The Rat Ogre roared in fury as Markus’s halberd came down on its head. Leaving a nasty cut as the beast burst forward and tossed Markus against the stone wall, his body making a loud smack that pained Sienna and knocked the sergeant out cold.
“Markus!” Sienna called out, waist deep in a sea of rats, barely holding on, her muscles screaming for her to drop her guard, not being able to withstand anymore hits. She felt the heat in her body rising. She screamed out for Aqshy, more desperate than she ever had before, bursting out of the horde of rats, the earth scorched and burning bright as she ran towards the unconscious sergeant.
Saltzpyre and Kerillian found an opening in the horde and fought them back, being pushed further upon the path, the wandering chaos troops laughing with a brutish thirst for blood.
“Witch! We must go! Take this opportunity and live another day!” Saltzpyre called, before shouting down the first wave of chaos, striking them with zealous hatred.
“You’d leave Kruber behind?” She grit her teeth as a filthy rat struck her between her shoulders. Winded but unstoppable, Fuegonasus continued moving, watching the rat ogre reel back a mighty blow on the unmoving form of the sergeant.
“Wizard, your flame won’t breathe any life in him. For his sake, I hope Sigmar is real.” Kerillian called, slicing an approaching mauler across his exposed chest. She turned to see Sienna continuing through the horde of rats. She reached for the potion on her belt, glimmering with a magical purple light. She didn’t trust the brew but had seen what it did for Kruber. She gulped it down and felt the energy course through her, she threw the empty bottle into the horde, glass shattering and peppering a handful of rats. With a blink, she was gone. Dashing through the horde like they weren’t even there, her body full of a magical adrenaline she reached for Sienna, gripped her arm tight and dashed back. “We go, Wizard. I’m as torn up as you” She whispered as the energy left her, she and the bright wizard returning to Saltzpyre’s side.
“You’re alive? Good. We press forth.” Shots rang out, the Witch Hunter firing into a Chaos Warrior’s skull, dropping the empty pistols as he stepped forward.
“But Markus” came Sienna again, striking a rat and causing it to recoil in horror as flame consumed it’s fur
“The time for mourning is not now, Witch.”
“You’d leave your friend behind, your bodyguard? He’s part of the team, Viktor”
“I know what he is” He turned now to face her as they dropped off a couple of wagons piled up, lamp oil alight behind them to stop any stragglers from catching them. The Witch Hunter’s face was not as stoic as it always was, a rare break. His face struggling to keep the facade. “But one soldier is not important right now, as much as I hate to say it. The ratmen and rotbloods will tear the empire’s towns asunder. Ruin everything that has ever been built. Look around us, Fuegonasus. This is the end of everything we’ve ever built up. This is more important than Kruber. This is more important than the Witch Hunter order. I would gladly have given myself instead of faithful Kruber. He had potential. He has the skill to be a better Templar than even I. Do you understand me, Witch?”
“Saltzpyre this isn’t just a soldier, this is our friend. Life will be different without him. We can’t lose him”
“I’ve lost worse, Witch. We all will if we don’t stop the rat menace.” Saltzpyre quickly turned on his heel, raised his rapier and steeled himself. Tears welling up but his vision was clear. “We move on”
“Viktor, Kerillian is gone.” Sienna looked around “Kerillian! Where have you run off to?”
“Just like an Elf. She leaves when the threat becomes too much. Back to her woods with her. I will tear this Screaming Bell down myself if you won’t follow” Saltzpyre began marching forward, gripping his pistol tightly to remain grounded. Remain in the fight he pledged himself to.
“Go then, Saltzpyre. Go save the world but what would it have been worth, when you’re alone?” She burned the wagons to ash and ran back.
Saltzpyre trudged forward, slicing up anything foolish to get in his way. His body and rapier tested again and again by the hordes, he moved with purpose. The bell would fall. He would know success at the cost of his own life. At Kruber’s. He would not let his sacrifice be in vain. A deep laugh came from behind him. He spun to find a Chaos Warrior stepping forward “Hunter” it managed to say, through tumors and rot no doubt. The Witch Hunter raised his rapier and stood his ground, whispering a prayer to Sigmar as he pulled the rapier back for a stab at the warrior’s head. The blade struck true but couldn’t be pulled back, lodged into accursed flesh. Saltzpyre backed off in a moment of fear. His trusty weapon gone, his only defense now that he burned through his supply of pistols fighting off rotblood frothers. The Warrior laughed again, pulling the rapier out from his body and snapping it in his hands, before pulling his greataxe back and swinging it upwards at the hunter, missing narrowly. The Warrior was upon him. The axe plummeted into the stone path, he dodged to the side and tripped on the uneven ground, catching himself on his hands best he could.
Then the hunter’s vision burst with brilliant light. This must be it he thought. I’ve been slain. Everything I did. Everyone we tried to save, for naught. How is an empire to fight without being aware of the ratmen’s presence? Kruber will have died forgotten. As will I and my comrades. Clarity, finally. Right as the end was upon him. The ground shook as the accursed armor fell to the floor, Saltzpyre’s vision returning to see the warrior felled. He looked around in disbelief, blinking rapidly. “Why am I not dead?” He cried, tears down his cheeks.
“Because we don’t leave people to die, Hunter” Fuegonasus’s hand appeared, glowing bright.“What about Kruber?” Saltzpyre began, forgoing Sienna’s hand as he pushed himself to his feet. He looked past the witch to see a badly wounded Kruber, hobbling along with Kerillian. His arm around her shoulders as she sat him down.
“Yes, have a good look. I’m sure you have no wounds of your own to attend to” She sighed, tending to the wounds that the filthy rats had left on Kruber.
“Good” Saltzpyre breathed, sitting beside the sergeant
“Sorry for getting caught out there, Sir” Kruber wheezed, coughing up blood onto his tattered armor
“Do not apologize.” Saltzpyre spoke, low and pained “How are your wounds, Markus?”
“Oh ha, they’ll be fine. Long as I don’t breathe.” He chuckled quietly, coughing again “Thought that was the end. Felt every single blow the bastard landed on me. Felt a warmth and then it was gone. Must’ve ran off. Reckoned I was done for.”
“We have to keep moving” Kerillian said, as she wrapped the last of the bindings around a deep wound in Kruber’s thigh “They’ll be upon us, I don’t think the Ogre’s dead”
“Can you still fight, Kruber?” Came Saltzpyre as he stood up, searching the battlefield for the least grimy axe he could find.
“I’d be disappointed if I couldn’t, sir”
“As would I” Saltz smiled out of sight, grabbing an axe and giving it a test swing. “Then onwards.”
The four moved on, tearing apart the ratmen as they came. The destroyed the great chains holding the Bell in place. It came crashing to the ground with a cathartic clang, the rats whipped into a frenzy by the errant ringing. The four ripped apart their ranks with ease as a great roar was heard coming from the structure ahead of them, it’s wall erupting outwards as a rat ogre came through, growling as it laid it’s eyes on Kruber. The four formed up, backs against walls as they cleared any straggling rats before the Ogre was upon them, it’s head caked in blood, a grievous wound still fresh.
Goreksson practiced his shots in the courtyard as he heard the familiar sound of the Bridge of Shadows open. He laughed and walked into the keep, his voice echoing against stone "Do you know how long you've kept me on guard duty?" Then noticing the battered four, he walked over and made them five.
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