Folkvar glowered down at the map spread out on the table before him. Etched into the dirty parchment was a map of the Great Green Torc. Various carved pieces of stone used to represent his own forces - as well as those others his scouts had thus far reported - had been placed upon the map at their respective locations.
'The skyborne duardin based at Castle Neonatus appear to have been quiet for some time, though my men and I have made no attempt to communicate with them as of yet,' explained the Prosecutor Prime currently addressing the room.
'My men report having spotted a great horde amassing to the east bearing the mark of the Blood God, but they are yet some distance from where we are. Most troubling are the reports of Skaven activity within Mycelia.'
'Are they aware of our presence, Prosecutor?' asked the Runefather.
'I do not believe they are, my lord.'
'Good,' replied Folkvar as he stood to his feet and leaned over the map. 'Get us a location on the thaggoraki. Alsvir will take Ulavesht, the Grongundi and a berzerker fyrd. Hakon will take my hearthguard and tunnel them into the heart of the filthy horde. I'll take the Irondrakes 'round the other flank.
'Let's ambush these little shits.'
The duardin marched silently through the fungus-infested groves of Mycelia, the land steadily giving way to the corrupting presence of the skaven. Folkvar walked alongside Brim - his magmadroth - as the colossal beast crept along low to the ground, full aware of what his diminutive allies were planning. A warpstone stink began to suffuse the air and an unnatural green glow could be seen in the clearing up ahead. Raucous chittering and cackling filled the fungus forest and the stink of the rat-men was carried downwind by the sorcerous storm gathering before the duardin army.
Folkvar clambered quickly onto Brim's back, heaving his grandaxe into the air as he turned his steed about to face the duardin arrayed behind him.
'Grimnir guide your steel, brothers. Show no mercy to the vermin.
'KHAZUK!' roared Folkvar.
The duardin echoed their leader's cry, then charged into the glade.
A great pillar of warpstone stood in the centre of the clearing, the land all about the unclean structure sick and deadened. Many of the skaven shrieked in fear as the fyreslayers charged into the clearing but were quickly goaded into ranks by the vicious creatures surrounding the green obelisk.
Once the creatures at the centre were satisfied that the orders they had barked would be seen to, they once again turned to the great shard at the centre of the verminous horde, raising their hands above their heads and gnashing their teeth in what appeared to be supplication to their god.
'The stone!' roared Ruadhar, who had been following up the rear of Folkvar's detachment. 'They're trying to charge the stone! Stop the bastards before it's too late!'
'You heard him, duardin! Into them!' roared Folkvar.
With renewed zeal, Folkvar's berzerkers charged straight into the skaven gathered before them. The Irondrakes halted behind them and began blasting away into the mass of furry bodies, felling many of the beasts as they did. Skjor stood behind the berzerkers holding the icon of Grimnir aloft as he sang the hymns of the Hrukvorn lodge, whilst Brim belched great gouts of magma at the chittering hordes.
On the other side of the clearing, Alsvir and the Grungondi burst from the fungal forest and unleashed their magmapikes upon the rat ogors lumbering towards them. Each time one of the beasts fell, the temple guardians gave a cheer. Before long, the joviality of the Grungondi was snuffed out as - to their horror - the charred bodies of the beasts stood back up and lumbered onward to join their brethren.
Likewise did the skaven warriors felled by Folkvar's vulkites stand to their feet again and rejoin the battle.
'What devilry is this?' spat Skjor as he lowered his standard, the berzerkers having rushed out of his reach.
'There's no sorcery at work here, flameling,' grumbled Ruadhar, desperately looking for the ideal spot to open the earth up from underneath the skaven. 'Tis but the nature of this world. Look.'
At that very moment, a vulkite was skewered upon a rusty spear. The assailant drew his weapon out from the guts of his victim and turned to rejoin the battle, only to have his skull caved in with a warpick. The unfortunate vulkite slumped to his knees, his slingshield and warpick hanging loosely in his hands. As he began to topple back, a shimmer of light shot up from the earth and up through the duardin's body. With a shake of his head that sent his crest flapping to and fro, the young fyreslayer leapt back to his feat and charged back into the fray.
'The air is thick with the essence of life,' said Ruadhar. 'And it seems this place is indiscriminate with its gifts...'
Raising his grandaxe high in the air, Folkvar kicked his heels into Brim's flanks and the two entered into a charge. Duardin and mount hurtled forward into the heart of the skaven ranks, straight for the stormvermin protecting the cabal at the centre of the army. Just as he drew back his weapon to take his first swing at the creatures scrambling towards them, Folkvar felt Brim lurch to one side and was almost thrown from the magmadroth's back.
He glanced down at the earth below them. The corrupting influence of the skaven's warpshard was beginning to tell and was turning the land beneath them to a poisonous bog. Brim roared in frustration as he fought to free his legs from the greenish soup he had become mired in. The stormvermin scrambled over the magmadorth's body, stabbing at the beast with their vicious halberds. Folkvar fumed at the skaven, swinging his grandaxe in great arcs but failing to land a single blow as the frenzied creatures leapt clear of the runefather's weapon.
Brim's roars of frustration turned to roars of agony as his volcanic blood seeped out into the earth. With his foes pressed so close about him, Folkvar could not swing his axe and so was pushed from the saddle. Bleeding from a hundred cuts, the runefather continued to roar his defiance, pushing his foes back with the haft of his axe as he fought his way back to protect his steed and friend. His hands slick with sweat and blood, his grandaxe slipped from his grip and he resorted to fighting off blows with his arms. Were it not for the essence of his god flowing through his veins, his limbs would have been cut to ribbons. As it was, Folkvar fought back with all he could as he also was sucked into the bog. And as quickly as he had been set upon by them, the stormvermin ran off to join some other fray - white spittle frothing and their filthy mouths, halberds slick with the blood of both duardin and magmadroth.
Folkvar saw his axe glisten a few feet in front of him and shambled through the bog to rescue it from oblivion. Using the weapon as a walking stick, he trudged through the filth covered in mud and blood towards where Brim lay. The creature's fire had cooled to a dim blue and his breaths were short and shallow. He lay his free hand upon the creature's side and pressed his forehead to the scales, savouring the dwindling heat emanating from the noble beast.
'Stay with me, lad,' rasped Folkvar. 'Stay with me...'
Alsvir's vulkites were tossed aside like so much kindling by the relentless onslaught of the rat ogors, and it was not long before the Grongundi were either beaten to oblivion beneath their mutant fists or were forced to quit the field. Ulavesht - Alsvir's mount - had also been badly beaten, but trudged on towards the warpstone obelisk at the Runesmiter's behest with the rat ogors in tow. The Irondrakes had reaped a heavy toll upon the skaven, and with their assistance Folkvar's vulkites had cut a swathe towards the centre of the army and stood defiantly before the skaven in defence of their wounded runefather, cutting down any ratman who strayed too close.
Ruadhar scowled as the obelisk at the centre began to give off energy in wild green arcs, the skaven cackling gleefully as the land around them slipped into a still greater state of ruin. The Runemaster slammed his staff angrily into the earth, just as Hakon arrived with Folkvar's hearthguard in tow.
'The day is lost,' barked Ruadhar to his apprentice. 'Prepare to retreat.'
'You can't be serious! We only just arr-'
'Do as you're thagging-well told, flameling!' snapped Ruadhar as he rushed over to the other side of the field.
'Prepare to retreat!' he roared to the karl helping Folkvar to his feet, the last duardin standing from his regiment.
As the duardin about him began to quit the field to the sound of the gleeful cackling and shrieking of the skaven, Ruadhar began a booming chant, focusing all his might upon the patch before him. The brazier atop his staff roared to life and the runes in his flesh burned bright as the earth began to crack and steam. As Ruadhar carried on with his ritual, Ulavesht heaved Brim onto her back, the great black limbs of the wounded beast hanging limply at either side, and steadily began making her way toward the Runemaster. Just as she approached, a fountain of magma burst from the ground like blood from a wound, revealing a great opening in the ground. Alsvir rushed through first, followed by the vulkite karl and the gravely wounded Folkvar, and then Ulavesht bearing the wounded Brim. No sooner had the red tail of the magmadroth disappeared than Ruadhar began focusing with all his might to seal the opening in the earth. His staff blazed and his body trembled, and a thin trickle of blood ran down his nose and dripped from his chin to the ground. As the earth slammed shut, his legs gave way way from under him, but he did not hit the ground.
'Move you old fool!' snarled Skjor as he dragged the Runemaster away from the cracked earth.
Ruadhar looked back upon the battlefield - upon the site of the warp-ritual and the skaven cavorting maniacally about it.
'This is not over...' he hissed as he trudged off into the fungus forest, his arm slung over Skjor's broad shoulders.