Heroes: A Vermintide Fanbook

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A Vermintide Fanbook


A Vermintide Fanbook

Willoh is a freelance, self-taught digital artist from Scotland who enjoys video games and animated films. She just finished illustrating her first book, Ten Cupcakes.


Markus Kruber had marched in his share of parades. From his days as a recruit, where a lot of his training involved marching up and down the same dusty parade ground, to his mercenary years, when big victories and major holidays were celebrated with shows of military might. One time his company joined dozens of others in Altdorf in a parade that included Karl Franz himself. He remembered that day: banners overhead complimenting the bright colors of the dress uniforms, the roar of the crowd almost drowning out the brassy music of the bands marching among the soldiers, and the savory smells of food stalls filling the air. Today’s parade was about as far from that grand spectacle as he could imagine. The Ubersreik Five had lifted the siege on Fort Brachsenbrücke, and the town’s gaunt mayor had organized a parade to celebrate. The survivors now lined the main street of the town below the fort. Those who returned probably had nowhere else to go, or no reason to believe that anywhere else would be better. They were mostly silent as the parade went by, with an occasional hoarse shout that seemed all the more forlorn for the silence that followed. Marching with Markus and his companions were the soldiers who arrived to garrison the fort. To Markus, most of them looked too young to be cadets. In years past, Markus would have laughed to see boys their age turn up to enlist in his company. He would roar, “These are too small, let’s toss ‘em back until they’ve grown!” So that there would be no hard feelings, he would give them each a beer, suitably watered-down, before sending them on their way. No chance of that now. These were not his soldiers to command, and even if he had the choice, there were no other options. The only other soldiers in the ranks were men Markus’s age, who looked like they were armed with the same weapons and armor they wielded when their original terms of service ended years ago. Before the parade began, Markus gathered the soldiers around to give them some words of advice. It was not his place to do so, but the leader of the company, a grizzled baron with lank gray hair and a twisted back, did not raise any objections. Markus reminded them to keep their posture straight and their heads high. The complement of soldiers was small, and the crowd was not much bigger, so Markus had the men march slowly and in narrow ranks, to extend the length of the parade. If looking at the wan faces in the crowd made the soldiers feel morose, they were to keep their eyes front. This was meant to be a triumphant occasion, or as close as they could get to one, and there would be no tears today if Markus Kruber had anything to say about it. Markus also had some advice for his companions, who had never marched in a similar group. Kerillian could feel the eyes upon her. As she came into view, the placid crowd grew a little more lively, craning to see the elf for themselves. Kerillian struggled to suppress her instinct to hide, to seek the shadows, to find a nondescript cloak and pull its hood over her ears. Since she was here, she felt obligated to let them look at her instead of at the devastation around them. Let them see an Asrai in the flesh.

As Markus had reminded her, Kerillian represented more than just one fighter. She reminded the humans that there were others fighting the Chaos threat. Perhaps the sight of her garb conjured images of far-off forests, more splendid than any these humans had ever seen, defended by the blades and arrows of Kerillian’s people. Truth be told, she would have preferred to concern herself with her own blades and arrows, but she kept that to herself. Victor Saltzpyre kept his gaze forward as he walked. As Markus had reminded him before the parade, several times more than was necessary, people preferred to avoid direct eye contact with a Templar. His presence may be a welcome one as a fighter against the forces of darkness, but there would always be something about Witch Hunters that made people uncomfortable. It had been a long, and occasionally contentious, conversation between Victor and Markus, but in the end, Victor had acquiesced. He had cleaned his coat as best he could the night before, polishing the symbols of his rank and office until they shone. If he should not look directly at the crowd, let them look at him, and see someone steadfast in his faith in Sigmar. Still, he could not help but look at the crowd through the corner of his eye, a skill he had perfected over long years of investigations. He was used to dealing with citizens of the Empire as victims of heretical plots and nefarious schemes. Glimpsing them now, stripped of their usual trappings of occupation and status, a realization struck Victor. They had all come together to participate in this event, but once the parade concluded, each one would go back to rebuilding a different life. They were more than potential victims. Their lives had meaning beyond how they contributed to the Empire’s strength and Sigmar’s glory. Their own goals, fears, and joys, no matter how grand or how petty, were unique to each of them. Victor clenched his jaw. The victory at Brachsenbrücke was not just a single victory, but a separate victory for each person in the crowd. He resolved to fight on, not just for the Empire, but for each citizen of the Empire. Sienna walked behind Victor. He had told her to stay near him, though she noticed that he did not need her to walk in front of him where he could keep his eye on her. When the parade began, she caught herself wondering if perhaps he had wanted to show the crowd that she was under control. The line between a wizard and a witch was a fine one, and often unclear to the common citizen. Could he even have wanted to avoid any unpleasantness if the crowd had turned against her? The thought of Victor Saltzpyre gallantly protecting her from people calling for a witch’s blood made her snort. As the parade went on, she realized that the people did not just see her as a wizard or a witch. More importantly, they saw her as a part of the group who had liberated the fort. The crowd was there to see the Übersreik Five, and she was one of their number. This was new. She was so used to trading barbs with the others that she had forgotten how much it had surprised her when she had first realized that she trusted them. She had to, since they seemed to put their lives in each other’s hands on a daily basis. Their bond, mostly unspoken, felt so personal that she had not realized that others outside the group might see it, too. She would never march as stiffly as Markus might have wanted, but she found herself standing a little straighter.

Bardin may not have stood as tall as the others, but he sauntered for all he was worth, holding and axe over his shoulder and exuding all the boisterous confidence he could muster. These people looked like they could use it. Bardin had always felt like human faces had a dizzying array of variations. So much of humans’ faces were visible, and they showed their emotions so plainly, that it could feel almost overwhelming to someone who grew up around stoic dwarves. Even the humans with facial hair tended to leave much of their faces uncovered, and many humans had no facial hair at all. It could feel like looking at so many children, with their wide eyes and open faces. This crowd made him apprehensive. For all the variety of faces, the people in the crowd all had the same weary look. Bardin felt a weight settling in his stomach, an eerie feeling of looking at such a range of faces with the same expression. This felt less and less like a parade and more like a funeral march. There should have been music, the deep blasts of horns to accompany the stamping of feet. He would even have settled for the reedy sound of human instruments. He inhaled deeply through his nose and tried to think of a human marching song Markus sang. Surely some soldiers would join in. But the only thing that came to mind was another of Markus’s songs, less military in nature, one he knew well from late nights in taverns. Well, all right. If the soldiers were too stiff to join in, at least Markus might pick up the tune. Bardin roared out the first line, causing several people in the crowd to jump. He paused to listen in case Markus joined in, but he could not tell, because all around him, voices picked up the song. Bardin’s cheeks bunched in a smile as he joined in once more, determined not to let a Dwarf ’s lungs be outdone by these manlings. Human voices came in a great range, and he realized that women were singing too, as some people in the crowd joined in. The youngest members of the audience listened, awe-struck. Their parents would have some explaining to do that night. Well, Bardin supposed they had to learn those words eventually. Bardin never should have doubted that Markus would join in, as he heard clear proof when the soldier led the company into the next verse with a big “OOOHHH…” Bardin could see Sienna joining in lustily, dancing and gesturing with boundless energy. Victor sang as well, perhaps to drown her out, his reedy voice replacing certain key words so that the song became about Sigmar unfurling his glorious pennant. Bardin even thought he heard a voice richer and more melodic than a human’s joining in, but surely the elf would not sing such a tune…? Once the song ended, the soldiers started another, and then another after that. For the ones Bardin did not know, he hummed along, and added some “rum-tum-tums.” By the time the parade ended, many of the soldiers and some of the crowd had sore throats from all the singing. Luckily, one of the local taverns had shipped in some casks for the occasion. The companions joined the soldiers and townsfolk in a few drinks, toasting the soldiers and the rebuilding of the town. The soldiers, the baron, the mayor, and the citizens raised toasts of their own, and it seemed like more and more of the toasts were raised to the companions themselves. When it started to feel overwhelming, the

companions made their excuses, grabbed a few bottles and some pies, and ducked out as soon as they could politely do so. In the waning light, the town did not look so bad. Without any particular destination in mind, the five walked uphill, until they found themselves on a hill overlooking the town. A few trees rose above, their leaves gilded by the last rays of the sun. “You all did well today,” Markus said, sitting down with his back to a trunk. He took a bite of pie and washed it down. Sienna nudged him from where she lay in the grass. “You approve of our marching, Sergeant? Are you saying you’d have us in your regiment?” Markus wiped froth and crumbs from his mustache. “I don’t know if I’d call that marching, but you gave those people what they needed.” “A good song!” Bardin exclaimed. Kerillian scoffed. “You call that a good song? My head still hurts from that racket!” Sienna shrugged. “It was a distraction, and a welcome one, I should think.” That sat quietly for several minutes, eating and drinking as the shadows lengthened and the light faded. Saltzpyre chewed some pie thoughtfully. “Those people saw us as heroes.” Bardin shifted uncomfortably. “Oh, I don’t know about heroes—” “To those people,” Saltzpyre cut in, “we are heroes. Like it or not, that is the role we played today.” Bardin grumbled something too low to make out. Markus sighed. “That is a word that gets thrown around a lot. I don’t know if I have ever met a living hero.” Sienna was looking at the sunset. “Hard to be heroic when you’re dead.” She took a big bite of pie and a long drink. “Maybe it’s best to avoid the topic,” Bardin mumbled. Victor stretched. “It is hard to imagine heroes in this age. Heroes walked with Sigmar.”

Kerillian’s voice was quiet. “I don’t think heroism is something to seek. It is better to focus on doing what needs to be done. What we can do.” The sky was mostly blue-black, with only a band of crimson on the horizon. Stars began to appear. “Maybe there are no heroes,” Markus said. “Only people, and legends.” Saltzpyre took off his hat, wiped a hand over his head, and put his hat back on. Markus watched him, waiting for him to say something else about Sigmar, but he did not say anything, and avoided looking at Markus. Bardin produced a small pipe, a pouch of tobacco, and a box of matches. He began filling and lighting his pipe. “That’s all right, then,” he said, as if to himself. He puffed at his pipe a bit. “We can do the work, and let the stories take care of themselves.” “No!” Sienna said loudly, making the others jump. She sat up. “Why shouldn’t we be heroes?” She looked at the others, and they looked back at her, dumbstruck. “Well? Markus, how many Rat Ogres have you killed?” Markus ran a finger over his mustache. “I couldn’t say…” “And Saltzpyre, how many Chaos Spawn? Kerillian, how many Stormfiends?” “Twenty-seven,” Kerillian murmured. “Well, all right, of course you would keep track. And Bardin, how many trolls? As many as Cousin Okri? More?” Bardin stammered. “Cousin Okri--” “I know all about Cousin Okri,” Sienna cut in, but not unkindly. “But did it ever occur to you that Cousin Okri might be telling people tales of Cousin Bardin?” Bardin blinked, his mouth open. Sienna turned to the group. “I don’t think I’ll ever be free of the stench of rat, and now we have Northmen to deal with as well. So why shouldn’t we be heroes? I’d say we’ve earned it.” They sat quietly, looking at Sienna, exchanging glances, and watching the last embers of the sunset fade to darkness. Markus caught Bardin’s eye. “Heroes. D’you think…” Bardin’s pipe glowed red in the dusk. “Maybe. Maybe.”

Saltzpyre’s voice was quieter than they had heard it in a long time. “It is certainly something to consider.” Kerillian stood and brushed herself off. “Heroes or not, you’re still mayflies. Come on, let’s get inside before it gets much colder.” They followed her down the hill.

Baron von Chop is a slayer of orcs, maker of pancakes, chopper of onions, who regularly writes for various fandoms, including Vermintide. You can find further works at: https://archiveofourown.org/users/BaronVonChop/pseuds/BaronVonChop

Tee is a full-time artist, part-time livestreamer, and full-time cat & dog mom (with the help of her fiance, Louis). You can find more of her art at @prismatic.monkey on Instagram and @prismaticmonkey on Twitter and Tumblr and catch her art streams @prismaticmonkey on Twitch.

PhanracK is a Vermintide content creator, Youtuber, and resident community memelord. You can find his work at https://www.youtube.com/user/PhanracK/

TO THE LAST MysteriousSalp

Kruber looked out upon the endless sea of horror with an unnatural calmness. He still breathed - so far - but he knew that time was growing short. “They’ll be stepping up again soon, mates,” he promised, bitterness in his voice and in his mouth. The coppery taste of his own blood was still there. Whatever that last headbutt from that one big Bestigor had done to him, it wasn’t setting itself right. He felt dizzy, but that might be from lack of food, sleep, or just the realization that there was no escaping this one. Half the world was gone, if Kerillian was to be believed. She’d often stopped and shuddered, saying how she felt the Weave dying. Hadn’t stopped her from being good at killing, though. That was all they had left, at this point. Beastmen, Norscans, mutants, Skaven, things he couldn’t even put a name to, they were out there. Beyond them . . . it was like the world had stopped existing. A wall of . . . well, he’d heard of huge waves, so tall a man couldn’t see over them, that swept cities away along coasts, when giant sea monsters got grumpy. It was like that, but from the horrid, shifting colors, he knew that it was Chaos in its most raw, disgusting form. He hawked and spat, blood in his phlegm. A smoke would be good about now. “Kruber.” He turned, and looked to Saltzpyre. The man looked paler than usual, but was still standing under his own strength. His rapier was still in his good hand, the other bandaged. That had been a nasty wound, when a Rat Ogre took the whole thing off after he’d shoved his gun into its mouth. Splattered its brains right good, but in its last throes it had chomped down. Not clean, not fast. But he’d never known a man braver than Saltzpyre. The stream of Sigmarite-laced invective would have been impressive, had the situation not been so dire. “How’re you feeling, sir?”

“I feel ready to smite in Sigmar’s name,” the Witch Hunter said, defiantly, looking out at the sea of things. Taal knew what held them back. Planning? Seemed way too organized for Chaos. Probably some ritual-thing or other. These nasties were always doing some kinda crazy ritual. Why did they never involve like dancing or drinking something sensible? You know, things that weren’t insane and world-ending. He sighed, and hefted his greatsword. Had belonged to one of the Carroburg lads, at one point, he saw the emblem, and the initials. J.B. Whoever that was, he hoped the bastard had gone well. It felt heavier than it had in his hands earlier. But as long as he could wield it this one last time, that’d be good enough. He saw sadness on Saltzpyre’s face, and his sword stuck in the ground. Looking down, he saw a scrap of cloth in the man’s hands. Sadness went through Kruber as he realized just what it was. “She fought well that day,” he said. Saltzpyre was quiet a long moment. “Yes. I never thought I would miss a witch, and yet . . .” The man’s words faded, and he merely looked off, sad and contemplative. “I think she fancied you, sir,” Kruber said. “She was happy to do it, knowing you’d go on.” Saltzpyre’s sharp eye flickered to him, and he nodded once. “I did not believe it possible for one to harness that much magic. Yet in the end, it was too much even for her.” His eyes went to the tide of darkness that came closer with each moment. It was still so far off, yet was noticeably closer. “Even our world could not bear it.” Silence fell between them. “They’re forming up!” the call came. Kruber looked up, seeing Kerillian pointing towards the hordes of Chaos. “You ready, sir?” he asked. It wasn’t even a formality, anymore. No point in that, he honestly did respect the man enough. Saltzpyre opened his mouth, and Kruber had expected one of his rote faithful Sigmarite lines to come forth. The man hesitated, a rare, lop-sided smile appearing on his face. “No, Markus. I have always been ready to die, but I am not ready for the end of Sigmar’s realm. But I shall face it, all the same.” He inclined his head. “It has been an honor to fight alongside a man as honest and stalwart as yourself.” Kruber was quiet a minute, before nodding back. “I can say the same, Victor.”

*** Kruber turned to look at what was left of the defenders. A sad lot they were - a half dozen Halflings, scared and shivering, holding pots and pans and slings. An old Ogre, who had settled in the Moot. Even with most of his muscle having gone to fat, he was at least impressively big. A dozen men, still holding weapons, and some barely able to stand from their wounds. To the side, a Vampire. He still hated the things, but it didn’t want the world to end anymore than the rest of them. It regarded him coldly, like a piece of meat - but it did look to him. The last thing, standing even further apart - a literal corpse, wrapped in bandages so old as to be crumbling to dust. Its eyes glowed with a horrible light, and it spoke not a word they understood. But it had appeared, hefting a curved bronze sword, and swung it well against daemon and Skaven alike, so who was going to tell it to leave? Supposedly there were a lot more of ‘em to the North, but they’d not had time to go that far and link up. Fat lot of good it woulda done, anyway. “All right, you lot!” Kruber shouted, drawing their eyes towards him. “We got a fat buncha nasty things down there. They’re just itchin to take our heads for their filthy gods. What’s say we send ‘em to hell first? And when we’re gone, the ones left will have to go crawlin’ on their bellies, begging their pox-ridden gods to please forgive ‘em for dyin’ in droves to the last decent folks left in the world! What d’ya say?” The Ogre roared. The Halflings made a stirring effort to rattle their pots. Soldiers cheered for Sigmar, and he thought even the Vampire bastard nodded. Hefting his sword, he saw that the Skaven had arrayed their front ranks with their filthy pink slave-rats. That was good. The Bestigors and Chaos Warriors behind ‘em would mulch through their own in their greed, and maybe tire them out a bit. “For Taal! For Sigmar! For the Empire, and spittin’ in the face of Chaos!” Kruber roared *** “He’s got a way with words,” Kerillian said. “Aye,” Bardin said, admiration in his voice. “I should be on the front lines with them,” she added, bitterly. “Not with your leg like that, Wutelgi. Besides, we’re the best shots left. Best we give what overwatch fire we can.” But he could see her eyes, still on Kruber. Their blackness was hard to read, and who could really know the

thoughts of an Elf? But he ventured anyway. “Did you two ever . . .” Kerillian gave him a scathing look. “You still find new ways to be offensive, Dwarf, even after years.” Yet there was no real anger in her voice now, and Bardin laughed as he readied his crossbow. “Only sixteen quarrels. And you?” “Thirteen arrows . . . plus this one. It is steeped in a desire to kill,” she said. “I’ve been saving it. It is destined to kill a king. I had hoped, one day, to get Archaeon in my sights . . .” She held the arrow up, and even to Bardin’s non-magical eye he could see something odd about it, like it had a mind of its own. Some strange Wutelgi magic he’d never understand, but that he respected. “I suppose that’ll do, then,” he replied. “I’m sure there’s some leader among them.” The Skaven Slaves, far below, were starting to charge up the hill. He took aim, but didn’t want to waste a shot on the pink raki. Stupid move to put them in front, as . . . ah, yep, there they went. The Bestigors, greedy and bloodthirsty as always, charged through them, crushing the rats underhoof easily. His crossbow twanged, and he took that one down with a shot to the neck. One next to it went down with the Wutelgi’s arrow in its leg; it fell, staggering others, creating a jam of rolling bodies. The heavy Chaos Warriors behind them stomped on them, crushing their bodies into a smooth enough surface to walk on. “Hah!” Bardin laughed. He watched a few arrows from their allies fall pell-mell among the charging enemy, still a hundred feet away. The shots weren’t strong, but he saw other things fall - it was hard to miss targets this dense. Bardin and Kerillian kept up their fire, until all but her special arrow was left. Not a single shot had failed to hit its mark, or to drop its target. Yet there were more, always more of the selfish, the greedy, the foolish. They had sold out their own world, and for what? Bardin wondered. What would their lives be like without honor? “Do you still have that bomb?” Kerillian asked, tersely, having nocked her special arrow. But she didn’t launch it yet.

“Gave it to Saltzpyre. He’s got a good eye, even if just the one.” The enemy closed with the front line. Kruber’s sword flashed, a bright light that dazzled the eye, and took the heads of three servants of Chaos. The soldiers to their left buckled quickly, dragged down, but still stabbed and thrust as they died, taking Stormvermin and Marauders and Gors with them. The Ogre was swarmed by a hundred Slaves, arrows from Ungors peppering its hide. It roared, pulping them with its fists by the dozen, before falling and rolling, crushing more. It disappeared under a tide of more. The Vampire was soon swamped, off alone, as was the ancient mummy, though dark sprays of blood continued to splash from the horde near them. They would not settle into their final deaths easily. No one fled, not even the Halflings. There was nowhere to flee, and the wall of darkness was closer now. The press of Chaotic vermin grew so dense around Kruber that his great blade could no longer find room to swing. He flung it aside, drawing a dagger, and took a Stormvermin in the eye. It fell towards him, and Kerillian watched him fall, her heart skipping a beat. A Chaos Warrior, larger than the rest, loomed above him. It said something she could not hear, but she could see the growths from its head, like a crown. A single round hole for a cycloptic eye was the only gap in its armor, from which glowed a baleful red light. Her arrow flew true, through the slot, just as it began to bring its axe down. The ersatz king dropped to his knees - but so did his axe. She did not see it strike, but it fell blade first, sinking in and stopping. “No!” she screamed, and she felt Bardin grab her arm to keep her from diving in after the man. Saltzpyre was already there. “Unworthy filth!” he roared, any weakness forgotten. “You are not worthy of Sigmar’s light, but I will give you his WRATH!” His Rapier was stabbed into a mutant’s neck, and now in his hand he held the firebomb of Bardin’s. The fuse was lit, and the man pressed it to his chest. It took Kerillian a moment to realize that he was still covered in powder charges. When the firebomb went off, so did they, scattering fire over the whole area.

“Down, Wutelgi!” Bardin cried, dragging her down the rock face. The heat and fire felt like it lasted a long time, but it could only have been moments. When they raised their heads, climbing painfully back to the top of the rock, they could not see Saltzpyre, only burning cinders - and the enemy. Ever more of the enemy. They had pulled back, even just a dozen meters, to avoid the flames, but the corpses of many of their kind still writhed or lay on the earth, smoldering. Kerillian stood, staring piteously at them. Bardin rose next to her. “Go to your god, One-Eye,” she whispered. “I hope his he greets his faithful servant well.”’ The hordes of Chaos leveled their gazes upon the two, the only ones left standing of their side. Beastmen roared, and Chaos Warriors stamped their feet. Skaven hissed, stamping their halberds into the already-churned earth. But there was a fear in their eyes, and none wanted to be the first to advance anymore. Bardin unslung his axe, and looked up at Kerillian. She spoke before he did. “You know what happens when my people die, Bardin.” He nodded. “And no more waystones stand.” She drew her sword. “When you’re in Grungni’s halls, remember me.” Bardin’s helmet felt suddenly too heavy for his head. Taking it off, he threw it aside. “I will sing a ballad for you, Dawri. And Kruber, and Saltzpyre, and Sienna.” “Good. I wish you a good death, Son of the Mountain.” “And you, Daughter for the Forest.” The enemy came at them, and the darkness approached. Back to back, they swung their blades, separating heads and limbs. Until the end. THE END TIMES

For this story, I wanted to show a potential ending of our heroes. I did not have Sienna die-off screen lightly; I felt it seemed natural, not only that she would sacrifice herself for the others, but that it would give more depth to Saltzpyre’s end, mimicking her in a way. For those who may not be lore-junkies, Elf souls don’t get a happy ending; when they die, they are devoured by Slaanesh. Their nameless companions standing with them are a reference to the canonical last stand of the End Times, where the armies of the Vampires and Tomb Kings fight alongside the last survivors of the Empire, in Sylvania, where the Halflings have fled. This takes place on the border of Sylvania.

MysteriousSalp is a frequent lore crafter and fanwriter on r/Vermintide and the Fatshark Games forums, regularly posting short stories revolving around the Ubersreik Five.

Iggyness is an artist, wannabe voice actor and comedian. She loves critters and monsters and entertaining people. You can find her at https://twitter.com/Iggyness.

Alina a.k.a. TinyComrade, is a game artist, cosplayer and loves owls! Games and their creation have always been her passion and she thinks it is important to express your love by creatinga fan made content.


A BACKGROUND CHECK At first glance, Victor Saltzpyre seems like any other Witch Hunter of the Order. When he speaks he’s all business with no formalities, he’s clean shaven while our other characters let their beards grow, he stands up straight, he chooses to keep to himself instead of socializing, instead of drinking alcohol and drowning his sorrows like Markus and Bardin he doesn’t seem to drink often and above all else he seems deeply prejudiced against magic users and all perceived enemies of the Empire. But something doesn’t seem to add up here. Sure he hates magic users and holds one captive, but as soon as she mocks or burns him, he really doesn’t seem to care that much. Sure he hates Kerillian, but strangely enough, he keeps her close to his mission and while he often threatens to kill her, he never follows through with his threats. And sure he doesn’t like magic but as soon as Olesya opens the Bridge of Shadows he’s the first one of our heroes to go through it. And just to be perfectly honest here, why exactly is he still so far down the chain of command in the Order? With his talent he should surely be a Witch Hunter Captain at the start of the first game. I mean how is he not, presumably he lost his eye during a fight with Skarrik long before the start of the first game. Mind you that’s still when Clan Fester was probably stronger since the curse had not yet taken full effect. And sure Skarrik wasn’t a Warchief back then but he still took Victors eye. So I’d wager he was still a force to be reckoned with. Well maybe that’s the answer, Saltzpyre knew some things the Order best wanted to avoid making public. And it’s also probable that he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, after all that mission in the mines changed him, not only did he lose an eye but he also saw the Skaven for the first time. Surely the Order would not respect such open talk about Skaven. “HE’S AS LIKELY TO BURN AS I.” So let’s put this situation into perspective. We know that Victor knew about the Skaven before the start of the first game, we know he has fought them at least one time before, we know he probably lost a lot of prestige within the Order because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut and he had met Clan Fester at least one time before.

With all of this in mind, it seems rather strange to believe that the events of the first game are not at least somewhat orchestrated. Let’s start as always with the Skaven. Three things to note here, we know they exist and that the Empire is keeping them a secret, Saltzpyre likely knows that too. So therefore every attempt to undermine the actions of the Skaven has to be performed secretly. If Saltzpyre wants to save the Empire he can’t count on any help from his peers. So therefore the only real option is to look at help from some social outcasts. Second thing here is that he at least has some knowledge on fighting them, as he was probably not ambushed by any clanrats, but a patrol under the lead of Skarrik as his line “I fought the Stormvermin before, they don’t fight fairly” implies. Knowing that and that he was in a mine he likely had a torch with him, torches burn and Raki do that too. So fire seems pretty good for fighting them. Now onto the third note about the Skaven; Clan Fester. It seems Victor only fought Clan Fester and probably knew their plans after the curse and before. If he really wanted to protect the Empire he likely investigated some more into that Clan of Skaven which took his eye. He therefore likely knew of the rise of the Grey Seer and his plans to attack Übersreik. And now I’m going to stop myself right here because it is ridiculous to assume that he wouldn’t need help for all of that. So onto our social outcasts! “YOUR FATE IS MINE, WIZARD. NOT THEIRS.” So now that we know the Skaven exist and they want to attack Übersreik which person would be our first contact? Maybe a suspicious man running a small inn that he had to rebuild after it suspiciously burned down a few years ago? A man that has good combat experience but now keeps to the shadows. Yes you guessed it Lohner. Now Lohner is a suspicious guy and probably deserves an analysis too, but let’s just assume that yes, Victor knew him before the events of Vermintide 1 and that yes he knew that Lohner was exactly the man he was looking for. And why is Lohner the man Saltz was looking for? Because he has a spy network. Though I will admit that I’m unsure when Saltz and Lohner first met, I’m absolutely sure that Lohner was the first to join the party. If this is not true this whole theory pretty much falls apart. So let me prove that Lohner probably knew Saltzpyre was coming to Übersreik and perhaps planned to find him and the others. It all has to do with how we gather our heroes. Seemingly they all just run into each other when the Skaven first attack Übersreik. So why the hell is Lohner out there taking the five of them in, if he didn’t know they were coming? It seems awfully stupid for Lohner, a man with combat experience and a life full of battle stories and meeting Karl Franz, to just stick around outdoor during a Skaven attack. I mean there was a Rat Ogre just ten meters from his inn but he seemingly didn’t care. Now granted Lohner could just be an utter madman, but let’s think about the arrival of our heroes first, we know Bardin traveled alone in his search of Karak Zorn and was likely in Übersreik prior to the invasion, Saltz, Markus, and Sienna all came together so if Lohner cooperated with Saltz this is no coincidence, but what about Kerillian? An elf wandering so far is seldom seen in the Empire, Kruber even tells Saltz as much.

So if you haven’t noticed, I’m taking all of the information from the V1 trailer and this trailer specifically shows Kerillian arriving with Olesya’s wagon. And that’s seems weird, like someone wanted her there and if Olesya brought her there, we can take that as Lohner wanting her there, since Olesya is in league with him, and if Lohner wanted her there and is conspiring with Saltz, then Victor wanted her there. Therefore we can basically proof that Lohner at least knew Kerillian was coming and thinking that Kerillian, an elf that doesn’t like humans, was planned but all the other heroes just kind of stumbled into each other is ridiculous. Further Lohner makes it extra clear that he knew the Skaven were coming, our inn is under the protection of an illusion since the second the attack started. If Saltzpyre and Lohner conspired all of this makes sense, they’re not lucky, they knew about the attack and decided to take action by themselves. The only lucky thing here is probably Bardin meeting them, everything else was planned if Lohner and Victor worked together. Now that we know that Lohner was in fact involved in a plan to protect Übersreik we can get going. “WE’RE A RIGHT SORRY BAND, AIN’T WE?” So we gathered our first outcast: Lohner, and now we can watch all the pieces fall into their place. Let’s start with what Saltz would want for his team, for one they need to have combat experience, need to be alone and not respected or forgotten by their respective peers and easy to keep at his site (well they have to at least like their life that much, that they wouldn’t just wander off or you know just be homeless). Our first man is likely someone who has lost everything he once had, is in Übersreik or at least known there, talented with a sword and has nothing to do: Markus Kruber it is! So let’s be clear here Lohner likely knew a lot of battle torn soldiers from around the Empire so that really isn’t a stretch, he probably had a lot of alcoholics coming to his inn so he could probably pick the best one, but that’s not why Kruber was picked, sure Lohner probably knew him but that doesn’t matter, what matters is that there was no better soldier than Kruber to capture a witch and keep the play going. Think about it, Kruber essentially has to fight with his prejudice against magic and his PTSD. He had just lost his entire company to a necromancer, there was no better soldier to hire for the act of capturing a witch and making no one suspicious. I also want to dwell on the fact that this is brought up multiple times in the first game, Sienna even has the line “Not a Necromancer Markus!” when he shoots her. But Kruber was likely just added to the plan later on, after all Raki burn and we need someone to set them ablaze and that someone is Sienna Fuegonasus. Again Sienna fits our description, she had experience as a Battle Wizard, was kicked out of the college and as always wanted to burn something. And let’s not forget that getting her convicted must’ve been extremely easy for Saltzpyre and Lohner. They likely knew she was in the area, as she was known as a talented Battle Wizard and well a dead son and burned down mill later she was with them. And to be clear Lohner knows how to burn down a building, he did it to his first inn after all. And killing the son of a Burgomeister should not be that difficult for an assassin with a knife. So yeah if you ask me Sienna is not only

innocent, as she always says she is, but has been played by Lohner and Saltzpyre. So now we have the backbone of our little party, a strong magic user, an alcoholic and a Witch Hunter, but we need more to succeed, so on we go looking for people far from home. Bardin was probably the easiest one to find, a dwarf that likes to drink and is searching for Karak Zoom is probably pretty big news in that part of the Empire, Saltzpyre also needs him for his information on Skaven, he even says that openly to Sienna in the first game and after all if you can get someone who has nothing to lose when facing so many Skaven you better invite him to the party. Plus finding him should be easy as he in all probability had already spent a fortune drinking and eating in Übersreik. So now why do we need Kerillian? I mean there are the obvious signs of being a good companion again, she’s essentially homeless, has nothing left to lose, is a good fighter and was in all likelihood big news in the area. After all Kruber even remarks that no one in his village had ever seen an elf before. But all of that does not answer why we need her. The answer is in dreams. V: These dreams. This black future of which you speak. K: Aye, what of it? V: Are they real, or another of your... amusements? K: Would I lie about something like that? V: That is the very question I wish answered. K: I don’t know. Sometimes dreams are dreams. Sometimes they’re not. Why does it matter? V: Because I have seen something all too similar. I was trapped in a battle between two evils, and I... glimpsed something. K: Well, what kind of something? V: That is the question. Is it not? Perhaps it was nothing at all. What if just through sheer luck and yes some things in this theory are based on luck, Saltzpyre saw Kerillian in one of his dreams? He probably didn’t know her or anything but he probably knew she was important and when you here from an elf wandering around near you, you better shoot your shot. Then Olesya’s carriage probably did the rest to convince her, since it is so comfortable. SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? After all maybe our story is just about luck and finding a new family in the bleakest of moments and to that I would say that even if all of what I said is true, the story is still about that. But let’s save all of the meaning for the end, let’s just focus on the factual of our story.

First of all this means Sienna was never meant to be executed for her “crimes”, she was likely the first step in Lohners and Saltz’ conspiracy. They knew they needed someone strong and Sienna is the strongest of the five. It also means that Waylaid was an inside job. There’s no way we can believe Lohner, Saltz and Olesya that it just so happened that right after the others were captured, they could summon a castle out of nowhere, find a better way to travel around the empire and that Saltz didn’t get captured (this should be the legitimate canon since he awaits Kruber, Bardin, Sienna and Kerillian at the Bridge of Shadows in the Prologue to V2). No they wanted it to be this way. The illusion failed for some reason that was never really explained and they also found the four pretty quickly after they were taken. It was probably necessary to bring them to Helmgart. Of course the obvious problem with this is that there was also no way they could know that the four wouldn’t just be killed, but since Victor probably knows a fair bit about Skaven nature it is likely he just gambled a bit and hoped for Rasknitt to keep them as trophies. There are probably way more implications for this theory but I think these are the two biggest. I will again reiterate that if you can’t believe Lohner and Victor were working together this theory pretty much falls apart. All I can do is provide you with why I think they did. The reasons namely being that Saltzpyre knew about the Skaven or the attack on Übersreik (probably both), probably knew that he couldn’t do it alone, Lohner wanting to save his city (for some reason, but I won’t go into that now), that they couldn’t count on anyone and therefore needed a secret plan, that Kerillian arrives with Olesya out of nowhere, the fact that all of our heroes fit an exact description of what Saltzpyre and Lohner would want for their plan and that Victor kind of trusted Lohner, because of his experience and his spy network. Further it explains much of Victor’s behavior, he can’t let go of Sienna or Kerillian because he really needs them for his plan (even if he can melt a Rat Ogre in five seconds). For Sienna it is clear that he needs her for her power and with Kerillian he is unsure but knows that she is important. And here we go with the meaning of things, we’ve been avoiding this for a while now, but this is the end so I will tell you what this means if this is all true: nothing. Yeah none of this matters in the context of our story, I’ll say this over and over again but Vermintide has one big theme: Family. Or whether the need to belong, because sure our heroes are here to slay some Raki and Kazaaki Dum but they’re also here to have something they had taken away from them. Think of all of our characters, Kerillian: alone and needing to belong, Kruber: alone because his best friends have been ripped from him by literally a master of death, Bardin: alone and guilty plus he’s on a search that just distracts him from everything at home, Sienna: alone and searching for a way to get that anger off her chest, Olesya: alone and desperate to return home, even though she knows that this would mean death, Lohner: alone and missing his old life before his strength left him and finally Saltzpyre: alone and desperately needing validation from the Order. It’s a gallery of heartbroken and lonely people who need nothing more than to belong. And it’s actually heartbreaking when you realize that.

And if once again all pieces fall into the right place again, then maybe one day, they admit that they actually like each other and didn’t just do it to save themselves. Therefore it doesn’t matter, if all of it was planned or not. I’m probably wrong about half of this. Happy slaying!

Emhyr var Emreys is a frequent Vermintide lore alchemist on r/Vermintide, writing in-depth anlayses on in-game theorycrafting and character deep dives.

shaydh likes comics and video games. Sometimes she draws comics about videogames. She can be found at https://twitter.com/the_shaydh

Raulski is a freelance artist who likes smacking rats in their free time. You can find their portfolio at https://ameileesullivan.artstation.com.


Aggression capacity is, in short, a concept that describes the circumstances in which you’re forced into a defensive stance. There are many effects this has on gameplay, such as being an obstruction to good pace, so this guide will hopefully shed some light on how best to identify, prevent and combat such situations.

INTRODUCTION The topic in question is pace. There is an oversimplification that pace is equivalent to moving through a map faster. This literally translates to move-speed and efficiency of movement. While this assessment is accurate, it is not the whole truth, nor even slightly close to it; in fact this is more closely associated with speedrunning. Whilst mobility and windows to progress through the level is a contributing factor, it is not the definition, nor the most prominent factor in determining high “pace”. In simple terms, pace is the culmination of every single action you take in the game, and can’t be narrowed down to any single defining category. This makes the topic acutely difficult to pin down and analyse without delving into literally every aspect of gameplay. As such, it will be much easier to paint this picture in broad strokes, and subsequently flesh out the subtle colours that are the framework of playing with high pace. The premise is that pace is a result, not a process, and I’d like to touch on just a couple of applied concepts that have helped me while playing and coaching in Vermintide. The first is what I call aggro capacity (aggro cap).

AGGRESSION CAPACITY You can probably guess what I’m on about from those two words, but I’m going to talk about it anyway. Aggro cap refers to amount of enemies an individual can comfortably engage without sacrificing damage for safety. As mentioned, a person’s aggro cap will vary depending on the individual; things that will contribute to increasing an aggro cap can be affected by loadout, career, player skill and surroundings, among other things. It is vitally important to learn what your aggro cap is in any given scenario, as exceeding that capacity is often fatal.

Pictured above: Exceeded aggro capacity This shows my aggro cap being somewhat stretched. That isn’t to say it will result in a loss, but what it will certainly do is force me to play defensively, which means kiting and expending resources. Kiting is a situation that is always best avoided. Regularly it will push you into fresh areas, drawing yet more enemies to you, and perpetuating the cycle of kite enemies, aggro enemies, which severely limits your damage output. [On the next page] is an example of aggro cap that isn’t being fulfilled, and so my potential damage output isn’t being hampered by forced defensive manoeuvres. What this translates to is pace. The logic is that taking the enemies in small bites allows for a constant flow of damage, rather than the alternative which is literally biting off more than you can chew, forcing your stance from hyper-aggressive to defensive. The other concept which relates directly to aggro capacity is resource management, which I won’t give a big title since it’s so connected.

Pictured above: Unreached aggro cap As mentioned earlier, resource expenditure is something that aggro capacity can sometimes force. This isn’t always a bad thing, as sometimes exceeding aggro capacity can give more efficiency to a bomb, for example. Generally, retaining the items if possible is the best option. However, there are a few more things than items to consider when on the topic of resources. This is a list of what I consider to be a “resource”. 1. Stamina 2. Career abilities 3. Ammunition/heat 4. Items 5. Health Yes, health. This can be a difficult one to accept, especially for people coming from the original Vermintide game, where it’s always vital to avoid damage. Because of temporary health, some careers have the tools necessary to trade health for damage in some circumstances, which can feel unintuitive, but it is undeniably effective. Resources are there to be used. Knowing your aggro cap will help with understanding how liberal you can be with your resources. Everything on the list is a means to output more damage, so the tricky part becomes determining when these things are expendable. Things like stamina, abilities and heat are of course more expendable, and should be used wantonly for maximum damage output at all times. Sequentially, this does two things; increase aggro capacity, and works against exceeding that capacity.

These are just a couple of components that correspond to pace in Vermintide, and something I can, if requested, cover in more detail. For practise purposes, I recommend the modded difficulty Deathwish by Grimalackt. It’s the next logical step after Legend, and encourages perfect mechanical execution, so the focus is shifted to concepts like the ones partially covered in this writeup.

Bioshift is an Englishman who began his Vermintide journey with the first game in late 2016, and quickly set his sights on completing challenge runs, including Onslaught, Deathwish, true solos and speedruns. Bioshift has taken on a couple of responsibilities in the V2 community, such as the DWONS community Discord, and his own Onslaught Series; a platform that has been used with success to introduce players to higher difficulties. More recently, he has begun streaming his team’s gameplay on Twitch, having achieved rank #1 with them on the newly added leaderboards.

Minoukatze is an artist originally from Baltimore, MD. She lives in Bucks County, PA with her brilliant husband, daughter, and four cats.


His heart pounds heavy within his chest, rapid and harsh against his rib cage, like the frantic flutter of a caged birds wings. There is a stoic purpose in his lengthy stride, pacing himself to restrain the desperate ache in his stomach that calls him to sprint from the corridor. He holds himself with strict poise, forever mindful of appearances, even if there is no longer a point in doing so. Back straight, chin raised, arms crossed behind his back. His step falters and his knees nearly buckle as he arrives at his temple provided room, befitting his station. Or his old station. His hold on the doorknob is firmer than it need be, but the moment he steps into the barren little room he wishes he’d held to it tighter. He sways unsteadily, as the door shuts behind him with a soft click he crumples to the floor. His hat falls from his head and rolls away from him, for once he hasn’t the mind nor care to recapture it as it stills against the foot of the bed, as much a lost badge of office as any other item or title he’d possessed. He simply remains there on his hands and knees, staring blankly at the floor as though the stones may offer him some answer. What has he done? What has he done? He’d simply snapped, let his better self slip away, his mask of even grace and composure fractured by anger and disgust often reserved for those below him; Not only with himself but with superiors who’d gladly let their clergymen, the people of the empire, suffer from their ignorance. He’d had one chance, just the one. In his earlier years, he’d gotten lucky in an instance all too similar, with captains and generals who held him in high enough favor to simply bar him from further ascension in rank. But there were none to do so now, he’d outlived many of the men and women who remembered his work fondly, and seen more grow bitter and cold with time. He had one chance, and whether it was his own fury or the order itself, he’d blown it. His face feels hot, good eye all but boiling in its socket as something warm and wet runs down his cheek. He wipes it away with the back of his hand, sitting back on his calves to examine the moisture glinting off the back of his glove. Hot tears roll down his cheek, and then the other, one a steady stream the other a stunted dribble. The discomfort of building pressure behind his false eye finds him removing it, staring down at the little ball of glass that’s forever sat a firm reminder in his skull, another casualty of his service and devotion. “Have I not served faithfully?” He’d asked. “Have I not done my duty?”

“You have.” Bernhardt conceded. “What, then, must I do to have you believe me? I am as devoted as any of you, why would I bring such a lie onto hallowed ground?” “This is not a question of your devotion, but of your sanity!” General Bernhardt had answered, a deep baritone that would always overpower the voice of his peers. “I’ll not have mad man screaming heresy under Sigmar’s banner!” “Mad man?” He repeats to himself in the silence. General Bernhardt Van Hal, the man who’d threatened honestly to burn every man, woman, and child within the empire in Sigmar’s name if he had to, dared to call him mad? How dare he. How dare all of them! How dare they question his devotion and sanity when even they are so far from pure. How dare they strip him if his badge, his life, how dare they call him mad. He spent his life striving to represent the Orders values to the fullest extent, had perfected himself as the hard, dour, humorous fanatic many had come to know him as. And for it all, for the lives saved, and monsters purified, all he’d earned was a betrayal. The fingers of his free hand sweep over the empty patch on his bandolier, over the indentation where that heavy metal symbol had rested against his chest. He’s unsure if having been allowed to keep it would have made anything feel better, but the weight of it over his heart had been a familiar one, something that made him feel like the family he’d found in his faith was better than the one he’d left behind. Perhaps, in his current state, he might’ve simply chucked it across the room. Now all that remains of it is simply a divot in the hardened leather strap, there to mock his loose tongue. His chest heaves, the start of harsh sob that he cannot seem to contain. Try as he might to reign in his sorrow, to regain his composure, an old but distantly familiar sensation is overtaking him at his most vulnerable point. The corner of his mouth twitches, and with a choked gasp, he dissolves completely into tears. It is not the quiet, respectful mourning he’d learned and adopted in his adulthood, but rather the rough and dismal breakdown of a man who has truly lost everything. It calls to mind a similar time many years ago, of bandage, wound tight about the right side of his face, and empty socket left behind where one icy blue-grey eye should’ve sat. Of the anger that swelled at having been dismissed like some petulant child after everything he’d done. After everything he’d lost. Sleep calls him, despite how little he’s done to warrant such exhaustion. He presses his palms against his eyes, drawing deep, shuddering breaths as clings to what little composure he can find. He’s not done yet. He refuses to have all his work disregarded, to be discarded by those who had not faced the horrors of the world beyond the temple for years. If the order won’t support him, fine, but he’s not about to be reduced to a zealous madman. Not while he still has his wits about him, and not while the Skaven still taint the Empire with their filth. He wipes his nose on the back of his hand, steadying his breathing as he removes rings, gloves, coat, bandolier, belt, and

sabatons; abandoning them upon the floor of his temporary quarters. He won’t need them where he’s going, nor are they his to keep, not anymore. he removes and pockets a number of his rings, no longer comfortable with wearing them without his gloves to cushion the bands. He should sleep, accept his body’s call to unconscious while he’s here, but his incoherency may be the only thing that will keep him going at such a time. He fears that, should he rest, he’ll simply awake the next morning to be struck yet again by the realization of just how far he’s fallen. He’s pitied himself enough to last decades, he needn’t do so again when there is more to be done. And while many others amongst the order rest, he leaves the temple with his raiments forsaken and crumpled in that locked room, his trappings upon his shoulders. He was never granted the Orders respect and he does not want its pity, he needn’t rely upon those who’ve done him so great a disservice. As night falls, he manages just barely to catch the blacksmith before he’s closed up, and the bribe of a little extra pay finds the man offering him what he has left. He requests whatever helm he may have on hand, and what the man produces is at best depressing. It fits his head at least. An enclosed cylinder of solid steel, with a faceplate so stiff it barely slides upwards, but it will work. If he is to be the judge, jury, and executioner of the rat-men wherever they may lurk, and he must do so orderless, then so be it. The church funded his ventures to see the rat-men exterminated in the past, so a source of alternative coin is next on his list, and though he’s always found the work done by Bounty hunters less than efficient it’s a tempting line of work when his skill-set is considered. His father is likely rolling in his grave for him having spent his last shilling on such poor craftsmanship after the display he’d made in the Temple, but it’s only the start, something he has to assure himself of over and over again as he makes for Altdorf ’s southern gate. The first steps were always the hardest, especially when they were steps away from the only life he’d ever known. But they were steps toward people who understood, and maybe that was enough. To be understood.

Nevah-nevah is a Vermintide community member who regularly writes fanworks and fanlore.


Based on dialogue in the Empire in Flames mission. A young woman stands accused of a serious crime, and a Witch Hunter arrives to pass judgment.

The knock at the door of Jutta’s hovel jolted her to attention. She’d been dozing, having spent the past two weeks sleeping fitfully upon a woven mat upon the floor. There was but a single candle upon a rickety table, the shack’s only furniture. It had been the best Elias could do. He had but a few silver, and Jutta, now, none at all. Mother wanted naught to do with her, and she’d no coin for the inn (not that she would stay someplace so public), so this dusty place would have to suffice. Elias said that he was going to raise the money to get them to Bogenhafen. He was a journeyman farrier now and was confident that he could find decent work there. Jutta just needed to hide. Just for a few weeks. Just long enough for them to escape. The rap at the door repeated. Jutta shrank into the corner for a moment, clutching her rounded belly, then rose. One could see daylight through the slats of the door. If anyone craved entrance, it would not be a difficult achievement. Resigned, Jutta opened the door a crack to peer at the visitor, hoping that, perhaps, Mother had forgiven her transgression and had come to beckon her home. Instead, she found the creature of her nightmares looming on the other side. The instrument of her demise had arrived, and the Baron had tracked her down at last. She should have known that she could not have hidden for long. Had there been an illustration of the quintessential witch hunter in one of Baron Francke’s storybooks, this gaunt and imposing man would have been the very picture. He was unusually tall to begin with, his watchtower hat only enhancing the effect and casting his grim face in shadow. That face was all edges and hollows, a pair of black eyes pinning her where she stood. This was it. Jutta could all but feel the flames licking her feet. Her doom had come to call. Days of foreboding and fear having dulled her shock, Jutta depressedly opened the door wide and welcomed the man inside. “So here you are, then.” “You are unsurprised,” the hunter replied, his voice stiletto-sharp and almost musical. Jutta shrugged. “I was threatened. I s’pose it was only a matter of time before the Baron followed through. I ‘pologize for the lack of chairs or food. I confess I was not planning on entertaining here.”

“You are in hiding,” the man observed. “That’s wha’ happens when a powerful man would have your life,” Jutta replied. “What was I to do?” “And what would prompt this course of action?” the hunter inquired, his voice steady and maddeningly calm. “Does it matter?” Jutta mumbled. “If I’m only to end upon the pyre, why bother with questions?” “This is an investigation.” The man began to pace, one arm folded behind his back, the top of his hat brushing the cobwebs from the ceiling. “If there is indeed witchcraft at work, I would know the depth of the treachery. I would root out every scrap, to eradicate the treachery in full.” Jutta sighed. “Not much for me to say, and nothin’ that you’ll believe, so you may as well get this over with. I was a housemaid at the big manor, an’ I carried on with the Baron. When his Lady wife found out about the whole mess, and worse, that he’d gotten me with child before her, she would have him get rid of me. Said the baby was a threat to the line. Sir was all done with me then and wanted out of the doghouse, so he says I bewitched him.” Jutta snorted. “T’was him what done the bewitchin’, with his ‘here, girl, try this brandy’ and ‘here, girl, come sit upon my lap’ and ‘here, girl…’” Jutta blinked back furious tears, despair allowing her to meet the hunter’s penetrating stare evenly. “There’s no saying ‘no,’ y’see, not to the Baron, not if you don’ want a clout to the chin and a boot to the streets, though since I’m confessin’, here, I’ll say I woulda done it anyway. He was charmin’ and gave me nice things and I was stupid. An’ I was doubly stupid to refuse to deny the babe was his work. Was hopin’ for a little coin to go on, as me mum and dad cut me off after my belly started showin,’ but didn’t think he’d be so craven as to call the Order on me. So there it is. My grand confession. Surely you’ll be puttin’ the screws to me for more, but you’ll be gettin’ no better than that.” “Hmm…” The hunter tapped his chin. “So you’ve no clue as to the sigil and spell buried outside of this hovel?” Jutta’s face scrunched in confusion. “Wha’? Sir, I ain’ been outside the place but for two weeks. Barely peek out to empty the pot, even.” The hunter produced a handful of dirt-smudged papers and drawings. “So you state that these are not yours?” Jutta shook her head. “Sir, I can’ read! Why would a ladymaid know about letters?” “Jutta, I’ve got- NO!” Elias dropped his sack of supplies upon seeing the hunter. “SHE’S INNOCENT. SHE AIN’ NO WITCH! YOU’LL HA’ TO GO THROUGH ME…” “ELIAS, NO!” Jutta cried.

Unofficial hunters had passed through Ussingen from time to time to dispense the Baron’s justice. They’d never seemed more than puffed-up mountebanks to Jutta. This one, though… Jutta had heard tales of witch hunters who vanquished daemons, slayed necromancers. With his gleaming rapier and unconcerned mien, this man seemed like the real deal. Elias would be dead seven times before he hit the ground. Jutta begged him to stay his hand. The hunter turned smoothly to Elias, unperturbed. “You do realize that threatening a Templar is a capital offense.” Elias blanched but stood his ground, fists clenched to his sides, shoulders squared. “I…I… don’ mean to threaten, but she’s innocent! The Baron’s lyin’ through his teeth! And…and I’ll stand up for Jutta no matter what!” “Elias, no! Sir, he’s just being kind to me. He’s got nothing to do with any of this.” Jutta fell to her knees, hands clasped in supplication. “Please…” “And abetting a witch will strap you next to her on the pyre,” the hunter continued. “You’ve no fear of such a fate?” Elias swallowed heavily. “’Course I do, Sir. But I’d still face it. Sigmar would know me for one o’ his own, even if I do burn.” The hunter regarded Elias for a moment, dark eyebrow quirked. From his leather coat, he removed a sheet of parchment, a quill, and a pot of ink. He took them over to the table, balanced the surface with one hand, and quickly scripted a message with the other. He handed Jutta the note, then stepped back, arms folded behind him. “Girl,” the hunter said. “If you read me this message, I will declare this young man free of all charges, and you both can leave right at this moment.” Jutta stared at the scrawl, trying not to scream in frustration and despair. She turned the paper this way and that, unable to make any sense of it. Even if it weren’t handwriting, Jutta still wouldn’t be able to deliver, and now Elias was condemned as well. She burst into tears, handing it back to the hunter. “I can’t,” she sobbed. “Why would you mock me so, Sir? I can’t read. I’m so sorry, Elias! I’m so sorry…” The hunter stowed the note and writing implements back into his coat and turned to leave. “I will return with my verdict. Do not try to flee, it will be the worse for you both. Good day.”

*** The witch hunter stalked back to the marketplace, furious. Victor Saltzpyre’s time was extremely valuable, and he did not appreciate it having been wasted. He was a man of action, after all, and his particular set of skills was essential to keeping the citizens of the Empire sleeping soundly in their beds, their gormless heads vouchsafed from the creeping influence of Chaos. It was now perfectly obvious that his assignment was based upon lies, precious time which could have been spent routing actual cultists or daemonspawn instead spent harrowing a destitute pregnant waif and her lovestruck suitor. One week transit out of his way to Helmgart, one more to get back on course. It was utterly shameful, and his superior would hear all about this debacle. Victor could have just cut his losses right then and there, but the shoddiness and spite of the whole operation outraged his every sensibility. There would be retribution. Victor would see to it. The Ussingen market bustled with activity. Victor paused a moment for a quick meat pie when he spotted a familiar raggedy shamble of a man. Victor quickly devoured the pie and began to tail the tramp. Victor had first spied the ragged man when he was en route to Jutta Jurgens’ hideaway hovel. Intrigued by the man’s furtive demeanor, Victor had followed him at a distance, surprised to find that they shared the very same destination. Victor had watched as the derelict scrawled something in chalk upon the ramshackle wall, buried a small bag of items next to it, and then scampered away into the alleyway. As soon as the man was out of sight, Victor had inspected the scene. The “sigil” upon the wall was the approximation of what a person who’d never encountered Slaaneshi script would imagine a cultist would draw. Victor had dug up the bag to find a handful of papers, gibberish spells and more pitiful sketches inside. The hunter was clearly meant to find it, the “sigil” bright and garish against the filthy, greying wall. Even had he not seen the tramp planting the evidence, Victor would have seen through the lazy, pathetic farce immediately. It was insulting to a man of his prodigious skill. Beyond that, a Slaan cultist would have exuded an aura of hedonism, tried to seduce him or created an atmosphere of indulgence and debauchery. The dour, stringy-haired creature who had greeted him was none of those; her despondent acceptance of her fate more proof of the wrongs levied against her. He had already been fairly confident of her innocence, but his last test solidified his surety. Victor fingered the note he had hastily written in her shack. Baron Justus Francke is a wet fart. Any literate person, especially a woman who had been harrowed by this person, would have at least cracked a smile. Jutta had only shown chagrin and despair at her inability to read the note and, thus, ensure her beau’s safety. Not that Victor was going to punish the lad for his cheek, anyway. Rather, he’d been quite impressed by Elias’ bravery and zeal. Had Elias not been too old, or so devoted to the girl, Victor would have recommended that the lad look into apprenticing for the Order. However, the situation as it was, the boy was better off looking after his imperiled sweetheart.

Victor followed the derelict as he shambled into an alleyway, and when the man paused to piss upon one of the stone walls Victor took his chance to strike. His dagger at the tramp’s throat, Victor hissed in his ear. “We have much to discuss. Tidy yourself and come with me.” *** A butler ushered Victor into the Francke family manor, their footsteps echoing in the vaulted marble and gold atrium. Baroness Francke regarded the pair imperiously from the top of lushly carpeted staircase, bejeweled hand resting upon the small swell of a velvet-clad belly, a satisfied smile curving her thin lips. Baron Justus Francke emerged from one of the chambers to welcome Victor. The Baron led Victor into his lavish parlor, an elderly maid pouring a fine brandy into two glasses. “I believe my investigation is at an end,” Victor stated, taking a seat upon a poufy brocade-covered settee. “You work quickly!” The Baron exclaimed. “You had been well-recommended, but I had no idea! I take it you have gathered ample evidence for a conviction?” Baron Francke took a deep draught of his brandy while Victor left his own untouched. Victor regarded the man, handsome and charming, with a trim chestnut beard and merry green eyes. It was not difficult to see why an impressionable maid would yield so easily to such a personage. Baron Francke exuded the easy confidence of a man unused to adversity or refusal. “Oh yes,” Victor replied, unable to keep a wicked smile from curving his lips. “More than enough.” “Grim and sad business, this.” Francke leaned back in his chair, glass in hand. “I suppose that the most desperate and craven would resort to such despicable tactics.” “Indeed,” Victor replied. “And I think that you will agree that drastic action is essential.” “Most definitely.” Francke took another sip. “So, when will the proceedings occur? My beloved wife wishes to see justice exacted.” “That depends on you,” Victor replied. “You see, there is a choice to be made.” “A choice?”

“A choice.” Victor drew the signed confession from his coat and smoothly slid it across the table. “Here. Signed evidence of collusion to frame an innocent girl for witchcraft. Signed and sealed before a licensed scribe in treble, one copy sent by messenger pigeon, one by mail coach, and this one upon my own person. The pigeon is probably halfway to Altdorf by now. Your man Finzel was very forthcoming when I questioned him. A simple X next to his name would have been sufficient, but fortunately he had the wherewithal to write his name.” The color drained from Francke’s face. He tossed back the rest of the brandy and slammed the tumbler down upon the table so hard that both cracked. “What the hell are you going on about?” Francke hissed. “You know very well,” Victor returned, rising from his seat to tower over the Baron. “The Order of the Silver Hammer is no one’s wet work service, and we will not be used as such. Your wretched scheme was so shoddily constructed that it collapsed upon first glance. How dare you? And for a matter so seamy and petty? It is disgraceful beyond words!” “This can be remedied.” Francke’s jaw clenched, his hands clamped upon his silken knees. “These issues can always be remedied. I am a very wealthy man, Saltzpyre, and the girl…she is of no importance. How much would it take to…” “To save your life?” Victor interrupted with a nasty grin. “I assume that is what you were to say, as bribing an Empire official is an arrestable offence. Yes, there we may make a deal. I am not incapable of mercy, Baron Francke, and the Church of Sigmar may yet benefit from your transgression…” Victor wrote a figure upon the back of the confession. Francke blanched anew. “You cannot be serious.” The Baron whimpered. “Why that is…” “Exactly half of your fortune.” Victor glared at the cowering man. “In case you have not yet noticed, I am very good at my job. Half of your fortune, or you take the girl’s place upon the pyre. The crowd likes a spectacle, no matter who is on the block. You are to be a father soon enough, are you not? How would your wife, your… official…child, fare without your influence? Personally, I believe they’d be just fine, but…” Francke clutched his head in his hands, rocking against the chair. “Fine. Fine, let us get this over with.” ***

“There. I believe that should be sufficient compensation.” Victor Saltzpyre dropped the heavy sack of coin into the girl’s trembling hand. She and Elias stared at it, incredulous, peering inside after a moment. Jutta nearly dropped the bag upon the discovery of gold coin within. She goggled at him, her mouth dropping open. “Sir, are you sure?” “You should probably keep it hidden,” Victor advised. “And use it to depart this place as soon as possible. I have the feeling that a creature as spiteful as the Baron will not take this blow gracefully.” Jutta nodded vigorously, stowing the sack in her cloak. “Me’n Elias were to set off for Bogenhafen on the morning carriage…” “No.” Victor replied flatly. “Spend the extra coin and take your firebrand swain on the evening mail coach tonight. The road to Osburg is well-patrolled, and you should be fine. I, myself, am away to Helmgart for actual business, and, thus, cannot assure your safety once I depart.” “Right.” Jutta nodded again. “Right. Sir…” The young woman swallowed heavily. “How can I possibly thank you?” “Live righteously.” Victor called to the pair, turning on his heel, pack upon his back, making for the gate. “Sigmar’s blessings upon you.”

ianchonqn is a student at ESBA, Superior School of Fine Arts in Neuquen Capital; most of the things they upload are works made as a hobby.

ONE DAY MysteriousSalp

A rain fell upon the earth, upon a place that he thought should forever be known as the Plain of Swords. Had a poetical ring to it, didn’t it? It was fitting. Swords of every make and type that had ever been made were stuck in the ground. Imperial, Kislevite, all makes of Elven, hell even a Dwarf sword, and Taal knew how rare those were to see. Then there were the horrible ones; the ones of Nurgle knights that had once dripped puss, or the jagged crude blades of Beastman, more just sharp chunks of metal than real weapons. Some had eyes, or tentacles, or mouths. But all of them were still now. Their foul magic, like their foul former owners, dead. Kruber lifted his head to the rain, feeling the cool drops. In days prior, it had rained, but the drops had been blood or pus or some other foulness he dared not name. Hell, one day it had just been eyeballs. Who would even believe that, years from now? When the kids not even born yet were his age, they’d consider all this just stories, exaggerated by the old-timers. But that for another day, eh? Today, it was sweet, blessed water that fell, free from taint or impurity. And he was damn happy for it. If only the cleansing rain could wash away the stench of the dead. Slowly, he rose, leaning heavily on his sword. It was hard to find a spot to step between the bodies - men, Dwarves, Elves, Greenskins, mutants, Beastmen, Norscans, Skaven. In the mud they all mixed, and it sickened him to see great heroes laying among the monsters. The only ones missing were the Daemons. Their bodies had simply faded as they died, as if the world would not abide their presence. He couldn’t say he minded that. The scale of the destruction was beyond his ability to take in, and he tried not to focus on that. There were living folks standing about, some driving their swords into those Chaos horrors who still dared to twitch. But none of the folks near him he recognized. He’d even be glad to see Oleysa at this point. She had to be dead, after how they’d lost the Keep, but . . . had to keep up hopes. If someone could have survived that, it was that old Grey Wizard. His whole body ached, and his blood dripped to mingle with the puddles on the earth. So much had been spilled that the earth had absorbed all it could, and now it just sat. With all the corrupted stuff, not even the crows were circling. There was no one but the survivors.

But where were the others? They’d started the fight together, under Prince what’s-his-name, from the Borderlands, who’d barely made it this far with the Skaven nipping his heels. Then that one Empire Captain had joined them with a few lads he’d gathered . . . Stopping, he surveyed the field again. It was a nice flat place. Perfect ground for a big battle. He should see more survivors, right? Shouldn’t he see his friends? That compulsion forced him to press on, despite his exhaustion. Despite the aches and pains and wounds. He’d live. But he had to know that they had. Please, just someone . . . He didn’t want to be alone again. It was another half hour before he saw a familiar figure. Kerillian was sitting, knees drawn up, staring out into space. Her cloak had torn, showing how slight her figure really was, even with all that strange bark-armor she wore. “Kruber,” she said, as he approached. She wasn’t even facing his way. She sounded as tired as he felt, but there was a note of emotion in it. “Are you okay, Elf?” he asked, gruffly. She took a long while before answering. “Aye,” she finally said. “I have no wound that won’t heal.” She finally turned to look at him. “I just lament for the dead.” Kruber nodded. It was rare for her to show much caring for the dead, but after all this - no one could be unmoved. Or at least, anyone would know the gravity of it. He was so numb it was hard to be proper-sad. He just knew he should be. “Do you have any water?” Kerillian asked him, suddenly. Kruber fumbled for his belt. He did have a waterskin, and offered it to her.

He had seen her eat and drink before, but she’d always done an absurdly good job of doing it without showing her face; some kinda crazy Elf thing, as far as he knew. But to his surprise, she removed her veil completely, letting it dangle, and took a long drink from the waterskin. Her dark eyes closed a minute, and when they opened again she glanced at him. “You’re looking at me like you did that first night in Ubersreik,” she said, a tiny hint of amusement in her voice. “To be honest,” he said carefully, “I always kinda thought you were a bit . . . odd under there. I mean, nothing wrong with it, but you were always so careful to keep your face hidden . . .” She glanced around the field slowly. “There is no more reason, Kruber,” she said, a little sadly. Then she turned back to him, a smile tugging at her lip, just the slightest hint of amusement. “And what do you mean ‘odd’?” “Well, I thought maybe like . . . a Tilean Grin, you know what I mean?” He mimed a knife across his face. “Or . . . something more cursed-like.” She laughed, not one of her rare and terrifying laughs she sometimes let slip in battle. This was musical, with real levity. “I was cursed, Kruber, but it didn’t make my face look any stranger than yours.” She offered the water back to him, and he took it. “I didn’t mean no offense,” he began. “None was taken. But I know the rumors. You mayfl- humans have a lot of strange notions about my kind. I recall hearing one particularly odd one that had something to do with us being like chickens?” She shook her head. A silence fell between them. “I’m going to look for the others,” Kruber said. “Will you come?” She shook her head. “I’ll wait here, Kruber. I . . . I need more time. For all this death, the pain and damage to the Weave is greater still.” There was a glittering in her eyes, and he understood. What would Taal make of it all? The wild places that were his sacred places were defiled, destroyed, and he didn’t know if they’d ever truly return. “I’ll come back when I find them,” he promised her.

“I will be here, Kruber.” *** “Oi! Azumgi!” The cry caught Kruber’s attention, and he looked around for a few long moments before finally seeing Bardin. The Dwarf was waving now, and Kruber didn’t want to admit that he just hadn’t been able to pick out the stumpy Dwarf from the piles of corpses. “I’m not that short, am I?” Bardin asked him testily, apparently knowing the issue. “Nah, nah, nothing like that,” Kruber lied. “Just got dust in my eye. But by Taal, I’m glad to see you.” Going up to the Dwarf, he clapped him on the shoulder, genuinely relieved to see him. “Have you seen any of the others?” Bardin asked him, as if reading his mind. “Zharrin is just on the other side of that pile of Raki. I told her that they’re too bony to make a good seat, but she’s tired enough to not even care!” “She’s not hurt, is she?” Kruber asked. “No, no, not anything more than some scratches and a broken bone or two. She’ll be fine!” Bardin took off his helmet, showing a long gash across his brow that was, thankfully, not deep. “But you didn’t answer my question, Kruber! Have you seen anyone else?” “Kerillian’s back over that way,” Kruber said. “She’s okay, just seems like she’s having a post-battle let-down, ya know?” The Dwarf nodded knowingly, and Kruber thought he saw relief in his eyes. “Makes sense, aye. She’s too slippery to be killed even in a tumult like this one. And it was a decent one, mind you! Not quite as big as some of the ones Cousin Okri’s been in, but-” “What about Saltzpyre?” Kruber asked, his voice seriously. Bardin’s voice grew more serious. “I haven’t seen him. But if someone has, I would bet they’d be over by those tents. That one lordling from the South and that Captain of yours have set up a camp. Some kind of big news came in from up North, no idea what, but they seem as stirred up as a Troll smelling dinner!”

Kruber looked in the direction he pointed, and could just make out the tops of tents now. “All right, thanks Bardin. Think you could stay with Sienna? I’ll go . . . see what the big deal is, and see if I can find Victor.” Bardin nodded, and smiled, but it seemed forced. “I’ll keep her spirits up with a good rousing song! Though.” He frowned. “Honestly, I can’t think of one worthy of this. Even Okri . . . honestly, even he’d admit this was a big victory, Kruber.” It seemed a very personal admission, and Kruber nodded, as if he could understand the Dwarf ’s odd obsession with his cousin. Bardin was looking down. “Maybe I’ll have to write a new one about this! The day the Ubersreik Five and some Lordlings saved your Empire!” He laughed, and looked up, but there was a glisten in his eyes. His voice was different, and Kruber was stunned to hear a note of pleading in the Dwarf ’s voice. “Find out . . . find out about the karaks, if you can, Azumgi. I’ve heard some . . . some bad rumors. Someone even said that the High King was slain, and that Ungrim Ironfist is the last!” He looked away. “Obviously it’s a bunch of umgak, but do find out for me, will you?” Kruber felt his heart drop. Just the way Bardin said it made him feel uncomfortably confident that these were no mere rumors. “Of course I’ll find out,” he assured the Dwarf, and continued on. *** “Kruber is heading towards the camp,” Bardin told her. “He says that he spoke to Kerillian, that she’s okay.” “But still no sign of Victor,” Sienna said, her voice quiet. “No,” Bardin admitted. “But if there’s one human canny enough to survive all this, it’s him. Never met an umgi as quick as him. Even with one eye he’s a better shot than one of Bugman’s rangers!” Sienna didn’t respond to him. Her gauntlet lay on her knee, and she was looking at her hand. The skin was red, raw, and painful. Like she had stood under the sun of Araby for too long. Rubbing a finger and thumb together, ignoring the pain, she made a spark. But that was all; a spark.

Standing, she looked to Bardin and forced a smile. “You’re right, you know. The Skaven really aren’t good even for sitting on!” She started to walk the way Kruber had come from. Her bones ached - everything hurt, especially her broken arm, but a strip of cloth held it close to her side, mercifully keeping it from bouncing with each step. “Where are you going?” Bardin called after her, almost irritated. “We’re going to wait here for news from Kruber!” “You wait, Master Dwarf,” she called back, not looking. “I would like to talk to Kerillian. Don’t worry - if this mess didn’t kill me, a little walk won’t, either!” Bardin harumphed so loudly she could hear it from fifty paces. “It’ll give you time to work on your new song!” she called out. The only response from the dwarf was even louder grumbling. *** Kruber found that this part of the field was much less packed with the dead. Made sense to set up camp away from the killing, no one would want to be near this place when it started to stink. Still, he ached and wished he could at least find a horse. Riding itself would be no fun in this state, but it beat walking any day. He was halfway to the tent city when a terribly loud sound made him duck automatically. A roar! It came from above, and he felt for his handgun, before remembering that he’d long since run out of shot and powder. He could only watch as a great beast rose above the tent city. It flapped enormous wings, so deeply purple that they appeared black. A dragon! Kruber had seen depictions, skulls, skins. He’d never seen one in person, and he’d never seen one quite like that. His knees felt weak, and for a moment he felt certain that it was some beast of Chaos, come to finish what the Pactsworn had failed to do.

But no; there were people in the camp, and they seemed to be waving, not bearing arms or running. And the beast itself seemed uncaring of those on the ground. There even seemed to be a person riding it, but he could only make out the barest hints of the figure. The great beast swept by overhead, and he cringed, mad at himself - but what man could have a dragon fly over his head and not flinch? After it was gone, he felt the ache in his feet noticeably less keenly, and hurried on. By the time he reached the camp, the skies seemed to be darkening. Blimey, had he been walking that long? Or had it just been that late as it was? Going into the camp, he saw injured men hobbling, and officers shouting orders. They had a severe lack of underlings to command, and more than a few tried talking to him as if he was no one but a peon. “That’s Sir Kruber,” he retorted to one upstart Sergeant. He didn’t normally like the idea of lording a title over someone below him, but he wasn’t about to go fetch a pail of water for the man, either! “So sorry, my Lord,” the man said, bowing and starting to hurry away. “Wait, maybe you can help me.” The Sergeant hid a look of anger and contempt well, but Kruber could still see it. Some knight wanting to get him to do something stupid . . . he remembered being in that position well. “Nothing big. Just, have you seen a Witch Hunter named Saltzpyre around? Tall man, one eye?” The Sergeant blinked. “I have not noticed any such man, my Lord. But if you head to the Prince-General’s tent, you may be able to find out more.” Kruber gave the man his thanks and headed towards the tent. The place was swarming with overly-important nobles, all of whom were far more stationed than even Sir Kruber. He simply gazed at them all, running like ants, trying to catch word of things. “. . . von Drak did not say how the grain stores were at Averheim . . .” “. . . Greenskins seem to be withdrawing, though we don’t . . .”

“. . . -kith or something. I’m no good at remembering these Elf names . . .” Kruber looked around, but locked eyes suddenly with a man. He was pale, his head wrapped in bandages, and sitting before a table. “You,” he said, imperiously. Much of the talking fell quiet. “Are you Sir Markus Kruber?” Kruber swallowed. “Aye, sir. That’s me.” “Come closer, lad.” The man was younger than him, but Kruber realized that he was none other than the Border Prince who had come from up South - the bulk of the men here, and the ones laying in the field dead were his. Kruber stepped up. “I have heard that you saved the right flank,” the Lord-Prince said. Kruber noted the number of bandages over his body, and wondered if the man was going to ever walk again. Or even make it to next week. “I did what I could,” Kruber admitted. “Some lads got a bit scared when they saw the Stormvermin coming at us, but I told them - ‘these vermin are more scared of us than a mouse of a cat’. And after I hacked a few of their heads off, the lads saw it was true, and followed me.” “You charged the Skaven line, alone?” “Well . . . Some of my friends had my back, but-” “Remarkable,” the Lord-Prince said. He shook his head. “We owe everything to your valour, Sir.” He coughed, and a physician leaned in, talking into his one uncovered ear. The man smiled wryly at Kruber. “Evidently I should rest and not talk much. But, Sir Kruber, ask me a boon, and if it is in my power to grant it, I shall.” Kruber was a bit stunned. “Honestly, sir, all I want right now is to find Victor Saltzpyre. He’s a Witch Hunter-” “Oh,” the man said immediately. “Yes, I know the man. He is . . . out behind the tent. He retired after hearing the news from Von Draken.”

Someone else pointed the way. “Thank you, sir.” Kruber ducked past, not catching the Lord-Prince’s last words. Going through a flap back outside, he came to an area that was surprisingly empty. Tents crowded in a circle, creating a sort of courtyard, and kneeling, alone, in the middle of the area, was Victor Saltzpyre. His head was raised, and from here Kruber could see the blood running down his forehead. There was a solemnity to the man that he had never seen before. Something about his presence felt off in a way that Kruber couldn’t place, and he approached slowly. “Sir?” he asked softly. Saltzpyre was staring up into the sky with his good eye, and did not look away. “Yes, Kruber?” he answered, his voice soft. “Are you . . . okay, sir?” Saltzpyre finally turned towards him. Tears came from his good eye, and Kruber could see that the cut on his head was fresh; what was more, it was not an injury. It was a crudely-cut mark, one that Kruber could only assume was self-inflicted. A twin-tailed comet. “He walked the world, Kruber,” Saltzpyre said, his voice soft. Almost vulnerable. “Who, sir?” Saltzpyre smiled. “Sigmar. He . . . he took an avatar and saved the Empire. Our Emperor, Karl Franz, was blessed as no man has ever been before.” The back of Kruber’s neck tingled. “Then . . . We won? It’s over? Are you serious?” Saltzpyre nodded. “Yes,” he said, in a throaty whisper. “The leader of the Chaos forces was slain, by Sigmar at Middenheim. The . . . the Empire stands. Our faith held, Kruber, and He delivered us.” He looked back towards the heavens. “Pray with me, Kruber.” It wasn’t a command, for once, but a request.

Kruber looked at the sky, wondering if any of this was even true. But right now, he was willing to believe. **** “I wondered when I’d see you, wizard.” Sienna groaned as she sat down on a dead horse. It was, notably, more comfortable than a pile of dead Skaven. “One of your prophetic dreams?” Sienna asked, almost amused. The Elf shook her head. “I simply felt the changes in the world, and I knew you would come to ask me why.” Kerillian’s tone irked Sienna. “So you know everything about it, do you?” The Elf chuckled. “Not at all, but who else is around to commiserate with?” Sienna had to agree. There weren’t many others around who might know anything about what had happened to the world, and even fewer that Sienna would want to be open with. “I can’t feel Aqshy’s wind anymore,” she admitted. “Or . . . I do, but I’ve never, in my whole life, known it to be so weak.” The Elf gave her a glance that seemed sad. “The Weave has withered, but it will regrow. So, too, might the winds of magic. Though . . . if we’re fortunate, they will never again rise to these levels.” She sighed. “We are in uncharted waters, wizard. My dreams . . . they never showed me this.” Sienna pursed her lips. “So it’s over.” “Aye. This time. Perhaps for the last time. There is a cycle to all things, but . . . perhaps this time the cycle has been broken. I cannot say for sure.” Sienna was looking at her hand again. “And will you be returning home, then?” “I don’t think the home I left still stands.” There was a quiet, and Sienna found herself struggling even to make a spark. “Maybe you have a home already. You know . . . here. I guess it’s not really a home, what with the Red Moon Inn being ash, and . . . well, the Keep also being ash, but . . . you know, with friends.” Sienna smiled. “A strange lot, we are. But there’s a bond between us all. Kruber and Bardin, Saltzpyre and myself. Maybe even you and Kruber?” She smirked, slyly.

“Ach, no,” Kerillian said, with exaggerated disgust. “He’s a dirty mayfly! He may be efficient, but me and him?” “I’ve seen you looking at his moustache!” “He has lice in it, for Lileath’s sake!” “Oh, that’s not true and you know it.” Sienna laughed. But Kerillian wasn’t laughing. She was looking up at the sky. “You’ll all be gone in an eyeblink to me. I don’t like it, Sienna, but it’s true. Even Bardin. I’ll have to watch all of you grow old and die, and I’ve never . . . I don’t know if I can do that.” Sienna reached out her still-gloved hand and touched Kerillian’s shoulder. “Then you should make the best of it while you can.” As a silence fell between them, the first of the stars started to appear in the sky. Smoke drifted up, but could not blot them out entirely, and Sienna realized that, going forward, nothing would be simple for any of them. Until now, they’d all had enemies to fight, always a new battle to face. Maybe they had nothing in common beyond that, and they’d all go their own ways. She couldn’t say. As she still tried to make a flame, she realized that maybe Aqshy wasn’t just abandoning her or the world, maybe it was just she was getting old. Part of a new world, she mused. At least it might be interesting.

So the world didn’t end. In case you were wondering, yes, that was supposed to be Elspeth von Draken, one of my favorite really obscure lore characters who really didn’t get enough attention. Why did she bring the news? I dunno, her ways are mysterious. I hope I gave Sienna fans enough with her. I figured it’d be easy just to have the characters be all out-ofcharacter happy and partying, but it might be interesting to go into their thoughts a little more, and the fallout

of the End Times not ending stupidly. For the record, in my mind, Mannbaby didn’t backstab Balthasar because a Halfling peddler sold him a toupe on the street, and it made him feel better about himself. Still a better story than the official version, BUT I DIGRESS. Didn’t intend for this all to be so long! Hope we all get our happy endings in Vermintide.


Everyone experiences their own skill ceiling in their development at some point, and changing your thought process lessens the pain of breaking through gameplay barriers.

INTRODUCTION With the institution of Winds of Magic, Patch 2.0, and Cataclysm, I felt it was a good time to write this post, and the topics contained therein are things I, personally, have struggled with and are things I have become painfully aware of. With the changes in this patch, they do, in some way, cause you relearn what you may have known and make you check yourself as you adapt. In order to adapt however, and get over the hurdle, there is, in some way, a need to change your mindset in order to keep yourself from either burning out, getting fed up, or remaining stagnant. This post is not a guide in mechanical exercises to break these ceilings, but more a reminder to bear in mind that mental shifts are also half the battle. Practice makes perfect, but is not the whole piece of the puzzle. WHAT’S A SKILL CEILING? A skill ceiling is a very individualized concept that boils down to a number of factors, both mechanically and mental. One person may struggle with horde control, another may struggle with ranged, and yet another may struggle with both. You will know you have hit your own personal current skill cap when it feels, after weeks or maybe even months of development, you feel you just are unable to develop further and feel stuck. This can lead to both good and bad things; the former being a possibly increased drive to succeed, and the latter being an uptick in salt and frustration levels (and maybe even leaving the game entirely). It’s important to note that while all skill ceilings are personal, they are also not permanent. While there will always be some skill ceiling you will butt up against, it is raising your own personal skill ceiling that leads to further in-game development. So what needs to shift, mentally, to develop? GOAL SETTING NEEDS TO BE REALISTIC TO YOUR CURRENT SKILL LEVEL: It’s important to goal set for yourself during the development process as it allows you to become motivated and actively seek change. There are two types of goals to bear in mind:

• Short-term goals: Or that one specific thing you want to focus, whether that’s “I want to take less hits during hordes,” or “I would like to be able to handle X amounts of elites when it all hits the fan,” this is one of the easiest ways to feel satisfied and notice self-improvement. Short-term goals are normally followed in a series; i.e., you finish one short-term goal and move onto the next. These, as a cumulative whole, lead to: • Long-term goals: Or that one thing you have in the back of your mind you fantasize about. It could be completing a true solo, it could be smashing leaderboards, could be becoming a Cata pub god. These are much harder to reach and take some time, and while good to have, can suffer from the inherent problem below. Make sure you set realistic goals. I personally, have the nasty of habit of holding myself to indubitably high standards, to the point where I’ll beat myself up about them for not reaching them (see “Placing Blame”, below). So therefore, it’s always important to look at what you’ve achieved and what’s next, versus comparing yourself to what you want to be (hard to do, I know). Only you can develop at your own rate, and forcing the issue can be detrimental to progress and mental outlook. While having some date set in stone is always beneficial, it is not worth beating yourself up should it not be met. It will happen, given time. PLACING BLAME SHOULD LEAD TO SELF-REFLECTION: In my experience, I know I have hit a skill ceiling when I start placing blame and frustration on things. This can manifest in two ways: • Placing blame in yourself: You are your own worst enemy. “Why can’t I do this?” “Why isn’t this faster?” “God, I suck at this!” will be pretty common mantras. These are the days where you want to throw the game out the window and hate yourself. • Placing blame in others: Everyone is your enemy. The pub who didn’t ult correctly? Their fault. That person who accidentally drank their heal pot instead of giving it you? Their fault. That wipe? Everyone’s fault but your own. This is a dangerous place to be and will make you hate everyone in the game when things go south. This isn’t to say that placing blame isn’t an inherently bad thing, but it needs to be looked at in a way to bring constructive growth vs destructive salt, and is important to gain perspective. Ergo, if there is a wipe in Cata, how did it happen? Did you get poked through a horde? Did your teammate die and you compromised your position to res him and it went south? Failure in a run is normally a series of events going wrong and how it is reacted to (both team and self), vs one small thing. It is important to take these events in retrospect and glean what you can from them so you can make better decisions in your gameplay in the future.

SUPPORT SYSTEMS MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER: This sounds somewhat silly as Vermintide is, of course, simply a game, but when pushing boundaries, it can become somewhat consuming and sometimes somewhat lonely. Vermintide’s cornerstone is the people you meet along the way, and the people who enjoy playing with you and/or interacting with you. I’ve found Vermintide support systems are most productive with an inherent mix of people (with there, of course, being crossover): • The cheering section: Those friends who are always super upbeat, enjoy seeing you achieve goals, and are happy when you’re happy. These people keep you motivated with their chipper attitude and inherent joy. • Those that make you check yourself before you wreck yourself: Or, those friends who know when you’re frustrated and listen to you vent while reminding you to stay realistic. They remind you what you’ve achieved, and maybe what you’ve set for yourself may need to be scaled back a touch so you don’t lose your mind. • Those that make you wreck yourself: Or, those friends who know you can do A and want to see you reach goal B. These are the people that point out that you should be focusing X activity when you’re really focusing Y, and sometimes smack you and go, “Well, do the thing, already!” In addition, developing with friends is even better than developing by yourself. TAKING BREAKS IS HEALTHY AND YOU SHOULD TAKE HOWEVER LONG YOU NEED: Sometimes, just sometimes, you just can’t go on. You boot up the game and just cannot play Vermintide for whatever reason. This means that it’s time for a break, recharge your batteries, and come back later. For me, this can be anywhere from 24-48 hours. For others, it could be weeks or months. However long it takes, I’ve found starting fresh from a clear head may even make me play better than inherently forcing the issue.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, MAKE SURE YOU’RE STILL HAVING FUN: It’s sometimes easy, too easy, in fact, to get wrapped up in attaining the next level that you forget why you started this all in the first place. While it’s satisfying to go at breakneck speed 99% of the time, take some time to slow down, do something casually, and check-in with yourself. If you’re no longer having fun, something has gone terribly wrong, and you’ll need to find ways to make that fun again. Development stalls when you’re no longer invested.

EXAN is a graphic designer and Vermintide fanwriter who moderates r/Vermintide and the Squirrel Squad discord. She enjoys ruminating on self-development and goal-setting in game.