- 13.04.2018
THE GREAT GNAW
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In a shadowed oubliette, a figure leans over a crystal globe. The being is hunched, furtive, swathed in a hooded cloak. A tail protrudes from under the garment’s hem, twitching with agitation.

Red eyes glint within the figure’s cowl. Hand-claws weave above the globe, which glows with leprous light. The figure mutters as an image resolves in the crystal’s depths.

‘Good-good,’ hisses the figure. ‘All proceeds according to my genius plan…’

Things-master Snitterskritch sat forward on his palanquin, which was borne atop the back of a thirteen-legged ratbeast. The mount was singularly impractical, its enormity filling the tunnel and bringing Snitterskritch’s head perilously close to the jagged black ceiling. Yet the master moulder had to look the part. His moment of greatness approached. All eyes must be on him. It was up to his underlings to make sure that the gnawhole was burrowed widely enough for him to pass with his dignity intact, and woe betide any who failed him!

Snitterskritch gazed imperiously up and down the tunnel. Ahead, beyond a tight-packed sea of skaven, the master moulder could see drill-ogors and slave crews working frenziedly. Green lightning arced as their metaphysical burrowing engines bored through reality.

Behind his elephantine steed, thousands more skaven shuffled steadily forward, blades at the ready and tails twitching. Amongst them rose the palanquins and banner poles of Snitterskritch’s rivals, who cast venomous glances at him. He basked in the knowledge that his shadowy patron had given him command of such a vast assemblage of Warlock Engineers, Warlords and more.

Snitterskritch raised his loudsqueaker.

‘Fast-fast, burrowers!’ he screeched. ‘Gnaw-dig with all your might! Hasten my moment of magnificence! The invasion of Nagashizzar awaits! Let us teach the dead-things to stay dead!’

A suitably glorious utterance, he thought smugly as he watched the crews redouble their efforts.

The figure chitters to itself as it watches the master moulder preen. Snitterskritch is an idiot, it thinks, but an idiot with power and wealth, which has been vital in pulling this scheme together. A moment of magnificence does indeed approach, a grand invasion that will cast Nagash down in ruin. But it will not be Snitterskritch who claims responsibility for orchestrating this victory.

Oh no.

A hand-claw rummages in a pouch, fishing out a pinch of glowing green snuff. The figure snorts the substance, shuddering as concentrated dark magic flows through its veins, then leans over the globe in anticipation.

Any moment now…

Triumphant squeals echoed along the tunnel. Warlocks near the dig-face hunched over strange instruments, working their controls with frantic intensity. They peered through transmogrolithic goggles and chittered at underlings, who lit hissing warpflares and held them high.

Green fire illuminated the drill crews. Chemical smoke billowed, causing slaves to collapse, choking.

‘Ready yourselves!’ screeched Snitterskritch. ‘The gnawhole is about to breach-breach! We fight for the glory of Blight City! We slay-kill in the name of the Great Horned One! We—’

A seismic rumble interrupted him. The gnawhole shuddered, walls rippling. A susurrus of nervous whispers rose from the skaven ranks, and the musk of fear squirted.

Peering over the swarm, Snitterskritch narrowed his eyes. Warlock Engineers gesticulated frantically, and his heartbeat sped up as he saw them screeching at the drill-ogors, shaking their heads. A chunk of crystallised reality sheared away and fell, landing with a sickening crunch atop a gang of slaves. The drill engine they bore exploded, raining wreckage back down the tunnel.

Another tremor shook the gnawhole, and Snitterskritch gulped. Cracks raced across the dig-face, large, angry-looking rents through which some kind of liquid sprayed. He looked down at his huge steed, admitting for the first time the drawbacks of not being able to turn the creature around. Ahead, skaven moved in skittish tides, trying to shuffle backwards. Behind, more ratmen peered frantically to see what was going on. Snitterskritch’s dreams of glory turned rapidly to thoughts of escape…

The figure blinks, and snorts another clawful of warpstone dust. Something is wrong. The figures in the globe move with increasing agitation. The dig-face begins to collapse.

‘My calculations were flawless!’ it hisses. Its mad red eyes fix on Snitterskritch, scrambling in a most undignified manner along the back of his steed.

‘Fool-fool, what have you done?’

Snitterskritch sprang from the back of his steed, plying his lash as he tried to force passage through the massed Clanrats. The ratbeast stamped and growled as it tried and failed to turn.

Squeals of terror chased Snitterskritch down the tunnel, drowned out by a shuddering groan. He shot a look over his shoulder, in time to see the dig-face explode and a thundering wall of water and bloated corpses surge through the hole. Snitterskritch screeched at the sight of that onrushing mass of darkness and rotten bodies, which snatched up skaven by the hundred and churned them together with tumbling chunks of rubble and machinery.

Mad with fear he clawed and bit, knowing it was already too late.  A split second later the water struck like a battering ram. The last thing Snitterskritch saw was the huge body of his ratbeast bearing down on him upon the crest of a night-black wave…

The figure sits back, eyes wide. It twitches. Its tail lashes back and forth. It watches the water as it surges back down the gnawhole, a furious floodtide choked with a million bodies now bound for the heart of the Blight City.

‘Such incompetence,’ mutters the figure, eyes narrowing in angry calculation. ‘Cannot have been-been a mistake. Rivals, enemies everywhere. They tried to sabotage my plan-scheme, but look, now they are dead-drowned! Yes. Yes! They were no match for my genius. All those foe-fools dead, and more will drown when the flood hits the city. My plan is working perfectly!’

Filled with sudden energy, the figure turns and scampers away into the gloom. Behind it, the globe continues to flicker with the image of an endless tide of roaring black water…