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Author Topic: The End Times Cometh - A Retelling of the End Times where the world doesn't end  (Read 150 times)

Offline Cèsar de Quart

  • Posts: 70
Hi there. I had plans to write this calmly, but this afternoon I took to write the first chapter of this story about my own End Times. Despite what it may seem at first, it won't be a novelised account, but rather a collection of short stories dealing with the ways my End Times went differently. Some things have been tweaked and reverted to post Storm of Chaos, and some were kept (obviously "Grimgor is da best" is not something that was said by anyone after headbutting Archaon, but Valten having risen and Karl Franz' legitimacy as wielder of Ghal Maraz being contested is an interesting narrative development).

Without further ado:


THE NIGHT OF THE TWIN-TAILED COMET
—Speak. — said the witch hunter, hoping that the barrel of his gun would be argument enough to convince the little man.

—Wait! Good sir, wait! No need to be rash!

The chamber was wide, the old stones smooth enough to create a thundering echo with every word spoken inside. A dome crowned the hall, with an opening at its peak, a sewer drain, from which the crackling Mordheim sky could be seen. The Twin-Tailed Comet mocked them from afar.

The other man was small, young but stocky. He was shaking under the cold water. His hair was too grey for the vigour in his body, his clothes too poor for the whiteness of his skin. A scholar. Or worse, a clerk.

—We’re all servants of Sigmar here!

Shoot first, keep his questions about him, is how the witch hunter had survived for so many decades. And this was Mordheim. But the joints hurt, the bones ached. He had been on the road for too long now. He was cold. He wanted some answers. The little man looked like the opposite of dangerous.

—We are. Speak. Please— and he lowered his gun, but kept the finger on the trigger.

—Yes, yes, thank you, Your Excellency. Hammer of witches, no doubt! —The witch hunter growled and the little man stood up and cleared his voice. —I am Taalfried Jung, attorney at law, third circle, thirty-second degree, attached to Rikhard & Richardt, Junior.

—Who’s the junior?

—Er… both. They aren’t related.

—Oh.

—Anyway, I was working from Wurtbad when I was given a case. A series of disappearances. Mysterious circumstances. All very suspicious.

—Do you usually investigate disappearances? —The witch hunter interrupted Jung.

—Well…no. But I was asked to do it by Herr Rikhard Junior, and so I did.

—Isn’t this a matter for the local constabulary?

—I imagined Herr Rikhard was not happy with the speed at which the Night Watch was handling the matter. Or his clients. That is what I thought at first…

—What was the reach of your investigation? Were there bodies? Murder weapons…?

—No, no, sorry to interrupt you, sir, but I handle the certificates. I push paperwork. I merely rubric death certificates to be filed at the local Garden of Morr. But there were some issues with the inheritances. So they called me, the one man who had experience finding out if a dead man was really dead. But I don’t mean “not dead”. As in, you know… I mean people who feign death. Not… “nec-

—Herr Jung, I understand not everyone who fakes his own death is a necromancer. Do go on.

—Being so close to Sylvania, one never knows… Anyway, I was handled quite a dossier. A blacksmith. A debutante opera singer. A nobleman’s second cousin thrice removed. An important playwright…

—Tarradasch?

—No, sir, Tarradasch commited suicide. All very well documented. No, I’m talking about Willem Merloft.

—The guy who wrote “Let Them Eat Sachertorte”?

—If he did, it wasn’t on his file…

—“The Cruelty of Wilhelm the First”?

—No… I’m quite sure that’s a Tarradasch play, sir.

—So what did this Merloft write? —said the Witch Hunter. He hadn’t been to the theatre in decades. What would that old fool Sierck be up to now? He owed him a beer for that night at the docks. —Wait, you were handed such a broad portfolio… And I can imagine some minor nobleman’s death can create disputes over the inheritance. But a blacksmith? And this Marloft, who wrote Sigmar knows what plays…
Jung shifted, nervously.

—May I sit down? —he pointed at the stone benches by the wall.

—Do so. But keep your hands on the table. And get to the point, Jung.

—Of course. All of these disappearances are indeed mysterious, but not uncommon. People die. Sometimes people also… don’t die. You know what I mean. So I was verily afraid, and I voiced my concerns to the firm. But Herr Richardt pushed me to keep digging, and insisted I would need to do field work abroad.

—Is that why you are here, in this hell hole?

—Yes… but not entirely. See, I did track down most of the disappearances, and none of them turned up. They had vanished. Some in very remarkable circumstances, others in the most mundane ways. Merloft, for example, vanished after the final act of his crowning achievement, Das Kommendator. He was performing the role of Vlad von Carstein, returned from Hell to…

—Jung.

—…Yes, well, I thought that the thematic of the play had some part in his disappearance. It didn’t. Others like the blacksmith, Otto Kaltenbruner, just went to get water from the well one day, and were never seen again.

—…so the disappearances were not connected.

—So they seemed. But then I caught something more. The blacksmith’s father was a wild-father, one of those druids who worship Taal in the wild. The opera singer was the daughter of a moderately successful merchant out of Marienburg whose mother was said to have been a mermaid.

—Really?

—It was family folklore, and I could not go to Marienburg and access the records, but I did manage to ask a friend of mine for a favour. It took a month but he wrote back with the report: the grandmother was a mermaid. A mer-maid.

—Oh, of course.

—Yes, a Maiden of the Sea, one of Manann’s sacred orders of priestesses. Along with...

—Don’t start, I know of them and we’d be here all night if you listed them all.

—Yes, yes… And then there was the playwright, Merloft. I was lucky he was from Marburg and I could trace his pedigree up to the time of Magnus the Pious, when a famous abbess of the Order of Certainty…

—The Templar women of Myrmidia? I thought they had been wiped out.

—They were, that year. But the Abbess had a son by a local hedge knight, and this hedge knight, Eugen Savar, was himself member of an illustrious family of Judges of Verena.

The Witch Hunter hummed.

—Are you saying all these disappearances have in common that, at some point, their ancestors were all priests or clerics in some capacity?

—That was my conclusion.

—Isn’t it a bit far-fetched? If you go back enough, any of us has ancestors who were priests any gods. Maybe even Halflings.

—It does seem contrived, but let me finish. I came back to Wurtbad and I consulted the Count’s archive, and I built a large family tree of the disappeared. I went further than that, even. I investigated other missing person cases. I traced their genealogies for weeks. Not all of the disappeared had ancestors devoted to the divine, but all of the most suspicious did. And they had all disappeared in the same time span. Last year.

—All right, Herr Taalfried Jung. It seems we are on the same side after all.

—What?

—Hansel Schierlach, Witch-Hunter Sergeant First Class, Averheim Lodge. I was charged to investigate the disappearance of Knut Leitdorf.

—Leitdorf? As in… Marius Leitdorf?

—Yes.

—I didn’t know he had any more siblings.

—And that’s the thing. No one did. Everyone says Marius was mad, but he was just eccentric. Knut Leitdorf was deranged. Visions from a young age, demons in his sleep, prophetic dreams. He was kept inside a secret wing of the Franzen Asylum, with all the luxuries his rank required. His brothers would visit every so often, but his existence was known only to the Leitdorfs, the Witch Hunter lodge of Averheim, and the director of the Asylum, who was secretly one of us.

—Was?

—He’s dead. Knut was kidnapped from the Asylum and the building was left in ruins. All the guards and inmates had been horribly murdered. It seemed like they had killed each other. A hellish sight.

—When did this happen?

—Four months ago. Hans Leitdorf asked me to investigate, and the trail led me here, to Mordheim, to this very chamber. And everyone knows that the Leitdorfs have been touched by the divine, with their history of madness and eccentricity. Old Count Marcus was said to be actually a bastard son of the Countess Dowager and the Grand Theogonist, after all.

They looked around, the open cages and the stench of crowded slums gave a very different context to the scenery.

—Come out, gruff! —shouted the witch hunter.

A dwarf came out, face like a railroad map, long whiskers and beard, and a crest of hair like a chicken. Black, instead of red. A big axe hung at his back.

—Took ya long enuff, lad.

—This —said the next man, young and arrogant, with a thick Bretonnian accent— is definitely not a place to wait in for so long. Could we not have taken him somewhere more decent?

—Ya’re dooin’it for yer lassie, don’t forget.

—Speak not of my Lady so, Uri, we have discussed this.

—Gah, whatever, Bertie.

Taalfried Jung was visibly upset. His hans trembled and the veins on his temple were pulsing: —Who are you lot? Didn’t you say we were all friends here?

—Calm down, Herr Jung. Look, this is Uri Lotrisson from Karaz a Karak, and this is Berthier de Gauks, knight of Bretonnia.

—De Gaux.

—... De Gaux… I’ll let them explain. Sir Berthier?

—Indeed. See, master lawyer, I have sworn a vow never to come back home until I find the Lady Landelle, the Fairest Maid of Brionne. She was one of the maidens attending the Fey Enchantress when she vanished from the face of the Earth. I followed many a trail, and had to surpass many an obstacle, but the help of the Fey Folk led me to this accursed land and…

—And tis’ me, Uri. Don’t ask, I have taken the Oath of Slayer, but I value my life as well. Thok was my friend and the damn dead took’im. I follow them ever since. Months ago, we were attacked. I alone survived, but Thok they took. He was the best apprentice the Runefather had. My family yapped about dishonour and forced me to take the Oath, but I won’t go until I’ve found Thok, I tell you that! I don’t care why they took’im, I just want’im back.

Jung ghasped.

—So… does this mean I am right? Are all these disappearances connected? —asked the attorney.

—It seems so. Knut Leitdorf, Thok Girmisson, the Enchantress Landelle, your Merloft and blacksmith and opera singer, they’re all connected. And they were all here.

—I’m sooo glaaaaaaaaaaa-

At their backs, Taalfried Jung was no more. His skin cracked, his jaw fell to the floor with a thump. Hansel turned around and he wasn’t fast enough to grip his handguns. The beast that had been Taalfried Jung was now only wearing his skin as rags and his bones as ornamentation of sorts. It was big and covered in black fur, and had a bat-like face.

—Uri, shoot! —cried Hansel. The dwarf shot his gun, and the beast staggered, but did not stop. Berthier prayed and leapt forward. His sword pierced the belly of the beast, but it shrugged it off and grabbed the the young knight, throwing him like a ragdoll. Then it jumped towards Uri, but the Witch-Hunter shot at it in the head. The beast whimpered, but it was not enough.

—Where are those silver bullets, lad? —shoulted the dwarf.

—I need a distraction!

The beast was coming back. Hansel tried to load his handguns, but the beast was too close. Too close now. Praise Sigmar.

Then a crack, and a ripple of lighning. The beast fell down, pierced by arrows, long and silvery, emitting a warm glow.

A voice rang from the end of the sewer hall: —Thou should not trust the first man with a tale to tell, keigh-mon.

The voice was haughty, hard as steel, but elegant. Suddenly, scores of high warriors sprang from the shadows, clad in black cloaks concealing the blue adornments and the silvery armour. The leader stepped into the light. He wore a high pointy helm surrounded by feathered crests, and carried a huge blade at his side. A red band covered his eyes, but he didn’t act like a blind man.

—Agh. Elves! —said Uri, spitting blood.

Hansel unsheathed his sword: —Explain yourself!

The elf who had spoken chuckled, but he was not amused in the slightest. —We have been watching thee for days. Thou art alive because of our… charity —he pointed at the cages—. Thine friends were not the only guests at this… fine locale.

—Who are you?

—Unimportant. All thou need to know is that we also follow the trail of someone of great value to us. A Princess of our land, brought here through mists and salt and water at the back the cruel Kraken Lord. Sold like a slave, transported like cattle, here is where we lost her trail, but we found the beast, disguised as a man. It had the stench of the dharkeigh, thine... vampires. We needed the knowledge the beast harboured, and we had encountered your trail. We knew you not to be the perpetrators. And worry not, we would not have let the beast hurt thee. Destiny has brought us together, it appears. Let us coalesce, and discover the whereabouts of our loved ones.

—We’d find them faster if you didn’t talk so many hundred-penny words, Elf —said Uri.

—Gruff, quiet —said the Witch-Hunter —. Alright, let’s help each other. What do you know?

+++

PS: I put this together in a moment, very hastily. English is not my first language and there's probably a lot of wonky grammar, or problems with register. I don't want to insult anyone, but I was going for a Scottish spelling for Uri. Maybe I failed miserably, I don't know. So any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

This is also longer than most of the short tales I've got. So if this seemed too long, bear with me. And thanks for reading!
« Last Edit: September 24, 2019, 04:19:36 PM by Cèsar de Quart »

Offline Zygmund

  • Pure of Heart
  • Posts: 1822
  • Europe, Finland
This piece deserves better than one comment from a bot.

I like the humorous, personal focus of the story. It has a great Warhammer/Mordheim feel in it. Even if it's mostly men talking, it still moves forward at a brisk pace.

-Z
Forget the 6'x4' game, focus on the story beyond that. Because fantasy matters.

Offline Cèsar de Quart

  • Posts: 70
Thanks. I've got the basic outline but I don't want to present it as a simple timeline.

You do seem to have quite the bot problem here, right?

Offline Cèsar de Quart

  • Posts: 70
New chapter, this one, again, written in a moment of break today at work. Let's see how many bots like this one! Bear in mind, I haven't read many WH novels in the last ten years, and therefore I'm making up the character of many of these people as I go along. I guess Arkhan has been presented differently in some tales. My Arkhan is different, just like my Eltharion is still blind.

ROYAL BLOOD
The night was calm. The two moons shone at the horizon, as big as they could appear. A trick of the light. Arkhan missed the days in which such things gave him pause. Joy, even. He missed remembering how they used to make him happy. He despised the way his own mind sought back the path to happiness lost. He loved to make sand palaces at the verdant banks of the Great River. He missed his master. He hated missing the days of careless admiration for his master. He hated his master. He loved his master. Sometimes it was difficult to know which were his own thoughts and which were… not.

He focused his thoughts on Morrslieb, looming bigger than Mannslieb on the horizon. The perfect constant. The moons in the sky. So had it been ordained, so would it be forever. That was the truth of it all. Silence and peace. Like tonight.

—It has been a while.

The voice was like silk, but had a poignant undertone. Not menacing at first, but it certainly announced that Neferata was not one anyone could play with. Not yet.

—It has. —Arkhan’s own voice, otherworldly, sounded more like sand running on rocks at the end of a hot day, dragged lazily by the wind.
He turned. The mirror was polished beyond the ability of mortal hands, but the powerful magic safeguards of the Tower made the vampire queen’s image flicker. She was, nevertheless, beautiful as ever.

—We must discuss the portents.

—Portents… —ruminated Arkhan—. Signs. Omens. All shall be revealed.

—You have something to say.

—Preparations have been made. Do you not remember?

—I did my part, I remember that. —spat the vampire queen.

Arkhan didn’t speak, but it was clear Neferata had no intention of being forthcoming in her explanations.

—Have you recovered the Renegade’s efforts?

Neferata did not flinch, but Arkhan knew her too well. Was that a note of anger in her voice? Or was that his own psyche? He would never know. Such a fickle thing, emotions.

—He was not helpful, but I managed to acquire much of his... research.

—Ambition still corrodes his black heart.

—He was a vain man in life —she scowled— and he is monstrously ambitious in death.

—Vash-Anesh would have been of assistance, had he been awake. —observed Arkhan. Even though his voice was passionless, there were inflections on it. As if his own mind was trying to mimic what a living voice would sound like. Or was it his own soul, remembering?

—He would… But his blood contained great hopes and nobility of character. A grievous fault. Only ambition and crude expectations of success remain now in his children. —Neferata was looking away, as if caught by her own thoughts. She almost sighed.

Arkhan waved a hand and the sand formed a series of structures on the air, in the silvery moonlight. Strings of life.

—The web of fate. —said Neferata.

—The Liber Mortis reveals all. You have your instructions, ancient one. —replied Arkhan.

Neferata said nothing, but her eyes shone redder than before.

—Nagash must be —said Arkhan.

Neferata spoke with a deeper voice now: —Nagash must be. But what of us when he comes?

Arkhan looked away and pondered. It was not a question he posed himself. He lived only for his master. Or did he? From the depths of his being, he recited: —“Behold a white horse, and she who sat on it was given a crown of moonlight, and authority over a quarter of the world, to rule the nights at the End of Days”. So spoke Nagash.

—I wonder —began Neferata— what would happen if we stopped trying to fulfil prophecy.

Arkhan looked to the flickering image, but did not move further.

—You know the signs —boomed the necromancer—. Omens and portents. The End of the World is he end of the living and the dead. Nagash must be, if our Realm of Silence must remain. Destiny is. Nagash is.

—What is Arkhan, then? —asked the vampire queen, slyly.

Arkhan looked closer into the mirror. Her image began to crack. Arkhan had not noticed it was his own fist pressing on the glass.

—I serve Nagash. You must serve Nagash or face extinction. Unite the vessels. Our work begins now. If you do not fulfil propechy , others shall reap the rewards.

Neferata’s face was emotionless as ever, but the demon in her eye was sad: —Is that the destiny you see for me?

—Destiny does not wait for anyone.

The glass broke. The image vanished, and Neferata was left alone in the darkness of her halls. Crude dwarven designs adorned with silk and linen and gold and silver. The trappings of ancient royalty. She looked further, to the walls where a great tapestry hung. There were lines, like a tree, intertwining and separating, creating patterns only clear to someone who was well versed in the art of reading fate. Each line, a life. Each step, a generation. Each dot, a vessel, but still not quite the necessary vessel.

—My lady… —said the maid—, what is your desire?

Neferata spoke without looking at her: —Royal blood. Divine light. The line of kings… you could have been beautiful… —The queen looked at the servants and ordered: —bring the captives.

***

Deep within the ruins of Vargravia, someone else was listening to the conversation. He was pulling away shards of glass from his face. Skin pale as the moon, eyes black as the night, teeth sharp like a wolf. Mannfred von Carstein’s all-seeing orb had been shattered when the astral projection of Neferata was returned to her body rather violently. The astromancer's help had been invaluable, and now he lie dead, burnt to the bones. Not even a drop of blood was left.

—Your services are no longer required —Mannfred said, grabbing the charred skull from the table, and chuckled. He pulled out old parchments from his archive, some older, some less so. The same veins of fate crisscrossed the document. The same genealogies of power, an experiment centuries in the making, the result of portentous prophecy. The blood of divine beings distilled to the last drop in the souls of the innocent and the veins of kings and priests. So many years ago had began the work, so many overseers, so much meticulous nudging of fate and circumstance. And them, the rulers of the night, directing the orchestra. Kings of old, priests and princes, all dancing to their tune. His tune.

—Royal blood. Life for life. Death for death. A god dies, a god is born.

Mannfred smiled in a grin that could freeze the hearts of hundreds.

—It is time for a new god to rise.

Around Sylvania, no one remembered, but everyone woke up when they heard the laughter of Death in their nightmares.

Offline Cèsar de Quart

  • Posts: 70
Hmmm, I understand GRR Martin now. I was writing these on the fly, trusting that the characters' actions would lead to plausible and dramatic outcomes, but it turns out writing is more difficult than I anticipated, and the logical outcomes this tale brings me to are not very satisfactory...

I'll have to rethink and rearrange. If anyone is reading this, sorry for the delay.