In the camp of the Horde of Rot and Rage
“Skeletons!” The worst blasphemy couldn’t have been spat with more scorn. “Mindless, bloodless, eight-times-damned skeletons!” An armored finger fished another sliver of bone out from the filigree of an ornately decorated greataxe, then paused to pick a speck off of the opposite gauntlet. “A fortnight we’ve been fighting nothing but Deathrattle and Nighthaunt, and I am dead sick of it!”
The finger’s owner paused, and glowered across the campfire. “Figuratively speaking, that is.”
The corpulently rounded suit of rusted plate sitting opposite guffawed appreciatively. “Buboes bring pus, work brings play, slaughter brings glory. Or do you mean to tell me that the renowned Eris Bloodwrath has run out of patience?”
“Please.” There was a bit of shattered vertebrae buried in the forged mouth of a snarling hellhound. “Don’t act so- so- so sanguine. Like you haven’t felt unfulfilled, fighting ghosts that can’t even get the tiniest sniffle!”
The gross sentinel harrumphed. “But I haven’t been skulking around camp at all hours, acting like a daemonette hunting her latest conquest!”
“At least I still can!”
“Children!” The next round of barbs died unspoken as a regal figure stepped into the circle of light. “Save the bloodshed for the battlefield. We are here to make good on the test the Gods have set for us, and right now you-” he glanced pointedly at both sides of the fire- “are failing.”
“…but there’s no bloodshed to speak of.” This muttered by the renowned Eris Bloodwrath.
“We are on the cusp of grasping a prize such as will be made legend.” Behind his chipped and blackened helm, the figure’s eyes lit up with a hellish glow. “Our patrons, the Lords of Entropy and Bloodshed, have laid such an opportunity at our feet as will never be repeated. The lost city of Amasya- a battle never fought, a victory never reaped, a shining jewel from a dead age, and it has been given unto us. Truly, this can only be the providence of the Eternal Four. Our very lives have been shaped for this day.”
“Oh no.” Bloodwrath slumped, head in hands. “Here we go again.” The bloated watcher only sloshed, entertained.
“Even when I was a child, the Gods spoke to me. By their aid, I was lead to my first great victory- when I slaughtered the King of Quaterii in front of his heir, and spread out his entrails in the sun-drenched forests of Hysh.” His words rumbled ossiferously. “And though his slaves raged, they were not men enough to bring me to battle.”
“You ambushed an old man and his grandson on a walk. Then you ran away. Mighty warrior indeed.”
“And against the Nine Princedoms of Aqshy!” His voice was exultant. “Then I reaped and reaped, so that False Sigmar hid his face in fear, and the corpses were piled twelve deep-”
“-three deep, at most-”
“-and all that land was laid to waste! Truly, the crows feasted mightily on that day, and all spoke the name of Qarang Sarn with hatred and with fear!”
“I wonder why.”
“But then!” The speaker- Qarang Sarn- was only building in intensity, like a tide of earth and stone boiling down a hillside. “Truly glorious was the day when I met Tarlen the Unconquerable and his riotous horde in battle. The greatest, he accounted himself, but in three days and three nights I put his brutish soldiers to flight and broke their ever-vaunted spirit, and on the fourth day the field and the fame was mine!”
“They were greenskins. They got bored. They wandered off. That’s not a victory, that’s barely a- draw…” Sarn had fallen silent, and was looking at the opulently clad warrior with an amused contempt. An uncomfortable silence descended, broken only by the piteous sobs of some nearby captive.
“You interrupt me. And here I hadn’t even reached the more delectable bits.” There was a certain rich, earthy smugness to his voice, and the one called Eris shrank like cornered prey. “Such it was, when I met the ninety-nine Wives of the Stag on the field, and killed and killed again until their champion threw herself at my feet and begged for mercy like a bleating lamb. How I relish it.” His eyes seemed to burn holes in the warrior’s armor, and she crumpled, defeated.
Her Nurglish counterpart hooted at this, roiling and rollicking until mirth was flowing from every orifice. Sarn turned, smoothly, and stalked around the fire. “Or perhaps it was my greatest triumph, that for which I was acclaimed Varanguard. When I broke the walls of Melas, polluted its great fountains, and corrupted its High Priestess to the service of a patron she reviled. Truly, that was a day when the Gods smiled upon me.” The Nurglish warrior sank suddenly, and lapsed into a discomfited gurgling.
Sarn turned away, pacing, hands crossed behind his back like an Azyrite schoolmaster. “Yes, I am over-proud, but in truth so are we all- vainglorious fools riding high on our delusions and the promise of rewards forever beyond our grasp. Such is the will of the Four- it’s inescapable. One of the immortal truths of Chaos is, the Gods make themselves part of us, and we in turn imagine ourselves to be the Gods.” Both listeners sat silent and still, watching him warily.
“But in truth, this is common to every faith that has been or will be- all throw themselves on the mercy of their gods, and imagine themselves redeemed. There is but a single speck of difference- what Sigmar or Alarielle or Grungni promise is, ultimately, a lie.” His voice grew tectonic. “This too shall pass, in time- but what the Four promise is true down to the base. We have thrown our lot in with the primal realities of the entire universe.”
He paused, and then began to walk back towards the campfire. “You see? This is why we are bound for Amasya, though it means we spend ourselves on bones and vapor. When we retake it, it will be to share the truth with the entirety of the Realms- to strip away the centuries-old lies of those who would usurp the Gods themselves, and replace it with the raw, unalloyed facts of what always has been.” Sarn’s voice was rapturous, almost pleading. “And when we are done, we will have drawn ourselves closer to that which really is… and for it we shall be exalted.”
With that, he turned back towards the main campground- only to pause. “Eris.”
“Yes, Varanguard?” Her tone was wary.
“Not for nothing do they call me the Basalt Lord. My flesh and my heart are stone, and if you speak another word that displeases me I will slaughter you without a drop of sweat or an ounce of remorse.” He smiled beneath his helm. “But all you have done today is made me laugh. Prepare yourselves, both of you- the end approaches.”