Old Blood

Set within the Warhammer universe, A would-be poet sits alone in a bar musing upon his life, when the arrival of a mysterious stranger begins to change his life forever. Drawn into adventuring with this mysterious and enigmatic stranger, he finds himself in the dangerous, romantic and above all... captivating situations that he has always sought to pen, but things are never as rosy as they look on paper and Artix soon finds that adventuring is far harder than writing about it.

The adventure

 

Chapter One - Purpose

The night was dank and cold, the storm surrounding the backwater inn on this god forsaken trail like a torrent of wailing demons as Artix Krieger shivered in his brown cape. The Sunderland wool was the only luxury he had left these days, that and the warmed mug of ale set on the oak table before him. Three days, Three days he’d been stuck in this damned place while the wind shrieked like a beast of chaos and his purse was running low. Wallowing in self pity he waved away the serving girl when she asked him if he was dining and slumped his head against the table as he stared into the amber liquid before him. “Eat or drink?” His voice was soft and mournful as he closed his eyes for a second, looking disappointed when he opened them again as if he had hoped his predicament would have changed in the short time he closed it off. Groaning lightly he drained his mug and made the decision that weighed so heavily on his mind. Proclaiming his choice loudly as he banged a fist on the table top in frustration he looked up as the serving girl laid it besides his smooth skinned knuckles with a smile.

“Cup over your gut eh Arty?”

“Maria my dear blooming flower” he replied as he sat back with slightly curling brown hair flopping lazily over one eye “Were I to stay here one night longer in this thrice damned inn and not only that foul bone chilling storm but the threat of a Manticore among the woods without even an ale to comfort my hands” Pausing for breath amidst the myriad of words he sucked in a mouthful of air and exhaled slowly.

“Why I’m afraid my very sanity would be in danger”

“And we couldn’t be having that now could we Arty” the young fleshy hourglass that wore a woman’s grin replied with mock severity leaning over to stroke his chin flirtily affording him an unobstructed view of her breasts before biting her lower lip and sashaying back to the bar.

 

Taking a sip of his drink as he gazed upon the retreating rump of the fine young enchantress he smiled inwardly and tried to forget what he had given up to be here. Lolling his head back on the back of the wooden bench he let his mind wander…

 

“Wake up!” The board eraser bounced off his head and hit the wall behind with a solid wooden thud.

“Honestly I don’t know why you bother coming at all these days!” Professor Fraukzine was an amiable old bloke. Approaching sixty three years old and sporting a thick grey beard he shook his head in consternation where other tutors would have bawled.

“Sorry sir” Artix muttered, just loud enough to be heard and tried to bury his face in the textbook to avoid the scornful glares of the other students. Smiling slightly he immersed himself in Detlef Sierck’s “Drachenfels” for what seemed the hundredth time as the world around him faded and he fawned his way through each page fondly.

 

Detlef Sierck… now there was a great man! Poet, adventurer, monster slayer and according to some rumours wedded to a vampire! He could hear his father now; “You’re never going to amount to anything wasting time, be a man and get a real job…a trade!” The old man had no ambition, no purpose! Well… Artix didn’t have a ‘Purpose’ either when it came down to it, but he sure as hell had ambition! He’d show that pompous old fool who was a real man, He’d….He’d… Sigmar damn it all he didn’t know what he’d do but he’d be bloody famous that’s for sure! Ordering another mug of ale despite his diminishing budget he once again vowed that he would make something of himself, Adventurer, Poet, Dashing swordsman! He didn’t need his comfy room in back in bustling Altdorf or his father’s money! His breath was taken from him suddenly as a gust of wind hit him so strongly the ale flew from his hand and the metal tankard clattered uselessly to the floor. Blinking slowly he cleared his vision as he looked up to see the silhouette in the doorway

 

 “And amidst the torrent stood the figure in red,

Whom at the sight, all spirits fled”

The words whispered from his mouth before he’d regained his bearings caused him to pause in thought for a second as he examined the newcomer. ‘Must be mad to be out on a night like this’  The wind tore through the room, howling like an injured harpy as bottles rattled and half empty mugs tipped before owners swiftly grasped them. The stranger entered slowly; unfazed by the disturbance around him. Not even looking around as his burgundy leather coat blew out the wind like his long mane of black hair. Only noticing the door was shut when the moisture laden wind stopped scratching at his face Artix’ attention, like that of every other patron was riveted on the pale man in red.  With the door shut, the man now looked less like some whirling apparition of doom and more… well, more human.

 

 He was taller than Artix, a good six foot two and as he turned to the bar the young poet’s eyes went wide as he saw the weapon attached to a holster across his broad yet slim shoulder blades. The hilt of the blade protruded over his shoulder, its ruby pommel like crystallized blood before it branched across, the silver hilt embroidered with gold. None of this ornate crafting drew the eye away for long though, always it settled on the blade itself. Over four and a half feet long and nearly three inches in diameter the blade was black with a silver trim. Even in the museum at the university he’d never seen a weapon like it; it seemed like some sort of child’s dream… surely a sword that large couldn’t be used practically?

 

Craning an ear as everybody turned back to their own business and got up to retrieve his tankard. Bending his knees leisurely he sat on his heels as he felt around under the empty table and smiled when his fingers gripped the cold pewter handle. Almost falling when he heard the barkeep over the hubbub of those stuck in the tavern like he.

“I can’t give you much but a free place to stay and eat but if you think you can kill that thing, you’ll never go hungry here”

‘He’s not going after the beast alone surely?’

Steadying himself on the old oak tables and taking a breath he walked across the tavern all too aware of the odd looks the man was receiving.

“Another Ale plea-” he began before the pale hand stopped his wrist from placing the tankard down. The skin was soft and almost translucent seeming, with a smooth feel that belied a warriors grip.

“Allow me, I saw what happened”

Nodding in assent at the fairly deep, melodious voice that spoke to him Artix seated himself and thankfully to his drink in hand. The fact that he didn’t recall his new acquaintance looking once around the room disquieted him somewhat but he quickly dismissed the eerie feeling that assailed him.

 

“Gonna replace my drink too?”

A gravelly voice rang from behind as the newcomer drew a small purse and flicked two coins over to the barkeep. “So you spill a man’s drink and replace another’s?”
Groaning slightly, Artix edged himself away on the stool as inconspicuously as possible at looked over to the two men. A large muscular bully type was prodding the more lithely built newcomer insistently in the shoulder as the bar keep tried to resolve the situation without violence. Straining to see the expression under the curtain of black hair as it dangled above a pewter pitcher.

“I said-” the voice began once more before a sudden fluid movement and red blur crossed Krieger’s vision and a loud squeal of pain erupted from the larger man. Promptly falling to his knees and clutching what appeared to be the dislocated shoulder of the hand he had been using to poke he was ushered into a quiet corner by Maria.

 

Turning to his new companion with nothing more complicated than simple curiosity he smiled “I’m glad I never had to ask” He opened, laughing slightly

“Name’s Krieger… Artix Krieger” He said politely, offering a hand amiably. The stranger instead only nodding as he raised his head and brushed hair out of his eyes before taking the time to speak.

“Marcus Devreaux” Spoke the man in his singsong voice once more, his features were sharp, but not without warmth and his eyes were deepest blue, both royal yet mournful, a window of pure confidence and logical reasoning. Setting his tankard down on the table, contents already drained, the man stood almost elegantly and made his way to the door. Wincing slightly as it opened, the cold wind rushing in like a living being seeking warmth he gritted his teeth in indecision

“Bollocks!” Leaving his half finished mug on the bar Artix leapt after Marcus and gripped the edge of the door before it shut fully, throwing it open behind him and letting it swing shut as he raced down the muddy track towards the retreating red cape before him.

“Hey!” No answer… “Hey!” Finally catching up with Marcus he reached out and stopped his hand a scant fingers breadth from his shoulder, suddenly recalling what had happened to the man in the bar.

“Yes?” Devreaux stated the word simply, calmly, the look in his eye dangerous as he asked “Can I help you?”

“Well… I overheard and…. You’re not serious about going after that Manticore are you?!” Concern for the man’s safety overrode his sense of caution and this time he placed a restraining hand on the shoulder of the would be monster slayer.

“In these conditions as well!”

“Worry about yourself if you’re going to keep following”

The reply stopped Artix in his tracks, by now he was a goodly distance from the inn with nothing but a few coins and a short sword to his name. Suddenly feeling very self conscious and alone he scurried after the more confidant individual shielded his eyes from the heavy rain as he caught up.

“Look I’ve come this far, I may as well stay with you” A convenient lie, but not too far from the truth. If Artix were to head back to the inn alone now, who knew what would happen?

“Just don’t get in the way” One fluid movement, so quick it barely registered. The gigantic sword was drawn in one hand, angled down and away from its wielder slightly as he shifted his feet to take a lower stance. The poet hadn’t even seen the beast until his companions’ change of attitude alerted him and now he backed away, stumbling as it approached and fumbling for his short sword. The growl that rent the air was low and the creature of chaos was illuminated in the darkness as lightning crackled overhead splitting a tree and causing a fire scant few hundred yards away. Knee’s weak and feet numb, Artix buckled when it turned to face him, Lions mane surrounding the humanoid head Giant fangs curled around its lips as it unfurled its leathery wings. The beast was huge, standing on all fours it nearly came to five feet in height and the barbed tail curling over its head only seemed to make it bigger as its huge feline body, clothed in red fur took  sharp turn. Three long strides and it had half closed the distance between itself and the dark haired Marcus Devreaux, and all the while he only stood there nonchalantly, sword in hand, smiling. Lightning flashed once more as the tail struck meeting with sparks as the black blade clashed with golden red scales in the illuminated night.

Blinking, Artix Krieger smiled as time seemed to slow and looked on in awe.

“Of such things are legends made” Once again, the words escaped his mouth almost unnoticed as he picked himself up, finally having found the purpose his wandering was to yield.

“Through you Marcus Devreaux, I shall finally become a true poet” whispered the young man, his mind finally set as watched the battle with a grim satisfaction

The End

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