow was at such an angle, his keen eyes could see as it spun and fell, that it was fully blocking its throat.
Damn elves and their showing off!
Regardless, the Skaven weren’t going to miss the death-stink of their warriors. They began chittering, some angry, and some in panic.
She clicked her tongue. “He could have yelled to alert others!”
“As if that racket he was making as he fell wouldn’t have alerted half the umgi Empire!” he shot back.
They had their melee weapons out now; his axe, and her sword. The Skaven were charging, the black hunger over-taking their weak minds. Where they had been cowardly, now they’d fight to the death. Bleeding monsters starved their own people just to make them fight better . . .
Bardin yelled a Khazalid oath as he crashed into the first few clan rats, his axe chopping strong and true. Rat heads were split and chopped, limbs hacked off while still clutching their rusted scrap-iron weapons.
The Elf was killing her own share, it was true. He saw her pull one of her fancy maneuvers and take out her bow to shoot a more distant Stormvermin rushing in, before smoothly going back to her sword to parry a blow.
Pah! He didn’t need to do such fancy tricks, some good axe work was all these raki were worth!
Yet despite his annoyance, he was having the time of his life, in a way. It wasn’t healthy for a Dawi to enjoy things that took him so far from home, but Grimnir take him . . . he loved it.
By the Gods, the Ratmen stank.
Kerillian fought to keep from wrinkling her nose at the smell that assaulted them, even through her scarf. It was like a human cesspit and an untended barn, with a spiciness that reminded her of a sick horse. Ach, no, even all that didn’t do them justice.
She glanced down at the Dwarf, peering through the leaves. If the rats kept watch even half as good as her kin, they’d have noticed that leaf moving, and he’d have spoiled their ambush. But he was short, so she supposed he couldn’t help it.
His own stink was, she grudgingly admitted to herself, at least preferable to that of the Skaven’s. Not nearly as offensive, even if it was still within the range of the word.
Her bow was raised, but not drawn. She was waiting for the Dwarf to pick his damn target, and he was taking his time doing so. Her mind wandered a bit, counting all the Skaven, then counting them again and adding five. It never hurt to assumed there were more of the little monsters lurking somewhere. She focused on listening, but her ears confirmed what her eyes told her.
It was all a moot point. The Weave told her exactly where they all were. Well, not exactly, but close enough. Their mere presence was like a scratch on the skin, and the severity of the pain they wrought told her just how bad their infestation was.
It was not bad, not here. Not yet. After they killed them, the Weave would reclaim their tainted bodies. It would poison it, at least a little. That couldn’t be helped. But it was still better than letting them run unchecked.
Bardin finally seemed ready to start, lifting his crossbow with care. He was aware of how good they could hear, at least.
He signalled her his intentions, and she almost snorted, glaring at him, while he rolled his eyes. She’d been stalking and hunting before he’d been born!
The Dwarf just seemed amused, and even she had to find some entertainment in it. He was actually of adequate skill, even beyond just being a Dwarf. She’d known some scouts who hadn’t been as good.
She pulled her bow taut. She’d wait for his signal - it’d just be easier to follow his clunky lead than to expect him to keep up with her.
Bardin snorted as a signal. As easy as breathing she let the arrow fly. His bolt and her arrow struck within a fraction of a second of each other.
She scowled as she saw how he crudely pinned the Stormvermin to the tree. Even from hear she could hear its death rattle. Hers, meanwhile, was unable to make a sound.
She made a disapproving sound. “He could have yelled to alert others!” she chided him.
“As if that racket he was making as he fell wouldn’t have alerted half the umgi Empire!” he said back in that obnoxious tone of his he used when he was thinking of it all as a friendly rivalry. Which it sort of was, but it was certainly a contest he’d never be ahead in. Maybe if the contest involved facial hair or being able to walk under objects.
She amused herself with that as she pulled her sword from its scabbard.
The Ratmen were on the attack now, and she was pleased for it. Part of her wanted to shoot them down more - it was beyond satisfying to send a well-fletched arrow through one of their monstrous ilk.
They were in full rampage, and she weaved in among them, slicing and slashing, taking off hands that held weapons and slitting throats. The Dwarf was making a loud mess behind her, but that was what he did best.
A Skaven head flew past her, and she glanced back at him in annoyance. In the same move as she did that, she pulled her bow without thinking, turning back to take aim and loose a shaft into an approaching Stormvermin. The arrow found the gap she had spied in its armor, punching straight through into its heart.
They weren’t a danger, unless in numbers, just annoying in how they always wanted to push in to steal ‘glory’. Like any brash young warrior desperate to prove themselves.
Hearing more than seeing a jagged short sword swinging at her, she smoothly stowed her bow and deflected a jagged dagger with her sword as she drew it.
The Skaven was thrown off-balance, and she smiled. It was afraid, and rightly so. Kerillian killed it without mercy, looking back at the Dwarf as he dispatched one of the last Skaven with a mighty headbutt that stove in its skull.
A musical laugh escaped her lips at the absurd sight.
“Let no one say you aren’t good at putting on a show, Dwarf,” she said, without her usual barbs. He was chuckling, too, as he scanned for more danger.
They were all dead, but she felt alive right now. Sometimes, rarely, the pain of being away from Athel Loren faded. Even if just for a moment.