Ravola, Spring 2404

Gradger sounded breathless when he arrived in the square, but this indicated nothing for certain as the wheezing function of his mask always made him sound so. He made his way immediately to the chattel overseer, Adragash.

“I have order-commands from the lord-master himself. You must obey prompt-quick. Yes, yes?”

Adragash’s lips parted to bare his teeth. He clutched a long whip as did all his helps, the handle of which he rested upon his shoulder so that the twisted hemp and wire cord hung down his back. Upon his head he had a leather cap with little iron cheek plates a-dangling at the sides, and in his other hand he carried a blade in the way in which one might carry a cane.

“Calm yourself,” Adragash hissed. “I always obey and never delay. You have no need to deliver such advice-warnings. Just-simply say what should and must be done, and it will be.”

Gradger now remembered how much he disliked the overseer. Admittedly, there were few skaven, if any, he did like, but there were gradations to his antipathy, from minor irritation to deep loathing, and Adragash was on the higher end of the scale. Still, this was the overseers’ domain, and all the skaven around were his to command, and so (as almost always) his dislike was something he had to make at least some effort to conceal.

“The chattel-slaves,” he said, pointing needlessly at the crowded cage that had been erected in the square, “they needs-must be prepared.”

Agradash did not move, nor did he speak, merely narrowed his eyes a little.

“Well,” said Gradger more loudly. “Prepare them!”

“I will do so, most keen and carefully. But you must speak-say more, Gradger-friend. For here they are, penned and patient, awaiting our command-orders. But what is the order? Are they to be fed? Moved? Made ready for labour-work? Speak-reveal exactly what the lord-master requires.”

Gradger was mentally lifting Adragash’s name up his list, to join those he despised the very most.

“They must be moved, made ready to be butchered if-when the order is given,” he said.

“Then they will be, I promise and assure,” answered the overseer. “But where to go? And how to kill?”

“They are to be made examples of, if necessary-needed” said Gradger. “Outside the city walls. I will show you where.”

“Examples ‘if necessary’? ‘If needed’?” said Adragash, in a curious tone. “How so? For whom? And why?”

“No question-talk is required. Only dutiful obeisance, yes?” said Gradger in a commanding manner.

“At least,” asked the overseer, “if nothing more, reveal-tell how they are to be butchered, so that preparations might be made for a suitable, satisfactory and swift execution of their execution.”

“Their corpses are to adorn-decorate the land around the city, to strike fright-fear into any foe that approaches.”

“Is this enemy expected or one that might merely perhaps come?” asked Adragash.

For a moment Gradger’s urge to appear important and informed got the better of him, and instead of again insisting on Adragash’s immediate action, he said,

“Manthing riders have been seen close-near to the city. Perhaps outrider-scouts for an army bringing aid-relief too late? If-when that army does arrive, they are to witness what is promised to be done to them, so they know terror-fear.”

“Grisly deaths and mangled corpses?” suggested Adragash.

“Yes, yes! They are to be stake-skewered and left to stink-rot,” said Gradger.

“Stakes, you say-speak,” said the overseer, his curious tone carrying a hint of sarcasm. “Stakes yet to be made?”

“Yes, yes. You must make them and you must place them. The soldiers have much else to do and are to be ever and always ready for battle.”

“The chattel-slaves will make their own stake-skewers,” said Adragash. “If necessary, if needed, then they will be put upon them. If not, then both stakes and chattel will further serve the lord-master howsoever we wish-desires.”

Momentarily satisfied that at last the order had been delivered and apparently accepted, Gradger looked over at the iron-railed pen. He was confused. It would be sufficient to hold meat animals like swine and goats, but surely, if they tried, the manthings could climb over? Then he noticed two of the overseers’ servants close the cage, and inside, a manthing lying prone, and he understood immediately what happened to those foolish enough to attempt to climb the iron railings – one sharp thrust of a halberd and the attempted escape would be ended.

Suddenly he noticed that most of the living chattel-slaves were looking not at the freshly fashioned corpse, but at him and Adragash.

“They stare and glare,” he said. “Those there and there, they are looking at us. They have defiance-rebellion left in them, yes, yes?”

Adragash grinned. “They do. Yet, Gradger friend, this is not so bad. What strength of will they harbour-possess reveals a strength left also in their bodies. That will be necessary-needed to cut, carry and carve well.”

Gradger was not convinced. One of the females had fixed her gaze upon him, and despite her lack of fangs and the absence of red in her eyes, he could clearly see her hate-anger. “If they have such resistance-rebellion left in them, then they will surely not make their own skewer stakes.”

“No, they will not. But when they are told to make stakes for a palisade meant to skewer-spit the enemy’s horses, and that if their work-labour is done fast-quick they will be allowed to eat, then they will have motive to work as well as the required strength.”

In that moment, despite his dislike of the overseer, Gadger understood why Adragash had been given command of the chattel-slaves.

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