Shelves: fantasy , gotrek-and-felix , roleplay , games-workshop This is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of short stories featuring everyones favourite Trollslayer and his long suffering Rememberer. As with many short stories this is a bit of a mixed bag some are very good and some are only so-so but the book works as a collection. Where the collection struggles a little is that Gotrek and Felix are peripheral characters in many of the stories. Whilst there are some welcome cameos from many characters from other stories it doesnt always work.
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Amidst all of the fire, flame and fury it is a time, too, of mighty heroes, of bold deeds and great courage. At the heart of the Old World sprawls the Empire, the largest and most powerful of the human realms. Known for its engineers, sorcerers, traders and soldiers, it is a land of great mountains, mighty rivers, dark forests and vast cities. And from his throne in Altdorf reigns the Emperor Karl Franz, sacred descendant of the founder of these lands, Sigmar, and wielder of his magical warhammer.
But these are far from civilised times. Across the length and breadth of the Old World, from the knightly palaces of Bretonnia to ice-bound Kislev in the far north, come rumblings of war.
In the towering Worlds Edge Mountains, the orc tribes are gathering for another assault. Bandits and renegades harry the wild southern lands of the Border Princes. There are rumours of rat-things, the skaven, emerging from the sewers and swamps across the land. And from the northern wildernesses there is the ever-present threat of Chaos, of daemons and beastmen corrupted by the foul powers of the Dark Gods. As the time of battle draws ever nearer, the Empire needs heroes like never before.
Felix Jaeger had to agree. They had smelled it before they topped the last rise in the road — a heady reek of rotting garbage, raw sewage, burnt meat and stale beer. Now that they were walking through its weathered wooden gates, Felix thought the sight of the place as offensive to the eye as the odour had been to the nose.
Deadgate squatted at the end of a narrow valley in the shadow of the ruined dwarf hold, Karak Azgal, which loomed on a rocky eminence above it. This was near enough the truth, to hear Gotrek speak of it.
When the dwarf lords who ruled Karak Azgal had stopped trying to win the hold back from the orcs and goblins and other monsters that had taken up residence in its depths, they had instead thrown it open to adventurers, letting them delve into it in search of its fabled treasures — for a fee, of course. Word spread of this great opportunity and, despite the fact that Karak Azgal lay far from civilized lands, deep in the remote southern tail of the Worlds Edge Mountains, the valley was soon crawling with fortune hunters, all hoping to come away with dwarf gold, ancient weapons of great power, and gems the size of apples.
To service these newcomers, a human settlement had grown up outside the hold. At first it was just a trading post, selling food and supplies for those going underground, but places to spend what loot the adventurers brought back to the surface quickly sprang into being — taverns, fighting pits, gaming parlours, brothels, mortuaries — until it became Deadgate, not so much a town as a clapboard abattoir, designed to flense gold from pockets before their owners made it out of the valley.
Below the signs, barkers in flashy clothes sang out those same bills of fare to the hard-faced men who wandered the streets, trying to entice them within, while in the street, costermongers, charm sellers and professional criers were all making their pitches at the top of their voices.
Take one into the deeps and it will lead you to treasure! One fresh for two pfennigs! Ten rotten for one! Apply at the hold to join his throng.
One gold coin per day of fighting, and free access to the deeps for a month. Make your fortune and save the hold! This way. Why not wet those dry throats with a few mugs of real dwarf ale? Or if your navel is touching your spine, we can fill you up. Six kegs, brought up through the pass just this morning. Felix followed him into the smoky interior, looking around warily.
It was decorated in a shoddy attempt at Bretonnian courtly style, with arched doors and heraldic tapestries and high-backed chairs — but the patrons did not look like they would be at home reciting chivalric poetry at the High Castle of Couronne. A harder, more scarred collection of sell swords and fortune hunters Felix had never seen. Nor did the thick-necked bruisers who manned the bar look like they had been hired for their knowledge of viticulture.
A dwarf jeweller there, Harn Taphammer, had told them of it as he was appraising the few gems they had salvaged from the shipwreck. He said a human adventurer had come to him to have a ruby the size of a knuckle bone set into a medallion. The man had no left arm and no ears, and walked with a limp — all wounds, he said, from the guardian of the treasure trove from which he stole the ruby, the White Widow, an albino cave spider the size of a hay wagon that made its nest in the deepest reaches of Karak Azgal.
Naturally, Gotrek had set off for the Worlds Edge Mountains the next day. Naturally, Felix had gone with him. The barman set two froth-capped mugs down in front of them. His single eye glittered sceptically as he lifted the mug to his nose. He inhaled, then grunted, noncommittal, and stuck his flame-red moustache in the foam and drank. It was cool and clean and crisp, with a taste that brought to mind wheat fields and mild autumn days, and it went down his throat like golden light.
It was quite possibly the best beer he had ever drunk. Felix turned. A wiry man with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail stood beside him, waving to the barman. He had a nose like an axe blade and an engaging smile, and was dressed in stained, sturdy travelling clothes. The Grail was proving a place of wonders. Many men knew what a Slayer was, but few knew the position of rememberer. Felix was more used to explaining what he did than acknowledging it.
Would you care to join us? At the table the man indicated sat a Slayer, staring into the fire, his three orange crests bright red in the light of the flames. Felix knew from experience that Slayers did not always relish the company of others of their kind. They were generally solitary types, brooding on their pasts and singularly focussed on making their futures as short as possible. Felix, on the other hand, had never met another rememberer before, and the prospect of talking to someone who understood what his life entailed was too tempting to pass up.
He was old enough that grey roots were showing at the base of his three red-dyed crests and braided beard, and his oft-scarred, heavily-muscled arms were so covered with fading tattoos that they were nearly solid blue from thick wrists to broad, bulging shoulders. Compared to Gotrek, however, he was practically puny.
Gotrek was the biggest dwarf Felix had ever met. The eye that remained was as sharp as an ice-pick, and as bright as the gleaming blade of his ancient rune axe. Agnar looked up at Gotrek as they approached with ill-concealed mistrust, but his rememberer was all smiles. You found Karag Dum. A long time to be aslaying.
Only that you must be indomitable in battle. Henrik turned to Felix. Henrik was right, of course. Like Agnar, Gotrek was a Slayer, sworn to redeem himself for some secret shame by dying in battle against the deadliest monsters he could find.
Felix had become his rememberer when, in the middle of a drunken binge, he had vowed to immortalise his death in an epic poem. Since then he had found himself the victim of a precarious paradox. How was he to stay close enough to Gotrek to faithfully record the details of his doom, and at the same time escape that doom himself? It was a puzzle that he had thought about often since their travels began, but it felt strange discussing it in front of the Slayers.
Henrik laughed. How many times have I followed Agnar into some deadly melee in order to witness his last moments, only to find that they were likely to be mine too. He was shaking his head, but did not look particularly put out. Agnar just chuckled and had another drink. Gotrek eyed him with an expression halfway between pity and disgust. Felix felt a similar emotion, and was going to make his excuses when Henrik turned to him again. As big as a steam tank, they said. There are dooms for all in the halls of the Dragon Crag.
No, we came hoping to fight a monster of Chaos it is said lurks in the very deepest part of the mines, but another menace has risen that prevents us from descending. Thorgrin is desperate. Apparently, a warboss by the name of Gutgob Stinkfoot has conquered all the orcs that live in the lower depths, and is stirring th em up to make war on the hold above. The only way to get in is to sign up with his throng. Henrik nodded. But I know a better one. Henrik jerked his thumb at the bar.
Felix turned and saw a richly dressed man with oiled blond hair and lace at his throat and cuffs stepping towards the table. He had a paunch and a double chin, but the breadth of his shoulders and the scar that crossed his nose at the bridge spoke of a more vigorous past. His eyes too had the keen alertness of a fighting man, no matter that he tried to hide it with a merry twinkle.
Gotrek and Felix: The Anthology