wrote:The door to the Scuttlepub closed and Morskittar sighed with relief. He recalled the absurd request the resurrected human woman had made him: stabilize the pub! Keep it going! Let us use it ourselves! He had tried to explain that the pocket dimension had been created by, and was maintained only by the will and thoughts of Jerekk the Horned Rat, but she did not listen well.
Still, under threat of coercion, he had done his duty. The Lord Warlock had sent into place arcane safeguards that kept the pub open for as long as he was able, but he knew it would not last. He felt the Horned One's attention on him after he dropped Neesha off on the surface, and felt the pub squeeze and contract. He coughed, and thought a most un-Skavenlike thought: I am tired. Let me sleep.
But then there was the human with him. She would not let him. He glared at her and continued his work, protesting all the while the futility of extending the Scuttlepub's life. "It is a mere extension of the Horned Rat's will," he growled angrily. "I cannot compete with a god!"
Xiao-Lin just stared, determination and fury in here eyes. Morskittar decided that he was more afraid of those eyes than of his god. Muttering to himself, he continued to work, and as he worked, a feverish glint entered his eyes. "Maybe... if I disconnect the power from the source..." Xiao-Lin watched coldly as a collection of wires, cables, globes, coils, springs, and machinery grew to fill the main rooms of the pub. "Yes..." Morskittar said. "This... this should last..."
He turned to the human and grinned, a manic grin on his face. "When the Horned Rat ends this place, this core will survive... I has converted his divine power to this!" He swept his gnarled claws over the mechanical monstrosity he created. "And with this..." he rested a hand on a series of levers, buttons, and dials, "we can control the pub as well as anyone else ever had!"
Xiao-Lin nodded, and Morskittar turned back to his creation, resting a mechanical hand on a glowing arcane globe. He smiled to himself, and his mortal body collapsed. Xiao-Lin saw, for a moment, the shimmer of his soul pass into an orb. She made a note not to ever touch those herself. Stepping over Morstkittar's fallen corpse, she rested her hands on the levers, closed her eyes, and spoke to shadows.
As Morskittar himself faded, the Horned Rat clenched a fist, and the Scuttlepub collapsed. The Horned Rat smiled; two troublesome fleas had been eliminated, and the Scuttlepub finally gone. He felt a twinge of sadness for his lost persona and his lost pub, but he had outgrown them, and soon he would return to his former Glory.
In the core of the crumbling Scuttlepub lights flashed, and creaks and cracks deafened Xiao-Lin. Everything glowed and she was blinded, and then there was silence. She was floating in the warp, no longer on the Shattered Isle, and no longer connected to the Horned Rat. She felt with her magic, and smiled softly. He thinks I am gone... She withdrew her shadows, and set herself to her next task. He was still on Hell Pit, and she would get Him back.
The Space Hulk, no Space Junk, formerly recognized as the crumpled life boat of the Scuttlepub plowed it's way through the heady currents of the Warp. Her small crew busied themselves with either retrofitting the latest blast shields to the outer sections of the hull, or repairing the old ones that had been damaged in past skirmishes. Now christened The Empress, the ramshackle pirate ship had been making it's way from one mis-adventure to the next on it's way to get back to the shattered Isle of Hellpit. The warp wasn't something that a vessel could simply point in a direction and reach somewhere in though, it took experience, ingenuity and an exorbitant amount of luck to make any headway. So when the shockwave from the birth of 6 minor Gods hit the ark of a pub all those years ago, it ended up getting blown half way across the galaxy when measured in real space.
One soul trying to make his way in this vast expanse was the diminutive Ratling Gibbs, who was now clinging on to the outer hull of the Empress with a grip that turned his tiny pink hands white. As he made his way to the next busted panel he made sure to check once again that the reinforced steel lifeline was indeed attached at the other end inside the ship; his fellow pirates had the habit of unhooking it on him and others but it was "just a prank." Beyond the lifeline he was also protected from the harshness of the warp by the Bubble-Universe Reinforcement Projector, or B.U.R.P. for short. The 40 pound backpack weighed almost as much as he did and caused the reality which held the remnants of the Space Junk together to extend just a little bit further out into the Warp. It too had a tether and a power cord, but there would be no question as to if it was still attached or not; if anyone unplugged it his spark would be lost to the Eternal Ocean in an instant.
As he reached the next mangled plate his attention was drawn to a sickening feeling coming from the corner of his vision. Most of the time he tried to avoid looking directly into the Warp, the experience was bound to give you a bad headache if done long enough, but he knew to trust his gut when it came to trouble. At first he couldn't see anything, but then out in the unknowable distance they revealed themselves to him; Tzeenchian Screamers, a massive shoal of them.
"Oooh shit..." he uttered to the uncaring Ocean. "Shitsticks."
Gibbs quickly gathered up his supplies and nimbly made his way back to the port side hatch, "Master Shinjitch! Master Shinjitch!!" He yelled as he came through the small hatch and inside the relative safety of the bubble universe. He let go of the BURP which reverberated with a sickening pop as the space around him equalized and made his way aft deck where Shinjitch would no doubt be. He nimbly ducked and weaved his way between the legs of his larger shipmates and sure enough the aging Skaven was there, pouring over the latest star charts that they had pilfered from an Imperial Crusader Class star cruiser. Once a legendary Pit beast in the wandering city of Hellpit, the black furred rat was now second in command on board the Empress. He still had his imposing Warpblade fused to his left set of arms and a set of shields strapped to his back to be held by the right two arms, but the years have taken it's toll. He was short a leg, now replaced by a wooden stump below the right knee. He was also missing his ears which had been clipped in forced payment for a bad game of dice-bones.
The Commander rounded at the sound of his name and took a moment to locate it's source, seeing the diminutive Ratling his face soured as he gave the miniature Man-Thing a rotten toothed grimace.
"What is it Gibbs?"
"Screamers Master Shinjitch! Screamers!!"
"How many?" Shinjitch growled.
"A whole shoal, it spans leagues!"
Just then the call came up from others along the port side, lending cause to Gibbs' claim.
"Get me the eye-scope!" Gibbs complied and swiftly brought Shinjitch a strange contraption made of a series of lenses that constantly flicked in and out of a long brass tube, as if with a mind of it's own. Holding it up to one eye Shonjitch was able to peer out through the hull of the ship and safely into the warp-space beyond. It didn't take him long to see what the Ratling was talking about, the black mass of Daemonic beasts was one of the largest gatherings of Screamers they had ever come across; there would be no chance at evading them with such little time.
"Battle stations!" Boomed Commander Shinjitch for all the crew to hear. "Man the cannons and hoist the sails! Heave to and spool up the Electro-Repulsor!"
The crew of the Empress burst into action, each man instinctively knowing their role. The interior of the main hull of the ship dropped down to emergency lighting as all power was routed to the required systems, in a matter of minutes everything was in place and for a brief moment all was silent. Then, with an almost hauntingly beautiful sound the closing screamers let themselves be known, for even through the vastness of the Warp-space and the thick reinforced hull of the ship their wailing could be heard. Shinjitch watched it all through the eye-scope, it's delicate lenses flicking faster and faster along the length of the brass tube.
"Hold," he said slowly raising his Warpblade arm. He watched as the first few Daemons flew past without noticing them, the gunners could see them too of course manned at their cannons but they knew better than to go against the Commander's orders.
"Hold..." he said again as the main mass of Screamers approached the port side. He knew their was too many of them to take on, their only hope was to get as many as possible to slip by without noticing them, but it wasn't to last.
"Hold!" he yelled as the first of the Tzeenctch's soaring predators started to notice the Space Junk and changed course to intercept. Then finally just before they reached the hull of the ship Shinjitch slashed down with his Warpblade and gave the order
The port side of the Empress lit up like the morning dawn. She didn't have the weapons batteries that many ships her size had, but it was still impressive none the less. Particle and projectile artillery hammered into the approaching shoal and those caught in it's path disintegrated before the onslaught. But even as hundreds of them died, hundreds more began diverting their path onto an intercept course with the Junk. Soon the screams were joined by the sound of countless caustic tentacles scraping against the outer hull.
"Keep firing! Try to blast through to the other side!"
Shinjitch made his way over to dented vox system and threw open the switch to the engine room. "You guys down there get ready to give her everything she's got." He turned again to the gunners along the port side, "and the rest of you don't you dream of letting up for a minute!"
The horde of screeching Daemons was unstoppable though and for ever one that was destroyed three more appeared, the began swarming around the scope of the ships weapons and latching onto the hull itself. Massive mutagenic fangs began cutting through the reinforced bulkheads and wooden support beams all over the Empress, those inside readied their side arms and unsheathed from their scabbards in anticipation for the breach, but the small pirate vessel wasn't done putting up a fight yet.
Shinjitch took a moment to spare a worrying glance at the obsidian door behind him, then gnashed his teeth in determined frustration. "Frag it," he said switching the vox over to all stations. "Cut your power lads, ten seconds to shockwave."
Gibbs, who was at the bow now and marshaled to repel any possible invaders, prayed to the fickle Gods of Fate and even spared a quick thought to the Emperor as he watched the weapons batteries powering down. The Empress suddenly jolted to the side as the innumerous Daemons slammed into her flank, piercing fangs punched their way through and with it the sound of their screaming became earsplitting, it was all he could do to not drop his sword and cover his ears, let alone attempt to strike back as the first few slipped inside. But at the far end he watched as Commander Shinjitch slammed down a meaty fist to the control panel and with it the fully charged Electro-Repulsor detonated in a thunderous blast, electrocuting everything touching the outer hull and continuing outwards in a destabilizing shockwave of death. But that didn't get rid of the few that made their way inside the ship, which now flew through the upper reaches of the main deck. Anti-boarding crews opened fire without a moments hesitation, caring more about ending the Daemonic threat than some pockmarks and holes that could get fixed later. Just when they thought they got them all though one suddenly appeared and dove straight for Shinjitch. The Commander turned just in time to see it approach, it was too close to dodge this time, but just at the last moment a shot rang across the deck and blew away the top half of the beast's deformed brain. Carried on it's momentum the Screamer slammed into Shinjich and blew up in a puff of blue flames, but the old Pitfighter brushed off the evaporating daemon like it didn't even matter. He turned and saw Gibbs at the other end of the ship, long rifle in hand, and gave the Able Spaceman a thankful nod.
There was a moment of silence, then a defiant cheer went up throughout the ship. Unfortunately it was short lived, for all could see they bought themselves scant minutes at most. The ship was riddled through with holes, but being it's own pocket dimension meant that the Empress didn't need to worry about such things as explosive decompression. Instead it simply gave everyone on board a chance to see that they barely made a dent in the endless tide of Screamers.
With a tired grimace Shinjitch addressed the men; "Back to your posts. I want the engines ready to go and the cannons re armed. I want every able-bodied pirate that's on this scuttled tub jumping to get my Skaven ass ahead and out of this damned daemonic tsunami!"
From the darkened doorway behind the Commander spoke the only person on board who could give such an order. Xiao-Lin, Captain of the Empress, strode out onto the deck of her ship. The scroll fused to her left temple glowed a soft jade colour in front of her long back hair that was tied back in a loose bun. Her jewelry was elaborate, cultivated from almost a decade of piracy and paired well with the tall leather boots and what can only be described as a cross between a great coat and a kimono. But where everyone else had aged she had not, at least not physically. She still looked the same as the day she escaped from the Slanneshi prison of Tazz-Kenor, but the same wasn't true for her soul. Splintered into countless recovered fragments, Xiao-Lin was over time slowly loosing that which made her her. The years built up behind her eyes quicker than most people, one a deep set brown and the other so black that it was almost easier to stare into the Warp itself. This piercing gaze now swept across the assembled crew, who were unsure what to do now.
"Captain, we've bought ourselves minutes at most and we need to make the best of that time," Shinjitch said trying his best to hide his annoyance. "If we don't flee now we will die."
"We can't outrun them, we can't fight out way through them, the only left is to hide ourselves."
"You don't mean..."
"But the Empress has grown even larger in size since the last time you tried, are you sure?"
Xiao-Lin pulled a long kanji scroll out from her sleeve, the runes inked with a mixture of her own blood bubbled softly across the parchment, "it's already begun. Ready the men."
Shinjitch looked at her disapprovingly, but knew better than to question an order. "Right you heard her lads," he said turning to the crew. "Brace yourselves, we're diving under."
As he spoke Xiao-Lin took the scroll and draped it over the wheel, closing her eyes she softly spoke the words of incantation to draw in ethereal power from the surrounding Warp. Gripping the wheel through the sheet the magic of the void suddenly surged through her like a lightning bolt, letting her soul shine like a second sunrise. Outside the approaching Screamers instinctively turned, expecting a second blast wave to come from their hemorrhaging prey and in that instant the Empress slipped away from the galaxy and into the Realm of Shadows.
With one hand on the wheel and the other stretched to a shining soul-lantern behind them the Captain of the Empress guided the ship through the darkened and unseen edges of Warp-space. The Screamers themselves provided their means of escape, for as the light shone in their reality the Empress slid into their amassed shadows behind them, flitting from one pod to the next before they could even register them slipping by. The journey was taking it's toll though, Xiao-Lin was sweating profusely and her teeth grated against each other as she literally poured herself into the spell. Her ebon eye began to bleed but still she steered the ship onward through the scattered daemonic shadows, the task was made more difficult given the size of the ship and would have been impossible if not for the boost from the blood-scroll and the eclectic engines themselves. The journey could hardly be called easy for the crew either, as phantom forms assaulted the senses and drove those with a weaker fortitude closer to the brink of insanity. Gibbs only just moved out of the way in time as one of his fellow shipmates bellowed aloud and charged straight over the diminutive man and out one of the gaping wounds in the ship's hull.
Commander Shinjitch gathered himself and made the arduous journey to his Captain's side, though stopped short of actually making contact with the focused caster, "That's good enough."
"No, we need to get clear," Xiao-Lin said through grinding teeth. "We're almost there..."
"Captain, you'll kill yourself! You need to stop!"
Xiao-Lin spared her 2nd in command a flash of her human eye and held on for a moment more before letting out a yell as she tore her hand from the soul-sucking spell scroll. She stumbled but to her credit kept her footing as exhaustion took hold. Some of the crew who hadn't properly braced weren't so lucky and a few were flung across the deck at the abrupt shift back into Warp-space. Outside they could see the last stragglers of the swarm of Screamers slip by, leaving them to the relative safety of open space once more. The Empress had more holes than a block of cheese, but she was still space worthy and her crew let out a hearty cheer as they counted their blessings.
Shinjitch stood next to Xiao-Lin as the Captain regained her composure, he didn't look impressed. "You could have died," he said in a disapproving tone. "If you die then what's the point of any of this? You need to be more careful."
Xiao-Lin gave the old pitfighter a tired smile, "ever the protective comrat eh Shinjitch? Well we made it out, which is more than I could say would have happened with your 'turn tail and flee' plan."
"I'm serious," he said leaning in. "You pull a stunt like that again and I'll-"
"You'll what? Commandeer the ship? It's talk of mutany now is it Commander?" she said as her hand drifted down to the scabbard at her hip.
Shinjitch backed down from her, "nobody is saying that. But if you don want to make it back to Hellpit some day then you'll need to be more careful on how you burn your wick."
Xiao-Lin stood for a moment and regarded him, before nodding solemnly "you're right. I'll try to be more careful when saving us all in the future. Now then," she said turning back to the doorway from which she came. "I have some important work to, have the men repairing the ship and plot out where we landed."
"No more interruptions."
Back inside the Captains quarters, Xiao-Lin sat herself down in front of a small round table. The space was sparsely illuminated by numerous holes in the hull, which allowed the sickly green warp-light to seep in. The space more closely resembled a room at a tavern than a proper Captain's quarters, having a large bed on one side and a stone mounted fireplace along the far wall. There was a desk covered in various charts, maps and data slates, many of which were ear marked with quickly scribbled notes and trajectories. On the table that she sat at now sat a half empty bottle of pilfered wine, a spit-stained crystal glass, and a tall black candle. No one else on board save possibly Shinjitch knew of the power which was held within it's half melted frame. Supposedly it had belonged to Ikkilit himself before Sho-Yin got his hands on it, of everything her old dead lover had left behind this candle was the only item of true value worth taking.
Tired as she was she knew they needed to get back on track if there was ever a chance of seeing Hellpit again, and so she withdrew a small match from the clip in her hair and sparked the artifact to life. The flame danced like a beast freed from bondage, constantly shifting it's colour along the entire spectrum of light and beyond. It reached high up into the air like someone stretching out their aches after a long sleep, then turned to regard the Captain.
"Xiao-Lin," crackled the Daemonflare. "Who is it you seek knowledge on this time?"
"You know who, show me where his soul resides."
"But you already know the answer, he is within the force you call Mutae."
Xiao-Lin wasn't in the mood for the Daemon's games, "then light the way, Daemon. Or would you rather I toss you off the ship and have you float on endlessly trapped in your waxy prison?"
The daemon's silence was enough of an apology for Xiao-Lin, who slid the candle closer.
"Now then, guide us back to Shadowlord Sho-Yin, there's much work to do before we can both rest..."
Word Count: 3183
Mutate: Thanks again to everyone who read my stories, I look forward playing with you all again in Season 5