Hi. This is my first ever attempt at actually writing something. The title of the entire story is Plagueborn. This is the first chapter which is meant to set up the entire story, which will be told in 12 total parts(assuming I finish it.)
All feedback is appreciated!
Part 1 “Honor and Fury”
“With great recognition comes great exhaustion, aye Khazmad?” Joked Mhadaz as he double checked his armor and weapons while preparing for the next patrol. Secretly longing for an actual skirmish of some kind, the patrol of this construction site was beginning to bore at Mhadaz and his men more than actually exhaust them.
“That would be Lord Khazmad soldier!” The enthusiastic response by the Lord of which this new hall was being constructed for was an obvious attempt to bolster his crews spirits with a comical approach. The two dwarf warriors have served side by side for many years and knew one another’s mannerisms well enough that they let out a little chuckle soon to be joined by the remaining ten members of the squad. “I will check with Razahk on the progress being made. He’s not the greatest engineer I’ve ever met for nothing, I am sure he will be well ahead of schedule. These patrols can’t take too much more of our time.”
Throughout the entire populace of the Dwarf Kingdoms it was unanimously agreed that Khazmad’s promotion to Lord was very much past due. The construction of his own hall was ordered immediately and he already had a location and all workers picked out. Though strange to most his choice of location was a largely uninhabited section of the Grey Mountains. Khazmad was a dwarf of great vision, seeing this area as a perfect settlement for his people. He felt he and his chosen could settle this area into a new stronghold for his king and his kind.
“Foreman Razahk may I have a word?” As polite as a dwarf could be Khazmad was anxious to get things built as Mhadaz, even if for entirely different reasons as this was the first step in his grand plan of expansion.
“Ah yes! Lord Khazmad! Can you see it!? I can. It is the most beautiful thing in all the world! Golden floors, porcelain pillars, the finest sculpts of our kings, so many possibilities and we are almost there, I just can hardly wait for finalization!” Razahk was about as eccentric as a dwarf comes. His excitement was only matched by his vision backing his industrial design capabilities. To further accentuate his unique persona Razahk barely looked the part of a dwarf. Practically bald with no beard and barely a grey mustache on a pale white face was only the start. More importantly having a very slender build like that of a human when compared with the average dwarf’s stoutness he was clearly not cut out to be a warrior of any kind. This never bothered him nor his family however. The rest of society was also willing to look past it given his long list of contributions from an engineering stand point. Often asked how one so blind can have such great vision Razahk always simply replied, ‘Look on my head! The spectacles my great grandfather invented make me not so blind!’ And this was about as simple an answer anybody ever got from the genius architect that all dwarfs sought when needing something built.
Khazmad, as wouldn’t anybody but Razahk, really had no idea what to think of things. All he could see was a dull cave with plots carved and frames built out of wood. “I am pleased to hear such enthusiasm, what kind of completion schedule are we looking at? Not to rush perfection of course, but any updates would help bolster the morale of the crew I think.”
“Oh, perfection? That will add in the least a months worth of time sir! But it can be done!” Making a trio of circles with his index finger he swirled it into the air and up as high as he could raise his arm looking forward to a new challenge. This was unexpected a reply as any the foreman had proven to give to any of Khazmad’s questions, and most definitely not what he was hoping to hear.
“Calm down friend. Perfection is not a necessity. Just a deadline is all I ask.” A feeble attempt to get Razahk’s mind off perfection and collect his original objective all at once.
“Do not hold me to this because anything can happen in this business. I would venture a guess at double the time so far added to what has been done with nine plus two days added for deliveries, three days at the end for celebration, five more for decoration plans, followed by atleast twelve for artistic reflection, and no more than a day of polishing. Give or take a few and …where was I?” Not a direct answer but Khazmad was smart enough to walk away with this information and formulate his own guess. Waving off Razahk was a signal for him to get back to work while Khazmad walked back to his squad with a somewhat puzzled look.
“I’ll never understand why you chose that loony architect. You look more baffled after a short conversation with him than you do designing the most complex battle plans for any battle we’ve been in together.” Mhadaz spoke up to break the look on his lord’s face and get things moving.
“Ah but you will when things are complete Mhadaz. You will see what he says he sees now which, sounds rather brilliant even if I didn’t understand a word of it!” The squad burst into laughter once more as the ready check ended. “Together now! March!” With the boisterous voice of a leader the warriors began to march into a tunnel leading away from the construction site. Soon to follow, the youngest of the bunch, Birre, begins tapping out a light beat on a small hip side drum and another, Byrdill who looked like he could be Birre’s brother, softly began a melody on a homemade whistle-like instrument.
The entirety of the mountains insides were damp and dark not unlike any other mountain the dwarfs had explored in their lifetimes. The only difference being these tunnels were recently carved out by their crew. The hall itself had received most of the attention so far. The walls had been flattened out and boarded up with wooden support frames to mark out the different sections. Torches hung from ceilings and walls every ten steps completely illuminating the carved out area in the mountain that would be Khazmad’s throne. Plots on the ground marked off everything from where the guards would be stationed to long tables for celebrations to the steps that would be built up to the lord’s seat. The tunnels surrounding the hall however have had little to no attention granted to their looks or functionality having barely any torches for light. The patrol squad carried their own to make up for this lack of being able to see any possible dangers that may pop up in front of them.
It was expected, Khazmad thought of his squad’s boredom. Mere tunnel patrol as guard for a construction crew was not this groups usual task after all. Battle hardened from top to bottom Khazmad, Mhadaz and their men were a force to be feared on the battlefield. The entire group decorated in incredibly appealing ornate armor most dwarfs only dream of working to attain. Other than Khazmad himself the most notable amongst them was Mhadaz, squad leader and second in command to the lord. He was also obviously more seasoned. Not just by his slightly older look and graying hair but his golden armor was decorated with his many achievements in battle. A very large dwarf as well Mhadaz was known for challenging anybody to shows of strength at celebrations, and typically winning so long as he is not beyond a certain level of inebriation. Not much for cosmetics however his wardrobe was probably also the most unclean of the bunch.
Khazmad often admired the look of his personal retinue. As is deserved of someone with his track record they were quite a sight to most. And being the leader Khazmad is the perfect centerpiece. Adored by anybody who has ever met him he is as charismatic as he is cunning and fierce. Much larger than the average dwarf, Khazmad was both greater in structure and a good foot taller than most of his kin. Not quite as aged as Mhadaz but definitely not new to anything one would see on a typical battlefield, the lord in most of the world’s eyes was built to be in battle. Unlike Mhadaz his armor from head to toe was polished and shining with every bit of torch light that could reach it. The décor was very artistic and the amount of battlefield achievements etched out around his breastplate were too many to count. To accompany the sheen of his armor Khazmad was as handsome as a dwarf could be. With long braided dark red hair and neatly kept triple rowed beard barely hiding a rugged face he was often teased by his close friends for keeping such a clean look about him. He would typically joke back saying, “Is it so wrong to look good while leading such an unkempt rabble of brawlers?” or “I like to look good while I smash orcs to pieces!” Typically smashing said orcs with his weapon of choice a legacy war hammer passed to him by his father that has seen even more battles than he has. Almost as long as he is tall the blunt hammer side is as large as an orcs skull. On the other side a blade is jutted out and curved down in a scythe resemblance. Over the years he has learned to control this weapon so well that he can get multiple shots on an enemy in a duel before they even realize there are two sides to the weapon. Which tends to be fatal for his target. Along with this he likes to carry a small combat knife. Usually used for small things like cutting rope or skinning animals that will become food but is always on his belt nonetheless. In addition to the knife he carries a rare pistol. Having developed such a good relation with so many engineers over the years he was offered this weapon as a token of gratitude for saving Razahk’s family from some goblins years past. Reluctant to take such a weapon Khazmad could not be rude and decline so it has been in his possession ever since. When asked about it he usually just claims he forgets its there because its so light and doesn’t mind having it as it matches his armor and makes him look good, again joking around with one of his many friends. Khazmad likes to run his armies with as loose a feel as possible. Among some of the other leaders this was a bit frowned upon but anybody lucky enough to serve under him would later be proud to say so, and besides that, Khazmad’s battle records were too highly appreciated to really be questioning his methods.
Razahk was pacing diligently as he often did on the job site. As long as he could remember he was just never able to stand still, always on the move! Very attentive to details however he noticed a kink in one of the excavation teams digging which immediately caused him to break pace and attend to his duties as foreman and check up on the problem.
As he approached the team he noticed right away the reason they were standing around with their pickaxes doing nothing. Large black stones laced the walls and floors of the pit they had been working on. “We seem to have ran into some trouble Mister Razahk.” Mentioned one of the workers pointing at the stones as Razahk made his way toward them.
“Yes, yes. I do see this. This is bad, real bad. But it could be good too! You know what this is!? Do you? I think I might. Though I could be wrong. No no. I have to be right. Is this Warp Stones!?” The excitement began to build again as he pondered the situations usefulness.
Other than Razahk himself the crew left behind was no more than a work crew with a handful of hired guards. Razahk brought his own men to do work on his vision as he always does. Like the foreman himself none of these dwarfs were warriors, despite being bigger than Razahk and resembling an average dwarf, they were simply a construction crew. In addition to Razahk’s workers Khazmad thought it appropriate to hire some guards with actual battle experience to accompany the crew while Mhadaz and the others made regular patrols to both secure the area and explore further into the mountains and its surroundings. This new frontier could hold any number of surprises that the lord did not want to be caught unprepared for.
With the soft melody from Birre and Byrdill still playing as the patrol reached its fourth of five checkpoints the thought suddenly hit Khazmad. Was it enough? Ten barely seasoned guards and a construction crew was all he was afforded but the question would just repeat itself in his mind. Was it enough? The worry began to grow.
For the first time since coming to the site Mhadaz grows serious as well. “You feel it too Khazmad, don’t you?” Asked the second in command obviously being hit with the same question, was it enough? On top of this the music had stopped and the demeanor of the entire squad matched the two leaders while they all straitened as one and before the command could even be given they picked up the pace back toward camp.
“What could it be Mhadaz? We have patrolled this mountainside for months with not one encounter.” Trying to reason as they quickly made there way through the dark tunnels.
Mhadaz took this opportunity to make a hoping attempt to add wisdom to their feelings and possibly stay the situation from getting out of hand. “Stay calm, we don’t even know for sure anything is wrong.” But he knew this was just wishful thinking. The feeling was not just in their guts now but floating through the air like it was being driven by some magical force.
“I hope you are right. We’re closing in on the first guard station, draw your weapons and lets figure this out!” Commanded the lord as they closed in on the area that two guards were at all times. This was the main tunnel leading to the hall and it was mapped out by Khazmad himself to have at least two of the hired men at this point, about two minutes march to the actual excavation site.
Empty. Silent. This is not good was the cohesive thought of both Khazmad and Mhadaz looking at each other then with their torches would look around the small room. “Leaving their post, those worthless… I will thrash them myself for this!” Despite the harsh words and fierce tone of voice Khazmad’s reasoning behind this statement was more of hope than anything else. Hope that it was merely a couple young dwarfs being reckless and not following orders. The alternative would be so much worse.
Obviously rolling the situation around his scattered brain, foreman Razahk’s attention to detail would not be enough. Distracted by the discovery he didn’t notice the small needle flying through the air aimed directly at his throat. Nobody panicked at first when the foreman began to make odd noises and twitch. Everybody just thought it was Razahk being his usual odd self. When his body made a loud thump on the ground and echoed off the walls of the now silent cave the mood suddenly changed.
Immediately following the death of Razahk the two dwarfs everybody knew was supposed to be on guard in the tunnel came bursting through the main entrance way screaming obscenities none of the others could understand. With the silence broken the panic began. Not ten feet behind the dwarfs came a pack of rat-men that were as disgusting as anything the workers had ever seen. Gripping their pickaxes and looking for a place to run or hide it became evident that they would have no such luck. Swarms of the vermin were coming from every angle. Not just the multiple tunnels they knew of but from underground and even above revealing smaller tunnels that had been there all along only a day from uncovering.
The few warriors tried to make a stand. Drawing their weapons and charging into the mass of rats that had come from the main entrance. What appeared to be the hired guards leader let out a battle cry as the ten men charged suicidal into the overwhelming number of enemies.
Hacking wildly as if this was their first battle the front five dwarfs managed to hit a rat per sword slicing off a couple of tails, beheading one, and grazing the armor of two others. The counterattacking rats were not so inaccurate. The first five seconds saw the death of five of the guards with well placed stabs of poisoned daggers. Four of them would die instantly from the blade wounds while the fifth attempting to dodge the attack would fall in pain from the poison rushing to his heart, fading shortly after.
With only five left the leader shouted once more. “Group on me! Take as many as we can!” He shouted as the five slightly more experienced warriors grouped together to embrace the incoming rats. One by one they cut down the screeching attackers. “Go for the throats!” The leader screamed as rat heads began to pile up around the small force. Numbers would prove the advantage however as the first dwarfs legs are sawed through with a serrated knife from a crouching clanrat. Not allowing himself to scream the dwarf fell to stumps of legs swinging his weapon once more catching the back of his murderer with his own weapon, delivering what he felt was justice as his eyes closed forever. It was not long after the death of the first that each of the remaining warriors suffered a similar fate. Dwarf after dwarf they fell to the quantity of their enemy till the leader was alone. In final desperation he picked up one of his fallen men’s weapons and began swinging wildly, the pursuing attackers seemed to pause all at once trying to find an opening that wasn’t there. Not three seconds later the fury is ended with a single well placed needle from a snipers blow gun still well placed in the shadows.
The work crew showed more poise than most of the actual guards. Forming a line, backs to a wall, the fifteen or so swinging pickaxes managed to fatally wound ten of the vermin before the protection behind them began to cave in and rat assassins cowardly stabbed their poisoned tips into the backs of the unsuspecting dwarfs. All of them screaming in agony as they fell to the ground.
When feint screams hit their ears Khazmad, Mhadaz, and their warriors tightened their grips around their large battle ready weapons. Instantly elevating their speed to a sprint down the last twenty or so yards of tunnel leading into the great hall their worries took fruition.
Razahk was, above all, a great friend to Khazmad; not just a worker, subordinate, or even a respected engineer. Seeing his companions dead all around angered the lord but the lifeless body of one of his closest friends surrounded by dirty rats peeked Khazmad’s rising anger. In all the battles, all the heated situations, all the loss he had been through, this would prove to be the breaking point.
The skaven warband had declared victory for themselves quickly. They began surrounding their leaders without hesitation following the defeat of the dwarfs. The battle itself lasted only minutes and the losses suffered by the rat-men were slim to none as far as their warlord was concerned.
The prize was at hand. The shiny black rocks the dwarfs uncovered had been sought after for many years before by a Grey Seer who had talked his warlord into coercing this raid.
Shoom cared not for most the same things as his kind. He felt himself to be beyond every other rat in the clan, even the Warlord Blham, who technically was the leader of this chaotic band of Skaven. Blham was easily controlled by Shoom however as the Warlord respected the Grey Seer’s abilities so much he allowed himself to be manipulated very easily.
The seer Shoom was relatively unheard of, not just throughout the civilized world as could be expected, but even amongst the Skaven. Despite this he held more power within him than most any in all the underworld. He was biding his time, researching the perfect opportunity for him to show his worth.
Though he was well versed in all things related to plagues and diseases, this was not enough for Shoom. He was fascinated with necromancy. Over the years Shoom convinced Blham that they would rise together if he helped him uncover things that would further his research. Blham had no knowledge of anything as they raided and pillaged for almost a decade unlocking ancient secrets held by many of the other races in the world. Very fascinated with anything to do with the undead hordes they had seen on their raids Shoom began developing his own necromantic magic. Although very much different than anything the world had already seen Shoom stumbled into amalgamations of plague magic and necromancy.
Convinced that the next step in his research involved using a special type of warp stone that he had sensed around a largely uninhabited area of the Grey Mountains and completely confident in his own abilities he began twisting the clan goals once more. It didn’t take long to convince Blham and organize this raid. With the promise of such great power the entire clan joined up for their warlord’s cause.
Now after wiping out the insignificant dwarfs guarding his precious warp stone Shoom begins digging it out himself. One. Two. Small stones were getting a little redundant so he decides to dig out a big one next. Feeling a change in the room he notices more dwarfs have arrived as he finishes pulling out the larger black stone.
None of the other rats notice their foes yet. The time to shine is nigh, the dominant thought in Shooms conniving brain as his disgusting face slyly formulates the biggest grin to ever invade the facial features of a rat in the history of the world.
Khazmad’s furious gaze slowly leaves his friends body and fixates on his prey. The two more dominant figures that he assumed were the leaders of this atrocious band of murderers. Though none of the others had noticed his presence one of the vermin seemed to be smiling at him causing the rage to explode inside the dwarf lord.
“You mock me murderer!?” is the last thing a full line of thirty clanrats hear as the furious Khazmad followed by his equally enraged squad swing their devastating weapons into the crowd of rats. Khazmad himself crushing five in a horizontal swing of his giant hammer slamming the frail rat-men into a wall obliterating bone and all. The skaven raid party was terrified at this display of raw power. The front lines were fleeing right away while others were caught up in the confusion and were being trampled by their peers. Some attempted bravery and launched themselves at the new enemy only to be crushed or sliced by the berserk but controlled attacks of Khazmad and his warriors.
The dwarf lord steadfastly strode toward the one he believed to have smirked at him. Wading through rat body parts as he swung his trusted weapon with accuracy and strength unmatched, the blood was so thick it began to deepen all around the advancing party till they were splashing it under their boots during their advance. Two rat-men took but one attack from the warriors. Three or four at a time for Khazmad slicing through the weak armor, flesh, hair, bones, and all with his great power becomes a reaction.
In the mass confusion Warlord Blham was squealing with desperation. Any type of control he ever had on his clan was vacant as the berserk enemy slowly made their way to his position. Pleading with his companion Shoom, the warlord begged for him to use a spell, set a trap, do anything at all.
Still smirking under his boney mask that covered the top half of his face in attempt to instill fear in his enemies Shoom was paying very little attention to Blham’s cries. He was much too intrigued by the power on demonstration. Such power, he thought, would be a wonderful weapon in his control. His need for the pathetic warlord and weak clan was over. Its time to unleash his power. At this thought he advised Blham to sound the all out retreat.
Before he could even finish his thought he noticed that the warlord was already squealing wildly and the entirety of the skaven force was fleeing down every tunnel in sight. “Stick around cowards. You will want to see this!”
The body count of the skaven was now well into the hundreds. Half the clan was dead in a trail from the entrance of the hall to where the angry dwarfs were still slaughtering them. Khazmad brings his hammer down on another helpless victim’s skull first until the follow through shattering the entire form of the vermin into a state that was completely unrecognizable.
Compared to a mere ten minutes earlier Khazmad himself has become just as unrecognizable as most of his targets. The once shining figure was now covered from head to toe in rat guts. There was no sheen, the etchings of victory on his armor had been filled with blood, his once neatly kept hair was knotted up in a mess, this was not the Khazmad that any dwarf would recognize.
The dwarfs stuttered in their advance noticing that their foe was fleeing at the annoyingly awkward sounds and gestures of one of the leaders. Escape was not something Khazmad was prepared to allow.
“You dirty cowards stand in fight!” Attempting to entice the fearful rats into staying Khazmad began a trot toward his real target, the still smirking leader in the cruddy mask. “You will die today!” Screamed Khazmad still moving forward pointing his weapon at the seer.
Seeing his opportunity after the idle threat from the head dwarf Shoom shot his hand open hands in the air letting the stones fall. They would not hit the ground however. Afloat the stones began to glow brightly with a green swirling energy circling them. After a few seconds of intense concentration Shoom took a deep breath opened his green glowing eyes and let out a shriek that would seem to echo through the entire mountain as he exhaled into the floating stones. Within seconds the astounding energy shook the cave causing several small avalanches closing off tunnels and crushing some of the fleeing rats as it projected itself into the advancing dwarfs.
The furious figures below were stopped dead in their tracks. Like statues Khazmad and his warriors were frozen in place. Warlord Bhlam was overjoyed. Practically jumping out of his skin with glee he danced around thanking Shoom. The entire cave was relieved. The clanrats began to calm down and gather around their once unapproachable foes.
Unable to move Khazmad’s anger was still unsettled. All he could think of was ripping this enemy apart in hundreds of ways. Eyes still peered directly at his prey.
Khazmad’s determination will overcome this spell and justice will be served! Was the thought of Mhadaz and his men.
With this thought the smile on the spell’s caster fades.