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Fiction New Alliances, Complete Four Part Series

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Rather than focus on the viewpoint of a single character most or all the way through like in my usual stories, I’m going to try to alternate between the view points of four faction leaders. Each time I switch perspectives I’ll show an appropriate heading.

    This story is a sequel to my last story, Divided We Fall which is itself a sequel to another two pieces. While I have some recurring characters and the like, you should be able to enjoy any one of my stories without reading the others. For instance, Locklirist of the Hated Lash was mentioned in passing in my previous works, but you don’t need that material to follow what he’s doing now.

    I plan to make this a four part series, and I plan to send installments about a week apart.

    I'd like to think Spawning of Bob for his help editing and proofreading my work. I'd also like to thank the good people of The Underempire who answered my questions and provided me lots of writing inspiration for my Skaven characters.


    New Alliances, Part One: Setting Objectives


    Locklirist of the Hated Lash


    I LIVVVEE AGAINN!!!

    The Bloodthirster of Khorne, Loklirist of the Hated Lash was at last reborn from the swirling energies of the Chaos Realm. Daemons can never be destroyed forever though sometimes it seems like forever to mortals. Loklirist respawned faster than most because he was angry and determined.

    His form was destroyed very shortly into assaulting the Southlands years ago. That wasn’t what made him angry. Being destroyed in the material realm was almost routine for an invasion-minded daemon. He was angry at the Unclean One, Korshalork of the Putrid Waves. Diplomacy does not come easily to the children of Khorne. He worked very hard to get the Unclean One and his forces on his side for his assault on the Southlands. Unfortunately, the fat Nurgle daemon withdrew at the start of the battle. Korshalork was supposed to infect the weakling Skinks while Loklirist engaged the Sauri.

    Loklirist would have been fine going down fighting a horde of strong Saurus warriors. Instead he was nearly down by a massive barrage of darts, arrows, and javelins then overcome with a seemingly endless swarm of inferior Skinks backed by cowardly magic.

    NO ONE BETRAYS ME!

    Loklirist hastily gathered all the lesser Khorne daemons within roaring distance (no small number came) and prepared to storm Korshalork’s pathetic citadel. As the Khornites entered Korshalork’s exterior gardens, the cowardly Nurgle daemons present there scattered or prostrated themselves. Loklirist had no grudge with the peons, but he did not bother to restrain his minions' savagery against them.

    Where is Korshalork!

    The Bloodthirster battered down the gate and his forces began tearing up the interior. He battered aside the Plagueridden who attempted to waylay him.

    WHERE IS KORSHALORK!

    A scared phlegmy voice answered.

    He was destroyed by the reptiles…
    Impossible! He didn’t even show up at the battle.
    He was destroyed in our own realm by Skinks. We don’t know how, but his essence was scattered beyond anything we’ve seen! It may be millennia before he respawns.
    Until he comes back, this citadel and all in it belongs to me. We are invading the Lizardmen realms again as soon as we have a rift!

    He was prepared to splatter every Nurgle daemon in sight if necessary, but the ranking Herald and all the other daemons present bowed in supplication. No! I can’t really slay them all now can I?. Loklirist began huffing and pacing.

    When is the next rift in the Lizardmen realm.
    There is a nearby rift but it is far too weak, even when the moons are in the proper conjunction. But we have a mortal wizard willing to help us enlarge the rift.

    “Mortal” and “wizard” were two words Locklirist despised. He despised the word “Lizardmen” more though.

    What’s stopping this mortal wizard?
    The rift is in the territory of the wizard’s enemies.
    If we must we will destroy them as well, but I won’t lose sight of my real enemies.


    Belrikt the Outlander


    Belrikt felt cursed by his own competence. He did not feel that way because he was arrogant. He just didn’t like running missions for the Slann. Unfortunately, he succeeded brilliantly at everything the Slann ordered him to do, so they kept giving him more missions. Belrikt wasn’t going to let his anger at the Slann stop him from fulfilling his duty to the Old Ones as tempting as they made it. Now he was flying a Terradon to Zlatan to answer a summons from Lord Trawlikshan, his least favorite Slann.

    There was a delegation of ranking Skinks waiting for him outside the aviary. Two Skinks were carrying a small palanquin-like ark with an engraved box on it.

    “General Belrikt, thy prodigious skills are needed for a very important mission to fulfill the Will of the Old Ones”
    “I see, you’ve even waited at the aviary, it must be urgent as well as important”
    “We have increased the length and breadth of our scouts, but have found no Skaven incursions for some time. When the vermin stop their minor incursions into our territory we know the kin of the foul Rat God are planning a dark scheme of epic proportions.”
    “I’m glad you aren’t dumb enough to view quiet jungles as a good omen. I see you brought an object from the deepest pyramid vault. What am I being honored with?”

    The High Skink motioned for the ark bearers to lower the box. From the ornate box they removed a simple stone with a crude glyph Belrikt didn’t recognize. The stone was on a simple gold chain. They handled it delicately as if it were made of glass then reverently passed it to the High Skink who held it before Belrikt.

    “This is one of the Speaking Stones. It will allow thee to speak and be understood by all who hear thy words”
    “You want me to talk to the Skaven? Trawlikshen viewed understanding the enemies of the Old Ones too deep to be a danger if I remember correctly.”
    Lord Trawlikshen does not wish thee to speak with Skaven. The great stone is intended to communicate with the Prodigals. We knoweth not if the mighty Stone will allow parlance with the Anathema.”

    (Note “Prodigals” is the Lizardmen term for beings the Old Ones created who went somewhat astray: Elves, Dwarfs, Humans, Ogres and Halflings. Members of the Prodigal races who fell in line with dark powers (Dark Elves, Chaos Dwarfs, Warriors of Chaos and the like) are classified as “the Fallen,” though isolationist Slann and their followers do not distinguish between Prodigals and Fallen. “Anathema” refers to races the Old Ones did not intend to be created: Greenskins, Skaven, Beastmen and the like. Lizardmen call themselves the First Children of the Old Ones or simply the First. Daemons are referred to the Old Foes.)

    Belrikt took the Speaking Stone and put it around hi necks. Belrikt was expecting something dramatic to happen. Then he spoke experimentally.

    “I don’t feel any different. I don’t sound any different. (I neither feel nor hear any queer effects from thy stone).”
    “You'll just sound normal to yourself, but everyone else will hear their own language”
    “You lost your pompous Southlands accent. (Thy words no longer sound strange to my ears).”
    “And your words no longer sound weird to me. (Finally thy speech has the formality and dignity befitting a servant of the Old Ones).”

    Belrikt grinned wider than he had at any other time since arriving on the continent. No more listening to pompous Southlands dialect ever again? I hope they don’t ask for this stone back because they aren’t getting it

    “We have something else for you. This will give you and those near you some protection against hostile magic.”

    The priest handed him a thick bracelet made from obsidian with a lodestone in it. That did not reassure Belrikt.

    “For something this important, shouldn’t a Slann be defending us against hostile magic?
    “We can't send a Slann on this expedition”
    “Too dangerous?”

    A scribe with a bundle of scrolls who had not said a word or written down anything stepped forward. He spoke somewhat loudly, as if he was excited about an excuse to speak.

    “The Third Race is mistrustful of powerful magic users, so we thought it wise not to bring a Slann”

    I don’t trust them either, Belrikt thought. He nevertheless was not satisfied.

    “Why should we care what Dwarfs dislike?”

    The high priest spoke again.

    “Because Lord Trawlikshen wants us to make contact with the Third Race to help us fight the Skaven. That’s why you are being given so many items for this quest. In fact.”

    Another attendant presented Belrikt with a suit made from hide of some kind of dinosaur. Belrikt figured it was probably a Troglodon’s hide which meant it was enchanted. Another handed him a belt with three waxed ceramic vials.

    “This armor will protect you from harm with the blessings of the Old One’s. The protection is fickle, so you shouldn’t feel invincible. The vials contain potions of Kroxigor’s Might. Drink them, and it will greatly enhance your strength for about a minute.

    “That’s a lot of stuff, dare I ask if you are giving me anything else.”
    “Yes, you are going to bring along Stroln, he has studied all our scrolls on the past encounters with the Third Race over the centuries.”

    He pointed to the young Scribe, who promptly dropped his scrolls in excitement. Then he nearly knocked over the palanquin bearers as he bent to pick up his loose scrolls.

    “It’s an honor to be working with you sir!”

    Mahrlect!


    Hodiri, Rune Lord of Karak Zorn


    Karak Zorn was hit by earthquakes centuries ago. It killed over half the population and all those with royal blood. The survivors decided not to elevate any of their members to royalty. Since then decisions have been made by a council of the eldest living male of every clan advised by the runesmiths. Decisions are officially made by the entire Council of Karak Zorn, but the council almost always deferred to the wishes of the eldest Runelord when making difficult decisions.

    Despite this, Runelord Hodiri rarely had to make decisions. The affairs of the hold were rarely complicated and most issues were sorted out long before they got to the Council. Hodiri was content with this. He preferred to spend his time trying to rediscover lost rune techniques, deciphering damaged books and records. For years a growing sense of unease has been settling on him. He never liked to follow his gut when he could follow tradition and logic. Nevertheless, his gut told him that darkness was encroaching on his people. There was something below ground that the Dwarfs did NOT want to unearth.

    The hold of Karak Zorn has recovered in numbers since the disasters. Still, every single Dwarf life was precious. Now a hunting party of eleven was missing for weeks. No bodies were found. They did not leave behind a single discarded weapon or tool, or even a scrap of cloth or fur as a clue to be found. Nothing. Every clan leader had their own idea on how to handle it and they were all beseeching Hodiri to see it there way. The one now speaking was the leader of the clan of the missing hunters.

    “We need to put this in our Book of Grudges now my lord!”

    Hodiri sighed.

    “We can’t avenge a wrong against the air. How we can declare a grudge against a threat we cannot even identify? Until we know what happened to the party, we can’t avenge them.”
    “How can y—? I mean as you wish my lord. I will send investigators.”

    The clan elder walked out abruptly before Hodiri could mention the potential danger to an investigation party from whatever this mysterious threat is. Hodiri didn’t bother to repudiate him. As a clan elder, he had every right to authorize a search party for his missing kin.

    The one advantage of Karak Zorn being cut off from the rest of the dwarf holds was that they seemed to exist beyond the notice of the Dwarfs' ancient enemies. Now even the small degree of safety of anonymity was not only gone, but it was Karak Zorn’s foes that were anonymous now. How can I defend my people against a threat I cannot even identify?

    Hodiri figured he wouldn’t get any further on his studies tonight so he dimmed his lantern to retire. He figured he would have much work to do early the next morning. As he watched the shadows dance in his chamber, he wondered what dangers hid in the shadows beyond the hold.


    Grey Seer Neekit of Clan Ostrel


    Neekit’s mind drifted as he only paid half-attention to the screams of the Dwarven prisoners being tortured while Gasteek tried to suppress his giggles. Gasteek was vindictive even by the standards of Clan Ostrel. Gasteek was skilled interrogator, but he was more interested in inflicting pain than in getting results. That’s why he was in Clan Ostrel at all, he killed or crippled too many slaves his superiors wanted to use. It is good-good that Dwarfs are so resilient.

    Clan Ostrel Skaven had a lot of pent up hostility. The Underempire society has a strict hierarchy but there is also an informal pecking system within each strata of the hierarchy. If a Skaven falls low on the informal pecking order they either get killed or saddled with the grunt work (which is often the same thing). If a forward thinking rat is not in such a poor state, but believes they are ABOUT to fall into such a state one of their options is to join Clan Ostrel.

    Clan Ostrel has the dubious distinction of being the southern-most Skaven holding on the planet straddling the Southlands Jungles and the plains below them. The region is not blessed with an abundance of warpstone, so the area is fairly poor in economic terms. The tunnels do not go deep and poisonous snakes sent by the Lizardmen’s foul god remain a frequent threat. The jungles above ground are even more dangerous.

    Clan Ostrel does have one compensating advantage. It’s too poor and far away for the Council of Thirteen to bother sending orders to. It’s also out of the way, so assassins charge extra to hit targets in Ostrel’s holdings. The ranking Skaven of Clan Ostrel are relative nobodies with low prices on their heads. Clan Ostrel, despite its dangers, is the safest place for Skaven worried about dying at the hands of their own kind.

    Lizardmen are bad-bad enough but we try to expand-dig our holdings underground and run into-find Dwarfs too!

    Neekit watched as another Dwarf died. Now there were only three survivors left. The group broke faster than expected and gave away their troop numbers. The dwarves were very tight lipped about their artillery though. Neekit continued listening to the translator who spoke the Dwarf’s language.

    “My lord. This Dwarf squeaks the same-same things that the others did. They all pretend-lie that they don’t know-understand what a cannon is.”

    Neekit had an idea, so wonderful he started to brux. He didn’t like to display his emotions outwardly, so he restrained himself before his underlings saw his eyes bog out. His thought seemed too good to be true. He had to verify this himself before the last few Dwarfs expired.

    When rats (or Skaven) are happy they gently grind their teeth (bruxing) until their eyes bulge (boggling).

    “Gasteek! Cease-stop your interrogation right now! I will do-take this. You ask-squeak the wrong questions.”

    After a series of the right questions followed by the death of another Dwarf, Neekit discovered some very interesting facts. The Dwarf hold has been isolated-alone from the rest of the Dwarf Under-Empire for centuries. They had no gunpowder or steam power. Even better, these Dwarfs had never heard of the Skaven before. Better still they were presumed dead the other Dwarfs. For all these Dwarfs knew, the other holds were all dead so there was nowhere to turn to for help.

    This is good-good beyond imagining. A whole Dwarf hold with inferior technology waiting to be taken and no retribution from other Dwarfs since they assumed the Hold was already dead-slain. A hold full of treasures to steal-plunder. A hold to give Clan Ostrel lots of space to breed-occupy. A fortress to protect his treasures from Lizardmen and rival Skaven clan alike. A safe haven to assault-kill the Lizardmen from and run-retreat back to many-many times. Clan Ostrel would become the richest-strongest clan in the southern hemisphere. I will rule a clan of outcasts no more.

    Neekit wasted no time calling specified underlings. First he called Kreela. Kreela was a tough Skaven covered with grotesque, yet decorative scars. The scars were self-inflicted and were a signal to male Skaven. Kreela and her adopted sisters formed the bulk of Clan Ostrel’s Tunnel Runners. Kreela and her sisters were non-breeders, females who had rebelled against their cultural norm. On top of the ritual scarring, they had to endure the ostracism of male Skaven for rejecting their “imperative set by the Great Horned Rat” was high. For many females though, this was preferable to being surrounded by hordes of squealing rattlings till they die.

    Neekit knew he could trust Kreela and her sisters to map the tunnel area around the lost dwarf hold and harass the dwarfs without giving up their presence. They were the best Tunnel Runners he knew. Their thirst to prove themselves to the males of the Underempire led them to be more aggressive and bold than most other Skaven warriors. Their desire to avoid derision of society in general lead them to be used to traveling by themselves for great distances making them good underground navigators.

    Neekit had gotten a lot of grief from subordinates for declaring Clan Ostrel a safe haven for non-breeders. Many doomsayers feared it would set an example that would spread to all of the Clan’s breeders, and they would die out. Fortunately, no such cultural revolution came to pass. It was a brilliant move as far as Neekitwas concerned. Kreela and her sisters knew that if Neekit fell from the leadership of Clan Ostrel, a more conservative Skaven would take his place, and they would lose their privileges.

    To lead his direct military effort. He handpicked the leaders for his frontal assault effort from among those in Clan Ostrel who chose self-imposed exile after suffering embarrassing defeats against Dwarfs. They’d be so concerned with revenge, they wouldn’t have time to betray Neekit or run away. He just sent three willful Skaven on dangerous missions, and they thanked him for the privilege.

    That’s what set Neekit apart from weaker Skaven leaders in his mind. He didn’t have to kill his underlings just to defend himself. He made sure to find out what the skilled Skaven in his domain wanted and then made sure that he was the only one who could provide it to them. If Neekit couldn’t figure out what a Skaven wanted, well then he’d kill them.

    His brilliance combined with the stroke of luck of finding the lost Dwarf hold would soon catapult Clan Ostrel (and Neekit) to undreamed heights of power.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
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  2. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    New Alliances, Part Two of Four

    New Alliances, Part Two: Adapting To New Circumstances


    Belrikt the Outlander


    Belrikt entered the chamber he was directed to go to. Here he was to meet two of the First. Despites having never met them before, they were nevertheless supposed to be his lieutenants. Stroln the scribe, was followed here as he did everywhere. He was harder to shake off than a hatchling Huagerdon. Belrikt wondered why he was meeting his lieutenants in a dark room this close to midday. One of the High Skinks’ attendants made the introductions.

    “General Belrikt, meet Qulot.”

    Belrikt had led many Saurus into battle in the past, but he had never had a Scar Veteran serving under his command before. Willing himself to project confidence, he looked over the large Saurus, acutely aware of only coming up to his chest (and Belrikt was tall for a Skink).

    “I have been assigned to lead my Saurus brethren and carry Lord Trawlikshen’s standard”

    The Scar Veteran bobbed his head at a medium pace. Too fast for a polite acknowledgment of Belrikt’s presence and too slow to indicate a challenge. The subtext was clear. I will follow your orders, but I do not want to be micromanaged by someone a fraction my age.

    Belrikt was pleased. A Saurus capable of nuance was a Saurus Belrikt trusted to make good decisions without constant orders. The Skink attendant pointed towards the darkest corner of the room.

    “Huanboq will lead the advance party once your forces reach the entrances to underground”

    A hand waved from the shadows. At first he thought the lizard in the corner by be a shy Chameleon Skink, then he had an idea. Suddenly the meeting in the dark chamber made sense.

    “You have the Blessing of Huanchi, don’t you?”
    “Yes, sir”

    Occasionally a Skink (or very rarely a Saurus) would be Blessed by the Night God. First with the blessing of the Huanchi had phenomenal vision in the dark although bright sunlight troubled their sensitive eyes. Belrikt wasn’t sure this Blessing manifested in the Southlands until now.

    “It’s good to meet you all. Qulot you can get the Sauri ready to move out. Huanboq, I want you to choose some of your soldiers to guard our camp at night. Stroln, I want you to make sure one of the pack Stegadons has a dark place for Huanboq and his patrolmen to sleep in during the day since that’s when we will marching.”

    Belrikt hoped the assignment would keep Stroln busy for a while, but Stroln caught up to him while was arguing with a quarter master not long afterwards.

    “The distance we are marching, with all the food and water our troops will be using, it will take almost four pounds of supplies for every pound that reaches our destination.”
    “General, we calculated it will take about half that if you stop to gather provisions as you advance.”
    “That will slow us down! Also, we can’t gather much once we exit the jungle hit the plains!”

    Food and water wasn’t Belrikt’s only sticking point with the city’s Skinks. He got in a protracted argument with the city’s Skink Priests when he insisted that every single bit of poison used be blessed to harm both undead and daemons.

    “But we are fighting Skaven, regular poisons are sufficient.”

    Belrikt’s head bobbed with rage. He had been surprised in unlikely places by daemons and undead and vowed never to repeat it.

    “The Old Foes can show up anywhere, and they DO show up anywhere! And in case you haven’t forgotten, the largest undead force on the planet is just north of the jungles.”

    He also got in an argument with every Skink in charge of almost every type of supply. They were either stingy and miserly or naively optimistic about how low the army’s needs would be. The head horticulturist was especially difficult. Belrikt was asking to take every single ounce of xiliqua root gum he had and Belrikt still wanted more.

    “Well harvest some more! What part of ‘the army is going underground do you not understand’?”
    “Why does the fact you are going underground matter, sir?”
    “Because the underground is cold!”

    The ignorance of the city’s worker Skinks was infuriating. Back in his home city of Klodorex back in Lustria, all the Skinks cross trained, so they had a wide variety of skills. The Southlands with comparatively more Skinks valued specialization above versatility. Pretty much all of the laborers were completely illiterate and the scribes and artisans seemed to have no experience outside the city and were hopelessly naïve to things such as “underground is cold” or “Stegadons drink a lot of water.”

    Stroln was the worst. Every moment Belrikt was not arguing with someone over supplies, Stroln was breaking the silence with facts about the Third Race.

    “Instead of scale markings of the gods to determine social standing, they use their hair. The more hair they have the higher their presumed blessings of the gods.”
    “They can order metal to take any shape they desire.”
    “When they hatch from their eggs, the egg shells are like stone. That’s why they like the underground so much and why they lock magic into stone runes”

    Alternatively he’d ask questions about life in Lustria.

    “Do all Lustrian Skinks cuss a lot?”
    “Does every city have an Oldblood?”
    “Those daggers are magical right? Do all Lustrian Skinks fight with a dagger in each hand or do most fight with a blade and shield like we do here.”

    Through no fault of his own Stroln hit on two sore spots with Belrikt. His lost friends and the perceived inferiority of Southlands worker caste Skinks.

    “These daggers were inherited from fallen friends, warriors the likes of which the Southlands will never see. And why do say “we” as if you are a fighter. I didn’t think scroll heads were allowed to handle weapons in this city.”
    “I’ve been trained in combat, sir. Watch!”

    The small Skink carefully picked up a stray wood chip and placed it on a fence. Then pulled a blowpipe, carefully lined up a shot and fired a (non-poisonous) dart at it. He hit the wood chip dead center than stepped back shaking his tail proudly. His expectant look angered Belrikt more.

    “I see. If you could fire shots like that four times faster while moving at jogging pace and dodging enemy fire, you’d be on par with a novice warrior.”

    Nearly a dozen Skinks passing by turned to look at the commotion. The scribe’s head and tail drooped and he pulled his limbs in as if he wanted to make himself smaller. A soft hissing voice surprised them both.

    “Don’t be sssso hard on the young one, Belrikt. Regular troopers usually ssshoot at targetsss much bigger. (also he’s four times ssslower than you, not four times slower than a regular trooper)”

    Preylot, the Chameleon Skink chief, materialized in front of both the Skinks. Belrikt grinned then turned around and the two Skinks slapped their tails together. This drew more odd looks than Belrikt’s yelling or the uncloaked Chameleon Skink. The tail slap in this fashion symbolized that the two had each other’s backs and was a gesture generally reserved for interactions between spawning brothers. It was highly unusual for a beast-caste and Chameleon Skinks to do this. Belrikt didn’t care. Preylot was one of the three Skinks who survived the trip from Lustria and Belrikt felt closer to him than any Southlands Skink.

    “I knew the army was getting some Chameleon Skinks from abroad, but I didn’t know that included you!”
    “I would have been here ssssooner, but I lost time trying to to talk Tal-Lat to joining ussss. He ssswore he was close to finding a Coatl.”
    “I wish he’d give up on that, though some more Coatl blessed venom would be nice.”
    “I held on to one dart.”

    He pointed at a small pouch hanging around his neck.

    “But that’s not why he’s looking for Coatl. You know his theory about them being reincarnated First warriorssss.”

    Belrikt briefly wondered why his friends hissing wasn’t filtered out by the Speaking Stone. I supposed I’d be disappointed if he didn’t sound like I remembered.

    “Yes, but we aren’t going to see the others even as a Coatl. We should focus on our living friends. I’m glad you are here.”

    The preparations for the army took longer than Belrikt would have liked, but the effort seemed less painful now that his friend was back. Eventually he was marching south with his assembled army. It was both the largest army Belrikt had ever commanded and the longest army march he’d ever supervised. He hoped the march didn’t defeat him.

    Lots of things went wrong. The worst was when he saw a gout of flame out of the corner of his eye. A Salamander stopped responding to its handlers and they had been shooting fire randomly spooking a young Stegadon. Normally Stegadons don’t flinch at a little fire but this was a pack animal not yet accustomed to combat conditions. Nearby unit of Horned One were resisting their riders’ commands aggravating the situation

    Belrikt rode his own Horned One up to the mess, dismounted, and marched up to the rogue Salamander. He stared at the Salamander looking it right in the eyes until it bowed its head in submission. The beast fell under the control of its handlers again. A rare few Skinks had a blessing known as “Itzl’s Stare.” The ability to cause a cold blooded animal to back down with just a look.

    Since all three of the Lustrian Skinks had this ability, the Southland Skinks had started calling it “the Outlanders’ Stare” figuring Lustrians had some sort of gift with beasts. The stare usually worked fine on Southlands Skinks. Unknown to the bulk of them, the outlander’s could do this not because of Itzl’s intercession, but because they had all stared into the face of Chaos. The beasts of the jungle could unconsciously sense that these Skinks had faced far worse than them.

    Belrikt noticed his Horned One was sniffing the air a lot. Belrikt also sniffed the air, then scowled. Belrikt didn’t feel like chastising the erring Salamander handlers. They’d live, but they were on the ground moaning. He found the nearest worker chief who changed a shade of color in his nervousness.

    “What’s that Stegadon carrying?”
    “Provisions for our beasts, sir”
    “Meat you mean?”
    “Yes.”

    This is why we rotate worker castes Skinks for training from the beast-caste Skinks in Lustria…

    “Even I can smell the blood. Of course the beasts were agitated! I want you to move everyone whose carrying meat downwind from all our predatory support units, now!”

    After re-organizing the order of march, things went much smoother. Though they had to cut the rations for food and water about 10% because Belrikt’s dour predictions about their supply line difficulties came to pass. The next few weeks of marching passed without major incident. Most minor incidents came from Stroln.

    He had badgered several skirmishers into giving him pointers in blowpipe shooting whenever the army made camp. On one especially noteable practice session, he accidentally shot his instructor twice. He couldn’t convince anyone to instruct him after that.

    Preylot found this amusing. Belrikt was too preoccupied with keeping his army together to find it funny.

    “Good thing the darts aren’t poissssoned. Perhaps the Skaven will laugh themselvesss to death.”
    “Skinks that wet shouldn’t participate in war.”

    “Wet” is the colloquial term the first use to describe rookies. The reference is that they are so young that they haven’t time to dry off from emerging from their spawning pool yet.

    Undaunted, Stroln set up targets by himself and tried to hit them while running only to trip and prick himself with enough darts to kill a Kroxigor had they been real.

    “Preylot, you better give him some pointers so he doesn’t kill himself or someone else.”

    Under Preylot’s tutelage the scribe got better. Preylot convinced him that one accurate dart was worth twenty misses. Belrikt used what little free time he had to experiment with the Speaking Stone, figuring it’s use would be important later. He found if he concentrated he could project his words with the Lustrian or Southlands dialect at will and mimic the vocal tones of Chameleon Skinks or Sauri whenever he wanted. He couldn’t make himself speak the Dwarf language. He hoped it work if Dwarves were nearby.

    Eventually the scouts were able to find a tunnel entrance. As Belrikt figured, they would have to fight through Skaven to meet the Dwarves, assuming they were still alive. Charging into a rat hole is not normally conducive to one’s health, but the rear guard didn’t seem very alert. Preylot was able to get very close and surmised that they were avoiding the Dwarves as much as guarding the rear.

    Belrikt selected a regiment of Skinks and Kroxigor to establish a beach head. Belrikt was about to order a second regiment to join him when Qulot marched up with a regiment of Sauri. Belrikt saw little reason to countermand this. Belrikt ordered a group of Skirmishers to watch their back and escort the beast master Skink Priest, Wytol into casting range.

    The Saurus, Skinks, and Kroxigors rushed in and began hacking through the surprised defenders. Wytol, the beast master Skink Priest had strengthened Belrikt and the soldiers around him. The reptiles made easy entrance underground steadily pushing back the terrified ratmen. Almost too easy Belrikt thought.

    Belrikt had a good vantage point up front, so he decided it would be a good time to launch a blast of fire from his favorite magical item, the Amulet of Chotec’s Wrath.

    “Chotec Kas-Nar!”

    He shouted the incantation only to have harmless smoke come out of his amulet. The only time that happens is when there is a very powerful spell caster near. Qulot silently motioned his men to push ahead

    “Fall back! Everyone against the walls now!”

    Less than a minute after issuing Belrikt issued the command, an explosion hit the ceiling. Then green lightning raked acriss and rocks fell down on top of Belrikt and his troops burying them along with at least an equal number of the Skaven they were fighting.

    Belrikt felt unusually warm, and was bleeding from several shallow cuts. If this is death, I should either be in much more pain or much less. The warmth was from his armor. There was a massive boulder that was slowly crushing him to death. Belrikt determined his armor’s enchantment apparently work otherwise he wouldn’t have had time to appreciate the boulder crushing him. With difficulty he pulled out a vial of his Potion and Kroxigor’s Might and broke the seal to drink it. His muscles expanded and his vitality increased. He flipped the boulder off of him then began frantically digging through rocks to dig up his men.

    After the potion’s effect wore off, he thought about drinking another one to help him move rocks when saw that he was aided by the might of real Kroxigor. Most of the Kroxigor had managed to remove themselves from the cave-in and they were making good headway through the debris, not letting trifling things like broken bones stop them. Qulat was digging too. He seemed barely injured at all from the cave-in. Belrikt wasn’t sure if the Scar Veteran was given some kind of protection similar to him, or if he was just that tough. The Saurus gave Belrikt a look that was halfway between impressed, (That Skink is tough and not afraid to get his hands dirty) and patronizing (Aww! The little Skink wants to help with the manual labor).

    Eventually more soldiers from the outside helped the rescue effort. Most of the Kroxigor under the rubble survived though none were unscathed. Nearly half the Saurus warriors survived, but very few of them would be in fighting shape for months. Very few Skinks survived. Belrikt wasn’t sure if he angrier at the Skaven for this cowardly trap or himself for not seeing it sooner.

    He bobbed his head angrily and shouted towards the rocks as loud as he could willing the Speaking Stone to convey his message. The Lizardmen nearest heard a loud roar in Sauria, but a short distance away a series of rapid squeaks echoed through the rocks.

    “THIS WON’T SAVE-SAVE YOU VERMIN! I WILL KILL-SLAY ALL OF YOU!”

    Belrikt was surprised and pleased when a small newt crawled out of the rocks than turned into Wytol the Beast priest.

    “And to think I got mocked for learning that spell. Mahrlect! I think my pouch of herbs got buried under a ton of rocks. Anyway, I think there are a few Skaven buried alive back there too. What do you want done with them, General? Leave them to die? Dig them up for offerings for Sotek?”

    “They wouldn’t have collapsed the tunnel so quickly if they didn’t have a backup route. Dig the rats up, I’m going to see how well the Speaking Stone works on Skaven. I want answers as to what we’re facing. I doubt they’ll be worthwhile gifts for Sotek after I’m done with them.”


    Grey Seer Neekit of Clan Ostrel


    Neekit looked at some sketched out maps and was worried things were going too well. Kreela’s Tunnel Runners had taken out over two dozen dwarfs and now the bulk of the bearded freaks were holed up behind their fortifications. Kreela’s sisters found a number of potential weak points in their hold. His forces would be able to begin a multi-pronged assault soon.

    Yok and Nafik were doing admirably leading the front lines. Neekit knew it was wise to choose lieutenants who had major grudges against the Dwarfs. A group of dwarfs had sallied out and fought the Skaven troops to a savage draw. Many were slain but the Skaven did not flee. Yok and Nafik were so focused their troops were too afraid of them to consider fleeing. The Dwarfs eventually made an orderly withdrawal back to their fort. A draw was essentially a victory for the Skaven, since Neekit knew he had far more expendable troops than the dwarfs did. At this rate Neekit thought he could keep his riskier options in reserve all battle. They wouldn’t be needed.

    Neekit’s apprentices and a handful of exiled apprentices of other wizards were supporting the front lines. According to reports by Dafrit, a former Pestilens monk who fought Dwarfs before, these Dwarfs seemed to have fewer anti-magic runes than their brethren up north. It was almost enough to make Neekit leave his command post from the rear of the army. Almost. He could better coordinate from the back secure in the knowledge that was impossible for the dwarfs to assault them from that direction.

    Horns blew not far from Neekit’s position. Towards the back he saw Skaven dropping with javelins sticking out of his torso. Dwarfs can’t make-do this…

    “Kill-slay the Lizardmen scouts before they can squeak-tell our position!”
    “They are not-not scouts, lord!”

    About six ranks of clan rats away (far too close), Neekit saw the hulking forms of Lizardmen clashing against his army’s rear guard. Neekit was good, but two armies was one too many. Neekit grabbed Goktol, an engineer who fled Clan Skyre for Clan Ostrel after causing an accidental cave in. Goktol had been ordered not to fire his rocket launcher to in order conserve the warpstone for an emergency. This certainly qualified as an emergency.

    “Goktol, break-crash the ceiling on the lizards with your gun. I’ll get-flee us away with my magic.”

    As a member of Clan Ostrel, Goktol should have been more wary of the words of his own kind, but he was more concerned with the advancing Lizardmen. He knew where the ceiling weak spots were and fired on them. Cracks rapidly spread in the ceiling. Neekit followed suit blasting them with magical energy, then the energy coalesced around the Grey Seer and carried away as the ceiling began to give way. Goktol reached out to his lord as he faded away. The second to last thing that went through his head was I was-am foolish. The last thing that went through his head was a falling stalactite.

    Neekit shot past many of his troops (and some ominously rumbling cavern walls) as far as his Skitterleap spell could take him. Then he marched resolutely through his own troops who respectfully-fearfully parted way for him.

    He made his way to where several of his ranking lieutenants were discussing battle plans. Kreela spoke first.

    “Lord Neekit, this is a surprise.”
    “I thought I would be able to aid-lead the cause better closer to the front.”
    “Yes, it was both wise-wise….and…brave-brave of you to come to our aid, sir,” wheezed Dafrit, the former Pestilens monk.
    “And the crash-noise at the rear of our lines was surely part of your grand-brilliant plan,” said Gasteek.

    It was dark and noise, but Neekit was sure most, if not all of them were bruxing and trying not to laugh. He had to change the subject.

    “The Lizardmen have come.”

    The Skaven no longer had to work to hide their laughter, the air now smelled of the musk of fear rather than mirth.

    “We have to flee-leave before they and the Dwarfs attack-fight us at the same time!” cried the Pestilens Monk.
    “They aren’t able to dig-get through, and I’m not leaving our heavy equipment behind. It took far-much too long to gather-steal that much warpstone. We must-must take the Dwarf hold fast-fast now. Fortunately, they are weaker-fewer than we thought. Gasteek!”

    Gasteek flinched, sure he’d be punished for his earlier sarcasm at his lord’s expense.

    “The beasts I told you to keep chain-caged? Kreela will show-take you to where you can open the cage where the only direction will be towards-at the dwarfs.”

    The “beasts” were Gasteek’s greatest triumph and his greatest failure. While he wasn’t the sole architect of this Moulder creation, he got pretty much all the blame. The plan was to create a better strong rat ogre. He named his creations Rat Gorgers after the degenerate beasts the Ogres sometimes use. The Rat Gorgers were smaller and more wiry then the garden variety Ogres clan Moulder and their imitators spawned. They were also much faster and more aggressive. They were nearly perpetually hungry. The few times they had enough food to be sated, they would keep on killing until they ran out of victims, then store the carcasses for later, though they would inevitable rot to the point of being inedible. Nearly an entire holding’s slave population was decimated this way before artillery brought the Rat Gorgers down. Gasteek had already began a self-imposed exile before his old clan leaders could find him.

    Neekit had Gasteek partially restrain the Gorgers and then sent Dwarf prisoners to fight them with blunted weapons to hopefully condition Gorgers to hate Dwarfs. Neekit was not optimistic this would work, but his secondary plan seemed to be promising. Kreela found an opening just barely wide enough to wedge the cage into with no known side passages out. As a last resort, the plan was to wedge the cage in and open it towards the Dwarfs. With only one direction to go, the Rat Gorgers would have no possibility of turning on their master’s—unless there was a side passage that Kreela’s sisters missed. Best not to think-dwell on that.

    Neekit had some minions prepare the cage, while he ordered his engineers and handler to make ready the war machines and beasts that he was saving in reserve to conserve warpstone and other scarce resources. This was not the time to conserve. With only a large pile of rocks between the Skaven and a second front, Neekit could no longer afford to slowly grind the Dwarfs down like he originally planned.

    He would have to take them out quickly so he could steal their fortifications and arsenal to repel the reptiles. The reptiles would surely pay for inconveniencing him! Once this force was beaten back, Neekit could marshal his strength in his new hold to let him take out the Lizardmen’s cities at his leisure. Then it was just a matter of time before he was strong enough to punish his Skaven rivals abroad, or perhaps loot the warpstone from the undead infested deserts. No, mustn’t get-move ahead of myself.

    The reptiles will find-make a way underground eventually. They must be stop-stopped. Reluctantly, Neekit found a private spot and pulled out the warpstone crystal that he used to talk to the daemons.


    Locklirist of the Hated Lash


    A squeaky voice interrupted by static emitted from the magic smoke in Korshalork’s former meditation chamber.

    “Bad news, my…..lord. Now the reptiles have attacked-attacked our rear but I have cunningly delayed-slow them for some time. Still we could use more-more help to kill the Dwarfs fast.”

    The entire citadel shook with laughter. Lizardmen moving closer to the rift was bad-bad news?. If a Slann was there it meant the magical energies of the battle might accidentally open the rift without the Skaven’s deliberate manipulation. If a Slann wasn’t with them a Skink was probably directing the effort. The unexpected sneak attack on the rear guard of a massive army seemed familiar. If it was the Skinks who thwarted his last attack on the Southlands….

    Kairos Fateweaver was known as the Oracle of Tzeentch but that was a misleading name (every aspect of Tzeentch’s treacherous brood is misleading). Tzeentch had dozens of oracles bound to his service, not merely one. One of the oracles in particular still owed Locklirist a favor. He summoned the demon Januscol to the Realm of Chaos side of the rift.

    After gazing at the rift for what Locklirist was sure was far too long. The Tzeentch demon turned and faced him. Most Tzeentch demons spoke out of both sides of their mouth. Januscol’s head was split down the center and he had two mouths for all his side talking needs. The right side face address him.

    An army of Lizardmen does indeed march towards the rift in an attempt to aid of the Dwarves--"
    He knew that already! Get to the juicy stuff. We are supposed to be an oracle here, not a narrator.” The left face interrupted.

    Januscol tried to give himself a dirty look, then Locklirist growled causing the right face to stop chastising itself. The right face continued.

    Two of the exiled Lustrians, the very Skinks you seek are among them—"
    —The other two are AWOL or dead!"
    The Slann have not joined this endeavor. You must use the rat wizard to open the rift on his side—"
    —But Skaven are losers!"
    You will need the aid of their cunning but beware—"
    That Skaven are losers!"

    The right side of face groaned and continued.

    As I was saying, Beware the treachery of the children of the Horned Rat, they cannot be trusted"
    Beware the children of mighty Tzeentch, they can’t be trusted!"
    I knew both those things already! Tell me something useful!

    Conventional troops cannot pass through the rift in it’s current state—"
    —Unless they aren’t emotionally attached to their limbs!"

    Locklirist was able to deduce that himself. The rift opened and closed for tantalizingly brief moments. The Bloodthirster knew if a demon was partway through when the rift closed, then they’d it’d be as if they got sliced apart. Whichever side had the majority of the demon would maintain his consciousness, the rest would be amputated.

    Daemons could heal from this eventually, but the laws of Chaos are counter intuitive (until you remind yourself that the Chaos Realm desires COMPLETE destruction). A daemon that was completely destroyed would actually respawn at full strength much faster than one who was trying to regenerate a limb. If limb and body are separated between worlds it took even longer. Locklrist was unconcerned with the welfare of his minions (especially the Nurgle conscripts), but he didn’t think a regiment of amputees would help him achieve his goals of vengeance.

    You said conventional troops wouldn’t make it through. That implies some kind of unconventional troops can make it.

    For once, the left side face spoke first.

    No, it doesn’t! We imply nothing!
    The smallest and most expendable daemons you have will be able to get through.

    Nurglings? What good will Nurglings do against two armies?
    Sometimes stealth wins out over brute strength—
    —And they can bite the ankles of your foes! (nom nom nom)

    The left face continued making exaggerating chomping noises. Locklirist contemplated seeing if the left face still felt like interrupting after taking a flaming whip to the face, but decided as long as the right face was even more annoyed than him, he’d give the schizophrenic demon a free pass.

    Is it possible to bring in something more substantial?
    There is a way to bring in stealth and brute force in on package
    But you won’t like it!
    What? Won’t? I? Like?

    The two halves of the oracle spoke together.

    You must summon the Dervish of Despair!

    The Bloodthirster stormed away, after he was out of earshot the oracle spoke again.

    Sadly we cannot read our own fate. I do not know if we will meet him again, but I do know he will be angry when he returns.
    If I never see him again, it will be too soon. That Bloodthirster NEVER shut up!

    * * * * * * *

    It would take some time and a large portion of his accumulated skull trophies to summon Kalai, the Dervish of Despair. While Bloodletters made up the majority of Khorne’s forces, and the majority of the remainder was made up of Juggers and Flesh Hounds, they weren’t the only Khorne demons that stalked the Chaos Wastes. There were many daemon varieties that were far less common. Some daemons were unique. Kalai was one such daemon. Kalai was believed to be a reincarnated elf warrior who was once consumed by rage. Twice the size of a bloodletter but with a wiry lithe frame, Kalai used grace and technique to slay foes where other Khorne demons relied on brute force. Its natural grace and androgynous looks meant one could ALMOST mistake Kalai for one of Slaanesh’s brood were it not for its blood red color, penchant for taking skulls and natural ferocity. Kalai also had the single-minded focus of a Flesh Hound which is what Locklirist desired most.

    In the meantime, Locklirist gathered all the Nurglings he could. The Bloodthirster would rather stoop to directing Furies than address the squealing Mites of Nurgle, but he had to suffer this indignity in order to destroy his hated foes. The risk was too great that the Lizardmen and Dwarfs would kill the Skaven before they could open the rift further.

    Once through, I want you to kill or maim everything you see—

    The mound of little pus bags began squealing and cheering

    “—Except for the rat creatures!”

    The cheers stopped and many of the Nurglings wore faces that were either pouty, confused, or mutinous. Daemons, even little ones, do not like being restrained. Locklirist looked angrier than usual, so a Nurgle Herald intervened to try to prevent the Bloodthirster from lashing out like his namesake.

    The rat creatures are spreading pestilence as we speak and we mustn’t interrupt them! They are creating new banquets for Mother Nurgle to enjoy in the material world! When they are done, THEN we can kill the rat things!

    The seething mass of living pustules cheered. The Herald looked at Locklirist as if to say, Look I’m useful! And you once thought about killing me!. Then in their enthusiasm, the Nurglings charged the rift. As the front members hit the rift one got through but a half a dozen burst into flame. Another four were chopped in half. Locklirist gave the Herald a looked that conveyed that the option of killing him was not yet off the table and would never be. After this first debacle, the ranking demons set up a more organized way to get the Nurglings through.

    The biggest temporary weak spots in the rift usually appeared in the center. Khorne Heralds started pitching Nurglings in ones and twos through during openings. Now about three quarters of them were getting safely through. Locklirist thought his Heralds could possibly do better if they were a little more careful with their tosses, but didn’t bother telling his lieutenants this. He wasn’t overly concerned. The Nurglings would buy him some time, but it would take more effort to recruit Kalai and send the demon through, but it could be done. Kalai had the instincts and dexterity to cross a weak rift intact.


    Hodiri, Rune Lord of Karak Zorn


    “Lord Hodiri, the rat men seem to command ordinary rats as well. They sneaked into our store rooms and ate or befouled approximately one third of our stores before we were able to exterminate them and seal off the holes they entered from.”
    “Put a guard on our remaining stores around the clock. The rats will surely find another way in.”

    In a week of terrible news over and over again. This was the worst. Hodiri and the clan leaders were hoping to wear down the attackers with an extended siege. With depleted stores, they would be the ones who be worn down by the siege.

    The other reports were almost as troubling. Dozens of dwarfs were incapacitated and the Hold healers were busy staving off infections. The Mites of Nurgle seemed to be popping up in every tunnel that was rat-free. The implications were unsettling. According to ancient records, these lesser demons were usually used as scouts. That meant more daemons were likely coming. Were these rat men some kind of daemon-mortal hybrid?

    The regular battle reports were troubling as well. The rat men seemed to be well familiar with underground fighting and navigating tunnels. A number of expeditionary forces for Karak Zorn were cut off and disappeared. The enemy seemed endless. Even it takes a dozen rat men to bring down one of Dwarf soldier, there always seemed to be a thirteenth enemy. Why does thirteen seem menacing?.

    Hodiri didn’t just sit in his office waiting for reports. He took the field and struggled to counter the rat men’s strange magic. So far their sorcerers weren’t very powerful, but they were numerous. They always seemed to be rotating in fresh casters while Hodiri gradually tired. Eventually the Council appointed general convinced Hodiri to return to the hold and rest and let his apprentices take over magic defense for a while. Hodiri knew that if he left the field, more Dwarves would die this day. He also knew that if he overextended himself beyond a quick recover, a larger number of Dwarves would die tomorrow.

    A warning bell rang. A winch was turned to open a gate. Ieri the captain of the Maiden Guard rushed in then began waving troops in. Dwarfs didn’t like having their womenfolk fight, but they recognized that their wives and daughters were their first line of defense if the men were off fighting so they all had at least basic combat training. Given the Hold’s dire straits, every adult capable of wielding a weapon had been mobilized.

    The Maiden Guard ran in, some of them had lost weapons or shields. A great many were carrying in members of the East Pass Ranger regiment. The rangers all seemed to be badly mauled. If they were the healer’s only concern, they might recover. Hodiri knew if they were to have any chance at all he would have to set up a new makeshift hospital or their bloody wounds would react badly with all the festering sores left by the other patients’ Nurgling wounds. Behind the wariors streaming in the sounds of clashing metal could be heard over bestial roars.

    A gruff female voice yelled into the Hold.

    “Close the gate! Don’t worry about us. Don’t let them in, or they’ll kill us all!”

    Hodiri looked at Ieri who nodded sadly. Hodiri gave the order to close the East gate. The sounds of fighting stopped shortly there after and a pounding could be heard on the iron gate. Hodiri could see Ieri was trying to hold back tears so he looked away from her face while she gave her report.

    “These giant rat men are much stronger and faster…They killed so many of us…I didn’t want to leave so many of the men behind but we had no choice.”

    Hodiri saw stricken faces all around. He knew his soldiers needed encouragement.

    “You did the right thing. It would have been much worse if you hadn’t been there. Our brothers and sisters died with honor and made our ancestors proud. The gate seems to be holding.”

    A nearby clan leader, Rilgor, spoke up. He had lost an eye two days ago so was not in good spirits.

    “But can all of our gates hold! That was the last passageway we had open. Now we are sealed in. If something doesn’t change, our hold will become our tomb now.”

    Hodiri knew he should refute him, but he couldn’t think what he could possibly say to make things seem better.

    A lieutenant burst into the chamber from down in the hold looking winded.

    “My Lords! News from the West Gate!”

    “Please tell me it’s not breached,” said Tergon, another clan leader.
    “No, someone is shouting at us in Khazalid asking to come in!” exclaimed the lieutenant.
    “The western tunnels are the first places we withdrew from, those are not our kin. We already know the rats are sneaky.” Said Rilgor.

    Could another Dwarf hold have found them in their hour of greatest need. No, I mustn’t give into fanciful delusions. Hodiri thought. But I have to KNOW for sure.

    “Mobilize all the troops you can spare, then head to the west gate.”

    Two bolt throwers and a line of crossbowmen were all sitting behind a line of axe bearing infantry all ready for something terrible to come through the West Gate.

    “We wish to aid you!” came a voice from the other side.
    “Who are you! Identify yourself” Hodiri ordered.

    The Khazalid pronunciation was perfect. Almost too perfect, yet the speaker didn’t sound like a Dwarf at all. The voice was far too high pitched and fast to be a Dwarf. But not high pitched or fast enough to sound like one of the Rat-men. Humans? That didn’t make any sense. Humans hadn’t been seen by Karak Zorn in ages and records indicate they could never come close speaking Khazalid this well.

    “We are the denizens of the jungle to the north. What you call the Reptile-men.”

    Some of the assembled Dwarfs broke decorum and gave their opinions.

    “Don’t listen to him it’s a trap!”
    “The Rat men had reptiles among them!”
    “Remember the legends. The Reptile-men are more savage than the rats!”

    Hodiri silenced his men with a glare. He didn’t know what to think. The Dwarfs of Karak Zorn hadn’t ventured into the jungle in many generations and the Reptiles had been content to leave the Dwarfs alone all this time.

    “Why help us now?”

    “Because the Rat-men are our common foe.”

    Dwarfs are not prone to trust strangers or take risks, but with the safety of his people in question, Hodiri quickly made up his mind.

    “Open the gate!”
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
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  3. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    New Alliances, Part Three of Four

    New Alliances, Part Three: Escalation


    Hodiri, Rune Lord of Karak Zorn

    As the gates opened, nearly two dozen reptile-men entered. They were roughly as tall as Dwarves but much scrawnier. All of them were armed but their weapons were small and all sheathed or holstered. Some looked pretty odd. One reptile carried a pole with a gray fur on it. All the lizards carried bulging woven sacks which many of the hold eyed suspiciously. Hodiri could tell many more reptiles were waiting outside the keep. Hodiri figured they were trying not to make the impression of being invaders or else this was an expendable group.

    The smallest one spoke first. His combination of raspiness and chirps made his words nearly impossible to understand.

    “Greetings noble Dwarfs, we come in peace.”

    Though his pronunciation was bad, he delivered his line as if he had clearly rehearsed it many times. Then he gestured at the fur on the pole as if it was very important. The tallest lizard gave what was probably a stern look in the reptile gestures to the little one then spoke, in perfect Khazalid no less.

    “You should probably let me talk because I have the Rune of Communication. I am General Belrikt of the Lizardmen. We come in friendship to join our strength against our mutual foes the Rat-Men. They are called Skaven, and our people have many unsettled grudges with them. Not that the Skaven limit their depredations to us. They have been a plague, both figuratively and literally to every civilized race since their foul genesis.”

    Rilgor scoffed.

    “Naturally, these puny ones want the aid of the mighty warriors of the oldest race to fight their battles for them.”

    Many of the Dwarves nodded with agreement for Rigor’s words. General Belrikt paused before speaking again.

    “We would like the aid of your mighty warriors but we have been sent by our lord to aid you.”
    “What can you do to aid us, lizard?”

    Belrikt made a noise halfway between a whistle and a chirp. One by the one the Skinks of the delegation opened their sacks in front of Belrikt. Each bag contain three or four Skaven heads. This was not exactly a staggering number given how many Skaven the Dwarfs killed, but about half the Dwarfs were swayed by this.

    “These Skaven were trying to create a new tunnel into your hold. We believe they are working on more tunnels elsewhere.”

    This swayed most of the remaining doubters, they couldn’t afford to turn down the help of the Lizardmen. Hodiri gestured for his top officers and then pointed at the Skink delegation.

    “Let us talk”

    * * * * * * *

    Hodiri stood with three clan leaders near the bed where the senior ranger was barely consciousness from his wounds from the giant rat-men. He had described the positions of the enemy his men had discovered. Belrikt stood with three other Skinks (that’s what they preferred to be called). A dark skinned one that flinched at light, the one that could speak broken Khazalid and Skink bedecked with many trinkets, who was identified as a priest. Hodiri knew this meant wizard but he wasn’t going to let his prejudices alienate his new allies. The fidgety dark Skink was apparently the head scout or spymaster. Belrikt translated his intelligence into Khazalid and an artisan set up a battle map of the hold.

    The main Skaven force is attempting to breach the southern gate. They were making a lot of attempts to batter the gate down. Belrikt’s intelligence said the Skaven could have probably breached by now, so they must either be low on artillery or trying a ploy. He was leaning towards ploy and Hodiri agreed.

    The eastern gate was sealed up against the giant rat men. Before they were attacked, the rangers found that the Skaven had blocked their access to the eastern tunnels. This suggested that that they were afraid of their own living weapons. The creatures seemed incapable of breaching the gate, which meant they could ignore them for now.

    The Skinks had fought the way to the western gate and defeated the Skaven stationed there. They said they won because of surprise. Due to a Skaven caused cave-in (around the time the Dwarves heard a loud crash from that direction so the story checks out) most of their army’s units couldn’t enter, only their light skirmishers. Belrikt assured Hodiri that his army included soldiers much larger and stronger soldiers than Skinks.

    Some of the more paranoid Dwarves were content to leave the stronger lizards outside. The Skinks were trickling in small amounts of supplies. The Skinks couldn’t exactly help the Dwarves with their own shortages but at least they weren’t taxing Khazak Zorn’s supplies and they weren’t strong enough to attempt to take the Hold from within if they were attempting some kind of ploy.

    The second largest group of Skaven were outside the northern gate. Most of the mining passages were connected to the gate. That’s where the Dwarves took most of their losses early in the conflict to guerrilla warfare, but the Skaven to the north haven’t tried to breach the gate recently, so they were naturally up to something underhanded there as well.

    “If we kill the giant rat things quietly, we can attack the Skaven from that direction by surprise.” Tergon said.
    “I’d prefer to cover our weak spots first. Our hold on your western passages is pretty weak and it’s likely the Skaven are going to try to tunnel in from the north.” Banon, Hodiri’s acting commander said.
    “Skaven are cunning and have unusual powers but they are cowards concerned with their own survival above all else. I say we attack now to keep them off balance and slow down any offensive they are planning. If we can keep them occupied for a few weeks our main force can dig our way through to reinforce you” Belrikt said.

    “Weeks? How much elbow room do you need in your tunnels? That’s two days’ work from their position, three tops!”

    The dwarves all looked at Hodiri, who knew whichever way he ruled on this, some of his people would vehemently oppose it. Dwarfs of high and low stature were either saying inviting the Lizardmen army into the hold was disaster since they could take the hold from the inside. Others were begging him to bring in the reinforcements so the Skaven didn’t overwhelm the Hold.

    “Belrikt, if you can execute a successful hit-and-run attack, our miners can let your reinforcements through.”


    Grey Seer Neekit of Clan Ostrel


    Bravery is not something Skaven recognize. If they see it they usually expect a trick. Neekit was curious why the Crest Newts (Skinks) were suddenly attempting many hit-and-run attacks. Guerilla warfare is the way to go if you are out matched in an open field, but the Crest Newts were outnumbered around 200-to-1 meaning this was extremely bold guerilla warfare. This was either a stupid move or a brilliant ploy. He sent Kreela to figure out which.

    Of all his minions, Neekit was least worried about Kreela. His trust (or more accurately: lack of mistrust) was well placed. Kreela knew what she was doing.

    Kreela was in the dark and could see nothing, but she rarely relied on her eyes. Her ears informed her of the sound of vigorous digging. Not the clumsy swings of the obsidian tools of the Lizardmen, but the steel picks of the Dwarves. She knew the sound well because she surprised and slew many miners weeks ago at the start of Lord Neekit’s campaign.

    Kreela’s nose provided more important information. She sniffed the stale underground air an extra time to be sure. There was no mistaking what she smelled. The Dwarfs and Crest Newts were occupying the same tunnels. Some of the more foolish males were optimistic that the Dwarfs and Lizardmen would be at each other’s throats as they are not very gregarious, but Kreela could smell that they were clearly working together peacefully. Skaven should know better. They know as well as anyone that the enemy of your enemy is your friend, at least for the moment. Without that basic principle, Skaven society wouldn’t be able to maintain any cooperative works.

    Despite the wisdom of making friends from your enemy’s enemies, Kreela was not happy to be fighting near the little pox balls. They infested the various tunnels and popped up in unexpected places giggling incessantly. Worst of all was the singing, in Queekish no less! Kreela once heard them switch their singing to an awkward high pitched imitation of the Dwarves’ rumbling language before attacking once, so it seemed language was not a barrier to them. Their usual song went something like this.

    Kill-slay the reptiles
    Maim-bite the reptiles.
    Infect-pain the reptiles.
    Kill-slay the reptiles.
    Scare-scare the reptiles.
    Rip-tear the reptiles…


    This tended to continue on similarly for several stanzas. Then they switched to promising the same things to the Dwarves for several stanzas, then it always ended up abruptly the same way.

    …Kill-slay the Dwarves
    Infect-pain the Dwarves.
    Help-aid the rats!
    No kill-slay the rats!


    At which point the singing would give way to even more hysterical giggling than usual as if the little bags of mucus were sharing an inside joke. Kreela didn’t have to ponder very hard to guess what that joke would be. I thought small things were supposed to be subtle-cunning? Fortunately the little daemons were not very careful and were good at getting squished in reckless attacks. By the time they turned on their new “friends”, they’d have too few members left to be even a mild threat, hopefully.

    Unlike the singing stink gigglers, the digging Dwarves were hardly a mild threat. Kreela had personally managed to reconnoiter the Lizardmen army above ground. She wasn’t sure Neekit’s forces could prevail against them in a direct confrontation. She was certain Neekit’s forces couldn’t handle the Lizardmen if they were backed with the bolt throwers and great axes of the Karak Zorn Dwarves. That meant there was one thing to do.

    “We need to kill-slay the diggers my sisters.”

    The Shadow Newts were positioned near the edge of the digging, no doubt believing their color change ability would protect them, but Kreela’s tunnel runners knew to trust their noses before their eyes. The Shadows had excellent eye sight but they weren’t used to dark tunnels. Kreela’s warriors took out twelve and only lost three Skaven in the skirmish. Better still, the Shadow Newts are so well conditioned to fight silently, the battle was over before an alarm could be sounded.

    “Grab-steal their darts, use them to slay-kill the Dwarfs, make them frame-blame the Lizardmen!”

    There was much bruxing at this idea. Unfortunately, one of the Tunnel Runners accidentally got pricked while relieving a Shadow of his darts. The Tunnel Runner groaned, spasmed and died. Fortunately it was just a male so no major loss. As the Skaven crept towards the sound of the pick axes, one of Kreela’s sisters’ ear pricked in one of the darker tunnels.

    “Did we miss a Newt?”

    Pfft She dropped dead right after speaking with a dart straight in the center of her throat. Pfft. A heart beat later, a male Tunnel Runner dropped with another dart cleanly in his neck.

    “Blind-dark fire!”

    The Tunnel Runners were well drilled in blind fire. They all threw a knife aiming for different parts in the darkness as they practiced. This should hit roughly a third of a group of invisible attackers, but the knives all clinked against a wall or the ground. Pfft. Another Skaven dropped.

    “There’s only one Newt here!”

    That speaker took a dart to the forehead, made a choking sound and dropped.

    Kreela heard the direction the last two darts came from and flung another knife there. This time she heard a small grunt. She charged towards the grunt. She heard another dart but was ready this time and deflected it with her shield. She kept running and bashed the source of the attacks with her shield. Her shield knocked a blowpipe away from her enemy. A Crest Newt that was smeared with mine dirt both to darken his appearance and disguise his scent. Kreela swung her other arm around and stabbed the Crest Newt in the shoulder before he could recover. Unfortunately, she accidentally hit a scaly spot and thus left only a flesh wound since the knife didn’t penetrate very deep.

    The Crest Newt Chieftain shouted something defiant in his raspy tongue, drew with his sword and attacked putting a slash in Kreela’s armor with a shallow cut beneath. Slashing weapon in close quarters not very smart-wise.

    As the warrior swung back the opposite direction Kreela blocked his arm with her shield and pinned his arm against the wall. Then she stabbed his other shoulder and bit into his neck. The reptile slumped to the ground groaning. The Tunnel Runners all cheered Kreela’s victory. Kreela had sharp ears. While she was carefully relieving the dying Newt Chief of his poisons, she heard an unusual sound mixed with the Newt Chief’s death rattle. Over the cheers of her allies, she heard a hint of laughter. They had attracted attention of more lizards. The Skinks yell was not simply a battle cry, he raised an alarm.

    The twangs of several bow strings were heard. These lizards couldn’t shoot too well in the dark but shoot a score of arrows and you’ll hit something.

    “Charge! They can’t fight good-well up close!”

    Kreela didn’t know how many enemies she was charging. Perhaps she was being foolish, but she knew EXACTLY how many enemies they would have to face if the Dwarves reopened the tunnels.

    Some of the Crest Newts hadn’t put away their bows fast enough, they were the first to die. The others with their daggers or light maces didn’t put up much more of a fight. Turns out the rats outnumbered these lizards too. Not so tough when you can’t shoot!. Kreela was pleased with how well her sisters (and even the male Tunnel Runners) were doing till the last four or five reptiles broke and run. Pursued by Kreela’s brethren.

    “No-No! Don’t pursue!”

    They weren’t listening, and it was too late anyway. They were running straight at the Dwarf miners. The chance to frame the Crest Newts for killing the Dwarves would be lost if the Skaven are seen. Kreela and her sisters reformed to fight the Dwarves before the element of surprise was lost. The fleeing reptiles all went through a narrow opening that the miners had clearly been trying to expand. Unfortunately one of the stupider male Tunnel Runners was so close behind the Newts that he ignored the Dwarves and followed his quarry through the narrow opening. One bit of good news was that the commotion had attracted some of the of the pox balls.

    The Skaven were exchanging blows with the Dwarves now. The Skaven were much faster but they usually had to hit a Dwarf three times at least to bring him down. The tiny cackling daemons were doing a great job distracting the Dwarves. The pick axes rarely connected but when they did, a Skaven invariably died. Kreela was winning this battle but she released the musk of frustration as she realized that the war may be lost. There were now a LOT of different smells billowing out of the narrow opening.

    A bestial roar exited through the cleft and echoed off the chamber walls. Seconds later the stupid male could be seen again running through the opening, this time in the opposite direction. He couldn’t outrun the spout of flame behind him.

    The edge of the flame nicked some Dwarfs and Skaven. Apart from the dumb male and two of the Nurglings, no one was killed. The Skaven and Dwarfs that were hit were not happy and many were no longer in any condition to carry on the fight. These the Nurglings fell upon. Both sides paused, but the Skaven are better at using a distraction and recovered first, skewering several Dwarves. The remaining miners fled being that they were on the losing side and just as worried about the mysterious fire as the Skaven.

    “Do not chase-pursue!”

    This time the Tunnel Runners all listened to Kreela. Or maybe they were listening to the creature forcing its way through the tunnel. Apparently the Fire Spitter did not like its prey escaping and had entered the tunnel. Kreela would never have guessed the sail on the dinosaurs back could contract so well. It was worming its way through the narrow opening wriggling like a snake.

    “Shoot-throw!”

    The other Skaven looked like they would prefer to flee-bolt, but they followed Kreela’s order and threw knifes at the Fire Spitter. They mostly seemed to enrage the dinosaur further but it’s chest and head were dripping purple blood. It opened its mouth to belch more fire and Kreela threw a knife straight into its open mouth and down the creature’s throat. It shot fire in death but not very far or quickly. More like slow vomit than violent spitting. One of her sisters turned to her.

    “Good-good throw. Kill-slay the miners now?”
    “No, a dead Firespitter in the opening will only be a small-slight delay. We must get to Lord Neekit fast-now.”

    After a few hours through the tunnels, when the remaining Tunnel Runners were nearly back to the main force. Kreela heard something kind of like rushing wind ahead of them.

    “Walls now!”

    A large red biped sprinted by through their tunnel. One of the Tunnel Runners didn’t get out of the way fast enough and he was sliced cleanly in half as the creature passed. The creature smelled vaguely like the pox balls but with a bloody tinge. As it left they heard an unearthly echoing voice a cross between a whisper and a shout.

    Belrikt! Preylot!

    Neekit was helping prepare the pride of Clan Ostrel, a Warp Lightning Cannon. By help, he meant bark lots of orders and brux at the thought of that destructive power.

    Kreela ran in and shook him from his daydreaming.

    “Lord Neekit! The Lizards and Dwarfs are help-working together!”
    “It will not-not matter. I call-summoned a daemon to slay the leaders of the Crest Newts. The cannon will be ready and positioned in less than a day. We can blast-break through the gate and overwhelm the fortress. Then the Lizardmen will have to fight-face us in a fortified location armed-eqipped with Dwarven weapons without their general.”
    “Less than a day? Call-summon a daemon!? The daemons are plotting to betray us, already they kill-slay some of us sloppily. The miners are dig-removing out your rockslide. Hole is already big-wide enough for a Fang Warrior. Two hours’ work and they can march-send their Crocodile Ogres through.”

    Neekit turned at look at Kreela. Anyone else he would have killed on the spot, but he had to have at least one minion he trusted to deliver bad news. Bad news is worse if it’s a surprise.

    “To succeed-win, I have to use my last resort plan. I have break-violate one of my principles.”

    All the Skaven present paused wondering what principles, if any, the Grey Seer had.

    I have to actually keep-fulfil a promise….

    Neekit turned and began exiting the chamber. Then he snarled and killed a pair of slaves with a blast of magical lightning, slightly singing an overseer.

    “I never said-squeaked ‘stop working on the cannon!’”


    Belrikt the Outlander


    The Skaven seemed to have figured out what they and the miners were trying to do. A scouting party was repelled with heavy losses. Now the Skaven were assaulting the Lizardmen’s tunnel to their reinforcements. Belrikt was determined that they wouldn’t capture that strategically important point to force the First to bottleneck through, or worse, collapse the tunnels again.

    Though he hadn’t known him long. Belrikt was saddened by the recent death of Haunboq and determined to make the rats pay for his death. He made sure he was personally there to repel the Skaven counterattack.

    Belrikt was impressed that Hodiri insisted on coming along. When Belrikt described what rune lords did, Belrikt thought he’d be more like a High Skink in temperament and a tendency to lead from behind. No, Hodiri was not afraid to get his hands dirty.

    I suppose he also wants to get a measure of my performance as a leader. I’ll try not to disappoint.

    Preylot’s scouts were hidden along the tunnels (some hanging on the ceiling) and had whispered back the Skaven advance, so they had a few minutes warning. Not too surprisingly, the first wave was a large number of scrawny minimally equipped Skaven. Skaven rarely send their best first, they like to test the waters with expendable troops.

    Belrikt almost didn’t feel like wasting shots on them…almost. Fortunately his men had lots of arrows and darts after a barrage of poisoned shooting and one fireball Belrikt tossed in for good measure, the Skaven troops were depleted but still numerous. They crumpled fairly quickly against a shield wall of Dwarfs, but they lasted long enough to let a stronger looking unit of Skaven troops flank the Dwarfs. Belrikt was about to order his Skirmishers to hit their flank when he heard a vaguely familiar growl. Pained and somewhat alien, but unmistakable to a Beast Caste Skink.

    “No!”

    Belrikt’s head bobbed angrily and his slapped the ground with his tail.

    “Out of my way!”

    Pushing through a small group of Skinks and a larger regiment of Dwarf troops. He saw the source of the growl. Three Lurkerdons were shuffling toward the Dwarf line clearly preparing to attack. Their skin was patchy and covered with scabs. The semi-aquatic dinosaurs were not given a fraction of the water they needed to stay healthy, it’s webbed feet were dry and cracked as were many of it’s back scales. Several black spikes were driven in parts of their body clearly goading them to attack. The spikes blackened the scales around the wounds. Some kind of slow poison. Just when I thought the Skaven couldn’t sink any lower…

    Belrikt was well ahead of his own side’s lines and exposed facing a monster half way between the size of a Salamander and Stegadon, but he didn’t care. He looked into the enslaved Lurkerdon’s eyes and saw sadness behind the artificially induced battle rage. Belrikt gazed into the poor creatures eyes with a gentler version of Itzl’s Stare than he ever used before. The Lurkerdon stopped.

    “I will give you peace my friend, go with Itzl. I grant you a quick death”

    Belrikt quickly and carefully slit the throat of the dinosaur, then proceeded to give a quick relatively painless deaths to the other two as well. The Skaven handlers were clearly baffled that their ordinarily reliable attack animals were stopped so easily. Then they saw Belrikt turn to them with a far more frightening stare. They bolted but Belrikt caught them easily. He did not grant any of them a quick death.

    He found himself surrounded by Skaven troops. He run too far ahead in his vengeance and hadprobably doomed himself but he was too enraged to care. He took a shallow stab wound in the shoulder but his magic armor repelled two more would-be hits.

    “Chotec Kas-nar!”

    He roasted the Skaven who stabbed him with a blast of magical fire and burned two others. He whirled his arms like a storm of destruction slashing through many foes with the Fangs of Sotek. Belrikt was barely aware when a group of Dwarves charged in to save him, their large axes quickly reducing the Skaven nearest him to bloody chunks. Belrikt recovered his senses as the last few Skaven from the unit he was fighting turned and fled.

    He heard a triumphant shout from one of the distant miners followed by a familiar battle cry. Belrikt turned to the great axe bearing dwarves near him about to pursue the Skaven.

    “Hold my new friends, I think we should wait for my Southlands brethren to join us.”

    The Dwarfs parted as half a dozen Kroxigor made their way to Belrikt. He pointed to the Dwarves.

    "Friends. Hairy Saurus warriors.”

    Then he pointed down the tunnels.

    “Level the Skaven!”

    Within minutes, Belrikt was fighting alongside Saurus, Kroxigor, and Dwarf warriors. Belrikt tried the Amulet of Chotec’s wrath again but only spewed harmless smoke again. This time he wasn’t worried about enemy spell casters.

    The reptilian and Dwarven forces fought their way through a relatively narrow opening into a wide chamber pushing back the Skaven defenders. There were more of the tiny slimy daemons trying to waylay them but they were too few to matter. Most were crushed underfoot. Belrikt saw a Skaven near the back launch a magical bolt at the ceiling, no doubt trying to cause another cave-in.

    One of Hodiri’s runes glowed red and the spell hit the ceiling with the force of a mere static spark.

    “Not this time rat!”

    The rat wizard similarly dissipated an attempt by a Skink Priest of the Stars to call down lightning, but he was unable to stop the Beast Priest, Wytol, from magically strengthening his allies’ front lines.

    Belrikt was feeling pretty euphoric. Then he heard a loud squeak translated into Saurian by the Speaking Stone from a larger Skaven warrior who had somehow singlehandedly killed four Sauri.

    “I am called-named Nafik, and I came to kill-slay the best Dwarf warriors in your pathetic-weak hold, not these lizards!”

    Belrikt decided he couldn’t hog all the vengeance. He turned to the one-eyed clan leader, Rilgor.

    “That one demands to fight the best Dwarf warrior in the Karak Zorn, interested?”
    “YES!”

    Belrikt watched happily as the Dwarf smashed the Skaven’s shield to splinters than chopped him down the center as if he was splitting the arrogant Skaven chief apart like a log. I’m good at making new friends Belrikt thought.

    Belrikt saw that most of his forces were winning, but a group of Kroxigor had become flanked and was being cut down. Belrikt quaffed another potion of Kroxigor’s might and ran to aid them using his augmented strength to leap over where some Dwarves and Skaven were engaged.

    Unfortunately by the time he arrived, though the Skaven were depleted, all but one Kroxigor in the unit were dead and the last one was wounded and prone. Belrikt stood over the Kroxigor and began smiting one Skaven after the other, startling them with how a creature so small could send enemies flying so far with each blow.

    Out of the corner of his eye, he saw grayish green smoke envelope the rat wizard and whisk him away. Belrikt thought this was premature. The Skaven were not winning, but it was hardly a hopeless battle and the wizard was a long way from being attacked.

    With the rat wizard gone, there were no magical spells cast strengthening the Skaven and all the Skink Priests’ spells went through. The Skaven did not last much longer under the combined might of the First and Third children of the Old Ones. One of the Skink chiefs made his way to Belrikt where he was still standing guard over the wounded Kroxigor.

    “Why did you risk your life and expend a potion just to save one Kroxigor? He’s not going to recover fast enough to help in this campaign.”
    “Two Kroxigor died saving my life years ago. If I lived to be a thousand I doubt I could repay my debt owed.”

    The other Skink was not completely mollified, but Belrikt saw Hodiri nodding approvingly. The Dwarf leader spoke.

    “A great victory, but the war is still on, we must gather our wounded and regroup at the hold. I imagine we are overdue for a celebration.”

    The Dwarf warriors all cheered, followed by a cheer among the First a moment later.

    “I am curious as to how Dwarves celebrate a victorious battle…”

    A decisive victory was enough to placate all but the most paranoid Dwarves worried about inviting Lizardmen into the Karak Zorn. For the first time in months, spirits were high. With the help of Huagerdons and Skink Priest cantrips every last hiding Nurgling was found and burned.

    Not every Dwarf was adventurous enough to try “reptile food,” but enough were willing to eat it that the Dwarves now could be confident that their food stores would not run out. While most Dwarves balked at the idea of inviting an infestation, the quarter masters and Hodiri agreed to take up Wytol’s offer to summon snakes into the larders. Within minutes every last rat was slain and every rat hole taken care of. There would be no more Dwarf provisions going into the stomachs of vermin.

    The Quarreler captains were mildly jealous that the Skinks managed to bring down more rats with tiny darts and small arrows than their fine Dwarven weapons were able to take down. At Belrikt’s suggestion, every bolt in the hold was coated in jungle poisons.

    Before the celebration began in earnest, Stroln found a new opportunity to frustrate Belrikt. Stroln hurried to where Belrikt was resting. Stroln seemed excited which never pleased Belrikt.

    “Turns out I was wrong with one of my Dwarf facts!”
    “You? Wrong? This like when you got gray furs on a pole confused with white flags for a peace symbol…”
    “Dwarves don’t actually lay eggs, their young straight out of the females!”
    “That is pretty much how all the warm blooded creatures are born barring birds and Anathema.”
    “Really? They don’t come from pools?”
    “Only the First come from spawning pools.”
    “Where on the females do they come out?”
    “I’m only going to answer this so you don’t embarrass us by asking a Dwarf….”

    * * * * * * *

    “Mahrlect! That’s disgusting! Wait, what happens next?”

    * * * * * * *

    “So the young drink fluids out of the females like parasites? That’s even worse! What do the females eat then?”
    “You saw them eat at dinner…”
    “Which ones are the females?”

    * * * * * * *

    Despite a lengthy lesson on the ways of mammals, Stroln managed to put his tail in his mouth during the celebration. The dwarves kicked off their celebration by drinking large quantities of hard cider and vodka. Stroln looked worried.

    “I thought Dwarves drink intoxicating beverages before mating?”

    Now Belrikt was worried. Before a general in the Southlands he served as a beast caste chief Skink in Lustria. He saw enough monkeys and rats mating that he did NOT want to see how the larger warm bloods mated. Rilgor just laughed.

    “Yes, we DO drink before....‘mating.’ But really we drink before we do anything!”

    A small group of nearby dwarves cheered at this and lifted their flask and tankards. Another Dwarf spoke up.

    “Besides, you lizards chew gum before doing anything.”

    Belrikt was chewing xiliqua root gum for so long he had forgotten what it was like to not be chewing it.

    “In your tongue this is called Warm Blood Root. It lets us function better in the chilly underground.”

    At this Rilgor smiled and said.

    “You like it warm?”

    The Dwarves of the hold did not like dwelling near the forges if they weren’t working find it uncomfortably hot but had avoided forcing these lodgings on their guests. Now they realized that the Lizardmen liked heat, the Skinks, Sauri, and Kroxigor were rotated in and out of the furnace vent areas. This cheered up Belrikt’s troops. He was also worried they’d run out of xiliqua root, now that fear was alleviated.

    Stroln asked to try some of a nearby Dwarf’s drink and he obliged.

    “Mahrlect the taste! How do you drink that, the taste!”
    “I just saw you eat dried grubs!”
    “Well only because we couldn’t pack fresh grubs…”

    The Dwarves all laughed.

    “You try to stomach our beverages, and I’ll try some of your grubs!”
    “Deal!”

    Stroln began drinking profusely. He found he liked the apple based drink better than the potato based drink. Belrikt joined in. The taste WAS bad, but the feeling that followed was good. A warm light feeling, like sunning on a rock.

    Not long after more Skinks joined in the drinking, Stroln vomited profusely. Belrikt saw some Dwarves hand coins to others. Shortly thereafter, a Dwarf found he couldn’t hold dried grubs as well as he thought. More coins changed hands.

    Belrikt was worried that the Skaven withdrew too easily, but the effects of the Dwarf drink made this seem less pressing.

    Well Dwarves aren’t boring

    * * * * * * *

    “Wake up Belrikt! Stroln says he’s dying.”
    “What? Uggh, mahrlect, my head hurts…”

    He saw numerous Skinks nursing headaches and saw Wytol looking smug.

    “As soon as I heard the drink came from apples I stopped. Have you seen what birds do after eating apples that sit out too long? It’s the same thing.”
    “You don’t have to shout…”

    Okay, so head hurts, but that’s not dying.

    He found Stroln talking to Hodiri.

    “He’s fine Belrikt, you just need to wait and the headaches will pass. You little Skinks can put away more drink than most expected.”
    “Hi, General, I just need to get my mind off of this pain. Hodiri was telling me about his peoples’ fascinating history.”
    “Right, before the Skaven we haven’t had any major threat to the hold since the earthquakes devastated the hold millennia ago.”

    Still clutching his temples. Stroln mused.

    “That sounds about the same time that the Slann adjusted the continents, that would have caused earthquakes, I suppose.”

    Hodiri and Belrikt looked at each other briefly than stared at Stroln who did not seem to realize the magnitude of what he blurted out.

    Idiot! Puddle Brain! Moron! Kill you myself!

    The awkward silence was broken by a soft, but carrying whisper. Despite how ominous and creepy it was. Belrikt welcomed the distraction.

    Belrikt! Preylot!

    Clearly the Dwarves and Lizardmen were concerned by this voice.

    Belrikt! Preylot!

    It sounded slightly closer now.

    “Friends of yours?”
    “No, it’s daemons.”
    “How do you know?”
    “Because they are the only enemies I’ve made that know my name and they have a grudge against me and Preylot for surviving their death trap.”

    Belrikt! Preylot!

    The voice was much louder now. Preylot revealed himself.

    “And daemonsss do like to talk a lot before attacking.”

    Belrikt! Preylot!

    The voice was clearly right outside the northern gate. Alarm bells rang. Not long after sounds of fighting could be heard in the distance from that direction.

    “Preylot, want to do something very stupid with me?”
    “Yessss”
    “Hodiri, it’s after us, not you. It sounds like it’s already busted through the northern gate. Open the Eastern gate and let it follow us through.”

    Still not as stupid as what Stroln did…

    Hodiri paused as more fighting sounds were heard.

    “Do it! Fall back when the East Gate is open.”

    Belrikt! Preylot!

    It was very loud and close. The two Skink leaders bolted through the opened gate. The gate was dented from the Rat Gorger’s attempts to breach it, but they seemed to have lost interest and wandered off. Belrikt was glad he didn’t just ask Hodiri to let the giant rat monsters in, but he hoped they hadn’t gone too far.

    “Seal the gate after the daemon follows us through.”

    As the two Skinks ran down the tunnel, Belrikt willed the Speaking Stone to let him project the harsh squeaks of Queekish so the Skaven’s pet monsters could understand him clearly (assuming they spoke at all).

    “HEY UGLIES! TASTY SKINKS TO EAT-DEVOUR!”

    Belrikt! Preylot!

    The voice was very close, it seemed to move impossibly fast. Perhaps too fast for the crazy plan to work. At last, he heard a growl towards a tunnel in front of him.

    “Towards the growl, Preylot! TASTY SKINKS RIGHT HERE!”

    Belrikt saw three large shapes larger than Sauri but smaller than Kroxigor. They look lithe and mean, and hungry. One was carrying an old Dwarf bone it was clearly gnawing on. They seemed pleased to finally have fresh prey after so long without it. A fourth was lagging behind. It still had a broken Dwarven axe in his left thigh.

    BELRIKT! PREYLOT!

    The daemon was right behind them now. Belrikt was surprised to see only one daemon, expecting a small regiment at least. The daemon was about the size of the Rat Gorgers, it’s skin was a striking red color. Despite this, it was easy to tell it was covered in blood. From the creature’s easy movements, it was clear that none of the blood belonged to the daemon. It leapt as much as it ran and could leap off the walls as easily as it did on the floor. It had fought its way through the North gate’s defensive line completely unscathed.

    Preylot was already ahead of Belrikt as if he knew the plan from telepathy. The two Skinks ran towards the Rat Gorgers and rolled between their legs. The Rat Gorgers had confused looks as if to say food isn’t supposed to do that!

    Kalai, the Dervish of Despair was not about to let the foul rat creatures stand between him and his quarry. The Rat Gorgers were too dull witted to realize that the daemon was completely uninterested in them and simply saw a rival predator. The two sides ripped into each other with the savagery of Cold Ones.

    The wounded Rat Gorger who was still further behind decided to go after the easier prey of the two small Skinks.

    “Belrikt, you fight that one, I’ll cover this end.”

    Belrikt did not want to yield the stronger threat for his friend to handle, but he trusted Preylot’s judgment. He threw a javelin at the wounded Rat Gorger then charged with the Fangs of Sotek, dodging the creatures attempts to claw him and slashing both ankles. The Skaven mutation crumpled to the ground wailing in pain. Belrikt backed up to finish it off with a second javelin and found himself side by side with Preylot.

    Preylot had removed his last dart with Coatl-blessed venom from his pouch and aimed carefully. The daemon had dispatched two creatures already but had been wounded in the process. He cleanly sliced the third only to have the dart sail towards him and nailed him square in the chest.

    An unearthly wail of pain emanated from the daemon. He advanced towards the Skinks intent on fulfilling his directive, but then he staggered, the dart wound glowed white and white light spread through his veins. Then the daemon disintegrated.

    “Glad you held on to that dart, but I think we may wish we held it for slightly longer.”

    Belrikt arrived back at the hold. No one was feeling particularly jubilant about the deaths of the giant rat creatures or the strange daemon. Hodiri had a small rune glowing bright red. Kytol had a headache that had nothing to do with alcohol and the priests of the Stars were pitching fits babbling in the Slann tongue. Through the Speaking Stone, Belrikt caught the phrase “Old Foes” throughout.

    Hodiri spoke next.

    “The real battle has begun. Daemons are entering our world in large numbers, we need to try to seal their entryway before the largest daemons can get through.”


    Locklirist of the Hated Lash


    Locklirist had misgivings about trusting a Skaven sorcerer to strengthen the rift, but his diversionary force kept the Lizardmen and Dwarves busy while he unleashed magical energy into the fledgling rift.

    The rift had already stabilized and Bloodletters and Plaguebearers began entering through single file. Soon the rift would widen allow them to enter faster. Then the larger daemons could get through.

    Through the rift, Locklirist could hear high pitched cheering. It seemed the cowardly rats knew the value of kissing up to those in power.

    There was another army mustering besides his own. He saw that the Dwarves and Lizardmen had launched an offensive of their own. He caught a dwarf saying “I can close the rift with my runes before the stronger daemons get through.”

    Once the rift was large enough that Locklirist could stoop and enter it, he pushed ahead of the Beasts of Nurgle and other larger daemons waiting to get through and walked through the rift.

    TOO LATE! I AM LOCKLIRIST OF THE HATED LASH AND DAEMONS DO NOT GET STRONGER THAN ME!

    The Dwarves had rigged a Grudge Thrower to swing sideways to accommodate low ceilings underground. It lobbed a rock right into the great Bloodthirster but his mystic protection saved him entirely. He laughed mightily as the Skaven’s Warpfire cannon blasted the rock lobber to splinters. The daemons and Skaven surged into the Dwarf and Lizardmen lines.

    Hold troops. I’d like to start this off killing Belrikt.

    Some distance away Belrikt shouted.

    “HAH! I thought it was pathetic when you had to rely on Nurgle’s brood, but to rely on vermine is truly pathetic.”
    I NEED NO RAT ALLIES!
    “From where I sit, it look-smells differently.”
    I will kill-slay the rats after I’m done with you and your weak-pathetic dwarf friends!
    “Did you notice that I switched from Saurian to Queekish in the middle of talking to you, and that you followed suit? I’m guessing you didn’t”
    WHY DOES THIS MATTER?!?

    A magically augmented squeak carried forward.

    “No one betrays-tricks Clan Ostrel! Kill-slay the Lizards and Beard-things yourself Daemon!”

    The Skaven began withdrawing. Neekit attempted to bring the ceiling down on three of his enemy armies at once, but this time his magic was dispelled by Locklirist personally. Neekit decided not to test his luck and cast Skitterleap yet again to flee from a battle. The Dwarves and Lizardmen did not hassle Neekit’s departing troops being more concerned with the daemons.

    Encouraged by half their enemies withdrawing, the Dwarves and Lizardmen redoubled their efforts, but daemonic reinforcements continued to exit from the rift. A bolt thrower hit the great Bloodthirster but it bounced harmlessly off his thick hide. Belrikt launched a fireball at Locklirist but it washed over him as harmlessly as water over a Kroxigor.

    One of the weakling Nurgle heralds tried to cast some kind of spell, but he was no match for the Dwarven runesmiths. A Skink priest tore through a cloud of Chaos Furies towards the ceiling with a mighty gale. I never wanted to bring Furies anyway. Other magical tricks the Skinks tried failed.

    Despite the forces against them, the Dwarves and Lizardmen were holding their line. Once the Locklirist’s reserves ran out and no new forces were coming out of the rift, the battle seemed to stalemate. "This needs my personal touch. Moving with awe-inspiring speed for one of his size, Locklirist beheaded or crippled a Dwarf or Saurus with nearly every swing of his axe. His flaming whip usually hit two or three enemies on each swing. A Scar Veteran surged forward.

    “DIE OLD FOE!”

    The Saurus skilfully dodged the swing of his axe and whip but clearly hadn’t expected the backswing to be so accurate. The whip changed direction of movement and then wrapped around the warrior searing his flesh. He was tossed into the air by the whip and then Locklirist coyly planted his axe under where the Saurus warrior was falling. Qulot was no more.

    A one-eyed Dwarf spoke next.

    “For the honor of my ancestors, I will slay you!”

    The flaming whip wrapped around the clan leader’s arm and pulled it from its socket. Then Locklirist smashed the Dwarfs head in with his axe.

    Oops, no skull to collect.

    Two more clan leaders and a Kroxigor Ancient later, Locklirist was starting to get almost bored.

    "Who else believes they are worthy of fighting me?"

    “Locklirist! It’s me you want! I am Belrikt of Lustria! I challenged the Chaos Realms and lived, my friends and I thwarted your last invasion of the Southlands before it began! I drove a wedge between you and your allies, and I will kill you now!”
     
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  4. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    New Alliances, Part Four of Four

    New Alliances, Part Four: Conclusion and Epilogue


    Belrikt the Outlander


    Locklirist had already killed far too many of his friends and allies. It was time for it to stop.

    I wish you were here Zat-kai, you have been clever enough to get the Skaven to fight the Daemons, not simply abandon them…Cleverness only went so far, I need to be bold like Kaitar

    “Locklirist! It’s me you want! I am Belrikt of Lustria! I challenged the Chaos Realms and lived, my friends and I thwarted your last invasion of the Southands before it began! I drove a wedge between you and your allies, and I will kill you now!”

    Belrikt quickly quaffed his last potion from his left hand while aiming a javelin with his right arm. It hit the Bloodthirster in the chest penetrating the armor and sticking out. A very tiny amount of black blood dripped from the wound.

    You dare throw STICKS at me little coward!

    Locklirist advanced slower than he needed to, seemingly enjoying the fact that Lizardmen and Dwarfs were parting in his wake. Belrikt threw two more javelins, but Locklirist waved his flaming whip and caught them as easily as a gecko catches mosquitos. One javelin was flung back into a Dwarf regiment, the soldier barely raising his shield in time. Another was held tight by the whip till the shaft burnt to ash and the point fell to floor half melted.

    Okay brute force failed, the whip is the answer, remove that and Locklirist can be defeated…

    That was your best shot? Perhaps you’d like to see MY best shot!

    His fiery whip stretched out towards Belrikt. Belrikt seen him swing the whip at others enough times to know what to expect. He ducked to the side and slashed with the Fangs of Sotek. He cut the lash in half gaining small blisters on his wrists from the close proximity to the flame. Two quarter pieces wriggled like worms on the floor, their flames dimming. Locklirist let loose a savage howl as if he was finally injured for the first time this battle.

    Belrikt was exhausted but he felt a glimmer of hope, then the daemon’s howl gave way to a laugh. The loose whip pieces glowed anew then crawled back to Locklrist, then reattached onto his whip seamlessly.

    I don’t have Kaitar’s brawn or Zat-kai’s brains…

    Can you heal back from being cut into pieces little one?

    The whip lashed out again, Belrikt barely dodged but the whip curled around seemingly of its own volition and hit him across the chest burning a steaming gash through his armor, cutting him deep but cauterizing the wound with the heat. The force of the impact sent Belrikt flying backwards into a cavern wall. Belrikt’s skull became far too intimate with the stone for his tastes.

    As spots danced before his eyes, Belrikt vaguely remembered a conversation he had years ago with his friend Tal-Lat.

    “You are lucky you have your defensive amulet, Tal-Lat.”
    “It IS nice but protective wards tend to fail at the absolute worst time”

    It would have been nice if my armor stopped the whip lash or at least cushioned me hitting the wall. Belrikt would have laughed if his ribs weren’t broken. He felt the effects of the Potion of Kroxigor’s Might ebbing away.

    No focus! Don’t pass out. You can’t help your friends if you pass out.

    No more potion, no more magic, no more clever tricks, and no more friends to die for you…

    The Bloodthirster’s gloating inspired Belrikt with a truly desperate idea. I do have magic left. If I can goad him swallowing me I can shoot a fireball at him from the inside. Hopefully the magic armor will keep me alive just long enough to set that up…

    The Bloodthirster raised his whip as Belrikt struggled to get to his feet.

    Old Ones, hear my plea. Take my life if you must, but let me save my friends…

    As the Hated Lash came down again, Belrikt raised his daggers to try to slice at the whip again. Before the whip could strike him, a Skink jumped in the way and took the brunt of the hit then crashed at Belrikt’s feet. Belrikt stared at the dead Skink’s face then slumped to the ground.

    Locklirist had run out reinforcements through the rift minutes ago and the Lizardmen and Dwarves and been whittling down the daemons ever since. Neither Belrikt nor Locklirist were yet aware that Locklrist was the last daemon standing. So they were both surprised when they heard Preylot’s voice.

    “FIRE!”

    A hail of darts and arrows went sailing at the giant daemon.

    “FIRE!”

    The second voice was in the tongue of Khazalid. An even larger hail of crossbow bolts followed, followed by two bolt thrower shots. The daemon was bleeding out black ichor noticeably. Some of the wounds were glowing white. Every projectile from both armies was coated in blessed poison.

    NOOO! NOT AGAIN! NOT BY SHOOTING!!!!

    The daemons words turned into an inarticulate roar of hatred then his body slumped to the ground dead and rapidly began dissipating back to the Chaos Realms. The lesser daemon bodies were decaying slower, but the rate of decay increased noticeably after Locklirist’s departure.

    Belrikt staggered to his feet and lifted Stroln’s tiny dead body up and looked into his face.

    “You stupid scroll head! You puddle headed bastard! My armor could have protected me, you had no chance at all! I was prepared to resent you for years to come as you blathered incorrect statements, but you had to die like this….a hero. I can’t resent you anymore you brave moron!”

    Belrikt wasn’t sure if it was Stroln’s fault for being a fool. Was it the daemon’s fault who slew so many of his allies? Was it the Skaven’s fault for starting this mess? Was it Belrikt’s fault for losing so many allies due to not seeing the Skaven’s last assault for the ruse it was? Was it the Slann’s fault for ordering them here? Eventually Belrikt decided where the blame lay. Though underground, he knew it was nighttime outside. He looked at the ceiling and imagined the stars above looking down on him.

    “IS THIS ALL ACCORDING TO YOUR PLAN?”

    Belrikt pointed at Stroln then gestured at the piles of Dwarf, Skink, Saurus, and Kroxigor corpses.

    “HOW MANY MORE GOOD PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE BEFORE YOUR PLAN IS FULFILLED! WAS THIS YOUR PLAN ALL ALONG? FOR US TO DIE OVER AND OVER AGAIN FIGHTING TO PROTECT THE WORLD YOU ABANDONED!”

    He lost his feet again and fell to the ground sobbing. There was a wide space between Belrikt and the battered remains of the two allied armies.

    “We keep dying, and the Old Foes, they just keep coming back…they always come back. We never get to come back…”

    He was vaguely aware that he was making a scene in front of his own men and his not fully trusting Dwarf allies. He threw the Speaking Stone away. Preylot stepped forward in the awkward silence and scooped up the Speaking Stone.

    “They keep coming back, but sssooo do new generationsss of mortals. We can leave a better world for the spawningsss that follow. The daemonsss cannot. Come, you need medical attention my friend.”

    Preylot handed Belrikt back the Stone, then provided a shoulder to lean on to help him walk away.

    “…They just keep coming back…”


    Locklirist of the Hated Lash


    Locklirist had yet to reform a body, but he had consciousness. He dwelled on vengeance. He didn’t need a Book of Grudges. He would not forget.

    He would not forget Januscol the oracle who had betrayed him bad advice. He would not forget the Nurgle daemons whose weakness betrayed him. He would not forget the Skaven whose cowardice betrayed him. He would not forget the Dwarves who defied him. Above all he would not forget the Lizardmen. He would see the Southlands and Lustria alike burn. No more schemes. When he just focused on the battle alone, he was winning. Schemes hold him back. He would overcome all his foes with the might of a true Child of Khorne….

    Locklirist had yet to reform a body, but he had consciousness. He dwelled on vengeance. He didn’t need a Book of Grudges. He would not forget.


    Grey Seer Neekit of Clan Ostrel


    Neekit stood a podium addressing the greater portion of the non-slave population of Clan Ostrel. He had just finished gleefully talking about the spoils garnered in the war. They had live captives to play with him and they captured Dwarven weapons and armor as well as Lizardmen poisons. They had ample food for months.

    Neekit did not publicly credit Kreela whose quick thinking accounted for nearly half of the total spoils. While Neekit was heroically abandoning the daemons more concerned with saving the Warpfire Cannon than anything else, Kreela led her tunnel runners to Kazak Zorn through the gate that the Blood Dancer daemon had put a hole in.

    Her first plan was to steal the Dwarf hold’s children, but the wise she-Dwarves did not allow this. The Maiden Guard had them safely sealed the children, wounded, and elderly away. They were all well-guarded despite the skeleton force left in the Hold. The treasure vaults were nearly as well guarded, so Kreela’s second plan was aborted as well. Her third plan was to poison their food and water, but an infestation of snakes stopped them.

    The Dwarves had no line of defense for Kreela’s fourth target. Her warriors looted everything in the armory the Dwarves had not taken into battle with them, then they sabotaged the forges before departing with large quantities of weapon and armor, well above the quality of what Skaven can manufacture.

    “Well done Clan Ostrel! Thanks to my leadership, we have won a great-great victory letting us enjoy all our spoils!”

    The applause and excited squeaks were fairly lackluster and forced sounding. The chamber was packed and most of the clan’s population was there. Before the campaign, far more Skaven would have had to sit out this speech due (some gratefully sat out) to a lack of space. Losses were heavy, so there were fewer spacing issues. They also lost all their enslaved dinosaurs as well as the rat gorgers and the two Dwarf-hating chieftains Neekit had put on the front lines. What was important to Neekit was that relatively little warpstone was expended and the Dwarven goods stolen more than made up for this.

    “While we suffered-endured some slight losses, the Dwarves and Lizardmen have suffered-died far worse and will recover much slower.”

    That last part was not a lie or exaggeration. When you add in casualties inflicted by daemons, the Skaven probably suffered roughly the same casualties then the Dwarfs and Lizardmen. Whenever Skaven die at the same rate as their foe it’s a victory for Skaven by attrition.

    “Once again! Congratulations on your well earned-stolen victory!”

    Lord Neekit concluded his speech and exited. There was more applause. Neekit didn’t care whether the applause came from genuine appreciation or fear of retribution. Either way, those subjects would not be a problem. The grey seer was acutely aware of those bold enough not to applaud, knowing they were harboring mutinous thoughts. Even worse, Neekit was aware that some of of the applause and cheering was just a front put on by the more cunning harboring mutinous thoughts.

    In terms of attrition, this war was clearly a success. The enemy lost a greater portion of their treasure and manpower. In terms of strategy, the war was an epic failure. The Skaven revealed their presence to a large population of Dwarves that until now had been completely ignorant of their existence and relatively complacent against the threat of being attacked. A powerful daemon was now very angry at Clan Ostrel. Worst of all the local Lizardmen and Dwarves had planted the seeds of an alliance.

    Neekit would clearly have to work to sabotage this budding relationship before it blossomed into an irreversible threat. In the meantime, he had a short-term problem to deal with. He had to quell the mutinous chittering. That’s what set Neekit apart from other Skaven leaders in his mind. Weaker Skaven leaders balk at slaying treacherous underlings, but not Neekit. Neekit always knew exactly what to do…


    Hodiri, Rune Lord of Karak Zorn


    All things considered, the mood of the Dwarves of Karak Zorn was fairly upbeat. They had suffered many losses, but had much to be grateful for. The immediate threat of the Skaven and Daemons was over. The siege was broken and they could work the mines and gather food freely for now.

    Belrikt had shared his people’s knowledge of Dwarfs and they were able to confirm that there were other Dwarf holds abroad. It was heartening to know the Dwarves of Karak Zorn were not the last of their kind left as many feared. The optimistic even hoped they could resume contact with the holds of their homelands. The Lizardmen had promised to help them in this if they could though they admitted they had no ideas on how to do so.

    Karak Zorn was now engaged in trade negotiations with the Lizardmen. Hodiri had the impression that Belrikt was not particularly interested in Dwarven goods as he was in keeping friendly lines of communication open. “Friends trade with each other,” he said.

    The Lizardmen were offering to give the Dwarves nonperishable food so they wouldn’t have to worry about starvation if they became besieged again. A delegation of Dwarves was preparing to visit a Lizardmen to see what else the Lizardmen could trade. About half of this delegation was made up of brewers interested in seeing what fruits and the like they could ferment.

    Hodiri outwardly put on a good of show of high spirits, but he was drained inside. He had retired to his private chambers following several long ceremonies. He had presided over a mass funeral service. Then he formerly recognized three new clan leaders at a different ceremony.

    The funerals were not what sapped Hodiri’s strength. It was knowledge. In the wake of Stroln’s death, most of the Dwarves who interacted with the naïve young scribe decided his ignorance was endearing. They respected his bravery and loyalty in the face of death. Pound for pound, the bravest lizard alive. They was much clamouring that the Lizardmen appoint a new scribe to study the Dwarven language and ways. They wanted to call the next scribe (all all later successors) the Stroln of Kazak Zorn in honor of the fallen. They didn’t know what Hodiri heard the dead scribe say.

    The dead scribe had let slip that the Slann were indirectly responsible for the devastation that hit Karak Zorn generations ago. Accidental or not Dwarf tradition demanded recompense. This put Hodiri’s two most important imperatives into conflict. Hodiri had sworn to uphold tradition and to safeguard his people.

    If Hodiri severed ties with the Lizardmen, his people would be minus a powerful ally if (when) the Skaven or Daemons return. He got the impression that the Lizardmen numbered far greater than the force that came to aid him and a retaliatory strike into the jungles would be nigh-suicidal even without the threat of Skaven or Daemons. On a personal level, the Lizardmen fought and died with great courage and honor all in defense of near strangers. Hodiri was loathe to strike out against kindred spirits such as this.

    Following Dwarf traditions had kept his people safe so far. Hodiri couldn’t simply abandon them now for his personal feelings or out of strategic convenience. Dwarves tend to favor rigid following of tradition, it’s almost unheard of to subtly bend the rules, but in this case following the rigid letter of the law would countermand the spirit of the law. Hodiri removed the Book of Grudges of Karak Zorn and carefully composed an entry.

    The Chameleon Skink was right. What set mortals apart from daemons was that they could leave a better legacy for the generations that followed. Hodiri could not do so with blind adherence to the grudge traditions of his people.

    For the devastation wrought by the Lizardmen on Karak Zorn, a blood debt is demanded. By our ancestor’s beards, the Dwarves of Karak Zorn will not rest until the blood debt is repaid.

    Hodiri marked the date of the Battle of the Vermin’s Rift.

    Blood debt settled in defense of Karak Zorn by preventing horrible devastation at the hands of Daemons and Skaven.

    For the devastation wrough by the Lizardmen on Karak Zorn, a blood debt is demanded. By their ancestor’s beards, the Dwarves of Karak Zorn will not rest until the blood debt is repaid.

    Khazalid contains no word for “forgiveness,” but they always recognize when a debt is repaid. There was at least one debt remaining to be repaid however...

    For slaying the noble heads of three clans, Karak Zorn pledges thrice over destruction to the Bloodthirster known as Locklirist of the Hated Lash…

    As Belrikt said. They always come back. Karak Zorn would be ready.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
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  5. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Re: New Alliances, Part One of Four

    motherskavenblight.jpg

    nfn8.jpg

    Well? Which one would you choose?



    I'm glad Belrikt is back on duty, although, plot-wise, I'm not sure why he was given "potions of Kroxigor's Might". He's about to have access to excessive quantities of Bugman's XXX (or at least Zorn-weiser).



    Do I really have to wait a week for part 2 ?????

    SoB
     
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  6. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Re: New Alliances, Part 1-2 of Four

    Thanks for the illustrations Bob!


    I got up part two, and it only took SIX days. I plan to have part three at least as soon as next weekend
     
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  7. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Re: New Alliances, Parts One through Three of Four

    Sorry this next update took so long. Part three took longer than I thought it would to write and edit. Part four should be up in a few days (just enough time for someone to sweat my cliff hanger I hope), because I ended up mostly writing in conjunction with part four.

    EDIT: Part Four is up, enjoy!
     
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  8. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Tonight was my night for catching up on all the fluff fiction. - I hadn't read all of this together in its final form.

    Kudos.

    I sometimes keep a tally of all the ideas I steal from your stuff, Scalenex, but this time it was all a bit too embarassing.

    I liked your Dervish of Despair vs Rat Gorger trick so much that I drew this after reading part 3.

    bk7n.jpg
    Brux on that, Squeaky!

    Consider it payment in advance for me stealing the ploy in one of my stories.....

    What next? A mission for Terradon Riders? More Count Renliss and Friends? A cool effective Troglodon? Kroxigors in drag? (Wait... that last one I might keep for myself.)

    You've already dealt with the foul Nagarothii here http://www.lustria-online.com/threads/the-least-successful-dark-elf-invasion-in-history.13337/

    I hope you get your pencils out again soon.
     
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  9. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Bob's picture is excellent, but is not very similar to what I envisioned. Bob and I discussed this and he believes this concept art would appeal to a broader demographic and that my original concept of basing the Dervish of Despair off of Kali, the Hindu goddess of death might hurt box office sales internationally. I eventually conceded that a more rat-like Rat Gorger than my original concept was accepted by more of our focus groups.

    Ultimately, the sketch above is what we used for our pitch to make a New Alliances movie. Unfortunately, Peter Jackson will not deal with us unless we can get a top rated actor on board for the lead role. Both Christian Bale and Orlando Bloom have flat out refused to play Zat-kai, so we are not sure where to turn next.

    James Cameron is even harder to work with. He's willing to go along with our movie project but he's trying to shirk us. I told him, "No! Bob and I want a piece of gross not a piece of the net!" Does he think we were born yesterday? The writer of Forest Gump didn't get a penny for the movie because the accountants manipulated everything to show a net of zero. I'm not falling for that.
     
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  10. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    We wanted to get Halle Berry to play Kreela, but there was some cat related contract thing with Warner Brothers.
     
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  11. Fhanados
    Terradon

    Fhanados Well-Known Member

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    I just finished reading this and it's got me back in the mood to work on my own! As always I love the characters, the shaky alliances, epic battles and heroic sacrifices. Inspiring stuff! Telling a good story is half of the game in my opinion, keep up the good work.
     
  12. IronJaw
    Cold One

    IronJaw Member

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    Very nice! I enjoyed the whole thing.
     
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  13. Kcibrihp-Esurc
    Razordon

    Kcibrihp-Esurc Well-Known Member

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    Truly Brilliant, one of the Skavens least successful invasions ever, after all at least Pestilens made it groundside.
     
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  14. Kcibrihp-Esurc
    Razordon

    Kcibrihp-Esurc Well-Known Member

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    MORE OR I WILL UNLEASH MY AVATAR UPON YOU!!!!!
     
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  15. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    :jawdrop: Nice to have enthusiastic fans...

    You can follow the second link in my signature for all my WHF fluff pieces.

    If you have already read all my pieces, you can tide yourself over with Skaven stories. Try the Under-Empire's short story contest. All five entries are excellent, one of which is mine and one is Bob's.

    I am working on three stories at once in a schizophrenic fashion. One about a Witch Hunter in Nordland, one about another weird spawning in Klodorex, and one continuing Renliss' saga. I'll start releasing them eventually. I am also brainstorming a sequel to New Alliances that will probably involve Belrikt, Neekit, Hodori and a Tomb King to be named later.
     
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  16. Kcibrihp-Esurc
    Razordon

    Kcibrihp-Esurc Well-Known Member

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    Scalenex, I haven't gotten 'round to naming my Temple-(What would you call a small settlement? Would it be
    Temple-City as usual? Or would it be like 'Temple-Town' or 'Temple-Village' or 'Temple-Hamlet'?) anyway it's highly based around Skinks, Monsters and Flyers, lots and lots of Flyers (Fast moving army thinking old-style winged serpent) and it's beast-caste is highly valued, the Ripperdactyl riding Skink Chiefs are like Carnosaur riding Oldbloods in importance! I am looking at Dragon Isles as a possibility as I'm looking at Slann-less lists, but back to what I was saying maybe we could do an alliance between our cities!

    P.S I'd let you do the fluff as mine sucks (In my opinion at least) and my rippers are going be unique as I'm doing Tyranid Hourmagaunts with Pterodactyl Wings instead of 'Scything Talons'
     
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  17. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    I once suggested to Scalenex that he needed a Lost Isle for everyone to fight over. One with rampant dinosaurs and stuff. And a theme park.

    There should also be a movie.

    Guess which one of the fun facts above is true.

    SoB
     
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  18. Kcibrihp-Esurc
    Razordon

    Kcibrihp-Esurc Well-Known Member

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  19. spawning of Bob
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    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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  20. Kcibrihp-Esurc
    Razordon

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    I think it's the:
     

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