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Years of death and darkness marked Queen Cyssandra’s dominion over the Gloom tribes of Shyish. Paid by the tribes in tomb-gold, the Greyfyrd lodge marched into the Grave Warrens, their axes come to claim the head of the terrible vampire queen and end her long reign of blood.[1a]


The vampire queen Cyssandra ruled a sprawling subterranean kingdom of tomb-mazes, mausoleum cities and vast corpsemills. Her minions harvested the rain of dead that continuously fell from the killing fields in the lands above, while the subjugated Gloom tribes scavenged the ruins for desiccated meat to continue their miserable existence.[1a]

Runefather Hursgar-Grimnir led the Greyfyrd lodge into this midnight realm, accepting the promise of golden grave-goods from the Gloom tribes as payment for Cyssandra’s destruction. At Hursgar’s side marched many Fyreslayers, among them the Grimwrath Berzerker Braegrom, a warrior already legendary among the peoples of Shyish for destroying the Voideye Gargant.[1a]

With keen-edged axes, the Fyreslayers carved a path across an underground landscape of forsaken ruins and walking corpses, leaving the road to Cyssandra’s castle of bone littered with twitching body parts. The most powerful foes were quickly cut down by Hursgar and Braegrom, their blades hewing apart zombie monstrosities and lumbering skeletal giants.[1a]

On and on the winding road of skulls led, taking the Fyreslayers into a twisting maze of tombstones. There, stone walls leered at the duardin, and graven words warned them of the dark fates that awaited intruders. Each turn revealed fresh foes, the shadows disgorging knots of moaning horrors. Hursgar’s Hearthguard formed a wedge of gleaming axes that hewed apart the tide of undead. Though more than one duardin vanished under the grasping claws and broken teeth of the zombies, the path was soon thick with rotting body parts and severed hands still feebly grasping at the Fyreslayers.[1a]

As they fought through the maze, every Fyreslayer felt cold eyes upon them. It was as if the black sky of stone above them was gazing down into their very souls. Meanwhile, from the stalagmite spires of her castle, Cyssandra watched the Fyreslayers as they tried to navigate her maze and allowed herself a cold smile, savouring the thought of what lay in wait for the duardin.[1b]

Braegrom smashed open the yellowed skullgate that barred the path to the centre of the maze. As he wrenched his axe from the door’s skeletal face, the Fyreslayers charged out across a field of freshly turned ground. In the distance, Cyssandra’s keep rose up above the walls of the tomb-maze, close enough now for the duardin to see the dark figure standing atop its central tower.[1b]

Hursgar roared out a challenge to the vampire. In answer, thousands of claws thrust up out of the ground. On every side skeletons hauled themselves out of the earth, dirt spilling from ribcages and eyesockets, while pallid flesh-eaters scrambled from the shadows. Heavily outnumbered, the Fyreslayers formed a defensive circle of scowling faces and sharpened fyresteel, with Hursgar atop his Magmadroth at the fore.[1b]

Vulkite Berzerkers hacked and smashed apart revenant warriors and feral crypt ghouls as the undead lunged at their cordon, their axes spattered with black blood. In their midst, Battlesmith Argrum stood beneath the stern visage of Grimnir reciting the tale of the Battle of Ebonwall, when the Greyfyrds fought for days on end as they held back the sea beasts of Gurglax. Meanwhile, Runesmiter Urgolm hammered upon his runic altar, the resounding clangs and booms unleashing the power of Grimnir from the Fyreslayers’ ur-gold runes.[1b]

For all their fury, the Fyreslayers were being pushed back. Each duardin casualty caused the circle to shrink, while the dead seemed without end, no matter how many were returned broken to the ground. With a growl, Hursgar motioned with his great axe to where a ring of Necromancers huddled at the back of the undead horde. On the ground, Braegrom could not see what the Runefather was pointing to, but it mattered not. With an oath to his warrior god, the Grimwrath Berzerker hurled himself into the sea of dead.[1b]

The Fyreslayers beside Braegrom knelt as the Grimwrath charged, allowing him to use their shoulders as a platform with which to launch himself. Braegrom smashed down onto the worm-eaten heads of a packed rank of zombies. Kicking in faces and stamping on rotting skulls, he battered and clove his way across the groaning mass.[1c]

Soon, Braegrom could see the Necromancers. Withered, robed creatures, they chanted in a rasping chorus as dark energy rolled off their gnarled hands. Where the magic touched the ground, more dead clawed their way to the surface. His feet pounding over the restless ground, Braegrom ran toward them. When the closest Necromancer saw Braegrom, the wizard’s sunken eyes filled with terror, and with a wave of his spindly hand zombies piled in upon the Fyreslayer. Braegrom raised his axe in time to fend off the first corpse that grasped for his throat. Flames blazing from the brazier in his axe, he set about holding back the tide of rotting flesh.[1c]

From within the circle of Fyreslayers, the Runefather and his kin watched Braegrom as he was surrounded by undead. Unable to reach the Grimwrath, Hursgar could only offer up a prayer to Grimnir. Then, Braegrom vanished from sight, buried under a writhing mass of foes, drawing a collective roar of anger from the Fyreslayers.[1c]

For long moments, Hursgar considered falling back to the tomb-maze; maybe amongst its narrow corridors, his warriors would stand a chance against this endless horde. Certainly, to remain there much longer was to invite the destruction of his army. A shout from one of his Vulkite Berzerkers drew the Runefather’s attention, and as he looked up, Braegrom burst into view, the Grimwrath’s rune-covered body blazing like the sacred fires of the forge.[1c]

Broken bodies flew in all directions as Braegrom carved his way to where the Necromancers stood. The first wizard raised a hand, readying a warding spell, but the Grimwrath Berzerker hacked off the limb, ending his foe’s mewling cries with a second swing of his blade. The other Necromancers tried to retreat, but the same sea of undead that had protected them from Braegrom’s wrath now blocked their way. The Grimwrath fell upon them in a storm of blows, and as the wizards died, so too did the deathless horde, as the Necromancers’ magic unravelled.[1c]

With a screech, the Terrorgheists took to the air. Behind their predatory shrieks, the Fyreslayers could hear Cyssandra’s laughter as she channelled dark magic into her creations. A dozen Vulkite Berzerkers were snatched from the ground by the creatures’ talons. Some were snipped into gory chunks and others were flung down the castle stair – though a few hauled themselves slowly back to their feet and staggered back into the fight. Hursgar swung at the beasts as they swooped overhead, but the creatures remained clear of the duardin’s axe. Worse, zombies had begun to fall down from the stone sky above, knots of bodies landing among the fighters and swarming the Fyreslayers. Alongside the arrival of the dead rain, other, darker things crawled free of Cyssandra’s dungeons.[1d]

Braegrom locked eyes with the vampire, spat on the ground and bellowed a long and inventive insult involving Cyssandra’s parentage and feeding habits. With a casual gesture, the vampire sent one of the Terrorgheists twisting through the air toward the Grimwrath Berzerker. Before the beast could sink its talons into Braegrom’s flesh, however, he spun around, smashing his axe into the undead thing’s ribcage. Thrashing and screeching, the Terrorgheist carried Braegrom up over the battle, its body convulsing as it tried to shake the Fyreslayer loose. Hand over hand, Braegrom climbed up the length of his axe, finally getting a hold on the monster’s skeletal body. With one hand gripping the beast, the Grimwrath pulled free his axe before swinging himself round onto the creature’s neck. As he landed, Braegrom’s axe clove into the Terrorgheist’s skull. Shrieking, the monster came crashing down into the tower where Cyssandra was weaving her necromantic magics. With a thunderous shattering of stone, bone and iron, the tower caved in on itself.[1d]

Dust rolled out across the battlefield, and for the second time, Hursgar-Grimnir peered through the press of combat to see if Braegrom lived. The Fyreslayer seemed truly blessed by the spirit of Grimnir, and as the dust cleared, it revealed the duardin champion and vampire locked in a bitter struggle. Cyssandra was staggeringly fast, her movements a blur as her blade tried to pierce Braegrom’s flesh. The Grimwrath Berzerker weathered every lightning-fast blow with barely a flinch. Hursgar spurred his Magmadroth toward the duel, but the surviving Terrorgheist came crashing down in his path. Hursgar roared an oath and charged.[1d][1e]

Braegrom tried to sink his axe into the vampire, but even before he swung, she had moved out of the way. Rivers of blood streamed down his body, and only the power of his runes was keeping him upright. Grimacing through the pain, Braegrom waited until Cyssandra thrust her sword into his side, then grabbed its blade in his thick fingers. Her weapon momentarily trapped, the vampire snarled, a second before Braegrom delivered a bone-shattering headbutt that sent Cyssandra crashing to the ground. As she fell, her grip upon her army slackened.[1e]

Hursgar-Grimnir’s Magmadroth was chewing noisily on the bones of the Terrorgheist, the beast having crumbled to pieces when the vampire fell. The Runefather looked up to see his Fyreslayers scattering the undead. Those few shambling corpses that remained either wandered without purpose or attacked mindlessly until fyresteel blades put them down.[1e]

A mighty clang drew Hursgar’s attention, and out of the ruins before the keep came Braegrom. The slayer hauled an ornate coffin wrapped in chains, his dust and blood-covered beard split by a great grin. Curses spilled from inside the coffin as something strained against its bindings. Listening to Cyssandra’s ineffectual ravings, Hursgar grinned too.[1e]