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  • Added on: Apr 15 2008 07:43 PM
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Undermountain Forewarning

By truly Johnny H. (skrewdrvier on the forums)

Posted by zenpotato on Apr 15 2008 07:43 PM
Valin raised his left arm to signal a halt to the company. The stench of skaven that filled the corridor was increasing the further they went. Valin Forgebond had been an Iron Breaker since the time many of those with him were beardlings. He and seven others were in the tunnels far beneath the hold, in the deepest parts of the mountain, on a patrol.

There had been a marked increase in signs of skaven in recent weeks and the Lord of the hold, Thur Wodenssohn, had directed the under watch to double patrols and use caution.

About five meters in front of the Breakers, the tunnel curved sharply to the left. From having patrolled these tunnels for decades, Valin knew that 100 yards beyond that curve the tunnel opened into a large cavern which contained an underground lake.

"All right lads," he said in a hushed voice. "If the rats are gathering, there's a good chance it is happening around this bend. As much as we may want to run in and start cracking skulls, our goal is to protect the hold. We'll do our best to observe their numbers and gauge whether this is a raid or an invasion, and then we'll head back. If it looks like an invasion, we have to make it back to the runegate and be sure it gets closed."

"Aye sir," sounded off the troops in whispers. Valin turned back toward the direction they were travelling and began to approach the bend as silently as possible. He cursed the heavy clumsiness he felt in the suit of gromril armor he wore. The discomfort of good dwarven gromril is far superior to a skaven blade in the back, he thought.

The verminous reek of the skaven was incredibly strong as he peered around the bend in the tunnel. Just as he poked his head around the corner a quick chitter told him he had made a mistake. A sudden crack on his helmet told him that the descending blade had hit his head. Fortunately for Valin, his armor easily stopped the cheap, dull blade from harming him, and he raised his shield to stop a second blow from hitting him as well.

As the blade bounced off Valin's shield, Gotrem and Culli leapt around the corner. Gotrem smashed the ratman that was attacking Valin in the head with his hammer. The blow managed to crush it's muzzle with a crunch, followed by a shriek of pain from the thing. It fell, clutching it's face and Gotrem stomped it's neck as he sidestepped a blow from another skaven.

Culli's ax whispered past his raised shield and severed the arm of the ratman who had swung at Gotrem. The thing howled briefly before having it's skull split by a now fully recovered Valin. Suddenly the tunnel was filled with only the dull rumbling of the waterfall in the cavern ahead. Valin spoke, "So much for stealth. Let's get up to that openning and see what we're dealing with." He looked back to be sure all his Breakers were with him. They nodded eagerly and followed as he turned to lead them.

One of the worst parts of tunnel fighting was being in the back of the troop. While your comrades were fighting just a few feet ahead of you, you could do nothing but wait for them to fall or finish off the enemy. Crowding them from behind did them more harm than good. That was until they went down, of course, then there was a chance you could step in and save them.

The dwarves filed down the corridor, two abreast. They walked as silently as possible, and the lighted opening of the tunnel got larger. Valin became aware of the fact that the rumbling of the waterfall contained another noise as well. There was a dull, intermittent rumble echoing through the tunnel.

The dwarves split into two groups and made the last 10 yards to the opening with their backs to the wall on either side of the corridor. Valin shook his head in dismay at what he saw. From their vantage point about 8 meters off the floor level they could see across the entire cavern. Inside were dozens of skaven warriors milling about in what appeared to be total confusion. The rumbling sound they had heard was the wooden wheels of a large construction that was being pushed by several ratmen, and upon which hung a giant bell. There was another giant bell sitting on a litter next to a heap of wood that some ratmen were attempting to put together to carry it. Among the many ratmen present there were a few who were grossly overgrown, "rat ogres," whispered Valin.

At the end of the cavern to the left of the opening stood a small, robed skaven on top of an outcropping of rock. He bore a staff which glowed green at the tip, and was attempting to direct the skaven on the floor. The robed rat appeared not to notice that none of his brethren were paying him any heed.

Valin heard an alert from one of the other Breakers in his troop. He looked back to see three skaven warriors approaching quickly from behind them. The Iron Breakers at the end of the line, Jotun and Heimi, were already turned to face them. With a screech the first ratman attacked Heimi, he was easily able to duck under the blow. Before the creature could recover, he slammed his hammer into it's face with more than enough force to shatter the skull beneath.

Valin looked back out of the tunnel and saw that the screech had attracted the attention of host below. Many of the skaven down there were heading toward the ramp which led up to the opening where the Iron Breakers stood.

Valin looked back down the corridor to see that Jotun had finished off the second skaven. As he and Heimi converged on the third, it turned and fled. "Back to the runegate, quickly," said Valin. The dwarves began to make haste back in the direction they had come. If they could get to the runegate and close it, it would easily hold back anything the skaven could throw at it. The runegates beneath the hold had stood for hundreds of years and were imbued with the most powerful dwarven runes of protection. If they could get the gate closed they would have plenty of time to warn the dwarves living above, and have enough clansmen gathered to easily deal with the threat.

Despite the large head start they had, Valin knew there was no way they could outrun the skaven all the way back to the runegate. They were no doubt easy to follow due to the large amount of noise they made as they followed the winding tunnels.

Valin heard the ratmen drawing near and knew they would have to stand and fight. Jotun, who was now leading the troop, turned right down a side tunnel. The gate was close now. Valin followed the turn that the rest had taken and called a halt, the rats were close on his heels. "We'll make a stand here, if we can fight them back at this point, we'll easily make it to the gate," he said through short breaths. He and the rest of the dwarves turned and lined up three abreast, just as the first of the skaven rounded the corner.

The three dwarves in the front charged up and began slaying the startled skaven who were being pushed ahead by those flooding up from behind. Valin hacked with his ax and blocked with is shield, finding himself falling into a rhythm. Culli, also in the front, shoved a skaven back with his shield as his ax sheared part of the head off another. He could feel the force of blows bouncing off his armor constantly, but as yet he remained unscathed.

Therin, fighting between Culli and Valin, found himself in the same situation. He swung his hammer with the fury of the grudge and the skill of the experienced dwarf warrior. He heard a bellow next to him, and the clank of armor on the floor. He knew that meant that Culli had gone down.

Searing pain ran through Culli's leg as a lucky skaven blow found a way through his encasing armor. He cursed loudly as he fell over into the wall and then to the floor. Valin and Therin fought with renewed fury, pushing back the skaven immediately in front of them. Gurni, who was behind Culli, leapt over the downed dwarf and smashed into the skaven who had wounded him. His momentum was halted as the ratmen slammed into the one behind him, and Gurni brought down his hammer hard and fast on its exposed ribcage before it could recover.

Those behind helped Culli get to the back of the troop. He stood up shakily, wary of how much damage had been done to his leg. He found that it could still support his weight, despite the pain. "I'll continue back to the runegate," he said to Jotun, "if I can make it, it should have plenty of time to close. I'm sure we'll meet again." He laid his hand on Jotun's shoulder then turned and limped quickly down the dark tunnel.

Valin's ax arced back and forth. The first swipe struck the shield of an unlucky skaven and the second slashed down into it's collarbone. The next skaven to step up onto the mounting bodies of it's kin didn't look nearly as bold about it has the last five or six. It lacked the savage sneer on it's mouth and the bold glint in it's eye that it's predecessors had.

Valin roared a warcry and raised his ax. At that point the ratmen had apparently had enough. First the ones in combat turned to flee, and were rewarded with cold dwarven steel smashing into skulls and backs. The ones behind them saw this and momentarily it became a complete fall back as the skaven behind turned to flee.

"They won't run for long," huffed Valin. "Lets get back to the runegate before that robed rat brings them back around." He turned on the floor which was slippery with skaven blood and entrails and followed the rest of the lads in the direction Culli had gone. Moments later the tunnel was filled with a bright green flash which came from behind them. They continued running regardless.

The dwarves rounded a bend in the corridor minutes later, and the tunnel straightened out. They could see Culli less than twenty feet ahead of them, approaching the area where the tunnel widened slightly. On both sides of the corridor there were large pillars reaching up, and it was wide enough between the pillars for three dwarves to stand side-by-side.

"Keep going lads," yelled Valin. They could hear the skaven pursuit closing once again, "we'll stand and fight as close to the gate as we can! If Grungi is with us we can get through before it closes."

They continued running until they were about twenty meters from the gate. Culli didn't stop there, he ran on to get through the gate so he could flip the switch and begin the closing of the doors. Valin and the rest of them turned and continued backing toward the door briefly before the first of the skaven reached them. Valin, Heimi, and Millur took the charge.

Valin raised his shield to block the charging skaven's spear. The haft shattered on impact and brought the skaven well within Valin's reach. He struck out and decapicated it. Heimi felt the impact of the second skaven's sword on his shield arm. It didn't come close to penetrating his armor, the same wasn't true for the effects of his hammer on the skavens thigh. The beast screeched as Heimi's hammer impacted its leg with a crack. Millur made quick work of his assailant, it's attack went wide to the right, and Millur's hammer slew it easily as it crashed down on the back of the vermin's neck.

The three continued to back up when there was no enemy presenting himself. Slowly, fighting, they made their way back to the runegate. A loud click followed by the slow grating of stone on stone meant that Culli had made it to the switch. Within two minutes the runegate would be closed, and sealed. There would be no getting out until those on the other side threw the switch again.

Valin's goal was to fight his way backward, through the closing gate, then hold the skaven at the door while getting all his lads through. Fortunately the narrow corridor would not allow the overwhelming numbers of skaven to be beneficial to them.

A cry next to Valin told him that Heimi had been struck. A quick glance showed him that a skaven spear had gone through his beard and into his throat beyond. Blood already ran down the front of his armor in a wide stream. The skaven pulled back it's spear and Heimi slumped backward into the waiting dwarves. Jotun stepped forward over the fallen Heimi and bellowed his rage at seeing his comrade fall. He kicked the ratman low in the shin, then brought his hammer down hard on the rat-like face.

Two of those behind lifted Heimi by the shoulders and dragged him the last few meters through the runegate. The gate was about a third of the way closed when they set him and his hammer down next to the wounded Culli and headed back to the fray. Culli shook his head in dismay at seeing his dead friend.

A roar from the end of the hall caused a momentary break in the raging combat. Valin risked a glance as he swung his ax down on the distracted skaven in front of him and saw that one of the huge rat ogres had entered. The skaven in the back seemed to be parting to let it through. Durring the quick lull in the fighting, the dwarves took the opportunity to back up further. They passed the slowly closing gates and lined up to prevent any skaven from passing through.

Many skaven rushed forward after the dwarves as the rat ogre stomped through the hall. Any skaven unfortunate enough to be in its way were swatted about like insects. Valin lost hope that the door would close before any skaven could get through.

The hack and slash resumed, with Valin, Millur, and Gurni doing the fighting. It looked like the gate would be closed enough to prevent the rat ogre from getting through by the time it reached the front of the hall. There were already seven skaven between the closing doors and the dwarf line, none more could push themselves into the press of bodies.

The dwarves fought with fury, blocking, slashing, ducking, chopping. Many lives above depended on their ability to hold the gate. The more skaven they killed, the more that piled in through the heavy stone doors that swung slowly shut.

Valin saw the rat ogre finally reach the gate. The creature's width was too great to allow it through. It reached it's arm through, swatting the skaven, both live and dead, which stood on the dwarven side. If that thing would just turn sideways, it could likely slip through, noted Valin. He smirked under the concealment of his helmet at the stupidity of the beast. The few skaven who were left on the dwarven side of the nearly closed runegate were being forced to pay as much attention to the flailing appendage of the stuck rat ogre as to the dwarves. Whenever one came within reach of the dwarf line they were quick to strike it.

The last fifteen seconds of the gate closing was a spectacle to behold. The remaining skaven that had made it through were killed, and just outside the gate the rat ogre screeched and thrashed about trying to reach for the dwarves. The thing threw itself against the magical doors time and again, but it was quite pointless. As the doors were nearly shut, the beast's arm became stuck, and it was unable to remove it. Thrashing about and attempting to free itself, it succeeding in tearing it's own arm off. In a spray of blood that covered the defending Breakers, and with a wail that was almost enough to make the defenders feel pity for it, the monstrosity broke free. It's arm still hung between the doors seven or eight feet above the floor, and the last sight the dwarves had of the other side was the rat ogre furiously thrashing around amid the mob of skaven, killing left and right.

Valin gave Gurni the job of assisting Culli back up to the hold to see a medic, Gotrem and Jotun were given the honor of carrying Heimi back to the upper levels, while the rest of them made haste back to the halls above to warn of the skaven forces below.

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