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Down In The Depths
Gurin wandered through the streets, around him the humans of the great city of Altdorf gave him a wide birth; not because of his race, the squat size and large stomach instantly pointing him out as dwarven. No, not his race but his job. Gurin Svennson was one the few 'brave' beings who guarded the city, not from those assailing the walls or those rising from within â€“ but from below. Gurin was a sewer jack. Even fresh from his lodgings within the Franzstrate, the smell as there. Working in the sewers all day leaves its taint upon all those who enter, its unearthly smell even managing to drown out the stench of dwarven ale that seemed to be permanently secreted by the dwarf; its smell alone made even the strong hearted of men quail. Maybe it was his appearance too, the once ash grey beard now looked more black, the hairs seeming to hold the darkness of his workplace. Two stern grey blue eyes peered from beneath bushy brows, his face set into a perpetual frown by the scar that runs from forehead to chin â€“ this he claims was given too him by a â€œrat that walked like a manâ€? much to the amusement of others. His plain and practical clothing had the looks like it had never been washed; unidentifiable stains marked the outside jacket. His grey, undershirt was now tattered and tainted by the depths of the city, the leggings two sizes too big were bunched up around his waist and ankles giving him a slight comedic look about him. Yet those who took him for as such quickly learnt different, in his grasp being used as an over sized walking stick was an axe; its surface shimmered as shafts of daylight struck it, markings and intertwining patterns covered its surface in such detail that no human artisan could ever hope to recreate them. A small hatchet swung from his waist, nothing like its larger counterpart but was still sharp enough to do its job.
Turning left Gurin finally came to the watch house, grunting at the man on watch he entered the watch house itself; to await his 'brothers in arms'. Inside he found that they were already there; Jac, an ex soldier sat at the end of the table slicing an apple with one of his knives before slipping the fruit into his mouth. The second deadly weapon of his lay sheathed by his left leg, Gurin knew from experience the manling could get the weapon out in a blink of an eye. Franz sat sprawled opposite Jac, a low moan coming from the unlucky man: Gurin chuckled to himself as the smell of his discomfort wafted beneath his nose - a hangover. A short sword hung from the back of his stool, the well oiled weapon had yet to see any real action. The third party member was Marius, he was truly the odd one of the group. Tilean born he came to the Empire to seek his future, but quickly fell to the lure of gambling and women; unfortunately the lover he had chosen happen to be the wife of one of the more powerful merchant families. Marius was forced into near poverty and eventually into having to take his current position â€“ much to the man's chagrin. Wears a Tilean duelling cloak, the weighted cloak has proven useful in the past. In his other hand he bears a stiletto the weapon favoured by the infamous Vespero's Vendetta and nobles of the western land, which Gurin had seen him prove he knows its uses. He has occasionally been known to acquire poison from somewhere, but no one ever enquires where. The last member is the Ol'Cappy as he's known. None know his true name, not even the city guard for he has been a sewer jack his entire life: and judging by his looks that's been a while. His face looks as if its been hewn from a cliff, the stone quality of his eyes reflect upon its surface, great crags of flesh create burrows in the leathery skin, his hair all but white; the odd patch of black resistance adorning his scalp. His left hand is nothing more than a hook, the appendage that once sat in its place was taken long ago by some great beast of the tunnels below. His armament is a short sword, two bladed with a firm comfy grip; the man knows his business.
â€œRigh' Lets be at itâ€? Rousing themselves the four beings slowly entered the sewers, a long rusted steel ladder led the way down; its rungs pitted and lumps of unmentionables dangled from them. Dropping with the squelching thud, they grouped together as Ol'Cappy un-shuttered the lantern;
â€œToday lads we go h'reâ€? pointing to a section on an old waxed map, they were going into the nobles section. Leading the way Ol'Cappy set off through the tunnels, a great channel ran through centre: everything that washed down from above was here, from the human waste to the occasional dead body. They were told that when these sewers were built it was the dwarfs that chose to live among them that were their creators, indeed the great architecture and perfect build seemed strong enough to be of the dour beings hand; yet as with all great works time has played its hand. Sections of the tunnels had given in and collapsed blocking entire areas off, of course Gurin claims this is where the shoddy manlings took over, other places the magnificent work that had been put into them had faded; where once nymphs and cherubs played on scrolls now they were but faceless pieces of rock, the ages taken their toll upon such beauty.
The stench was by far the worse possible, the mix of human excrement and other foul substances wafted through the tunnel; the small walkways either side of the channel became slick and in places treacherous. In days past they had found a mist engulfing entire pockets of tunnels, bubbles of air mixing with the vile gases, turning the light smog into a bilious green colour. A splash in the channel caused all eyes to look upon the scummy water, a large black furred rodent lashed its pink tail upon the surface causing ripples disturbing things that the jacks could do well without have seen. In near silence they meandered their way through tunnels, only the scuffling of their feet upon the smooth surface of the brick could be heard; punctuated occasionally by one of them getting too much of a lungful of the vapours overhanging the water â€“ quickly followed by them attempting to retch their intestines out. Again a splash within the muck, another rat. Before they could step forth again more splashing sounds, more than one this time, two..three..four..fve..six.. more! An entire pack dived into the bracken liquid, this disturbed Ol'Cappy as he slowly loosened his sword in its protective case. Taking this a bad sign the rest eased their weaponry out, making sure they could be drawn at the blink of an eye. Hawking a mouthful of phlegm into the polluted water Ol'Cappy guided them onwards, the lantern casting little more than a slight circle of protective light now. Turning a corner up ahead they could see a slight glow, this is what they came for: there had been reports of an odd glow being found in certain areas and sewer covers misplaced. Someone had been down into the depths. Closing the light of the lantern off even more till a lit brand would have cast a more comforting glow, they cautiously proceeded. Luckily a section of the wall had caved in giving the erstwhile spies some cover from which to spy, before them was a large chamber; at various intervals in the wall a mosaic or statue of some important person stood, though all were too worn to tell what or who they were. A pale light reflected from once side of the room, a small door of stone lay open; the weak days of sunlight exposing the dark, dankness of below. Two hooded figured conversed in the centre of the room, in the shadows figures could be made out by the dwarf, five in total; one of the hooded beings stood taller than six feet. Brown boots of new leather covered his feet, the deep green cloak instantly pointed towards noble. As did the blade that hung upon his waist, the slight flashes his movements allowed them to glance at the weapon; a fine piece, the hilt inlaid with gold and silver a jewel encrusted pommel finished the weapon off. The second being was a good foot shorter than his partner, he seemed to constantly switch from foot to foot, his hooded head also swung from side to side as if he was paranoid. He would interrupt the other being and sniff the air, this in its self was odd; but what made the team sure this being wasn't human was the long pink appendage that poked from beneath the beings cloak: the tail constantly slapped the brick floor in agitation.
The two beings voices were being amplified by the tunnel's shape, the sewer jacks could hear every word. They were involved in an argument, the human was accused of not producing something: wyrdstone or something. The smaller non human spoke in an odd way, it would repeat words; its voice seemed unfamiliar to the soft human tones for it spoke in harsh rectangular tone. As the conversation progressed the tailed being's words seemed to get more and more annoyed, it was quickly ended when Franz knocked a rock. Its echoed fall sounded more akin to the shattering of the world in the sewer, all eyes fell exactly upon the sewer jacks; their hearts stopped. With a chittered scream the smaller being tore off its cloak and ripped the throat out of his human companion, it revealed the being underneath; it was a rat. Shock rocked through the humans as they saw what was under the cloak; meanwhile the dwarf Gurin knew better. A coarse war cry of his people was torn from his throat in a bull roar, ponding up and other the rock heap the men could hear reikspiel punctuated with the Khazalid, he was screaming oaths and curses at the giant rats. Ol'Cappy was also quick to recover his senses, turning to the others he shouted over the dim the Gurin's charge was making;
â€œGet back to the watch! Tell them what's down h're!! GO!!â€? Pushing Jac, Marius and Franz he drew his short sword and clambered up over the rubble to help Gurin. The dwarf warrior stood surrounded by a number dead overgrown rodents, his axe was covered in a thick black liquid. But he was outnumbered, badly; dozens of rodents swarmed around him, rusted and notched weapons in their furry grip. Some bore sword, long had the sharp edge gone; others held spears, red and orange flakes tumbled from the head tried to the rotting wood shaft by what looked liked stretched guts of a creature â€“ a rat maybe. The tattered weapons were thrust upon the doughty dwarf, their unclean touch leaving blackening wounds weeping darkening blood, Gurin's impetuous had been weathered and now he was being taken down. With his own cry Ol'Cappy charged forward, the weapon in his hand catching the first rat by surprise; his blow dissecting its chest, exposing black and shrivelled innards. His second and third strikes shattered the blocking sword of a skaven before slicing through its soft throat. Reversing his grip he tore the bloody weapon from the neck of his victim in a spray of vile blood, the arc of red was punctuated by the hard crunch of metal meeting bone â€“ his weapon was stuck fast within the creatures chest. It was his undoing, the sword was stuck fast; bracing himself upon the corpse he tried it free it in vain. Wasting no time the skaven swamped the human, going down under a flurry of bites and knives to the back. The tough dwarf still stood, his axe slowed as the wounds he suffered began to tell. Lazy arcs were inscribed in the air with each swing and each time it got easier and easier to evade; suddenly his hair stood on end. A fierce green glow rushed to fill the underground cavern: a gout of enchanted flames ripped through the tunnels., the raging inferno not caring whether it took friend or foe. Turning the nozzle of the weapon closed the firer of the warp fire thrower grinned manically at his leader; with a chitter the pursue was given. The manlngs could never reach the surface.
* * * * * * *
Run they did, through the twisting tunnels; in panic they tried to recall the path they took. Neither of the two registered where Marius had gone, maybe he stayed or was dragged under; whatever happened to was not the first thing on their minds. A cross section loomed out of the darkness, doubt clouded their minds; which way was it? As quickly as the question appeared, the solution was found â€“ both ways. Grasping the arm of the other, the unspoken prayer and wish for safety was contained within a curt nod, they split. Jac going left and Franz right; one wouldn't make it. Their thudding steps echoed long through the tunnels, they parted company and was swallowed by the darkness; behind them the hordes came. Swarming down the tunnels, a living carpet of moving, writhing flesh: rats of all colours and sizes crushed together into a single mass, their humanoid masters followed swiftly behind. Tasting the air with snivelling noses they chittered at others; like an opening of a flower the single mass blossomed into two.
* * * * *
Franz ran as fast as he could, but his skull pounded him still; if this didn't clear his hangover them nothing would. His heart beat faster, its erratic pounding threatened to force him to his feet; pain gripped his chest in its vice like hold. Forcing his weary feet to slow and stop Franz propped himself against the damp wall of the sewer, sucking deep breaths of air as his pulse dropped. He heard it before seeing it, a noise like hundreds of crickets at once; amplified by the shape and form of the tunnel. Then he could see it, the eyes. Red beady eyes gazed at him from the darkness, bobbing upon and down as they came for him at speed; he fled once more. Into the darkness he ran, fear and panic blinding him, making him forget the most basic of all sewer jack mantras - â€œNever move blindâ€?. A fact of the matter he quickly discovered why; with a splash he fell into the river. The foul liquid rushed into his mouth,mixing with bile in a stream of vomit as he broke its scummy surface. Dragging himself onto the safety of the walkway he looked him â€“ and screamed as they swarmed him. They clung to his face and body, teeth and claws finding purchase in flesh and cloth as the rats gnawed at him. Pitching him back into the bracken waters his body convulsed as their tore goblets of flesh from his body, his last moments was gurgling blood and vile waters as his throat was torn out.
Franz had gone the wrong way, but even as far as Jac had got his friends screams and their abrupt end froze him. But he couldn't worry now, he needed to get to the house; offering a silent prayer to Sigmar as he went he ran on. Treacherous floors tried to dump him into the waters, opens from nowhere tried to confuse and confound him the noise of his pursuers tried to overwhelm him. But all had failed. Turning the corner the rusty ladder was in sight, elation filled him as he bounded up the rungs. Suddenly pain flared from his back, again and again. Gripping tightly to the rungs his explored his back, three pointed disks struck from its surface; a thick green slime coated them. Drawing his finger to his face he watched with horror as the green substance turned his flesh to jelly, seeping into his hand it got into his blood; quickly like the multiplying of a rat the infection spread; all round him his blood turned black. Warpstone. But he never realised, but a hairs breadth from his goal he fell. His corrupted flesh was meaninglessly devoured hungry, it was but bones by the time it had hit the stone floor. Light poured down from above, a jauntily face looked down upon the ruin of Jac;
â€œBy Sigmar's hammer!!â€? he swore, with a chittering they swarmed upward, into the lands of men.
On the whole good, a nice energy going on there. It got a little confusing in parts, and I might suggest a calm proof reading after a few days have passed, so you can appreciate it with a clear, detached mind, and do some editing.
In a battle situation as you describe, either it has to be very clear and terse to give the reader a good image of what is happening (short sentences, 'easy' language) or it can deliberatly be a little confusing (to signify the terror and confusion of a firefight). Think about using shorter paragraphs too.
But on the whole excellent, and I look forward to seeing more of your work.
Ryan Dancey, Vice President of Wizards of the Coast, believed that TSR failed because of "...a near total inability to listen to its customers, hear what they were saying, and make changes to make those customers happy." Are you listening, Games Workshop ?
Yes, I have had comments about the story being confusing in parts (It does appear that Franz dies twice ^_^ ), I've never been happy with writing fight scenes but I do them to practice; I always find I can never get the right frame of mind or language to make it seem how I want.
But I like long paragraphs