*Kicks the door down like Big Bird*
Reports of my death have been exaggerated...
Kidding (not really) but I'm back. And oh boy, has this been in my pile for a long time. To explain, the past few months were gruelling to the point that I have not been able to get this chapter finished. I was working six days a week in the past month and my creative spirit was slowly getting crushed through it all.
And with my job having ended on the second day of this month for the season, I was finally able to continue the story once more. So while I am pursuing for another job, I will take some time putting some content (if applicable) a little bit faster.
But before we begin, I am grateful to know this story has been exploding since I was away. It is almost reaching 1000 followers and this is absolutely the best thing I'm gonna be feeling in the next couple of days! I'll be back to check the story and be present to see it hit the 1k mark.
Anyways, I'll talk more and squee about stuff with some afterthoughts! Enjoy the reading!
"No, stop! AaaaaaAAAAAAAGHH!" Another dwarf screamed as the Hell Baron flayed him alive. Teeth and bloody flesh exposed from whence lips were, before his neck snapped after. The baron barked at the others, calling the lesser demons to bring in another. Two imps dragged in a redhaired dwarf, dropping him to the ground. His limbs had been severed and amputated earlier, having proven to be unruly and resisting. The other dwarfs wrestled and squirmed against the hell knights' grips, helpless to save another brother from a mutilating fate. Traudin was no different, albeit his fate was worse. The black mass that coiled him against his will had proven to be immovable and tight. The longbeard's one eye was forced open, watching the painful process of beard flaying. Spurts of liquid poured into his eye to keep it from going dry, continuing his torment.
Their screams rang in his ear unbearably. He sank further deep into despair as another dwarf was skinned. The demons cackled like crows in a feast, indulging themselves in the torment of their fallen prey. It had been like this for hours now. Night had befallen now. More and more demons had sprung from the forest, dragging more surviving dwarfs in their claws.
"Please...stop..." Traudin pleaded in his mind. Tears had dried long ago, even as the clear liquid poured into his eye. As if instinctually, the demon noble halted the process. The baron clutched a beard, holding it over his head and admiring it with an uncanny smug. The demon had skinned and collected enough beards to decorate himself with as many twisted trophies to display as possible. A guttural growl escaped his heated breath, the others listening intently. Traudin had no clue as to what they were saying but the moment the demon turned his gaze towards him, he knew something terrible would befall him.
The baron barked again, a clawed hand pointed towards the Longbeard before he summoned a portal behind him. The baron was finished with his ritualistic killing, throwing the last beard on top of its collection pile beside him. The imps made haste and quickly tied and bundled the beards with dwarf intestines from their recent kills. The demon noble waited impatiently with the imps' hasty binding, grabbing one of them and biting its head off. The imps hurriedly looped the beards in response until the last had been collected. The imps moved aside, showing the leader of their handiwork. The baron growled but picked the beard bundle in his hands. The baron gave one final look at Traudin and smiled. A deep laugh bellowed from his throat before finally disappearing into the portal.
An imp howled and the others began to gather the dwarfs in one grouping. The demons circled the survivors, baring their claws, teeth, and eyes lighting with malice and hate for their victims. The dawi panicked, though some grew defiant to the end. Traudin, useless in his restraints, prayed to his ancestors to comfort the dead that awaited their halls. One Hell Knight raised his claw high up in the air, readied to claim his first.
An imp croaked, however, signalling the others to stop in their tracks. Traudin noted something had alerted them. Their heads raised in the air, catching the scent of something strange to them. A sound in the air came after. Almost like a whistle, but not a normal one. Almost as if chopping through...
A Hell knight's head was split apart by an axe upon landing. The demons looked at the dead knight with mass confusion and surprise. Out of the corner of Traudin's eye, a blur of white rushed towards the confusing demon cohorts.
"WAZZOCKS!" Cursed a revealed dwarf, punching an imp with such force to have it flying in the air. The body flew in the direction of another Hell knight, though batted aside with a swing from its hands. This merely distracted it before the dwarf landed a dropkick to its head. The power behind his kick twisted the demon's head in a full one-eighty-degree turn. The head struck a prowler as it landed, the creature crashing to the grass after. The dwarf landed on his two feet after. The Hell knight's body fell to the ground behind him, blood spurting from the stump and all over the grass. The demons encircled the dwarf, now on the defence and cautious of this new opponent. Traudin strained his eye a bit and focused on his rescuer. The light of Mannsleib revealed the figure more and the Longbeard felt breathless as he recognized a mythical figure made manifest. Standing upward with a look of absolute fury, a dwarf with abnormally large amounts of white hair and decorated beard clenched his fists so hard that even rock would crumble under his grip. Angry eyes looked around, looking directly at every beasts' eyes. The demons sense dread like no other being save for the Doom Slayer himself. Grimnir's Rage flashed behind the dwarf's cold blue eyes like flashes of lightning.
"You think you can get away killing my fellow dawi with your senseless cruelty?! Without being recorded into the Book of Grudges?!" Roared the mysterious dwarf. "No one escapes without a thousand axes down on their heads! And I, Grombrindal the White Dwarf, shall see it fulfilled!"
The demons roared furiously, their attention now on the White Dwarf. Imps swarmed in but were met with stone-hard fists. Grombrindal struck with savagery and temper; their heads crushed and caved in with each wallop. A Hell Knight charged and managed to get a hold of him. However, the White Dwarf stood his ground despite the Hell knight doing its damnedest to push against him. Grombrindal gripped the demon by the hands, both struggling to overpower the other. The Grombrindal proved to be far more cunning and used this opportunity to launch himself into a headbutt. The demon was disoriented by the hit, seeing stars for the first time in its wretched existence. Grombrindal strafed to its side, grabbing it by the waist and performing a suplex on it as he threw himself back. A loud crack alerted him that he had broken its neck, killing it instantly. Quickly gathering himself, Grombrindal turned in time as a prowler from before teleported before him with claws flashing. The fiend struck but caught only air as the dwarf was quick on his feet. The White Dwarf smashed his fist against its belly; the force of it rupturing its organs from the inside. Blood erupted from its mouth followed by being grabbed at the leg and smashed into bloody smithereens by the dwarf. The demons, despite the intimidation, gathered around in numbers. Grombrindal managed to glimpse to where his axe was and dashed forward. In one big leap, Grombrindal grabbed and wrestled the axe from the dead demon as he flipped over it. Blood sprayed across the sky but Grombrindal smashed his axe downwards upon a pinky demon, splitting its head in two after. The Rune Axe of Grimnir glowed with a supernatural blue as the runes were activated. With weapon in hand, the legendary dwarf unleashed the retribution of Grimnir down upon the cohorts of Hell, cursing them as he slaughtered with righteous fury. His axe severed and tasted demon flesh as its wielder swung, dismembering and throwing limbs like a mighty whirlwind of vengeance.
In the midst of the one-dwarf onslaught, the captured dwarfs worked through their restraints quickly right as the demons were distracted. Inspired by Grombrindal's tenacity and willpower, the dwarfs' morale skyrocketed as they freed themselves, grabbing whatever weapon lying around and rallying up a mob. The demons turned their attention to the freed dwarfs, though, they were the ones to be overwhelmed. The dawi fought against their captors; chopping and clobbering with axes, hammers and even fists to gain the upper hand. Traudin noticed other dwarfs coming to his rescue, readying their axes. They chopped through the tendrils of the spike holding onto him, carefully so as to not wound the old dwarf. The tendrils screeched eerily before releasing the Longbeard. Traudin fell forward, face planted into the dirt. Blood flowed slowly but freely into his limbs once again from that tight hold.
"Come on, old man!" A younger dwarf helped him. "Get them limbs kicking! We gonna need your fists to stamp out some grudges!"
Encouraged by those words, Traudin heaved himself up, working himself against the numbness. He struggled but a dawi was stubborn to a fault. He pushed himself up, reminding himself as to why he should. The Everchild - Aliathra - was kidnapped by a Vampire Count. An infamous one to be exact. His throng slaughtered because of that damned vampire's schemes. Forced to watch the suffering of his kin in a helpless state. Despair turned into bitterness. Bitterness to wrath. And wrath to violence. And violence did those fists find great purpose as he clenched them.
Traudin worked himself into a berserk state, pushing himself up and screaming himself into a mad frenzy before running towards the nearest demon he could get his hands on. Two imps were at his mercy as he gripped them by their necks. Their heads smashed together into bloody pulps, their bodies cast aside after. A pinky came charging but stopped head-on by the Longbeard as he tossed upwards and thrown down again. Traudin pulled violently at one of its tusks and stabbed it to death with it, ruthlessly. Traudin turned instantly and caved in a prowler's head with his fist barreling into it.
Nearby, Grombrindal rallied the rest of the dwarfs into a bulwark of unbridled violence against these invaders. Once seemingly impervious and unstoppable, the demons found themselves completely headless and thrown off by the sudden vengeance of the dwarfs. The White Dwarf butchered through the demons with ease, making quick work with precise swings with his axe. A terrible roar that seemed more screams came hurling his way. Soaring from the skies, a pair of revenants and a cybermancubus bore through the trees and made their presence known. They started firing rockets and balls of fire sporadically, uncaring of who was in their range. Be it dwarf or demon.
Grombrindal directed his wrath upon the dual revenant and pressed a charge towards them. The revenants noticed the coming dwarf and targeted him, firing a missile barrage. The White Dwarf noticed a hell knight and grabbed at it, using its body as a shield against the firepower. The demon screamed as the rockets blew its back, completely ripping away the flesh and down to the bone. Grombrindal cast the body to the side, throwing his axe into one of them in one powerful motion. The mighty axe managed to sink into the chest of the revenant, its body now flying in circles before exploding into smithereens. The last revenant flew back but was too late as the White Dwarf grabbed its legs. The flying undead kicked and fired desperately as it wrestled the dwarf to get off, only to piss him off even further. Its jetpack flying wildly as the dwarf's additional weight forced it to go down. Grombrindal climbed up and mounted onto its back, punching the back of its head repeatedly. Its shoulder cannons fired wildly in response to the White Dwarf's presence, indirectly activating its combat servers. A barrage of rockets went flying into several imps and Hell knights like an Umgi Hellstorm Rocket Battery. Seeing the potential damage it could do, Grombrindal whacked the demon, again and again, spurring it to launch rockets with carefully timed hits.
The Cybermancubus' sensors picked up the revenant's erratic movements and aimed his arm cannons directly at it. A guttural roar alerted the White Dwarf, followed by toxic sludge that went flying but narrowly missed the revenant Grombrindal was on by mere seconds. His attention now laying upon the obese demon, Grombrindal hit the revenant, blasting rockets and eating away at the mancubus' armor. The fat demon growled in pain and rage, unleashing toxic fire in the air. The revenant quickly evaded, avoiding being engulfed by those noxious fires. Grombrindal responded with another fist to the revenant's head, activating its cannons again. Volleys of rockets ate away at the mancubus' armor. This time, destroying it completely and exposing the demonic ogre's flesh in the open.
Traudin witnessed the rain of fireworks down on that fat bastard as he crushed two imp skulls into his hands. Those explosions were music to him. This was the sound of vengeance blaring in his ears. The scream of vengeful ancestors rising from their graves to bring down the hammer and axe on Evil's great fat forehead. He watched the smoke dissipate to reveal the bloated form of that lardass rising again, now more pissed off than ever. It unleashed terrible fire upon dwarf-mounted revenant, angrily misfiring with Grombrindal controlling the demon. However, Traudin soon noticed its chest exposed. At the centre of its abhorrent body, its heart gave off an unnatural glow, beating visibly in its disgusting nest.
Traudin prepared to face it head-on but saw a couple of lads immediately get engulfed by its fires. They screamed as the flesh melted away from the toxic fires. Distraught but determined to save his remaining throng, Traudin scrambled for a weapon to use. Any weapon. A strange blue glow appeared in the corner of his eye. The Rune Axe of Grimnir was still embedded on the revenant's corpse. Taking his chances, the old dwarf kicked into high gear and ran for it, pulling it from the desecrated corpse.
Looking into the beautiful but terrible power it held in its runes, Traudin turned his hateful gaze on the mancubus and roared. The demon broke his focus on Grombrindal, aiming his weapons at the Longbeard but distracted by the White Dwarf's assault. Traudin, knowing the danger of getting too close, swung the axe in a full arc, spinning the weapon to gain momentum. With the weapon picking up speeds, Traudin raised the axe over his head and let go. The axe went flying in the air, chopping through the air and hurling its way to its target. The mancubus turned in time to find the axe biting deep into its shoulder. It screamed in pain, spraying its flames wildly in the air. Traudin used this moment to launch himself at the demon, pouncing and landing upon its torso. The demon swung and flailed its arms in desperation to throw the dwarf off of him. Traudin quickly went for the heart and grabbed it, yanking it from the cavity.
"EAT YOUR FUCKING HEART OUT!" Yelled Traudin right before shoving said heart down the mancubus' throat. The dwarf jumped and rolled into the grass, rolling away and watching the fat bastard choke on its own organ. Despite having no hands, the demon grasped its throat, desperately trying to cough out the heart. Too late did the demon explode violently upon its expiration. A visceral display followed with the mancubus' spine dangling between two destroyed arm cannons like a holiday tree on Festag night. Seeing the demon now dead, Traudin relaxed a bit before the Rune Axe came crashing to the ground next to his head, nearly killing him by a few inches.
Seeing the explosion from above, Grombrindal twisted the revenant's head, killing it, and landing back into the earth unscathed. The revenant's corpse lobbed itself into a pack of imps, exploding on impact. Seeing the wrath of the dawi in full display, a Hell knight howled and sounded a retreat. The surviving demons answered the call and fled before the throng could settle the grudges. Regardless, the High King will write this transgression in The Great Book.
With the onslaught now over, the dawi cheered in defiance against the dark forces. Grombrindal watched his kin triumphantly raise their fists in celebration as he gathered his axe.
All but one.
Next to the axe, the White Dwarf saw Traudin sulking with his head down. The Longbeard did not share the same uplifting spirit as the rest. For he had failed to deliver his oath. The Everchild was still out there, stolen by that undead bastard. Sorrow dragged over him like a heavy blanket. Grombrindal feared the fate he would partake in the future. The dwarf stood in front of the Longbeard.
"You alright, lad?" Asked Grombrindal. Stoic but not unsympathetic.
"Nay..." Said Traudin, meeting his gaze with his remaining left eye "Nay at all. This journey has failed. The child of the elgi has been stolen while her people died...and I was forced to watch that damned nufuzkazi kidnap her with my own eye...while I had to listen to the screams of the younger lads as those foul daemons flayed their beards from their chins. Not shaved. Flayed. All in one day."
Traudin's voice trembled with despair. He was reaching the depth of his own hopelessness. His fists quivered, not of anger but of loss.
"I have failed my ancestors...my oaths..."
Grombrindal silently regarded the sullen old dwarf, before reaching out a hand for Traudin to pull himself up. Traudin eyed the White Dwarf's gesture and slowly reached out. The Longbeard stood up with the living legend's help.
"Nay...you haven't." Grombrindal denied. "There are still elgi back on the road. One lass named Avarla said you were escorting the girl here."
The one-eyed Longbeard blinked in shock.
"B-But...I saw her head dangling around those...monsters." Traudin swore. "Impossible."
"You mistook her for one of her kin." Grombrindal corrected. "The elgi look the same but they could the same for us. Regardless, it is most fortunate to know someone to recognize. Speaking of someone..."
The White Dwarf reached out his backpack and pulled out a most peculiar companion.
"I believe this one dearly misses her friend." Grombrindal gently held the rabbit Althena in his arms and passed her to Traudin's. The Longbeard's face squinted in joy at the Everchild's little friend, rubbing her head gently as possible. The White Dwarf picked up his axe after.
"All hope is not lost." Grombrindal asserted. "The Everchild may be taken but she still lives. Gather the survivors both here and on the road and take him back to Karaz-a-Karak. Inform the High King and he will make certain that this will be written in the book."
Traudin, no longer sullen, looked with firm eyes and renewed hope and nodded.
"Aye." He said. "I'll be sure to make that. I will fulfill my oath to save the girl. Even if I have to drag a mountain of bodies to rescue her."
Grombrindal nodded respectfully. "Good. But I must go now. There are still others in the Old World that need my strength. But until then, we shall meet again."
The White Dwarf walked away, passing by several dawi who regarded him with high praises and respect before disappearing into the darkness. The throng looked to one another, unclear and uncertain of their next objective. Traudin came forward and announced his presence.
"Lads!" He cried. "Get the wounded and find whatever weapon you have on you! We march to Karaz-a-Karak! And there, we have a grudge to settle!"
Wulfrik trekked through the harsh snows of his homeland's untamed tundra. The touch of winter bit into his flesh like frozen fire. The frost stirred him to move hurriedly for some sort of shelter. All around him, only blankets of snow and the harsh winds of Norsca impaired his sense of direction. It felt much worse than usual. So cold his armor and his cloak of scalped giant's head did little to keep him warm.
"Damn frost!" He thought. "If I could find a mammoth nearby, I'll strip it of its guts and sleep inside its warm husk just to hide from this damn cold! Nurgle will be pleased by that when I find one of those damn things close by!"
He grumbled under his breath, pulling his cloak. Trudging through the snow and stubbornly gritting his teeth under terrible weather, the Gods granted him salvation as he could see a flicker of light from a distance. Piqued out of curiosity and desperate for fire's embrace, the lone norscan pressed forward. Winter bit at his heels, urging him to sprint despite the thick snow slowing him down.
Closer he went, the faint outlines of a building became clear. The roof of it gave away its position as snow blanketed the head harmlessly. And on that same roof, smoke escaped from it. The lights from before were revealed to have been seeping away from the front door; ever so slightly jarred to be inviting. Inside, a tune slithered its way into the Executioner's ears despite the harsh howls of Winter's winds.
Vargen ylar i nattens skog
Han vill men kan inte sova
Hungern river i hans varga buk
Och det är kallt i hans stova*
The voice singing that tune was enthralling. Enough that it could perhaps lull the most vicious troll to sleep. Yet, Wulfrik did not feel eased at all. It could be an illusion, he thought, or perhaps it wasn't and it may be home to something sinister. Yet the cold continued to bite at his skin, and having no other choice, Wulfrik slowly approached the doorway with one hand gripping his sword's hilt on his hip. Wulfrik pushed the door ever so carefully. Entering, the norscan champion was greeted pleasantly by the vast halls of a longhouse fit for a true jarl. Walls were mounted with shields, swords, and axes while long tables lined up with succulent food and cups of mead raided from the south. He had wondered if he had finally died a warrior's death and entered Valhall; the Great Hall of Warriors. The song continued its tune even as Wulfrik entered unannounced. And at the centre of this house belied a hearth.
And near this hearth sat a stranger singing unaware of Wulfrik's presence. The voice was clearly that of a woman's, and it became more soothing to his ears. As he approached near her, he could see hair of golden colour covering her back.
The woman stopped singing as Wulfrik stepped on a creaky part of the floor. Wulfrik was ready to pull out his sword as she slowly turned to him. The sword was never pulled, however, as Wulfrik gazed at an old familiar face once cherished.
"Wulfrik?" The woman said in surprise. Wulfrik's breathing stopped and his eyes bulged out comically as he stared directly into the beautiful azurite eyes of Hjordis.
The woman sighed in relief and smiled warmly. "Wulfrik, you gave me a scare! What are you doing here? Father would send his guards to kill you if he sees us together!"
Wulfrik scoffed but bemused. "Let him try! Even a goblin could fight better than those scarecrows he has following him!"
Hjordis laughed softly before standing up. She wore a wolf skin gown as she moved forward; leaning in and kissing him on the lips. Wulfrik tasted the berries that parted her lips and embraced her love like no one else. He had spent too long fighting other norscans, trolls, mammoths and more of Norsca's deadly predators. Yet, he always rewarded himself with sharing beds with his betrothed.
"My Wulfrik." She doted. "Never change."
Hjordis placed her head against his chest; embracing him as she had the Serpent's approval.
"How was your last raid?" She asked.
"Not that much different from the last ones." Wulfrik admitted. "The southlings still put up a fight whenever we make land. Hopefully, the Hound is very much pleased with my sacrifices. He most likely smiles upon me with the skulls I've collected. And the loot will suffice for the both of us."
Hjordis frowned upon his odd disposition. "You don't seem at all happy fighting. Has my Wulfrik suddenly grown tired of battle?"
"No." He replied, scratching the back of his neck. "I am simply restless to find new challenge each day. Yet, I am always finding myself fighting the same enemies. Just different faces, really."
Hjordis tilted her head in sympathy. She placed a hand on one of his cheeks. Her eyes stared deeply into Wulfrik's equally icy blue eyes.
"Do not despair yourself. I would rather not have the Crow bless your cock with disease." She jested. This brought her lover back to a cheerful mood as he chuckled.
"Come." Hjordis suggested. "I have a bed in need of company."
Wulfrik was all too willing to speak, his silent but passionate kiss giving away his thoughts. Yet, as the two lovers continued exploring their necks with each other's kisses, the Executioner of the Dark Gods caught a glimpse of a particular shield he had laid his eyes upon. This shield stood out the most. Others had images of great and terrible beasts such as dragons, merwyrms and shaggoths painted upon the shields' surfaces; this one was unknown. It was an etching. A marking. It was unlike any other that Wulfrik had seen. It was a cross between the letters "T" and "J" with four small symbols framing on different corners of it. Yet, this very symbol had power. It spoke of Terror and Reckoning. A symbol that even his Gods feared.
So enthralled by the mark that he had lost interest in his betrothed. His hands went loose and he walked towards the shield.
"Wulfrik?" Hjordis called to him, worriedly. The burly norscan eyed too long at the shield. Sweat came running across his forehead; heart beating as fast as if he were fighting in the midst of battles.
"Where...where did you find this shield?" Wulfrik turned back to Hjordis; pointing his finger back at the shield. "Whose shield does this belong to?"
"Probably from one of father's men. He must've been an honored one." She excused. The Wanderer wasn't convinced; anger was rising.
"Hjordis, I know that symbol!" He lashed out. "It does not belong to one of us! Tell me!"
Hjordis backed away with fearful eyes. "Wulfrik, you're scaring me! Please, I'm sure father will have answers!"
"TELL ME!" Yelled Wulfrik. Just then, a sharp pain struck his chest. Wulfrik clutched his chest and knelt against a seat beside him.
"Wulfrik!" Hjordis cried out in fear of her beloved. Searing pain enveloped him with such an agonizing ordeal. It was like hot iron puncturing his heart. He tore off the breastplate to reveal a nasty gash riddled across his chest.
Then suddenly, visions began flashing before him.
He was in the midst of battle. Fighting broke out between two ships. One ship was full of his men. The other, filled with elves. But instead of invading the elves' ship, they invaded theirs. Wulfrik took part in the defense of the Seafang; killing elves that strayed too close. And in the midst of the fighting, one warrior appeared among the elves. He was no elf and he fought like he were of the Norscans. Yet he wore not the armour of the Gods, but a greater being. The surface was smooth yet its design would have made a dwarf jealous to look upon. And in his hands were weapons that only the southlings could wield but with greater power. They roared like dragons and spewed fire without rest. Wulfrik's men were being obliterated by the awesome power of this new challenger. And Wulfrik took to challenging this warrior amongst elves.
The Eternal Challenger dashed forward and clashed with this new enemy. They had come face to face, eyes met with wrath and destruction in hand. And as Wulfrik laid eyes upon him, he saw the mark.
The Mark... of the Slayer.
Blows came after, with neither warrior backing down and fighting relentlessly. And during it all, a cowardly elf struck him dishonourably during the duel. But before the Wanderer could deliver punishment to the interloper, the unnamed warrior had one of his weapons planted against his chest and struck true as the Diabolical Musket delivered its terrible fury with fire and metal. Wulfrik was blown aback before falling into the depths of Mermedus's realm.
The visions stopped and Wulfrik was able to clear his mind. Sweat poured under his brow and his breathing turned erratic to control. Wulfrik looked around and saw everything had gone back to normal. He looked at Hjordis, who returned with worried eyes.
As he processed his thoughts, Hjordis slowly approached him.
"Wulfrik..." Hjordis quietly called to him. "Are you alright?"
Wulfrik was back to his surroundings and immediately backed away from his betrothed.
"I...I don't understand...!" He said. "Did I foresee my death without rest? Or have I truly fallen?"
"Wulfrik, please!" Hjordis pleaded. "What is wrong, my love?"
Suddenly, the earth beneath their feet began to tremble. The longhouse shook violently under the earthquake. The weapons on the walls dropped to the floor. The bonfire behind Wulfrik burst into a wildfire. Its flames consumed the roof with avaricious consumption. The food - once delicious to look upon - was swarmed with maggots and disgusting flies. Cups once filled with mead were replaced with vile concoctions that burst forth and began melting anything they touched. This longhouse's beauty became a nightmarish landscape.
Wulfrik - now in the total realization of what was happening - set on escaping. However, his first instincts stood before him.
Wulfrik jumped back on his feet and moved towards his betrothed.
"Come, Hjordis!" He yelled. "We must flee now! It's not safe here!"
Hjordis, however, simply stared at him. Instead of frantic terror that would naturally come to them, Hjordis looked upon him with cold acceptance. Genuine remorse was written all over her face as she touched his face one last time.
"No Wulfrik..." She muttered so loudly despite the roaring fire around them. "I'm afraid you're too late... you can't save me... nothing can be saved once it is offered to the gods."
As she finished, blood began to leak from her mouth. Wulfrik could stare in confusion before felt his hand gripping onto something. Looking down, to his horror, a blade had been driven through her stomach by his own hand.
"No...!" His mouth trembled. He looked up to meet Hjordis' eyes only to stare back at the mutilation done to her. Where once there was pale flesh and golden hair to welcome his eyes, only the bloody sight of her skinless and scalped head greeted him. Where a heart that once lived between her bosom and a belly made to bear their children were replaced with bloody hollows emptied crudely. Wulfrik couldn't even hear his own screams of horror and despair as the fire roared throughout the collapsing longhouse. Kneeling beside his dead betrothed, Wulfrik's final moments were to look upon the shield he saw not too long ago; the symbol of the man who had killed him before a rush of water burst forth from behind.
Wulfrik's eyes shot up and gasped for air. He awoke from his near-death state before turning to the earth and vomiting out gallons of water and blood. Among them, small metal pellets had been collected and exited from his throat. He wretched out the waters from his gullet, tasting bile as he emptied in painful heaps. Minutes felt like hours before Wulfrik finally stopped and inhaled frigid air. His eyes were still bleary and his limbs felt weak. However, he knew that he was on dry land. Mermedus had not yet claimed his soul. Better that way, he thought.
Wulfrik moved sluggishly as he tried to stand. He felt his chest hurting as he regained his senses. He looked down to find his cuirass ruined. A gaping hole the size of a fist exposed his chest. His collection of skulls on it were now lost to the sea. The lone champion tore off the armour piece with one hand; ridding himself of the now useless scrap metal.
Now bare-chested, Wulfrik could see the wounds left behind in his last fight. Large buckshot wounds were scattered all over his chest. It had explained why he had vomited the pellets in the first place. The fight before made him rethink his next brush with Death's champion. The weapons were nothing like what the southlings had used. And that proved to be a hunt most difficult to gift the gods. It was a bloody miracle he had managed to survive. The wound had healed tremendously but moments spent in the cold waters had left a nasty blue discolouration. The soreness was beginning to rise in his chest but Wulfrik did his best to ignore it.
"How long have I been out?" He moaned to himself; scanning his surroundings, he only saw the wreckage of ships - both norscan and elven - on the shores. Corpses were everywhere by the thousands. The only ones to attend their twisted graves were the crows. The carrions took great joy in feasting on Nurgle's charity; cruelly laughing while engorging in the buffet of corpses. Wulfrik would have felt disgusted had such a feeling withered ages ago. Now, his only desire was to return to doing his Gods' bidding.
A slight tap to his boot brought to his attention. Torgald's Sword had washed ashore alongside him. A simple message from the gods to continue his oath. He took up his blade and prepared for another journey. Firstly, he wrapped the cape around his body to protect himself from the cold. Then, he took the collection of skulls over his shoulders. And finally, he removed the pole that had been strapped to his back and carried it in one hand like a gruesome banner.
A distinct crow's caw drew the hero's attention, looking up into the sky to see the carrion circle above. The bird quickly flew east, and Wulfrik followed it to where it guided him.
Wulfrik wandered among the corpses; searching for any of his surviving shield brothers. The stronghold from the distance had smoke going up yet he heard neither screams nor battle from within. Wulfrik had drawn two conclusions. His brothers-in-arms had won or the elves had retaken the hold. If it was the former, then he could at least regroup with the others. If it was the latter... well, he had no issue giving more tributes to the Ruinous Powers. The lone norscan continued his way through the mass graveyard. Every corpse he passed, he saw only the blank expressions written on their faces. Their skin a blue pallor after soaking up in the seas of this dreary land. Wulfrik tugged his cloak closer, the cold burdening him a bit. Sometime after, he came across the body of an executioner with an axe stuck to his head. It was an ordinary boarding axe, used for raiding and piracy. A profession he was most familiar with before and after his ascension to Champion of the Gods. Needing an extra weapon for future skirmish, Wulfrik wrenched the axe off, gore spilling from the rotting wound, continuing his march after. As he strode along the coastline, Wulfrik contemplated the dream he had.
How long had it been since he remembered Hjordis? How long had it been since he... gave her to the gods? The last memory of her pained him more than his chest wound. Everything about the dream opened too many other wounds. Why bring her back now? Had the gods reminded him of his duties by torturing him with lost love? He cast her away in his final rites as the Gods had intended. Along with her father, Viglundr, and that spineless Aesling whelp, Sveinbjorn. Their names had his fists clenching in anger. He stripped himself of any mortal affairs and ambitions. Ormskaro and all the Sarls that resided in it were now ashes to the wind... so why now?
His face softened from the stern glare he once had. Why did the memory of her come back? Now, of all times?
Such thoughts were completely evaporated as the earth rumbled beneath. Off in the distance, he saw a druchii patrol coming towards him. He counted five among them riding upon Cold Ones; seeking out their prey. Wulfrik, however, was no ordinary norscan. For he felt no fear in his heart.
He was the Eternal Challenger. The Executioner of his Gods. They were but pitiable prey to his eyes.
The riders drew near before finally encircling him. Their mounts snarled while the druchii showed leering expressions in an attempt to intimidate the lone warrior. Upon closer inspection, he noted seven witches among them, riding on their vicious horses. Wulfrik planted his skeletal banner to the ground as the blood hag rode forth to greet him.
"Look, sisters and brothers!" She mocked. "A corpse washed ashore. And it can walk too!"
"I still haven't been claimed by Nurgle just yet, witch." Wulfrik retorted in the elves' native tongue. Harsh as the accent was, the witch elf blinked in surprise by his language.
"You speak our tongue?"
"I speak in many tongues." Answered Wulfrik. "Even your nauglir. And I fancy a nice talk with them than I have with you."
The witch gritted her teeth, not deigning to be provoked by the Executioner's sarcasm.
She hissed, "I'm sure they'll enjoy a good treat out of you."
"Oh please, after you." Wulfrik sassed. The witch immediately ordered the knights to attack. A rider behind him was the first to charge. Wulfrik ducked and turned, his sword swinging across in momentum, hacking through the cold one's legs. The nauglir crashed to the sand, throwing its owner into the jaws of another nauglir. Its screeches of agony were silenced with an axe driven to its skull. Wulfrik let go of the axe's handle and backed away in time as a cold one snapped only the air from where he was. The warrior chopped right through the neck of the nauglir with unyielding force. The knight lost control and fell beneath his dead mount. The warrior turned with his sword, cutting into the mouth of another raptor. Steel cut through skin, splitting from ear to ear and all the way through the neck, finally passing through the legs of its knight. Though much of the knight's body had turned numb from the special ointment used to mount his nauglir, he screamed at the loss of his legs before Wulfrik impaled his face through.
"Kill him!" Howled the Hag. The remaining pair of knights lashed out, with the first charging Wulfrik at blinding speeds. The hero dodged swiftly and prepared the death strike until the other nauglir snapped his jaw around his sword arm. He bit back a scream, dropping his sword in the rush. Undaunted, Wulfrik threw a fist into its eye, disorienting and blinding it. The reptile released upon retaliation, its knight trying to balance himself as it spun. The other knight rushed again, seeing Wulfrik now unarmed. But his confidence dropped as he underestimated the hero's vulnerability. In an impressive feat of strength, Wulfrik stopped the nauglir's jaws with both hands, and toss it over his head. The rider was sent flying from his mount and crashed into the sand. A sound of something crack came, and the knight remained immobile from his landing.
From the sidelines, the Blood Hag and her coven were infuriated by the incompetence. All five knights failed to kill the human, three of which had lost their mounts and two of them dead. The Hag cried out for blood, commanding her cohorts to kill the Norscan as he continued to finish off what's left of the knights. Their horses galloped to him, thirsting for blood and vengeance. Wulfrik noticed the witches riding hard as stabbed his sword into a knight's throat. Quickly, he grabbed his axe and prepared to deliver more skulls to Khorne's throne. Clenching his teeth, the hero was ready to strike the hag before something whistled in the air and impacted the woman's skull and horse. Startled by her death, the witches redirected their attention to the arrow's origin only to find a damaged Norscan warship appearing so close and suddenly. For Wulfrik, he instantly recognized the dragonhead. The Seafang's crew readied their bows and threw axes upon the shore, raining down death upon the dark elves while also avoiding friendly fire on their yaarl. The rest of the druchii, seeing their leader dead, were forced to retreat, leaving the survivors to their fates.
Wulfrik lowered his blades, grumbling irritably by the elves' cowardice but settled with his crew rescuing him. Then angry to see the Seafang manned without his permission. The ship immediately took to landing upon the shores, allowing the crew to jump out and welcome their captain back. The first to do so was an older raider named Eldgrim. His head was shaved down to the scalp, leaving only a bald head save for the tattoos that nearly covered it all. His long greybeard reached the buckle of his belt, hiding his burly chest underneath lamellar armor. Being the closest, he was short amongst his crew, reaching only Wulfrik's shoulders. Yet this did not hide the fact he was more experienced out of the crew, and the one specifically chosen as his second-in-command by Wulfrik himself.
"Eldgrim." Wulfrik regarded the elder marauder. "Who's manning my ship?"
The old raider sensed the displeasure in Wulfrik's tone and immediately answered, "No one, yaarl."
"Trollshit, you did." Wulfrik spat, fuming now. Many of his men slowly stepped back for fear of their yaarl's wrath, having heard stories of disembowelling any man who had the chance to control the Seafang. Eldgrim raised his hands in protest.
"It's the truth, Wulfrik!" He blurted out. "None of us had taken control of the Seafang save for you!"
"Then how the hells did it get here?" The hero questioned, growling lowly to remind the old man who controlled the ship.
"None of us know." Eldgrim admitted. "When you fell into the waters, the Seafang suddenly had a mind of its own! Breathed fire on the elves and that warrior of theirs and threw us into the bridge between worlds! Some of the men fell prey to the phantoms but I was able to get ahold of most of the surviving crew. By the time we returned to the mortal realms, it landed us here. Finding you in the midst of combat with the elves."
The hero regarded the words of his trusted confidant, dwelling if there was truth to them. He snorted in dismissal but relaxed his shoulders.
"So be it." Wulfrik dismissed. "But I will have everyone cutting their palm and dropping blood on the dragonhead. If you speak true, then I will let it slide. But if I find any of you deemed worthy of this vessel, the phantoms you go. Along with you, Eldgrim."
The elder raider was incensed with the threat, but he damned knew that he was able to prove it later. Wulfrik's eyes wandered to the men behind Eldgrim, all nervous and fearful of his wrath.
"As for everyone, the only thing I have to say is to grab whatever loot is among the corpses. And be quick about it, before the carrions return with more numbers."
A noise behind Wulfrik alerted the norscan crew. A Cold One Knight was pushing his dead mount off of him though helpless given his weakened state. Wulfrik grabbed his sword and walked directly to the elf. The knight noticed him and raised his hands, begging in his own tongue. The Executioner simply strode up and planted the sword through the elf's mouth. Wulfrik watched impassionately as the knight struggled and choked as steel collided and punctured through the back of his throat, the life in his eyes fading and his arms falling back to the sand. Moments later, the hero pulled free and gathered his belonging.
"And make sure the corpses stay corpses. Then take the loot for all I care." Wulfrik passed by his crew and went back to his ship. The marauders quickly scurried to find whatever corpse they could scavenge off. To them, at least they could use something to get a few days of ale and meat. For Wulfrik, mere scraps for the rabid dogs, for there is no greater reward than to show the gods the head of his latest hunt.
The head of the Doom Slayer. The Beast of Ragnarok. And the Devourer of the Gods. His Gods.
But for now, a wolf needed to lick his wounds. And an ego to soothe. And only then will there be more time for another challenge to overcome.
So that's all folks! Not exactly how I wanted things to end, but it was time this chapter needed to be printed. Anyways, with it now out of the way, I can finally move on.
So yes, more screentime for the dwarfs and a good ol' comeback by Norscan boi, Wulfrik. I finally got to finish the latter's story and finally got a copy of "Masters of Stone and Steel" for the dwarfs. Among other things. Really, I have been collecting Warhammer for the past couple of months. I even got the first omnibus of Gotrek and Felix. Will be collecting the Second Omnibus after I finish the first but will ignore anything written by Nathan Long. William King is better from what I've heard.
But before we depart, I want to give some big shout-outs to the writers that have been contributed greatly and offered me advice during my time of absence. Deathwing17, ManwithaPlan113, quentin3655, Wacko12, nintendoplayer96v8 (not a writer but honorary), and many others that I would be able to mention but its rather difficult when the names are so different on Discord. Regardless, you guys are the GOATs and have been the best help I could've since doing fics for the past two years. I look forward to further collabs and future writings.
And yes, I saw the new trailers for TTW3. I don't know how I'll be able to bring Cathay or any other upcoming factions to the story but damn what a time to be alive! Cathay, Chaos, Siege, oh my! Anyways, I'll try to post some Q&As sometime this weekend. I have yet to post one for the last chapter so definitely gotta have to get that finished. Anyways, leave a review as always and have a Happy Halloween! Enjoy some spooky scary skeletons, bedsheet ghosts, Michael Myers, and your pumpkin Jack O'Lanterns! Boo!