There were no such things as Skaven. Everyone knew that.
Everyone, of course, except for the rat men themselves. A fact that continue to impress itself upon the unfortunate swordsman Friedrich Montague Von Stratholm. He lay bound upon a thick slab of black-green warpstone, in a massive amphitheater lined with grotesque creatures ripped from the worst nightmares of the deranged.
Hundreds if not thousands huge rats with the arms of ogres and far too many legs stood taller than a hippogryph, smacking their chops and pressing against the tight bars of their enchanted cells of stone and bone. Their cells were bound shut with foul magics, each of them locked in place with a single warp-stone foci hovering above the room. The floating stone bathed the whole space in an eery green luminescence.
The wholly impossible beast before him ignored his piteous moans, shoving the wadding further into his throat and binding it in place with a thick leather thong, “Shut up you disgusting creature.”
“I despise you.” It chittered, mousy whiskers flailing in spite, “You are small, petty and weak. As a species you are violent, as a race you are short-sighted, as a people you are arrogant, and as a nation you are cruel. But none of those are why I hate you. No, you deserve to be hated for an altogether more basic reason.”
It grabbed the bound swordsman with it's taloned hand, reveling in the act of slicing his flesh, “You do not belong.” Friedrich winced as the vermin prodded his bloodied chest with a gnarled claw.
“You are disgusting excuses for man-flesh, strutting about the land which is ours, prancing in the sunlight as though it were yours.” It spat into Friedrich's face, “It is not. It is the domain of the Horned Rat, and will be his glorious paradise when the Skaven finally unite as one people to crush those who do not belong.”
Friedrich struggled with the tight ropes binding his wrists behind his back, fumbling with his sleeves for the blade he knew to be hidden in its folds as the rat-man continued it's annoyed pontification, “We were born of Kavzar upon the husks of your dead and screaming, you are the fuel to our glory. The children of the blessed stones, we are gifted in ways you cannot imagine. We are perfect in ways of which you cannot understand.”
“We laugh at your arrogant denial of our existence. We have sacked your cities, taken your women, enslaved your children and gorged ourselves upon man-flesh and still the best and cleverest of your leaders think us nothing more than legends and whispers.” The rat man indulged in a brief moment of laughter, “I have more slaves in my palace than there are citizens in the Empire and yet you still deny our existence.”
“We slip into your cities and homes at night, culling those whom we please.” Friedrich resisted the urge to smile as his fingers touched the hilt of the dagger in his sleeve, pulling it out slowly so as not to alert his verminous captor. “Surgeons purging this world of your cancerous race, we have sacked cities with disease faster than you could crush with even your most potent of magics.”
Friedrich sawed at the ropes with his blade, balancing the urgency of his need to escape with the equal need for secrecy. The blood soaked rag in his lips made him gag as he bit down on it, the taste of a previous victim fresh on his lips.
The vermin busied himself with a table laden with the tools and augurs of sorcery, taking handfuls of curious herbs and oils and combining them with pinches of shimmering warp-stone dust. Odd and ominous plumes of smoke and flame twisted about the creature's fingers as it worked, hissing and chittering in apparent enjoyment, “I do grant you that you will last longer than any Skaven slave would for my experiments. Humans are well suited to receive pain.”
It laughed at it's own joke as it chittered, “I suppose your gods destined you to suffer. They had at least some wisdom in making you.”
The ropes around Friedrich's wrists gave way behind him, freeing his arms. He dared not unbind his legs, not while the curved scimitar of the rat man was between him and his blade. But the rat would die, just as soon as it got within reach of him.
The rat man approached him slowly, holding a bowl of evil looking brew in both hands. The rat scuttled closer and closer, beat by beat, second by second. Friedrich did not move till the last instant, swiping out with his blade as the rat-man reached to untie the leather thong about his neck.
The creature howled in fury as the blade sank into it's chest, burying to the hilt in where it's heart should have been. Where the heart would have been on any man, but it was not a man. The creature hissed like a scalded cat, scampering backwards as it pressed its hand across seeping black blood. It grabbed a handful of warp-stone dust, spreading it across the cut and binding it shut in an instant.
The rat-ogres crowed in hunger and desperation at the blood in the air, worked into a frenzy in their apparent starvation. The rat-man brandished his scimitar at the still immobile swordsman, sneering at the six inch blade held in the warrior's fingertips. “You pathetic little waste of man-flesh.”
Friedrich cut the gag from his face, ripping the foul rags from his mouth and wretching as he replied. “I will defeat you, the Empire will defeat you, mankind will crush the Skaven beneath our boots.”
“Human, you cannot even hope to live though the day,” The rat-man sliced a rope on the wall, releasing a heavy stone attached to a huge bell. The room echoed with the thunderous clangs of the bell, sounding an alarm to the surrounding under-city. “My guards will be here in moments and slaughter you.”
Friedrich's lip curled in disgust.
“You are pathetic, human,” Hissed the vermin, “Do you know why your species yet lives? Why you have the luxury of breath? Because we are not united. The only thing that can destroy the Skaven is ourselves. Resist in any way and you will die horribly. ”
“Yes,” Friedrich replied, the fatalistic Imperial sense of humor coloring his voice as he tossed his blade. It was a humble weapon but it flew true, sailing up into the air as it rocketed towards the wide piece of warp-stone hovering in the air. The rat-man's eyes bulged in horror as the enchanted stone shattered, freeing the hordes of mad and starved beasts. “But I do not take the trip alone.”