Liliedhe: A Question of Perspective
„And what happened next?“
That was the question every storyteller wished for and dreaded at the same time. Normally, Felix Jaeger preferred to write down his stories and thus escape direct interaction with his audience, but sometimes, on occasion, when he and his travelling companion were recognised, he found himself cornered and badgered into telling of their adventures.
And so he sat in front of the fireplace in a tiny tavern at the backend of nowhere, his broken leg – the reason they had hung around long enough to be recognised – propped up on a stool, surrounded by what looked like all the children in a 50 mile radius who hung on his every word. At least the beer was bearable here. Gotrek still grumbled, of course, not just about human brewing skills, but also about brittle human bones and human weakness in general. But – to be brutally honest – Felix didn’t mind the rest one bit. Even if he had to tell the same story again and again.
“And what happened next?”
He forced a smile, took another sip from his beer stein, gazed over his enraptured audience and continued:
“... from inside the cave we heard the monster bellow. Gotrek hefted his axe and yelled a challenge...”
The dwarf sniffed the air. “Never smelled anything like this, manling.” Felix did the same, and couldn’t smell anything – except the sharp tang of excrement and cat urine and that wasn’t different from any of the other about five thousand animal dens they had explored during Gotrek’s search for a worthy doom. So he just shrugged and lit one of their torches, before drawing Karaghul and advancing behind the dwarf into the stinking darkness of the cavern.
The entrance was low enough he had to duck – a problem the slayer didn’t share. Under foot, bones crunched and the ground was moist and slippery. Finally, the corridor widened, and they came into a larger chamber. A small streamlet ran through it and on the other side of it crouched an animal unlike any Felix had ever seen. It resembled a giant cat, but its hide was scaled like a snake’s.
Had some sort of chaos witchery fused a cat and a snake together?
Probably. For a moment, even Gotrek seemed surprised. They had been told to expect a catlike monster, but the locals had failed to mention those bizarre characteristics. They had been very vocal on the fact that the creature was supposedly invulnerable, with axes and arrows simply passing through it without doing any harm. This had been what had prompted the Slayer to seek it out, in the hope of finally finding his doom.
Felix hadn’t been hopeful – if he’d ever be because the end of Gotrek’s search meant his death, and he was still not sure how he felt about this – but of course he had tagged along as he had sworn on that one drunken night so long ago.
“Stay out of this, manling, this is my battle!” the dwarf roared and charged through the water, towards the monster.
With a long suffering sigh, Felix fixed the torch in a nook of the wall, wrapped his cloak around his free arm and went a few steps deeper into the cave, so he would see everything that transpired.
And then he gasped, for Gotrek’s wild charge had carried him past his goal, without ever making contact with the cat. Instead, he almost ran headfirst into the opposite wall, only halting his momentum at the last moment. The dwarf screamed his rage – and then it turned into a scream of pain, as six deep scratches suddenly opened in his bare back.
Felix had seen the thing leap, but from its trajectory had assumed it would miss. Surely it couldn’t have made contact with the dwarf... He couldn’t dwell on it though, for Gotrek once more raised his mighty axe and brought it down on the animal in a stroke brutal enough to cleave it in two. And once again, there was no contact. The creature turned, and began to circle around its prey...
It seemed like this time, the villagers actually had spoken the truth about the thing’s invulnerability. Sure enough, none of the dwarf’s swings managed to do the slightest damage as they passed through the monster’s body. The monster, on the other hand, ignored the slayer’s defenses, scoring bleeding cuts on his chest and arms.
Slowly, but inexorably, the dwarf was driven backwards, towards the slippery stones of the rivulet, where it disappeared into the darkness at the end of the cave.
Felix wanted to charge in, to help, but of course he could not. His job was to record Gotrek’s doom, not prevent it. Still, he moved closer. He just could not understand... He had seen Gotrek fight far faster, deadlier, and more impressive creatures, and they had all fallen to his rune axe... And now...
Now, the end was close. Only a few steps seperated Gotrek from a fall into the darkness... Water spilled around his sturdy boots, making the ground treacherous. Twice, he’d almost fallen, while the monster...
And that was when Felix noticed. The water – it flowed through the creature's legs – but there were some places where it seemed to flow around something. Four obstacles. Like, four paws. BESIDE the monster, not underneath it.
“Gotrek! Strike to your left! That’s where it is!” Felix yelled, while storming forward to prevent the creature from leaving the stream where the footprints gave it away. And then... he slipped. Felix lost his footing, and only just could keep himself from being disemboweled by his own sword. A sharp pain, accompanied by a loud crack, went through his leg and he landed on his face in the cold water, just as the creature’s tormented roar cut through the air, telling him Gotrek had finally figured out the reason of the beast’s invulnerability...
“So, the quest was a success? Gotrek killed it?”
With a sigh, Felix leaned back in his chair and felt a blush of embarrassment creep into his cheeks. After all, while Gotrek had fought for his life and bested another terrible monster, all he himself had managed was to break his leg by slipping on a stone.
“No.” The young man shook his head. “Gotrek killed the creature. But he did not succeed.” A pregnant pause. “The quest was a failure. He still has not found his doom.”