Warhammer: Vermintide

[Contest] Dissecting of the Enemies of Man

warhammer 7 - [Contest] Dissecting of the Enemies of Man
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It is after dark and the earth smells of wetness, dew and wood smoke wafting up from the boarded windows. Two hours ago, we arrived from our last clandestine mission. An hour ago, we ate. Now it is past midnight. Morrslieb’s sickly glow flits around the windows’ arches and they are transformed by it, taking on a second life in the sway of skewed shadows — it is a life of impermanence and a twisted, fey wildness where the stone seems to melt into a chaotic tide.I get to work while the specimen is fresh — before rigor mortis sets in and the muscles become immovable husks, before the blood settles, congeals and blackens. A clan rat. Its carrion lies on the examination table with the same expression of animosity it wore when it died as I strip away the rags, then set about depicting the creature’s anatomy on a yellowed page; rodent incisors, although the dentition suggests an omnivore; thin limbs; the joints are very flexible. This I already know. I know, too, that Skaven are of diminutive stature, but possessed of restless agility that allows them to squeeze through any crevice, short-lived and resilient to pestilence. The only strange part of this examination is to see the cadaver in perfect stillness, without twitching and chittering — it lies there, with its limbs inert and unseeing eyes. Grey. Dirty. Supine, and as though waxen in the early stages of decay it poses no danger, but in its motionlessness I realize I should not recognize this thing if I hadn’t killed it myself.I feel no pity for the enemy. The cold sensation that trickles down my spine is merely an unsettled curiosity that must have something to do with Morrslieb’s light worming its way onto the windowsills.

This here is an unempirical carcass. It exists — it lies upon my table, its visage is immortalized on no less than four pages — and a body should be the clearest proof to even the most skeptical Templar. From the sharp teeth to the dirty claws, nothing about it is false, but I could take this very corpse to any Witch-hunter and I would be rebutted at once. Even if there were twenty or twenty hundred of them, Skaven would not exist. Everyone knows that.There have been attempts to convince me of this undeniable truth for years, and they continue regardless of all accounts to the contrary which I present; all are swept under the rug, dismissed. Yet I know the truth and thus continue to make these studies, no longer for my own advancement, but with the faith that they might turn the tide of unbelievers and thus the one of our doom.

Now, I take up the scalpel instead. The hide is thick. It doesn’t give easily to examination, but I have on my side practice and confident hands; in two diagonals leading from the shoulders to the sternum I expose the pectoral muscles, then continue down the navel to open the path to the abdominal cavity. What tough muscle covers the stomach is sinewy, stringy — and reeks something terrible the more one cuts into it.Everything is recorded, of course. The musculature. The deformation of the ribs from a past injury. Afterwards, as I make an incision in the peritoneum and flip back a couple of well-thumbed pages, I clearly see the difference between the slivers of yellow fat that line the viscera and the thin bodies of skavenslaves from the past weeks — something I mention in my observations. Sigmar wills, it will be of use in the future.I know the procedure perfectly, neither the stench nor the image of death disconcerts me, I do not fear the green moon with churlish superstition yet I am not calm. It’s the absurdity of dissecting a carcass that should not exist which stays and stills me. By all accounts, I am an unflinching man — why, then, do accusations of lunacy sway me? This hatred, is it a self-absorbed obsession, opium to nurse a wounded pride, to make it feel less like losing?

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My fingers seem to quiver upon diving into the abdominal cavity; I tighten my grasp and slice into the mesentery to separate the small intestine — it slithers as though this was its last attempt at an escape — and follow up with the still half-full stomach, the kidneys, and a bloated liver. Of course, the viscera is worm-ridden. Next, I move on to the cartilage that anchors the ribs to the sternum like the arches of a cathedral, but sawing through it is laborious, and I only realize that more than an hour has already passed when I notice my fingers no longer become awash in blood as I expose the heart.This, I separate from its scarlet cradle. It’s undamaged. About the size of a fist, it rests in my hand without the burden of permanence imposed on it by a sketch; it’s not much smaller than a human heart. To the untrained eye, it would be indistinguishable.That is why I hesitate to draw it, but instead deposit it in a bowl and turn by back to its deceptions — it is heresy, godless and warped, only more proof that the foe we face deserves no quarter when its form makes a mockery of ours! But rats should not possess molars or opposable thumbs whose joints and fascia mimic those of men. If I try to reaffirm that, the dissections become pointless; I will lie. To admit that the mangy hide of a ratman has anything in common with the civilized man, however, will condemn me in the eyes of the Order.

I stare this dead thing in the eye. All the hatred, indignant fury and frustration seem to well out from within me as though melting; they become torrents, open to the storm that rages beyond our constructions of order and logical answers to every question of existence. I realize it all of a sudden, in excess of my conviction and effort — Sigmar forgive my resentment, but the fools garlanded with authority will not believe words and records, and they will not believe a corpse. The compendium of notes gathered across dissections of Skaven cadavers combined with my knowledge of purging them was supposed to be the cornerstone upon which I would convince the Order of my truth, and in it are the minute details of the Skaven’s bodies; their weapons, their armies; their foul machinery; everything is there and it isn’t enough. All the conclusions I made are damning.I'm fuming — I toss the scalpel away and it skids across the desk, then disappears among my notes — I can't present this, not under the threat of ridicule, but under one of excommunication and execution!

But perhaps that is precisely why I have to. The devout man is led by righteousness; where blind eyes, men’s eyes, cannot see, Sigmar guides me. The first tenet of faith is duty and the last is perseverance. Perseverance is my duty.

notes:

  1. i've always been quite curious about the skaven cadaver in Victor's quarters and the reason why he dissects them, as it's not really necessary to understand how to fight them — where he gets plenty of experience and practice regardless — as well as his strained relationship with the order. he's very confident on duty, but certain lines of dialogue seem to suggest thoughtfulness; that's why the story is in first person. and the enemies are not skaven alone, but obstructiveness and ignorance, too, perhaps even more than the ratmen.
  2. personally, i believe the older fluff on the creation of the skaven, or rather prefer that version, partially because it reminds me of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. i also don't think that Victor really hates Sienna, but he definitely seems wary of her and others have pointed out her addiction to magic.
  3. i'm a very verbose writer, so this is a version shortened for the contest. the full version with a lot more parts about dead skaven bodies can be read
    edit?usp=sharing - [Contest] Dissecting of the Enemies of Man
    here as a google document, it's 2240 words long and it's closer to the vision I had; however, rules are rules and should at times be followed.

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