I give you this train-wreck of a rework in progress. I do not know when I will update this as I'm currently hip-deep in several projects. This is to be one of two long-winded stories I am editing off and on as time allows (the other being "For the Emperor
"). Don't expect anything soon after this first batch. I won't be able to get back to the story for a month or more depending on my other projects. That being said, I leave you with this meander down the path of madness....
Good luck and good gaming,
What follows is the tale of a clinically insane necromancer. The names have been changed to protect the innocent...or they would have had the budget not seen recent cuts. As such, the names haven't been changed and the innocent are up the same stinky, shit-filled creek as the rest of us so they better pull their own weight and learn how to paddle with their damned hands...
To whom it may concern:
If you have found this book and are reading it, know that you are now forever damned for your folly. You should have stopped when you noticed the cover was made from the skin of a blight-ridden skaven with a terrible batch of the Tilean Pox. If you didn’t notice the cover was made from the skin of a blight-ridden skaven with a terrible batch of the Tilean Pox, where in Sigmar’s name have you been? Surely even the most dullest of dullards can recognize skaven-skin bindings? And Tilean Pox!? Yes...Tilean Pox! We live in an age of wanton, hedonistic perversions so a disease spread by the masses of you filthy, orgy-loving heathens should be recognized in an instant! I swear, one day the holy templars of Sigmar will strike you down for your perverted ways! HAIL SIGMAR AND HAIL HIS CLOISTERED, HOLY, DRESS-WEARING WARRIORS OF VIRTUE! …dirty, filthy perverts…
Now to the meat of it. Should you have pilfered this tome of inane babbling ( I so prefer that to calling it ‘my life‘s work‘…given that my chosen field is necromancy, ‘life‘ rarely factors into my dealings), shame on you. The painful feeling you are undoubtedly noticing upon reading these words will be your gnadgy bits shrinking to the size of peas. You deserved it, you damnedable thief! No whinging, crying or begging! Accept this punishment knowing you brought it on yourself!
Should said robber of personal goods lack gnadgy bits (or have gnadgy bits and are stupid enough to think I‘ll reverse the curse…more fool you…), please return it to the address scribbled below in person for a reward; a thoroughly painful death punctuated by years (or weeks depending on the time of the year, factoring in heat, humidity and ever-present malnourished mongrels that seem to always use my playthings as a chew toy) of undying servitude to me and me alone as part of my harem (by harem, I should say, my ever-growing collection of palanquin bearers…never underestimate the power(ful stench) of a recently passed lady.)!
If you have received this manuscript due to an error on my part (alas, sometimes the centuries do have a certain tendency to make a man forget on occasion), be it left behind, lost and/or forgotten, please return it to the scribbled addre…wait… Just read above. I’ll do my best to restore any damage done to your personage should the returner of my property show proof of no wrong-doing on their part. However, I’m not responsible in any form or fashion should I inadvertently curse you into death given my rather paranoid nature…or lie. I am, after all, a necromancer.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Eric von Vandersnoot
Blackheart Lane (it should be easy to find, being one of the few streets not having a ‘Germanish’ …err… ‘Empirish‘…yes, ‘Empirish’ sounding name. If you can’t find it, ask the butcher on the corner. He’s always been good at sorting directions. Oh, if he‘s not in, just find the smithy, go down the street, take a right at the tavern with the sign of a gryphon morally abusing a pegasus ((aptly named “The Eventful Night")), take five paces down the dark alleyway and you should find my humble abode somewhere between the midden heap and a pile of dung)
Altdorf, The Empire
In the Land of Nagash
Eric von Vandersnoot, master of the black art of necromancy, lord of the undead and pilferer of pretty smelling things (more on that later), picked at his tattooed, scabrous head absent-mindedly; searching in vain for his travel bag. The sun slowly slid across an ever-brightening horizon in a brazen attempt to broil the life out of what few idiotic creatures of nature deemed to call such a horrid place home. Peaking out from under what the camp’s provisioner had laughing called a tent where he‘d spent the previous night tossing and turning on a bed of flea-filled sand, he greeted the dawn with a loud belch and the sound of passing air from a less desirable orifice. The old necromancer found, much to his annoyance, that his surroundings were still unchanged as sleep-filled eyes swept across the camp; nothing more than miles and miles of drab sandy-colored sand.
“A curse on any fool who thinks this place is anything less than a daemon-filled hell wrought by the overactive mind of a petulant god-child with a sweat fetish” he muttered to himself, eyeing a fly stupid enough to buzz into his small space of solitude.
The thought of cursing brought back fond memories of happier times when von Vandersnoot‘s overactive (some would say insane…not to his face, mind) exuberance when it came to certain darker magics had put quite a damper on some fool‘s day.
“So many curses, so few centuries” he murmured in passing, blasting the annoying fly out of the air with a casual word. “Serves you right, you little biting blaggard!”
Though punctuated on occasion by small, hardy green plants covered with thorns (which hurt immensely if mishandled; a fact he‘d discovered much to the displeasure of his cadaverous fingers), it was still the same dreary, boring landscape from yesterday. Goblins, an ogre, a blasted slayer (who, just between you and me, gave him the creeping willies), some elves, a smattering of humans and various others all hustled about the mercenary camp waiting for the journey to start. Having found himself amongst the bustling band of ne’r do wells, Eric couldn’t for the life of himself think of why and what he was doing here.
“Well, that’s not quite true“, he chided, his foggy mind catching up with the rest of him.
He was trying to keep one step ahead of the damnedable witch hunters who seemed to think that necromancy wasn’t the best way for a swinging bachelor like himself to wile away the hours of his abnormally long lifespan. Of course, Eric knew the best way to keep his personal life (and personage) safe and out from under the nose of those silly, goody-two-shoes was to throw his life into peril; stomping off into the hot desert in search of adventure (along with some gold and a modicum of privacy). He did note that the quest for some time to himself, for all intents and purposes, was a fool‘s errand. The base was filled with noisome scalawags who gladly tromped around day and night acting as though they were professionals, deaf to the curses spewed from his cracked, scabrous lips warning them that if they didn‘t keep the noise down they‘d wake to find themselves in several (and very inventive) forms of post mortem. Von Vandersnoot sighed and looked to his staff.
"Well?!" he shouted to the staff, gesturing wildly with his free hand to encompass those wandering nearby lost in their bovine-esque little worlds and the dolefully boring miles of sand, "Do you two have anything to say about this?"
The heads began cursing him in orcish and elvish at the sound of his voice. Neither really cared for him and Eric knew that. It didn‘t stop him from conversing with the chattering duo. He had discovered, more often that not, a necromancer was few on companions to chat with and long on those who‘d like to see him pushing up daisies. At the thought of daisies, hiss mind wandered off track for a few moments.
“Daisies. What an utterly horrid flower.“ he cried, looking once again to the staff’s headpieces. “Honestly, who in their right mind likes daisies? They’re absolutely wretched! Stupid little yellow…”
Curses came in return, causing more than one of the gathered mercenaries to stop what they were doing to gawk at the insane necromancer. “What’re you lot looking at?” he snarled. “Daisies lovers are you? Well sod off you daft ninnies! I’ve got no time nor inclination to put up with likes of you, you dirty, heathen flower lovers!”
Realizing he’d slipped once again, von Vandersnoot slapped his forehead in disgust, yielding a surprised yelp of pain.
“Ack! Blasted hand hurts! Stupid bony hands… Must stay on track!”
As if suddenly remembering what had passed before his meandering mind had taken over, the necromancer returned once again to the topic of the hour. "Now, where was I? Oh yes, the two of you were waxing poetically about our new surroundings. Hmm, come to think of it, I thought the two of you would say that” said von Vandersnoot, nodding sagely as he eyed his fellow ‘adventurers‘ with a glimmer of mischievous malice, “but I agree. These should do nicely. Loverly little play things..."
The sound of raised voices caught the necromancer’s attention. It seemed he wasn’t the only person (a term used loosely given the varied gathering) unhappy with the lack of progress on the part of their esteemed leader, a man simply referred to as Jonathan. He wondered if the burly commander of this little venture had a last name.
“A name is an important thing to have, first, middle and last“ Eric said solemnly to the staff. “Can‘t trust a man with only one name. Nope. One name leads a man to think that someone is hiding something. Aye…hiding something, indeed. Probably a bloody closet Taal worshipper. Luck…pfft. Only a fool follows that path! The two of you should remember that nugget of wisdom.”
His lesson over, Von Vandersnoot turned back to watch as the group of hired Bretonnians gesticulated wildly, punctuating each poorly spoken word with a stab of their hands. Neither side seemed to be making anything that looked remotely like an improvement to their current situation. The necromancer found it an amusing diversion. Of course, given that they’d spent so many days preparing for the march, anything not related to sand, parasitic bloodsuckers or the heat could be considered amusing. The argument came to a head, with the Bretonnians losing their tempers. Having had enough, Jonathan snorted loudly, commenting that they’d be leaving soon enough, ending further discourse by wandering away to leave the silly fops to stew in their own vitrol.
Turning to Jonathan, Eric hooted loudly, "Well...the heads say they're alright with that!"
The staff, seemingly in disagreement, began to chatter again, causing the necromancer to chatter right back. As he bandied words back and forth with his constant companion, a vampire strode up to him. The creature gave him a wide grin, making sure his fangs shown prominently over his bluish lips. Though engaged, it was something not totally missed by von Vandersnoot. Having made his presence known, the creature of the night made to leave, doing so in a huff at the fact he hadn’t bent over backwards in amazement. Von Vandersnoot stopped arguing with his staff long enough to note the vampire had wandered off. His flashy smile hadn't been all that impressive, truth be told. Eric had seen his fair share of blood-suckers.
"Not all of them vampires" he thought to himself with a chuckle.
As the day progressed, Eric found that the desert was as miserable as he expected it to be (something, ironically enough he had come to expect the day before). He sighed, flicking yet another sand flea off his arm. He sent it in the general direction of the slayer.
“Holy name of Sigmar, does that dwarf stink.” thought von Vandersnoot.
So much so that the necromancer didn't feel quite so self-conscious about his own reek. That in itself said something. It took something truly filthy to beat the stench of a necromancer. He idly wondered if that's why the dwarves were always calling on Grungi (or was it Grugni…it honestly didn‘t matter as he thought about it. Why bother arguing semantics over the spelling of Dwarven deities‘ names?).
"Must be the dwarven god of hygiene", he muttered to no one in particular. Bringing his pomander up to his nose, he took a deep breath of the citrus-scent held within and sighed.
He let the pomander fall back to his chest where it lay beside the holy hammer sigil of Sigmar and wandered off to find a spot of shade. He found himself drawn to the sound of a high pitched and poorly spoken squeal as he searched in vain for some place to escape the brain-frying heat. Thinking the Bretonnians had come back for round two, he staggered in the general direction of the noise. He watched with growing amusement as one of the goblins began to shout and was then promptly stepped on by the vampire he‘d snuffed earlier. He laughed out loud, stirring the chattering skulls back into their diatribe. He nodded sagely and said, "Yes, yes, I agree, I agree. The little green blighter would make for an interesting foot stool if it weren't for the blasted keening. I'd have to stitch his lips shut once I resurrected him lest I have to put up with his constant blathering like I do with you two. Which reminds me, who's turn is it to play back scratcher? I swear to Sigmar if these blasted fleas don't get me the flies will!"
The skulls continued on, cursing Eric. "Ahh…a wonderful idea! I shall fix this problem now!" Swirling his staff over his head with a flourish, von Vandersnoot began chanting in the dark tongue used by necromancers. Bolts of black lightning began arcing off his body, startling everyone in close proximity. On finishing the chant, he let out a high-pitched ululating cry of "DIE!" The sand around him vitrified, the dark magics he released making contact with the ground.
"Success!" he cried gleefully, looking on at the dead sand flea and fly corpses littering the earth around him.
"Take that you little biting bastards! Hehehehehe!" he roared, shaking his gaunt fist to the heavens in vindication.
A thought came to him. Bringing his staff around so that it was face to face with him, Eric whispered conspiratorially to the skulls with all the barely constrained joy of a naughty child about to do something very wrong.
"Do you think I can bring them back?" he squeaked quietly with an insane cackle. Putting a finger to his lips like he was sealing a secret, he giggled.
"Let's find out!"
Von Vandersnoot’s hands wove in intricate, arcane patterns as set forth in the blighted tomes of Nagash above the little dead annoyances, his voice raising in chant once again.
"Why haven't I thought of this before? Heheheheh!" He watched as the insect bodies began to stir.
"RISE MY MINIONS!"
Unexpectedly the sand around him exploded in plumes as the skeletons of long dead explorers rose up to greet their new master. The camp was thrown into disarray as the mouldering bones appeared from no where. Men, women, vampires and the funky slayer stomped into action, only to be stopped dead in their tracks by Eric's screams of dismay.
"NO NO NO! Damn it, you're stepping on my minions." he screamed to the newly risen dead.
Muttering, he looked to the chortling skulls on his staff. "Shut up you two, or it‘ll be you next!" he cried, his heart broken. With the snap of his fingers, the skeletons fell to ground once again in a loud clatter. "Morr's teeth. Now I have to find other fleas and flies to kill." With an exasperated sigh, von Vandersnoot began his search for more minions...
The day passed in relative uneventfulness. Eric raised his head from his exhaustive hunt, brushing the fine sand from his meticulously clean (for a necromancer, mind you) robes. Standing on what looked to be an ale cask, their leader Jonathan was making a speech. It seemed that the row with the Bretonnians in front of the whole camp had done some good. The mercenary waffled on and on, his bored, droning voice alerting the gathered adventurers that they would be breaking up the aforementioned camp the next morning after breakfast and leaving, something von Vandersnoot could not wait to see even if it did entail abandoning his search.
Well that settles it, he thought dejectedly. Now I'll never get to raise my undead hordes.
It had shown so much promise too. He never liked leaving a job half done. One had but to ask any of the fools who had been on the receiving end of his black magics to know that. He might be crazy but he made damned sure that once the curses started flying, they didn‘t stop until someone was dead (or at the very least, a new palanquin bearer). “Half-arsed is a half step away from whole-arsed” he muttered to himself.
His mind wandered once again into the fertile fields of tangent. Who would have thought that one could raise ALL dead things? It boggled the mind. Of course, many in his given profession would have scoffed at the waste of such powers. “Eh, a pox on them. A virulent, gut-wrenching, vomit-inducing, bowel-loosening POX!” Eric screamed to no one in particular, shaking a fist heavenward.
For once, he noted wryly, that no one bothered to even look in his direction on his outburst. Part of his mind smiled (the small part that we all have…the one that strives to make us believe we aren‘t quite the insufferable git everyone else knows we are but is kind enough not to mention), vainly attempting to fool itself in to believing that he’d been accepted as one of them, irregardless of his ‘eccentric’ (read ‘insane’) personality. The reality (as only it can be) of it of course was more to the fact that everyone was busy preparing to leave and had no time (or inclination) to spare even the briefest of moments on him. Seeing that everyone else was getting ready, Eric turned and made his way back to where he'd left his traveling bag. He retrieved it, taking little notice that it was rather light. Being a necromancer he had little need for food and water, one of the few perks a user of the darker arts benefited from. Von Vandersnoot could draw sustenance from any living thing with a quick spell if he needed refreshment.
With his worldly possessions in hand, Eric found himself with little else to do. Boredom, the implacable foe, the stalwart enemy soon reared its ugly head, leaving him looking for something to pass the time. He decided that a nice, calming walk was in order (to the nearest shady spot, of course). As he wandered from place to place, each as unwelcoming as the last given that shade was rare (and in this case, found under wagons what would soon be moving come the following day), he noticed one of the vampires scratching uncomfortably at his exposed skin. Knowing that the poor blighter was probably starting to suffer from the rather harsh attentions of the flaming hell ball in the sky (he steadfastly refused to refer to it as ’the sun’ as such a simple description did not do it justice) he rummaged around in his pack. He found a medium-sized jar and took it out. Carefully opening it, he sniffed the contents. He almost gagged at the retched stench but it was what he was looking for.
Making his way over to the vampire, von Vandersnoot offered the walking corpse the container. "Take this for your skin", he said cheerfully. "It reeks to high hell but it will keep your skin from burning.” Moving closer to the vampire, he leaned in and whispered, “ Just don't ask what it's made out of. Honestly you REALLY don‘t want to know…" He made sure to emphasize the point.
“By the by, what would be your name, good sir?”
Eric patiently waited for the vampire's reply. In the silent interim, the skulls once again began their incessant chatter, making their presence known. "Hist you two! Such rudeness! Can't you see I'm speaking? I expect as much from the orc, but you dear Manarion? Surely a cultured high elf such as yourself has more manners than a common guttersnipe!"
Eric nodded sagely as the vampire gratefully accepted the balm. “My name is Mordechai” the creature of the night replied, taken a little aback by the necromancer's act of kindness. “I thank you for this” he said, raising the balm’s container.
Von Vandersnoot patted him on the shoulder paternally. "No worries my friend and no need to thank me! If you need more, let me know. I'll have to find a few ghoul testicles and some zombie fat and a few herbs to make more but with things the way they are who knows!” Mordechai visibly blanched, his nose screwing up at the stench billowing up from the ceramic vessel.
On seeing his reaction, Eric replied gleefully “Oh wait. I did mention not mentioning what was in it. Terribly sorry old chap!"
Mordechai bowed low, thanking the necromancer once again. “If you will excuse me..”
“Of course, of course, my good man. You must certainly have preparations of your own!”
Waving goodbye to the retreating vampire, von Vandersnoot resumed his search for some place nice and cool to fritter away the rest of the day.
The following morning was much the same as the last. The sun, in its infinitely despicable nature, once again rose slowly over the horizon, gleefully rubbing its fiery hands together at the prospect of the coming day’s broiling temperatures. Before the vile orb of heat reached its apex Eric found his way to the morning campfire and plopped down. The wretched skulls had kept him from getting much sleep the previous night. They'd spent most of it arguing about the ethics of forcing lizard men and skaven to mate and the resulting children. That had been a hoot. He knew full well everyone within ear shot had either vomited or laughed themselves to death. Well, not quite to death. If they had, he would have been rather busy raising up a new set of minions to serve him on the long, and, most likely, boring trip.
Still, when the morning horn had blown, von Vandersnoot welcomed the coming dawn once more with his usual habits. He'd relieved himself somewhere near one of the elf's tents as he really couldn't be bothered to wander off too far into the desert.
"There's snakes out there", he muttered to himself.
He didn't like snakes, something he believed all right-thinking people should agree with him on. He also really didn't care if the slithering blighters were poisonous or not. All of them had the same surname…snake... Why didn't he like them? He wasn't so sure. Probably something from his forgotten childhood ages past. Maybe something he'd eaten the previous week. He found remembering to be too tedious beyond recalling the proper words for incantations and curses. He only bothered then because he'd be damned if he ended up the victim of one of his own horribly evil spells because he'd been lax in the proper pronunciation of some word that had more syllables than he had fingers and toes. For some reason he found himself looking down at his toes. He wiggled them, the alabaster digits waving to him through his poorly patched sandals. While he spared no expense when it came to proper attire, he’d learned long ago that most things that went on his feet rarely lasted. He wasn’t sure why.
“I blame small men with smaller minds” he muttered to himself. The constant need to keep on the move, one step ahead of the witch hunters and other goody-two-shoes (the mental reference to shoes and the irony of such a statement was not lost on him), was definitely the reason for the poor state of them.
His sun-addled brain wandered to far off places with less heat and more shade as he stared across the tent‘s top into the shifting, sandy wasteland. It was so much easier to live in the moment than to waste time pondering the greater meaning of life, love, the pursuit of happiness and the reasons behind the dichotomy of the human soul. Eric smacked himself in the forehead. His mind was rambling again. "Got...to...think.... What was I doing again?" Realizing he was still standing outside the tent, he gave a quick shake, dropped his robes and wandered off, whistling innocently to no one in particular.
After his morning rituals, he'd followed the smell of cooking food and ended up where his wandering mind had started…by the campfire eyeing the cook and waiting for his turn at some vittles. He knew he didn't really need to eat but this morning he felt like having some eggs and some sausage and maybe some biscuits. He knew it would all taste the same. He'd long ago lost his ability to enjoy the finer acts of eating. If nothing else, he could use his wild imagination to fill in the tastes. He sighed.
"Oh to be able to taste a nice juicy steak or some baked pork." He quickly wiped away the drool that had started to flow from the corners of his mouth as he salivated at the long-forgotten memory of properly spiced beef. Still sacrifices had to be made.
In becoming a necromancer, he had given up many things, not just his small grasp on reality. Insanity had its perks though. Few people bothered you if they thought you were crazy. This hadn't always been the case though. He fondly remembered the many fools who had come to him in the past seeking training in the dark arts. He'd killed them all of course.
"One could never be too careful in this day and age", he tutted to himself.
Spies, turncoats, stool pigeons and whatever other cleverly worded phrases that one could supply to describe those back-stabbing goblin fondlers who had a tendency to gain one's trust and then turn them in to the witch hunters came to mind.
"Blast! Does anyone have any marmalade? Some butter?"
He found his cries fell on deaf ears as the cook merely snorted and ladled some gruel on top of his eggs and sausage. Von Vandersnoot cracked a smile.
"AH! Gruel! A man by my own cold, black, dead, rotten heart! Sigmar be praised! Finally someone who grasps a true culinary delight as breakfast covered with bubbling, tasteless gruel!"
Taking his plate, the necromancer made his way back to where he's stuck his staff in the ground. No one had bothered touching it. He doubted anyone would take the cursed thing even if he gave it away.
"Damnedable chittering skulls! Worse than a pair of old hens playing pea knuckle!" he muttered.
He sat down by the staff and offered some gruel to each of them. Satisfied neither wanted any, he tucked in. He noticed side-long glances and disgusted faces. He wondered if he was slurping too loud. He shrugged and continued on. He hoped they'd start soon. He really didn't want to spend all day in the hot sun in the same place they'd been yesterday..and the day before..and..wait..no..the day before he'd been somewhere else. Where though?
Shrugging once again, he finished his plate and waited for someone to get this steam-engine wreck moving.