This started as a HOES story for celebration. Lord Stranford, of HOES "Patience" competition from the last summer, was stuck in a sword fight. It was just prep for a HOES theme, before "Celebration" was stated and a roadblock pushed the Dwarves up.
This ended up being an evolution. It started as fleshing out my Grail Knight, a story of his youth. Then it morphed into a AoS story, I had made it through the AoS fluff that had been posted for those of us who were still wondering what it was, and I came away with something like small pocket dimensions held together by mystical gates. Perfect for the 'flatlanders' out there, as each world has definitive edges and the only way to another world was through a gate. Then each world seems to be a conglomeration of "The World Destroyed" civilizations getting thrown together, and you have pockets of civilizations intermixed with others....then each ruled by one of the gods of Sigmar's alliance.
Plucky and a neat read, don't know how accurate, I'll go buy the book so I have a fluff reference. I'm old, so a physical book is preferable to electric media. A book doesn't change when the power goes out.
So Stranford's shadowy opponent began to take shape;
The glaive this skaven wields is not rusty, chipped, or soiled with the blood of the fallen. His armor is a style unfamiliar to you, seemingly built of some lacquered wood, leather, and more traditional metal plates, looks as if it is new. Its buckles catching the sun and glittering in the light. His shield, now rent, lays discarded a short distance away, but it was only by virtue of a lucky blow you were able to force this rat to abandon it. Arrogance on your part allowed your opponent to quickly retreat to his mount to retrieve the odd glaive he now wields, and though your skill with a blade was greater than his, the polearm rests easier in his hands than the blade he first branded.
Arrogance indeed. You gave pause to let the rat slink away, not retrieve another weapon, though honor did dictate that as well. You simply did not expect the encounter to continue. A single skaven was not a threat to the average peasant, let alone a knight of your stature. This specimen, however, you would not categorize in such a fashion. Especially now. The glaive darts in and out like a hummingbird, uncommonly fast for such a weapon. When the skaven first branded the polearm, it was a struggle not to laugh, as you know polearms are only effective en masse as when wielded by the peasant levies. Not by a single warrior in a duel. Except here you stand, ensconced behind your heater shield, the earlier success you had facing sword and shield has faded with arrival of this odd glaive.
The piece opens with Stranford's view and opinion of Skaven, and they continue to spar, until Stranford gains a bit of respect for this stranger;
As you face off, circling each other, the skaven speaks first. You are surprised at the cultured tone, even though his accent marks him from further than even you have traveled. His question breaks the stalemate that has developed between you.
“Is it your intention for us to expire from exhaustion rather than our blades? Or am I expected to fall after getting dizzy from watching you try and get behind me?”
“You are far more skilled than any Skaven I have faced before.”
Your opponent tilts his head inquisitively as he contemplates his answer. “How odd, as I am no Skaven. I am Wu Xia.”
“Oo-zee-ah?” You attempt to pronounce the foreign word.
The Wu Xia is a troop type pulled from the fan written Warhammer:Cathay army book by Mathias Eliasson (sounds like a good Norwegian boy). The circling is a comment on the sword and shield fighting that I play (and more often watch) in the Heavy Fighter practices at our local Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) fighter practice. My original intent was, as I do not speak any form of Chinese, to have the Skaven consider himself as his troop type, and accept 'Skaven' as his described race since he decides that 'Rat-Man' or Shu Ren, a horrid oversimplification on my part (and just one set of translations), isn't appropriate. His character trait was to simply categorize anyone from outside Cathay to be simple barbarians incapable of speaking a proper language.
The easy way out. Thus he accepts being called a Skaven, even if he isn't one. By the time of his encounter with Stranford, he has faced several of the Old World black rats and knows what they are. To their dismay.
Storywise, he was out questing - it's what Wu Xia do, and of course, as fate would have it, stumbles across a Questing Knight. How...apropos.
This has now expanded to adding a bit more background to the Brown Rats of Cathay - which in real world terms are the bubonic plague rats of the Dark Ages, that came across the Silk Road. Now my wife has a Skaven army, and though she'd like them to be a bit brighter, she does enjoy her Skaven/Undead army with her Corpse Carts labed "The Chuck Wagon". She picked the army when Isle of Blood was purchased for the kids. They ignored the Skaven, and we kept a rat colony at the time. Voila! Wife takes the Skaven. So we enjoy the difference between the small black European rats that were overrun by the larger, stronger, brown Asian rats once they were introduced to the West.
A fun fact for you - male rats rarely leave the nest. They prefer to sit around and wait for a female who sits still long enough to do "The Deed". The females are the rats you usually see out and about foraging. If you want a pet rat to cuddle with, get a male. The females will want to explore and it takes about 20 minuets for them to tire out long enough to want to snuggle for a bit; we've always kept female colonies.
So for the story, our Wu Xia isn't alone. He has his females with him, and what may be a stretch, they sort of fall into a lion pride mentality - females gather, the male protects. The four eastern Skaven and their foundling Questing Knight. But I can't see the family of four, and their magic riding war-toad, not wanting to differentiate themselves from the common Skaven...but I can't find a single DANG RAT STORY OTHER THAN THE FRIGGIN' ZODIAC ORDER STORY or the sneaky rat beating the ox after getting carried all the way. Where are the were-rats of Chinese mythos?
Ok. No anthropomorphic rats in China, huh? What about Japan? EVERYTHING has a magic spirit in Shintoism, everything can be a demon of some type. Demons are anything supernatural, not necessarily demonic in a western sense. But again, I can't find any stories beyond a few creation myths and like my Shu Ren, I don't like calling these four Rat Kami (rat spirit).