Sunday, 11 August 2019

REVIEW: Realmslayer - Part 2: Spoilerific Recap


Here's the second part of my Realmslayer review (the first part, sans spoilers found here) - a handy recap of what went down in the audio drama for anyone who needs their memory refreshed ahead of Gotrek's two new adventures Realmslayer: Blood of the Old World and Ghoulslayer when they hit next month.

Realmslayer's (conveniently for this recap) split into four chapters. I hope I've managed to spell at least a few of the new characters' names properly, Realmslayer being an audio drama I've got no way of knowing!


Chapter 1:

The story opens outside Karag-Unback, a Fyreslayer hold in Aqshy, where a force of Fyreslayers from the Unback Lodge (a lodge that to my knowledge has yet to turn up in any other publication) lead by a an Auric Runeson, and Brodor, a Battlesmith have assembled to protect Kragg Blackhammer, an Auric Runemaster during the forging of his ur-gold master rune. As an aside, I felt "Kragg Blackhammer" was a really weird choice of name for a Runemaster - Kragg the Grimm and Skalf Blackhammer were both famous dwarf Runelords in WFB, and givinng a Fyreslayer smith a mashup of both their names is like calling a new Primaris Space Marine hero Dante Calgar.

After a decent Fyreslayer posturing session Brodor and friends are greeted by the hulking figure of a single duardin covered in strange tatoos, dragging steel chains behind him. This is obviously Gotrek. The Fyeslayers assume Gotrek is a drunk Dispossessed outcast, Gotrek thinks he's still in the Realm of Chaos, saying he got where he was after falling down a pit, and that the Fyreslayers in all their weird getup must be daemons playing tricks on him. After a hilarious confrontation with the Auric Runeson, Gotrek starts swinging at the Fyreslayers and is eventually immobilised by the molten rockbolts fired by Auric Hearthguard. During the melee Brodor feels that there is more to Gotrek than meets the eye, and notices the similarities between himand the likeness of Grimnir on the icon he carries.

As an aside it's never explained how Gotrek and the Fyreslayers are both able to understand each other off the bat - it's not clear if Gotrek is speaking Khazalid or Reikspiel, and could be totally possible that the language spoken by the Fyreslayers could have started out as one or both, and dwarfy observation of tradition and resistance to change has ensured that their language hasn't changed very much in however many thousand years have passed between settings, and that Brian Blessed's flowery manner of speaking next to the gruff Yorkshire accents given to the Fyreslayers represents a very antiquated accent. AoS has yet to go into any detail on the languages spoken by the disparate civilisations and factions in the Mortal Realms, with everyone able to fully understand each other off the bat for the most part (Gotrek is later able to understand skaven, when I'm not sure he'd ever been fluent in Queekish, and modern skaven language would almost certainly would be unrecognisable after so long  , though it could be No-Prized as him simply hearing the common word for Grey Seer) I fully understand that characters not being able to immediately understand each other makes for a very boring barrier in genre fiction, but it would be nice if the design studio or Black Library's editors could find an elegant way to handwave it breaking suspension of disbelief.



Thrown in Fyreslayer jail, Gotrek meets his cellmate Malaneth Witchblade, a Khainite assassin  with a mysterious agenda who talks to a mysterious mistress through a locket round her neck. Gotrek treats Malaneth with immediate hostility, calling her a Dark Elf, though mentions her that he spend centuries in the Realm of Chaos before the Chaos Gods grew bored of sending him daemons to fight and eventually stopped paying attention, causing him to "go looking for them" and follow them to the Mortal Realms.

Skaven suddenly invade the Fyreslayer hold. Malaneth announces this as her cue to escape, picks the lock and disappeares.  Brodor releases Gotrek from his cell and hurries to get him to the magmavaults where his lodge's Runefather will know who or what Gotrek is. Gotrek is separated from Brodor and somewhere along the way picks up an unused Grimwrath Berzerker's Fyresteel Greataxe (the one he's seem wielding on the cover). Confronting Malaneth as she attempts to steal Kragg Blackhammer's master rune (explaining that getting caught was part of her plan to get close enough to steal it all along), Gotrek exclaims that the axe "reminds him of one he used to have".

Gotrek emerges to where Brodor is stationed, carrying an unconscious Malaneth. Brodor and and the other Fyreslayers are in awe of the axe Gotrek is carrying, naming it as Zangrom-Thaz, and claiming it to contain a shard of Grimnir's original axe and only able to be wielded by the strongest Grimwrath Berzerkers with the most ur-gold runes hammered into their bodies. Gotrek laughs this off, claiming that Grimnir's axe belongs to him.

There's a commotion and the master rune is stolen by skaven . After chasing through the hold, Gotrek is confronted by a massive magmadroth, three times the size of a regular one, emerging from a pool of lava, described by the Fyreslayes as Ignimbris, the first spawn of Vulcatrix and a godbeast in its own right. Gotrek is delighted to fight Ignimbris, taunting it and claiming it to be smaller than Skajalandir (the massive warpstone corrupted dragon in Dragonslayer). Gotrek reels off a list of his feats from the old novels and Adjur, recognising something in him slinks away into the lava, much to his dismay.


At the end of the chapter, Gotrek concludes that his world - and Felix are gone, and has been gone for thousands of years, calling Grimnir a liar to a confused Brodor. The Fyreslayers realise Malaneth has escaped - again, and Gotrek is simultaneously praised confronted by the innovatively named Kragg Blackhammer who states that all that matters is reclaiming the master rune. Brodor is now convinced that Gotrek is Grimnir returned.

Gotrek spots a bolt of lightning on the horizon with the shape of a man inside it, and Brodor gives him a quick rundown of the history of the Mortal Realms, Sigmar, Grungni and the Stormcast Eternals. Gotrek is delighted to find out that Stormcast Eternals are the greatest heroes of humanity, plucked from history and reforged by Sigmar and concludes that Felix must be one of them. Excited to at last have a purpose (having already died and achieved a mighty doom) Gotrek announces that he's going to Hammeral, where the largest concentration of Stormcast Eternals can be found.


Left to right: Brodor, Jordain, Uthan the Necromancer,
Malaneth, Gotrek

Chapter 2:


Gotrek, Brodor and a small party of Fyreslayers have left the hold and are journeying towards Hammerhal. On the way to Hammerhal they encounter Prince Jordain, an inexperienced, eager prove his heroism himself Freeguild officer from the lion-focused city of Adasa. The Freeguild under Jordain's command have been slaughtered by Tzeentch Arcanites and he must reach Hammerhal, currently under siege by Chaos forces to warn the defenders of a terrible Arcanite scheme he has uncovered.

Much to Brodor's jealousy, Gotrek immediately takes a shine to Jordain... I think because Jordain is supposed to remind him of Felix, though outside of wearing a red cloak and wielding a sword there's not a lot to go on (Jordain as pictured on the second CD certainly doesn't look very like Felix ?‍). Maybe Jordain is simply the first human Gotrek's encountered in however many hundreds/thousands of years and that's enough; maybe a combination of being nothing like Felix and a fixation with reckless battlefield heroism are what does it for Gotrek? Regardless, Jordain's a very likeable character and fantastically voiced.

The party concludes that the quickest way to beat the Arcanites to Hammerhal is a Realmgate shortcut taking them through the Realm of Death. Brodor and the Fyreslayers break from Gotrek and Jordain to block a force of burning Sylvaneth, so that Gotrek and Jordain can fight through the Arcanites blocking the gate to Shyish.

Gotrek is confronted by the towering Champion of Tzeentch  who slaughtered Jordain's regiment. The Tzeentch Champion observes that Gotrek does a poor job of guarding his left hand side in battle and wounds his shoulder, alluding to Felix not being there to watch his side. I thought this was heavy handed and didn't like it at all. We've seen Gotrek fighting without Felix dozens of times (unit coherency rules don't apply in novels!) , and even if he ever did need Felix to watch his flank, but Gotrek's own reckoning he's spent more time in the Realm of Chaos fighting on his own than he ever spent alive in the World-That-Was, let alone the 20 odd years he spent with Felix.

A flaming Treelord breaks through the Fyreslayer line and falls on Gotrek, pinning him down and making him easy prey for the Tzeentch Champion. Jordain charges the Champion to free Gotrek, and we cut to Brodor, the other Fyreslayers slain, racing to Gotrek's side. When we next see Jordain he's laying lifeless under his red cloak, Gotrek loudly mourning... Felix and blaming himself for Jordain's death. Uncaringly, Gotrek pulls Jordain's lion-head breastplate from his chest and slaps it on his left shoulder to better protect himself without Felix there to watch it (?), matching his look on the cover art (I've gotta admit, he might have a silly reason for putting it there but it does look awfully cool, so it gets a pass).

Now convinced Felix is waiting for him in Hammerhal, Gotrek departs for Shyish with Brodor.


Chapter 3:

Gotrek and Brodor are ambushed by skaven from the same clan that attacked Karag-Unback, and while fighting them overhear that the skaven are in league with the group of Tzeentch Arcanites they've already faced, and are taking orders from a Grey Seer who hates Gotrek and is offering great favour to "make him very very dead dead".

Sure that this Grey Seer is the same one who bedevilled him and killed Felix's father in his previous life, Gotrek asks himself if it could perhaps his unfulfilled oaths to end the Grey Seer's life, or the Grey Seer's sorcery in a desire to end his life that drew him out of the Realm of Chaos and into the Mortal Realms.

Gotrek is blasted on the left hand side by a Purple Sun, ageing the side of his face "a thousand years in the blink of an eye", putting grey streaks in his beard and reducing his left eye to a useless cauliflower mush (I thought Purple Suns were supposed to turn their victims into crystal? Maybe Gotrek's special).

Gotrek and Brodor encounter Malaneth and discover that the Arcanites have Kragg Blackhammer's master rune and are on their way to Hammerhal with it, referring to the Grey Seer previously mentioned by the skaven as the "Grey Lord", and being laughed at by Gotrek for serving under him (something unheard of by servants of the conventional Chaos Gods in WFB). A Shyish spirit tells Gotrek that Felix is in Hammerhal, instantly revitalising his spirit (Gotrek knows that this must be true because until now he hasn't spoken Felix's name out loud to anybody).

Brodor has noticed Gotrek sneaking away every night they've spent in Shyish. On the final night there Brodor summons up the courage to follow him and eavesdrops on him reminiscing with the shade of... Snorri Nosebiter.


Snorri's spirit looks exactly like his body did, nails, metal leg, horrible face and and all. Gotrek asks Snorri how he always knows where Gotrek will be and reveals that they've been meeting every night Gotrek's been in Shyish. They talk about beer and nothing in particular, Gotrek eventually asking if Snorri's seen Ulrika, Max or Malakai Makaisson around.

Snorri replies that he thinks he once saw Ulrika and Max at a party together a very long time ago, but that parties don't really happen in Shyish anymore. It's not made entirely clear if the party Snorri saw Ulrika and Max at took place in the underworld or not, he's typically vague (he could just be thinking back to a reception held after siege of Prague or similar). Snorri insists that he definitely hasn't seen Makaisson in Shyish and suggests that maybe Makaisson "made it" through the End Times and is still among the living. Gotrek thinks this is ridiculous and attributes it to Snorri's inability to count, but it would tie in with/explain Makaisson's name being on a line of Azyrite flushing toilets in Eight Lamentations: Spear of Shadows (no really).

Brushing off Snorri's suggestion that he isn't interested in Ulrika, Max or Malakai, and really wants to know where Felix is, Gotrek complains to Snorri about dwarfs being called duardin. Snorri reminds him that "dwarf" was just what men of the Empire called them and never what they called themselves, forcing Gotrek to admit that he actually enjoyed spending time among humans. Eventually Gotrek indirectly asks if Snorri's seen Felix around, suggesting that the oath he swore to protect Felix and his family could have been what drew him to the Mortal Realms. Snorri firmly states that Felix isn't in Shyish.

Gotrek then begins to bid Snorri farewell, asking that he greet Bjorni (from Dragonslayer and Beastslayer) and his other slayer friends in the halls of the ancestors for him, and apologising for all the horrible business in Kinslayer, which Snorri brushes off like he's apologising for having having eaten the last Rollo, and not having violently killed him. Snorri tells Gotrek that he hopes he finds Felix and eventually finds his doom, saying this will probably be the last time they see each other before Gotrek does the latter.

Overall, this is easily the best written, funniest, warmest and simultaneously most bittersweet scene in the audio drama, and Snorri's nonchalance towards his overtly silly, dramatic and most importantly second death (though you could probably No-Prize the troll falling on Snorri in the 4th edition Empire army book as only having knocked him unconscious for long enough for Gotrek to bury him, only for Snorri to dig himself out a day later and wander to the nearest tavern), goes a long way towards putting a band-aid on the jarring soap opera reveal in Kinslayer.


Chapter 4:

The final chapter opens with Gotrek on the besiged battlements of Hammerhal Ashqa merrily chopping away and reminiscing about Prague  (it's the Bill King stories that get the most references in Realmslayer, but Gotrek's feats under later authors do get brought up when relevant). He and Brodor have been there a while, and visited at least one tavern, which Gotrek enjoyed.

On the wall they enountere a Liberator-Prime from the Hammers of Sigmar, who after he mentions he has no memory of his past life, Gotrek is convinced is Felix and grapples to the floor and pulls the facemask off, to find out isn't Felix to his dismay. Gotrek notes the Stormcast's altered state and lack of memory of his past life.

Malaneth then appears, and after some subsequent hostility from Gotrek defies WFB convention, explaining that she is infact an agent of the Order of Azyr, and was sent to steal Kragg Blackhammer's master Rune because the Unback are a lodge still yet to pledge themselves to Sigmar, and she wants to use it as collateral. Bodor tries to rationalise the mercenary nature of the Fyreslayers and their neverending quest for ur-gold to Gotrek, but he's having none of it, horrfied to learn that Fyreslayers are capable of pledging their services to the likes of Chaos in exchange for payment (which they can now finally do in-game thanks to Forbidden Power!).

Malaneth also explains that the Arcanites, under the direction of the Grey Lord, have brought the master rune to Hammerhal Ashqa in order to peform a dark version of the Fyreslayer activation rite, awaking the rune and using the power inside to destroy a large section of the city, allowing the besieging Chaos forces access. She, Gotrek and Bodor eventually fight their way to where the Arcanites are performing the ritual, and slay them all, but not in time to prevent the master rune from being activated.

Bodor explains that the only way to stop the master rune from exploding once it's been activated is to be combined with a Fyreslayer's flesh to balance its power. Gotrek tells Bodor that he's the only "fire dwarf" around and should probably give it a go. Bodor is reluctant to do this, explaining that he doesn't have the strength of body or mind to contain such a rune, and will probably be driven mad and/or have his body blasted apart, but with no other option picks the rune up. Greeted with a violent vision of Grimnir fighting Vulcatrix and a whole lot of searing pain, Brodor screams in agony and  is blasted across the room where he lays dying with his arm blasted off.

Gotrek eventually picks up the master rune, comparing the pain of it to his hangover after Felix's wedding and Krell's axe, cursing Grimnir and pressing the rune into his chest, where it transforms into a likeness of Grimnir's face, and recolours the white streaks in his beard Gotrek picked up from the Purple Sun in Shyish gold (matching his look on the cover of The Bone Desert), and causing fire to shoot from his beard, hair and eye. Brodor dies happy, having never doubted Gotrek's status as Grimnir reborn.


We next see Gotrek and Malaneth back on the walls chopping up Chaos invaders. Gotrek has been sufficiently powered up the ur-gold rune feeding him it's strength, and is now an enhanced, souped up version of himself. Malaneth asks what he plans on doing next and Gotrek states that Felix is either gone or changed and wouldn't remember Gotrek's oath to protect him and his family even if Gotrek were able to find him, but that there are other WFB survivors who will remember Gotrek's oaths, Nagash and the Grey Seer mentioned by his servants previously, and that he's going to look for his axe and then look for both of them, and that he's glad Grimnir, the lying, doomthieving swine is dead. Malaneth resolves to follow Gotrek wherever he goes, saying that she can retrieve the Kragg Blackhammer's master rune from his body after he's been slain. Gotrek exclaims from the top of the battlements that he now knows why he's come back, that the Realmgate Wars are over and the gods have got lazy, neglecting to remember one thing... him. The master rune inside his body flares, pulsing golden and he yells "GOTREK'S ALIVE!!!" from the ramparts.

We're then treated to a quick epilogue where one of the Arcanites from earlier is somehow still alive and reporting back to the Grey Lord, who confirms himself as Thanquol and only seems to care that Gotrek isn't dead yet, throwing a screaming fit, saying it's "Always the same, not like this not again, I want him dead-dead! Dead!"

If this image means nothing to you, then you just weren't there

Whew, I hope that gets everyone back up to speed. I'll be back with reviews of Realmslayer: Blood of the Old World and Ghoulslayer when they hit next month. Until then, check out The Bone Desert and One, Untended, the AoS Gotrek novella and short story available digitally from the Black Library if you haven't yet.

1 comment:

  1. Just a note, the Arcanite from the epiloge is the one from the finale of Part 3 (Unremembered) that killed Jordain (and then apparently left Gotrek for dead under the Treelord).
    He wasn't at Hammerhal but commanded the forces on the outside. He seems to have an implied telepathic or similar connection to his 'Brother' that got literally backstabbed, which explains how he got the news of his death and failure.

    ReplyDelete