Read The Great Betrayal Online

Authors: Nick Kyme

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General, #Epic, #Action & Adventure

The Great Betrayal

BOOK: The Great Betrayal
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In the elder ages when the world was young, elves and dwarfs lived in peace and prosperity. Dwarfs are great craftsmen, lords of the under deeps, artificers beyond compare. Elves are peerless mages, masters of the dragons, creatures of the sky and air. During the time of High King Snorri Whitebeard and Prince Malekith, these two great races were at the pinnacle of their strength. But such power and dominion could not last.Fell forces now gather against elves and dwarfs. Malekith, embittered by his maiming in the Flame of Asuryan, seeks to destroy them both but still darker powers are also at work. Already strained, disharmony sours relations between them until only enmity remains. Treachery is inevitable, a terrible act that can only result in one outcome... War.

The dwarf High King Gotrek Starbreaker marshals his throngs of warriors from all the holds of the Karaz Ankor, whilst the elves, under the vainglorious and arrogant Caledor II, gather their glittering hosts and fill the skies with dragons.

Mastery of the Old World is at stake, a grudge in the making that will last for millennia. Neither side will give up until the other is destroyed utterly. For in the War of Vengeance, victory will be measured only in blood.

Sins Of The Ancestors

I

Thunder rolled across
the slopes of Karag Vlak, shaking the earth for miles. Fire wreathed the sky, warring with the furnace at the mountain peak that glowed hot and angry through swathes of pyroclastic cloud. Shadows lurked within that grey smog, drifting against the wind on membranous wings…

Eclipsed by the mountain, two great hosts had gathered on a blasted plain of scorched rock studded with the corpses of petrified trees. Death had changed this place. Pastureland had become a sprawling battlefield of skulls, flattened by war engines and thousands of booted feet. Air tasted like ash and the rivers were veins of smoking acid. Mordant horns and harrowing death cries supplanted the shrill of birds, the bray of elk.

In the middle of this carnage, a soaring monument of stone reached into the fiery sky. It was called the Fist of Gron, so named for its ugly, knuckled shape and reputedly after the dwarf king who had supposedly shaped it with his bare hands. Once it might have been a magnificent mountain pinnacle but some past cataclysm during the shaping of the world had reduced it to a flattened edifice. Other than the lesions of dead forest puckering the landscape, it was the only feature for miles.

And like the swell circling the eye of a maelstrom, a great battle raged around it. Thurgin Ironheart eyed the enemy charging at his throng across the hellish plain and scowled.

The dwarf was part of the second vanguard, summoned from his place at the foot of Karag Vlak where the rest of the host was encamped. He and his warriors were to fill the gap left by the throng of Karak Drazh. Thurgin had already lost sight of their shields, the sigils of the Black Hold trodden underfoot in the eagerness of the enemy to shed more blood.

‘They are swift,’ he said, drawing a nod from his nearby kinsmen. Thurgin felt the tremor of hoofbeats through his heavy black boots and iron-wrought armour. Runes of warding fashioned into the breastplate began to ignite in a chain of forge-bright flares that emblazoned the metal as the enemy neared. The fierce effigy of his dragon-faced war helm caught the flicker of fire. His short emerald cloak stirred in a foul wind rolling off the mountain. Muttering an oath to Grungni, he gripped the haft of his rune axe.

They would need an ancestor’s blessing this day.

Never before had dwarfs waged war against such a foe. All of the orcs and goblins festering beneath the world could not come close in number to the horde riding down upon them now. The cavalry were but a small part of it.

Two hundred feet away from bloodying his axe and Thurgin growled an order. Despite distance and the clamour of the battle, his words carried to every warrior in the throng.

‘Sons of Grungni, lock your shields!’

It was a resounding shout, made louder by the rune magic of his war helm, and a call to arms from which there could be no turning back.

Dwarfs do not turn back. In Khazalid, the language of the
dawi
, there is no word for retreat.

Across the slopes of Karag Vlak, ten thousand dwarfs of Karak Izril obeyed.

They were but the first rank.

Drums beat, horns blared. Eight more armies marched slowly into the fray. Here was where the fighting grew fiercest. Several massive regiments of infantry had already engaged farther down a long, rippling line. Thurgin’s throng were coming forwards like the end of a gate with their hinge a half-mile to their left, about to close on the cavalry charging at them.

Amidst the clash of arms, Thurgin saw the banners of Kadrin, Vlag and Eight Peaks amongst those of his own hold. Thousands of dwarfs fought hammer and axe against the enemy hordes. His heart swelled with pride at the sight, even though he knew it might be his last. Other holds joined in as the dwarfs came together as one, but it was to the standard of the High King that Thurgin’s eye was finally drawn.

Almost a mile away, standing upon the Fist of Gron, Thurgin saw him.

It was said the High King could break the stars. To witness the rune blade he wielded in a two-handed grip, splitting heads as if they were rotten barrels, Thurgin could believe it.

There was no time left to worry about the fate of the High King. Thurgin’s march had brought his warriors into the fray. The horns lessened and the drums stopped beating as the dwarfs of Karak Izril waited silently for what they knew would happen next.

Less than a hundred feet away, the enemy came fast and hard on hooves of silver flame.

Thurgin felt the solidity of his clan brothers at either shoulder and smiled.

This would be a good day for the dwarfs.

Vengeance would be theirs.

He shouted, voice louder than a hundred war horns, ‘
Khazuk!

The throng of Karak Izril answered, its many ranks adding to the fury of their reply: ‘Khazuk!’

Axes and hammers began to beat shields, rising in tempo as the riders closed.

‘Khazuk!’

Thurgin slid the ornate faceplate over his eyes and nose until it clanked into place, and the world became a slit of honed anger.

His brothers’ chorus resonated through his helm, chiming with the clash of arms.

‘KHAZUK!’

It meant
war
.

War had come to the enemies of the dwarfs.

Glarondril the Silvern
spurred his riders to greater effort. Standing up in his stirrups, he let the fire of the angry mountain reflect in his gleaming armour. Without a helmet, his long white hair cascaded down the back of his neck like a mane of frost. His eyes were diamond-hard, his jaw set like marble.

The enemy was close; a thick wedge of mailed warriors that seemed to stretch the length of the horizon, clutching blades and shields.

Twenty thousand noble lords at his command, armour glittering with the falling sun, lowered their lances.

They had raced hard and far to reach this hellish plain. Glarondril would not be found wanting on the slopes of the mountain. He would see the battle through to its end, even if that meant his death. Whispering words of command to his mount, he drew the riders into a spear tip of glittering silver.

‘In the name of the Phoenix King,’ he roared, unable to keep his battle-lust sheathed any longer. A sword of blue flame slid soundlessly from his scabbard. ‘For the glory of Ulthuan!’

The enemy were so close… Glarondril saw their hooded eyes, shimmering like moist gemstones, and smelled the reek of their foul breath, all metal and earth.

‘None shall live!’

The blue-fire sword was held aloft as a thicket of lance heads drew down before the charge.

Thurgin felt his
body tense just before the moment of impact.

‘Hold them, break them!’ he roared, ‘No mercy! Kill them all!’

Here before them was a foe worthy of dwarf enmity.

The shield wall dug in, backs and shoulders braced. All fifty thousand in this single throng came together. The muster from Karak Izril was large, but far from the largest of the holds. Deeper into the plain, Thurgin knew there were others similarly embattled. He prayed to Valaya for their souls as well his own and that of his men.

Behind the thick infantry formations, he heard the slow tread of the
gronti-duraz
. Through the dense earth he could feel the tremor of their footfalls as the low, sombre chanting of their masters animated them. Thurgin was glad to have the stone-clad behemoths at his back.

Above, lightning cracked the sky as magical anvils were made ready.

On the far mountain flank to Thurgin’s left, the bolt tips of ballistae twinkled in the dying light through a rolling fog. They looked like stars.

Dwarfs did not need the stars, or the sun. They were dwellers of the earth, solid and determined. They would need those traits today, as they would need all the craft of the runesmiths and the engines of the guilds to overcome the horde upon the plain.

They were foul and wretched creatures that the dwarfs would drive from the Old World forever.

At last the enemy reached them, a collision of barbed lances and mewling steeds against dwarf shields and tenacity.

As he raised his axe to strike, Thurgin knew no quarter would be given.

He would ask for none.

Glarondril and his
knights swept into the armoured horde, piercing flesh and shattering bone. Severed heads fell from the necks of his foes as he swept around his blazing blue sword in a killing arc. A jab disembowelled another, as hundreds of lances struck flesh, impaling dozens with every vengeful thrust.

‘I am the Master of Dragons,’ he roared. ‘Behold your doom!’

Incandescent fire spewed from the jaws of the elven mounts. It rose in a tide that burned their enemies to ash. No defence was proof against the Dragon Princes of Caledor. No foe, however determined, could resist their charge. The few who did survive found their attacks repelled harmlessly by dragonscale harder than plate. The beasts snarled in contempt, crimsons, ambers, emeralds and azures, a myriad of colour and fury, tearing at limbs with fang and claw.

Hundreds of the enemy died in the first seconds, spitted by lances, devoured by the dragons or burned alive, their corpses left to ruin in the sun. What began as a contest swiftly became a slaughter.

A leader, his armour thicker than the rest, bellowed a challenge at Glarondril who accepted without hesitation.

‘For the king!’ he shouted above the eager roar of his mount, as he took the enemy leader’s head.

‘For the king!’
urged Thurgin, chopping into the riders blunted on the dwarfs’ wall of shields. A spurt of ichor splashed across the dark lacquer of his vambraces but he ignored it, thumping with his shield and hacking with his axe. The runes on the blade flared like star-fires as it hewed through iron-hard skin like it was parchment.

Though the foe pushed and pressed, using every ounce of their depraved strength, the dwarfs held back the tide. Utterly implacable, the shield wall didn’t budge and the enemy cavalry buckled as they rolled against it. Riders in the rear ranks, unable to arrest their momentum, barrelled into those in front. The enemy’s formation rippled, mounts and riders sent sprawling only to be crushed by those that followed in their wake, or butchered by dwarf axes.

Thurgin knew they had weathered the worst of it, and now what they had to do next.

‘Forward!’

Fifty thousand booted feet stomped in unerring unison. The enemy resisted at first, but once the dwarfs had overcome the inertia caused by the broken bodies underfoot they were unstoppable. The throng of Karak Izril moved slowly but inexorably. Like a landslide, and with the same momentum, they cascaded over the cavalry and destroyed it. Already smashed against the dwarfs’ resilience, the riders scattered. Harried without mercy by the triumphant dwarfs, the enemy cavalry had lost two-thirds of its warriors before the charge was ended. Thurgin himself had accounted for no fewer than fifteen of the creatures.

Seeing no gain in pursuit, he called the throng to a halt. His chest was heaving and there was a burning sensation in his shoulder from the violent axe-work, but it was a good pain.

BOOK: The Great Betrayal
7.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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