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kurisawa
24-12-2010, 06:21
Dear warseerites,

This is NOT a batrep. However, it is an introductory piece of fluff for battles I intend to have in the new year, using some new dwarf models I am currently sticking together and painting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed creating the new characters! Merry Christmas.


The Oath


“What is it that you desire?” hissed the snake-like voice.

Kelek Jangletongue, sorcerer of chaos, swayed before Safina the treesinger, balancing on his long, tentacular tail like a cobra about to strike. The slender elf stopped in her pursuit, clutching her jade-staff before her in defense.

“Give up the book, fiend,” said Safina, the mauve pupils of her oval eyes narrowing with suspicion, “or be ready to die.”

Jangletongue laughed; a harsh, belittling hiss. Surrounding the two spellcasters, all around the grey, stony peaks, elves fought desperately against the mutated minions of chaos. The ring of steel upon steel and the cries of the dying echoed along the narrow mountain pass. Arrows flew from bows and blood spilled across the rocks.

Jangletongue struck, a beam of pink, sparkling chaos magic spitting from his staff at Safina. She focused her mind, channeling the meager deposits of life magic in the stones beneath her bare feet. A flash of jade wychlight created a dome-like shield in the half-darkness and the two ephemeral energies clashed. Safina staggered a pace backwards, unhurt but realising this foe was more powerful than she had counted on.

“Is that really your heart’s wish?” cackled the sorcerer, slithering closer and focusing his efforts for another magical strike. Safina leapt to try and avoid the full force of the blast, but was caught in its after-wash as she landed upon a boulder nearby. She stared at the sorcerer as he changed forms before her eyes.

“Do you not crave more?” said the voice, but no longer the hiss of the sorcerer. Safina blinked. Roywan the Wild Bear, lover of her sister, stood before her.

Safina aimed the jadestone at the top of her staff and threw her energy into a return strike. The green, glimmering energy ricocheted from rocks near the wardancer. Safina cried out, “You choose the wrong temptation, cursed of Slaanesh!”

The sorcerer slithered away and gathered himself. Again, the form before Safina mutated into something new. And now Kyarlu the Raven, rider of Equos, beckoned to her, his eyebrows raised suggestively. He said, “Open yourself to the lord of pleasures!”

“No!” Safina shouted back. “Return the book to Loren, daemonspawn!”

She fought to maintain her concentration as an overpowering, sweet stench filled her nostrils. She said, “You have nothing that I want!”

“Nothing?” said a voice, seemingly from far away and muffled by some unnatural interference, as if calling through thick fog. Safina shook her head. Her mother now stood before her.

“You have passed into the eternal rest of the forest!” said Safina, her voice wavering, “I know you are not here.”

“You are wrong, my daughter,” said the vision of Medb. She was like a ghost, her form silvery and transparent, but the smile was a perfect match and Safina’s heart ached at the recollection. The vision said, “Think back, Safina; there is something you know that you have tried to block out from your mind.”

Trembling, Safina remembered. It was on the eve of the last winter solstice, when the Lichemaster had her in his claws and faced the ancient treeman, Adanhu the Wise: The climax of the Solstice of Blood. She had been on the verge of unconsciousness at the time, but no matter how many times she tried to deny it, she had heard the words of the hated necromancer.

“Get back, tree daemon!” the Lichemaster snarled, “Or she will suffer the same fate as her mother! This blade not only kills the body, but steals her soul for an eternity of torment!”

Steals her soul for an eternity of torment: What had the necromancer meant by those words?

“I was traded by the Lichemaster in some heinous pact,” answered her mother. “My soul is trapped in the claws of a daemon.”

“You fell. You died,” whispered Safina, her voice shaking, “Everyone saw it.”

“My body died, yes, my daughter,” said Medb, “but my soul was stolen. You know it to be true. I cannot join the eternal rest of the forest, or your father, unless you save me.”

Safina wailed, and then sensed something behind her. Spinning and cursing herself for having her keen senses occupied too long, she realised she could not escape the new attacker. The monstrous thing grabbed at her; a warped, shuffling, serpentine beast with countless flailing tentacles. In a moment she was caught in the grip of many crushing tendrils as thick as her arms. Safina screamed as she was lifted from her feet.

The sibilant laugh reached her ears once more and she glanced back to see the sorcerer escaping. Before her eyes, a small spinning vortex opened in the fabric of reality; threaded with too many colours to define. Beyond, a gaping black hole invited.

A deep, unnatural voice whispered and she caught just four words; “The Temple of Skulls.”

She only just spotted the serpent-tailed sorcerer leap into the portal before her attention was dragged back to her own predicament. Staring at her through eight insect-like multi-faceted eyes, the spawn beast drew her closer to its gnashing jaws. The tentacles tightened their grip, crushing the air from her body.

“Not so fast!” cried an elven voice, and suddenly the beast was beset on all sides by green-cloaked warriors with short, silver blades. Scarloc led them, grimacing beneath his hood as he drove his blade into the beast’s thick hide again and again, spilling corrosive ooze with each cut. Just when Safina’s vision narrowed and the calm of unconsciousness beckoned once more, the monster released its grip and she slid to the ground.

Scarloc jerked her back up to a sitting position and shook her gently. When she opened her eyes she saw he was breathing deeply and bleeding from many cuts. The spawn was dead.

“We are outnumbered,” he said, “We must fall back. Where is the book?”

“I didn’t get it!” she cried, “The sorcerer escaped! What are we going to do?”

“Drycha scratch his eyes out!” cursed Scarloc. “How did we let him walk into Athel Loren and escape again?”

“No time for that now,” said a new voice, and Safina spied the scarlet mane of hair belonging to Glam the wardancer come behind Scarloc. The master scout turned to his old friend and Glam said, “Our route back to the forest is blocked, and it seems a new tribe of beastmen approaches from the east.”

“Trapped; perfect!” spat Scarloc. “What do we do now?”

Safina struggled to her feet and said, “We cannot evade them?”

“Not in these mountains,” sighed Scarloc. He glanced to Glam but the wardancer shrugged his broad shoulders and made a knocking sound like a woodpecker from the back of his throat.

“The dwarfs…” said Safina, searching their surroundings, “The gates to Karak Norn are near.”

“No,” said Scarloc, jumping before her questing eyes, “Do not expect any help from them.”

A drum of hooves and the wild riders of Equos joined them. The growls of advancing chaos beastmen followed him along the pass. Panting and holding an injured shoulder, Kyarlu signaled them, “No breaking through that way. What’s the plan?”

“You have a better idea?” Safina turned to Scarloc. Still he shook his head and said, “There must be another way!”

“A better way than what?” said Kyarlu, painfully dismounting from his steed and flexing a blood-stained arm.

“The White Fox wishes to raise the dwarfs,” said Glam, cocking his head to one side suddenly, as if listening to a far-off sound. Safina caught it too; the beastmen were coming from both directions.

“Are you crazy?” Kyarlu blasted at her, “We can never go to those treekillers for help!”

“Then go your own ways,” Safina said, determination furrowing her brow, “If you will not listen to me, I will seek their help by myself.”

Scarloc glanced at Kyarlu and rolled his eyes. He muttered, “Just like her sister.” Glam cackled in a startling high-pitched voice, his head shaking its braids of feathers and twigs. Kyarlu came close to Safina and caught her shoulder as she started to stride away. He hissed in her ear, “We cannot trust them. They may harm you!”

“I am willing to take that chance, Kyarlu the Raven,” Safina blinked her long, dark lashes at him, “Did you not offer to follow and protect me?”

“I… I did, My Lady,” Kyarlu said, taken aback. “But I hate dwarfs!”

“Then you have a choice to make,” said Safina. Then, raising her voice, “You all have a choice to make.”



* * *


“Try it again,” said Safina, but Scarloc turned to her. He said, “They do not answer, treesinger, and now we are trapped down here.”

Safina glanced back up the long, tunnel-like approach to the massive gates of Karak Norn and knew he was right. The beastmen were right on their tail, though still out of sight. There was another clang, and Safina turned to see Glam this time strike his sword at the huge doors. She could not imagine how thick they were, and did not know if they were cast from some kind of dark metal or were made from the stone roots of the mountains themselves. Either way, they were impregnable, and it seemed the scout had been right all along. The dwarfs were not about to help them. She had made a mistake.

“They come!” said Kyarlu and hulking silhouettes cast their shadows in the last rays of the sinking sun. The low, menacing, growls of the beastmen betrayed that they knew they had their prey trapped down a dead-end. The mutants of chaos slowly formed up into a mass of thick, furred bodies and slowly advanced down the approach, wary of tricks.

Scarloc’s scouts gathered into a line and drew arrows from their quivers, waiting for the order. Kyarlu’s men retook their places on the saddles of their nervously whickering steeds, ready for one last charge. The stench of the animal breaths of the beastmen assailed Safina’s nostrils and she searched about for something, anything, that may aid the elves.

Then there was a noise from behind the elves. Safina turned and saw that the huge doors had swung inwards with a groan like the voice of the mountain itself exhaling. A regiment of dwarfs stood there, each one armed with their notorious muskets. At a growled order the dwarfs all raised their rifles to their shoulders.

“Get down! Everyone get down!” Safina shouted. The wood elves barely hesitated, glancing back to witness the danger, before flinging themselves face-first onto the rocks. The muskets spoke with one voice and suddenly the approach was filled with the deafening roar of blackpowder weapons. Safina covered her sensitive ears with her hands and coughed as clouds of black smoke filled the air.

A second and a third volley boomed, their echoes rebounding violently from the sides of the tunnel-like slope down to the gates. Eventually, her ears ringing, Safina decided the short confrontation had ended and dared to rise. All around her, the other wood elves struggled to their feet, shaking their heads and coughing up smoke.

Safina turned to look at the dwarfs and saw one of the short creatures step before the others. A glimmer of the day’s last sunlight reflected from his bald head and his soot-black beard twitched as he surveyed the elves. One of his kinsmen, clad in a mail shirt and the blue dress of Karak Norn, stepped beside him and said, “What do we do with them?”

“Bind them,” growled the bald one, in a voice like crunching gears, “take them.”

The disorientated elves could put up no fight as the dwarfs surged forwards and quickly bound their hands behind their backs. Sensing it to be futile, Safina did not resist as she was roughly handled and bound in the same way. Then hoods were pulled over their eyes and the elves were led through the gates and into Karak Norn.


* * *

kurisawa
24-12-2010, 06:22
“Explain yourselves, elflings,” said a voice like grinding rocks, as Safina’s hood was yanked from her head. She blinked in the sudden light. She had been marched into a hall carved from the stone, tall and arched and ancient. Torches along the walls threw flickering light across the paved floor. Before her, half a dozen dwarfs with beards down to their toes sat upon stone thrones. Safina glanced to each side, noticing only Scarloc had been brought with her. Their guards backed away from them, having set them kneeling before the dwarf lords, axes brandished and ready should any elf dare to rise.

“How dare you take us prisoner,” she said, addressing the dwarf in the centre, who sat upon the largest and most ornate throne, clad in a suit of thick, intricately worked suit of armour.

His stone-grey beard twitched with annoyance beneath his long, drooping moustache. He shouted back, “How dare you! You are trespassers in the realm of Karak Norn!”

“I am a herald of Athel Loren,” started Safina, only just noticing a warning shake of the head from Scarloc, when she was interrupted.

“Huh! Athel Loren!” said an old dwarf to the left, standing by a pedestal upon which an ancient and thick tome was seated. He puffed at a long pipe with a bowl-like cup, sending wisps of white smoke twirling up to the roof of the chamber. He tugged at the book, flipping over thick pages, then said, “Upon the year 1350, brave Grungni Goldfinder and all his clan were viciously murdered by the betraying elves of Athel Loren.”

Safina fell silent as the fearsome gaze of the central dwarf lord fell upon her. He said, “What reason makes you dare approach our gates, lassie?”

Safina bristled at the address, but successfully fought to hold her temper. She said, “We were fighting the minions of chaos – your enemies as well as ours – when we were trapped in the mountains. By defeating the beastmen, you saved us, and for that, my lord, I am very grateful.”

“Lord?” said another of the dwarfs; this one seated on the right and with a beard the colour of old yew bark. He jumped down from the seat and said, “You address a king, elf! This is King Mjolnir of Karak Norn.”

“Alright, Threkki,” said King Mjolnir, still staring at Safina. He said, “You fight the servants of the dark powers?”

“Yes, King Mjolnir,” Safina said carefully, “They were led by Kelek Jangletongue, and they stole something very important from our forest.”

When none of the dwarfs stopped her, she continued, “The Book of Katam: It is a cursed and forbidden artifact of evil power. With it they mean to release the hated daemon, Maulhowl the Torturer.”

“Huh!” exclaimed the pipe-smoking dwarf, but the other dwarfs were silent. They exchanged significant looks. Safina decided to follow up a suspicion. She said, “Maulhowl is known to you, too?”

“Do not utter that cursed name here,” warned the king. He looked at the pipe-smoking dwarf and said, “How long ago was it, Morgrim Grudgehelm, Keeper of the Book?”

The pipe-smoking dwarf flipped over more pages, muttering, “Huh! Yes, I remember like it was yesterday; it must be here somewhere.”

Finally he found what he was looking for, and Safina stole a glance at Scarloc beside her. He shrugged in reply to her unasked question. Morgrim Grudgehelm spoke again, “Huh, aha! In the year 997, Maul… the daemon known as the Torturer murdered Mjolnir the Third and then stole the Axe of Grungni from within these hallowed walls. Its whereabouts have still never been discovered. The grudge is not repaid.”

The seated dwarfs began muttering to each other in low whispers, and though Safina’s sensitive ears could pick up the sounds, they spoke in some ancient language that sounded like gravel sliding on rocks. Threkki, the younger one by the colour of his beard, spoke the loudest, pointing at the elves. Safina glanced at Scarloc again, but still he offered no explanation. It seemed Threkki was arguing with King Mjolnir, with the other elders divided evenly in their opinions. Finally King Mjolnir regarded the elves again, tugging at his stone-grey beard.

“Snorri Ironblaze, you witnessed what happened at the west gate?” said the king. From behind the elves another dwarf stepped forwards. Safina recognised him: He was the bald one with the soot-black beard. He still carried his handgun slung over a shoulder, and she now noticed it had an elaborate tubular device attached along its barrel.

“I did, your highness,” said Snorri.

“And were there the servants of the dark gods?” said the king.

“They were, your highness,” said Snorri, “They were the mutants – beastmen. I saw no sorcerer. This is no doubt some tricky hoax by the elves!”

“He escaped!” blurted Safina, “he disappeared through some magical portal before we came to your gates!”

“Huh! Be silent unless addressed, elf!” growled Morgrim, the keeper of the book, puffing at his pipe, “or you will feel my hammer across your back!”

“Do you know where the sorcerer went?” said Threkki, surprising Safina and perhaps the other dwarfs too, judging by their scowls.

“I… perhaps,” said Safina. Scarloc now glanced sharply at her, silently questioning.

“Speak, elf!” growled King Mjolnir, “If you know where they plan to summon the daemon, you must tell us.”

“Release us, your highness; for we seek the same thing, if for different reasons,” said Safina. “And I will tell you where they are.”

“Huh!” exclaimed Morgrim, a ball of white smoke erupting from his pipe.

“A trick, no doubt,” muttered Snorri, rubbing his bald head.

“You do not make demands here!” growled King Mjolnir. He locked eyes with Safina, and she summoned all her will and determination to glare back at him. When she did not relent, Mjolnir said, albeit reluctantly, “There are ways of making you tell us.”

“I will resist them!” Safina declared, sensing the dwarfs behind her tightening their grips on their axes. She added, “You would be better to bargain with us, your highness.”

“Huh!” said Morgrim Grudgehelm, again.

“Enough of this,” growled King Mjolnir, then sitting back in his throne he waved his hand and said, “Take them away. They can rot in a dungeon while they think about it.”

Hoods roughly replaced, the elves were dragged from the hall.



* * *


“What are you playing at?” said Scarloc, as the heavy steel door to their cell clanged shut behind them. Glam the wardancer sat in a corner, playing with twigs. Though she could not see or hear them, Safina sensed the life energies of the other elves were close by, perhaps imprisoned in their own cells. She dared to listen at the door, and made several low bird whistles. No reply came. When she looked back, Scarloc was still waiting, hands on hips, for her to answer him.

“I’m trying to get us out of here!” she said.

“With another of your bright ideas?” he shot back, “Remember how we got into this mess in the first place. I warned you not to go to the dwarfs of Karak Norn! They may never break an oath, but they also never forget a grudge!”

Safina sighed as Scarloc turned away. He began surveying all corners of the cell, searching for some means of escape. Glam watched them both, silently. Then there was a jangling of keys and a muffled commotion from outside the door. Safina whirled as a portal at a dwarf’s head-height was opened a crack, and Threkki peered into the cell.

“Huh! This is not allowed!” exclaimed a voice and Safina knew Morgrim Grudgehelm was close by, out of sight just behind the door.

“I told you, I just want to talk to them!” snarled Threkki, then he regarded Safina.

“You,” he said, “Did you speak the truth in the great hall?”

“My name is Safina, and I speak the truth, Master Threkki,” she replied, trying to pour all her charm into the statement. Threkki straightened a little, his moustache twitching.

“Then I have a proposition for you,” said the dwarf. Immediately there was a violent coughing as Morgrim, still out of sight, choked on his pipe.

“Huh! Threkki Stonebrow! This has not yet been decided by the council! You have no right to do this!” said Morgrim, “I should never have given you the keys!”

“Now you listen to me, Morgrim Grudgehelm,” Threkki turned. “I am of the Royal Clan, and I have every right, or do you mean to foreswear my family’s rule?”

“Huh! Well, no, but your father should be the one to…” started Morgrim.

“Then it’s settled,” said Threkki, “Shut up.”

He turned back to Safina and said, “Tell me where the sorcerer is, and I will see to it that you are released immediately.”

“Even better,” said Safina, stepping closer to the window, “I know where it is, but not how to get there. Swear an oath to me that you will take us with you, and I will tell you.”

There was more spluttering from Morgrim. Threkki, too, seemed stunned by this idea. Safina opened her mouth to say more, but she felt Scarloc’s hand on her shoulder. He hissed through the window, “A moment for us to confer, if you will, Master Threkki!”

Threkki had no chance to answer as Scarloc dragged her back into the cell. The window clanged shut again.

“Now you go too far!” said Scarloc.

“You don’t understand,” said Safina, “we cannot lose any time. There is something I have not told you…”

And then she explained the revelation about her mother that the sorcerer had tormented her with on the mountain. When she finished, Scarloc exchanged a look with Glam, but the wardancer offered nothing.

“Safina,” said Scarloc, “the servants of chaos lie; they will say anything to tempt you, to break your will…”

“I know you speak the truth,” she interrupted him, “and that you would give me wise counsel, but answer me this one question truthfully, Scarloc: If it was your own mother, if there was even a small chance of truth in the purport, would you not seek it out?”

Scarloc glanced again at Glam, but he could find no words to answer Safina. She nodded, “As I thought. I do not ask you to come with me, Scarloc, or any of the others. If I can get us out of here, you are released to return back to Loren. But I must go.”

Scarloc gave a deep sigh and said, “But there is the matter of the stolen book, too. Queen Ariel has ordered us to retrieve it, and it seems you may have found a way for us to find it. No matter how much I hate the idea, I must agree with you now.”

“Oho! Loec likes this one!” said Glam from the corner of the cell. He giggled; a small high-pitched laugh, his eyes glittering with delight, as Safina strode back to the door and rapped on it three times. When the window opened, Threkki was standing there, Morgrim just behind him, puffing on his pipe. It seemed to Safina that they had had their own conference, too.

“Huh!” said Morgrim, “This is why they call you Threkki the Rash! You never think these things through!”

“Be quiet,” Threkki said, then looked as Safina. “I swear to you that if you tell me where the daemon and the Axe of Grungni can be found, I will bring you and your friends with us to find it – but no tricks, elf!”

“No tricks,” Safina smiled. She glanced at Scarloc’s frowning face and said, “You told me dwarfs never break an oath, right?”

He reluctantly nodded and Threkki said, “Ah, you are Scarloc: I thought some of the elders recognised you. He is right, Lady Safina; a dwarf is always as good as his word!”

“And by the honour of King Orion, I will keep my promise,” replied Safina, smiling at the dwarf. Somehow, despite the great differences between their two races, Safina felt that she had made a connection with Threkki.

“Then, tell me…” said Threkki.

“Only when we - all of my kin – are safely outside the walls,” said Safina.

“Huh!”


* * *

kurisawa
24-12-2010, 06:24
“What’s going on?” Kyarlu hissed, catching up with Safina and Scarloc as they led the wood elves along the narrow tunnel. Ahead, Threkki and Morgrim silently guided the way.

“Safina has bargained for our release,” Scarloc whispered, glancing down side passages and hoping not to see any more dwarfs. Safina shared his worry; somehow she reckoned Threkki may be going against the wishes of the king.

“Well,” said Kyarlu, surprised, “that’s good.”

“Wait until you hear what she promised in return,” Scarloc commented, his face grim.

The tunnel widened into another hall, at the end of which two more great doors stood sentinel. In the flickering light of the torches, the elves tensed. There waited another regiment of dwarfs. Their horned helmets threw strange shadows across the walls, and they helped each other load up packs onto their backs, along with axes and shields. Each was clad in heavy mail hauberks and blue undercoats.

“Are they going somewhere, too?” Kyarlu asked, but received no reply as Threkki and Morgrim turned to address Safina.

“We are here,” said Threkki. “Now keep your promise!”

“Only when we are outside,” Safina replied, her tone determined. Morgrim, still puffing on his pipe, rolled his eyes as Threkki sighed. The dwarf thane grumbled an order to his men and they were about to open the doors when the sound of marching feet entered the hall from another direction. “Oh no,” said Scarloc.

At the head of the regiment of musket-wielders, Snorri Ironblaze marched up to Threkki, his bald head shining and his sooty beard twitching. He growled, “What is the meaning of this?”

“We are going to retrieve the Axe of Grungni and avenge an ancient grudge!” declared Threkki, “And you are not going to get in our way, engineer.”

“Does King Mjolnir know of this?” said Snorri, eyeing the elves and the assembled dwarf warriors suspiciously, “Why do you leave quietly in the dead of night like this?”

“Huh!” said Morgrim, “It wasn’t my idea. Silly youngsters!”

Scarloc, Glam, Safina and even Kyarlu watched silently, knowing not to interfere.

“Listen to me, Snorri,” said Threkki, his tone softening. “The elders will argue about this for decades, if not centuries. Nothing ever gets done around here!”

“Huh, and for good reason, Threkki the Rash!” harrumphed Morgrim. Snorri’s black brows furrowed and he added, “You should listen to your elders, Threkki.”

“But, are we not the Grey Dwarfs of the Grey Mountains?” said Threkki, “Do not the other clans think less of us for our lack of ambition and wealth? Why does no-one else want to reclaim our glory and our honour?”

“I don’t know what you are up to, Threkki son of Mjolnir,” said Snorri, heaving his augmented rifle where it was slung on his back, “But I’ll bet it is some ill-advised adventure, again!”

“Why not come with us?” said Threkki, his tone changing to a conspiratorial whisper, “you haven’t yet field-tested Proudshot, have you?”

Snorri rubbed his bald head. He said, “That’s true. I’d love to see what she can do in battle. Where are you going?”

“We don’t know yet,” Threkki shrugged, “The she-elf will tell us outside, and then they will accompany us for their own reasons.”

“What?” spluttered Snorri, and all of his riflemen grumbled. Even Threkki’s own clansmen gasped and muttered at this news. Morgrim said, “Huh!”

Threkki growled to silence everyone and then hefted an ancient-looking double-headed axe that he had been carrying on his back. He bellowed, “Listen to me, my clansmen!”

All eyes turned to the thane. He continued, “I am the son of King Mjolnir, Thane of Karak Norn, and I for one can no longer abide the unpunished theft of the Axe of Grungni! Therefore I will go and return it, along with the honour of this hold, to its rightful place in the Hall of Treasures. If there is any dwarf here with so little courage or honour that he fears to come with me, then go now! Go back to your soft beds and your easy meals, for you are not needed. Well, go on!”

Not one dwarf moved as his steely glare searched about the hall, then settled on Snorri Ironblaze. Snorri said, “Alright, I’ll go with you, but why do you bring the elves? Never trust an elf!”

“I made an oath,” Threkki said carefully, “Who here will ask Thane Threkki Stonebrow to be an oathbreaker, and thus bring shame to our stronghold?”

“Huh! Elves have no honour!” piped up Morgrim, “I remind you that in the Book of Grudges, Year 1350, brave Grungni Goldfinder was murdered…”

“Yes, Morgrim, Keeper of the Book,” interrupted Threkki, “We remember. But you chose not to mention that this grudge was settled! In the winter of 1352, Ketil Grungnison and his clan entered the high peaks of Athel Loren and claimed the debt in elven blood and firewood!”

The wood elves glanced to each other, not having known this. Safina sensed Kyarlu’s anger suddenly burn in his chest, but she silently willed him not to speak. She touched his shoulder and said, “I made a promise, too, Kyarlu the Raven. For my sake, hold your tongue.”

Kyarlu scowled, but to Safina’s relief, did not speak. Threkki repeated his challenge, “Who here will dare try to make an oathbreaker of me?”

When none replied, Threkki renewed the order to open the doors at the end of the hall. As cool night air flooded into the chamber, Morgrim grumbled, “Huh. This is the worst alliance I can think of!”

“Well, there I agree with you,” Kyarlu said, drawing the reins of his steed and stopping beside the grey-bearded dwarf, looking out into the night.

Kyarlu and Morgrim were startled to find themselves agreeing with each other, meeting eyes for a second before turning away.

Outside on the mountainside, Threkki said to Safina, “Well, where are we going?”

“The place is called The Temple of Skulls,” she replied. A stunned silence fell upon all the dwarfs. Safina glanced at Scarloc and he scowled back. She said to Threkki, “Do you know it?”

“Huh!” harrumphed Morgrim, “A sneaky elven trick! I told you so!”

From Threkki’s downcast face, Safina knew something was wrong. She said, “Where is the Temple of Skulls? Will it take a long time to get there?”

“It’s impossible!” growled Snorri, tugging at his black beard, “It lies faraway in the southlands, deep in impenetrable jungle, infested with greenskins and all manner of monsters, across many leagues of impassable dangers! You have wasted our time, she-elf!”

“Not impossible,” said Scarloc, rubbing his chin, “But it will take a very long time. We will need to pass through the badlands…”

“Huh!” said Morgrim.

“…then find a route through the Land of the Dead…” said Scarloc.

“Impossible!” said Snorri.

“…and maybe a guide from the lands of Araby…”

“Huh! Waste of time!” said Morgrim.

“Stop. Wait,” said Threkki, and Scarloc paused in his ruminations. Threkki rubbed his deep brown beard, thinking. Finally he said, “There is another way: By sea!”

The dwarfs all muttered approvingly of this idea, but the elves all looked with shocked eyes at one another. Snorri the engineer said, “I’ve always wanted to see just what the great ironclads looked like on the inside…”

“Huh! We’ll still need to get to Barak Varr,” said Morgrim, puffing on his pipe, “And we have no gold to pay a captain! Bad idea!”

“Not necessarily,” said Threkki, this time his eyes twinkling as another idea came to him. “Perhaps there is someone who would take us in lieu of payment, if there is a chance of treasure to be found at the other end.”

“Where will we find someone who would be crazy enough to sail right round to the southlands for a half-remembered legend and mortal danger? Where?” said Snorri, hands on hips.

“Bugman’s,” said Threkki, crossing his arms and looking satisfied. “We’ll find him at Bugman’s.”



* * *


“Finally, we arrive!” said Threkki, rubbing his hands with anticipation. Dim lights and muffled voices came from the small, grime-smudged windows of the stout building before them.

“Finally…” Scarloc echoed without enthusiasm. Safina shot him a look. Despite the painfully slow pace of their march, the dwarfs had not halted in three days, even while carrying their full packs. The dwarf cannon that Snorri had insisted they bring along – which she had learned was the object of the name “Proudshot” – had not even slowed its crew, and for that she gave silent thanks, with perhaps just a little admiration for the stalwart stamina of the diminutive creatures. She glanced back to where the wood elves and clansmen of Karak Norn had made temporary camp, hoping she had been right to command Kyarlu to remain there and make sure no elf started any trouble with their new traveling companions. Kyarlu the Raven, she reminded herself with a sigh, was perhaps the most likely to start a quarrel.

“The Inn of the Twin-tailed Comet!” Snorri declared, rubbing his bald head, and the elves looked at the sign over the door of the dwarf pub, where the same name was emblazoned along with a crudely painted picture. For once, even Morgrim looked excited as they entered.

Scarloc, Glam and Safina carefully walked in behind Threkki, Snorri and Morgrim. They were immediately assaulted with the heady stench of beer, sweat and stale pipe smoke. Dwarfs of all descriptions and manner of dress laughed and drank in groups, banging tankards on tables or arm-wrestling.

“What’s this?” growled a deep, dwarfen voice, “No elves allowed in here!”

The group was confronted by a muscle-bound, bear-like dwarf. Naked from the waist up, curling, runic tattoos covered his heavily scarred arms, shoulders and torso, and Safina noticed his beard and shocking Mohican were died bright orange. At least four axes of varying weights and lengths jangled from their places on his belt.

“They’re with us,” said Threkki, puffing up his chest importantly, “They’ll cause no trouble.”

The orange-haired dwarf glared at the elves with one eye, his other covered with a patch linked by a jingling chain to a ring in his nose. Hands on broad hips, he growled, “Aye, but I might!”

“Easy, Gotrek,” said another grey-bearded, wide-girthed dwarf who came waddling over to greet the visitors, empty tankards collected in both hands. He nodded at Scarloc and said, “I know this one: He’s alright.”

“Whatever you say, Josef,” growled the orange-haired dwarf, resuming his seat by the door and reaching for his own tankard of beer, “But I’ll be watching them!”

Safina saw a young, handsome human sitting next to the doorkeeper, also with a pint. She noticed his eyes check her out from head to toe and flashed him a smile. His face reddened and he looked away.

“Ayup, you fat old lazy drunkard,” said Scarloc to the grey-bearded dwarf.

“Now then, you skinny, baby-faced degenerate,” returned the dwarf. Safina suddenly felt uneasy, but then the dwarf grinned. He said, “Ho ho! It’s been too long, Scarloc! And crazy Glam, too! We don’t get special characters from the old days in here much any more. What brings you this way?”

Safina relaxed as Scarloc said with a smile, “It will take too long to explain, Josef.”

“Some secret mission to save the world again, eh? Ho ho!” said the dwarf, “Well, you’d better come in and get a drink!”

The visitors made their way to the bar, and Morgrim and Snorri immediately said to the stout keeper, “A round of six-exes, good man!”

Safina noticed Scarloc’s keen-eyed gaze flicking around the pub and also felt the suspicious stares and sudden silences amongst the groups of dwarfs. Still, none moved to make trouble for them, and for that she was greatly relieved.

“Huh! Right then, Threkki,” said Morgrim, now settled with a pint in his hand, “Who did you have in mind?”

“Him,” said Threkki, pointing to a dwarf sitting alone at a small table in the corner. A collection of empty tankards littered his table, and he was slowly nursing another. Safina could not be sure in the bad light of the wall-torches, but his long, tangled beard appeared to be a deep shade of blue.

“Huh!” said Morgrim, his beard twitching, “Mad Logan Bluebeard! You really are crazy!”

“You can think of someone else?” challenged Threkki.

“Huh, well, no…” said Morgrim, “But good luck convincing him!”

“You’re not coming?” Threkki said to Morgrim, his face falling.

“This was your half-forged idea, so you go and talk to him,” said Snorri, clinking tankards with Morgrim and rubbing his bald head, “We elders get to drink and watch this time!”

Threkki walked slowly over to the table while Safina watched and listened carefully over the din of the pub. Threkki sat down and stammered a greeting, but not one moment after he had given his name the old blue-bearded dwarf snarled at him, “Get away from me, beardling! I’m not interested!”

“Hmmm, you might have a task there,” commented Josef Bugman, now back behind the bar and cleaning tankards, “He’s on another downer tonight.”

“Huh! He’s always on a downer,” muttered Morgrim, before taking a great draught from his cup. Safina looked at him and with a shrug he decided to explain. Re-lighting his pipe, he said, “They say the famous Captain Logan Bluebeard once roamed all the high seas of the world, charmed in his search for treasure. But then one day, while he was away on some quest or other, his stash was found…”

“By greenskins!” said Snorri, picking up the tale. Safina and Scarloc exchanged a look as the sooty bearded dwarf continued, “All his worldly wealth scattered in one fell blow!”

Both Morgrim and Snorri shuddered at the thought. Snorri said, “And then, penniless, he lost the love of his betrothed.”

“But, why?” said Safina, confused.

“Huh! Who would marry a dwarf with no treasure?” said Morgrim, shrugging, as if the answer was obvious.

Safina thought that reply most strange; why would worthless pieces of gold make a difference to a heart in love? But the two dwarfs continued drinking without further explanation. Threkki shuffled back over, frowning. He said, “He wouldn’t even listen…”

“Huh! I told you so!” grumbled Morgrim, unhelpfully.

“He’s a broken dwarf,” commented Snorri. “He’s been here ever since, drinking the last of his coins, and drowning his sorrows in his tankard.”

Safina said, “Let me try…” Threkki looked at her and she continued, “If it is a woman that breaks his heart, maybe he’ll listen to me.”

Carefully taking a seat, Safina said, “Logan Bluebeard, is it? I have heard about you…”

“That’s Captain Logan Bluebeard, lassie!” Logan said, not looking up, then hiccupped, “And whatever you heard, I’m not interested! Leave me be.”

“But, I am in distress, and I need the help of a great captain such as yourself,” said Safina, doing her best to catch his eye.

Logan looked up, finally. His eyebrows rose just a little and Safina smiled, confident in her looks. She said, “Will you not help a lady, captain?”

“Bah!” Logan said, and to Safina’s great surprise, burst into tears. He blubbed, “You look just like my beloved, but she is gone, gone, gone! Whatever can I do?”

Safina looked around uncomfortably as dwarfs from nearby tables glanced over. She said awkwardly, “There, there, it can’t be all that bad. How about helping me? There would be treasure in it for you…”

“Bah!” wailed Logan, hiccupping again, “I give up on treasure! There’s no use! I’m no use!”

Safina retreated back to the bar, Logan’s sobs now attracting more attention. She looked at Scarloc and said, “Any ideas?”

He shook his head and said, “I think you just made things worse…”

“Oh stop your blabbering!” said a voice. Safina whirled and saw Glam standing over Logan Bluebeard. The wardancer spoke in a loud voice, “What a cowardly, honourless excuse of a dwarf you are!”

There were shocked gasps from all around the pub. Dwarfs slammed down tankards on tables in the sudden silence. The dwarf with the orange hair jumped to his feet by the door, reaching for an axe. Scarloc sprinted to beside Glam and said, “Old friend, I’m not sure this is the best way…”

“Why not just shave your head and become a slayer?” said Glam, ignoring Scarloc, and still in a voice too loud for Safina’s comfort, “Or are you too cowardly to do that, too?”

“How dare you!” said Logan, trying to leap to his feet, but slowed by the effects of the ale, sliding back down into his chair, “An elf has no right to speak to Captain Logan Bluebeard that way!”

“Captain?” laughed Glam, “You are but a captain of pathetic comedy in the eyes of Loec!”

Scarloc tugged at Glam’s arm as dwarfs all around the pub grumbled and muttered, reaching for their axes. Safina’s heart began beating faster, and she looked to Threkki, Morgrim and Snorri. However they too stared, open-mouthed.

“Right, that’s it!” shouted Logan. “Outside, elf; and we will settle this in blood!”

“Oho!” said Glam, spreading his arms out and glaring around the pub, “A challenge? I have a challenge for you!”

“Glam, you really, really need to stop…” hissed Scarloc beside him. But Glam would not stop.

“We are in Bugman’s!” declared the wardancer, “But you cannot even hold your drink!”

“I can too, you beardless pixie!” roared Logan.

“Then prove it, so-called captain!” said Glam, “I challenge you to a drinking competition! An elf will always outdrink a stunted dwarf!”

More gasps came from around the pub, but now Safina saw Glam’s plan, and a small smile crossed her lips. The wardancer said, “I know this to be true, so much so that I will buy a drink for every dwarf in this pub and call him sir, if you can beat me! I’ll even serve it to them myself!”

Roars of deep laughter now echoed around the pub, and dwarfs slapped each other on the back. “Go on, Logan, show this skinny what dwarfs are made of!” said a voice, and others growled their approval.

“Alright, pixie,” said Logan, gesturing across the table, “Take a seat.”

Threkki, Morgrim and Snorri, closely followed by Safina and Scarloc, pushed their way through the crowd that quickly gathered around the two contestants. Behind the bar, Josef began pouring ale into tankards and muttering, “I just knew it was going to be a night to remember…”

“And what if you lose?” said Glam, his eyes sparkling and one eyebrow raised.

“I won’t lose!” growled Logan.

“Oho! Then match my promise, if you are so sure,” said Glam. Logan looked around at the gathered dwarfs, urging him on.

Logan grinned, “What do you want? I’ll promise anything, because I know I’ll never have to pay it!”

There was raucous laughter, but Glam lowered his voice and said, “Take me and my friends on a voyage on your ship; an adventure to the ends of the world; danger, gold and glory await you!”

“Bah!” said Logan, “Whatever you say, pixie!”

They clasped hands and shook vigorously as the first tray of beers arrived.



* * *

kurisawa
24-12-2010, 06:26
“How many have they had?” whispered Safina, wringing her hands with worry.

“I lost count,” said Scarloc under his breath, “It’s been hours…”

“Shhhh!” cautioned a dwarfen voice as Glam raised a shaking hand to his lips, the frothing tankard of ale swishing unsteadily.

“I thought he had a plan,” said Threkki, beside her, “What if he loses? We won’t be able to find another ship…”

“Not only that,” said Scarloc, “Glam is a wardancer; he has no money to buy the promised drinks!”

Safina exchanged a wide-eyed look with Threkki, while Snorri began counting the heads of those who watched and doing calculations.

“Huh! I knew this was a bad idea!” said Morgrim, puffing on his pipe.

“Shhhh!” said another voice.

Glam gulped down a mouthful of ale, but paused and coughed. Everyone in the pub held their breath and leaned closer. The wardancer swayed, his eyes rolling, and tried to finish the pint. Across the table, Logan sat, arms crossed, staring and frowning. He, too, could not stop swaying. Fighting with all his remaining strength, Glam managed to finish the last dregs of the ale, and slammed the tankard down on the table. The watching dwarfs gasped and whispered approvingly. Safina detected some doubt even in the harsh voices of the onlookers and prayed to Isha.

“Beat that!” slurred Glam, trying to point a wavering finger at Logan. The watching dwarfs all grumbled in appreciation.

But then, slowly but ominously, the wardancer began leaning to one side. A sudden and complete silence gripped the watchers. Glam began giggling hysterically as he failed to right himself. Finally, he fell off his stool and crashed to the dirt floor. Everyone crowded closer to get a look, but Glam did not rise. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and then closed. The wardancer began snoring loudly.

Threkki, Scarloc, Morgrim, Snorri and Safina all stared at each other, not daring to look back. After two more heartbeats, a great roar erupted from the dwarfs in the pub. Scarloc and Safina pushed forwards and knelt down beside the motionless body of Glam. No matter how hard they shook him, he would not rouse.

“Ha! Victory for the dwarfs!” cried Logan, rising to his feet, to be greeted with fresh roars from the others, “I am Captain Logan Bluebeard!”

“What do we do now?” said Safina. Scarloc could only stare back, wild-eyed, and shrug.

“You can start paying your friend’s promise,” said Josef Bugman, standing close by with his arms crossed. Threkki turned to say something, but Josef said, “This was an elven boast, and so an elf can back it up.”

Scarloc rose to his feet, sighed, and nodded.

“And I’m first in line!” said a deep voice. Gotrek pushed through the dwarfs, his orange beard twitching, rubbing his hands in delight.



* * *


“There you are, good sir, master dwarf,” said Scarloc, sagging with fatigue as he pulled at the pump behind the bar, then handed the tankard to a chuckling dwarf. All around the pub, dwarfs toasted and laughed, pints of beer in hand. They laughed harder every time he called them “Sir.”

“Alright, Scarloc,” said Josef, “I think that’s everyone. Will you have one yourself?”

“Not this time,” Scarloc whispered. Josef rang a bell and shouted over the laughter; “Right then you bunch of drunkards! Time! Get off home the lot of you!”

The pub began emptying as dwarfs gathered their capes and axes and talked about the night’s events. Safina continued trying to revive Glam to no avail.

“Ah, leave him,” said Threkki, sitting with Morgrim and Snorri nearby and staring into their tankards, “He’ll wake up eventually.”

Behind the bar, Scarloc offered a bag of coins to Josef. He looked down apologetically and said, “It may not be enough, I’m sorry.”

“Ho ho,” said Josef, taking the bag and looking inside. “You forest dwellers don’t have much use for coin, I suppose. Hmmm, you’re right; it’s not enough.”

Scarloc glanced over to Threkki and the other dwarfs for help, but Josef reached up and put a hand on his shoulder. The fat dwarf said, “Don’t worry, old friend. You’ve given us all the greatest entertainment tonight, and a tale that will be repeated for many more! You’ve more than paid for the ale. You and your friends can even stay the night to recover, if you wish.”

Then he turned his back, chuckling, to tend to his barrels.

“Well, that’s the end of that, thankfully,” sighed Scarloc, slumping into a chair beside Threkki. Safina joined them, deciding to leave Glam to snore by himself. Morgrim and Snorri could not help chuckling as they looked at Scarloc.

“No, it’s not the end!” said Threkki angrily. Safina nodded and added, “We lost the bet! We still have no ship!”

“Who says you have no ship?” said a voice, and everyone at the table looked around. One hand tucked into his belt, Logan Bluebeard stood before them. He was still swaying slightly, but to Safina’s astonishment, he still had a half-full tankard in his other hand.

“You mean… you’ll come afterall?” said Threkki.

“Aye!” declared Logan, taking a swig and hiccupping. He looked at Safina and said, “Your friend’s challenge reminded me of something… something I thought I’d lost a long time ago.”

Safina exchanged glances with the others who, like her, were now leaning forwards, listening to Logan carefully.

He said, “Tonight I remembered the rush of the challenge, the spirit of adventure, the sweetness of victory! Is where you’re going dangerous?”

“Very,” said Threkki quickly, nodding.

“And you seek some famous, glorious treasure?” said Logan.

“Right,” said Safina.

Raising his tankard, Logan saluted them, “Then, by the Grace of Valaya, I will take you there! Tomorrow, we set off for Barak Varr, and thence onto my ship, the magnificent Lady Helgar!”

Then he took one final swig of beer and collapsed onto his back.


* * *

frapermax
24-12-2010, 13:37
I really can't wait to read the next chapter.
Go Kurisawa go.
fpm

Malorian
28-12-2010, 21:27
This was a long, but good, read.

I just hope you get a report in here before they move this to the fluff thread.

Trains_Get_Robbed
04-01-2011, 06:05
This is amazing! Outstanding piece, I love how you have interwoven actual events and charcters into the story, brilliant. :D

You really can't ask for anything more, save for the battle reports you said that will be coming after, and thats only because its 'required' under the battle report section. Curious though, whodo you think your first opponet will be against?

Toshiro
04-01-2011, 20:06
AWESOME!

I really can't wait for the next part, this fluff is simply put astonishing! I've bought books not even half this good! Keep up the good work!

Shadow Lord
06-01-2011, 10:39
Excellent stuff to begin a new year with! High standard stuff as usual...didn't think it was possible after the conclusion of your first series of batreps but I've just been proven wrong...very intense reading, hope you're luck stays with your dwarves as they have with your Elves!

kurisawa
11-01-2011, 00:07
I really can't wait to read the next chapter.
Go Kurisawa go.
fpm

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Thanks for looking in, Max. I played a game and am just trying to figure out how to weave it into the storyline... watch this space! :)

K.

PS. Dwarfs rock. :evilgrin: