Hermann downed the pint of ale in one go. “I’m telling you, Otto, it was dwarfs!” he said, his eyes turning empty. “But Sigmar help me, I’ve never seen dwarfs like that…”
Der schmutzige Gockel was packed with the townsfolk of Langebucht. Hermann Böttcher knew most of them. He had lived his whole life not 15 miles to the east in Schwarzhafen. Maria had family in Langebucht, and in the summer she would often… Maria. Hermann sobbed. Beautiful Maria.
Otto was Langebucht’s butcher, and like so many had rushed to the pub when Hermann had arrived with the sunset. Now he crossed his arms over his burly chest. “You must have been hit in the head, old man. Or maybe this wasn’t your first pint this morning, I reckon. Sure, dwarfs know how to hold a grudge, and they are relentless if they are wronged, but burning down an imperial village and taking the villagers? That doesn’t sit right with me.”
“Well I’m not thrilled about it either, I tell you that much,” snapped Hermann.
“They came at dusk, their ship a beast of steel and dark wood, smoke and steam spewing from blackened chimneys. It crushed the boats in the bay under its spiked prow, cannons raining fire on the harbour. Someone rang the bell at the garrison before it vanished in a fireball. We came with clubs and spikes, but they were already on the docks. In the torchlight, they looked like nightmares: They were stocky like any dwarf you’ve ever seen, but with tusks, and horns, and red eyes.” Hermann used his hands for illustration. “And they didn’t come to plunder the village either. They came for us. Their captain, he… he laughed as he cut down Volker and his men like cubs, and nobody here can say that they ever wanted to be at the wrong end of Volker Laubner’s halberd.” A few Langebuchter mumbled in affirmation. “Sigmar, one of the lads was still alive when he tossed him into a burning building. And I swear I heard laughter in that fire. Most of us tried to run, but we were already surrounded. A horde of greenskins; taller than goblins, hunched over, with a look of pure malice - even for greenskins.”
“Now it’s not only dwarfs but they are allied with greenskins?” Otto threw his hands up. “You’re mad, Hermann, dwarfs and greenskins?!” He looked Hermann up and down. “And how come you’re sitting here now telling this story anyway, huh? You’re hiding a greatsword under your rags there, old-timer?” he goaded, but only a few Langebuchter managed a nervous laughter.
“They let me go,” whispered Hermann. “The captain singled me out of the line, I don’t know why. He said I would be a message. Then I had to watch as they took my Maria and everyone else on their ship. I couldn’t stop them. Sigmar help me, I couldn’t stop them.” He started weeping again. “They’re coming. He is coming. Wilham the Plight.”
My entry for Scribe’s Contest XIV. Had a lot of fun writing it and revisting a character from Zharr Kagur.