stubble-chinned beardlings and you manlings, while I tell you a tale of battle that would make
any dwarf green with envy. After the defeat of the Orcs
and savages in Skara Brae and with the help of certain
Nobles of Skara Brae in rescuing my son Jerem
Omenborn, I had decided upon returning to Karak a Gorl (Despise) and to retake it at all costs. During our
trek we came upon a band of manlings who we decided
we would join in camp with for the evening, now Snorri being Snorri broke out a
keg of Gems finest and started to drink himself in to a stupor, after a night
of song and drinking all fall asleep, In an act of basic betrayal the manlings in there faithless ways had shaved Snorri's long
and lustrous beard and had run off towards Ratman
So our magnificent host did march on after them, their hearts burning with
vengeance upon the troublesome manlings, Kharas, son of King Starbreaker,
sought out the leader of these base brigands, and in battle they clashed, solid
Dwarven steel against the shoddy weapons of man, During this battle a band of Orcs had come to see what the fighting was all about and in
their haste came upon my wife Willow and her maidens, during the clash between
dwarf women and Orcs my wife suffered and underhanded
blow by the lowly greenskins my army over come with
woe at the death of my wife did retreat to the town of Yew. Now my cousin Kharas was incensed by the death of his kin and led an army
of dwarf back in to the valley in search of the Orcs.
For two days they had searched for these foul greenskins.
Finally the two forces met the misshapen weapons of the Orcs
against the burnished steel and bronze of the Kharas's
great army. The air was filled with arrows of the Orcs,
while the bolts of Kharas's crossbows darkened the
skies like a thunderhead. For hours the exchange continued until both sides had
exhausted their ammunitions. Drawing mighty hammers and axes
that burned with runes of vengeance and justice.Kharas's
army marched upon the thick brow Orc folk. Kharas himself, and his grey-bearded veterans around him,
pushed in to the heart of the Orc army, seeking the
mightiest warrior for him to face. He found the OrcGorbadIronclaw and Orc Choppers. Never before had there been
such a clash, the axes of the choppers ring dully against the finely fashioned
Armor of Kharas's kin, whose hammers broke bone and
smashed heads with relentless fury.Kharas
bested Gorbad, his ancient hammer cleaving the head
off his shoulders and set the greenskins to flight.
Kharas, honored with the title of Urkdum
(Orcdoom) by his lords, implacably pursued the greenskined weaklings, first razing the camp the had set up and then to the bottom of RatmanValley itself.
For two weeks the rocks from our catapults made the walls and ground shake,
punishing the shoddy workmanship of the OrcCave, Kharas breached the gates with his Hammerers at his side
and fought his way in to the central part of the cave, where he found the
traitorous Orc Leader Gorfang
The craven Gorfang refused to come out and fight like
a true warrior, and thus Kharas set about the tower
with his great hammer and crushing poorly mortared brick and shattering the
flimsy foundations until the wall caved in and Gorfang
was forced to face him.
The Orc Leader drew his long sword and he and Kharas dueled. Long lasted that fight, for an OrcGorfang had been trained by
the best. Yet Kharas was no beardless whelp, and
neither could land a telling blow. Finally as night drew near, sturdy dwarven craftsmanship won out, Gorfang
sword shattered against Kharas's hammer. Thus the
grip of the Orcs on the Valley was broken. We showed
them what true dwarf mettle was like. And yet they have never apologized for
their insult, and there are still are unnumbered entries in the Great Book of
Grudges that must be atoned for.
The Underhalls Battle
The Underhalls Battle
Down the long rampway the dwarf army moved into the
great Underhall. The chamber was perhaps ten bowshots long and the same wide,
and the ceiling seemed so far overhead that it might as well have been the sky.
Indeed, ancient stonemasons had placed jewels there so that they glittered like
stars. Constellation of diamond and spiral arms of turquoise looked down coldly
on the site of the coming battle. Lord Damon Omenborn knew this was one of the
oldest and deepest parts of the Dungeon Despise; it had long been abandoned by
the Dwarves. Karak-Kol had been built to accommodate a hundred time the number
now dwelling there. Most of the population preferred to huddle close to each
other. A few tunnel fighters and sentries had been all that was left here to
watch for intruders. And at last those intruders had come.
In the distance Damon could see the Ratmen force the scouts had warned of. The
Ratmen looked somewhat more at home here among the ruins of the dwarf kingdom
than the dwarves did. That thought annoyed Damon. It was as if the Rats had
evolved to fit in among the ruins and the debris of dead and dying
civilizations. They looked destined to cling to the flotsam of history while
other, better, wiser races sunk into the depths.
From high on his Throne borne aloft by four sturdy Hammerers
Damon watched the enemy force deploy. The Ratmen army was a seething
black sea of mangy fur and lashing pink tails, thousands strong. As the Dwarfs
entered the hall the surge of the creatures took on a pattern and they fell
into formation as if guided by one sinister intelligence.
Amid the huge rabble some order, some intelligence was visible.
A line of huge rats surged to the fore, forming a skirmish screen across the
enemy armys entire front. Their biped brethren huddled behind them. A block of
giant creatures, Ogres and Trolls, held the center. On the back of a
Nightmare perched a massive Ratman Mage, perhaps the armys general. Beside
him leprous ranks of scrofulous Lichs were drawn up behind their nightmare
banner, the decomposing corpse of a Meer impaled like a roasting pig upon
a pikestaff. Poison Elementals rushed between the many, large units
of Ratman Archer's and Clanrats. Behind the front ranks were massed
regiments after regiment of fearsome Ratman warriors. In the centre of the
entire army, perched on the statue of a fallen Dwarf king, stood a Balron,
surveying the whole seething infernal mass of his verminous followers. He
raised a gray paw for attention and chittered malevolently at the assembled
Ratmen whipping them up into a drooling, squealing frenzy of nightmare hatred.
Damon knew then that it was conquer or die. This was no mere expeditionary
force but a full Ratmen army, the like of which had not been seen in the
Underhalls for long generations. He knew that it would have to be stopped now.
He also knew that whatever happened here, new pages would have to be inscribed
in the Great Book of Grudges.
"Form the chain of Brotherhood!" Damon commanded.
He turned to survey his bold warriors. Each individual looked to left and
right, memorizing the faces of the warrior on either side. A low murmuring
filled the chamber as each Dwarf told his neighbors his name. In this way his
comrades would remember the fallen and the names of the dead would be preserved
for the Great Book of Grudges. It was a simple ritual. Every Dwarf in each
regiment already knew the names of all his fellows. Only if an entire regiment
were slain to the last Dwarf would all the names be lost.
And not even then, if Damon could help it. He had
memorized the name and face of every Dwarf in his army. He
was no simple human, unable to remember names and faces of a mere few
hundred individuals. Proudly Damon surveyed his army. Here was a sight to stir
the heart and bristle the beard of any true Dwarf.
On either side of his Throne were two regiments of Greatbearded veterans,
the oldest and most stalwart of his soldiers. To his left was his elite guard
the Hammerers led by Kharas his old comrade of a hundred skirmishes. To his right
was the Grim Brotherhood of Skara Brae led by Sir Justarius, who had come
all the way from Skara Brae to pay their respects to Damon and
to visit the great shrine of Grimnir. They had volunteered to accompany
the army instantly when word of the Ratmen incursion had come. In the twilit
gloom of this part of the chamber their magic weapons glittered coldly.
To the left of the Hammerers, the Runesmith Quill Runebrand sat atop a mighty
Ridgeback. Soon Damon knew Quill would summon lightning to smite the foe.
To his left were drawn up two whole regiments of crossbow-armed Dwarfs. At this
moment each brave warrior was cranking up his bow, increasing the tension on
the strings in readiness to place the bolt in the firing channel.
To the right of the Grim Brotherhood were the Slayers, led by their captain
Gotrek Bloodaxe, mightiest of the Slayers of Karak Kol. The deathsongs of the
tattooed and crested dwarves echoed over the battlefield as they prepared to
meet their fates. Snorri Omenborn lovingly polished the handle on his
weapon; Already Damon could see that they were working themselves up into a frenzy.
Beside them on a slight rise in the floor, sweating cannon crews manhandled
their guns into position. While Gem Omenborn supervised the
positioning of powder barrels. To their right were the new experimental
Slayer Bows, fresh from the workshops of the Engineers Guild. To its right were
the massed ranks of the Ironbreakers, Hammer's already in hand and ready
for use. From their elevated position they could get a clear view at most
of the battlefield.
Lord Damon gave the signal to unfurl the banner. The whole dwarf army let out a
cheer as Valayas Rune was unveiled. His army was ready to meet the Ratmen
breast to breast. It was ready to pit pure, dwarf-forged steel against rusty
scavenged Ratmen weapons. It was prepared to match the tried and tested
creations of the Engineers Guild against the demented ingenuity of the Ratmen.
After this day the Dwarves would stand triumphant or Ratmen scavengers
would gnaw on the last bones of the Ancient Race.
At some unspoken signal the Ratmen moved forward, chittering and brandishing
their weapons. The sheer speed of their advance was frightening. A black wave
of thousands of gaunt feral bodies flowed over the broken ground. Yellow teeth
glinted evilly in the half-light. Ogres bellowed their guttural challenges. The
line of giant rats loped forward in the fore, large and hungry as starving
wolves. The crack of lightning filled the air. Arrowheads ricochet off the
Throne all around Damon. He rose and stood proud, brandishing the Hammer of
Power defiantly at the distant Ratman snipers.
Now an eerie glow coalesced round the Balron as he drew magical energies to
him. The energies congealed into a cloud of glittering gaseous vapor that
enveloped each of the Ogres in turn. Bloody foam frothed from the monsters
mouths and they let out shrieks of mingled glee of pain.
"Steady brothers! Steady!" shouted Damon, restraining his followers natural urge to move towards their foe. He opened the
Great Book of Grudges and turned to Kharas's warriors. Slowly and clearly
he recited the ancient and damning grudges, reminding each Dwarf present of the
eon's old legacy of hatred and loathing that he owed the Ratmen. As Damons
grinding voice echoed out the Hammerers faces went pale and they began to shake
with fury. A few let out great sobs of passionate hate. Some tore at their
beards and uttered unspeakable maledictions against the Ratmen.
The Grim Brotherhood ducked their heads in prayer. Then Gem
Omenborn lit one of his bombs with his cigarillo and tossed it out into
the advancing mass. The bomb bounced, its fuse hissing and sputtering, and then
exploded in the centre of the Ratmen mass, sending broken and bleeding bodies
tumbling through the air.
Now the cannons spoke in voices of thunder. The acrid stink of powder smoke
filled the air. The wail of cannon fire echoed throughout the chamber. The
blazing shot tore right through the ranks of the Ogres, smashing through the
huge bodies as if they were made of paper. Damon let out a yell of triumph as
he saw the head of one of the beasts removed, sending blood fountaining into
the air to cover the surrounding rats.
The cannon sent a shot out towards the foe it landed on an
incoming formation of Ratmen, and enveloped them in a sheet of incredibly hot
metal. Their fur ignited and the smell of scorched flesh and burning pelt
filled the air. Ratmen burned screaming; burning Ratmen ran everywhere, some
frantically writhed on the ground trying to extinguish the flames. Others
simply died, their flesh melting and running like boiling tar. The few
survivors of the blast turned and fled, ignoring the chittered instructions of
their Ratman mage general.
Now the crossbowmen fired away at the oncoming horde. From their rise they
could get a clear view of the enemy. Crossbowman peppered the leading
Ratmen. Broken bodies fell bleeding on the broken ground. Clouds of crossbow
bolts flashed down into the giant rats. The great rodents died in droves and
then they too turned tail and fled, more like simple brutes than the
daemon-driven monsters they had at first appeared.
Now Quill struck with chain lighting.
Damons beard bristled. Blue lightning flickered round the head of his hammer.
The bitter scent of ozone tugged at the back of Damons
throat, mingling with the dusty taint of the air. Lightning arced outward
towards the Poison Elementals. Frantically the Balron chittered
a counter spell and the huge bolt disintegrated in a shower of sparks.
Undaunted, the rats came on, a gibbering screaming horde too numerous to count.
Damon could now see their mad pink eyes and their lashing pink worm-like tails.
They looked like an undisciplined leaderless mass but Damon knew from the Great
Book of Grudges that their fearsome mass attacks had overwhelmed many an army,
that their fearsome war machines could slaughter masses given the opportunity.
Now they were almost within range. As the Ogres drew close to the Dwarf army
standard, Valayas Rune glowed and pulsed. The frenzy seemed to leave the
monsters as the Goddesss symbol drained away the Balrons evil magic.
Suddenly, from behind one of the
toppled statues, a band of black-garbed Ratmen assassins leapt forth. Swiftly
they scuttled towards the cannon crew. The lightly armored gunners proved no
match for the highly trained ratmen killers. A savage melee erupted round the
weapon as the dwarves sold their lives dearly. One Ratmen fell with the hands
of a dying gunner wrapped immovably round its broken neck, even as its poisoned
weapon buried itself deeply in the dwarfs gut. Damon cursed the fact he was too
far away to intervene. That was one more item for the Great Book of
Once more fire rant out.
The Ratman Archers had obviously decided that Damon was immune to
their fire and concentrated on the cannons. Brave Dwarf gunners fell, their
bodies riddled by the vile bolts used by the foe. Damon saw one Dwarf fall
to the ground, his body spasming in pain. A second shot tore into him knocking
him back a full six inches before he lay still.Once more the Balron chanted and to Damons
horror thousands of tiny red eyes winked in the gloom. It seemed as if all the
rats that had ever infested the tunnels beneath Everpeak had been drawn
together and massed in a great pack. The Balron gestured and the vermin
swept forward towards the dwarf army, their rabid jaws glistening.Quill summoned magical energies to him and
sent a bolt of power lashing towards the oncoming rats. The malevolent
intelligence that had bound them together faded and they scampered away back to
whence they came. In the middle of the Ratmen army the Balron gnawed his
tail in frustration. Once more the lighting sprang forth. Once more titanic
bolts of coruscating energy leapt out at the Poison Elementals. This time the
Balron's frantic counterspell failed and three teams of the loathsome and
deadly Poison Elementals fell, their brains fired and splattering in to
piles of ooze.
Damon turned to the Grim Brotherhood
and began to incite them. Hearing the ancient litany of death and woe, the
Brotherhood fell into a dark reverie. Every jaw set with unquenchable
determination to slay Ratmen. Every eye carried a fixed look of hatred directed
towards the foe. A howl of frustrated anguish and bloodlust rose from the Grim
Brotherhood as unrelentingly Damon recited every misdeed the Ratman had
performed against the City of Skara Brae.Damons voice was
almost drowned out by the bellow of their warcry as they sprang forth
to fight to the death. The Trollslayers almost advanced into that terrifying
zone of death; only Gotrek's bellowed order held them in place. Ignoring the
assassins at large around the cannon the gun crews continued to frantically
load and fire their cannon. Glowing white-hot
cannonballs rained down on the cringing Ratman. More Ogres fell under the
onslaught of the mighty war machines. Crossbow bolt after crossbow fell on the
lines of Poison Elementals: a dark rain of death that relentlessly eroded even
the rabidly unfeeling Ratmen following the putrefying corpse banner. One entire
flank of the Ratmen army almost fell away under repeated battering from the
Gem was busy throwing his bombs,
one bounced, narrowly missing the Balron and exploding among a
tightly packed mass of Ratman warriors causing terrible casualties. The last
gyrocopter, which had so recently bombed the Rats centre, turned and skimmed
the ground towards the rear of the Ratmen army. Spells darkened the air between
the two armies as the Balron frantically tried to reassert his power over
the Ogres. As the cloud of energy descended once more upon the brutes heads, Valayas Rune glowed, neutralizing the evil
energies. Now lightning surged into the few remaining Poison Elementals. So
short was the distance now that Damons beard bristled and his hair felt as if
it were standing on end like a Trollslayers. The crisis point of the battle had
arrived. The fast crumbling Ratmen army was now within charge distance. The
general howled his orders. The desperate Rats threw themselves forward. Damon
snapped the Great Book of Grudges shut. The time for remembering was past.
Now was the time to settle old scores in blood. It was like something out of a
nightmare, watching the vast wave of man-sized rats
race towards him, all snapping jaws and lashing tails. The force of the first
wave almost smashed through the steel wall of dwarfs and broke their line. Almost, but not quite. The dwarfs stood firm as an avalanche
of black-furred death swept down on them.
A vile and terrible odor filled the
air. Damon shouted to his troops to hold their breaths. This was the dreaded
poison wind for which the Elementals were justly feared and hated. There
was a flash of fire on the far right. At first Damon thought that the cannon
had exploded but then realized that the fire was a different color, tinged
purple and a strange almost black. The smell of burned meat and sizzling fat
filled the air.
Now the fighting became close and
deadly as steel-muscled Ratmen warriors sprang forward relentlessly, their
great blades cleaving into the Dwarf ranks. Worse still, deadly assassins,
armed with poison-dripping blades, leapt from the swarms of lesser warriors and
lashed out at the Dwarf Leaders. Damon saw his brother Cale Omenborn go down, his rune-weapon falling from his nerveless fingers.
Another entry for the Book, he thought, as he found himself confronting the
Ogres and the Ratmen general. The impact of the generals
lance almost pinned him to the Throne but the ancient treasured Armour of his
ancestors held. Ignoring the sparks flickering before his eyes the Dwarf king
prepared to fight back. Goaded by their handlers mighty warbeasts fell on Damons bearers. Mighty claws lashed out,
shredding valorite Armour like paper and tearing gashes in the sides of
the Dwarfs. Momentarily Damon saw a flash of pure white bone through pink meat
as Quill's ribs were exposed be the attack. The skin of Quills side knitted
together and new smooth pink skin replaced the old mangled stuff.
Wild exaltation filled Damon.
The Hammer of Power pulsed with power in his hand. He felt god-like,
invincible, and deadly. A lesser warrior might have been filled with fear of
such a deadly living killing machine as the Ogre Lord. Damon knew he was the
master. Bracing his feet wide on the Throne we lashed out with the Hammer. The
great ancient runes on the weapons side burned bright as it bit deep in the
Ogre Lords side, splintering ribs as if they were rotten timbers. His second
blow severed the things spine and sent it flopping to the ground covered in two
separate halves. The eruption of filth and gore covered the Ratman general,
blinding it momentarily. Damon took advantage of its distraction to bury
his hammer in its skull, smashing it almost in two. Dillon and
the other bearers lashed out with their axes, cutting and having their way
through the Ogres. The giant beasts snarled ferally even as they fell. Not even
death it seemed could extinguish their mad hatred for all other living things.
For a moment there was a lull in the battle. From his position on the Throne
Damon could survey the whole battle line. Damon knew this nightmarish scene
would burn itself into his brain for the rest of his days. The screams of the
dying and the war of the living mingled and filled the Underhall with a hellish
cacophony. The flickering unearthly flamestrikes gave fitful illumination to
the dreadful tableau. Countless dead and dying lay
everywhere. The wounded lay together, their lives seeping away through
holes in their rent flesh. Overhead the harpies swooped like great
insects, the thunder of their shrieks adding to the cacophony. A huge
black screaming mob, hundreds strong, had smashed into the Dwarf line and
threatened to overwhelm it. On the right the Ironbreakers had taken
terrible casualties from the Ratman Mages. They had turned
and marched toward the onslaught of the supernatural flames.
Ratmen had overrun the cannons and snapped at the heels of Quill as he
stood atop his anvil. Even as Damon watched the Runesmith whipped up lightning
and sent scorched and mangled Ratman tumbling back from the sacred artifact.
The Slayers had surged forward through the Ratmens ranks, leaving a trail of
broken and bloody bodies behind them. Snorri fought with irresistible force as
he clove a bloody path towards the Balron. His Slayer brethren hurled insults
and jeers at the retreating Ratmen. On the entire battlefield nothing seemed a
match for their insane ferocity. The Grim Brotherhood and the Trolls
fought breast to breast. It was a scene of madness. Both sides lashed out,
driven by utter insensate hatred. It was hard to tell who had the mastery.
Neither force was willing to give ground. Trolls ripped out the throats of
warriors with their teeth. Even as they died the Dwarfs struck out with their axes.
Around Sir Justarius's feet lay the dismembered bodies of all the Poison
Elementals. From the rear of the Grim Brotherhoods ranks, clouds of sickly
green vapor rose where the poison wind had been unleashed. Damon could see
poisoned Dwarfs reel and fall, bloody froth bubbling from their mouths and
nostrils. One more entry for the Dammaz Kron.
On the left the Hammerers had turned
back the Stormvermin. Inspired by Kharas their leader, the Dwarf veterans
fought like unleashed daemons, crushing Ratmen skulls like eggshells beneath
their mighty hammers. The assassin who had struck down Cale was mashed to jelly
by Cales kinsmen. Damon knew that the deaths of two hundred such vermin would
not be enough to repay one drop of Cales blood. Yes, the Ratmen would pay.
Damon would see to that. On the extreme left, the crossbowmen had started to
reform into a deeper formation, preparing to enter the maelstrom of
There was nothing else for it now,
Damon realized. "Forward, brothers!" he shouted. Slowly, inexorably,
the Throne-bearers began to carry him forward, over the corpses of the Ogres
into the flanks of the Ratman. The Hammer of Power sang a song of
doom and destruction in his hands. Nothing that came within reach lived. The leprous
forms of the Lichs squelched and fell apart as he cut into them. One threw
himself straight at Damon. The Dwarf king caught it by its slimy and postulant
throat, halting its flight in mid-air, before severing its neck with a single
stroke. His bearers lashed out, bringing a whirlwind of death to the Ratman
Heartened by the kings presence the
Grim Brotherhood surged forward, slaughtering the Trolls to the last. They
left no diseased Ratmen alive. Their foul bodies were heaped high, polluting
the good earth round their awful standard. The Hammerers smashed through the
last remaining Stormvermin and surged forward into the Ratmen following, who
turned on their heels and fled. As suddenly as a summer storm the battle became
a rout. Seeing Gotrek and his lads forging towards him the Balron
disappeared in a flash of light and cloud of brimstone. The Ironbreakers
reformed their ranks to face the Lichs. Looking down the sights of a line of
Dwarf crossbowman and seeing their isolation, the lichs suddenly
thought the better of standing their ground. They turned and fled towards where
they had come from. The assassins round the cannons slipped away before Damon
could give the order to pursue, scattering in all direction and rushing for the
shadows as if all the daemons of Chaos were on their heels.
Suddenly the Dwarfs stood alone in possession of a battlefield carpeted
with black-furred corpses. Damon surveyed a scene of utter carnage, of hacked
up bodies and mangled flesh. He looked out on the field and was filled with a
mixture of triumph and gloom. One by one the captains of the Dwarf regiments
made their way through the twilight towards him. One by one they kneeled before
the throne. Damon opened the Great Book of Grudges.