Monday, 8 August 2011

Tales of Ankh-Mordhiem - A Tail of Woe part 2

Haarchit was beginning to loathe this city.  One of the major changes wrought by this magical amalgamation of the cities of Mordheim and Ankh-Morpork was the disappearance of the sewer system and the inherent safety found there.  Instead he found himself sheltering in the swaying remnants of ruined roofs high above the city streets, a fact that deeply disturbed him.  In direct contrast Stikum appeared to be in his element, skipping from damaged rafter to damaged rafter, balancing on stick thin supports over dread inspiring drops.  As if reading his mind Stikum stopped statue still on a nail head jutting from the wood, smiled and spoke a single word “Cathay”.  Haarchit shuddered and immediately tried to change the subject.

“This Knight?”

“On way now” croaked the assassin as he flowed into fighting stances, still impossibly balanced on the corroded metal.

Haarchit was furious, “Here?  This is no place to fight, it is supposed to our refuge!”

Stikum sighed as he stopped mid-flow, then shook his head before exploding into motion and was suddenly twisting through the air in a sidewards somersault that culminated with his feet slamming the floor millimetres from Haarchit’s and their noses pressed up against each other.  The impact shook the tower causing it to tilt alarmingly.  Haarchit screeched in alarm and tried to back away, but found himself in the steel grasp of Stikum and unable to.

“Knowing where to be.  Fourth rule.” Stikum growled fiercely.

Floorboards tore away inches behind Haarchit as the wall behind him collapsed to the street below.

“Knowing where not to be.  Third Rule.”

With much creaking and groaning the tower reached the limit of its arc and stopped.

“Knowing how much strain something takes before it breaks. Second rule.”

Stikum cocked his head to one side as he listened to the pops and strains of the settling structure.

“Then there’s the first rule.” Whispered Stikum.

“The…” Haarchit swallowed and tried again.  “The first rule?”

“Calls hisself Skaven and don’t know first rule!” Stikum laughed. “First Rule: if in doubt, Run!”

Stikum spun Haarchit on the spot and shoved him toward the crumbling staircase as the tower started to move once more.  Terror overrode his self-imposed conditioning and Haarchit found himself running on all fours for the first time in longer than he cared to remember.  He was acting on instinct now. His tail automatically flicked to counter-balance his movements in this desperate flight, wrapping momentarily around anything that would support him as he scampered along the staircase walls and dodged falling debris until he finally ran out of staircase and crashed in a rolling heap on the ground floor.

The sounds of crunching and cracking gave way to a rapid hacking noise that Haarchit recognised as Stikum’s laugh, but was momentarily perplexed by the higher pitched squeaking until he realised it was him.  He was laughing!  His heart raced and he felt more alive than he had away from magic.  Slowly he got himself under control and rolled onto his side to face the assassin, who merely smiled and said “Hope for you yet.”

The rat ogre, Heezbeeg, shook itself free of fallen debris and shambled over to them before cocking its head to one side and trying a tentative “Hur, hur, hur”.  Haarchit and Stikum stared at it for a moment, then looked at each other and collapsed into hysterics once more…

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