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Tales of the United Dwarven Clans

The Battle in the Valley of the Rat

The Battle in the Valley of the Rat.



 Heed well, 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 valley.

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 Orc Gorbad Ironclaw 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
Ratman Valley itself.

For two weeks the rocks from our catapults made the walls and ground shake, punishing the shoddy workmanship of the
Orc Cave, 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 Rotgut.

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 Orc Gorfang 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 Grudges.

     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 Ironbreaker's. 


     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 hand-to-hand combat.

     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 Mages.

     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.

"Name the dead!" he commanded.


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