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  • Added on: Apr 15 2008 07:44 PM
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2 Ratings

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend

A Tale of Grimgar Thunderhammer and Kazad Grim

Posted by Bugman on Apr 15 2008 07:44 PM
Chapter 1

The sound of marching Dwarfen boots filled the valley. Thane Gorak Durgrimsson marched at the head of his scout force, clutching his runic axe and shield with meaty fists. His eyes scanned around him, looking up the valley walls on either side of him and checking that nothing is in front of them impeding their march. The rear guard sent reports every ten minutes, and so far, nothing of serious import had occurred. A band of small goblins had attacked them, but were no match for the eighty or more heavily armed Dwarfs who crushed them without mercy. Gorak smiled to himself. It was his third and last patrol around the lands surrounding Kazad Grim, and Lord Morgrim would be pleased to hear the land was empty. A thought occurred to Gorak. These mountains aren’t normally empty. Gorak cursed himself for a fool as he realised that in his daydreaming he had forgotten about the Blackclaw Goblin Tribe, which resided in a cave in this very valley! Gorak ordered his warriors into a fast march as he attempted to reach the cave entrance before anything nasty poured out. Gorak and his troops reached the cave without event, and the Thane ordered his men into guard positions around the cave, and ordered the rear guard to keep their eyes peeled. Gorak stepped into the Goblin cave, and grimaced as he recognised the foul musky smell Goblins emit. However, the smell was much weaker than it should be for a cave inhabited by hundreds of Goblins. Gorak also smelt something else. Blood. Goblin blood, and lots of it. Gorak stepped further into the cave reluctantly, his knuckles white from gripping his axe too hard. His bodyguard of heavily armoured Dwarfs followed cautiously, their expressions grim under their beards. Sweat beaded Gorak’s brow. Blood slicked the walls of the cave. What manner of foul ritual had these Goblins been performing? Had they been summoning daemons? Then Gorak emerged into the main hall of the Goblin cave, and he knew the Goblins themselves had nothing to do with the blood.

Goblin bodies, torn to shreds and hurled all across the room by some immense force littered the gigantic room. The smell was overpowering. The bodies looked as if they had been raked by gigantic claws, but Gorak did not have to wonder about the cause of the carnage for long. A huge creature, that looked like a mutated cross between a rat and an ogre, lay slumped against a wall, a huge gash in its stomach with entrails hanging out obviously the source of its death. Gorak saw more of the creatures, until he had found four of the Rat Ogres lying lifeless at different places in the room.
“Grungni’s beard, who…what could do such a thing?” asked one of the Dwarfs who had followed Gorak, echoing what everybody was thinking.
“Fall back to the entrance. We’ll be coming back in, but not without the rest of the company.” Gorak scanned the room one last time before turning and following the rest of his Dwarfs to the cave entrance. He went to leave, when something caught his eye. Something was moving. Gorak turned to look. A tall figure in ornate red armour stepped out of the darkness, clutching a huge blood-slicked blade in one hand. The figure took a few steps into the light of a torch so Gorak could see him, and the figure was obviously amused by the Dwarf’s reaction. The figure’s smile creased his white skin, and revealed two very pronounced canines.
“Greetings bearded one. My name is Meldrak Von Kriegan, but Meldrak will suffice.” The creature smirked before continuing. “These creatures were powerful adversaries”, said the Blood Dragon, pointing at one of the Rat Ogres. “Powerful, but not very intelligent. I wish to fight a foe more interesting, one that understands parries and other basic fighting manoeuvres. I recall…I recall the only foe who ever bested me was one of your race Dwarf. I wish to fight him again. Do you know where I could find him? His name was Grimgar.” Gorak’s eyes widened as he realised who the Vampire seeked.
“I would never tell you where to find my Lord foul Vampire! I shall fight you and die on your blade, but you will never learn of the location of the ancient Hold of Kazad Grim!” Gorak hefted his shield and axe into a fighting position. The Vampire seemed amused.
“There is no need for you to die. You have told me what I need to know. Leave this place now, and not a hair on your beard, or the beards of your troops, shall be harmed. You have my word on this.” Gorak was not prepared to run in the face of such a threat to Kazad Grim, and he prepared to fight nonetheless. A frown crossed the Vampire’s face, which deepened as the sound of battle rung out from the cave entrance.
“It seems I was justified in not trusting you creature of darkness!”
“Those are not my troops attacking you. My troops…lack imagination, or independence for that matter. They would not attack you unless I ordered them too. The troops attacking you are not under my command. This is an unfortunate event, and I will leave you now to fight for your life. You have been most helpful, so I will gift you with this one piece of information. Your troops are fighting bravely, but they will die. Their foes are numerous, and they are led by one who burns with hatred of your race. This creature led an invasion force into your fortress some years ago, and was thwarted. He will attempt once again, and he will do so with my help.”

The creature watched the battle with anticipation and delight. The Dwarfs were fighting brilliantly, forming a powerful shield wall and fighting with desperate skill and stubbornness, slaying dozens of the attacking Skaven with powerful strokes of axe and hammer, and hurling Skaven back from their lines with mighty swings from shields and meaty fists. The Skaven continued to fight ferociously however, heartened by the thousands of ratmen around them. The Dwarfs had maybe two score troops left, but surrounded by the valley walls on their sides and Skaven at their front and back, the Dwarfs were bravely fighting to the death, preparing to sell their lives dearly. And fight well they did, slaying at least eight of the Skaven for every Dwarf that fell. These casualties, however, were not even worth considering compared to the size of the Skaven horde. The Skaven pressed forward, unable to bring their numbers to bear but the weight of their attack still pushing hard on the Dwarf shield wall. As another Dwarf was slashed across the neck by a notched and rusty blade and torn to pieces by the vengeful Skaven, another Dwarf emerged from the cave entrance, and hurled himself into the furry masses. He fought with great strength, blocking the weak Skaven attacks with his shield and cutting the ratmen down with quick sweeps of his axe. A Stormvermin squad moved to engage him, and the lesser Slaves and Clanrats happily moved out of their way to let them do the fighting. The Dwarf roared a challenge at the Hostleader of the Stormvermin, who accepted. The black-furred Skaven swung quickly with its halberd, the swings clanging off the Dwarf’s shield. The Dwarf parried one of the Hostleader’s blows with his axe and knocked the Skaven’s weapon aside. The Dwarf‘s axe sliced downwards towards the Skaven’s head, and the Skaven brought up its arm in a vain attempt to block the blow. The Skaven’s heavy black armour was no protection, and the Stormvermin’s arm was cleaved off at the elbow. The Skaven fell to the ground giving voice to a horrified shriek of pain, and the Dwarf hero slammed the haft of his hammer into the fallen Skaven’s skull, pulverizing it’s head and smashing it’s skull to splinters. The Dwarfen hero leapt into the surprised Stomvermin, laying about them with his axe two handed, his shield discarded and forgotten. He slew at least seven more of the elite Skaven before they surrounded him. The Dwarf tried desperately to block all the incoming blows, but a blow from a halberd struck off his hand in a spray of blood, dragging an enraged roar from the Dwarf’s throat. With a wild light in his eye and his beard soaked in black blood, the Dwarf leapt at one of the Skaven and throttled it to death with his one remaining hand as he was hacked apart by the rest of the Stormvermin. Seeing their leader fall, the twelve remaining Dwarfs roared and tried to press through the mass of Skaven to reach their fallen commander. They broke their small shield wall and leapt crazily into the Skaven horde as if they had just mentally taken the Slayer oath. They hacked brutally at the Skaven and kept moving forward, advancing through a haze of blood. The horrified Skaven shied away from the Dwarfs and some tried to pull away from them, allowing the Dwarfs to reach their fallen leader with seven remaining troops. They stood around his body and fought until their last breath, slicing Skaven in twain and crushing skull. At last the final Dwarf fell, and the Grey Seer chuckled and swung his tail in delight as his Skaven began feasting on the fallen Dwarfs.

Grey Seer Skritch Whitefang had enjoyed watching Dwarfs die all the more after his defeat at Kazad Grim. Skritch growled to himself as he thought of that defeat. The amount of warpstone tokens wasted because of that battle still disturbed his sleep. Skritch had been forced to deplete almost his entire fortune to purchase another army! Skritch thought he had been ruined at the time, but his next expedition had paid off, a stroke of luck though it was. Skritch was planning to destroy a few Empire outposts and use the technology he gained from the attacks to sell to Clan Skyre, prisoners to Clan Moulder and keep weapons and armour for himself. Skritch had destroyed one outpost and was planning to invade another when his Gutter Runners, led by the two assassins who survived the siege of Kazad Grim, had spotted a small and vulnerable Elven host. Skritch hated Elves, if for no other reason than because they were tall. Skritch couldn’t help but smile at the memory of that battle. A few regiments of Elven Spearmen and Archers, supported by a single cavalry squad. Skritch could not believe his luck. The Elves were defenceless against magic! Skritch remembered fondly the feeling of all his formidable magical power flowing through his body with nothing to nullify it. The finely crafted weapons and armour from that battle had solved all of Skritch’s troubles, and Skritch was finally able to purchase the one thing he had wanted most in the Underempire: A Screaming Bell. Skritch turned to admire the magical bell that adorned the tower, and his furry chest swelled. Skritch’s good mood faded as soon as he saw the leader of the Dead-things approach him. Skritch was still unhappy at the Vampire for slaying his Rat Ogres. One of those creatures cost more than four breeders! When Skritch first passed through this valley, his Rat Ogres had become restless when they smelt prey in a large cave. Skritch was not one to deny them, so he followed them in as the Rat Ogres begun slaughtering the Goblins who resided in there. Skritch just enjoyed the show, occasionally blasting though a swathe of the diminutive greenskins when they surrounded the Rat Ogres. Only one Rat Ogre fell, by the axe of the clan’s Warlord, whose flesh was flayed from his bones by one of Skritch’s most potent Warp Lightning spells. After the Goblins had all fled or been killed, the Rat Ogres’ beastmasters had left them to feast, and Skritch had followed them. Skritch heard more fighting as he left the tunnel, and turned to see what was happening.

When he arrived his Rat Ogres had been all slain by a blood-drenched figure standing calmly over the body of one of his Rat Ogres. The Vampire sunk his teeth into the neck of one of the slain Rat Ogres, and drank some of its blood before spluttering in disgust. The Vampire turned and saw Skritch. Skritch could not believe the Dead-thing had defeated all four of his prized Rat Ogres. Skritch had begun to summon all his power in a rage, fully intent on blasting this impudent creature apart, when his power’s dissipated. Skritch searched for the source of this dispel, and saw three Necromancers standing at the corner of the room. Two of them were expressionless, and one, who Skritch took as the most powerful of the three, wore a mocking smile. Skritch angrily reached for his bag of Warpstone chunks, prepared to eat every last one of them if it gave him the power to blast apart these ignorant fools, when the Vampire spoke:
“Please desist my good Grey Seer. We would not want to have your blood split in these halls would we?” Skritch’s fur bristled at the suggestion that these imps had the power to kill him, as the Vampire continued.
“Your monsters are dead, and I suggest you listen to what I have to say, or you may still follow.” The Vampire’s eyes twinkled in amusement as he continued. “First of all, I am Meldrak Von Kriegan, a Vampire of the Blood Dragons, and these are my loyal Necromancers, Cassius Moar and his apprentices. Now before you do anything hasty, tell me. Do you know of Kazad Grim?” Skritch’s anger burned even brighter as he remembered that accursed fortress that had caused him so much trouble.
“Yes-yes I know of that cursed place! Now tell me why you wish to know of this place before I flay the flesh from your rotting bones!” The Vampire simply smiled.
“Does the Dwarf known as Grimgar reside in that fortress? I understand you suffered a defeat at that fortress.” Skritch’s face burned as the Vampire so carelessly mentioned the single worst thing that had ever happened to him.
“You dare to mention my ill-fated battle there? You’re testing my patience dead-thing! Tell me why I should not kill you now, and remember that you speak to a Grey Seer of the Horned Rat!” The Vampire’s looked deeply into Skritch’s eyes, and Skritch could swear he was reading his mind. Skritch quickly used a mild mind spell on the Vampire before the Necromancers could respond. The spell was so mild as to do nothing other than cause a stab of pain, but Skritch still enjoyed causing the Vampire any discomfort. Meldrak shook his head to dispel the pain and spoke quickly.
“I did not appreciate that. Do not annoy me any more, or I will destroy you and your army. Now I am not sure, but I believe a Dwarf named Grimgar resides in Kazad Grim. Do you know him or not?”
“The name means little to me, but what does one Dwarf-thing matter anyway?” The Vampire looked almost uncomfortable for a second before responding.
“I fought the Dwarf and he….was a worthy adversary. Now enough idle chit-chat. I want the Dwarf, you want the fortress. I’m sure together we could easily destroy that fortress, and more importantly, slay all within it.” Skritch’s interest was instantly perked.
“I have no interest in the fortress, so when we have won our battle, I will give the fortress to you. All I ask of you is that you commit your forces to assist in taking the fortress.” Skritch could not resist such an offer.
“I humbly accept your proposal Dead-thing” It seriously irked Skritch to abase himself to anyone, but Skritch wanted Kazad Grim. Skritch promised himself one thing: Once Kazad Grim was in his paws, Skritch would punish the Vampire for his impudence.
“There is an approaching Dwarf force”, stated Meldrak. “Do not attack them. I want to ask their leader a question.”
“Very well Vampire, you have my word. The Dwarfs shall not be harmed.” Skritch tried to hide his smirk. The Vampire should know a Skaven’s word is worthless.

Skritch snapped out of his daydream as Meldrak spoke to him.
“I told you not to attack them.”
“True, but they are Dwarf-things! They deserve to die-die, and nothing more!”
“There was no honour in your victory. Attacking their troops while their leader was elsewhere was not a true battle.” Skritch tittered in amusement, drawing a frown from the Vampire.
“Honour? I win-win my battles, and it matters not how I defeat my most unworthy foes.”
“Did you win your battle at Kazad Grim?” Skritch hid his anger, but inwardly renewed his oath to slay the Vampire once his usefulness was over.
“No, but can a leader as brilliant as I be blamed for the incompetence of his troops?”
“A brilliant leader does not have an incompetent army. My army is has no such issues.”
“Perfect? Most of your dead-things fight as badly as my slaves, and they fall to pieces when their enemy begin to kill-kill them!”
“You shall see the worth of my army, Skaven. At least they are not cowards. Now begin the march to Kazad Grim, and don’t take too long about it. My army may not get impatient, but I do.”
Skritch didn’t dignify the Vampire’s words with a response. He walked over to his Screaming Bell and propelled himself onto it with his magic. Skritch always felt powerful atop the screaming bell, and he gave his orders with confidence.
“Begin the march, quick-quick! We go to Kazad Grim, to take revenge on the Dwarf-things!” Skritch couldn’t help but notice his army’s hesitation at the mention of that feared place. Some of them had been survivors of the battle there, and others had heard the stories of the ‘bearded daemons’ that defended the fortress.
“I said move-move you fool-fools!” Skritch had to blast apart an entire regiment of slaves to get his troops going, much to the amusement of Meldrak and his Master Necromancer. It was times like this Skritch wished he still had some of his warpstone snuff.

High above, a large winged shape circled in the air. The Elven Prince held tightly onto the reigns of his mighty Dragon, directing the serpentine creature with firm jerks of the reigns. The Elf had found the Skaven sorcerer he seeked, and now it was time to prepare his host for battle. First of all, the Dwarfs would be warned. They would prove useful allies in the coming battle. Satisfied that no-one had seen him above them, the Elf and his Dragon flew off into the distance. Far below, Meldrak Von Kriegan looked up and smiled to himself.
“Finally, a beast worth killing”

Chapter 2

Sweat beaded Grimgar’s brow, his face was red and his arm felt like it was about to fall off, but he kept pushing nonetheless. Grimgar’s father was also showing strain. Sweat made their hands slippery, and their concentration was almost broken numerous times by the madly cheering spectators, as Grimgar and his father arm wrestled for the second time that night. Grimgar had won the first one, forcing his father to pay for the next eight rounds of Bugman’s XXXXXX. Since then they had drunk fifteen rounds, and they were wrestling once again to decide who would pay for the rest, and of course buy the winner another round. Veins popped out on the arms of both Dwarf Lords, and it would seem that Grimgar and his father were evenly matched. It was not so. They had been at it for the last two minutes, and Morgrim was starting to inch Grimgar’s arm towards the table. Grimgar bit his lip and pushed with all his might, succeeding in pushing his father’s hand back a couple of centimetres. They continued to wrestle for another ten seconds, before Grimgar’s strength failed him and his father slammed his arm onto the table with a resounding crack that woke more than a few dozing Dwarfs. There was uproar in the tavern, and gold could be heard exchanging hands all over the tavern. Dwarfs were banging their flagons on the tables, demanding a rematch, but Grimgar’s arm was now far too sore to consider such a thing.
“Looks like you owe me twenty-one gold crowns and another beer laddie!” said Morgrim with a proud smirk on his face. Grimgar caught his breath before responding.
“Well that makes us even then! ‘Tis good you beat me this time father, ‘cause first time you wrestled like an Elf!”
“Is that right lad? Well I’ll happily wrestle an Elf, because he’d sure be a lot tougher than you!”
“I should hope that’s the beer talking father! I’m sure you’d happily wrestle and Elf now, but when you sober up I’m sure you’d come to your senses and admit an Elf would be too much for you to handle in your old age!” Morgrim ruffled his son’s beard.
“You see that lad? That’s a nice orange beard, just like we all have in our family. The biggest difference between your beard and mine is that mine is twice the size of yours, which means I’ve been choppin’ up greenskins since before you were born! Now quit stalling and fork over the gold lad, I’m thirsty!” Grimgar pulled out twenty four pieces of gold from a pouch at his waist and dropped them into his father’s outstretched hand, one at a time.
“Take your time Grimgar, we’ve got all night. By that I mean hurry up, I’m thirsty!”
“Good things come to those who wait, Lord Morgrim” said the Runemaster of Kazad Grim, Thyron Whitebeard.
“Speaking of waiting, how long until you’ve finished testing the Runesmith aspirants? There were only three of them, surely it wouldn’t take eight months to test them all!”
“As I said Morgrim, good things come to those who wait. I have nearly finished training the final one, young Byron here”. Thyron gestured towards a nervous looking Dwarf standing next to him. “These three are a promising group, and young Byron just succeeded in forging his first rune, a rune of burning, which we put on one of the Bolt Throwers. It works perfectly, and in another decade or two I’m sure he will be forging much more potent runes”.
“Thyron, you didn’t answer my question. How long until Byron has finished his tests? We need everyone we can get who knows runelore to help in strengthening the defences of our walls, and the most senior Runesmith of our hold is the only one not involved!”
“Patience, Morgrim. Patience. I have just a few more questions to ask him”.
“Now lad, tell me this. When do you stoke the furnace to forge a Rune of Might?”
“At midnight on third moon’s last day”
“You quench the rune in what?”
“Dragon’s blood”
“In whose name do you do so?”
“Haki the ancestor”
“And how do you make the rune glow”
“The slaying of an Orc by night” Thyron slapped the beardling over the head.
“A troll! A troll Byron! By Grungni, how would killing an Orc do anything?” Thyron turned to Morgrim.
“Well the tests are complete, and I can assure you that won’t happen when he actually attempts to make the rune in the future”
“Good” Morgrim said “Tomorrow morning I expect you to begin work on the runic defences of our walls”
“Of course my Lord. I will try not to get too much of a hangover” said Thyron as he stepped over to the bar and pulled his mug from its place on his belt and filled it with a round of Troll Brew. Thyron sipped it, grimaced, and then drank the whole lot in a single go. He held his hand to his forehead with one hand, while dipping his mug into the barrel of the potent beer with the other.

Raucous shouting and yelling filled the bar as Dwarfs emptied barrel after barrel of Bugman’s and started fights all over the bar, joking and backslapping after they were too tired to keep hitting each other. The occasional beardling lay unconscious on the floor, and the Longbeards sat around the tavern grumbling into their beer or commenting on the good old days to all the Dwarfs around them who liked a good tale. Thanes and Veterans sat around the tables, recounting recent battles and grudges, the Gatekeeper of Kazad Grim, Kadrik Hammerhand pulled up a stool next to Kragg Blackfist, the Battle Standard Bearer of the Kazad Grim Expeditionary Force, and offered to buy him a round. Skarl Stonehelm and Gudrak Blackfist, the two Runesmiths of the Kazad Grim Expeditionary Force stepped into the bar and walked towards Runemaster Thyron, to the amusement of Kurgrim Ironbeard, leader of Grimgar’s Ironbreaker regiment, who always commented on how the two always travelled together, and as he said, “Skarl was more brother to Gudrak than Kragg”. He said so as he had numerous times in the past, which angered Kragg as it always did. Kragg threw his stool at Kurgrim, and Kurgrim ducked it and aimed a punch at Kragg, beginning the fight the two had at least twice a week, a source of much betting by the other Dwarfs. The Kazad Grim tavern was packed with thirsty Dwarfs as it always was. Grimgar decided to step outside for a breath of fresh air. As he stepped out of the tavern, a huge shadow loomed swooped over him. Grimgar looked into the sky, seeing the vague outline of some sort of flying creature. Grimgar’s Dwarf eyesight quickly recognised the creature.
“DRAGON!” Grimgar yelled. Dwarfs from inside the tavern poured outside, most of them clutching weapons in response to Grimgar’s warning. Morgrim ran out of the bar hefting his axe, and looked up to the sky to see the Dragon circling above them.
“Why won’t it attack?” asked the Gatekeeper, Kadrik.
“It looks like it has a rider” said Kurgrim. Being an Ironbeard, he spent more time underground than the other Dwarfs and had better night-sight. The Dragon circled a few more times, and then swooped down to the ground in front of the furious crowd of Dwarfs standing at the tavern entrance. The ground shook as the Dragon landed, and the light from the tavern uncovered the mysterious rider.
“What do you want Elf?” yelled Morgrim “We have no business with you or your bloody Dragon!” A chorus of angry yells from the Dwarfs washed out, with a lot of choice insults regarding Elves and Dragons in the middle of it. Some Dwarfs threw stones, and the few Slayers who were in the tavern tapped their axes and directed furious scowls at the Dragon. The Dragon roared, quieting most of the Dwarfs but causing all of them to lift their weapons. Skarl hefted his hammer, ready to throw it at the Dragon at the first sign of trouble, confident of the runes on the weapon to damage the creature enough to help the others finish it.
“There is no need for such hostility, I come in peace” said the Elf
“You come in peace indeed, you bloody oath breaker!” yelled one of the longbeards. The Dragon growled menacingly, and the Elf scowled.
“This is no time for your stubbornness to show, for I come with a grave warning and an offer of assistance.”
“Whatever it is, we don’t need your help Elf!” yelled Grimgar, to shouts of affirmation from the rest of the Dwarfs.
“You would be wise to listen to what I have to say before you say such things Dwarf. There are two armies heading this way, and both of them are powerful. One army, its ranks filled with the dead, and the other of the Skaven. Angry growls and oaths rippled throughout the crowd, and Grimgar stroked his beard thoughtfully as he guessed who must be at the head of the armies. Could the Vampire and the Grey Seer possibly have made an alliance?
“I have seen their combined horde with my own eyes, and I assure you it has the power to destroy this fortress.” Shouts of disapproval filled the air.
“I offer you my help in defending your fortress”
“Why would you offer your help Elf?” asked Morgrim
“This army is our common enemy, and the Skaven have already slain a number of my troops. My offer is unconditional- it is simply an offer of alliance in the face of a common enemy. We must put aside our racial animosity for the time being. It is important that we fight as brothers against this menace.”
Grimgar looked at his father, who nodded, but did not say anything. This caused a few grumbles, but Morgrim was the Lord of Kazad Grim, and his wisdom was unquestioned. Grimgar cleared his throat before responding.
“Very well Elf, Kazad Grim accepts your offer”

Skritch’s tail involuntarily stiffened at the sight of the Dwarfen fortress-city. Skritch had never done much research on the outer defences of the fortress, as his first invasion had come from the mines and sewers, and Skritch in his brilliance had bypassed the Dwarf-things’ main defences. The Grey Seer lashed his tail in agitation at the memory of his defeat, even though it had happened a long time ago. Skritch thanked the Horned Rat he was not a lesser Skaven, doomed to one or maybe two decades of existence before oblivion. Skritch had lived for nearly fifty years, and he planned to live much longer than that. There were many things that had to be accomplished before his death, and foremost among them was the destruction of Kazad Grim. The Grey Seer snapped out of his reverie and concentrated on the fortress once more. Kazad Grim was unusual for a Dwarfen fortress, and was completely situated above ground. The mountains that stretched off into the distance were at the back of Kazad Grim and a large area had been cut out of the mountains. The fortress had been built inside it, and a large wall stretched from one side of the fortress to the other, ensuring that the impassable mountains covered all sides but the front of the fortress. Skritch assured himself that his original plan had been planned meticulously and correctly, and of course would have worked flawlessly if not for the utter stupidity and incompetence of his minions. Skritch stopped daydreaming again, and wished he hadn’t used so much of his warpstone snuff for the second time. The white furred Skaven admired the beautifully crafted Dwarfen walls. They stretched twelve metres into the air, and were adorned with runic defences. There were numerous Dwarf-things working on the wall.. He raised a long tube of brass to his eye, staring through the magnifying glass of the telescope to observe the working Dwarf-things. They seemed to be working on the runes on the walls, and Skritch saw many of the individuals called Runesmiths empowering the magical carvings on the walls, and the albino-furred Skaven hoped the walls wouldn’t be too resistant to his magic. The Grey Seer growled in anger as he spotted the Runemaster of Kazad Grim, reminding him of the failure of his previous invasion. Skritch’s anger rose even more as he pictured his magic bouncing harmlessly off of the walls, denying him the revenge he craved. Skritch took another pinch of his warpstone snuff, and his eyes blazed a bright green for a second before dissipating. Skritch imagined himself the size of a dragon, smashing his gigantic foot into the walls of the Dwarf-thing fortress until they collapsed. Skritch imagined himself walking through the blazing rubble of Kazad Grim as he obliterated the entire fortress with blasts of magic. Skritch imagined the look of horror on his Blood Dragon ally’s face as green flames consumed him forever. Skritch shook his head to dispel the images. The Dwarfen fortress looked formidable, but not as formidable as some Dwarf holds Skritch had seen. It was all but inevitable- Grey Seer Skritch would destroy Kazad Grim this time, and he promised himself that the Chaos-thing would not take the fortress from him once it was his.

Meldrak Von Kriegan smiled inwardly as he saw the Grey Seer’s tail stiffen at the sight of the Dwarfen fortress. Meldrak took in the Dwarfen defences with a trained eye, observing that in the manner of most Dwarfen fortresses it would be well protected from magic, and all the firepower the Skaven had at their disposal would most likely be ineffective. Meldrak stopped thinking about the Dwarfen defences as he remembered why he was really here. The fate of the fortress did not matter, only the challenge. As soon as the Dwarf Lord Grimgar was dead, there would be no reason to remain, and he would leave the Skaven to their well-deserved fate. Meldrak did not hold much hope for the siege it would require to level the fortress, especially since before the walls could be overrun the Elves would arrive. The Grey Seer would be slain and the Dwarf Lord would win the duel. Meldrak cringed as he saw the hammer descending toward his head to end his unlife. Meldrak shook his head. What was that? He never usually saw the future so clearly, and he never saw himself die. Cassius assured him that the visions were not of the exact future, but of the future as of now. Meldrak thought about the vision. His plan was to kill the Dwarf and leave the Skaven to his fate. Visions once more crossed the Vampire’s mind. A large gout of flame from a Dragon incinerated an entire regiment of Skaven, sending all the surrounding ratmen fleeing for their lives. Elven cavalry crushed his skeletal infantry, and the Skaven army broke under the pressure of the Elven flank charge and Dwarfen advance at their fronts. The Undead army began to fall apart as Meldrak and his Necromancers had more trouble sustaining the magic the kept them undead, and the battle turned into a massacre as the Undead were completely destroyed. Meldrak put his hand to his head. This could not happen! It mustn’t happen! Meldrak suddenly realised what the vision meant: He must support the Skaven siege with all his might to destroy the fortress quickly. The Blood Dragon looked at the Necromancers marching to his side, and Cassius returned the gaze. Cassius nodded. Meldak was taken aback. How could he know about the visions? He decided to ask him.
“Cassius, I need a moment of your time”
“Of course my Lord, I have all the time in the world”. Cassius smiled coldly at his own joke.
“How do you know about my visions? I never tell you of them, but you always know. How is it?”
“My dear Meldrak, can you not also read minds?” Meldrak nodded quickly, somewhat annoyed by the Necromancer’s over familiarity. Meldrak wished for not the first time that he was as mindless as the Wights that accompanied him into battle.
“You have visions, and you read minds. Have you not yet discovered why? Magicians of all kinds find themselves with new abilities as a result of their magical knowledge. Before I discovered Necromancy, I served the Empire, curse my soul, and I was an accomplished user of Fire magic. Of course I could manipulate and create flame, but I also had other abilities that required no effort to maintain. They became natural. When I was near, existing flames burned brighter, and I could pinpoint the exact position of the source of a single mundane flame in a room full of candles. This was odd, as it meant I could feel flame in my consciousness even when I wasn’t exerting any magical power. That is unusual. Necromancy modifies the body, changes it and restores life or gifts death. Some Necromancers find themselves able to read minds and see the future. This does not make sense at all if Necromancy does no more than kill or restore life. I have thought about this, and Necromancy shares some similarities to the powers of Tzeentch, which leads me to believe that Necromancy is a variation of Tzeentchian magic. Necromancy has a direct effect on the recipient, simply killing or restoring life. Mutation magic, or Lore of Tzeentch, does everything in between, changing the form of the target and the user, though of course the mutations cause the death of the original form and the birth of a new Chaotic form, sometimes completely different, sometimes similar, but always different. You do not need to understand the why, or the how, but you must understand that these powers are an advantage and a disadvantage. You can see what will happen in the future, which allows you to alter your path through time, but you will grow unused to being ‘in the dark’ and not knowing what is about to happen, as is the case when you modify your actions to change the future. Do not ignore your visions my lord, but do not rely on them”. Cassius hobbled away from Meldrak and rejoined his apprentices, leaving Meldrak to ponder his words. The Blood Dragon turned his attention back to the fortress and began to wonder what this battle would have in store for him. Meldrak’s sharp eyes picked up a disturbance in the air on the top of a cliff in the distance, but he dismissed it as inconsequential.

Not too far away, but far enough that magic users cannot sense his presence, a lone figure stood atop a cliff, cloaked by his spells, watching the horde of Undead and Skaven. The two armies were camping a few kilometres away and out of sight of a Dwarfen fortress, and were obviously planning to attack it. The Undead merely stood in ranks while the Skaven set up camp. The ratmen used extreme caution not to go too close to one of the Undead, and the Skaven scurried quickly and nervously when in the presence of one of the many skeletons, zombies and other creatures that made up the Undead horde. The figure found this amusing but unsurprising. Skaven were cowards. The figure was dressed in a bluish robe and clutched a shield and halberd that blazed with unnatural flames. The figure felt his magical powers flow through his hugely muscular form, and he clutched his halberd with a strong arm as he scanned the two armies for the individual he seeked. Grey Seer Skritch sniffed the air and looked around, convinced that someone was watching him. Thralgarr Darkflame smirked as he saw the Skaven Sorcerer sense his attentions. The one known as Skritch had been useful so far. Hopefully he would not fail.

Chapter 3

A haze of dust was on the horizon, blurring the magnificent sunset. The Elven army was on the march toward Kazad Grim. Rank after rank of Spearmen and the rare regiment of Swordmasters in glittering mail armour marched silently in perfect unison as squadrons of Elven cavalry trotted along the sides of the foot troops, and chariots rolled across the ground on the army’s flanks, throwing rocks and dust into the air. At the fore of the army was the bearer of the Elven battle standard, and high in the air a gigantic white dragon bearing the general of the High Elf army swooped gracefully, surprisingly so for a creature of such size. On the flanks of the dragon flew two giant eagles, raised and nurtured by the Elves and trained to fight alongside them. Indeed, the mighty Elven host was on the march to Kazad Grim, but it would not arrive in time to meet the siege from behind the considerable safety of the Dwarfen walls. Kazad Grim would need to hold for at least three days and keep their enemy from passing the walls. Both the Dwarfs and Elves knew this, and both were confident there would be no complications. After all, with the entire Dwarfen army at the defence of the walls, who could possibly stand against them? The runic defences on the walls that protected it from magic were complete, and were now nigh on invulnerable to most magical attacks. An attack from below the city through the mines was believed to be now impossible with the new underground defence force and countless traps. Neither the Skaven nor the Undead would be able to overrun the underground defences without committing a significant part of their force, and that would allow a section of the Dwarfen defenders to fortify the underground defences, which would make it very difficult indeed to break through before the Elves arrived and routed the enemy. Kazad Grim had been sieged before, and had survived. Now the fortress and its army was stronger than ever. The enemy would need to completely take the fortress very quickly to claim complete victory. It seemed impossible, but things are sometimes not all they seem.

Thralgarr Darkflame watched impassively as his Marauders and elite Warriors of Tzeentch ranked up. There were not many of the Warriors, but Thralgarr knew that with their supreme fighting abilities and ability to enhance his magic with their blessings, no more were needed. Thralgarr had roughly three hundred troops under his command, and over two hundred of them were Marauders. The Chaos Lord laughed quietly to himself, a deep chuckle that didn’t seem to come from his throat but from the air around him. He had more than he needed. Thralgarr had been fighting for his Lord Tchar for ninety years, and he had never suffered a defeat. His army had been defeated on a few rare occasions, fighting other Chaos war bands, but no mortal had ever bested him. Not in a battle of army’s, not in a battle of magic. No mortal could defeat him, surely. The thoughts of the Champion of Tzeentch turned back to the task at hand. The Skaven had given his word that he would let the Dwarfen leaders live for his use, but Thralgarr knew enough about Skaven to know that he would take the fortress, betray his Undead ally and then attempt to kill Thralgarr, all after killing every last Dwarf in Kazad Grim. That was obvious, but it would not happen. Thralgarr turned to the pale faced Elf that stood next to him. The Elf’s features were mostly hidden by the shadow of his black cloak, but Thralgarr knew perfectly well that the Mark of Khaine sat upon his brow. The Dark Elf Assassin held a short blade in each hand, and both dripped with a bluish venom.
“I have paid you well Elf, and if you fail your mission then I will take from you what I see fit. Namely, if you fail I will need an extreme amount of power to destroy the Skaven sorcerer while he is powered by Warpstone, which he will be, and I will need to concoct a potion to assist me. If you fail, I will take from you your tongue, one eye, seven fingers, your hair, one lung and your heart, and seven litres of blood. I’m sure you would be…inconvenienced without these things, so I tell you now- failure is not an option. I know your thoughts. If you attempt to strike me down, I will know of it. If I discover betrayal, you will feel this for eternity…”
Thralgarr grabbed the Elf by the throat and lifted him into the air. The Assassin tried to strike, but he could not move. Thralgarr took his other hand and held it in front of the Elf’s face. His hand begun to glow blue before discharging a bolt of energy into the Elf. The Elf began to scream as the energy surrounded his body and its changing powers took effect. The Elf stopped screaming as his entire body turned soft and began to ran, changing his form. Thralgarr dropped the Assassin, who was clutching his neck and writhing piteously. After a while he stopped and clambered to his feet, feeling fear for the first time in his long career.
"I’m sure you get my point. DO NOT FAIL!” With the rising of Thralgarr’s voice, a blue mist surrounded him, and the sound seemed to echo from the ground itself. The Elf watched with fearful eyes as Thralgarr’s dark eyes glowed white, then blue, then back to normal as his voice subsided.
“I will give you the body of the Vampire to help you in your task. Administer this poison to the Grey Seer. It will psychically link me to his body, so that when the time comes I can possess his body, which I will use to slay the Vampire. Then I will…shall we say, turn the Grey Seer’s own weapons against him? Give him the poison, then leave. Do not let the Vampire or any of his pet Necromancers see you. Do. Not. Fail.”
With that, Thralgarr grabbed the Elf by the head with both hands. The Elf once again found himself paralysed, and he groaned in pain as his body was enveloped by changing energy and warped into a much larger, more powerful form. The Elf, now as large as Thralgarr and with incredibly powerful muscles and sinews, stood in amazement. The Elf surprised himself by accidentally biting his lip when he went to close his mouth, being unused to having large fangs at the front of his mouth. The Elf flexed his arm, and his robes ripped. Thralgarr drew the Mark of Tzeentch in the air with his finger, and in a flash of blue light a heavy red suit of armour appeared on the ground, next to a large two handed sword. The Chaos Lord then dropped to his knees, panting, as the strength of the spells he had cast drained much of his power. He looked up at the Assassin, daring him to speak, before addressing him again.
“Blood Dragon Full Plate. I am aware you are not used to fighting in armour, but with your new…abilities you should not find it very difficult.” Thralgarr continued talking as the Assassin donned his new armour and picked up the greatsword. Once again, I don’t think you would be used to fighting with a two handed weapon, but I can tell you it is not very difficult, and I am confident you will not find it too difficult”.
“Once again, stay away from the true Vampire and his weakling Necromancers. If any of them spot you, slay them”. Thralgarr smiled, a humourless smirk.
“Though it would be interesting to see you duel with the Blood Dragon. I mean the other one.” Thralgarr smirked again. “Now go. You have until midnight, then I will deem your mission a failure.”
With that, the Assassin set off toward the Undead and Skaven camps, frowning as his armour clanked together when he moved.

Meldrak Von Kriegan stood unblinking in the moonlight atop a cliff that gave him an excellent view of both Kazad Grim and the Skaven camp, watching the Skaven mill around still trying to set up camp, with a smile on his face. Living creatures were so unorganised. Meldrak stopped thinking about the Skaven when he saw a flash of red armour dash between some rocks at the back of the Skaven camp. Meldrak shook his head. It was not possible. How could it be? Meldrak set off at a run towards the camp, running down the path that led to the top of the cliff and back through the ranks of Undead standing at attention. The Vampire ran with incredible speed for something wearing so much armour, and before long he was in the middle of the Skaven camp. He couldn’t think of where else to look, so he set off towards Skritch’s tent. He arrived inside the tent just in time to see someone standing over Skritch pulling a vial of a viscous blue liquid from a pouch at his waist. The figure looked up to see Meldrak staring blankly at it, and its eyes widened in surprise. Meldrak was looking at himself! How could this be possible. The Assassin’s hand flashed and was all of a sudden clutching a small dagger. He threw it at Meldrak, the blade bouncing off of Meldrak’s armour. The Assassin threw another dagger aimed at Meldrak’s neck, but this time the Blood Dragon was ready, dodging the knife with unnatural speed. Meldrak pulled his sword from his scabbard and pointed it at the Assassin.
“I smell magic upon you intruder, and whatever you are, you are not me, and you are not a Vampire! You may have my body, but lets us see if you have my skill! I challenge you creature!”
Meldrak leapt at the Assassin swinging his blade in a deadly arc, expecting his foe to be unable to move fast enough in his armour to meet the blow, but the Assassin easily pulled his own blade, identical to Meldrak’s, from his scabbard and block the blow. Meldrak was surprised, but he had seen more surprising stuff and he quickly reversed the blow, swing upwards towards the Assassin’s head. The Assassin blocked it once more, and was thrown to the ground as Meldrak kneed the Assassin in his armoured stomach. Meldrak spun his blade into a thrusting position quicker than the eye could follow and stepped toward the fallen Assassin, prepared to end the duel. The Assassin quickly rolled to his feet and swung a quick blow at Meldrak’s head as he rose to his feet. Meldrak blocked the blow single handed, but was unprepared for the force of the swing from a creature that was supposedly only Vampire in looks. Meldrak was thrown from his feet, and his sword clattered across the ground. Grey Seer Skritch finally woke from his warpstone induced dreams and prepared a mighty blast to slay whoever dared to disturb his sleep. Skritch’s eyes widened as he saw two identical Blood Dragons fighting in his room, both with the face of Meldrak. The Vampire that was standing saw Skritch rise and took a step toward the Skaven and prepared to swing his mailed fist to knock his victim unconscious, but Skritch quickly unleashed his blast at the intruder’s face and scuttled between his legs into the night as the Assassin fell to his knees, clutching his face. Meldrak got to his feet and grabbed for his sword, feeling its metal grip in his hands with satisfaction. Meldrak waited until his foe got to his feet before hammering his foot into the back of his head, throwing him into the ground. The Assassin rolled to his side as Meldrak’s blade crashed into the ground beside him, and Meldrak lashed out once again with his foot, knocking the Assassin down as he tried to rise while simultaneously bringing his sword down once more. The Assassin, with both his heightened reflexes and centuries of experience, caught the blade on both sides with his hands. Meldrak shifted his weight and spun the sword with all his strength, cutting the Assassin’s hands and breaking his hold on the sword, and he hit the Assassin in the head with the blunt of the sword before thrusting it down again. The Assassin kicked Meldrak’s legs out from under him before he could land his blow, and Meldrak cursed himself for his lack of concentration as he fell to the floor.

The Assassin lashed out at Meldrak’s face with his foot, and Meldrak turned his head to absorb some of the impact and avoid the bulk of the kick, but the foot still skimmed him on the side of his head, crushing bone even with the minimized force of the blow, Meldrak roared in pain, but leapt to his feet nonetheless, trying to ignore the pain. The Assassin picked up his blade and spun to meet Meldrak as he attacked. They traded blows with incredible strength and speed for minutes, slashing, stabbing, blocking and parrying flawlessly countless times, lashing out with feet only to have their kick blocked by the other. As the fight carried outside of the tent, surprised Skaven scattered. Meldrak swung with his sword for the hundredth time to find it blocked, then ducking and sidestepping the enemy return blows. Meldrak hammered the butt of his sword into the side of the Assassin’s head, knocking him to the side. The Assassin spun and before Meldrak could react kicked his sword from his hands. The Assassin now advanced on the unarmed Meldrak, but this was where the true Blood Dragon held an advantage. He was an expert in countless forms of unarmed combat, and could easily slay the finest of swordsman unarmed. The Assassin swung at Meldrak and he ducked the blow, and knocked the blade to the side with one of his hands while he lashed out with his leg and knocked the Assassin’s feet from under him. The Assassin fell and attempted to rise, but Meldrak grabbed onto his wrist with both hands and broke it. The Assassin dropped his sword with a cry of pain, but quickly grabbed one of his short swords with his other hand, swinging at Meldrak’s side. The Vampire grabbed the blade as it swung toward his side and with a twist of his hands, snapped the blade. The Assassin stood, cracking his wrist back into place with a grimace, his now advanced physiology allowing him to use his hand once more, and then jumped into the air, delivering a roundhouse kick to Meldrak’s head, hurling him backwards. The Assassin jumped and tried another identical kick, but Meldrak grabbed the Assassin’s foot and hurled him through the air. The Assassin landed on his hands and he flipped back into a standing position. Meldrak inched towards the Assassin, and both had their hands raised in the positions of their respective fighting styles. Meldrak lashed out a powerful swing, and the Assassin blocked it, swinging his palm upwards towards Meldrak’s face, Meldrak caught his hand and twisted the arm. Then he pulled the Assassin’s own arm behind him and Meldrak grabbed onto the Assassin’s neck with one arm. The Assassin spun in Meldrak’s grip and head butted Meldrak, knocking the vampire back in a spray of blood. Meldrak kneed the Assassin and knocked him back, swinging at his foe unarmed once more. The Assassin fended off his blows and began to fight back. They traded blows for about twenty seconds as fast as the eye could see before Meldrak head butted the Assassin, sending him reeling. Meldrak stepped forward and hammered a fist into the Assassin’s face, and then finished with a thunderous right-cross to the chin. The Assassin fell and tried to rise, but Meldrak crushed his face with a powerful kick and the Assassin fell screaming. Meldrak put his foot on the Assassin’s chest and pinned him down.
“You have been a most worthy adversary, and you have earned yourself the supreme honour. You will now join me in unlife, and I will teach you the ways of the Blood Dragon.” Meldrak smiled a predatory smile as the Assassin’s eyes widened at what he had suggested.
“I’ve always wanted a Thrall as skilled as you. Well, it seems I found you” Meldrak kneeled over the struggling Assassin, and gave him the blood kiss. The Assassin’s struggles ceased as life left him, his breathing stopped and his eyes closed. An incorporeal mist engulfed the Assassin as he was returned to his original form. Meldrak stood, wiping the blood from his mouth. The Assassin’s new eyes opened as its new being came into the world. The Thrall looked around himself, as if he had never seen the world before. He looked at his hands, and clenched them. The Thrall stood, continuing to take in his surroundings with a now interested eye. The Thrall looked at Meldrak, who smiled, and said:
“Welcome to my world, brother.”

Grey Seer Skritch was not happy. He was very unhappy. What in the thirteen names of the Horned Rat had happened? He had been happily dreaming that he was crushing human cities under his mighty paw, when all of a sudden something woke him up and the Vampire was in his room! Two of him there were! Skritch shook his head. It could not be possible. Maybe he should slow down on the Warpstone Snuff. Skritch shook his head again. Such an idea was also ridiculous. The Grey Seer took another pinch of snuff and took a moment to allow it to take effect, then he got up from the rock he was hiding behind and started walking back toward his tent to discover what happened. Skritch had his powers at full flux, and he wasn’t about to be surprised again. The Grey Seer arrived at his tent after a short while, to see holes torn in the side and Meldrak standing outside, in front of someone Skritch didn’t recognise. Maybe this was the intruder? It didn’t look like a copy of the Vampire. Skritch tweaked his whiskers in though for a moment, then walked up to Meldrak and looked up at him.
“What in Skavenblight just happened dead-thing?”
“I know not Skaven, I simply found an intruder in your room, and I challenged him. He was a worthy adversary, and he stands with me now as my brother”
“Brother? You are in league with my would-be Assassin? And wait…you were in my tent while I was sleeping? Explain quick-quick, before I see fit to end your miserable existence!”. Skritch punctuated his sentence by gathering a ball of green energy in each hand.
Meldrak laughed. “Foolish Skaven. I gave him the Blood Kiss. I will not waste your important time with the details, but it will suffice to say he is one of my kind now. And to answer your rashly considered questions, I am not in league with this Assassin. If I wanted you dead I would do it myself” The Skaven’s lips curled into a sneer. “I found him in your room, most likely attempting to slay you. He had my form, and true to my first guess I found him a worthy adversary.”
Skritch tittered. “So, you killed yourself dead-thing? Would you like to do it again by any chance?”
Meldrak’s eye glittered and flashed red for a moment, causing Skritch to flinch. “I do not find you amusing Skaven, he was in my form, that was it. He had a different fighting style, and was extremely skilled in both armed and unarmed combat. However my guess is that he is more suited to fighting unarmoured and with two weapons, and the only time I have seen a being with such a fighting style accompanied by such skill would be when I fought in Naggaroth, where I perfected the skill of fighting many foes in the darkness. My belief is that it was an Assassin of the Elven Dark Kin sent to kill you, but I am clueless as to who could cast such a powerful spell as to change someone’s form and physiology, not to mention copy my armour and sword.”
Skritch growled as his cunning Skaven mind added the facts and discovered who must have done this. The Chaos thing would pay dearly for this, and would die as soon as he was seen again. Skritch made sure the Assassin had plenty of warpstone chunks for the inevitable showdown.
“We must attack Kazad Grim now, we can wait no longer. The Elves are on the march and the fortress must fall quick-quick they arrive, or the fight will become much more difficult. Gather your troops Vampire, we attack now.”

The sound of drunken brawling and yelling filled the air around the tavern of Kazad Grim, and Dori Gundriksson wished for the hundredth time that he could be in there, deep in a barrel of Bugman’s, instead of out here on night patrol on the walls. Dori sadly turned his head away from the tavern and turned back towards the open wastes that dominated the landscape in front of the walls of Kazad Grim. Dori knew that any army that approached Kazad Grim with hostile intent would be ravaged by the Dwarfen firepower and crash on the impenetrable walls as they vainly attempted to penetrate them. The mountains on the sides of the fortress were impassable, and the founders of Kazad Grim had made sure hundreds of years ago that there was no cover whatsoever on the approach to Kazad Grim. Dori smiled grimly to himself. Kazad Grim would not fall.

He took a swig from his hip flasket and coughed. He then hit his chest with a meaty fist and stamped his foot as the powerful drink travelled down his throat. This bet wasn’t worth it. Dori was a Hammerer, and the leader of his regiment, Kadrik Hammerhand, had bet him twelve gold crowns that he could not drink two flaskets of Gyrocopter motor oil in one watch. Well Dori was halfway through his second, but had a splitting headache worse than any hangover, and his eyes were watering. Twelve gold crowns would get him four flagons of Bugman’s, so Dori figured it would be worth it in the end. His watch only had another hour left, and he swore he would finish the rest of the oil before then, even if it knocked him out. Dori’s thoughts on Kadrik, oil and Bugman’s evaporated as he saw what looked like movement over some hills about a kilometre from Kazad Grim’s walls. Dori squinted, the water in his eyes blurring his vision. He could not make out the figures. Dori yelled over to Kundar Ironarm, a member of Kurgrim Ironbeard’s Ironbreakers.
“Hey Kundar, can you see any movement over that *hic* hill?”
“I don’t see anything Dori you oil-swigger, your mind is playing tricks on you!”
“I would’ve thought all that time you spend underground with cheese under your helmet would improve your eyesight, and I would hope that you would show some gnollengrom to a member of the King’s bodyguard!”
Kundar stared mockingly at Dori before looking into the darkness.
“By Grungni’s beard Dori, I think you’re right! Mother of an Elf! There’s a huge army out there!”
“Friend or foe?”
“I don’t know.”
By this time the stench of the Undead horde had reached the walls.
“By the ancestors, no! The army is not prepared for an attack yet!”
“Dori, there are Skaven as well!”
“Sound the alarm! We are under attack!”

Chapter 4

Grimgar bellowed the battle cries of Kazad Grim as he swung his hammer once more, hurling a ratman from the ladder it was using to clamber onto the walls, and sending it screeching to the ground to land among the rest of its kind. Grimgar looked up and down the walls and checked to make sure his troops were holding. The Skaven and the Undead had begun their attack not four hours ago, and they hadn’t let up since. The Skaven had clambered up old and poorly built ladders, some of which collapsed under the weight of the armoured Skaven, continuously in an attempt to gain a foothold on the walls of Kazad Grim. So far the Dwarfs holding the walls had stood as strong as the walls themselves, resisting all magical and mundane attempts at breaching them. Grimgar searched for his father and the hold’s Hammerers, and was unable to find them. The Ironbreakers and nearly four hundred of the hold’s warriors lined the walls and stood against their foes, sweat and blood matting their beards and their boots slippery with the blood of their foes. Not many Dwarfs had fallen, and the Skaven dead were piled in their hundreds at the base of the walls, though that was a drop in the ocean compared to their true numbers. The Skaven were a wall of fur and claw at the base of the walls, countless chittering ratmen waiting for a chance to scale the walls. The Undead were almost as numerous, still standing in ranks behind the Skaven army, with their leaders watching the battle, waiting for the right time to commit their forces. Grimgar finished his daydreaming as another wave of Skaven clambered onto the walls. Grimgar lashed out with a gromril-clad boot, connecting with the chest of a clanrat and crushing his ribs. The Skaven fell screaming back over the walls, knocking one of its fellows from the ladder as it fell. Grimgar swung his hammer again, slaying more of the ratmen. The Dwarfs around him lashed out with hammer and axe, crushing bone and splitting flesh with every blow. They lashed out with meaty fists as well, throwing yet more of their foes from the walls. The Dwarfs rushed forward and grabbed hold of some of the ladders, pushing them away from the walls and sending them crashing to the ground, ending the lives of more Skaven. The Skaven milled about in confusion, unwilling to keep trying to scale the walls in the face of such resistance. The leader of the Grey Seer spat in frustration as his lackeys fell back. He could only just make them stay in the battle by blasting his closest troops, but they had lost the will to fight. Grimgar took advantage of the momentary lapse in the attack to bring havoc to the Skaven hordes.
“All Thunderers, git yourselves on the walls now for Grungni’s sake! Unload every single shot you have into their scabrous hides right now! Where’s the artillery? I want to see some burning ratmen in the next minute ye lazy gits! Come on lads make it quick, we’ve got the upper hand! Git shooting!”
Dagar Blacksmoke, Veteran of the Thunderers, began yelling orders across the walls. Some of the Dwarfs on the wall dropped their weapons and pulled handguns from their back, while more Thunderers ran up the steps to the walls and prepared to fire into the Skaven.
"Ye ready lads?" Dagar yelled
"Load!" The Thunderers loaded their handguns with practiced skill, pushing the powder down into the barrels calmly and quickly.
"Brace!" The Thunderers aimed their weapons into the seething mass below them, sighting down their weapons and taking careful aim.
"Fire!" A choking cloud of smoke engulfed everyone on the walls as the Thunderers began firing. Black blood spurted into the air as the tightly packed masses of Skaven were hit by the deadly bullets.
"Fire at will boys! I want to see almost as much blood as smoke!"
Skaven screeched and panicked to escape the carnage as scores of them were slaughtered by the Thunderers. Bullets tore through fur, flesh and armour alike, splintering bones and rupturing organs as the Skaven sought to escape the onslaught by hiding under the bodies of their kin. Booms and hisses filled the air as the Dwarfen artillery fired, cannonballs, large stones and gouts of flame engulfing the Skaven on the ground. The cannons wreaked a bloody toll as the large balls crashed through the ranks of the ratmen, completely crushing everything in their path, slaughtering many more of the ratmen. The stones landed amidst the tightly packed Skaven and caused horrendous damage, obliterating large pockets of the ratmen, sending blood spurting in all directions. The sound of bodies being crushed and bone being splintered added to the cacophony of panicked screeching and the volleys of the Thunderers and artillery. Large balls of flame hissed through the air, causing terror in the Skaven who saw them coming down. The flames landed with a satisfying impact, swallowing hundreds of Skaven in a whirlwind of flames and burning them to a crisp. The screams of burning ratmen rang out as the flames spread outwards, burning up many more of the Skaven and causing the Dwarfs to wrinkle their noses at the unpleasant stench. The artillery and Thunderers continued to fire, slaying yet more of their enemies. Under this horrendous barrage, the Skaven were unable to hold, and began to flee. Grimgar laughed out loud with delight as he watched the ratmen flee.
“You see? The yellow-bellied rats don’t have the stomach for a real fight! That’ll teach ‘em to mess with the Dawi of Kazad Grim, won’t it lads?” The Dwarfs along the walls yelled cries of affirmation and joy as they watched the Skaven run away from the walls, but their yells died down as they saw what happened when the Skaven reached the Undead lines. The Skaven did not continue to flee, but instead when they reached the ranks of Undead they stopped and lay on the ground, panting for breath. The Vampire leading the Undead walked out in front of the armies, his hands holding the reins of his skeletal steed, with his new thrall by his side. From behind one of the hills in the distance, a huge machine that looked like a bell on wheels was pushed into view by Skaven slaves. The Grey Seer mounted the bell, and said something to a Skaven also riding the bell who held a large hammer. The ratman swung the hammer back, and Grimgar’s eyes widened with horror as he realised what the machine was. The Bell of the Horned Rat. Thyron Whitebeard, also standing on the walls, begun to activate some of his runestones to fight the Skaven magic, but even he was not powerful enough. The ratman hit the bell with all his might, and the earth began to shake almost immediately. Rocks from the mountains splintered and Dwarfs were hurled to their feet, some nearly falling off the walls. The gates of Kazad Grim began to shake. King Morgrim and the Hammerers of Kazad Grim, who were standing behind the gates in case they were breached, took a few involuntary steps backward. They sky roiled as clouds gathered over the fortress. The Undead Necromancers and the Grey Seer gathered their powers together in an unstoppable mass, and Thyron, Skarl and Gudrak were unable to stop the magical powers from gathering. Thyron activated a Rune of Spellbreaking, but to his horror the magical power gathered for this unknown spell was too great.

A great blast of energy erupted from the three Necromancers, who with the Grey Seers help had amassed an incredibly powerful magic missile. The spell blasted towards the gates of Kazad Grim with incredible speed. The runes on the gate glowed an incredible red, and the magical blast halted an inch before the gates. The runes and the magic fought a powerful battle that no mortal could fight, sparks flying and causing the hair on the nearby Dwarfs to stand on end. The Necromancers and the Grey Seer put all of their power into the spell and continued to power it, slowly overrunning the gates runic defences. The Skaven and Undead hordes began to march towards the walls once more. Runemaster Thyron and his Runesmiths, Gudrak and Skarl tried dispelling the spell again, but it was too strong. They added their runic powers to that of that gate, and were able to push the spell backwards until it was about a metre from the gate. Grey Seer Skritch, his eyes blazing green, took a shard of Warpstone and popped it into his mouth with one hand, strengthening the spell. The spell pushed back toward the gates once more as the Dwarfs of Kazad Grim watched with bated breath. The three Runesmiths began chanting the Rite of Dispelling, their words resonating with power and stopping the spell about a foot from the walls. It was a stalemate. Meldrak looked towards the fortress, then to his new apprentice. He was holding his own skeletal steed’s reins, wearing blood red full plate and holding two swords. He was ready for his mission. Meldrak then looked back towards his Necromancers. Then he added his own powers to the spell. With the addition of this new power the runes were over powered, and in a spectacular explosion of magical energy, the gates of Kazad Grim were forced open. The Hammerers rushed forward to brace the gates, but Skritch propelled Meldrak’s apprentice towards the gates. The Vampire flew through the air leaving a trail of green sparks behind him. He lost his grip of his steed, who went flying backwards through the air. The skeletal steed landed in a crumpled heap, many of its bones being knocked out of place. It got up and began to trot in an ungainly fashion towards its master. The Blood Dragon landed just outside the gates. Two Hammerers rushed to stop him, but he lashed out with his two swords almost faster than the eye could follow. The Hammerers were skilled with their weapons and blocked the first few of the Vampire’s blows, but were far too outmatched. The Vampire decapitated one of them, and chopped an arm from the other, who fell with a grunt. The Blood Dragon ran with awesome speed through the gate and leapt over the Hammerers with surprising agility. He landed in front of King Morgrim and pointed one of his swords at him.
“There is no point closing those gates Dwarf, they won’t stay shut”. The Vampire smiled mockingly. Morgrim growled at the Vampire and hefted his large axe.
“If you’re looking to slay a Dwarf, you’ve come to the wrong place Vampire! Prepare your blades, and I swear by Griminir that you will be a pile of ash before long!”
The Vampire smiled. “I was just about to suggest the same thing.”
The Vampire lashed out at Morgrim with his two blades. Morgrim swayed to avoid one of the blows and parried the other. The runes on the axe gave him incredible strength, and the Vampire’s arm was knocked backwards. Morgrim swung his axe in a wide arc and as the Vampire leapt backwards then lunged forward to attack again, Morgrim quickly reversed his strike to block the Vampire’s return blows. Grimgar watched with horror as his father duelled with the Vampire in the gateway, stopping the Hammerers from closing the gates. The Blood Dragon was an awesome warrior, nearly as powerful as his master in death. However, Morgrim was a Dwarf King, not a beardless whelp, and the fight was not one sided in the slightest. Grimgar rushed down from the walls to watch the duel, praying earnestly to Valaya, Griminir and Grungni that his father would be victorious. All the while the armies of the Undead and Skaven continued to march closer

The Dwarfs defending Kazad Grim were frantic. War machine crew dragged their machines into new positions to account for the breaching of the gates while Thunderers and Crossbowdwarfs loaded weapons and rushed into firing positions. Dwarfs yelled orders and warnings as they organised themselves along the walls and in front of the gate and brought forward the reserves. Kragg Blackfist, the Battle Standard clenched in one meaty fist, led his squad of warriors to the gates, the banner fluttering in the unnatural breeze. The Hammerers ranked up around Grimgar, watching the duel between their King and the Vampire helplessly, and Ironbreakers split up into detachments and spread themselves out along the walls. Kurgrim Ironbeard, Champion of the Ironbreakers, stood on top of the gatehouse, directly above the spot where his King now fought for his life. Dwarfs began yelling encouragement to Morgrim and cursed the Vampire as the two continued to duel. The runes of Morgrim’s axe gave him even more formidable power and speed than he had, and put him on even footing with the inhuman monster he was fighting. The Blood Dragon wore no expression on its face as it dodged blows and attacked with lightning speed, as if it was only doing what came naturally. Morgrim swung his weapon is powerful arcs, spinning the axe around as his completed each swing to allow him to continuously attack while defending himself. The Vampire struck blindingly fast with its two swords, swaying away from and deflecting axe strikes while attacking with the other. Sweat beaded Morgrim’s forehead and matted his beard. He had already been struck by the Blood Dragon twice now, the blows being deflected by his armour. The Blood Dragon got another blow through his defence, Morgrim quickly turning to his side so the blow glanced off a shoulder pad, the runic energies absorbing the force of the blow. Grimgar and the other watching Dwarfs breathed a collective sigh of relief. Though they all knew this stalemate could not continue.

The Vampire reached a new crescendo in its attacks, attacking faster and harder than before and testing Morgrim to his limits. His muscles began to ache. Grimgar continued to watch, horror showing on his face as his father began to slow in his attacks and the Vampire got even faster. The Vampire got another blow through Morgrim’s defence, but this time the armour could not protect him. The Vampire had aimed a prefect stab between his shoulder plates and his breastplate, and his sword buried itself in Morgrim’s flesh. The King let out a cry of pain and fell to the ground, blood gushing from the wound. The Vampire dropped one of his swords and stood over the fallen King who was breathing deeply on the ground, staring up at the Undead with hateful eyes. The Blood Dragon smiled, grasping his sword in both hands. He put one foot on the King’s chest, pinning him down. Grimgar stood transfixed, disbelieving, as did the King’s Hammerers. When their Lord needed them the most, they were unable to protect him. Grimgar whispered under his breath; “Please, Grungni, no!”

Morgrim looked up at the Vampire towered over him, hate and defiance in his eyes. The Vampire savoured his victory, holding his blade over the King’s neck and looked rather amused. King Morgrim knew it was not yet over- the Undead lacked imagination. Morgrim pulled a small but thick blade from a small scabbard on his leg with his wounded arm. With a grunt of pain yet considerable speed, Morgrim slashed the dagger toward the Vampire’s gut. The Blood Dragon reacted quickly knocking the blow away and using the return sweep to sweep the blade from Morgrim’s hands. The distraction was all the time he had needed. When the Vampire looked back to Morgrim’s face, all he saw was amusement. The large axe Morgrim was still holding in his other hand smashed into the Vampire’s head, severing it completely. The Vampire’s head began turning to dust even as it sailed through the air, as did his body. Within seconds all that remained of the Vampire were two piles of ash, one smaller than the other. Grimgar rushed to his father’s side, as did the Hammerers, and the Dwarfs let out a cheer for their victorious King. Grimgar tried to help his bleeding father up, but Morgrim waved him off and got to his feet with minimal assistance. Runemaster Thyron rushed over and looked Morgrim up and down with a slight smile under his beard before hurriedly scooping the Vampire’s remains into a sack and ordering a nearby warrior to take it to the forge and burn it. Morgrim looked out at the Skaven and Undead armies, who were now very close to the walls, and then walked back inside the walls.
“Close the gates Kadrin”. Kadrin Hammerhand and his Hammerers rushed to the gates and pushed them shut. Thyron, Skarl and Gudrak rushed to the gate and began to empower the runes once more. Even with all three of them they would not be able to restore the gate to its former power, but it would buy time. Two Organ Guns were dragged from the artillery line and placed inside the walls, aiming at the gate. Grimgar looked up at the walls for Dagar Blacksmoke.
“Dagar! Get some Thunderers down here!” Dagar beckoned to one of his Thunderer regiments and pointed down to the gate. They nodded and rushed down the steps along the walls and lined up beside the Organ Guns, preparing themselves to fire and receive the inevitable charge when the enemy broke through the gates. Morgrim shrugged off the Priestess of Valaya that was tending to his wounds and ordered the Hammerers to rank up with him. They would hold the enemies when they broke through the gate. Morgrim turned to find his son, who was quickly giving the Organ Gun crew their orders.
“Grimgar! Grimgar my lad!”
“What is it?”
“I need you to…” Morgrim broke into a hacking cough, wincing in pain as he felt his shoulder wound rub against his armour. He cleared his throat before continuing. “I need you to get on the wall. Get up there and make sure we hold. This is our fortress, and if they take the walls or the gates, we will not be able to hold the fortress.
Grimgar nodded and jogged towards the walls, his heavy runic plate clanking as he moved. He climbed the stairs onto the wall and stood next to Kurgrim Ironbeard. Grimgar gave a sharp intake of breath as he saw the armies marching toward Kazad Grim. They were endless. Foul ratmen and Undead as far as the eye could see.
“Quite a wee sight, isn’t it my Lord” Kurgrim said, turning to Grimgar and looking at him through his full gromril helm. Grimgar looked back at him. The words almost wouldn’t come.
“Your father‘ll fine. He be a tough Dwarf. He’ll be fine.” Grimgar nodded.
“Aye. True. He’ll be fine” Kurgrim nodded and looked back at the reeking sea of death coming to claim Kazad Grim.

Meldrak scowled as he watched, and felt, the death of his apprentice. It was unfortunate, but insulting. Very insulting, made more so by the dishonourable fashion of the apprentice’s death. The Dwarf was defeated in the challenge! He should have died! Meldrak’s rage built as it occurred to him that the Dwarf most likely would have won the challenge if the fight had been completely fair. Meldrak turned and looked up at Grey Seer Skritch, who was giggling maniacally as the warpstone he had consumed took effect.
“Skaven!” Skritch, still in his trance looked down at Meldrak with white eyes.
“You’re very small dead thing! Yet…I’m sure I could touch you!” Skritch leaned forward with his arm outstretched as if he thought his arm was 12 feet long.
“How odd. I can’t quite reach…” Skritch leaned forward further. Just as he overbalanced and began to slip off the edge of the Screaming Bell’s platform, he snapped out of his trance and leapt backward, saving himself from a pointless demise. Skritch, breathing heavily, got back to his feet and looked down at Meldrak again.
“You said something?”
“You interfered with the challenge!”
“Just a little frenzy spell. Nothing overpowerful dead-thing. Keep your fangs on!”
“You interfered with the challenge!”
“I heard you the first time. It’s you that has trouble hearing!”
“You interfered. My apprentice’s challenge was none of your concern. If you want to continue your short life, then do not interfere in my business again Skaven!” Skritch sneered. “Very well dead thing. It matters not, your apprentice failed. The gates are closed.”
“We can open them again.”
“We need to get inside now! We can’t scale the walls, we need to get through the gate and overrun them! If what you say about the Elf-things is true, then it is a matter of life or death for us, not them! We have to take the fortress quick-quick!”
“Do not worry Skaven. Our armies are marching. I will lead them into the gate. You will stay here, with Cassius and his apprentices. You will provide magical support.”
“ I wasn’t going anywhere anyway fool-fool! I’ll do my job, just make sure you don’t fail yours dead-thing!” Meldrak’s faced remained impassionate. The time to deal with the Grey Seer would soon come. Meldrak climbed onto his steed and rode towards the gates, which the Skaven and Undead army had almost reached. Meldrak payed no heed to the sound of the Dwarf artillery firing another volley.

Chapter 5

The Thunderers fired again, slaying yet more of their foes. Scores of ratmen were blown squealing from their feet and Undead crumpled noiselessly into piles of bones and rotting corpses, the weak magic sustaining them destroyed by the damage to their bodies. Balls of flames and large stones tore huge holes in the ranks of the armies, crushing and burning alive hundreds of foes. Cannonballs and Bolts tore through the enemy, continuing to wreak a bloody toll on their enemies. Still the numberless hordes marched on. They were now so close to the walls that the artillery was no longer useful. The crews reloaded their weapons and prepared to lay down another volley of fire if the worst happened and the Dwarf lines broke. The Thunderers continued to fire, but as the Skaven put up ladders once more and began climbing, and the Undead began trying to push the gate back open, they put their handguns away and armed themselves for combat. The Dwarfs on the walls began pushing ladders off the walls, sending Skaven screaming to their deaths, but there were over a hundred ladders up at the moment and there were many more waiting to be used. The Skaven began clambering over the walls once more, the Dwarfs slaying scores of them, hacking them apart, crushing their bones to splinters and throwing them from the ladders and walls, but they still came heedless of their casualties.. The Dwarfs fought ferociously, giving no ground and keeping the Skaven from gaining a foothold on the walls. Only a few Dwarfs had fallen, but there were many more Skaven than Dwarfs. The situation was under control for the time being however, and Grimgar rushed back down to help hold the gate. If the gate fell, Kazad Grim may not be far behind.

The Undead beat mindlessly on the gates, causing no damage whatsoever to the powerful gromril. The Hammerers were having no problems holding the gate shut against such weak foes. Skarl, Gudrak and Runemaster Thyron stepped back from the walls, frustrated at their inability to reactivate the runes. Without any other way to help, they each ran off to the walls to help the Dwarfs fighting there. The Undead continued to push and beat the gates, to no avail. Grimgar began to think the Undead would never get in as he watched the Hammerers holding the gate. Then something huge impacted the gate. The gates shook visibly, and many of the Hammerers were knocked backward. They ran forward and pushed against the gate with all their strength, wondering what was now trying to breach the mighty gromril doors. The gates were hit again. And again. And again. The Hammerers began to tire, and the powerful impacts quickened. Kurgrim yelled down to Grimgar.
“Rat Ogres! There must be a score of them!”
Grimgar chewed his beard, and ran forward to help the Hammerers hold the gate, as did Morgrim. Grimgar put his arms on the gate and leaned his weight forward. Nearly four score Hammerers were doing the same. The beating stopped, for a few seconds, then began again with renewed ferocity. "I swear too much" roars of rage and frustration rang out, and the beating grew in power. Grimgar was thrown off the gate numerous times, and many Hammerers were knocked to the ground. The gate opened a few feet, and almost instantly four or five huge clawed arms came through the gap. Some of the arms had huge cleavers and blades instead of hands, and all of them were poxed and hairy. The Rat Ogres pushed the gate open despite the Dwarf’s best efforts, and as the gate was hurled open the Hammerers rushed into ranks with practiced efficiency, Grimgar and Morgrim at their fore. As the Rat Ogres pushed their way through the gap, they looked at the Dwarfs arrayed before them and let out a chorus of barking sounds, presumably laughter. Kragg Blackfist and his warriors scowled. The Hammerers split into two separate groups, with Grimgar and Morgrim each leading one. Grimgar stood next to Kadrik Hammerhand, Kazad Grim’s Gatekeeper. Kadrik looked at Grimgar .
“This should be a good show, shouldn’t it sire.”
“Aye. It better be.”
The Rat Ogres growled as they saw over the Dwarfs heads. Two Organ Guns and at least thirty Thunderers stood aiming their assorted weapons at the Rat Ogres. The Organ Guns fired, as did the Thunderers in a deafening chorus of musical blasts, the explosive discharge of Dwarfen handguns, and the maniacal laughter of some of the Organ Gun crew. The Thunderer’s shots were deadly accurate at such short range, striking hard into the flesh of the Rat Ogres. For the most part no noticeable damage was caused, but here and there a bullet pushed right into a Rat Ogre, dragging a cry of pain from its "I swear too much" throat. The Rat Ogres flinched under the hail of bullets, and three or four fell, but there rest were mostly unscathed. The Organ Gun shots were a different matter. The small explosive shells launched from the Organ Gun exploded when they hit the Rat Ogres, blowing huge chunks of flesh from their muscular frames. Arms and legs were blown off their bodies, heads were destroyed and a huge sprays of arterial blood arced through the air. The Rat Ogres roared in pain and fear as more than half of them were blown apart by the shells. The rest rushed forward in all directions, howling in animal fury. Kragg and his warriors charged to meet them, as did the Hammerers and the many other warriors holding the gate. The Rat Ogres hit the Dwarfs with incredible force, breaking through their shield walls with ease and throwing some into their air. The Rat Ogres roared in anger as they lashed out with their assorted weapons, disembowelling and eviscerating many of the Dwarfen Warriors. The Dwarfs held their ground and struck back, hacking into the thick hides of the Rat Ogres and dragging them down one by one. Kragg pushed the Battle Standard through the throat of one of the Rat Ogres, and began hacking at its legs with his axe. The creature fell gurgling. Kragg pulled the banner from its neck and brought his axe down with his other hand, cutting deep into the Rat Ogre’s head and slaying it. Morgrim swung his runic axe with great power despite his wound, hacking limbs from a Rat Ogre with each sweep of his axe. The last one fighting his Hammerers had its leg cut off below the knee by Morgrim’s axe. It fell bellowing in pain as Morgrim jumped onto it chest and beheaded it. Morgrim picked up the head and threw it at the Undead pushing though the gate, bellowing in adrenaline-induced fury. Grimgar swung his runic hammer with incredible speed, giving the Rat Ogres no time to react before his hammer impacted with their huge bodies, crushing bones and organs. As the last of the Rat Ogres were slain after a quick and bloody fight leaving nearly two score Dwarfs dead, the Hammerers and Warriors once more arranged themselves back into their ranks.

The Undead began pushing through the gate in great numbers, skeletons and zombies shambling through the gate slowly toward the Dwarf’s lines. The Thunderers and Organ Guns fired again, the hail of shells and bullets tearing the Undead apart as they advanced into the barrage. A cloud of splintered bone and rotted blood mixed with the smoke from the Thunderers, creating quite an offensive odour. Huge numbers of the Undead were slaughtered by the shooting, creating large piles of bones and rotted corpses just inside the gate. The remaining Undead, who far outnumbered those who had died, continued to shuffle toward the Dwarfs. The Organ Gun crew and the Thunderers armed themselves and ran to join the combat as the Hammerers and Warriors rushed forward to stem the tide of Undead pushing through the gate, and the second Battle for Kazad Grim began in earnest.

Kurgrim Ironbeard swung his battleaxe in a wide arc, taking the head off a Skaven and burying itself in the ribs of another. Kurgrim lashed out with his mailed fist as he freed his axe, sending another Skaven screeching off the wall. The smashed the handle of his hammer into another Skaven, crushing it’s skull, and reversed his blow to knock another Skaven of it’s feet screeching in pain, blood streaming from it’s crushed chest. Kurgrim took the moment he had to check how the rest of the Dwarfs on the wall were doing. Dwarfs slashed and crushed Skaven all along the wall, slaying them in their dozens and throwing them off their ladders. A Dwarf wrestled with a Clanrat who had gained a foothold on the wall. The superior size and power of the Dwarf won over, and the Dwarf hurled the Skaven bodily over the walls. The Dwarf stooped to pick up his axe, and his eyes widened in surprise and pain as a Skaven hurled a rusty blade through his back. Blood dribbled from the Dwarf’s mouth as he fell to the ground, the chittering Skaven being pulled to the ground with him. Another furious Dawi stepped down hard on the ratman’s skull, smashing it to splinters. The Skaven had probably lost over a thousand troops, yet still they came. Their numbers were showing, and at least forty siege ladders were now on the walls, the defenders too busy fighting to throw them off. No matter how hard the Dwarfs fought, the Skaven were still able to gain a foothold somewhere, dragging Dwarfs away from other ladders to drive them back. Stormvermin were now being used in the attack, their superior size and skill making them more formidable than their lesser kin. They slashed and stabbed at Dwarfs with their halberds with commendable speed and skill, slaying numerous Dwarf warriors. The Dwarfs were just as skilled and tougher however, and some took the halberd in the flesh and killed the ratman holding it. Even the Stormvermin were not powerful enough to overrun the Dwarfen defenders. The Ironbreakers were deployed in contingents of three at each ladder, their awesome skill and armour proving an impossible obstacle for the attacking Skaven. The Dwarfs had lost maybe forty Dawi, but Kurgrim could see things were getting worse. Kurgrim’s thoughts snapped back to staying alive as he heard one of his Ironbreakers calling to him.
“They’ve taken control of the left wall! We’ve got to get down there!”
Kurgrim watched in horror as skeletal hands grasped the ladders on the left wall, pulling themselves up effortlessly with no thought to their own safety. The Wights were far more formidable than the Skaven, and they were able to fight their way through the Dwarfen defenders. The Wights had gained a foothold and were taking a heavy toll on the Dwarf defenders, their blades slicing through flesh with ease. The small amount of Ironbreakers over there were holding their own, defending themselves from the attacks of the Wights and smashing them apart with strong axe and hammer blows. The Dwarf warriors rallied to the Ironbreakers to form small bastions of resistance. The few Longbeards on the walls stood where they were, swinging large two handed weapons and smashing them into their foes with a loud curse and a grumble, not paying much heed to their casualties. Kurgrim rushed down there and begun hacking into the Wights, finding it difficult to hurt their powerful forms but still destroying a few of them. The Dwarfs begun pushing the Wights back with their numbers, and the elite Undead warriors begun falling apart, the magic that bound them to unlife weakening. Kurgrim watched as one of the last Wights lashed out with his blade, slicing the head off of one of the Ironbreakers as if his armour wasn’t even there. The last of the Wights were slain, but the damage had been done. The distraction had given the Skaven just the opportunity they needed, and scores of them were now on the walls with thousands more waiting to follow. Kurgrim roared in exasperation as he ran back to his place above the gatehouse to try and repel the Skaven attackers once more. As impossible as it might seem, by the sounds of things the battle was even more ferocious down at the gate.

Grimgar swung his hammer in great arcs, the Zombies and Skeletons being smashed asunder by the magical powers bound within his weapon. Grimgar struck with such speed that the Skeletons and Zombies didn’t have time to make any reaction but to crumple in a heap. The runes on Dammaz-Grund glowed brightly as Grimgar continue to slay the foul Undead, the weapon greatly enhancing his speed and strength. Kragg Blackfist and King Morgrim also fought relentlessly, slaying more of the Undead than they cared to count but still making no difference to their numbers. Kragg’s warriors looked dreadfully afraid of their unnatural foes, but at the gate to their fortress and under the shadow of their Battle Standard, none of them would consider flight. King Morgrim swung his huge runic axe in huge arcs, reversing the strikes with great speed and slaying three or four of the Undead with each sweep. The Undead were dying in droves, bones and flesh no longer bound into a form lying all over the ground, making it difficult for the Undead to clamber over, though such things were trivial to them. The Hammerers and Longbeards fought ferociously to defend their fortress, smashing apart hundreds of their foes without rest and without a step backward. No great number of Dwarfs had fallen since the attack of the Rat Ogres, and though the Undead had lost hundreds upon hundreds of their number without inflicting any serious casualties, they still kept up the attack without pause. Being Undead, that wouldn’t change Grimgar knew. They would just have to kill enough as to weaken the spell binding them to unlife. Grimgar, Morgrim, and Kragg yelled encouragement their troops lifting their spirits and spurring them onwards.
“Keep it up lads! They might not know fear, but neither do we! They’ll give up before we do! For Kazad Grim!” Grimgar yelled to his Hammerers, followed by the King adding his own cries.:
“Not a step backward boys! Keep smashing them apart, and they’ll fall to pieces like an Elven sword! Victory is life, and there is no other option! Hold the line!” The bellowing of the King and his son greatly heartened the defenders, their voices carrying to the Dwarfs on the walls and helping them to keep fighting. Kragg Blackfist pushed the Battle Standard through the chest of a Skeleton Captain, slaying the creature. Kragg crushed the ribs of the skeleton with his boot and lifted the Standard into the air.
“Plenty more where that came from! Pick up your game beardlings, you haven’t earned your ale yet!”
Hearty jeers and cries met this statement, which had it’s desired effect, lifting the Dwarf’s spirits even higher. The Undead had no hope of breaking through anytime soon.

Grey Seer Skritch watched with delight as his Skaven continued to clamber onto the walls. It was only a matter of time until the fortress of the Dwarf-things was in his paws. Skritch tittered in joy, and took a sniff of warpstone snuff to enhance the experience. Green drool hung from his lips and his eyes were glazed, but Skritch was having more fun now than he had in a long time and wasn’t going to let a little thing like a dangerous warpstone addiction stop him from enjoying it even more. Might as well feed the beast. The Grey Seer was thoroughly enjoying the spectacle as his favourite type of battle- one where he wasn’t involved. Skritch was leaving the spellcasting to the Necromancers. Meldrak had almost reached the gates and was slowly making his way through his huge horde, slashing out with his greatsword to clear a path more quickly. Skritch dearly hoped one of the Dwarf-things would take the Vampire’s head off. Skritch’s joy turned to fright as he looked through his telescope, over the heads of the Dwarfs. Thralgarr Darkblade and his army had exited the sewers, and were in the city. The Marauders and Chaos Warriors were marching toward the back of the Dwarf lines unnoticed, and though they would most likely break the Dwarfen lines once the attacked, the Skaven Sorcerer knew that after the battle, Thralgarr would have no use for him. And being a Skaven, Skritch was not interested in duelling with one such as Thralgarr. All of a sudden, a brilliant idea popped into Skritch’s cunning mind. They Grey Seer chortled as he comprehended his incredible genius. It was foolproof, and it would take care of his only worldly problems in one fell swoop! Skritch took a deep breath and shoved two of his warpstone shards into his mouth and begun to gather his powers. Eyes blazing and fur standing on end with blazing energy, Skritch turned to the Necromancers.
“I help-help your master, yes?” Cassius Moar, the Master Necromancer, nodded his approval and stopped casting spells to watch Skritch’s actions. Skritch sneered, then cast his spell at Meldrak. A green glow enveloped the Vampire, and he was lifted into the air. He was carried right over the walls, over the heads of the surprised Dwarfs, and landed right in front of the Tzeentch Lord. Skritch laughed aloud as he watched the surprised Thralgarr stagger backwards from the Blood Dragon standing in front of him. Meldrak looked around himself, seeing a circle of Chaos warriors and Marauders. Meldrak turned and saw Thralgarr, Meldrak smiled, showing his canines. Finally, a foe truly worth fighting. Meldrak pointed his blade at the Chaos Lord.
“A challenge! Step forward and meet your doom!”
Thralgarr Darkblade, not one to be shown up in front of his troops or under the gaze of his god, stepped forward, dropping his shield and grasping his huge halberd with both hands, preparing to wield it as a great weapon. Magical energies blazed along the weapon, and Meldrak guessed that it was not a weapon, but a magical staff in form of a weapon.
“I accept your challenge. Do not take too long about this, I have things to do and empires to destroy.”
Skritch laughed maniacally as Meldrak swung his huge sword at the Champion of Tzeentch, who blocked it and attacked back with powerful yet incredibly fast swings. Thralgarr was in every respect a foe worth of a Blood Dragon. The Grey Seer fell to his knees atop his Screaming Bell, laughing maniacally. His foes would kill each other! Cassius and his Necromancers, seeing the predicament the Skaven had put their Lord in, turned to Skritch and begun gathering their power to slay him. If Meldrak died, so did they. Skritch turned and smirked at the Necromancers. He had prepared for this. Skritch unleashed a powerful blast of green energy at one of the Necromancers, his warpstone induced powers too much for the spellcaster and obliterating him in a blast of unnatural flame. The other Necromancer summoned a troop of skeletons to aid them, and Cassius unleashed a powerful missile at Skritch. Skritch strained to stop the magical blast, and with sweat drenching his fur, dissipated the spell. The incredible amount of warpstone he had induced made him an unrivalled wizard. Skritch cast Skitterleap on one of his Assassin’s, pulling him through the air and landing him in front of the lesser Necromancer. The surprised Skaven recovered quickly, and guessing what his master wanted he decapitated the Undead spellcaster with a quick sweep of his poisoned blade. Cassius conjured a shield to block the Assassin’s blows, and summoned the magical powers of shadow to drag the Assassin screaming into a hole of darkness that opened up beneath him. Skritch used the distraction to his advantage, gathering all of his power into a huge blast of pestilence, and this time the Master Necromancer could not dispel it. The flesh rotted from his bones in a matter of seconds, leaving a withered skeleton lying on the ground amidst a cloud of green fumes. The summoned skeletons fell apart, and Skritch collapsed with exhaustion and joy. Everything was working. Skritch clambered back to his feet and begun stroking his tail as he tossed up whether he wanted to watch his mighty Skaven claim victory, or watch the death of one of his two rivals. Life truly didn’t get any better, and Skritch muttered his praises to the Horned Rat as he imagined which of the four greater Clans he would buy once the fortress was his.

Chapter 6

Kazad Grim was in chaos. On the walls, Dwarfen warriors, Longbeards, the Runesmiths and Kurgrim’s Ironbreakers fought ferociously against the Skaven, their lines beginning to falter under the weight of so many Skaven swarming the walls. The Skaven had gained a foothold on certain parts of the wall, diverting the attention of the defenders and splitting their forces. The Skaven were fighting like cornered rats to keep their place on the walls, and with their limitless numbers they were almost impossible to dislodge. Still the Dwarfs slew a score of Skaven for every foot of ground they gained. Below there, the Dwarfs holding the gate were beginning to be completely surrounded by the tide of Undead pouring through the gate. The Hammerers, at the fore of the battle, still had not given an inch of ground despite the fearful nature of their foes, and being almost surrounded it seemed certain that every last one of them would fall exactly where he stood. The warriors led by Kragg Blackfist were not in such dire straits, and fought with a grim yet furious intensity to stop their King and his son from being swamped. Morgrim and Grimgar fought like Dwarfs possessed, cleaving through the frail bodies of the Undead with ease and smashing three or four asunder with each powerful blow. The Undead were limitless however, and the Dwarfs were getting tired. They would not hold forever. And in the city itself, overlooking the main battle, a clash of epic proportions between two incredibly powerful beings was taking place.

Meldrak fought furiously, as did his foe. Neither of them were human, and they both had the advantage of incredible strength and resilience. Both had landed blows, but none of those were serious. Meldrak was the more skilled fighter of the two, having perfected his art over centuries of bloodshed. Thralgarr however had his own powers, having fought countless battles over centuries of life himself. Meldrak wielded his blade with more skill than he had ever used, relishing the experience of fighting someone that truly challenged him. Thralgarr had incredible skill and speed, but his pursuit of magical knowledge had taken much of his time, and he was slowly losing the battle. His magical staff, right now in the form of a flaming halberd, left trails of blue flame as it clashed with Meldrak’s great sword and cut through empty air. Thralgarr lashed out with his armoured fist and thrust forward with his halberd simultaneously, Meldrak knocking the hand aside and twisting to avoid the halberd. With incredible agility, he spun around to swing at Thralgarr’s back. Thralgarr thrust his halberd between his back and Meldrak’s blade as he spun himself, deflecting the blow with a speed that made Meldrak laugh with excitement. The Blood Dragon rained a flurry of blows each more powerful and quicker than the last. The Vampire grinned as he attacked, relishing his own skill which had improved immensely in the recent months. He aimed blows at Thralgarr’s head, then others at his feet in the time it would take a skilled mortal to lift a blade. The speed of the blows was too much for Thralgarr, who deflected Meldrak’s blade once more and lost his balance for a heartbeat, more than enough time for Meldrak to aim a killing sweep at his neck with the intent of decapitating him. Thralgarr, unable to block the blow, aimed a blow of his own at Meldrak’s midsection. The Vampire’s blow hit the Chaos Lord’s neck, but just before the blade made contact with his neck a bolt of blue lightning streaked down from the sky to interpose itself between the blade and Tzeentch’s champion as the changer of ways himself intervened. The lightning looked insubstantial but was harder than steel, Meldrak’s blade bouncing back. Thralgarr laughed, a deep sound that seemed the shake the earth. The halberd sheared through the Blood Dragon’s full plate, but did nothing to harm the Vampire as a necklace the Undead creature wore absorbed the energy. Thralgarr sneered and pulled back to strike again, muttering praises to Tzeentch. Meldrak blocked his blow and begun to attack once more, and the duel continued.

Meldrak was angered now, cheated of his victory by his foe’s diabolical patron, and attacked with a speed and fury he had never tapped into. His blade knocked the halberd aside and thrust towards Thralgarr’s heart but was knocked aside by the Chaos Lord’s weapon. The Blood Dragon continued to attack, pushing Thralgarr backward step by step until he was at the edge of the circle of onlookers. Meldrak aimed a punch at Thralgarr and stabbed toward his groin. Thralgarr twisted his head to absorb most of the blow’s power, and knocked Meldrak’s weapon aside with his fist. The Blood Dragon attacked again, too quick for Thralgarr to fully react, slamming his boot into the Chaos Lord’s armoured shin and smashing him in the head with the hilt of his sword. Thralgarr’s helmet was knocked right off his head, revealing an almost handsome and young looking man with blazing blue eyes, long black hair, his strong features covered in blood and dominated by a sneer of hatred and pain below wild eyes. As Thralgarr’s shin was shattered to pieces by Meldrak’s kick, his eyes turned from a light blue to a dark red, and the Chaos Lord roared in pain as he fell to the earth. The ground shook as if it felt his pain. Meldrak laughed as he heard the cries of anger and disbelief from the Chaos followers, and he looked down at the kneeling form of Thralgarr as he tried unsuccessfully to rise. As Meldrak raised his sword to claim a head that would take pride of place in his collection, Thralgarr looked up. The sneer of pain and hatred and the fire in his eyes was gone. His face was blank, and the halberd began to warp into the shape of an ornate staff that crackled with magical energy. Clouds roiled in the sky, and a blast of orange lightning struck the staff, surrounding Thralgarr with orange flames. Meldrak snarled in surprise and took a step backward, wondering what was happening. As Thralgarr, bathed in the magical flames he had summoned, rose to his feet, the sneer and blue eyes returned. He felt no pain from his wounds. His staff morphed into a huge flaming blade, not dissimilar from Meldrak’s own. Meldrak eye’s widened in rage and disbelief.
“Foul sorcerer! What manner of duel is this?” Thralgarr smirked and replied:
“A duel I intend to win.” In answer to Meldrak’s disbelieving face, he continued:
“I am not stupid Vampire. I know magic is not allowed in this challenge. However, I have many great and mighty things I want to accomplish as a mortal, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint mighty Tzeentch by letting a little thing like honour stand in my way.”
“Now prepare to become one with the wind” Thralgarr saluted Meldrak mockingly, then moved to attack. Meldrak, for the first time in his unlife, felt fear. The magic he sensed surrounding his foe was powerful, and it gave his skill and power that not even he possessed. Meldrak looked around at the faces and helms of the amused onlookers, then back at his advancing foe. There was no way he could best his foe in magic. Meldrak cursed the Grey Seer and his Necromancers, and moved to attack. The Blood Dragon attacked furiously, forcing Thralgarr backward as he defended himself. Meldrak got a blow through his guard and struck at a weakened spot in his armour, but was surprised to find his attack deflected by Thralgarr’s armour. The spell even strengthened his armour. Meldrak roared in impotent rage as Thralgarr begun his own attacks, far faster, more powerful and with more skill than before. Meldrak knew he was as good as dead against a magically enhanced foe such as this, but he would be damned if he let this break his own code of honour. He would not fight magic with magic, and he would not run. He would fight and die here as Aborash the ancient would. Thralgarr’s unnatural attacks overwhelmed Meldrak and threw him to ground, weaponless. Meldrak looked up at Thralgarr with nothing but incredible hate in his eyes. Defeat. It tasted bitter. Meldrak heard Elven horns in the background, guessing that the allies of the Dwarfs had arrived to assist them. It was all over.
“You won a foul and hollow victory today Chaos spawn. Foul and hollow!” Thralgarr smiled.
“My dear Vampire. A victory is a victory.”
Thralgarr cut Meldrak’s head from his shoulders, and the body of one of Kazad Grim’s greatest enemies fell to the ground. Meldrak died with the knowledge that he had still never been defeated in a fair duel.

For some reason, the Undead began to fall apart. Slowly, then gathering speed as the Dwarfs began attacking with renewed vigour, the Undead begun to collapse into it’s component bones and piles of flesh. The Wights continued to fight on, pulling no insignificant number of Dwarfen warriors into death with them, but still falling apart after a short time, with a little help from the Dwarfs. The bats that swarmed the sky and the huge ones that fought with Dwarf machine crew began flying off, the larger ones falling apart or being picked off by Thunderers who had drawn their weapons. The Skaven horde, seeing their allies begin to fall apart, started to panic. Some kept attacking furiously, and some ran toward the gate, but when the Hammerers led by Grimgar and Morgrim emerged, followed closely by the Battle Standard Bearer and his warriors, they decided against it. Horns began sounding in the distance, and regiments of glittering spearmen appeared over a hill not too far in the distance, flanked by cavalry and chariots. The Elf general atop his Dragon swooped down from the sky and landed amidst the teeming Skaven horde, ignoring their pitiful attacks and tearing them asunder, sowing terror amongst their ranks.

There was no blood, only a hissing sound as Meldrak’s corpse turned to dust. Thralgarr bent down and scooped the ash into a magical pouch.
“I’m sure I will find a use for all of this…”
Thralgarr donned his helm again, and watching the Dwarfs begin to gain the upper hand over their foes decided against an attack. Thralgarr ordered his disappointed warband to get back to the tunnels. Thralgarr felt no large amount of disappointment. He would have other chances to claim the blood of the Dwarfen leaders, and he had a long time to pursue them. He turned away from the battle and left.

Grimgar Thunderhammer charged out of the gate screaming battle cries, smiting the few Undead in his path with mighty swings of his runic hammer and hurling himself into the Skaven. The Hammerers and the warriors followed, ploughing into the ranks of the Skaven and causing incredible carnage. The surprised ratmen squealed and tried to defend themselves, but very few Dwarfs were struck and none of them fell. The Skaven, already panicked by the Dragon in their midst, the loss of their allies and the Elven army marching toward them, began breaking away from the battle. In a blaze of green energy, Grey Seer Skritch was in the fray, heartening the frightened ratmen and blasting Dwarfs with blasts of magical energy. Runemaster Thyron began battling the Grey Seer for magical supremacy, chanting the Rite of Dispelling and weakening Skritch’s powers. The Grey Seer was far too powerful with the warpstone he had consumed, and was still able to cast a few spells, flaying the flesh from the Dwarfs he blasted in a blaze of green flame. Skritch tried to cast frenzy spells on his troops, and in the few cases Thyron was unable to stop him, the Skaven visibly began to swell in size and froth at the mouth, attacking with unrestrained fury. The Hammerers were far too skilled to be halted by frenzied Skaven however, and led by King Morgrim and Kadrik Hammerhand they continued smashing their way through the furry mass with swings of their great hammers, pulverising bone and crushing organs. Grimgar roared and headed toward the Grey Seer, slaying any Skaven who dared to stand in his way as he approached the brains behind the two greatest attack Kazad Grim had ever endured. King Morgrim bellowed grudges against the Skaven, clearing some of them as he fought, his axe cleaving through flesh, fur and shoddy armour as he led the Hammerers into the thick of the Skaven horde. As Grimgar finally found his way to the Grey Seer, his own roars of promised vengeance were echoed by those of the Dragon.

Things were not good. They were very bad-bad. First of all, he could not even cast all of his spells thanks to the blasted Runesmith on the walls, and second of all his brave Skaven would not be able to hold much longer under the enormous pressure being exerted on them. Skritch looked around, seeing his panicked warriors fighting ferociously, not for victory but for their lives. For every twelve Skaven that fell, a Dwarf was slain, and Skritch was proud of his warriors under the circumstances. The Grey Seer turned and could not restrain from squirting the musk of fear as he saw a furious looking Dwarf Lord standing over him, hammer clenched in his fist. Skritch quickly cast a barrier spell, which blocked the main force of the incredibly quick hammer blow but still hurled him through the air, breaking a few ribs. Skritch threw a blast of energy at the Dwarf Lord, which hit the Dwarf in the chest, knocking him back a few steps but otherwise being dissipated by the runes on his golden gromril armour. Skritch was sure he could slay this Dwarf…but it probably wasn’t wise to risk it. As Grimgar charged forward once more, slaying Skaven barring his path without even slowing his stride, Skritch thought it was time to go. He disappeared in a blaze of green, which arced through the air and far into the distance, placing the Grey Seer well out of harms way for the long trip home. Skritch cursed as he realised he had left his Screaming Bell behind him. He briefly considered going back for it, but it wasn’t necessary. A powerful spell would get the bell back to him later, and that was the only part that mattered. The Dwarfs couldn’t destroy it if they found it, and he would need to find a few of his kin to carry it first anyway. Skritch looked back and watched his army break and run. The Grey Seer cursed and turned, kicking a rock in front of him as he trudged home. It was going to be a long walk.
Grimgar cursed as the Grey Seer escaped, narrowly avoiding his wrath. He lashed out at the Skaven nearby, who looked panicked and terrified. They put up no fight at all as Grimgar smashed them from their feet and hurled them through the air with powerful bone-breaking blows. The Skaven finally gave up. They abandoned the walls, and started running from the fray. The terrified ratmen were pursued a short distance by the vengeful Dwarfs, but Morgrim called off the pursuit before long. The Elf Lord pulled the reins on his Dragon, which flew through the air and begun breathing flame over the routing Skaven. The Elven cavalry also broke off their force to give pursuit, and the Dwarfs watched satisfied knowing no significant number of them would survive. Grimgar turned, and with a cry of joy, raised his hammer to the sky. The King gave voice to the cry, as did over a thousand Dwarfs. The ground shook with the noise, and the sun glinted off Grimgar’s hammer. Victory belonged to Kazad Grim, and after the burials and ceremonies for the dead, the celebrations would not end for a long time. The Elven infantry finally arrived, lining up their force not too far from the walls to await the return of their commander. Kragg Blackfist put a hand to his mouth and shouted to the Elves.
“Too busy hugging trees and sipping wine to rush to the aid of your allies eh?”
The Elves laughed, a high melodious sound, and one of them yelled back.
“Whether we took our time or not, we still got here faster than you would have!”
The Dwarfs jeered, and began trading humorous quips with the Elves for hours, until they decided it was time to honour their dead. The Elves helped the Dwarfs carry their dead into the fortress and bury them. Though the Elves did not realise the honour they were being done by being allowed to bury some of the Dwarfen dead, they were at least happy to help.

Lights from the tavern illuminated the darkness. Noise from inside Kazad Grim could be heard from kilometres away, as the entire Elven force was inside Kazad Grim, and both the Dwarfs and Elves celebrated throughout the entire city. Inside the tavern, Dwarfs and Elves bustled to watch Lord Grimgar arm wrestle the Elf Lord, easily besting him and slamming his arm to the table with a surrounding crack. The Elf Lord was gracious and did not seem to mind he was beaten so easily, or even that it sounded like a lot of his own troops had bet on Grimgar. It was all in good fun. Dwarfs and Elves had drinking contests all over the bar, the Elves being surprisingly immune to most of the effects of alcohol. Still, they felt the effects of Bugman’s strongest vintages, and many an Elf lay unconscious on the ground after challenging a venerable Longbeard. Many beardlings also lay unconscious. The Elves seemed to fit right in, disproving the ideas that they didn’t know how to have fun. Drunken Dwarfs and Elves brawled here and there, one in particular dragging the attention of many of the bar’s patrons from their drinks. Kragg Blackfist, his face flushed red from the huge amounts of ale he had consumed, fought with the Battle Standard Bearer of the Elven force, both their banners in a place of honour over the bar. The Elf had a hand to Kragg’s head, simply holding him back as Kragg swung meaty fists at the Elf, his swings falling far short. The Elves laughed and Dwarfs grumbled, but it was the Dwarfs turn to laugh as Kragg stepped back and spear tackled the Elf, both of the rolling around the bar, knocking chairs out of the way until they both got tired of it. They stood up, brushing themselves off. The Elf dizzily rubbed fresh fist-shaped bruises on his head, and Kragg rubbed similar but much smaller bruises on his own face with one hand, holding his tankard with the other as he headed back to the bar for a refill, bumping into numerous tables on the way. Spirits were high, and the general feeling of festivity in the bar was felt all around. King Morgrim stood up on the bar and yelled trying to get everyone’s attention, which was difficult over the noise. Finally he yelled:
“All hail the Dark Elgi!”
The silence was deafening, as Elves looked up, both confused and angry at the mention of their dark cousins, and the Dwarfs started bemusedly at their King wondering what exactly he had been drinking.
“Don’t take offence to that my fair friends. I swear by my beard that the day I even take a second look at one of your dark kin before punching him in the knackers a Wood Elgi would burn a tree!”
The Elves laughed at this jest at the expense of their wood-dwelling cousins, who they themselves saw as cowardly and foolish. Their mood lightened, and the Dwarfs who realised that their King just wanted their attention did just that.
“We won a mighty victory today my friends. We fought as mighty a horde as I have seen in a long time, and drove them from the walls of this mighty fortress. I understand that you Elgi fought greenskins on the way here, and I thank you for ridding us of more of their foul kind. To my fellow Dwarfs, we have defended out fortress once more thanks to your efforts. There is no Dwarf in the Old World that I would rather fight aside than all of you!”
The Dwarfs and Elves cheered, the noise shaking the tavern. Morgrim beckoned to the Elf general and to his son, Grimgar. Grimgar pulled himself up onto the bar, and the Elf Lord leaped nimbly atop it. Morgrim put his arm around the Elf, who was sitting down so he wasn’t towering above the Dwarfs.
“May the blessing of Griminir, Grungni, and Valaya go with you, and know that the Dwarfs of Kazad Grim swear with you an oath of eternal friendship. We will one day come to your aid, as you came to ours.”
Morgrim turned to Grimgar next, and put his arm around his son.
“Your brave actions saved our hold this day, young Grimgar. You are truly a son I am proud of. Name what you want, and it will be yours lad.”
Grimgar thought for a minute, and looked back to his father.
“I want to give you a good arm wrestle, and I want you to put up a fight for once!” Morgrim laughed and slapped his son on the back.
“You’ve got it lad!”
Dwarfs and Elves begun placing bets furiously as Grimgar and Morgrim made their way to one of the tables in the centre of the room. Runemaster Thyron, still sitting at the bar sipping Troll Brew, handed a few coins to the other Runesmiths, Skarl Stonehelm and Gudrak Blackfist and told them to place his bet, and to bet on the same Dwarf as he is they wanted to win. Kragg Blackfist, already in a brawl with Kurgrim Ironbeard, was also a source of furious betting, as Kadrik Hammerhand, leader of the Hammerers, sat in discussion with the ex-engineer Dagar Blacksmoke on what it would be like to fly a Gyrocopter over Altdorf and drop huge sludge-bombs on the Emperor’s palace. Kazad Grim was back to normal, but this by no means the last challenge it would face.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my tale.

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