Cynn’s heart was beating fast with anticipation. She had been training for a very long time to be part of the Domicile Venificii’s regiment of battle mages and she was eager to participate in her first real battle. They were spirit walking to their intended destination, right into the flank of an army of elementals. There had been a strategy meeting right before they started walking. They were assigned into teams of an Earth caster, two Celestial casters and three of the knights.
The role of the knights was to engage in melee and protect the casters, whilst the Earth caster needed to keep up healing and defences. Then there was her job. Her job was to pummel the enemy with elemental power. Thinking of it gave her a shiver, she couldn’t wait!
After the strange quiet of the spirit walk, it felt like all her senses were being assaulted as they stepped out of the magic circle. She could hear the clash of steel, the casting of magics, and war drums from across the battlefield where she knew the Wolfshead orcs would be. She could smell death and fields of crops burning. In front of her she could see elementals, humans and orcs, all clashing into an ocean of violence.
She hadn’t realise she had been holding her breath. She snapped out of her momentary stun and fell in behind the shield wall of knights. “Ready!” came the commander’s call and she had the spells she needed to cast on the tip of her tongue and she was already starting to bring her magical energy to the tips of her fingers. “Fire!”
Flame, stone, ice and lightning burst into the air as the line of mages in the DV regiment fired a volley of spells into the enemy flank. Some elementals fell where they stood whilst some spells only seemed to draw the attention of others.
They fought hard to push the enemy back towards the catacombs and even had a few close calls with the smaller and faster chaos imps getting through the shield wall. The battle had been raging for a few hours now and they had found a fairly defensible position. She had planted her feet and was focused on unleashing a Magic Storm, flinging attack after attack at surrounding enemies.
Occasionally she saw a collection of orcs engaging close by, or a group from the Cornstalk alliance fighting a collection of imps. She heard a squeal and massive thump as one of the enormous riding boars crashed into an elemental. It lifted it up in its curved tusks and flung it to one side. It’s rider, a tall and relatively skinny orc, was firing arrow after arrow at the enemies around them. They were focussed on a particular group of elementals when an imp, jumped at him from behind. He noticed the imp’s attack a bit too late and was sure he would get knocked off his mount when it was blown clear off its intended path by an magical attack.
Cynn smirked to herself, the imp was not nearly as quick on the draw as she was. The orc looked up at her and raised his bow and arrow directly in her direction. For a moment she froze in shock and indignation as he let his arrow fly directly at her! She thought she was going to die, when the arrow flew right past her head and she heard a crack and squeal from behind her. She craned her neck around to see that an imp lay dead on the ground just a few feet away from her.
She spun back to face the archer and he had a smirk on his face as well, he nodded to her and sped off again, taking down more elementals with arrow and tusk as they went. She seethed inside “Why that little show-off…” but decided to channel that into showing that show-off exactly who the best crack-shot was and fired two dead-on blasts at the heads of the two nearest elemental imps.
… to be continued
– Story Written by Rushka Venter
Weapon forward… Strike!
The blade cut toward the straw-and-sand mannequin cutting through what would have been the lower intestine.
Retreat step… Block!
Keeping his feet at the correct angle he stepped back from his target. He brought the weapon up to the correct angle. Almost. Anger welled inside him as he corrected the positioning of the butt of his pole-arm.
Sweat dripped from his brow. He was not exempt from this training. He was a citizen of Skaven like any other. He had to set the example. They people needed to know he was one of them. He scarcely felt the body on the end of the blade any more. More sand trickled to the ground.
The weight of the shaft was becoming almost casual to him. Good. He had worked at this long enough had he not. No. Never. Never enough. One could never be good enough. Skaven always demanded more. Why didn’t they see that?
A momentary respite before the drill began again. He could taste sweat at the corners of his mouth. There would always be sheep. He would need hounds to herd them but he needed to be both sheep and hound at once.
Weapon forward… Strike!
Four hours later his entire body ached. His wrists burned as he splashed the cold water over his face. The polearm lay on the bench along with his sword, both freshly oiled. A simple tool on its own, in the hands of competent men and women each became a weapon. He would have to have Oren compensated on the workmanship of the polearm. Practical and simple. Just as he liked it. None of the excess so desired by the former nobility.
That had soon been sanded off them. Skaven has no time for frivolity. There is only what you can contribute. There is only what she allows you. That is why they drilled. That is why each man and woman toiled. They did it because though none said it they understood. Their very spirits connected to Skaven they understood what she desired. This was good. Come the siege they were going to need it. Already the Homeland Defense Force had taken losses but such was war. That did not mean he had to accept it. That did not mean they had to accept it. Their blood seeped into soils a libation to their homeland. She did not find them wanting. The ultimate sacrifice, a final death in service of the nation. Those nameless men and women, remembered by their families would be soon forgotten by the masses. Their names recorded only on the parchments of the HDF scribes to be stacked away in some dusty room to gather dust as the deeds of the dead slowly decay in the memories of common folk.
No he would not allow himself to forget, their sacrifice was exemplar to all. Skaven demanded devotion above all else. He would better himself. They all would. There could be no alternative. Devotion to death.
– written by Duane Havenga –
Paperwork cluttered the once tidy chamber. Its spartan utilitarianism giving way to uncontrolled, turbulent seas of parchment dotted ever so often by fleets of scroll casses or lonely tomes drowning amidst the chaos. All these foreigners. This Hell debacle was a headache if ever there was one. Half did not even bother to fill in the appropriate paperwork and his offices had been working double shifts to process the numerous claims of theft of property.
Why did no one seem to understand that order was needed to maintain law. Systems were in place for a reason. Everything ran on gears of ink and parchment. No paperwork no processing. How can one judicate theft claims for a party that does not legally exist within Skaven. Did these Philistines have no such procedure back wherever they crawled out from? He would personally have to deal with this yes. Already his saddlebags were packed with documentation to be distributed when he arrived at the siege. Those who did not listen to reason would just have to suffer the consequences. He was fair was he not? Or did they wish to enter Skaven for ulterior motives. The Homeland Defense Forces would have to be placed on higher alert.
Every foreign trader would be under closer scrutiny. Routine pass checks would have to be doubled. Curfews put in place, if they wanted to test him they would not find him wanting. They wanted him to slip up but he wouldn’t. No. They would not have that satisfaction. They would conform to the laws. Compliance was not optional. Skaven does not allow his failure in that regard. Skaven does not allow failure at all.
– written by Duane Havenga –
The room was filled with a thick, rank smoke that could not filter out of the small window fast enough. It was dark inside, save for the torch burning contentedly above the table stacked high with tomes, arrayed with vials, scattered with strange ingredients and well worn with years of scorch marks.
A dwarf sat hunched over the table, palms on his forehead, as a small, purple-coloured puff of smoke swirled its way up from the table and dispersed into the hazy nothingness of the room. The dwarf let out a long sigh. Another failure. He had begun to wonder why his master had instructed him to delve into this alchemy business a few failures ago. Yes, it surely had a myriad of uses in and out of combat. He could see that plain as day, and was sure he could put the various possible gas globes which could be produced with the proper skill to excellent use. Surely, however, there were others with some more natural talent in the actual creation of all these recipes and formulas. He was a smith by trade. He was used to creation by careful application of force. This finicky business of exact measurements and trial by error did not come easy to him.
He had been here, in this dank excuse for a lab, for days now and had yet to even create a simple light elixir. The room itself boggled him. It was almost as though the previous students and masters of alchemy to use it before him enjoyed perpetuating some ridiculous stereotype of a mad alchemist wreathed in smoke and shadow, the light of creation before him all that illuminates his wrinkled and manic face. It could at least have proper ventilation. Some good old fashion dwarven engineering needed to be applied here.
Eventually the dwarf managed to pull himself away from his construction griping and return to the task at hand. He sighed yet again as he read over the recipe instruction for what felt like the thousandth time, and frowned at the page, as he reached out for the measuring spoons and ingredients.
Carefully, with a steady hand, he took care to take the correct amount of each ingredient. Slowly, with a dedicated precision born out of a stubborn desire to accomplish this feat of creation at least once, he poured each part of the formula into the well-used mortar that lay before him. Taking pestle in hand he smoothly mixed and crushed it all together. Finally he decantered it into a nearby vial and cautiously stoppered it shut. He held up the vial to eye height, took a deep breath and gave it one quick, violent shake.
Miraculously, it did not explode in his face. Instead, for the first time, it issued forth a calm, white light. A light to him that seemed as great as the sun and comprised of all his hopes and dreams at this point in time. Maybe there was something to this alchemy business after all.
I remember the dust…
It coated the tops of the rafters I was clinging to. It hung heavy in the air. There was a full moon that night and I could see the dust dancing where the hole I entered through allowed a stray moonbeam through. Looking back it seems almost poetic, the amount of dust present in that room. How it clung to everything there. How it needed to be cleaned.
See, Hope was covered in dust. More than dust. In filth. It coated everything. Metaphorically speaking of course, although the word filth aptly applied to that man that sat below me that night. The dust needed to be cleaned away if Hope was to become anything. If Skaven was to become anything. It had gone without cleaning for far too long. That man was dust, and I was there to clean him away. To kill him.
I say kill, but of course it was more than likely murder. It was entirely legal, don’t get me wrong. He deserved it, as well. He was a vile and selfish creature, as crime lords tend to be. The amount of wrongs he committed I do not think I could count. Still, I’m sure a good man would have forced him before a trial, or given him a chance to realise his wrongs and turn himself over to justice. Something like that; something different than quick, cold death. My orders did not allow him such a luxury however, and I was quite happy with it that way.
I’m getting sidetracked by philosophical musings on morality aren’t I? I shall stop that. Where was I? Right. There I was, perched in the dark rafters of the roof, hidden in shadow along with the dust. Two others hung to beams nearby in a similar fashion as myself; there for the same reason as myself. We all carried crossbows. They were loaded; vorpal coatings had been applied to the bolts. The distraction team had drawn most of the guards away, as was planned. Only two remained. One man for each of. This needed to be ended quickly and efficiently.
I will admit, my hands were shaking. I’d served in the war, so obviously I had seen, and caused, my fair share of death. This, however, was very different from a war… and yet incredibly similar. Whether it was the difference or the similarity that got on my nerves I couldn’t tell, but I couldn’t steady my aim. That’s probably why my bolt hit him in the arm, instead of the head. What followed is a terribly embarrassing memory. I panicked, drew my blade and threw myself from the roof onto the man, where I stabbed him repeatedly to death. It is not a pleasant state of mind to remember, and one I do not wish to ever be in again. I thank my stars that my comrades had been more accurate. I would not have fared well had the muscle survived their respective bolts and born down on my person.
Regardless of my sloppiness, we finished our mission, as many other teams were finishing similar ones throughout Hope that night. It was a bloody night of cleansing that, when the old criminal powers who would not convert to the new order were put down without mercy. It was a necessary night though, never forget that. The dust had to be cleaned.
He felt the pull. It drew him to Hell, and for no apparent reason, he went. He found the cultist, and for a moment thought to join them, but somehow he knew, they were not what he was looking for. He stood on a hill, overlooking the mess, observing these “cultists” in their sacrifices. With every thrust of their blades into innocent flesh he felt his flesh crawl. Somehow their actions were polluting all he holds dear, but he had no way of knowing what was happening, or why, so he simply observed.
He had heard tales of Hell. He heard of Echo, and was never quite sure if he respected the man, or need to destroy him. Luckily that choice is no longer his. So he watched.
The cultists were dancing, and singing. Not music and rhythm though, but a cacophony of sound and movement. Suddenly everything went silent.
He revelled in the silence, for with the silence came a sense of his powers returning. Within the silence came another pull, and when he looked up he saw her, far on another mound, a woman in a dark travel worn cloak. He knew she was important, but did not immediately know why.
He saw her opening her eyes, and as they opened he could feel his magic has returned, but something was wrong. Something has changed. His powers felt darker, unnatural.
The cultists were busy raising those they sacrificed! They were making an unnatural army using the corruption of chaos magic!
The woman opened her eyes and saw what the cultists were doing. He saw a light flash in her eyes, and in a moment her sword was in her hand. There was a glow emanating from a pendant that she was wearing. He stood silently on his hill, leaning on his walking stick, watching the woman wade into the necromancers, leaving their dead bodies behind her in a wake of destruction. He smiled, for at that moment he knew why he was drawn here.
As the last decapitated body fell to the floor the light from her pendant receded, and the woman fell to the ground.
“Right” he said to himself, allowing the magic to play on his finger tips.
Gazing at the stars had become a habit of late. Their unique formations, patterns capturing his interest. He was once again looking for familiar patterns, searching for new and interesting pictures to draw from them. At the back of his mind however it was still bothering him that he in actual fact did not have any information on them. He wished to find out more of their names and their groupings. It was not long before he decided to take action: he would find a book, a book about stars, and he would finally know their names. It was late however, so he retired for the evening instead, trying to make as little noise as he could so as not to wake his companions. They would need their energy for the journey ahead and for looking for what he planned for them to search for.
He woke early and, his mind set, he did not waste time; strapping his equipment to his person and removing the evidence of his encampment with efficiency and practice. He then patiently waited for his fellow travellers to ready themselves. It was not long before they moved out, searching for a city or town. It had been a while since they had seen road, for the stars in the wilderness were clearer and brighter. During the night however an idea had come to him. The first of his companions he sent out to find a prominent astrologist within the area. Once she had left, he asked the other companion to follow her and gather information on the security of the residence.
Realising that all that was needed was done he decided instead to wander the woods for some time. They weren’t quite like the ones from his childhood, however nevertheless they were peaceful. It was not long however before the peace was interrupted by a raven. Wishing to get back to the peace he found earlier he quickly detached the message on its leg and got to replying. The message had irritated him. However, knowing that some peace would remove that, he kept his message short and sent it along with the raven. Finally he could relax again and so as the day passed he headed back to the encampment they had used the previous day. Knowing not when his fellow travellers would return, he set out to setup the camp once more and not before long headed out to find food.
As he wandered the woods once more he found evidence of some animals nearby. Not having a hunting bow available he started setting up a small trap and moved into cover to wait. To his luck it was not long before a deer approached; it had, seemingly, been separated from its herd. To his dismay however it had stopped just before the trap he had set and so he tried to move closer to it. Maybe the dagger he had would help him more. Whether due to his bad luck or hunger (?) the leaves around him had dried so that he could not help but make some noise. The sudden rustle of leaves startled the deer and, in its panic, it ran directly into the trap. Realising what had happened he got up from his cover and moved to the animal and with efficiency of the blade cut its throat.
It was not long after he had gotten back and had started making the food that his fellow travellers returned. Listening to what they had discovered while all were enjoying the food that had been provided the plan was set. Tonight he would need his rest, but not before he finished enjoying the interests the night’s sky had brought.
The next day he woke to the cries of another raven. It seemed his message had been answered. He pocketed the paper and sent the bird away. He had work to do. Letting his companions know he would be catching up with them at a later stage, he headed off with the information they had provided him. He soon arrived at the house of the astrologist and to his luck he was easily able to acquire a book on the stars. Now he could head back and regroup with his companions and hopefully read what he had found. His interest would be sated and his mind could be at peace once more.
– written by BW Muller –