Rats Beneath the Town
BY DAMIEN BIGGS
A soft, smothered and green misted scream echoed its way out from beneath the empty streets that laid out before Sir Roland.
The air was thick and tainted with chaos, his warhorse almost had trouble to breathe and its uncomfortable stance upon the cobbled streets was noticeable even to his companions knights that stood beside him on foot and were joined by a couple of peasants. The sun sat a heavy head upon the surrounding hills and cast most of the world in a ritual red. The only occupants of the street were Sir Roland, his small group and a few scurrying rats that clambered over an old knocked over cart which stood in the middle of the square just in front of the gate to the abandoned towns keep.
Sir Roland bowed his head, the setting sun reflected off of his helmet, it’s warmth soothed his troubled mind. The knights around him also bowed their heads, fell to the ground on one knee and slammed their eyes tightly shut.
“In the name of our lady”, Sir Roland began. His voice was soft but firm, a calming call but with command that only one whose eyes had witnessed many a horror and lived to speak again could use. He continued; “and the lake from which she resides. We stand upon our lands and give praise to you so that you may bless us with the strength we need to cast out the plague that has befallen upon us. With your strength and guidance, we shall reclaim what was taken from us and leave none alive.” His voice continued to linger in the air for a brief moment as his men’s eyes remained shut.
Sir Roland’s voice echoed through the small town square and some new scurrying sounds from behind the keep's gate began to etch its way towards him. Something large was climbing over the top of the wall, its claws horrifically scratching upon the aged brickwork. Sir Roland imidiatly ended his prayer and forced his dark eyes open. The Bretonnians sunken eyes had time to notice a large rat like tail slither its way downwards along the grey stone and promptly concealed itself behind a large market cart. Prior to its current usage of providing cover for the blighted creature that plagued much of the old world during these troubling times, it had been knocked over. It was laying on its side and its contents spilled out upon the cobblestone, boxes of useless ornaments and children’s games spilled from its bowls as it subsided and sank into the cobblestones.
Sir Tristan, the knight who stood beside Sir Roland’s purebred warhorse, had also noticed the slithering skaven tail. Without a single command issued, he began to slowly and quietly walk towards the center of the square. Duty bound, his hand poised in position just above his sword, fingers tantalising his leather grip. He made his way to some boxes and crates that had been stacked not far whence he and Sir Roland had been standing.
Upon seeing the knight take the first steps within the deserted market square, a group of four armed peasants decided to join him. They entered the square from another street that ran parallel with the one Sir Roland and Sir Tristan had entered from. The only thing that separated the two narrow spindly streets was an old ruined building, long burnt out and its stone crumbling beneath the depressing outlook of land torn apart by skaven blight and war.
The peasants walked forward and came to stand in line with Sir Tristan’s defensive position, their pole arms and shields grasped at the ready, bound to their strength by duty and fear.
Not to be outdone or have his bravery questioned by his surrounding peasant bowmen, Sir Roland marched his warhorse to the pushed over cart. Thunder ruptured from beneath his horses hooves as it too seemingly didn’t want to have its own bravery put into question. The loud march was swift and came to steady holt just to the side of the cart. Sir Roland’s eyes were now able to peer over the makeshift wooden barricade, “Two plague ridden rat men!” he screamed as he drew his sword.
Upon hearing the cries of their lord the three bowmen, who had been quietly wanting behind Sir Roland in the street swiftly moved up to where Sir Tristan was still standing. They readied their bows, each drew an arrow, and took aim for the vile creatures that coward before Sir Roland and his mighty purebred.