Chapter 6. Boneripper.

In the mean time, Freddie and Tiny Tim had entered into the very depths of the boy was

whining from fatigue and hunger. In a rush, they didn't take much food with themselves and could'nt offer to little boy anything, except for berries and was was avoid of lighting a fire in the woods and cook a roast fowl:who may come to smell of smoke and fried meat? Old-timers in the town told scary stories about stange things which were happen here, in this part of the forest: mysterious night lights, which were lure travelers in godforsaken places, wolves, mists near Sleepy river and ancient stones on its banks: everybody, who touch them, disappeared. Freddie did'nt want to spend another frightful night in forest and asked Tiny Tim to hurry up: he hoped to reach Pew's secret haven before the sunset.

Freddie looked at old mariner's compass needle is jumping and spunned like mad:little rat could not determine the right direction and had to rely on intuition and flair. Over time, it seems to them , that they were get lost in the great forest .

Suddenly , Tim and Freddie heard a noise in the growth of young trees near them. Someone very large and stong was approaching them .

"It may be a bear!Hide-hide Tim, quickly!"-whispered the little and the boy hid themselves at the roots of big spruce.

But the creature who appeared from thickets was more terrible than an ordinary bear. It standed on two feet and looked like a big , beefy skaven -it was a rat ogre and Freddie, looking out from roots, recognized him: It was Thanquol's bodyguard, Boneripper. The monster stopped and sniffed the air, then, to little rat's horror, went toward to their untrusted shelter. Freddie drew his small dagger and prepared for his last , deadly closed to their tree, Boneripper bended and reached his big hand with sharp claws.

-Boneripper! To me, Boneripper!-they heard unexpectedly. The rat ogre turned around and run away

in the opposite direction.

-That's unca Randy's voice!-said Tiny , Freddie and boy followed the monster.

-What did you find there-there?-smiled Grey humming, Boneripper carefully grabbed his mentor and raised him high, then licked him by his big tongue.

-Well, well-smiled Grey Seer,-I know, you missed me, Boneripper. But please, do not lick me then we are not alone. I think, my pet rat-ogre Boneripper needed no now, I would like to be alone with my bodyguard for a few minutes. Can you leave us?

-Of course, of course.-answered Pew and together with Tim and little rat hid in the bushes. A little later, sorcerer and his companions heard Boneripper's contented purr and horned rat's happy laugh.

-Hmm, What are they doing?-asked blue rat. But, after a quarter of an hour, Thanquol and his pet joined to the rest of the company. Grey Seer's fur on hands was wet.

- Ahh, my Boneripper has got so-so wonderful tongue! If you want , he'll lick you too!-said sweetly Thanquol and thought " He'll lick you before eating for dinner, rat-thing!" Although Grey Seer and sorcerer reconciled, The Child Of Horned could'nt forgive blue rat for trying to feed him to the vultures, like carrion. It would be funny to see old pirate's soul in little dwarf-thing cub's or little rat's body, but what Grey Seer would do if Pew's soul choose Boneripper? Grey Seer did'nt want to run away from clever rat-ogre, who who knows the magic, so that plan did'nt realized.

Then, Grey Seer climbed on Boneripper's shoulder and suggested his companions do the same. Pew argeed, but Freddie and Tiny Tim, still afraid of " monster", did'nt want do that. But, following

running Boneripper, they just had convinced that could'nt catch him and finally, get caught by the rat ogre's tail.

Sitting on his bodyguard's shoulder, Thanquol told his friends about Grey Seer's life and skaven

customs.

He began his story with description of the clothing.

- Dress of the Choosen by Horned One are consists of several layers which are protects them from cold and bad weather. Firstly , we wrap around the hips a flap of white or embroidered fabric (symbols on loincloth usually praises Great Rat and wishes loincloth's owner to have many amorous adventures), then a long undershirt to toe and finally, a robe and a cloak. Every grey seer has got three robs : celebratory robe (which can be white or grey in accordance with the traditions of Grey Order), casual robe (any color, from dark brown to lilac and pink) and funeral dress (which is always black).It should be noted that symbols on our dress and tattoos on our bodies are protecting us from enemy arrows and spells on the swathes hands with rags and

bandages becouse magic artifacts and our staffs hurts us stings our fingers.

-But your magic did'nt protect you from dwarf's axe-noticed Pew,-You lost your hand.

Remembering this Thanquol shuddered, than said:-It was an unusual, charmed axe!That weapon is a dream of every warrior:it can chop-cut everything and everybody... And please, don't remind me about that incindent anymore.

-I understand your feelings,-Pew gently touched Thanquol's right Seer paused for a minute, than continue his story.

-Most of skaven are great-great slovens (for example, plague monks wears very dirty rags, they have never wash their clothers , take a bath or even grooming themselves! They think that to be clean and neat is to be sinful, ha-ha!) but we , the messengers of Horned One have to take care of ourself. For the mortal we are like mighty , omnipotent wizards and seers ,who are arbiters of many fates! Mortal skaven are fear and respect us-us!To kill-kill an annoying warlord or other respected skaven in a fit of rage is a normal deed for us (mortal would think that warlord's death is pleasing to Horned One). So, we must look good and it is indecently to come to the sermon in dirty or untidy of us makes-up eyes with a coal or paints claws with black or violet warp-polish to look more impressive .

Well, what about weapon ,as addition to our staffs, we usually use sables, big knives and daggers. Every grey seer has got three cold waepons in his arms-a big saber( with carved runes on it-mine you impertinently assigned to youself, Master Pew. I don't think that a stolen weapon bring you luck), a ritual knife for sacrifices and many-many hexs and a very small dagger, which the child of horned one always has with him-even when he goes to bed or take a bath-who knows, what will happen? Life in The Under-Empire is so-so dangerous!

When a great Grey Seer died, the priests in The Temple Of Horned One reads the burial service of him ,than embalms the body and bury him on Grey Seers cemetery near the Temple. The ancient skaven legend tells that at the hour of the apocalypse, all grey seers will rise from their graves to lead skaven in Last bodies of most beloved Children of Horned One preserved incorrupt for many years, every grey seer prefers to pay for embalming in advance. Everyone wants to look good after dead.

-Unca Randy , does skaven like entertainment?Do they play games-asked Tiny Tim.

-Of course-course, they likes games and competitions very-very much! The most absurd game is called "race in palanquins". It is held among warlords and grey seers, who likes to travel in palanquins and their bearers. The essence of competition is to transport their lord to finish as soon as possible. While running from start to finish, the bearers have to overcome the obstacle made by organizers of the competition, such as ditchs and pits with hot water ( someone thinks that it be funny, if one of competitors will fall in and scalding in hot water ), timbers and ladders. Guards of famous skaven fights among themselves, competiting in shooting, throwing knives and... in the last competition the winner is whoever says the most

beautiful and unusual compliment to his master. By the way, the compliment must be clever and truthful: an ugly-fat warlord don't assesses the admiration of "his beautiful figure".

-Here we are.-Pew climbed down from rat ogre's shoulder and came close to a lonely mountain in the center of the forest. He touched the rough rock and found magic symbols on it, then cast the spell and the rock moved, opened the entrance to the big cave.

-Welcome to my secret asylum!Make yourself at home!-invited sorcerer his friends to the cave. Grey Seer carefully came in the cavern, looking around and sniffing.

-That's an unusual cavern...I can feel the living magic here. It is a place of ancient Power..-then he looking at rock paintings,-May be, there was a sanctuary in ancient times..

-Yes-yes, I used to go here every year for rest and regain strength,-answered Pew,-I lived here for a week or two, than return to my brings me everything that I need in.

-But magic in this place is not suit to children of the Horned Rat, I can't regain my power,-Thanquol did'nt listen to blue rat,- But it is safe and we 'll staying here.

It was time to take care of supper and Freddie with Thanquol went on the hunt in forest. Freddie caught five hares and Boneripper killed a deer and brought its carcase to Grey Seer.

Returned to the cavern, Pew and Freddie lit a fire and cooked roast meat.

After hearty meal, Pew took from his pocket a very, very small book in golden hardcover, said a magic word and the book increased in size from small to very large and heavy. It was the same book that the sorcerer had read before Scarrz's thugs raid. Blue rat opened the magic book on the red silky tab and continued reading.

Thanquol was watching with interest and indulgent smile how Tiny Tim climbing on Boneripper's back .Unlike Freddie, who was still feared " terrible monster", little dwarf did'not afraid of giant rat-ogre at all and enjoyed playing with him. It seems that Boneripper likes that game too and only quietly growling with pleasure.

" Every child needs a friend-thought Thanquol,-And Boneripper likes than someone scratches his back..".Suddenly, rat-ogre growled angrily and raised his big hand : Tim unintentionally hurts him .

-No!-shouted Grey Seer. But Boneripper only gently grabbed the boy and lowered him to the he sadly muttered in apologizing for being rude.

" Tiny Tim smells as me so my bodyguard thought that he was one of my minions-concluded Thanquol,-But he usually does not allow anybody, except for me and pack-master who raised him, come close to him. It is very intresting that he let that boy climbed on his back."

Tiny Tim drew on the ground the field of play tic-tac-toe and suggested Grey Seer to play. Thanquol agreed, but he lost two games of three and got angry : "Why, why I often lose to dwarves?-thought he,- It is all depends of commander's cunning and luck on the battlefield, but here ...! He is only a child, a cub! And I lost to he!What a shame for Choosen!"

Thanquol finished the last game and went asleep. Pew had learned another hex from his magic book and fell asleep too. Tired Freddie , the little rat had already sleeping . Only Tiny Tim could not fall asleep. Although he was a dwarf who got used to caves and tunnels, this cavern did'nt trust him. The low vaults of the cave was depressed him .Grey Seer and Pew put out the fire and It seems to boy that something terrible lurked in silent ships and did'nt fall asleep, he woke up Thanquol.

-What is it?-asked horned skaven. Grey Seer saw a beautiful dream and was dissatisfied when he was awaken.

-Unca Randy, there's something wrong, in this cavern...-whispered the boy.

Thanquol looked around, but saw nothing suspicious in the cave.

-Well, calm down Tim and don't worry-said he,-There is nobody except for us...And these smell..Wait, wait what is that smell?

Thanquol sniffed. It was smelled something sweet and intoxicating in the cave.

-It is "Sleep in summer night"-shouted Thanquol,-A secret clan Esshin's weapon, which they used to put to sleep their victims!Tiny Tim awake Pew and Freddie immediately!And bring me all weapon what you find in bags!

Although Tiny Tim shake Pew and pulled him by the tail, blue rat did'nt awaken, he only sighned and rolled over.

-Wake up-wake up Boneripper,-said Thanquol. But his bodyguard, who must protect their sleep, was

slumbered.

- I'll cut you into pieces, dumb animal!-abused horned skaven and in despair, kicked rat ogre.

Then, one of stones in the far corner moved away and Scarrz together with his thugs appeared.

When Tiny Tim saw the murderer of his parents, he shouted the ancient dwarven battle cry( which he learned from his father) and went into battle.

-Stand from under!-shouted awaken Pew grabbing his staff and drew his his magic staff, sorcerer fired several jets of fire in attacking killers.

Boneripper crushed one of robbers, other he bite to pieces and third he thrown against the wall. Freddie , little rat climbed up the wall and jumped on big black rat's back , then he plunged blade of dagger between the rat's black rat screamed in pain and anger and died in few was the same black rat who eavesdropped Pew and Thuomas in the library.

Grey Seer Thanquol and Scarrz Blackteeth fiercely fought in the centre of cavern. Grey Seer

successfully repelled all the chieftain's attacks and pinned to the wall. He was ready to finish him, but Scarzz suddenly dropped some stinking ball. The ball exploded and Grey Seer breathed a sleepy gas, then lost consciousness.

-See you on the Court of Thirteen, Dreadful Grey Seer Thanquol!-laughed Scarzz was his last words before he was shot from a warp-gun.

-Grey Seer Thanquol ! Awaken! -someone wiped his muzzle with clean, wet rag with pungent smell. Thanquol lazily opened his eyes and yawned. His horned head was laying on Pew's lap , and skaven warlock-engineer in protective suit and mask was sitting at the his was a brown-furred skaven of medium height with clever black his back he was wearing a cylinder with gas and a battery. Grey Seer unwillingly stood up.

-My master! My Lord! You are with us now!- exclaimed warlock-engineer and bowed, trying to kiss Grey Seer's fingers on feet, but Thanquol pushed him aside.

-Well-well Sneezk,-said horned skaven,-Nice to see you..Master Pew, here is my best warlock-engineer, alchemist and a really mad scientist. He was technical genius Ikit Claw's appretice and he made for me this mechanic hand!

-I am glad to work for you, mighty Thanquol!- said Sneezk,bowed to his knees again - I am your most loyal fan !For me, you are like the Great Horned Rat! You are The Light of Hope, the Messiah who will lead long-suffering skaven people to wealth , peace and eternal glory!

In that time, Thanquol let his servant to kiss his feet :he liked comparison with The Light of Hope very much.

-Mes-siah,-repeated he the word,-Messiah. I'll include this word in my sermons... Well, Sneezk, stop licking my feet, tell me about the news in the Skavenblatt and Under-Empire.

-Well, Skrittar is very angry with your betrayal in the last battle. He recommended Lords Of Decay and Seer Lord Kritislik

to outlaw you and to deprive you of Grey Seer title. Now, assassins of Clan Esshin seachs and kills everyone who worked for you... Herold Of Thirteen also designated a rich award for you and to that skaven who capture you live or dead and bring you to the Skavenblatt's prison will be generously rewarded. Now , you are not welcome not only in Skavenblatt, but in every big skaven city.

I had been seaching you for three weeks to warn about this danger.

Thanquol listened his servant silently. He was thinking.

" Well, Skrittar the old bastard feels that the bone throne under him is tottering. He knew that I had captured a powerful artifact in the last battle and run away,-thought Grey Seer,-That magic thing-thing will help me to put cruel Herold Of Thirteen to death! Now I understand why Scarrz and his gang wanted to capture me so much..."

-Intresting,-said Thanquol,- Now, tell me: why assassins of Clan Esshin did'nt kill you? Or you just came here to tie me up and bring me to Skrittar?

Sneezk bowed again, his eyes was full of tears.

-No-no!-cryed he,-How dare you think this about your the most devoted servant? It was not easy for me, but I successfully

run away from clan Esshin's killers and seaching for you. I belive in you, mighty Thanquol and I am ready to die for you!

My soul and my life are belongs to you forever!

-I am glad to hear this,-Thanquol mirthlessly smiled, -I remembered the time that you was walking in my footsteps, writing everything that I said...until I would get angry and order you to go away..

-Thanquol, we have to go now. One of Scarrz's thugs had run away, he may return with reinforcement..-said Pew quietly.

-Yes-yes,-answered Grey Seer and climbed on Boneripper's shoulder. " Again, On the road again,-thought tired Thanquol,- And I

have not had enough sleep ..."

-Here, master!-said the warlock-engineer, pointing to the underpass and lighting the way by a green lantern.