The stumbling beast-zombie turned after them, but Gotrek left Snorri to Rodi and The closer Felix, Kat and the slayers fought to the column, the thicker the. Gotrek and Felix- The Anthology. Home · Gotrek and Felix- The Anthology Zombieslayer (Gotrek & Felix). Read more · Trollslayer (Gotrek & Felix) · Read more. Warhammer [Gotrek & Felix 12] Zombieslayer by Nathan Long (Undead) (v) - Ebook download as Word Doc .doc /.docx), PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or.
|Language:||English, Spanish, Hindi|
|Genre:||Business & Career|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Registration Required]|
Book ZOMBIESLAYER. Nathan Long. SLAYER OF Gotrek and Felix: The Anthology can be downloadd direct from this website and GW mail order, Games . Zombieslayer book. Read 27 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Pursued by the dark forces of the necromancer Heinrich Kemmler, Gotrek. Common KnowledgeSeriesGotrek and Felix Shamanslayer by Nathan Long, Zombieslayer by Nathan Long, Road of Skulls by Josh Reynolds,
Hardcover , pages. Published October 7th by Games Workshop first published August 29th More Details The End Times , more. Other Editions 7. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Kinslayer , please sign up. Will the next book "Slayer" the last of Gotrek and Felix books? Or is going to be a trilogy? Anybody knows anything?
DarkChaplain As far as I am aware, it will be the finale of the series. I personally expect Gotrek to find his doom. The End Times tie-ins seem to focus on ending …more As far as I am aware, it will be the finale of the series. I don't think we'll have seen the last of Gotrek and Felix, regardless of how Slayer turns out. I just hope the same could be said about the Darkblade series - there's plenty of room to fill between Lord of Ruin and Deathblade. See 1 question about Kinslayer….
Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. Dec 17, Daniel Brock rated it it was amazing. Incredible ride!! Possibly the first novel that actually left me emotionally distraught after finishing!
Great read! May 07, Thomas rated it really liked it. Excellent action and painful depressing end, even worse I need to read a handful of The End of Times books before I can finish the Gotrek's Doom second novel. The upside is there are a bunch of good books on my horizon. Nothing is more uplifting than The End Times! Check it out after you read the previous books, or you won't be properly depressed.
Sep 05, Abhinav rated it liked it Shelves: You can read the full review over at my blog: The new novel takes some plot-threads from City of The Damned and carries them on, but for the most part Kinslayer is a stand-alone, and is also a part of the greater End Times saga as well that is currently running through Warhammer Fantasy, akin to some of the events that Wizards of the Coast has done with Forgotten Realms previously.
Unfortunately, while Kinslayer had lots of great moments and even revealed the shames of Gotrek and his friend Snorri, it also carries over several mistakes and negatives that can be found in City of The Damned.
September has seen the big launch of the End Times event. The status quo in Warhammer Fantasy is changing big time here, with the good guys of all factions under attack from everywhere and Chaos in the ascendance, and things are looking very, very bleak for the setting entire. This is the background for Kinslayer, in which we learn that mighty Kislev has already fallen to the hordes of Chaos, that the Border Princes are struggling desperately to hold on, that dissent and rebellion are beginning to tear the Empire apart but the soldiery stands firm.
Going in, I expected great things from the novel given the entire scope of it, but I came away largely disappointed, if truth be told. For one, like I said, the random jumps in the narrative that were some of my biggest irritations in City of the Damned could be found here as well.
Given that this novel has a much bigger cast than the previous one, this was even more irritating. It made for a frustrating read, same as City of the Damned. And another thing is that certain members of the cast, such as the Kislevite who follows Gotrek around, just felt totally superfluous. This too was frustrating to a great degree because I expected much better here, especially given how important a novel this is.
Furthermore, the entire mystery surrounding Gotrek in the first third of the book too was superfluous.
We already know who it is, who it is meant to be, so the deliberate obfuscation was maddening. Who the fuck is this guy who got to destroy everything King and Long had so painstakingly laid down Kat line: Which she hated! Ulrika line: Many characters of the previous novels reappear and were twisted to fit into this Guymer's alternative vision of how the series should be.
I suppose as a standalone novel this may be considered good in BL and mediocre in general. But as the penultimate novel in the Gotrek and Felix series, this is a sacrilege. Loyal readers of the series are better off taking Zombieslayer as the final novel than to suffer the twisted fate this author has in store for our beloved series Apr 02, Mark rated it it was amazing.
Sep 28, Thomas Pattinson rated it it was amazing. I, uh I think I need a hug after that. Apr 13, Michael T Bradley rated it really liked it. Then they kind of OKAY, but kind of filler, I guess. I was nervous, to say the least, that the heroes' last, great adventure would be written by someone who, sure, could pump out a novel quickly, but whose quality control seemed much lower than my own. Man, was I glad to be proven wrong. This story starts out bleak, and just keeps getting bleaker.
Felix and Gotrek have gone their separate ways, and Felix has the life he's always wanted Not in a funny, cutesy, overly ironic way. In a self-sabotaging, becoming what he hates sort of way. It's difficult reading the first third of this book. Then Ulrika enters his life again, and everything gets upended! The war is coming closer! The End Times are here! Max has been taken prisoner!
Gotrek is probably dead! The Vampires are back as a force, and they're helping the Empire! What's weird is the first third of this book is a bit of a slog, a lot of self-hating navel-gazing from Felix, and I loved it. I just felt like Guymer really "got" the character or at least how I understand him and put him through the grinder, as should be the case.
As I'm sure most guessed from the title, we finally find out what caused Gotrek to become a Slayer, but more importantly, we find out Snorri's sin. This really, in so many ways, is Snorri's book more than anyone else.
There are so many great moments here Felix getting jealous of his, what was it, nephew? Max's little sections with the Troll King A lot of people seemed kind of miffed that this book was so dark.
I guess, considering Warhammer is known for being grimdark, and literally the world is ending I'm very curious to see how this all ends. Apr 12, Dylan rated it really liked it. All things must end, and the Old World is going out with a very tragic bang.
It's been fun to read a first hand account of "The End Times" in this book, and to see the resolution of so many characters that have had staring or supporting roles through one of Black Library's longest running series. I have complex feelings about Ulrika the Vampire.
Trying to avoid spoilers, but what happens toward the end of the book felt at once totally appropriate, and also sadly anti-climatic. I guess i really can't say anything more without spoiling it. It was an interesting moment, to be sure.
Oh Snorri, you poor bastard. Very exciting, but very grim and desperate book. Looking forward to the final novel soon. Jun 02, TwentySomethingReads rated it liked it. Most of the gang from the series is seen in this read.
Within this novel the pair fight beastmen, minotaurs, trolls, a dragon ogre, and then climaxing to a mutated warpstone encrusted boss troll.
Discussion The first part of this novel was a bore. Come and try, said Gotrek, still striding ahead. Wait, my lord, called Felix, running forwards as von Volgens knights dismounted. The slayers did not kill your son! He was already dead! Von Volgen turned, glaring. What foolish lie is this?
I saw it with my own eyes! My son was trying to escape the undead, and these wretched dwarfs cut him down without a second glance. The knights were stepping forwards to encircle the slayers. There would be bloodshed any second. He wasnt escaping the undead, said Felix desperately. He was undead! He died fighting the beastmen before you arrived and was raised with the others!
Its true, said Kat, stepping up beside Felix. I saw him die. It was a heros death, but You question my eyes, peasant? Von Volgens face was purple with rage. He turned to his men. Stand back from the dwarfs, or die with them! Somebody help Snorri stand, said Snorri, from the cart.
He wants to die with his friends. Von Volgen was furious. You order my men? You are in Talabecland now, sir. You have no authority here. Perfectly correct, said von Kotzebue, bowing from the saddle. But it occurred to me that, as both you and the dwarfs want the same thingnamely their deaths you should let them do it slaying our common enemy, rather than getting into a fight that will wound, and likely kill your own men.
Von Volgen scowled. How is it punishment to give them what they desire? If they wish to die, then it will be by execution!
Very well, my lord, said von Kotzebue. But by my recollection, execution only comes after a trial, and it seems 11 There is no time for a trial! We are about to be overwhelmed! Precisely, said von Kotzebue. Which is why I recommend you let the slayers go to their doom and let us be on our way. Von Volgen chewed his lip, his angry eyes shifting from von Kotzebue to Gotrek and Rodi to the zombies and back. Felix didnt know who was more insane, the lunatic who wanted to kill them, or the madman who seemed perfectly happy to debate points of law while an army of zombies bore down upon them.
No, said von Volgen at last. We will take them with us and have your damned trial once this is over. He motioned to his knights. Arrest them! Gotrek and Rodi raised their weapons as the knights began to move in again. Try it and youll have your murder, said Gotrek. Gotrek, please, whispered Felix. These are men of the Empire. They are our allies. Not if they try to arrest us, they arent, said Rodi. Aye, said Snorri, dragging himself onto the tailgate. No one stands between a slayer and his doom.
Noble dwarfs! If you are reluctant to spill the blood of men, hear me out. We travel to Castle Reikguard, six days to the south-west, to bolster its defences and send warning to Altdorf. If you accompany us there without violence, I will guarantee two things. One, a fair trial within its walls, and two, this shambling horde will be only days behind us. If you prevail in your trial, there will be ample opportunity to find your doom when they arrive.
What do you say? Since that one has already decided our guilt, said Rodi, nodding at von Volgen, we say nay. Felix groaned, but drew his sword and stood beside the dwarfs.
He didnt want to fight Empire men, but nor would he watch while Gotrek was attacked. Kat pulled her hatchet from her belt and crouched beside him.
If you fight, Gotrek, she said, I fight. And so does Snorri, said Snorri, balancing on one leg. Gotrek grunted, then, with a Khazalid curse, he lifted his head and levelled his one eye at von Volgen. Stop, he said. We will go. Rodi turned, stunned. We will? We will, said Gotrek, not looking away from von Volgen.
We will wear your chains and submit to your trial. Felix and von Kotzebue let out relieved breaths. Von Volgens eyes gleamed. Arrest them, he said. Take their weapons and shackle them to the cart. Rodi bristled at that and went back on guard, but Gotrek let his axe thud to the ground, his face cold and impassive. Rodi stared at him, as did Felix. Drop it, said Gotrek, turning on the younger slayer.
Or I drop you. You too, manling. And you, little one. Felix shrugged and unbuckled Karaghul, then laid it next to the Slayers axe. Kat threw down her hatchet as well, but Rodi stood defiant for a long moment, trying to withstand the baleful glare of Gotreks glittering eye, then he cursed and tossed his hammer beside the rest.
When they were seated, the men chained them to the gunwales, even Snorri. They gave the key to the driver and told him and his cargo men that they had the care and feeding of them, then returned to their masters. Gotrek Gurnisson, said Rodi as von Volgen and von Kotzebue galloped away. I want an explanation. You have robbed me of my doom. And myself as well, the Slayer said, then turned his eye on Snorri, who was looking back towards the valley, oblivious. Never involve yourself in another slayers doom, he muttered, and that was all.
As they got under way again, the last of the rearguard fell, and the zombies welled up after them through the pass like pus bubbling from an open wound.
It was a grim march. Though most of the men were wounded and painfully weary from fighting two terrible battles back to back, there could be no stopping to rest and bind their cuts with the undead horde so close at their heels. They had to limp on, shambling like zombies themselves, through the long dark hours of the night, and then far into the day, without proper rest and eating from their packs at dawn before trudging on again over the endless wasteland of the Barren Hills.
As he slumped in the back of the open cart, the hood of his cloak pulled low against the ever-present wind, Felix had to smile at the favour von Volgen had done them. If the lord had let the slayers go to their doom and allowed Felix, Kat and Snorri to march with the army, they would be slogging along beside the cart with the others, mile after mile. Instead, as prisoners, they rode where the others walked, and slept when they could.
Felixs mood was soured, however, as he saw men wounded far worse than he die on their feet around him. Over the course of the day dozens toppled to the ground in mid-step as their exhaustion caught up to them, or bled white while carrying the stretchers of comrades worse off than themselves. Still more died on the carts before the surgeons could get to themand when they died, there was no time to bury them properly, nor could they be granted the dignity usually accorded the dead.
At first, to be sure they did not rise again, the heads of the fallen were cut off and wrapped in their shirts so they could be buried together later. Unfortunately, that procedure had to be abandoned after all the severed heads started talking in unison, whispering from their bags that the men should give up, that they should just lie down and let the sweet release of death come to them.
After that, the heads were all smashed with hammers and left behind as the armies plodded on. Von Volgen and von Kotzebue finally called a halt in the early afternoon and let their troops rest until nightfall. Word came down the line that, for the rest of the march, the force would be allowed to nap during the day, when the zombies were at their weakest and it was easiest to see them coming.
The march would resume at nightfall to keep ahead of them. During that first daylight halt, weary pickets patrolled the perimeter and wearier field surgeons worked straight through, trying to save the lives of knights and spearmen and handgunners whose wounds had been left too long. Because they were 13 prisoners, the surgeons passed Felix, Kat and the slayers by, but the driver, Geert, and his two cargo men, still grateful to them for saving their life and cargo, browbeat a surgeon until he consented to see them, and their wounds were cleaned and bound.
The surgeon even found some hot tar to cauterise and seal Snorris severed leg. Kat shook her head as she looked at the slayers black stump. We fought so hard for nothing. Not nothing, said Felix, scratching under the bandage the surgeon had wrapped around his upper arm.
Didnt we stop a great evil that might have caused the downfall of the Empire? Yes, she said, bitterly. And another sprang up in its place before it breathed its last breath. Will there never be peace? Never, said Gotrek, who was also looking at Snorris leg. We will never win. Then why bother to fight? So we dont lose. Kat frowned. I dont understand. It is a lesson the dwarfs learned of old, said Rodi, lifting his head. We fight to hold ground. In some battles we win back a hold or a hall.
In others we are driven back. But if we stopped fighting He shrugged. Kat slumped against the side boards, not liking it. Felix reached out to put a hand on her shoulder and found his chains wouldnt let him. Snorri thinks this is good, said Snorri from where he lay. It means Snorri will never run out of things to fight. Gotrek turned away at that, and glared out at the endless hills, and Rodi glared at Gotrek, while Snorri closed his eyes and went back to sleep, blissfully ignorant of the turmoil he was causing amongst his fellow slayers.
Gotrek and Rodi had been at silent war since they were chained up, and the tension between them felt like a sixth person on the back of the carta sleeping ogre so large that it crowded the rest of them into the corners and made them unable to look at each other. Despite the discomfort, Felix did not try to talk the two slayers out of their anger. He knew better. Dwarfs were stubborn, and slayers the most stubborn of dwarfs. And what could he say anyway?
The problem of Snorri seemed insoluble. A dwarf became a slayer to make penance for some great shame, swearing to Grimnir that he would die in battle against the most dangerous of enemies as recompense. If he died in some other fashion, or if his courage failed him, or if he gave up his quest, he would not be welcomed into Grimnirs halls, and would spend eternity as a miserable outcast spirit, wandering through the dwarfen afterlife.
Snorri had done none of these forbidden things. He had never turned from his quest and he remained brave to the point of foolhardiness, but despite this, because he had lost his memory, he was in grave danger of dying without Grimnirs grace, and facing eternal damnation. The trouble was that a slayer was also required to die with his shame firmly in mind, and Snorri could not remember his. Too many blows to the head, too many nails pounded into his skull to make his rusty slayers crestwhatever it was, Snorri had trouble remembering even Gotrek, who had been his friend for over fifty years.
He would regale Gotrek with tales of his old friend Gotrek, and not remember him as 14 the same dwarf who sat next to him now. But the worst of this forgetting was his shame, which he last remembered remembering before the siege of Middenheim, but now could not recall at all. The news had struck Gotrek hard. Snorri was one of his greatest friends, and Felix could see that the thought that the old slayer would be denied entrance to the dwarfen afterlife pained Gotrek more than any wound he had ever taken.
Indeed, it had caused him to free Felix from his vow to record his doom in an epic poem so that Felix could instead escort Snorri on his pilgrimage to the slayer Keep of Karak Kadrin to pray at the Shrine of Grimnir, the slayer god, for the return of his memory.
Once Felix completed this task, he would be free from his vow, and able to live his life as he chose for the first time in more than twenty years. Unfortunately, Gotrek was finding that keeping Snorri alive was interfering with his own doom, and worse, had caused him now to interfere with Rodis as well.
Felix knew Gotrek had not liked telling Rodi he couldnt fight von Volgens men, but if the fight had happened, Snorri might have been killed, and that was unthinkable.
And so, until the problem of Snorri was somehow resolved, Rodi glared at Gotrek, and Gotrek glared at Snorri, while Felix and Kat tried to rest and ignore the slumbering ogre or their anger as best they could. There were no attacks during that brief afternoon stop, at least not from outside the camp, but men who had laid down to sleep barely alive later woke up dead and attacked their tent mates.
Felix was twice jerked awake by sudden screaming before the orders came down that any man in danger of dying before he woke was to be tied into his bedroll and gagged so he couldnt bite. But even when the screaming stopped, Felix found it hard to sleep, for he kept hearing the distant howling of wolves, and when he did at last doze, the howling invaded his dreams and he thought he heard something snuffling under the cart.
Needless to say, it was not an easy rest, and he breathed a sigh of relief when, just as the sun was setting, the ragged army got under way again, leaving behind them a roaring pyre of burning, headless corpsesand limping south all night over the grey, changeless landscape. Though the wolves howled all night long, and the half-heard flapping of wings had the men looking into the sky at every step, the column saw nothing of the undead that night, and fought only the icy wind that blew stiff and cold and ceaseless from the east.
Felixs shackles froze his wrists and ankles. His fingers went numb. Kat curled up inside her heavy wool clothes and hid her face in her scarf. The slayers didnt even shiver. The morning brought relief from the wind, but none from fear or cold, for a thick fog smothered the hills, filling in the valleys and bringing with it a wet, seeping chill that made bones ache and teeth chatter.
It was so dense that Felix could barely make out Rodi where he sat in the far corner of the cart, and flapping wings could be heard in its depths, while the howling of the wolves seemed even closer than it had been at night. Von Kotzebue and von Volgen kept the men marching long past dawn in hopes that the fog would lift and they would be able to see when they made camp, but when 15 it had failed to dissipate by noon, there was nothing they could do but call a halt.
The men were too tired to go on. The commanders ordered double pickets, set a ring of fires around the perimeter, and had their knights make constant long-range circuits of the camp. None of these measures reassured Felix in the least. The fog was somehow more terrifying than the night.
It couldnt be pushed back with torches, and it played tricks with the ear, making some sounds seem closer, while hiding others entirely. He stared out into it, unable to sleep, his eyes shifting from place to place, searching for unseen movements and shadows that werent there.
A hoarse cry echoed from the camp. Another dead man waking? I dont know, said Felix. He craned his neck but could see no further into the fog. Another cry came from the left, and then another from behind them.
Kill it! Horns blared from every direction and sergeants bellowed. Companies, assemble! Out of those tents!
Running footsteps thudded past very close by. Felix and Kat swivelled their heads towards each new sound, straining on their chains, but Gotrek, Rodi and Snorri only stared into the fog, unmoving. How can you just sit there? Felix asked. Were being attacked.
Were not being attacked, sneered Rodi. They are. And if they turn on us? I thought you submitted to these chains to keep Snorri safe. Snorri doesnt want to be safe, said Snorri. Snorri Nosebiter will not meet his doom here, growled Gotrek, wrapping the slack of his chains around his fists. No matter what happens to the humans. Felix heard movement and voices from Geerts tent, only a few paces away, and turned towards it. Release us! Give us weapons!
But the driver and his cargo men ran out and into the fog, swords and cudgels drawn, calling to their comrades. Bastards, grunted Kat. An angry snarl brought their heads around. A young spearman ran out of the fog, panting and wide-eyed, and turned to sprint past the cart, but a huge black shape hurtled through the air and brought him down. Felix and Kat drew back, sickened, as blood and limbs flew. The beast was twice as big as it should be, with rotting muscle showing through mangy crawling fur and a skinless skull for a head.
Another spearman appeared and charged, his spear raised. Hang on! He struck the wolfs shoulder and it whipped around, snarling, to take a second thrust in the chest. The spear snapped, and the wolf slammed the spearman to the ground right next to the cart, tearing his throat out with its skeletal jaws. Go away, thought Felix.
Go back to your masters. Theres no one else here. Theres nothing left to hunt. The monster raised its head, sniffing the wind, then turned its red eyes straight towards him.
Bugger, said Felix. He heard the sharp snap of breaking chains and turned. Gotrek and Rodi were standing and flexing their wrists. Snorri had broken his chains too, and was struggling to sit up.
Snorri will Snorri will stay where he is, said Gotrek. The wolf was padding towards them now, circling to come around the back of the cart. Rodi took up the slack of his broken chain and held it tight between his fists.
Ill hold it, he said. You kill it. The wolf sprang. Rodi ran to meet it, and beast and dwarf slammed together in mid-air, then dropped out of sight behind the tailgate as Gotrek leapt over the side boards and snatched a spear from one of the dead spearmen. Violent thuds shook the cart and the monster heaved up again with Rodi on its back, choking it with his chain.
The wolf rolled, trying to crush him, but Gotrek leapt at it, spear high, and stabbed its exposed throat with such power that the point punched out the back of its neck and nearly put Rodis eye out.
The wolf went limp and Rodi pushed it off. Are you trying to make me like you, Gurnisson? Gotrek let the spear drop and climbed back into the cart. Youll never be like me. Grimnir, I hope not, said Rodi, following him. Still chasing my doom twenty years from now? No thanks. A twinge of anger flashed across Gotreks face as they sat down again, but he said nothing, only picked up the sprung link of his broken chain, slipped both ends into it, then twisted it closed.
Snorri chuckled and did the same, and Rodi followed suit. Kat stared in wonder at this casual display of strength and was about to say something when Geert and one of his cargo men limped out of the fog, their faces bruised and their clothes torn. The other cargo man wasnt with them. Sigmars blood! Heres two more!
He and the cargo man ran to the dead boys, then saw the wolf and cursed again. Geert looked from the dead beast to his prisoners and back, glaring suspiciously. Show me yer chains! Felix, Kat and the slayers obligingly lifted their chains. Geert grunted to see them whole.
Then who killed this here wolf? Rodi nodded to the dead spearmen. They did. And who killed them? Geert and the cargo man looked dubiously from the wolf to the spearmen and back.
And how did they kill each other when they was so far apart? It was something, said Felix, getting into the spirit. You should have seen it. Kat stifled a laugh and Geert glared at her, but after a moment he just shook his head and stomped off to his tent with the cargo man following. Snorri wishes there had been another wolf, said Snorri. So he could have fought one too. Gotrek grunted at this, but said nothing, only glared into the distance and twisted his chains.
Rodi in turn glared at Gotrek and stroked his braided beard, while Snorri lay back, oblivious, humming an off-key tune. The same tortuous round again, Felix thought as he looked at the slayers. The same irresolvable tangle. He sighed and sat back and returned to watching the fog for loping black shapes.
For two more days, the pattern remained the samea pyre of the days dead as they broke camp at nightfall, a dull march across the featureless landscape during the hours of darkness, and shadowy hit-and-run attacks all through the fog-bound day. It was impossible to tell what progress the army was making when every mist-shrouded hill and valley looked the same as the one before, but to Felix it seemed the column was marching slower and slower, the sleepless, terror-filled days and nights taking a toll of weariness and despair.
And perhaps the column truly had slowed, for, two hours before sunset on the evening of the fourth day, a squad of von Volgens knights came thundering into the camp, shouting that the zombies were not more than an hour away. As their troops scrambled to dress and pack and get into march order, von Kotzebue and von Volgen and their captains convened at the north edge of the camp, looking into the grey fog as if they might see the encroaching horde from there.
They talked near where Geert had left his cart, and Felix could hear them plainly. They have marched night and day, said von Volgen, while we have only marched nights. Yes, said von Kotzebue. It is as I feared. Slow as they are, they never stop. We will not outrun them before we reach Castle Reikguard. At least At least the foot soldiers wont, said von Volgen when the baron trailed off. Von Kotzebue nodded.
I have less than three thousand foot troops left, and most of them wounded, starving and exhausted. The horde must number more than ten thousand. If my men stand and fight, they will die, and do nothing but add to the necromancers ranks. If they run, it is the same.
Your two hundred knights, however We will not abandon you, my lord, said von Volgen, drawing himself up. Von Kotzebue tilted his head, and Felix thought he saw him smile through his enormous moustache.
I was thinking more that we would abandon you. Von Volgen frowned. The necromancer says he is driving for Altdorf, and plans to take the towns and castles in his way to bolster his troops.
Castle Reikguard must be his first target, for it has the largest garrison, and he cannot afford to have it at his back. But to take it, he must act swiftly, before a concerted defence can be brought against him.
Therefore, I believe if our infantry were to turn away from his line of march, he could not afford to follow. He could not spare the time. He looked west. We are almost due east of Weidmaren here. If I were to march west and bolster their garrison, while you and your knights raced south-west to do the same at Castle Reikguard, we would starve him of fresh troops, and make two of the strongholds he absolutely must take that much harder to win.
He turned back to von Volgen. What say you? Von Volgen stroked his heavy chin. I see the sense of it, but I wonder if Graf Reiklander will welcome an armed force of Talabecland men within his walls.
In the face of an enemy such as this necromancer, my lord, said von Kotzebue, surely Empire must come before province. Aye, baron, said von Volgen. I only hope my lord Reiklander sees it that way. He shrugged. Well, if you will take my foot troops and my wounded as well, I and my knights will speed south-west as you suggested. Von Kotzebue bowed. Of course. I will give my sergeants their orders. The two lords and their captains turned from the fog-shrouded vista, but before they had taken more than a few steps into the bustling camp, Rodi raised himself up in his chains and called after them.
Hoy, lordling! Aye, you. The one who cant tell the dead from the living. If youre running away, why not free us instead? We wouldnt want to slow you down.
Von Volgens brutish brow lowered into a scowl, and he turned his eyes to Geert. Make your cart ready to go, he said. And find some extra chains. Geert saluted and the lords walked away. At this rate, beardling, said Gotrek without looking around, youll live long enough to learn when to shut your mouth.
For the next two days, von Volgen and his two hundred knights rode hard to the south-west, with Geerts cart rattling along behind the other supply wagons. At noon on the first day, they plunged into the dark forest that bordered the Barren Hills. The narrow track they followed was old and often overgrown, and for all von Volgens urgings that they make haste, sometimes the servants and cargo men were forced to stop and shoulder the carts over thick roots that humped up out of the path, or to guide them across rushing streams.
Each time this occurred, the dwarfs would watch from the cart, smug, as the men did the heavy work because von Volgen refused to unchain them. Felix was too uneasy to enjoy the irony. Whenever they slowed, he would stare into the depths of forest, fearing that at any moment undead horrors would lurch out of the shadows and attack.
Adding to his nerves was the fact that von Volgen had sent his field surgeons along with his wounded to join von Kotzebues train, so if an attack did happen, there would be no one to patch them up. Not that day, nor that night when they made camp in a cramped glade not far from the track. Felix dreamed again of wolf howls and black wings, but when he woke, sweat freezing on his brow, he heard nothing, and there were no alarms from von Volgens sentries.
The next day was the same as the first, except with freezing rain. The forest was so thick over their heads that even though the winter trees were bare of leaves the raindrops did not reach them, only great fat drips from the black branches that nonetheless soaked them to the bone.
Felix tried to drape his cloak over himself and Kat, but they were chained just too far apart, and neither of them were fully covered. The dwarfs still showed no discomfort, except for wringing out their beards and flipping their drooping crests out their eyes. Snorris crest of nails made little red rivulets of rust that dripped off the end of his bulbous nose like blood.
The next morning, the rain stopped, though the clouds remained. Unfortunately, the downpour had made a mud bath of their track, and there were many stops to pull the wagons out of wheel-sucking ruts, but at last, in the middle of the afternoon, the column came out of the forest and into a wet patchwork of dreary farmland, the fields black and brown and bare under stone-grey clouds.
Felix sighed with relief to be out of the woods, and it seemed the knights shared his mood. They had been almost entirely silent for the last two days, talking only when necessary, and laughing not at all, but now they began to chat and joke amongst themselves. Geert stood up on the buckboard of the cart and pointed ahead. Thatll be Castle Reikguard, or Im a goblin, he said to his surviving cargo man, Dirk.
Soon be warm and dry now, said Dirk, nodding. And on trial, said Rodi, without looking up. Gotrek didnt raise his head either, but Felix and Kat stood as high as they could in their chains and craned their necks. A dull gleam, far in the misty distance, was the Reik, snaking north and west towards Altdorfand rising from it, like some massive, high-prowed stone ship, was a towering castle, heavy walls of dark granite circling a craggy hill to surround a stern old keep. A great tower jutted from its black slate roof, rising so high its pennons were lost in the lowering clouds.
Felix had seen the castle often as a boy travelling with his father on business. It had been a familiar landmark to be watched for on the way to Nuln, and he was surprised what a sense of nostalgia and comfort he felt seeing it again. The castle was the hereditary seat of the Reikland princes, and also Karl Franzs summer home, as well as the home of the garrison that had guarded the Reiklands north-eastern border since before Magnus the Pious.
He felt, suddenly, that after his long trek through the wild and dangerous Drakwald, he was back in the civilised heart of the Empire.
This was where his people were their strongest. This was home. A thudding of hooves behind them made him turn his head. One of von Volgens rearguard knights was galloping towards them down the forest road, his horses flanks flecked with foam and his eyes wide and staring.
My lord! Theyre coming! What did he mean? Not them corpses? They couldnt have caught up with us so fast, could they? The knights were turning too, wheeling their horses around to face the woods, now a half-mile behind them, and a moment later von Volgen and his captains cantered back to stand with them and stare at the distant wall of trees.
You are certain? Yes, my lord, said the knight, panting along with his horse. And the wolves with them. They Then they appeared.
From the dark of the forest came a swift, roiling blackness, shot through with flashes of white and steel and bronze, like shooting stars in a turbulent sky. Then the flashes resolved themselves. The white was boneskull-faced riders leaning low over the necks of bone-shanked horses. The steel was swords and axes and lance-tips, held in gauntleted hands.
The bronze was helms and breastplates and greaves of ancient design. And as the skeletons rode, the clouds in the sky above them lowered and blackened, so that the green fire that flickered in their empty eye sockets glowed brighter.
Felix swallowed, fear clutching at his insides.
This was no shambling mob of clumsy corpses, mindless and unarmed. These riders were charging towards them in a disciplined line, as fast as smoke before a strong wind. A spike-helmed warrior in full plate led them, a black sword held high in one gauntleted fist, while the low black forms of dire wolves loped between their steeds like silent shadows.
About eighty, my lord, said one of von Volgens captains, fighting to keep the fear out of his voice. Perhaps a hundred. Von Volgens heavy jaw tightened and he wheeled his horse around. Make for the castle, he said. He galloped for the front of the column with his captains bawling orders to the wagons and the knights as they raced behind him. Geert called up a prayer to Taal and slapped the reins over the backs of his horses as the column started forwards.
Come on, Bette! Come on, Countess! The cargo man, Dirk, drew a hatchet out from under the drivers bench and made the sign of Sigmar. Felix watched, mesmerised, as the undead riders surged closer behind them and von Volgens knights and the other wagons pulled away ahead of them. Weaponless aboard the slowest of the wagons, he and Kat and the slayers were worse off than they had been against the wolves in the fog.
The skeletal knights would ride them down before they were halfway to Castle Reikguard. Does it meet with your approval? Gotrek glared back at the encroaching riders. It does not, he said, then snapped his chains and stood. Rodi and Snorri took that as a sign and broke theirs too, while Gotrek freed Felix and Kat.
Thank you, Gotrek, said Kat, rubbing her wrists. Then what are you doing? Are you going to fight? I am going to see that Snorri Nosebiter reaches the manling castle, Gotrek said, and pulled up one of the tightly rolled lengths of canvas tenting that lay on the bed of the cart. Rodi snorted.
We could do that by jumping off and facing them. Do what you will, said Gotrek, and heaved the first roll off the cart. Snorri doesnt want to go to a castle, said Snorri, trying to stand on his one leg.
Snorri wants to fight. Rodi shot an angry glance at the old slayer, then cursed and started throwing off the canvas as well. Felix and Kat joined him. Geert looked back, alarmed, as he heard the canvas rolls splat behind them on the muddy road. What are ydoing free? And those are my tents! You want to go back and get them? Geert groaned unhappily, but only turned back and cracked the reins again.
The cart flew faster with every canvas they unloaded, and was soon bouncing and lurching in a terrifying fashion, but it was still not fast enough. They had caught up with the other carts, but von Volgens knights were pulling further ahead, and the undead riders kept gaining. Kat bent to shove off some of the tent poles that lay stacked in the centre of the cart, but Gotrek stayed her arm.
Wait until theyll make a difference, he said. Felix looked back at the riders. Now that they were closer, he saw that not all were ancient skeletons.