Warhammer Fantasy is property of Games Workshop and not mine in any way. Likewise, A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones are both property of George R.R Martin and HBO, and again not mine
To say that Klaus Edelmann was at the moment unhappy would be wrong. In reality, he was bloody miserable. For a month now he and the witch hunter's retinue of misfits had been tracking this witch, and it seemed they would now perhaps finally achieve some measure of success in their pursuit.
Greasy grey rain drizzled down upon their party from an equally greasy ominous sky, the color of old charcoal, or perhaps the color of freshly exhumed bone. Surrounding them, pressing in on them, was the dreaded Drakwald forest, with its gnarled and grasping foliage. Even the tree trunks seemed foreboding, for Klaus swore that at the right angle, one could spot faces embedded in the cursed wood of the gnarl-trees.
Klaus suppressed a shudder, but arranged the fingers of his right hand into the Sign of the Comet nonetheless. Truthfully, he believed he should not be as frightened as he was. He was a Greatsword of Carroburg, a righteous servant of Sigmar and of the Wolf-God Ulric, or at least tried to be. He knew his mates back home in Carroburg found his religious tendencies rather queer. There, a true Middenlander worshipped the fearsome Wolf-God of Winter, as far as they were concerned. As far as Klaus was concerned, they could piss off, his gods were his business, so long as he did not consort with the Chaotic.
Another shudder was suppressed, with less success this time.
Perhaps were he a younger man, he could comfort himself with reassurances that Chaos was something easily driven off with mere prayer and faith in the gods, in Sigmar. But as his hardened leather boots squelched through the sucking black mud, he could not help but feel anxious towards their mission and their target.
Were they walking, no, stumbling into a trap? It was said the followers of the Ruinous Powers were clever and conniving, able to lead all but the most wary of pious men to their doom, either spiritually or literally, even those vaunted members of the higher nobility and the famed Knightly Orders.
Could he be next?
Deducing that further considerations about his near future would be antithetical to his well being, he decided a nice swig from his canteen was all the remedy he needed at the moment. Pulling the sheepskin flask from his satchel, he took a long pull from of the miraculous liquid within, far more invigorating than mere water could ever be.
Back in Isenbuttel, before they had embarked on this godsforsaken journey, he had "liberated" a fine bottle of Tilean gold from the inn they had stayed in. It had been a dank and rundown place, hardly worthy of the title of inn, with a toady and slovenly innkeep who had appeared like as not to shit himself when he saw the distinctive stovepipe-shaped hat enter into his grimy hovel of a common room.
To be fair, almost shitting oneself was a rather appropriate reaction to spotting one of the dreaded members of the Holy Order of the Templars of Sigmar. He could still remember when he himself had been dragooned into service with the Order, almost 3 months back. How the witch hunter's suspicious and piercing pale blue eyes had bored into his own, seemingly judging his very soul on the spot.
Ubiquitous among his fellows, he wore the infamous tall hat of the witch hunter, featuring a gleaming skull icon emblazoned on its front, along with a long tobacco pipe tucked within the leather band binding the hat together above the brim. A pipe that hid an exceedingly deadly poison dart within its fine woodwork, Klaus might add.
His long leather jacket had swayed gently in the breeze, revealing a nigh on ludicrous arsenal of weaponry hidden among the inner pockets and belts of his clothing. Pistols, daggers, stakes, vials of all manner of liquid Klaus could not even begin to catalogue, sacred ashes, as well as a beautifully gilded pommel of an equally beautiful cutlass kept hidden in an intricately embroidered leather scabbard. He had no doubt in his mind that the witch hunter was absolutely deadly with any of those implements, and had likely used them at some point or another.
Klutzer, Adolf Klutzer, that was his name, Brother Klutzer of the Holy Order. Somehow putting a name to him did not help humanize him, but then witch hunters were by their nature something more or less than human. If not for the fact he was being offered 4 times overtime pay for joining the hunter, he would likely have seeked to run in the opposite direction as far as could, maybe or maybe not stopping for a rest in Miragliano. All the same, if he, a grizzled veteran of a half-dozen battles, could hardly withstand the gaze of Klutzer, he pitied the poor innkeep.
At least, he would have pitied him, if he had not been so stingy with the little amount of provisions he was willing to provide the group.
Where does that little toad get off, trying to cheat us out of our gold for some mouldy bread and weak beer?, Klaus had thought at the time.
All the same, a mean glare from Klutzer, and he had fallen over himself fetching them something hot that was not entirely weevil-ridden. In any case, Klaus had later found himself that night sneaking past their quarters, past the snoring innkeeper's room, past the closed door of Klutzer, the faint glow of a lantern creeping its way under the door.
Edelmann had been forced to suppress a snort, that even at these late hours the witch hunter could still be awake and active.
He had made no scraping indications that he was about to exit the room and discovers Klaus's skulking, so Klaus had continued past into the murky void of the darkened common room and into the wine cellar of the inn.
There Klaus had found his prize, like a treasure hunter plundering a Nehekharan ruin. A fine bottle of Tilean wine, vintage 2499 I.C. He had secreted the bottle in his rucksack, where he had managed covert sips of the stuff until now, where he had been reduced to only a flash worth of the stuff. However, as he savored the taste of the last sip, a rumbling voice to his right brought him out of his reminiscence.
"Hah, you been holdin' out on me then, dawri? Gimme some of that, then!"
Before he could so much as utter a protest, the wine was torn from his hands by the larger callused hands belonging to the dwarfen warrior and supposed inventor, Gorgi Okrisson, who had attached themselves to their little expedition for Sigmar-knows why.
Well, Sigmar and Klutzer perhaps knew. As for the dwarf himself, he was being tighter with his information than a Elf maiden's legs.
Isn't stopping him from drinking up all my bloody wine, Klaus thought uncharitably. When he was done draining the skin, the dwarf handed it back to the disenchanted soldier and belched loudly enough to ring out through the misty groves of trees, drowning out the gentle patter of the rain and rousing a murder of roosting crows, who flew off cawing into the deepening twilight.
"Ye call that piss drink? Why, if we were back in Karaz-a-Kerak, I'd show you drink that'd be knocking ye manlings clean on yer arse!"
Gorgi's voice rumbled like his kind were well known for, sounding more like an approaching storm than actual speech.
"This is a proper grimaz, ain't it? How da ya manlings tolerate livin' in such an awful place? I've seen bottomless pits more cheerful than this!"
Another laugh like a thunderclap.
For all his current discontent, Klaus could not help but agree. His dissatisfaction was such that he forgot to remind the dwarf that most humans did not in fact live in a haunted swamp such as this. After all, this dimly lit path was indeed quite awful, and not at all cheerful
"We should be approaching the tower soon, unless that map was lying to us" Klaus had argued. Considering they had bought it from a local halfling game warden, Klaus knew the chances it was actually lying to them were less than slim
Truthfully, he had no idea if they would be approaching the tower, but he did hope to the gods it was soon. Suddenly, Gorgi came to a halt. "Look there dawri, the hunter has stopped"
Until now, they had been following the dim glow of the witch hunters lantern through the fog, which had indeed come to a stop. With a shared look of apprehension, Klaus and Gorgi moved forwards to the side of the witch hunter where he now stood, peering intently into the gloom.
As their eyes adjusted, they spotted what he was looking at. They now stood in a clearing, a rolling meadow covered in sickly yellowish grass that gently rolled upwards, culminating in a large hill upon which sat the most dilapidated tower Klaus had ever laid eyes upon. It seemed to defy gravity in the way its stones leaned over, coated in moss and algae, covering the perhaps once white stone with a hue better described as green-grey.
It appeared to stand about 5 stories high, with a window at every story. All but the highest window were dark, the glass long since shattered. But from the highest came a greenish light, a light that pierced through the darkness even from the distance they stood at now, but which did not seem to be a very comforting light at all. In fact, Klaus felt very uneasy even looking at it, and from the scowl that now seemed carved into the stone-like face of Gorgi he felt quite the same.
Of course, no man or dwarf alive could match the scowl of a witch hunter, and Klutzer was no exception.
No one spoke, until Klutzer finally turned back to cast his baleful gaze upon them. His eyes gleamed an eerie light-blue, like ice, and Klaus didn't think he imagined the ironclad conviction and nigh-fanatical determination behind the frosty hues. Klutzer was a witch hunter, after all
"We have arrived. Send the signal." His tone was like iron, the purpose behind his words striking the ear like a hammer
At that, Klaus removed his travel-worn satchel, and pulled out a crudely crafted pistol device. He took a deep breath, and pointed it in the air. No going back now.
With a piercing bang the flare flew from the device, bathing the twilight mists with a fiery red glow. It soared through into the sky, hanging there like a bleeding comet. It was a spectacle, but not so much as what happened next.
Firstly, after only a couple of seconds, the ground seemed to roil and writhe, and grey mottled hands clawed their way to the service, only to next reveal gaping maws full of worms and rotted teeth. These maws let forth mournful moans and cries, that only seemed to intensify as more and more of the dead rose from their slumber. With a shout the trio had their weapons out and ready in an instant, Klaus with his greatsword, Gorgi with a fine dwarfen hammer, and Klutzer with his cutlass, shining and deadly even in the dim light of the clearing.
Just then, they were treated to the next spectacle, one they had prepared just for this possibility. As loud and clear as day, a great screech echoed through the air, and the flapping of great wings heard with it. Klaus glanced up, to spot the fourth member of their band descend from the sky, riding a mighty beast of black and gold feathers, gleaming golden eyes, and razor sharp talon. An Imperial Griffon, screaming for the blood of the enemies of Man, the enemies of Sigmar. Klaus grinned, for perhaps things were not so shit after all.
EDIT NOTES: Just felt like cleaning up the first chapter a bit before I post the next one