Warhammer: Vermintide

‘Bounty Hunter’—A Vermintide-Inspired Short Story

warhammer 10 - 'Bounty Hunter'—A Vermintide-Inspired Short Story


I just finished a short story for my writing class final. I couldn't go all out with lore and specifics because it was school work, but the story is based around the Empire in Flames mission and I'm sure you''ll recognize quotes.

It would be great if a few people could read through it and give critique; again, this is schoolwork and a precursor of specific Vermintide writing I'd like to do someday. I wanted to know if the tone and description feels right and is true to the game.

Google document link if you prefer that:

edit?usp=sharing - 'Bounty Hunter'—A Vermintide-Inspired Short Story


Siegward left the ravine and stepped into the glare of an overcast sun. Grunewald lay ahead within a wide plain of dying grass, the city rising from the ground upon the massive spire of stone from which it was built. The Grey Mountains stretched coldly across the horizon. From this distance, it almost looked like the vermin plague had never made it this far. But the vultures circling overhead laid false that illusion.

Ash soiled the grasses and crackled beneath his boots, coating the land in an ugly darkness. A wagon caravan blocked the road ahead. Corpses simmered in the heat, and he could see the dismembered limbs of horses mixing with the rest. He pulled his cloak to his nose and went around the disgusting pool. Whatever had done it, elves, rats, or humans, he couldn’t tell. Cruelty all looked the same in this edge of the Empire. He’d never been here in times of peace; it was once considered far from the frontlines. Hunting a bounty here was dangerous, but he had no choice. The slip offered a hundred marks for the safe return of Alice, the daughter of a nobleman. That money would help him find the bounty he was really after.

The ground before the gate was drenched in stale carnage. Bodies lay where they had been cut down, some with crudely forged steel still embedded in their flesh. It was the work of rats, after all. The farmers hadn’t stood a chance. Those without swords rarely did when war arrived on their doorstep. Siegward went through the gate, avoiding the bodies that hung from its rafters. The interior of the city was as bleak as the rest: buildings gaped, blackened and scorched; and the air was still, smelling of the smoke and rot that followed the vermin wherever their dark god sent them.

There were no signs of the girl, but Siegward felt, or thought he had felt, sinister eyes stalking his steps; and beneath the smoke there was a wisp of vermin and decay. He had been searching for an hour before his descent into the cellars led him to discover a section of wall that had been collapsed from the other side, revealing a rough-hewn tunnel that was quickly swallowed by a deep darkness. There was no mistaking the scratches on the walls—the tunnel could only be one of the untold thousands that made up the vermin empire. There was enough room for him to walk. He lit a torch from the wall and slid an extra into his belt before going into the darkness. His leather uniform already felt suffocating in the confinement, but the rat tunnels were sure to be the quickest way to finding them. He brushed his hand against the tunnel wall, feeling the rough stone beneath his glove. He shuddered to think about the heaving mass of rats that had come through here. It was difficult to defend against such enemies.

Much time had passed before Siegward came across a branch in the tunnel. He was breathing heavily, and the stale air was thin in his lungs. He held the torch higher but to no avail; its light could not penetrate far enough into the gloom to reveal anything useful. He decided to go left, reckoning it looked the tiniest bit wider than the other, and congratulated himself when the tunnel began to slope upwards. Short branches led off to the sides where the ratmen had tried and failed to find a breakthrough. It was another half hour of exertion before he spotted light ahead and stumbled into a luxurious hallway. He collapsed into the nearest chair and took deep breaths. Every foray against the ratmen was bound to end up underground eventually. At least he hadn’t had to fight his way out of there.

He extinguished the torch in the rug and dropped the extra beside it. The area was suspiciously intact—perhaps a traitor was to blame for the fall of Grunewald? Judging from the apparent wealth, he was in the baron’s manor. If the ratmen had taken prisoners, there was a good chance they were holed up here somewhere. He drew his longsword from its scabbard and proceeded down the hallway, seeking the Great Hall.

Before long he heard scampering ahead, and, peeking around the corner, he saw a ratmen patrol. These common vermin stood at half the height of a man, and covered their filthy brown fur with what scraps they could. They marched with a guttural chant and held aloft knives and short swords. Siegward stepped out from the wall and faced the ratmen. They only had time to cry out before he was upon them. He slashed forward and beheaded two of them, then slammed his boot into the last, feeling fragile bones crack; the rat hit the wall and lay still. The hallway opened up and ended before two large wooden doors. Siegward heard the overlapping voices of ratmen within. He took hold of the iron handles and pulled them open.

The interior was shrouded in gloom; fire braziers cast dancing shadows across the nest the rats had made. In the center was a girl surrounded by leering monsters. One of them was a large, hulking black rat who wore the heavy armor of the Plague Regalia. The girl was naked and covered in filth. How pitiful it was to seem disgusting even next to vermin. There was no telling what horrors the prisoners of the ratmen faced, except that they ended in a gruesome death.


‘OI!’ shouted Siegward. ‘Come on then, ratmen, I’ll chop you to bloody pieces!’ The alarms were raised, and with war cries the ratmen rushed towards the figure in the doorway. Hate filled their blood at the sight of the no-fur manling silhouetted by the harsh light outside. The brown furs reached him first, lunging with spears and knives in hand, but the manling was too quick; left, right, left, his sword flashed, and black blood splattered on the stones. The bodies began to pile around him and were stomped underfoot as the rats advanced with wicked spears and halberds. The manling jumped backwards and reached into his coat. In a blink of the eyes he aimed and fired a single shot, missing armor and driving deep into the eye of the black rat, who’s last breath was of black powder and agony.

Siegward continued backing up, killing those who came to close. There was no time to reload his flintlock. An armored rat swung down with a viscous overhead chop and he jumped forward to parry it, and for a moment time seemed to slow; he would either be fast enough or not. His arms tingled from the force of the blow. Thank the Divines for Aeglan steel, or his sword would be a chipped and pitted mess by now. With swift strikes he finished off the last of them and returned to the hall. He found the girl curled up behind a fallen dining table.

‘I am Siegward of Bremen. Your father has offered a bounty for your return,’ he said. ‘Come, let us leave this place.’ He took off his overcoat and draped it over her shoulders, then helped her to stand. The firelight reflected in her dull purple eyes. His gaze flicked to her ears and found them pointed. ‘You’re elven,’ he said. ‘I assumed you took after your father.’ She pulled her arms through the sleeves and buttoned the front.

‘The child of a human and elf is always elven,’ she whispered.

‘I see. Let’s go, then,’ said Siegward. They walked back through the tunnel using the spare torch. The girl kept her eyes down and did not say anything. They finally stopped to rest at the crossroads. After some time the still darkness became peaceful. He gave her some water and ate the last of the food when she refused it.

‘Who’s this?’ she said. He looked over to see that she had been looking through the pockets of his coat, and held her own bounty slip in one hand and in her other one that was older and wrinkled. It showed a rough depiction of a boy, drawn in an inexperienced hand. It was the latest recreation of a bounty he had put out many, many years ago.

‘My brother,’ he said.

‘Oh,’ she replied. She returned the slips to their pouch and stood when he did. They returned to the streets above, where night was falling.

‘Divines protect us…’ she whispered. The streets that once buzzed with life had been cut down by heresy. She looked down at the stones, at her bounty hunter, then to her own hands, anything to avoid the blood. A bitter bile rose to her throat and she could not help retching against the wall. Siegward eyed her but said nothing. She stayed hunched over for a moment more, taking deep breaths and trying to fight the rising nausea. Suddenly, she froze. There was the sound of metal on the wind.

The marching chant sent shivers down her spine. It was the same sound she’d heard the day the city fell to chaos. Siegward had gone ahead to see how many there were. She saw him look out above the wall, his face illuminated by moonlight. His eyes widened, and it seemed that he turned pale.

‘Run, RUN!’ he cried. He took off down the street, leaving her to follow. Behind her the chant had turned into war cries. She glanced back and saw a heaving tide of vermin, fur and metal. She cried out in fear and ran after Siegward. They ducked into a side alley, the stones slick with filth, then turned down another street, then another, and another. Her feet hit the stones hard, and the leather coat was hot against her skin. Siegward cried for her to Jump! and she did so without thinking, over a broken fence and into a stone courtyard. They continued running, and she felt the rat spears descending upon her back again and again. They ran through burnt houses, over tables and broken furniture. Her foot stabbed into something and she cried out, stumbling, and he came back to grab her arm and yank her forward. Finally they climbed over a collapsed section of the wall and into the fields, not stopping until they were within the forest. The night had become quiet again.

The trees were soon fading into the darkness. In silence they walked through the desolation of blackened trunks and brittle leaves. The moon glowed softly in the sky. He led her to the river Eile and washed away the dirt in the cool waters, then bound her foot, which ached hotly. They sat there for a long while, until the chill of night returned to them.

‘Where were the Empire’s soldiers?’ said Alice. ‘This wasn’t supposed to happen, not here.’ She stared at her reflection in the water.

‘Fighting and dying elsewhere,’ replied Siegward. ‘And be glad for it. Grunewald will be far from the last sacrifice we will have to make.’

‘You still side with the Empire, then? Why not fight for them?’

‘I did, once. But when gods wage war, the lives of men become cheap things. And all I have left is my brother.’

It was a long walk back to civilization.

‘I’m sure you’ll find him.’

‘Yes, I’m sure I will,’ said Siegward.

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