Thursday, 18 August 2011

Tales of Ankh-Mordhiem - A Tail of Woe part 4

They moved quickly.  Squeek had managed to join them but Eek was still struggling with the errant cattle.  Apparently the new patrician was willing to give anyone of any race a chance so long as a semblance of order held sway in the territories they controlled. The milling herd of cows, though now peaceful, was not considered to be orderly.

Stikum held up a paw to halt their progress.  “Not good.  Humans take up too much time.  Can’t go round, need to go through”

He pointed at an expanse of green, all trees, grass, and flowers. Wholesome, healthy and… Elfish.   The Nightrunner pulled a retching face behind Stikum’s back forgetting momentarily that his partner in crime wasn’t present, although Haarchit took a guilty moment of pleasure from the juvenile behaviour.  Stikum’s fingers flashed in assassin cant and Squeek mouthed “Danger” as he moved quickly to Stikums side, desperately scanning the park for the source.

He should have been looking closer to home.  Stikum’s fist flashed out and struck the Nightrunner a savage blow to the temple.  Squeek crumpled slowly, folding like a marionette with its strings cut and Stikum quickly dragged the prone body into the deep shadows.  “Idiot” he muttered as he set two giant rats to guard the prone form. “Will have to catch up now.”

They kept in the shadows as they moved, breaking cover momentarily only to enter the park. Disturbed by Stikum’s treatment of the Nightrunner, Haarchit kept silent until they halted out of sight in a cluster of bushes.  He turned to challenge the Assassin only to find him gone…

The rat men had entered this haven unchallenged by the its supposed protectors, but you could expect little from humans.  The Elf ranger tasted bile in his throat as though their very presence defiled the natural order of life and slowly teased back the string on his heartsung bow as he fitted an arrow.  He breathed, once more synchronising his heartbeat with the life pulse of the living wood that formed his bow and aimed through the clustered branches at the faintly visible silhouette.  The string, sung from thousands of the finest living plant fibres, brushed his cheek as he pulled the bow fully taut. He breathed in, focusing on the target.  He breathed out and felt a slight twinge as his muscles relaxed.  In once more and smiled as he felt fully in tune with his bow and his target.  Out and he felt his muscles relaxed further. In again and, imagining the imminent flight of the arrow, he made an almost imperceptible adjustment.  Out and release…

The Assassin moved into the Elf’s now limited arc of vision, moving through the branches as if he too were forest born and crouched in perfect balance before the statue-still ranger who was poised paralysed with his readied bow.  He cocked he head to one side as he stared into panic stricken eyes, “Not your fight but park will be ours soon. Like it as is but will need protector to keep it so. You not too bad, but I’m Stikum Gud.”  He grinned, which only made the situation worse. “Poison not fatal, wear off by morning.  Enjoy the screams”.

As he watched the assassin swiftly disappear, the Elf was confused by his words.  Why did the Skaven think would he be perturbed by the howls of humans?

Realisation came slowly as seconds turned to minutes and then into hours. It began with gentle creaks but built in crescendo until eventually the living bow and string were screaming in tortured agony, an agony being caused by him and only amplified by his unique bond.  Paralysed, he could do nothing to prevent his precious possession’s pain and cursed the rat creature for this exquisite torment.  His vision blurred and he gave thanks to the Lady of the Wood that this poison had not effected his tear ducts and he was, at least, allowed to cry for his weapon…

Heezbeeg joined them in the undergrowth and Stikum gave orders for them to move.  Their destination was a group of buildings in the middle of the park, the purpose of which the Skaven could not divine.  Whispers said something about a bandstand and a coffee-house but what they were, none of them knew.  All Stikum knew was apparently alcohol was not sold and therefore it made the perfect bolt-hole for the puritan persecutors Vallons’ Vendetta.

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