A Grave New World
Chapter 1 - A Long Walk At The End of the World
Very little went through the figures mind as it shambled across the barren wastes. It felt no pain as the acidic rain danced across its skin. The cold, pock-marked rocks barely registered as it plodded barefoot, ever onward. Tattered black and red cloth hung on its thin, emaciated form, slowly lopping about in the windless poison air.
All the figure felt was a deep, unassailable hunger. A need to feed that hadn't been sated in centuries. Only dust and ash could be found in its veins, its blood long ago having dried up, leaving a magic fuelled master of the night.
By some stroke of luck, either miracle or curse, some of the figures supernatural power still remained. This protected it from being dissolved by the constant, hungry rain, though exposure still took its toll. Large, nasty burns patch-worked the figures body.
The figure slowly, lethargically, flicked its dried tongue against the wickedly sharp canines in its mouth. Only the vaguest of thoughts flittered through its mind. This was not how it was supposed to end. Escape from an eternity of confinement, only to perish of hunger in some alien landscape.
And alien it was. Centuries ago, when free and bringing terror to the lands of mortals, there was always a scent on the air. The hot tang that the living brought, borne on the breeze to entice the senses and stir the bloodlust. There was none of that here. And not just the stink of the living, but the voices of the dead were missing too.
From deep in the earth the bones of the long gone should have been calling out. Ancient remains, ready to rise again at the behest of their dark master. But instead, there was only silence. Deathly silence.
Even the stomach churning power of magic was absent. It should have been a faint buzzing at the back of its brain, like a winged bug had crawled inside its skull and was desperately trying to escape. A dull ache that could instantly turn to pure, white euphoria as the true terrors magic could deliver were released.
But no buzzing. No ache. No smell. And no sound.
This truly was a dead, alien world.
* * * * * * * * *
For days the figure wandered. It wasn't aware of where it was going, how could it be? It just knew it had to seek out blood. Or perish in the attempt. There was little else it could do.
Eventually the rain eased, though the clouds overhead remained a sickly green-grey. They continued to block out any view of the heavens. That was assuming this place had a heavens to see.
The tortured, devoured rock slowly gave way to barren earth. A timid breeze listlessly blew around the figure, gently flapping the hopeless rags barely clinging to its body. Such a gentle and refreshing caress was little solace to the frail abomination. Only death, bloodshed and terror brought joy to its still heart.
Ground soon gave way to a rough pebbled beach. Green, almost fluorescent, water lapped against the shore in rhythmic pulses. The figure lifted its head slightly, and looked out across the putrid water. It couldn't see a bank, or land of any kind, on the opposite side. This was either an ocean, or a quite sizable lake. Whatever it was, the discovery was unimportant. Everything remained foreign, and left little room for hope of stumbling across another living being.
Dropping roughly to its knees, the figure reached out towards the water. Feebly extending a finger, it slowly dipped the digit into the gently undulating liquid. Grey skin sizzled and was quickly eaten away. The lower layers of ancient muscle took longer, as did the bone at the very centre. During the ordeal the figure made no noise. It felt no pain. Just cold apathy as part of it disappeared into nothingness.
The figure held up the bubbling stub to its face and studied it. Maybe there was no need to fade away. Perhaps it could just slip beneath the acidic waves and put an end to its now ceaseless and unproductive existence. It was time to resign itself to the fact. Where ever it was, there was nothing here, and there was no reason to continue.
Almost wearily, the figure rose to its feet. At least it would go out with some dignity. Stretching to its full height, it took the most regal step it could towards the acid water. The breeze picked up slightly, enough to make the decayed rags dance in joy at the prospect of annihilation.
A sharp sting in the figures nostrils caused it to freeze, transfixed. What was that on the wind? It was a faint, but no unfamiliar, sensation. The dirty, clinging smell of soot. The distasteful tang of oil. But most tantalising of all, the unmistakable musk of human fear.
Turning towards the source of the odours, the figure pushed forward. It was impossible, its heart did not beat and it no longer was subject to the petty emotions of the living. But for the first time since it had been reborn as an undead horror of the night, it felt true hope.
* * * * * * * * *
Travelling now with purpose, the figure lurched more quickly. Though it had not caught another whiff of the scent since leaving the beach, it drove itself past the breaking point. Its indiscriminate thirst had been awakened.
Not long after setting off the figure spotted something in the distance, high in the air. It appeared to be a thin, dark line. It stretched over the water and continued towards the land, running almost parallel to the horizon.
As the figure got closer it could see that it wasnt straight, but veered off downward part of the way. It appeared to be going into the ground, but as it got closer, it realised that the line turned and started in the same direction the figure was travelling.
What was this magic, a gigantic line in the sky? The figure cast its mind back to tales it had heard, both when alive and undead. Of colossal snakes from Lustria, with the powers of gods. Or of the skies in the Chaos Wastes, where massive tentacles could materialise from openings in reality to writhe with unknown purpose. The unliving abomination was no stranger to combat, but these were enemies of titanic proportion, and things it had no hope in besting. Especially in its current state.
Its concerns slowly evaporated. The line was intersected randomly by other lines, that ran from it to the ground. These were, the figure realised, supports. It was a structure of some kind. But this was a scale of construction that rivalled even that of the stalwart dwarves.
Eventually the figure found itself at the base of one of the supports. It was a hodge-podge of metal beams, insanely criss-crossing each other to form a spiders web of steel. The line at the top appeared to be another beam, though single and massive. Rather than sit on top of the support it hung out on an arm.
A column ran straight up the centre of the support. It had two rows of metal teeth running up it, regularly spaced. Where it met the ground there was an indentation, waist deep and clad in metal. A variety of small notches protruded from the sides of the pit.
Kneeling down, the figure inhaled the air around the metallic hole. The distinctive smell of humans filled its nostrils. It was faint, but unmistakable. They had been here not long ago, though the figure could not discern which direction they had travelled in. It was like they had disappeared into thin air.
As the figure puzzled, the air was cut by a low rumbling. It emanated from the beams of the very support itself. Quickly the rumbling became ear piercing, the bass battering the figure off of its feet. The support rattled uncontrollably, looking as if it is was going to shake apart.
A collection of high pitched whines, angry hissing, grinding metal and repetitive gurgling could faintly be heard from over the water. With great haste it grew in volume, joining the cacophony of the convulsing support. In the distant sky, over the water, the figure could make out a group of green and yellow lights rapidly headed towards it.
There was no time to even speculate what this thing was. Within moments it was rushing directly overhead, a mottled blur belching black and green smoke. The front had looked almost like a ship, though the rest appeared to be a long cylindrical body made of metal. But it was travelling too rapidly to make an accurate assessment of exactly what it looked like. As it passed, it made a hypnotising, rhythmic clacking sound. And just as quickly as it had come, it was disappearing into the distance, following the line in the sky.
Picking itself up, the figure barely had time to dive out of the way as a wailing object came crashing to the ground. Looking at the sprawled collection of broken arms and legs, the figure immediately knew what it was. One of the foulest, most vile things that ever existed. An un-natural creation, more abhorrent than Beastmen and their ilk. Even the everliving spawn of the night were looked on with more favour than these things.
The Skaven twitched, its eyes rolling about in their sockets. Its tail slapped pathetically against the ground as blood bubbled up in its mouth. While not an ideal meal, by any stretch of the imagination, at this point the figure was so desperate even this twisted ratman was an acceptable meal.
Falling onto the helpless Skaven, the figure pulled its head back and bit animalistically into its neck. Fur filled the figures mouth, and sour blood flowed down its gullet. There was no refinement, just savage lust.
The figure drank. Drank until the Skaven was nothing more than a withered husk. It gulped down the foul blood and felt reinvigorated for the first time in centuries.
Black blood dripping down her pale face, the vampire celebrated.