Twitch Keenear let out a groan. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. He thought finding the Eye of the Abyss would make him the most powerful Ratkin warlock that had ever lived. Instead he was now hiding in a closet while listening to the sounds of battle in the corridors nearby. He just wanted to go back to the safety of the nest, rather than here in this infernal dwarf hold. And to top it all, it was goblins they were fighting! Goblins! The weakest of the weak.
He glanced solemnly at Scum the rat, perched on his knee.
“At least you’re still with me Scum,” he muttered.
Scum gave a short squeak before jumping off his knee and disappearing through a hole at the back of the closet.
“You cowardly welp,” hissed Twitch and tried to grab Scum’s tail as he vanished. He sulked for a moment before reaching beneath his robes and producing the gem known as the Eye of the Abyss. When Twitch had discovered this legendary artefact he had felt confident it would propel him onto the road of greatness. Battles had been fought to find this mighty relic and here it was in his grasp. Perhaps Anag’rha’su, the Abyssal lord had lied to him? Perhaps the Eye had no power, after all?
“Curse you Anag’rha’su! Curse you and all your demon spawn!”
As the words left Twitch’s lips, his nose twitched at an increasingly strong stench of sulphur. He recoiled in horror as the realisation dawned on him.
“I didn’t mean-“
The gloomy interior of the closet was suddenly replaced by boiling pits of fire. The sky above Twitch resembled an inferno that stretched as far as the eye could see, apart from the area obscured by the towering form of Anag’rha’su. Twitch tried to ignore the screams and sounds of torment that resonated all around him, lest he should soon join their chorus of agony.
“Little rat,” boomed the Abyssal lord. Twitch prostrated himself on the floor.
“My lord, I didn’t mean-“
“Quiet,” the monstrous creature’s voice seemed to echo impossibly across the expanse of the Abyss and cut Twitch short. “Your babbling means nothing.”
Twitch dared to look at Anag’rha’su and a chill went down his spine. He quickly thrust his face into the dirt once more.
“It seems your quest for power is not going well, little rat.” A sort of rumbling chuckle erupted from the demon.
“It is a mere set back, my lord. Soon the nest will claim the mountains and then-“
“Spare me your whining,” spat Anag’rha’su. “The rats have lost the mountains and the power I sought has been closed, for now at least. The dwarfs are taking back control of their proud homes and those they have lost have been claimed by Garkan’s lesser greenskins – much to his discontent, no doubt.”
“My lord, it is simply a matter of time. We can regather and fight back through the mountains,” Twitch was aware of the desperation in his voice, but found it impossible to hide.
“Forget the mountains!” roared the demon prince. “Why toil and watch your kin fall to claim some barren caves and tunnels? There is a much greater reward to the west.”
Twitch’s mind was suddenly full of images of a shining city. Humans walked through the streets, clad in fine robes of white and blue. The sound of hymns and church bells could be heard ringing through the air. Twitch sneered in anger. Compared to his life growing up in the mud and dirt of the nest, this was a glorious existence. The humans didn’t realise how lucky there were. They were living the life of gods, while the rats scratched out a meagre existence however they could.
“A fine prize, should someone wish to take it,” said Anag’rha’su and the images disappeared when he clicked his gigantic claws.
“Tell me where and it shall be yours, my lord,” Twitch growled.
“The Hegemony of Basilea awaits you, little rat. And this time, don’t fail me.”
Twitch was about to thank his saviour when he fell with a bump back into the closet. As he struggled to control his breathing, he heard movement outside his hiding place. Goblins, he thought with a tremble of fear. He pointed his staff toward the door and began muttering a spell. As the door opened, a bolt of energy erupted from the staff and Twitch was surprised to see a hole forming in the chest of a Ratkin warrior. Although perhaps not as surprised as the warrior, who quickly collapsed into a heap.
Twitch cautiously poked his head out of the closet and was shocked to see he was no longer in the dwarf hold. A group of confused-looking Ratkin warriors were slowly backing away from him, chittering nervously. Somewhat clumsily Twitch pulled himself out of the closet. He sniffed the air and quickly caught the scent of hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow rats. A nest! He breathed a sigh of relief. Standing as proudly as he could, Twitch banged his staff on the floor.
“As the emissary of the mighty archfiend, demon prince of the Abyss, Anag’rha’su, I have news of great import from my lord. Take me to the Brood Mother.”
The warriors seemed dumbfounded. Twitch quickly blasted one with another bolt of eldritch power.
“I shouldn’t need to ask twice!” he screeched. This time the warriors sprang into action.
“This way, your most demonic,” purred a worried-looking warrior.
As Twitch was about to walk away he felt something crawling up through his robes. Suddenly Scum appeared and perched on his shoulder.
“Decided to come back, coward? One of these days, I will eat you.”
Scum turned its head and stared directly into Twitch’s eyes.
“Don’t fail me, little rat,” the menacing voice of Anag’rha’su roared from Scum’s tiny mouth.
Twitch gave an involuntary shudder and ran to catch up with the warriors. This time, there would be no mistakes!