Beastmen Prelude Part I
The group of five sat huddled around a small fire, trying to capture what little warmth it would provide. Tzylla cracked a small dry twig and threw it into the fire; it was quickly consumed releasing a small burst of warmth.
“Keep it small!” an assassin hissed at her. “Do you want to bring death upon us zealot?! You have the gall to draw attention to us when we are in the heart of the Empire!”
It may be summer, but here in the Drakwald… its another world, a world where warmth and light do not kiss the ground. And that was during the day. A creature of the Chaos Wastes she should have been use to it, but this was a different cold, the cold of night and the cold of fear. It would have even been a comfort to feel the moonlight, but alas, even the light fears the Drakwald.
Tchar’zanek had handed Tzylla over to Malakith to go on a suicide mission into the heart of the Drakwald to incite the Beastmen on a blood-march to Athel Loren. Malekith’s intentions were clear, he hated the High Elves, and his failures in Ulthuan sparked an insane plot to seek vengeance elsewhere and strike at the Wood Elves. No army to spare he concocted a plan to sneak Tzylla and his minions into the war-torn Empire.
Their journey began two months ago with the trek to the Sea of Claws; a trip of no great concern, the Norse were hardly a threat for a zealot, sorcerer, and three assassins. Their roles seemed clear to Tzylla: she was the only communication the group had with the beastmen, for none of the Druchii knew the Dark Tongue; the sorcerer’s role was to keep the group in a constant shroud of darkness, to obscure them from searching eyes of the night; as for the assassins, the two junior assassins covered the tracks of the two spell casters, and the senior assassin spearheaded the path. They pressed a Norse fishing vessel into service to carry them across the Sea of Claws and landed in war-torn New Emskrank in the dark of night. Surrounded by the sorcerer’s dark magic the group crept through the Laurelorn Forest with great care – avoiding not only Empire Patrols, but also the Wood Elves who dwell there. Their journey south took them through Nordland and into Middenland and they entered the Drakwald. Now, weeks after creeping through the forests of the Empire, here they were in the heart of the Drakwald huddled around a small fire.
The air was filled with a myriad of smells consisting mainly of dozens of different burning smell… burnt swine, burnt fresh wood, burnt horse-flesh, burnt burlap, burnt man-flesh. The beastmen were feasting after a recent successful raid it seemed, but all these smells did was draw Tzylla’s attention to the creeping cold on her skin and emptiness in her stomach. Her thoughts were interrupted when the sorcerer began to talk,
“Tell me zealot, how exactly do you intend on communicating with the beastmen, you a Norse being?”
Annoyed by his naivety and that he was attempting to start a conversation, she replied, “I suppose I shall bang sticks together and hope I am conveying the right message, it is a difficult rhythm to master…”
His hands glowing blue with the frost touch, the insulted sorcerer replied, “Do not mock me zealot.”
Seeing his cold hands glowing and the thought of their cold touch evoked the answer he wanted, “Although the Beastmen speak the Beast Tongue, it is but a dialect of the Dark Tongue which all true Children of Chaos speak. We share enough words of the Dark Tongue for our purpose.” Pausing to gather her thoughts, but still in a spiteful mood Tzylla added, “I have heard of a prophecy of the Druchii that states that a male sorcerer will bring about the downfall of Malekith, how is it that Malekith sends you on such an important quest?”
Angered the sorcerer replied, “Malekith need not fear his kin.”
“Ah, I was unaware that Malekith had any kin,” Tzylla said with a grimace.
His hand aglow in the blue ice that had overcome it, the sorcerer replied through clenched teeth, “We are all children of the Cult of Pleasure.”
Grabbing the sorcerer’s icy hand and driving it into the small fire and extinguishing it the senior assassin stated, “Enough of this foolish banter. The moon is at its zenith and the beastmen are feasting. We go now. I hope you’ve honed your diplomatic skills zealot.”
The group walked for about an hour following the burning smell and came upon a brook with a lone ungor sentry. Smelling the presence of outsiders, the ungor stood alert and began to scan the dark for the threatening new smell.
“I will go alone, it is less likely to be threatened by a single human than by a group of five,” Tzylla suggested.
“Careful with your words, zealot,” one of the junior assassins remarked placing his hand on his small crossbow.
Emerging from behind the brush with arms raised palms-out, Tzylla quickly began to speak the Dark Tongue hoping the creature was at least vaguely intellectual. The ungor raised his bow and made strange guttural sound. Tzylla seemed to be repeating the same phrase until the beast lowered his bow and made a louder sound. Another ungor appeared, the two creatures briefly conversed in their strange tongue, the new ungor nodded and Tzylla signaled her companions to approach.
“It seems they have agreed to take us to their beastlord,” Tzylla said cautiously.
The group followed the ungor through the dark forest and soon emerged on a large clearing. The perimeter was strangely set up like a primeval fort, with logs and rocks forming a wall supported from behind by a mound of dirt the height of two men. Despite its apparent function, the ‘walls’ were unmanned. Passing through a crudely built gate of various looted wooden materials ranging from barn doors to wagon parts, they entered the home of the largest warherd in the Old World. It became apparent that unlike other beastmen herds, this one did not relocate for fear of reprisal. Crude tents were set up around small fires with, and at the center of it all on a large mound lay a great herdstone with a bonfire of massive proportions. To one side of the bonfire a bray shaman brayed incantations and threw various powders from his pouches into the flames, which burned different colors and filled the air with strange intoxicating smells. Tzylla knew that these smells were driving the beasts into their mad frenzy. On the other side a great beastlord sat on a throne of plundered loot. As the group was lead to the beastlord it drew curious stares from the beastmen in the camp.
“What is it you kept repeating that so easily convinced the inane beast to take us to their beastlord?” one of the junior assassins asked.
“Careful with your words druchii,” Tzylla whispered loudly enough for the group to hear, “you may think them simple beasts, but rest assured they more likely than not understand you, though you may not understand them. I simply told them ‘I come with blood offering.'”
The Dark Elves faces were quickly drawn alert by the words the zealot uttered. “Rest assured twisted zealot, if you tricked us, it will be your blood that is split first,” the senior assassin remarked. As they neared the mound with the beastlord the senior assassin added, “Speak plainly so that we may understand you. You said they understand the common tongue so no need to hide your words from your friends.”
The beastlord stood, flanked by two doombulls, and approached the group and uttered something loudly at them. Tzylla replied in the Dark Tongue and bowed lowly. The beastlord gave a deep dark laugh and replied. “Allow me to introduce you to Beastlord Khazrak, Lord of the Drakwald, the greatest beastlord in the Old World,” Tzylla remarked loudly, knowing fully that the beastlord understood all she said. “His lordship is greatly humored that the two great kings of the Dark Elves and Hordes of Tzeentch see him as equal and send emissaries.”
The senior assassin stepped forward with hand on heart and bowed, “The Witch King sends his regards Beastlord Khazrak. We come in his name to ask that the Beastlord join us in the war of the destruction. We have many common enemies and much blood could be spilled if we unite.”
Tzylla began to translate, but Khazrak held his hand signaling that he understood. He replied and Tzylla translated, “His lordship asks what we have to offer as a sign of our alliance.”
The senior assassin leaned to Tzylla’s ear and sharply whispered, “You know what Malekith asked of you!”
She whispered back, “You ask to go down a dark and dangerous path! We need not go down that path of Khazrak allies with us!”
The assassin seized her arm and replied, “Your life depends on fulfilling the pact, wench.”
Panicking and noticing that the beastlord grew uneasy at the whispers between the two she bowed lowly and said loudly in the common tongue, “I beg humbled apologies of your lordship. We come to offer a great blood sacrifice to seal the pact between the Children of Chaos!”
The beastlord cackled and motioned to the great bonfire. The group of five approached it and the beastlord signaled that he was ready for the ritual to begin. She whispered sharply to the senior assassin, “This is a dark spell and will require a great blood sacrifice, bring your lamb to the slaughter then!”
The assassin quickly pulled out a dark blade an ran it across the sorcerer’s throat before the sorcerer even had time to react. The body fell to the ground and a great stream of blood began to run into the flames of the bonfire. “With haste zealot before the blood grows cold and I need to add yours to it!”
Slightly shocked at what had just happened, her face covered in the sorcerer’s blood that had sprayed out, Tzylla began a dark incantation. The blood from the sorcerer began to bubble and hiss and the flames from the bonfire wildly danced. Though no clouds were in the sky before, a dark cloud had come over the glade and a bright bolt of lightning struck the bonfire and a loud roar filled the skies. The zealot collapsed, exhausted from the spell.
“Master Nighthawk, why did the beast of Tzeentch keep shouting Khorne’s name?” the junior assassin asked.
“These beastmen are children of Khorne…” the senior assassin remarked, his eyes wide open.
A massive figure emerged from the flames. “Morghur…” Khazrak muttered in shock and seeing the pawn he had been turned into he snarled at the four remaining envoys and dropped to one knee with head bowed.
“Khorne thanks you for your blood offering follower of Tzeentch,” the massive beastlord said passing Tzylla and the sorcerer’s corpse. He cast his eyes on Khazrak, “Ah Khazrak how you have grown, I have been watching your progress.” He pounded his braystaff into the ground and issued forth a loud bray that carried through the dark skies. “Ready your warherd! Our brethren begin their march tonight to join us in the destruction of the vile Wood Elves!”