Gunter - I present here the pertinent extracts previously as discussed - although my memory failed me when last we spoke, I have since recalled that the text was named A Decade in Bondage Among the Wicked Dawi of the Far East. It was wisely suppressed by the command of His Imperial Majesty’s Most Holy Order of the Temple of Sigmar, in accordance with the Treaty of Everlasting Friendship with the Undying Realm of the Karaz Ankor. The author died peacefully in a monastery. I rescued our copy from the printworks where his will had requested it be bound for sale. Had to stop the dawi from burning the entire place. I can’t risk making a full copy, but I had the original sent to the Chapter House in Kutenholz. I beg you, leave it there; it is the safest Chapter House farthest away from the wandering eyes of the High King…
I felt the rough, callused hand of my tormentor on the raw flesh of my shoulder.
“Up,” he growled. “It is time.”
By the time this moment came, gentle reader, I must confess that I was beaten. I will make no pretense in this record, as other chroniclers are wont to do; when I look back on those dark years, I see no benefit in lies. Now, by the grace of Sigmar, I am redeemed; in those earliest days of my captivity, I was utterly without hope.
Months of malnourishment, eating the filthy scraps and leavings of the greenskins, tossed from wagon to cell to wagon to cell, snatching moments of sleep between the sounds of screams and endless churning of wheels - it had all taken a toll, to be sure. But it did not compare to the despair. After the initial shock of my kidnap had subsided - after I was turned over to the hissing greenskin in Akendorf - we began our journey into the east… always, whatever glimpse of sunset or sunrise I got through the rotten timbers of the wagon, into the east. I could never have guessed just how far, but with every league we travelled, that despair weighed on me heavier and heavier. My life has ended, I felt with utter certainty. I will never marry, sire children, join the guild. It is all over now. Nobody will find me. My greed has killed me and none will mourn.
I rose to my feet and slowly trudged toward the thick iron door. It had become a contest of skill between the greenskin and I, this lack of haste. I would drag my heels as slowly as possible, and he would shove me, and I would trot for a moment; gradually slowing my pace, half a step every ten steps, to drag out these moments of motion as long as possible. But this time, something was different. He did not push.
“No games, manling,” he hissed. “Move yourself. The games are over.”
I gently increased my pace, as little as possible.
He stepped in front of me.
It was the first time my face had been so close to his in weeks. He looked different. Everything about him was different. Hunched, the height of a man, my captor was unlike the greenskins I had read about in the libraries of the capitals. He spoke well, was of somewhat human proportions, and had a sharp, perceptive air of cunning about him. I would later learn his kind are the Hobgoblins, scorned by their cousins for just these traits, prized by their patrons for the very same.
“Listen. You hear but do not listen. Things are different now. You must learn again to go quickly, to speak up, to think. Or things will get – much worse.”
I had watched him over the months of our journey, heard him interact with humans and greenskins alike. I had seen him beat and kill and consume manflesh. I had never once sensed what I swore now was on the edges of his eyes - fear.
What could I be facing that made my captor fearful?
He read the look in my eye, and I saw his muscles twitch, suppressing the desire to beat me. This added to the mystery. Why was he so intent not to mark me?
I felt his arm across both my shoulders, and he forcefully walked me up to an iron cell door much like my own. A horrible muffled screaming was coming from the other side. He rapped a certain rhythm on the door, and after a moment, the inspector’s slit slid open. Bloodshot greenskin eyes glared at my captor for a moment, who glared back.
“I just need him to see,” my captor hissed.
“No interruptions,” spat the greenskin on the other side of the door, but he moved back. My captor pushed me up to the door, and I felt the ugly heat that coursed through every metal object - that hung heavy in the air - against my withered body.
“Look,” he commanded simply.
Through the slit, I saw a sharply spiked iron brazier up to waist height, filled with coals. Facing toward the brazier was a man, leaned against crossed wooden stakes - no - in the glowering light cast by the brazier I could see nails. My mind had almost filtered out the screams - after such time, I was used to hearing the muffled wails that seemed to suffuse this evil place. But seeing it now, and hearing with no barrier between us, my blood ran cold. Out in front of the man stretched a great mass of his entrails, pulled from his slit belly out on to the brazier, which hissed and spat. Two hunched, miniscule figures stood beside it, ignoring the man but staring intently at the entrails. One held a wicked looking poker, and used it to prod and tend the twists of intestine like a father preparing to grill wurst for Sigmartag. The other seemed intent to stare at the wisps of smoke, peering at them like a jeweller inspecting uncut gems. The man’s screaming seemed utterly immaterial, but reader I assure you, it was like nothing I have ever heard. I have heard a furious griffon devour a lax apprentice slowly, starting from his middle; I have heard his mother’s cries as she watched. The sounds of the anguish were as the playing of children by comparison. Soon enough, I would learn how right that feeling was; I would understand my captor’s action as a mercy, an attempt at teaching a lesson he hoped would keep us both safe. In the moment, I felt raw, animal terror.
“Now you see,” he said simply. “This can be you. No dragging feet. No silence. No disrespect. And most of all,” he said after some thought, “no questions.”
I moved with a walk so fast it made the greenskin chuckle disgustingly to himself. We came at last to a long, winding stair, narrow, utterly black. In my weakened state, I heaved a quiet sigh, and he heard me.
“Stand. Let it happen.”
He grabbed a trident that was racked in an alcove to our left, and rapped it on the warm stone. With the smoothness of breath, I felt myself starting to drift upward, pulled by an unseen force. It was as though I was gently rolling downhill, but I was moving directly upward.
A voice, wicked, thickly accented, old, somehow ugly, reverberated around the antechamber. Before us stood an ornate black door, covered in detailing of great winged bulls.
The greenskin drew two hideously curved knives from places on his person, held them out before him, and tapped the blades together while bowing his head.
A moment passed.
The door slowly began to grind open.
My captor placed a hand on my shoulder one last time, seizing the opportunity to pull my ear to his crooked mouth, and hissed -
“Make it count.”