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Hammer & Anvil


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The city of Aldaz-Got was brought down seventy years ago. It was once a Kharadron Overlord skyport and fortress that was smashed down by a Bloodthirster of Khorne and a legion of red daemons of the Blood God. The Stormcast Eternals and Kharadron Overlord fleets pushed the legion back to whence they had come, and the city was saved. Mostly. The city now sat smashed upon the ground, much like a plate fallen from a server's grip. The ruins were scattered amongst the ground and the forces of Order: Freeguild regiments, Kharadron Overlords and many duardin refugees and mercenaries moved in to claim the broken city. A palisade was constructed around the ruins, though these wooden walls quickly turned to stone in months. The buildings were mostly repaired. The machinery and mechanisms were repaired. A sky-scraping tower was built for the Kharadron Overlord fleets to dock at and trade while passing through this region of Shyish. 

Fritz, watching the buzzing city below the cliff he stood upon, tied his bushy, wet hair into a topknot above his head. Shaking his tired head in order to awaken, he turned back to his horse and grabbed her by the reins, then led her down the path toward the large duardin-built gates. The two guards who stopped him were Arkanaughts sporting sabres and axes. They approached slowly, their masks hiding any sort of stoney emotion hid behind the lenses covering the helmet of their suits. Fritz held up his arms and one of them patted him down, a third wandered out with a volley gun. These people were very well-defended from the local wandering dead indeed. The gate opened, and Fritz walked in. The inside of Aldaz-Got was much more lively. There were duardin of all types from across the Realms. 

After leaving his steed at the local stables, he wandered off to find a blacksmith to repair his equipment while he was staying in the merchant town. A group of human treasure hunters passed by followed by a few mercenaries and Fyreslayers, one of which nearly raised his axe at Fritz angrily for having bumped into him. The man aimlessly wandered through this new city, finding himself inside of what was obviously a tavern. It was a cozy place, built of stone and full of mechanical wonders. Clockwork and steam ground on noisily inside, the place was full of music and singing. The bartender was a bald duardin whose head was covered in tattoos with several orange nails driven into his skull. The hunter approached tiredly and tossed a few Sigmarite coins upon the bartop. "I'd like an ale, sir." he said.

"Aye. Here for anythin' lad?" he asked, turning to fill his drink with a barrel called B--man-. The few middle letters had been worn out with time. He sighed as his drink quickly appeared before him.

"Aye, I am looking for a blacksmith." he smiled sheepishly. The bartender let out a hearty chuckle. 

"Came to the right damn place, I'd say. Find Grom's shop down the street. Grom Snorrisson. The duardin makes fine blades but also can beat out a few nails and armor plates if he needs to." Fritz smiled. 

"Of course, thank you." he wiped his mouth with a napkin and left the stein upon the bartop, leaving the tavern to head down the street to the local smithy.

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The blacksmithy was a large dome-shaped building, constructed from iron and stone. Several chimneys belched black smoke into the white skies of Shyish. Fritz opened the door to the dark inside, lugging over his shoulder his bag of equipment: his chain shirt and bracers also included. He placed the sack upon the desk he was greeted by, and then unhooked his sheathed sword, dagger and placed his hammer down gently upon the wooden surface.  Within ten minutes the tallest duardin Fritz had ever seen, who was covered in soot and dust from head to toe, emerged from behind a grated wall. "Hail and well met!" he called, wiping his hands and face on an already blackened apron. "Eh, looks like I'll need to use the wash heh... How may I help you?" 

"Are you Grom?" Fritz asked, looking about the front shop, his eyes now adjusted to the low light. He wandered to the wall, examining a gigantic chainsword hanging across a rack of weapons along with other deadly instruments.

"Aye, that I am," he poked through the equipment upon the table. "Would this be the patient today?" he chuckled.

"Yes." Fritz nodded, folding his arms in front of himself and turning to face the blacksmith.

"Ahh..." the duardin pulled up the chain shirt. "This'll be easy, the dagger and sword I can do. The hammer may take a couple of days but I can make everything top of the line shape, good as new! A hundred gold pieces please." Fritz sighed, emptying his coin purse into his hand. He had to buy ingredients to make potions and also wanted to buy a new book to read as well. Some real, people food would also be delightful, but it could wait a new job or two. Grom shuffled the coins into his ham-sized palm and recounted everything twice, just to make sure he was given the right amount. He smiled. "Aye, go and stay around town. This is Shyish, I'd say there's more than enough work you can do. Even without a blade." Fritz nodded.

"Aye, thank you for the advice Herr Snorrisson. I appreciate it." Fritz smiled, waving to the blacksmith before departing to the nearest inn to bathe, and eat. In that order.

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The next day he decided to stop in the shop to see how his equipment was doing, and found Grom and one of his assistants rummaging through their smithy. "It was here! Just before breakfast! Damn it Grungni's beard!!" Grom turned to see Fritz enter. "Manling!" he cried in despair. "Your hammer is missing. W-we looked everywhere, on the honor of my ancestors. Damn it."

"Calm yourselves," Fritz said, holding up a hand. "The weapon meant a lot to me. Where did you see it last?"

"Damned ten minutes ago. It was right on my bench. I finished everything else. Damn!" at that moment another assistant rushed in, nearly tripping over the length of his bright red beard.

"Oy Grom! I saw him! Was Tito Aquiro, from Anvilfort." Fritz turned.

"Where is Anvilfort?" he asked.

"It's a short distance from here, not too far. Ruled by a king, it's a growing trade city, much like this one. Not too big. No way the lad could've gone far."

"His name was human, aye?"

"Aye. He and his family are all manlings, like yourself. I operate one o' Snorrison's trade carts, so I get to town quite a bit."

"And are you prepared to make any stops anytime soon?" he asked.

"Aye, manling, aye. I'll actually have a supply run ready in about an hour tops. The lad must've gone home. He had to have." he grunted, walking over to take a swig of ale from a skin that the shop's owner had set on the work bench.

"That was mine, Varig! But aye, that'll have to do. If you want to manling, you can take your other gear. And take fifty coins ya gave me back in exchange for givin' Varig Blackfoot there a safe journey to Anvilfort." Fritz nodded.

"It shall be done."

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Fritz woke covered in sweat. They were not too far from the city when he had fallen asleep upon the duardin's cart. "You alright there, manling? Called Varig from the reins.

"My... My leg hurts. Damn it hurts!!" he unstrapped his boot, pulling it off and placing it with his gear beside him. he pulled up the leg of his trousers to discover a black insect, florescent in color that glinted in the sunlight. "What is this??" he asked.

"It's a tomb scarab, manling. A, a cryptick I call em, as that specific species likes to bite and suck blood. Did ye not have ticks in Ghur??" 

"Ticks? Damn. This thing is huge!" he tore his knife from its sheath on his boot and cut the creature's body off. Its head was still embedded within his body, and worse was that the decapitated head began to burrow deeper into his flesh, causing the hunter to scream.

"Silence, manling! You want to startle the dead?? Anvilfort barely has a damned palisade wall around it. It doesn't need any hordes of shambling dead."

"Its head is in my leg..." he breathed. "I've pulled ticks out before but, damn it." He clawed at the head with the knife, attempting to tear it out but all it seemed to do was make blood cascade down his leg. He grunted in frustration.

"No. Do not try to knife it out. At least you took care of the body, those things carry deadly diseases in their gut. Get bit for too long and the diseases'll pass on to you. Necro diseases." Varig scratched his beard. "Relax. Tie it with some bandages. We'll get you some bedrest when we get there, some medicine and we will get your hammer as well."

"Good..." Fritz sighed, leaning his head back against his pack, his pistol resting in his lap with his bow beside him. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

He found himself awake in a small cottage, a bandage wrapped taught around his leg. A crutch sat beside his bed and he used it to hoist himself up and out of the hut. It smelled here. The town of Anvilfort could hardly be called a town. At the top of the small village sat Anvilfort proper. It was a Duardin hall, of wood and stonework, surrounded by a wooden palisade. Further down were more huts. Bakeries, breweries, blacksmiths, a grainery, an armory. The usual buildings a budding settlement required. Milling about the town were humans and duardin, most of them of the dispossessed lines attempting to make it out of their own. And they were mostly equipped with crossbows. Fritz sensed that they were underequipped. The hunter hobbled his way past some halflings, and over to where Varig stood with his cart, selling weapons and armor to the locals.

"Our militia needs more iron. We need hammers and maces and shields to bash the skeletons!" cried an angry bald duardin , slamming his fist into a meaty palm.

"Aye, I understand. Oh, speakin' of dead folk, look who it is! How goes the leg, manling?" he asked.

"How goes the search for my teacher's hammer?" he raised an eyebrow. "Don't worry about me. I've had my ankle smashed in my a troggoth's mace before. Well?"

"Er, I've been here. I did see the lad. Tito Aquiro, was his name. He's a small lad. Tan of skin, black of hair. He is over at the smithy."

"Thank you..." Fritz turned. 

"Manling!" The man turned back and the duardin handed to him a rather heavy sack. "Has some things I had to drop off at the smithy." and with that he went back to dealing with his customers. Fritz grumbled and hobbled off to the smithy.

The blacksmith's here was a small space, and Fritz found it hard for even him to squeeze in, especially with his leg. "Hello?" he called into the smoke-filled hovel. A brown-faced boy poked out of the hot interior.

"Hail!" called the boy, and grabbed Fritz by the arm and led him deeper inside. It was a sauna. Fritz had never visited Aqshy in his life, but by Sigmar's beard he was sure this was even hotter than that Realm. He bent over, his back hurt.

"I am looking for a Tito?" he asked. The boy nodded.

"I am Tito! Looking after the shop while master is gone!" he rubbed his hands together. Fritz smiled, handing him the  bag of trade goods. The boy blinked and snatched it. 

"Tito, lad, you've got my hammer. I... that hammer belonged to my teacher. The man who taught me."

"This?" he brought out the hammer of Sigmar, and lay it on the nearby table. Fritz had to crane his neck to see any more. 

"Yes. That is mine, you had stolen it from me. May I please have it back?"



"No. The dead come every week to slaughter and feed, and we need more maces to protect us! Sigmarite maces are the strongest!!" Fritz sighed, feeling quite dead inside at this point. Here he was, covered in soot. A heavy wound stabbing into his thigh, and he was curled up like a duardin pretzel. 

"If I promise to fight off the dead," he breathed. "May I please have my weapon back?" The boy thought for a moment. 


"Good lad," he reached for his weapon and left not a moment later, the boy in tow. They returned to find Varig surrounded by what seemed to be the entire populace of the fort. This included ironclad warriors, rangers, miners, cooks, butchers, hunters, bakers, farmers, all of different shapes and sizes. They were angry, and Varig's cart was now empty. 

"He has nothing more?" cried a human. "My wife and daughter were eaten alive by the dead a month ago!" he screamed, red in the face. "I had to watch them!! And you don't even bring back anything to aid?" Varig sobbed.

"I swear! We are making equipment as fast as we can! The deliveries are being stunted by the mercenary and Freeguild regiments in the city! And they aren't focusing on the villages, their focus is on the damned Chaos raids to the north. They are pillages and smashing cities and towns alike!"

"Where are Sigmar's warriors?" cried a vagrant covered in rags. "Where are they?" Fritz scratched his chin and hobbled forth. 

"I am Fritz of Middenfryd. You all probably have no idea what that is. It was a monster slaying school, and I am one of the only surviving students. I shall stay for the next few weeks. Maybe a month, and I will fight the dead for you. I will teach you all I know. In return, you leave Varig alone, and you give me food and wine." There was much discussion in the crowd. Fritz leaned onto his crutch. His grizzled, scarred face was enough of a reference to go off of. "Varig," he looked to the duardin. "Get to the smithy. You, Tito and the smith are going to be making weapons tonight and tomorrow. I-"

"Halt!" cried a voice at the back of the crowd, a group of duardin clad in steel seized the human, and started dragging him off towards the hall at the top of the hill.

"I literally just wanted to help."

"We know," the duardin warrior released him. "You're gonna see our king, and then you're gonna help. Varig!" he cried to the duardin, who shot up. "Get to the smithy! Double time, beardling!"

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The king of Anvilfort sat upon his bronze and wooden throne within the hall's interior. Fritz stood before him, leaning upon his crutch. The king was elderly, bright white of beard, a winged helm upon his head, and a giant hammer sitting at the foot of his enormous chair by his booted feet. "You say you wish to aid us in the defense of this town?" he grumbled.

"Aye, mein herr." Fritz nodded, wiping his nose on his sleeve. "I cannot stay for long, as that is my way. But I shall guide you, help your men. Teach." He twiddled his thumbs awkwardly. He was used to taking on contracts, but was always uncomfortable taking anything from royalty. Especially the stern-faced Duardin. Their nobility sometimes scared him.

"What do you want?" The king sighed, taking a swig from the beer stein he had resting upon the arm of his throne. Fritz cleared his throat.

"Gold, probably fifty pieces. That should cover it." A duardin wandered over and offered him a stein. Fritz took it and leaned back his head, sipping the beer within. It was extremely bitter, he usually hated beer, but knew better than to end up making a grudge of his life. "Fifty..." he repeated quietly.

"Yes. I suppose we can spare that much, though... I shall give you forty." He hopped down and motioned for the man to follow. They hobbled up to the wall surrounding the wooden keep overlooking the town. "This place, it's a damned wonder it's still standing right now. Forty if you can teach. Then ten gold every month you stay. Make a dead-killer out of my Duardin and I-"

"My lord, I cannot. I am a slayer of Middenfryd. I was born for the road. Staying in one place too long, especially here..." he looked out to the gray fog, the dead trees. Groans and faraway moans echoed across the treetops. Crows screeched and sang their black songs all around. "I cannot stay here. You know that."

"Ten gold every month? Duardin. Twenty." The king finished his stein. Fritz sighed. 

"Aye... Twenty..." 

He got to work immediately, but for the most part was working from his room in Anvilfort's inn. The inn was not much of an inn yet. It was not even a tavern. It was a set of rooms between the granary and the armory,. just above the brewery nestled beneath it underground. A messenger came to take his instructions every few hours, and a nurse came to give him fresh water and some bread every now and then, along with check on his injury. The first objective was to deploy to the duardin's strengths, and Anvilfort had a fine militia, and an even finer army, though ill-equipped to fend off zombies. Fritz had never seen a zombie in the pallid, dead flesh. Though he knew enough. He had sent instruction to melt all silver that could be spared, and to turn it into maces and hammers. Some even in shields. Varign worked overtime, alongside the people within the blacksmith's shop. And double so for whatever duardin worked down in the mines. Lumberduardin chopped down more trees to repair and finish the palisade whilst others mined and dragged great stone blocks to reinforce the wooden wall. 

The third night had come, at least Fritz figured it was due to keeping an eye on his timepiece. No creatures other than the noisy crows had entered the village walls. It had been five hours, and his messenger had not come to ask for instructions or give an update. Fritz wiped his brow, swallowed some water down his throat, and stood. He threw on his sword and pulled his pistol free, hobbling out the door into the misty cool night. A low fog covered the ground. Fritz snorted. He would usually enjoy a night like this, but not a second of a night like this in bloody Shyish. 

Hobbling onward down the street, he wandered past the general shop. The store's windows were shattered, and a great hole was broken into the side. He hobbled up the steps and peeked in. Gore covered the interior. "Damn..." he whispered, taking a step inside. No bodies, but plenty of blood. The trail led him outside, behind the small duardin shack-like building, and down a dirt path that would have led to the mines. He found the shopkeeper's corpse by an oak tree. The attacker threw the body at the tree, he could tell by the blood marks liberally covering the tree. The victim's body was half-eaten, his entrails spilling out, what was left of them. Bones had been shattered by the impact with the tree. A single bearded duardin was shivering, hiding by the mine's entrance. Fritz stalked over quietly. "You, I'm the hunter." he leaned forward on his crutch. "Ignore the stick for now. What did this?"

"A bat."

"Damn it..." Fritz uttered under his breath. Not a normal cute fruit bat, he guessed. A great shadow darted from the entrance. The Varghulf carried a duardin miner within its jaws, helplessly trapped within its incredibly long fangs. The miner could not even scream, he was in shock. The beast dropped him to the ground, and the duardin clawed at the ground with his dirty hands, attempting to crawl away but the beast chewed into his back. This time he did scream. The duardin by Fritz slowly stood but the monster hunter grabbed his arm, shaking his head. Fritz was sorry, but there was nothing that could be done. He just hoped the vampire could make it a quick end for the duardin. Fritz stood, and crept alongside the shadows of the cliff wall behind him. He kept a great distance between he and the beast. 

Fritz was no stranger to vampires. Alas, he had never fought them in the Realm of Death, most of the time it was just serial killers in cities. This was an animal, no longer even human, and it did not wish to hide. He dropped the crutch, his thigh ached but he would make due, grunting. In one hand he held his blade, and in the other his pistol, loaded full of silver. There was a loud crunch, and the screaming finally stopped. Fritz licked his lips, it was time to walk on the stage.

He approached slowly, pulling back the cocking handle of his pistol. He aimed and fired. The gunshot echoed throughout the quarry. Lights turned on in the village up the path. He did not want anyone else to fall prey to this animal. He would try to make it quick. The beast dropped the intestines draped across its lower jaw and blinked its emotionless eyes, and rushed at a full gallop at him, more hopping comically. But there was nothing funny here. The monster, taller than a steamtank, reared on on its hind legs and took a swipe at the human with its clawed hand. Fritz managed to hop backwards just enough to feel the claw scratch across his chest. Blood dripped down his stomach. The monster seemed to be driven mad by this. It sniffed and grumbled and screeched. By this time the surviving miner bounded up the path, and the local Anvilfort militia. The king's warriors and Ironbreakers formed a wall at the base of the path leading up to the town proper, while a group of humans wielding long spears stood behind them, and then the local  duardin rangers stood right behind them, loading their crossbows with bolts. It was a formation that Fritz had learned to handle larger monsters back at Middenfryed. A strong defensive formation backed up by spearmen and archers or gunners.

Fritz was glad they had showed up, but they would do no good standing up there while he was being torn apart down here. The human rolled out of the way as the monster lashed out with its bloody, snapping maw. He sprung up and rushed for the duardin battleline. The varghulf was behind him. He heard its rasped breathing, he felt its hot breath on his neck. Blood even dripped on his muddy back. The duardin began slapping weapons against shields. At this moment Fritz dropped to the ground. he felt the muscular legs of the creature stampede over him. It hurt greatly. But the varghul forgot about him, now rushing at the dispossessed.

They yelled defiant battle cries and curses at the monster. They stood firm, holding up their shields to form a great shield wall. The rangers fired their bolts before feeding more ammo into their crossbows. The monster shrieked as the hail of quarrels filled its face, ramming into the wall. The duardin in front held firm, pushing back against the wall of muscle and claws while their brothers behind them beat down on the giant vampiric beast with their silver maces and hammers. After some time, the monster finally grunted and turned back, racing across the quarry to the mines. The duardin chased it to the entrance, where it disappeared into the black. 

Fritz was injured. Blood and mud covered him from head to toe. He limped over to where the duardin stood at the mouth of the mine. "This mine, how deep's it go?" he asked.

"Far, about a few miles below. Alas, it is very narrow after the initial entryway, so the bastage could not have gone too far!" assured the guard who dragged Fritz off to see the king. Fritz wiped his bloodied face with a rag given to him by Varig, who had joined the mob of warriors. "I want you to secure this mouth. Let nothing out until it dies."

"How do we know it will die?"

"I will return with its head..." he shouldered his sword, and handed off his pistol to Varig. "Got wet, can't use it."

"D-do you need anything? Manling, we will help however we bloody well can!"

"Thanks. Bombs?"

"No, not that. The tunnel could collapse."

"That's the idea, my fellows. If we can't kill it, we can at least trap and starve it of its sustenance." The duardin thought for a moment and then Varig tossed him a few bombs. Fritz nodded his thanks and limped down the tunnel into the darkness. Before he took another step he felt someone grabbing the back of his shirt. Tito handed him his hammer.

"You left this back at the inn." he said quietly. Fritz sighed, wiping his forehead of sweat.

"Thank you my friend. Return to the smithy. Do not come down here. The game has changed." he gripped both weapons tightly and headed down the mine to meet the beast, and Tito ran the opposite way.  

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The monster hunter limped down the tunnel. The pain in his thigh returned but it was nothing compared to the sting of the slash across his chest or the throbbing in his skull. He met back up with the varghulf at the branch where the mine twisted into two narrower passageways. The creature could not possibly head down either. Fritz grimaced at the animal. If he needed a break from the battle, he'd just crawl down one of the tunnels, though the varghulf's claws might kill him. When his eyes adjusted to the dark, he found the monster was standing over many broken bodies, both human and duardin. He sighed. The animal was gnawing on bones of the dead, its body was regenerating, but slowly. Fritz wanted this to be over with. He wanted to draw a bath, have wine and prepare for the next stage of defenses. He took a bounding step forward where the beast was near-prone and brought his Sigmarite warhammer down upon its head with lightning-speed, two times. The creature screeched. It did not react right away, as what could after taking a blow twice to its skull. Fritz jumped back just as it began to rear up in the darkness of the cave. Its skull had shattered, another blow to its head like that would definitely send it down for longer. A fourth would possibly kill it. 

Fritz could feel the sweat mount up beneath the layers of his clothes and armor. The creature looked at him emotionlessly. Saliva frothed from its fangs. It lashed out quickly, batting its wings like a caged bird. The hunter had managed to block a few blows, alas he grew tired. He jumped back again, drawing a bomb. The vampire paced back and forth. It was angry and wanted to survive. He had to be fast, or else its skull and brain would regenerate and his surprise attack would have been for nothing. It would escape the cave and the town may be slaughtered were it to go back to its full power.

He lit the fuse and tossed the bomb. It went off at its feet and the right claw flew off, scattering bone and blood. The varghulf roared and charged desperately at the man. Fritz picked his sword up, knocking the vampire's head away with his hammer. A single fang flew into the stone of the wall from the impact of the blow. His longsword he drove into the beast's throat, as deep as it could go. The vampire screeched animalistically. It violently shivered, attempting to remove the human but he was embedded in its body like a tick. He raised his hammer and began pounding away at the skull, screaming all the while. Gore covered him. 

He walked, exhausted, from the mine, carrying a varghulf's head by dragging it behind him. His hammer and sword were sheathed upon his back. He met with the spearmen and duardin at the entrance. Cheers went out. He dropped the head and fell to the mud.

"Are ye alright manling??" Varig asked, concerned. 

"Aye. I'll live... Just draw a damn bath and get me some parchment. I need to write out some instructions..." he lay back against the ground. It turned out, his leg was broken and the blow to his chest had shattered a rib. He was required to be bedridden for the next few weeks but continued to deliver instructions via letter and messenger. A new messenger had come, seeing as his original messenger duardin was in the general store when the varghulf raided Anvilfort. Towers were being constructed around the walls of the town, gunners and archers were stationed at each all day every day. 

Fritz was not expecting vampires this soon. He thought they would be scared of roving dead and skeletons coming up from the ground and attacking, but this was an entirely different story. The living had no place here.

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The following week, few dead had wandered into the outskirts of the city. Zombies. Mostly human and duardin. They were shot down without much difficulty but it was apparent that the locals knew that the fort was here. They were probing the defenses. Fritz and the king agreed that messengers be sent back to Aldaz-Got. If the colony were to thrive, they would require the combined strength, and the two colonies had to unite. Fritz was a monster hunter, he operated out of the wilderness on his lonesome, he was not a commando. He was not a soldier or a general. He knew next to nothing of the Freeguild teachings of leadership. 

The man sat in his bed, covered in bandages, only able to transcribe his messages to the duardin that visited every few hours. He read books, studied maps. Decided what to do next. At least he would be making a great helping of money by the duardin. Another week went by, and trading carts increased between the two towns, as did regiments of warriors. At daybreak on the second day of the next week, a Kharadron Overlord frigate stopped by the king's keep, unloading supplies. The duardin began to work on constructing a wall to enclose the mining fortress-town and the Kharadron city. it would take months if not years, and many resources. But it had to be done.

And every day, more zombies appeared in the outskirts. They were being corralled here. The fourth week, Fritz actually appeared on the inner-wall alongside the king. He was on crutches unfortunately, his gear back at the inn, and his face shrouded in bandages. The king scratched his bearded chin. "What do you make of this, manling?" he pointed to the throng of undead before them. The guards upon the walls and in the towers shot down any creature who made a move towards any of the workers fixing up the new wall.

"I believe they are being sent here, possibly by a necromancer working for Nagash, or something. I'm no commander or tactician, and I know very little of... Shyish's politics..." he spat.

"You and me both, manling." he brought up his pistol, took aim and fired at one of the shamblers in the horde as more shadows appeared on the edge of the dead forest. "Shall I send out scouts? A group of outriders have arrived a few days ago. It would be a waste to not make use of them." Fritz sighed at the question.

"Do what you want. I have no idea where to even begin." He thought. "Actually, have them check the surrounding region for any old towers or buildings. Something that could be a lair."

"Righto, will have it be done. Now, let's get you back to your bed!"

"Great, I can hardly wait..."

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A second varghulf had awakened at mid-morning the next day, having been hunting the woodland outside the gates the past month. Fritz was outside eating a bowl of porridge. The creature jumped forth from the trees and glided over the wall with frightening speed. Fritz had forgotten to finish it off. He placed his meal upon the stone wall by his side. He had just his silver greatsword and his pistol slung at his side. He tore out the pistol as he saw it bounding at a quick gallop down the town center, which was in a panic. "SHIELD WALL!" he cried. Instantly many duardin and other men and women came to his side. They crashed around him, holding shields up. A group of spearmen got behind them. A group of archers and gunners appeared just as before. This time, Fritz would finish it faster. The beast smashed into the line. Many people died that day. But not before Fritz could behead the beast once and for all with his silver greatsword, leaving a smoking, cauterized stump in place of a skull. The monster's body melted the light blanket of snow and frost around it. The hunter rested the blade of his sword upon his shoulder, turning to a squad of ironbreakers who beckoned him.

It had seemed that the attack was a diversion, and the king had been murdered. Strigat, his son, was his successor. The beardling prince took upon the mantle of king within the hall that day, and the forces of Death were placed into his family's tome of grudges. A feast was held in celebration of his ascension to the throne. He made the announcement that a crusade force of vengeance should be mustered at once, and they would march out to crush every damned creature without a heartbeast in the region. While his father sought to just establish a well-defended and stable city and province, his son was a monster of anger, drunk on revenge. 

To make the evening worse, he charged Fritz with the death of his father. That it was on his hands, and if he did not seek to slay the sender of these beasts and their assassin, his name would forever stain the pages of the royal family book of grudges. Fritz had no time to argue. The man stood tall from his place at the feast table. He accepted. The hunter knew how angry duardin and their ilk became when it came to grudges. If he said no, his head would mount the wall right beside the vampire.

The vampire itself was an animal, having lost its humanity. It was a beastial parody of its former self. He would begin his search at the site of the murder. He wandered to the high king's office, where he slept and worked tirelessly. After taking thirty minutes to inspect the room, he had found no trace of murder. 

Someone had already dusted away the tracks.

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Fritz had no idea where he would begin. He stood over Tito's grave. The man placed his hammer atop the mound, sighing. "This shall watch over you. It will protect you better than I have." he whispered under his breath. The boy had perished in the fight against the dead, a zombie had somehow passed the gates at night and devoured him in his sleep, the worst way to go. Thankfully the infection did not spread as the building quickly caught fire. Not much was left. 

The man sent for his horse back at Aldaz-Got, and an airship ferried it over just as dusk fell. He remained a night, drinking extra potions to heal him in his sleep. In the morning he took a shot of caffeine out of one of his potion vials, had a glass of milk and an egg before he leapt on his horse and left the budding-city, which by now was actually beginning to look like a city rather than a small fort. The army within was mustering, within the year they would begin their crusade to battle the forces of Death. He would seek out who sent the creatures to them (which once again, was ridiculous as the varghulfs are wild beasts). This was the frontier as well, where there would be no inns or taverns or any sort of waystation in the wilds. Just the shambling dead and whispering spirits. His horse, a white charger named Aqua, was already terrified of the surroundings. Even though it had been morning for hours, it was still dark. Stringy large webs were draped about trees and across the dirt road. Crows screamed nearby. But worse, was the constant creaking of the dead trees, and the howling of the cold winds. And on top of that were the obvious dead. The moans came from far and wide. He heard loud moans and screams from miles away, and he saw shapes moving through the trees. He of course was terrified out of his mind, but he was better trained to not show it. The skeletal things rushing abnormally fast through the treetops sent a shiver down his spine. He turned a corner around a boulder at a fork in the road to find a wrecked duardin carriage surrounded by zombies. Its occupants were being torn apart, long-dead. The monster hunter ushered his horse on down the other path, wanting to steer clear of the creatures. As long as they were eating, they would not come for him.

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He continued down the winding, dark path. The wood around him was thicker, blocking out more of the sunlight with their maddeningly twisted, gnarled gray limbs whispering in the cold. Fritz spotted more dark shapes moving through the trees, and kept a hand on his silver sword, just in case. A pack of ghouls bounded in front of him, causing Aqua to rear up on her hind legs. Fritz toppled from the saddle as more of the ghouls left the shadows of the trees to surround them. The horse went first, neighing in alarm and screaming, she was brought down by the sheer amount of bodies. There was nothing Fritz could do. he scrambled to his feet. His horse's cries were silenced in moments. At least she did not suffer, he thought to himself, trying to distract himself. The horde was tearing into the horse with violent, berserk fervor. 

Fritz jumped back with his sword in hand now. The ghouls surrounded him, one leapt with its muscular legs and he beheaded it in mid-jump. Before the next could jump, he reached into his pack he kept on his belt, producing a bunch of small bones. "Look." He said, his voice quivering. "Money, it is gold. Take it, my jewels.... I wish to buy safe passage through your lands." he dropped his sword, placing a few more bones before him. The nearest creature, a large male, stepped forward, sniffing the air. Its eyes scanned him, then it snatched up the bones and bounded into the wood like a monkey. The rest followed it, and Fritz was left alone with his horse's half-eaten corpse. From the trees stepped a tall warrior clad in black Sigmarite plate. The furs of an animal were draped about his shoulders and the warrior shouldered their boltstorm pistol.

"I see we have here a real diplomat." The Stormcast Vanguard-hunter laughed from beneath his helmet. He removed it slowly, revealing a youthful face and long black locks. A few other Stormcasts stepped from the woods onto the path. "I am sorry for your steed, did you have it for long?" The ranger frowned.

"Yes, for several years now. You think 'this time I will not get attached', but alas..." he looked away from the corpse, which was now an oasis to the local flies and other insects. 

"My friend, we have a waystation not too far from here. Come, tell us your story. Have an ale. We shall share our hearth and home with a fellow warrior of the God-King and will see to it you make a safe return from whence you came." The warrior smiled again. "My name is Gregor, this is Shinna," he pointed at an armor-clad woman across the road. "That is Joseph, Torn and Sidhe. We are Sons of Mallus vanguard and have been protecting these frontiers from the dead for centuries now. Come, it is cold and your body could use a fur cloak and an ale to warm thine throat." Fritz nodded in acceptance.

"I would be most honored. I shall share my tale with you as well."

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