Chapter 2: New friends, new enemies
Incompetence! Even those sent to tie him down were useless, stupid whelps.
Enraged, Brink took a swipe in Skarb’s direction, though the Master Moulder was too far away. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, Skarb knew that Brink dared not strike him. He simply stood with his arms folded as the Warlock Engineer whipped fruitlessly at the air before him.
Left with no other option, Brink pounded his fists on the rickety wooden table next to him. The small construction held for the first two blows, before splintering apart with the arrival of the third. Various scrolls, devices and foodstuffs crashed to the floor, the ragged remains of the table piled on top of them. This Brink gave a good kick. For emphasis.
Rage subsided, Brink took a breath in and looked at Skarb.
“Explain it to me again-again.” He said, in a level, calm voice
“I have told you four-four times already.” Replied Skarb
Brink’s eyes narrowed, but he held his composure. Though only barely.
“Then, tell me again.” He gritted his teeth “Please.”
Skarb snickered to himself. Grey Seer Krittik had only charged him with administering the drugs to Brink, and monitoring his activities for anything suspicious. Brink’s authority was not to be compromised. Skarb had not been told Krittik’s reasons why, and frankly he didn’t care.
In the presence of the troops Skarb acted as any loyal subordinate. In private though, he relished being able to make Brink beg. To make him lose his temper. To break his will.
“It is simple-simple.” Skarb purred “Your system has proven to be far more-more reliant than I expected. My ingredients are running out quick-quick. Much quicker than I expected. We have to go back-return to Darkpit and get more.”
Brink growled, and studied the Master Moulders face. There was no indication of deception. Indeed, Brink had to admit, his body was a terrible wreck, dependant on the drugs to make it operate. For years his system had built up a tolerance, so much so that it would be easy for even a particularly skilled alchemist to not fully comprehend the work that was needed.
This was a setback though. Brink wanted to stay as far away from Darkpit, and Krittik, as possible.
“Is there nowhere to find-steal more ingredients?” he finally asked.
Skarb raised his hand to his snout and stroked his whiskers. Most skaven would be appalled at such a display of human characteristics, but Brink was more than accustomed to these kinds of actions. Almost all the skaven he had encountered in his past had picked up one human mannerism or another. It was a small price to pay if it ultimately meant destroying the hated man-things and their pitiful empires.
He prayed this was the only thing he and Skarb had in common.
“To the north there is a place-place called Darkfang Hollow. There fungus grows, each bigger-bigger than a Rat Ogre. It is likely that suitable-good ingredients will be found here”
A smile escaped Brink’s lips.
“Very good! Let-let us go then!”
But Skarb only stood silent, head tilted slightly, looking at Brink. The engineer sighed.
“Darkfang Hollow is a dangerous-dangerous place. Not only will we be closer-closer to the land-creatures armies, but many believe bandits-traitors live there. We will need many-many more troops if we are to go.”
Brink narrowed his eyes and sneered.
“Then we will get more troops.”
* * *
Very little happened in camp that escaped the attention of Kriltik Bloodmaw. This was one of those things that didn’t escape his attention.
Splayed on the ground before him, shaking with fear, was a wretched clanrat slave. The stormvermin who had thrown him there, one of Krilik’s own bodyguard, loomed over the pathetic creature.
Krilik looked down on the scene, his armoured form clanking slightly as he shifted his weight. One shoulder rolled slightly, nudging the massive two-handed sword on his back into it’s familiar, proper position.
“Vile master,” the stormvermin growled, bowing “I caught-saw this stealing food from your den. What shall I do with it?”
There was silence as Krilik sniffed the air. He had his judgment.
With a swiftness that seemed impossible, Krilik’s two-handed sword was unsheathed and arcing through the air. The razor edge sliced easily into the stormvermins neck, cleanly detaching his head from his body. A fine mist of blood clouded the air. The head spun like a top as it fly away, landing amongst the gathered throng of clanrats, who pounced on it with glee.
The headless form of the stormvermin sputtered a few more spurts of blood, and then toppled backwards with a crash. One of Krilik’s Chieftains grabbed the corpse by the shoulder plate and hauled it away.
“Stand.” Krilik commanded the slave.
Covered in blood and terrified, the slave slowly stood up. As soon as it was within reach, Krilik’s mailed hand shout out, grasping it around the neck. In one move he squeezed, breaking the neck of the slave, and tossed it out into the crowd. Skaven hungrily threw themselves at the cadaver.
“Be warned!” boomed Krilik “That stormvermin tried to steal-take from me, and is now dead. I know all. I am master here. None are greater than Krilik Bloodmaw!”
The assembled mass of stormvermin and clanrats cowered, and released the Musk of Fear. There was no question, Krilik was in command, and he roared his dominance.
Krilik snapped his head down, glaring. At his feet, bent over, throat raised and out of breath, stood a clanrat.
“Brutal lord.” He panted “the Warlock Engineer is here.”
Growling, Krilik nodded to the clanrat, who scampered off. He didn’t know what Grey Seer Krittik was thinking, sending this whelp Brink Vagrant out here. But he was going to make sure Brink didn’t feel welcome.
Standing still as a statue, Krilik waited as Brink shoved his way through the crowd. The engineer was covered in some kind of mechanical armour. Tubes ran from a backpack into various areas, and small lights pulsed and throbbed. One hand was a massive, ragged claw, while the other was a more traditional mailed glove. His head popped out of the top of the metallic contraption. It was bald, a dark brown and a mess of distorted flesh. One of the pipes was shoved directly into an ear.
“Horned Ones blessing on you,” preened Brink, bowing slightly.
Krilik just started. This seemed to unnerve Brink.
“I am Brink Vagrant, a fellow servant of Grey Seer Krittik.”
Krilik snorted a loud, contemptuous snort.
“Krilik is no servant, furless meat-sack. Here I am master. All serve me!”
Brink narrowed his eyes.
“I do not.” He hissed.
There was a heavy thud as Krilik stepped down from his vantage point. In two strides he was face to face with Brink, towering over him.
“I will take no insolence, worm food. I have killed a thousand-thousand like you, and I will kill a thousand-thousand more!” Krilik bellowed, spittle spraying in Brink’s face.
The amassed clanrats cowered at the site of Krilik fury, and the air became thick with the Musk of Fear. But something was wrong. Krilik tilted his head slightly, staring at Brink. While the engineer appeared to be cowering, he had not musked. Was he not afraid? Why was he not afraid? What did he know that Krilik didn’t?
Whispers rolled across the crowd like ripples in a pond. In a seamless movement the rabble parted, allowing a figure to stroll towards the standoff. Skarb came to a halt just behind Brink.
The clanrats continued to whisper. What was Master Moulder Skarb, one of Grey Seer Krittik’s inner circle, doing here? Krilik took the slightest step back, unsure of what was going on. The only one who saw it was Brink, and it was all he needed.
“Your soldiers.” He barked at Krilik “You will-will hand control of as many of your troops-troops as I desire. They will come with me now-now, on an important mission for Grey Seer Krittik.” Brink turned to Skarb “Go now-now and gather the troops we need.”
The crowd reached fever pitch, chittering madly. Krilik realised what had happened, and cursed under his breath. This Brink was crafty, he would give him that.
Master Moulder Skarb was one of Krittik’s most visible aides and advisors. If Skarb was so powerful, and yet he took orders from Brink, than Brink must be that much more powerful. At least, this is what the assembled horde would think. And that is all Brink needed for now.
It appeared as if Brink spoke with the full backing of Krittik. For Krilik to countermand Brink’s order, or kill him, would leave his army in chaos. Fight would break out between those loyal to Krilik and those who believed he had committed treason. This was something Krilik just could not afford.
“My troops are yours-yours, cunning stealer of cheese.” Krilik winced.
Brink appeared slightly taken back, but he recovered quickly.
“I will let your transgression pass-pass this time” he puffed.
Suddenly realising he should quit while he was ahead, Brink spun around and followed after Skarb. Jets of green steam shot from his suit as he passed through the crowd, scolding any nearby clanrats it touched.
When the engineer had vanished from sight, Krilik expended his rage. He lashed out at the nearest stormvermin with a single, mighty punch. It shattered the skavens helm, caving his skull in with a sickening crunch. Krilik shook the blood from his hand.
Brink had made no allies today.