Objectively, Kruber realized, releasing an entity that could speak directly into your mind from its imprisonment was risky business. Attempting to reattach heavy stone gargoyle heads in the middle of a swarm of plague monks? Also not their best idea.
But try as he might, he couldn’t bring himself to say the words. To question the leadership of Saltzpyre. Or was this Kerillian’s idea? Not Sienna’s, surely? Kruber thought they were just trying to break into Drachenfels. Surely they could break through the skaven lines and climb out the way they came to find another path. But there was this…compulsion. Was it an inability to question orders? Did he just want to protect his friends? Or was the entity itself luring him in?
Kruber picked up the head of the final gargoyle and carried on.
Kruber guarded the rear as they slowly pushed their way up the stairs. Sienna shouted from above, “I think I see moonlight!” As Kruber’s shield-hand did its work, he silently thanked every god he could name off the top of his head. Kruber gave his fanatical, spittle-dripping opponents a good shove of the shield, sending them toppling down the stairs into more of their compatriots, causing a domino effect that in any other situation he’d find the capacity to chuckle at.
Not today, though. Today they had failed to locate the prisoners, abandoned Drachenfels to the pactsworn, and released a daemon they had no chance of defeating or re-containing. There were no bright spots to be found, save the reflection of moonlight off Captain Saltzpyre’s shaved head. He’d have to share that one with Sienna later. With the enemy temporarily indisposed, Kruber turned and ran.
“Merciful Sigmar, I SPY THE BRIDGE OF SHADOWS!” cried Saltzpyre. One graveyard between them and home, and safety, and the bottle of sympathy wine he’d pocketed on the last pass through Helmgart. It was almost too good to be true to find an obelisk out here. Kruber tripped over a short tombstone, knocking him to the ground. A speedy hand caught his and dragged him to his feet.
“I know, I’m a lumberfoot, and I tripped over a mayfly’s grave, I get it,” he grumbled. Kerillian gave him a look of judgment.
“Actually, I was only going to point out that you’ve doomed Sir Bunther von Grievport to an eternity of pain and suffering.”
“Since when do you give a rat’s stabbed arse about Reik burial traditions?”
“Since you started breaking them.”
Markus grimaced. “Was that really his name?”
Kerillian shrugged. “Surely it couldn't have been too far off.”
The bridge of shadows. A dusty old obelisk lit up by a blue bubble of safety and happiness. Markus sighed relief as he crossed its threshold. It really was miraculous to find one out here. In the graveyard of a (supposedly) singularly monstrous being. In a graveyard built by a man who sought above all to evade death. Dormant for centuries, until we showed up just around the corner needing one. Markus stepped out of the bubble.
“Kruber, what are you DOING?!” said Saltzpyre.
“Doesn’t this all feel a bit…convenient…to you?”
Sienna cocked her head and gazed past Kruber to the legion of bloodthirsty maniacs just twenty paces behind them. “Not really, Markus.”
Markus raised his sword and shield and faced the horde.
“All I’m saying is the pactsworn had run of the place for countless years, nobody in or out but them, and they leave standing a bridge of shadows?”
The first rat was upon him. A pathetic thing, carrying a knife so small he could barely see it. Kruber cut the poor thing in half with the slightest of effort.
“Honestly, darling, right now seems like a poor time to question it.” Sienna stowed her sword and took out her flamestaff. She began lobbing death into the ranks of the foe.
“If the rats left it standing, they did it for a reason. We’re not the only ones with a grey wizard.”
“Kruber, I told you, Rasknitt is dead.”
“So you did, sir. And Kerillian’s bragged about it ever since. You three and Bardin blew up the skittergate and killed Rasknitt.”
“And now, the skaven find themselves leaderless and aimless, all but pledging their fickle loyalty to the Rotbloods.”
Kruber, even with his back to the impenetrable bridge, found himself assaulted on three sides. His shield-arm grew ever more tired.
“Hold there for a second, sir. I don’t doubt you think you killed the rat. But we thought that once before, didn’t we? Couldn’t old Rasky fake his death again and finally come to the obvious realization that he could just hijack our teleport-thingy to deliver us into his clutches again?”
“Before you thrust ‘Sigmar provides’ on our poor ears, One-eye, perhaps it’s worth commending Kruber for putting his brain to work for once? And-”
“What are you DOING, ELF?!”
Before Kruber could register what was going on behind him, Kerillian’s spear punctured the throat of a Stormvermin right in front of him. Kerillian took position on his left side, freeing him to focus his efforts in a more efficient fashion.
“Before you’re overwhelmed by affection, Kruber, I still think you’re crazy. But I’m not about to let you overtake me in kills.”
“Have you both gone MAD? IS THE WIZARD THE ONLY SANE ONE LEFT?”
“THAT’S IT.” Now, Sienna was on Kruber’s left, sword in hand. “Dead Skaven smell better than Saltzpyre after he exerts himself, no question.”
Even in the brutal clamor of battle, Markus could swear he heard Kerillian snickering.
“You have to admit, Victor, these obelisks are hardly,” Sienna groaned and pushed a fried plague monk away, “Commonplace. And yet they always pop up within hiking distance of the Skaven’s latest scheme…”
“Mayflies, I’ve got it!” Kruber afforded her a quick glance. “The rats are BUILDING THE BRIDGES!”
Kruber nodded. “Right. And Rasky is using them to bounce around the Reiklands! He checks up on the different operations, and then heads home for a comfy nap!”
“Stupidity! TREASON! I should- I should-” Saltzpyre sputtered. He reached out and grabbed Sienna’s offhand and tried to pull her back into the Bridge.
“Uh uh uh, Victor,” she said. Saltzpyre let out a yelp of pain as she let her left hand catch fire for the briefest second.
The three heroes stood their ground and slaughtered the rats, even as their numbers redoubled. Kruber’s face hardened. “Do you think I’m an idiot, sir? That a simple soldier couldn’t possibly be right?”
“KRUBER, ARE YOU GENUINELY AFRAID OF MAGIC WE’VE USED A DOZEN TIMES BEFORE? OR IS THIS SOME SORT OF PETTY MUTINY? HAS IT OCCURRED TO NONE OF YOU THREE NITWITS THAT IF THE SKAVEN COULD USE BRIDGES OF SHADOW, THEY WOULD HAVE NO NEED FOR A SKITTERGATE!”
Kruber stepped into the bridge of shadows, as did Sienna. A reluctant Kerillian soon followed.
“Right you are, sir.”
“Wise as ever, Victor.”
Markus never liked taking the bridge. It felt like being poked in the face multiple times a second, combined with a minstrel on each of your ears, each singing a different song in another horrible language. Of course, the trip was over as quickly as it began, but that couldn’t keep him from remembering every discomfort.
Kruber drank alone. A knock on the door to his room interrupted his uncomfortable peace. “Go away.”
The voice was Sienna’s. “I’m thirsty, and I’m not interested in a conversation.” Kruber almost smiled. The door opened. “Brought my own cup.”
“Yeah, mine are all dirty. And cracked.” He took another sip from the bottle, then poured some for Sienna.
“Nobody thinks you’re simple, Markus.”
Markus took a nice long swig. He wanted to believe her. “You know what I think?”
“I think Sigmar’s overrated.”
Saltzpyre charged into the room. “KRUBER, YOU GO TOO FAR!”
Sienna stood up. “He put me up to it, but I…”
“I figured, yeah.”
“I held up my side of the deal, Victor,” said Sienna. “Thanks for the drink, Markus.”
“Anytime, I guess,” said Markus.
Saltzpyre stood awkwardly in the center of the room. “I see now that your blasphemy was a ruse, though I caution you-”
“What kind of deal did you make with her, sir?”
Victor’s face was apprehensive at best.
Kruber chuckled. “Sigmar protect you, sir.”
Kruber polished off his bottle.
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