Monday, 2 June 2014
The False Moon War: Chapter 12
to Title and Contents
Chapter 12. Waaagh!
Waaagh! Warhuh appeared to be ready. The hordes were poised like a green tsunami which would scour the unsuspecting empire. The gibbering Shamen agreed that the time was auspicious, and that Gork, and possibly Mork too, would bless the expedition. The savage Warboss would be able to unleash his dogs of war as soon as a few kompliance issues were resolved.
It is not clear when Da Bureaukratz rose to positions of influence in greenskin society. This obscure subclass of orc had nevertheless wound the choking blood-weed of regulation around the necks of all orc and goblin leaders in a tangle of red tape-like fronds.
Worhuh was as ready as his adherents. "Where'z me Bean Kowntah?" he snarled.
Although he didn't fear the puny akkountant, he knew that his Waaagh! could founder if there were too many night goblin fanatics, too few herders for the squigs, or a lack of choppahs.
In addition, no Warboss in his right mind (or out of it) wants to be subjected to an awdit.
The Bean Kowntah scurried forward. He was an unimpressive specimen. His pasty green skin indicated that he did not spend much time in the light of the sun, and his thin, hairless arms were not well adapted to lifting anything heavier than a quill.
The bureaukrat clutched a board which had clipped to it dozens of sheets of dwarf-skin parchment. Uninterpretable script crowded the pages. Two functionaries set up a large wooden frame in front of him. The uprights of the frame were linked by horizontal metal rods which were festooned with the skulls of unfortunate Tacks Avoidahs.
After a quick reference to his Klipboard, the Bean Kowntah started frenetically clacking the skulls back and forth on his abacurse, all the while muttering mysterious incantations such as "CEN Artikle 153, Sayfty and Healf Regs," and "Statuet 1985.c72, Metrifikation of Chaaarge Distanse." Eventually he fell silent and turned to face the warboss.
"Not enuff gobblinz," he declared.
"Dere's plenty!" protested Warhuh.
"Yor' not kompliant wif da new regs." The akkountant folded his weedy arms.
"Aaargh!" The warboss spun on his heel and addressed Epididimoh Orkitis, a trusted black orc deputy.
Wot is da contribution from da Hawkhatz Gobbos?" asked
"Say it again......" Warhuh Wotsitgudfaw
"Take sum Boyz back to da snots and parform a merit selektion process!"
The warboss stomped back to find someone small and weak to kick the snot out of.
Epididimoh Orkitis led his rekrootment panel of a dozen heavily armed orc boyz into the centre of the Hawkhatz shanty town. As they neared the shrine, they became aware that the goblins they sought to recruit were gathering in the shadows around their hovels and silently following the boyz.
The Orc Big'un cleared his throat and recited the standard contrakt terms. "Righ' ya little snots! War Boss Warhuh Wotsitgudfaw is gatherin' the tribes for a Waaagh! on da Empyre Humies! He needs you filthy gobbos to do sum dyin' for da Caaause!"
He paused until the last echoes of his thunderous voice had faded away. "You lot are rekruited! Welkum to da Corpse!"
As he spoke, the goblins inched forward until they formed an unbroken ring around the selektion panel. Four unusual specimens stepped closer still. Each seemed to have been painted from head to toe in Lukky Bloo war paint.
One was clearly a shaman. His tattered cloak was made of the hide of a dwarf, with the beard part turned inside out to make a scratchy but warm lining. From his waist hung several shrunken heads. His sinewy legs were bound with strips of rag which continued down swathe his clawed feet like bandages. About his wrists and upper arms were fetishes made of the scraggly feathers of long dead vultures. He had wide grinning mouth and bright crest of skin atop his head. Clutched in his fist was Gork-or-possibly-Mork-on-a-stick. His most alarming features were his unblinking, maniacal eyes.
The shamans body was twitching as if to the beat of unheard drums. A large brute stood behind the shaman, firmly holding his shoulders. The other two were tall, for goblins. They were also unusually scaly, had a row of spines which ran down from their backs to the tip of their tails. Tails was a bit unusual, too.
The one wearing an impressive totemic hat cleared his throat, "I speak for the Bloo Shaman and his brothers. The Hawkhatz will not join your little war."
Epididimoh Orkitis guffawed. "Sorry, did I fawget to menshun da dental plan in da contrakt? Yoo sign up and I doezn't smash ya teef in."
He loomed forward, menacingly. "Youse gobbos do wot we say. We is bigga dan yoo are!"
"Size isn't everything," the goblin spokesperson sniffed.
The throng of goblins around the tableau echoed his words, "Size izn't evryting."
The orc bully grunted and motioned to two of his band to disarm the two Lukky Bloo painted warriors. The first henchman snatched a black bladed spear from the speaker and broke it over his knee. The other bloo warrior, the one with the white helmet, snorted in amusement before being disarmed by the second thug.
As soon as the unfortunate orc took the green glowing weapon he felt an unusual sensation about his nethers. His armoured codpiece felt unusually empty. He took a peek down his breeches to investigate. "Size i-i-izn't evryting, Rite?" he squeaked.
"Yer, it iz!" Epididimoh Orkitis was losing patience. "Yoo lot iz coming wif us, becoz we iz bigger dan yoo are!"
"But we are more numerous than you are." Joe observed.
The recently bereft orc rekrooter stared intently at the orc band, then at the goblin hedge of spears.
"E-e-e'z Rite!" he squeaked and then sidled around so that he was standing more WITH the goblin negotiating team than against them.
"Size izn't evryting, Size izn't evryting, Size izn't evryting, Size izn't evryting." The Hawkhatz goblins chanted menacingly as they tightened their cordon like a noose.
Tidings of the revolt and the four bloo brothers spread swiftly throughout the Badlands. The news spread quickly, in no small part due to the speedy legs of the smallest night goblin, who happened to be the fastest runner to ever wear a green hide. Inevitably, Warhuh Wotsitgudfaw's Waaagh! encampment became aware of the intrigue.
"Size izn't evryting."
Wherever goblins gathered, the words were on every set of lips. Soon, in twos and threes, and later whole platoons, the goblins ghosted away from Warhuh's camp to join the rebels.
In truth, losing the goblins would have little effect on the potency of the Waaagh! The loss of numbers did not equate a corresponding loss of mass, or belligerence. In fact, with fewer gobbo backsides to kick, the orcs started to accumulate animosity. If the invasion of the Empire did not commence soon, the entire orcish army would explode in a conflagration of self destructive violence.
Warhuh hovered expectantly as the Bean Kowntah finished clacking the skulls of his infernal abacurse.
"I've chekked da figurs." The akkountant held up his balance sheet. There was rather a lot of red ink. In his other hand he held a bound copy of da regz. "Orkforce skill mix claws firty-nine A: 'A Waaagh! shall comprize no less dan twenty-five poynt wun percent goblinz'......"
Warhuh's shoulders slumped. "Doze bloo bruvvers 'ave rooined me."
The Bean Kowntah looked shiftily around, ".... but listen to firty-nine B: '.....where such goblinz are available'. Not havin' enuff IN is da same az havin' too many OWT. Ya need ta tighten da labour market ta balance da books."
"Balance da books? Ow?"
"Da eeziest way is..." The akkountant flicked the balance sheet. The red ink slid off the page and dripped to the earth. He ground the pool of blood into the soil with his heel. "...ya jus' need ta spill some red."
Warhuh Wotsitgudfaw's demeanor brightened considerably. "Send owt a memo, 'Use ov unnecassary violunce in da apprahenshun ov da Bloo Bruvvers haz been approoved'."
Bessie had been well cared for back in the beast pens of Los'tmabo'tl. Teams of beast class skinks kept her scales oiled and her toenails trimmed. That was practically neglectful compared to the treatment she had received at the hands of the goblins of da Bloo Shaman Waaagh!
Her drab horny plates were daubed with red ochre in the profane symbols of the greenskins. Unblinking eyes peered intimidatingly from all angles, and representations of the snarling sun and the malevolent moons covered the spaces in between.
Almost illegible goblin script made dire statements such as "Garglerinse woz 'ere" and "Gobboez Rulez". So many skulls were strung across her flanks that she looked like a moving ossuary.
Mahtis and Bob were perched on her howdah, ostensibly to check her harness, but really to avoid proximity with the smelly, cackling rabble of emancipated goblins.
There was a definite carnival atmosphere to the whole tableau. The little greenskins could maintain ranks for no more than five minutes before someone would snigger, "Size izn't evryting...." and everyone within earshot would collapse in fits of giggles.
The only troops taking the whole Waaagh! seriously, in their own fashion, were the Night Goblin Fanatics. Armed with massive iron balls tethered by lengths of chain, their previous pinnacles of suicidal lunacy were but mild eccentricity when compared with the antics of the erratic Rychek.
To honour the inspiring Bloo Shaman, each fanatic had found every last skerrick of Lukky Bloo warpaint, and plastered themselves from head to toe with the greasy lotion.
The fanatics were making a special effort to rehearse with their wrecking balls to make ready for battle. Unfortunately, Lukky Bloo, while serving a decorative function, does nothing to enhance one's grip on a length of stout chain.
What had been conceived as a boldly choreographed reinterpretation of Da Nut-Krakka Suite" inevitably resulted in a number of the dance troupe losing their balls.
Through the middle of this maelstrom of Kultcha, twirled the Bloo Shaman, as if he were dancing to music that he alone could hear.
Joe and Len cast two pairs of disconsolate eyes at the Hawkhatz Horde, then compared them with Warhuh's Waaagh! which had marshalled opposite them across a broad valley.
Orc Boyz and Black Orcs were formed up in spiky regiments. Their black iron armour did not glint in the pale sunlight. Their tarnished weapons did not glitter, but they looked effective nonetheless. These troops were not here for show. They had but one purpose: to rush into combat before the slavering hordes of Savage Orcs behind them got in front and obliterated the foe.
The savage orcs, in their turn, were eager to krump a few heads with their flint bladed choppers before the menagerie of trolls and giants on the flanks devoured or squished any stragglers who might have endured the initial charges.
In front of the orcish lines was a squad of heavily armed and armoured black orcs. Each of the tank-like troopers brandished cruel, rusty weapons. Any victim who didn't immediately die from wounds from these cleavers must surely succumb to tetanus soon afterwards. At their head was Warhuh Wotsitgudfaw himself.
The mighty Warboss had crude iron plates strapped to every part of his body. His enormous double headed axe, which he swung in lazy arcs, was an exquisite piece of battle engineering. It was said that if this axe was carefully placed upon the head of a dwarf, it would neatly part the dwarf's wiry, matted hair. If the axe was placed even more carefully, it would part hair AND beard to approximately navel level.
For Warhuh, such matters were hypothetical. Even if a throng of dwarves presented themselves, he would have some trouble performing such a public service because he was mounted high up on his vicious wyvern, Owleggoleggo.
Wyverns are distant cousins of the dragons. Through a mishap of the family tree which involved too few branches intertwining a few too many times, the wyverns lost the forelimbs and fabled intelligence of the dragons. As if to compensate, the scaly horrors had developed a vicious streak a mile wide.
This particular beast's naming ceremony was officiated by none other than "Stumpy" Khulghaz, the most famous of greenskin monster handlers.
Joe felt a tap on his wrist. He recognized Neehai Tuacrikket, the goblin chief.
"Me an' da ladz alwayz fight betta afta a speech. Seeing as how yoo is wot speaks for Da Bloo Shaman, I waz wundring if yar could do da onnahs."
Joe turned around and cleared his throat loudly. Finally the goblin shambles shut up. The saurus leader opened his mouth, but no inspiring words came out. He closed his mouth again. Mahtis nodded encouragingly and Joe had another try.
"Well, umm..... you've put in a good preparation all season, and.... you just need to believe in yourself, and, and, your team mates. I know that you will try your very hardest because you are so proud to wear the green... and Bloo colours of the umm... Hawk err, thingy...."
The goblins stood with their long arms drooping by their sides, blinking in silent confusion. Joe breathed a silent prayer and opened his mouth again.
"I just want you all to know that however you perform today, I'll......Waa-aaa-aaah!!!!!!"
Rychek had waltzed past and stamped on Joe's tail. The goblins were warming to the speech.
"That is...I mean....Waaagh.....in the name of, in the name of...."
Len pecked Joe vigorously on the snout, "Gawk!"
" Waaa aaaa aaaaah!.... In the Name of Gork!!!"
With these words the goblin horde erupted in a terrifying clamour of war cries and shrieks.
"In Da Name of Gork, an possibly Mork!"
"Size izn't evryting!"
"'As anywun seen my spidah? He waz just hear a secund ago!"
"For Da Bloo Shaman!"
Owleggoleggo strutted toward the screeching Hawkhatz with the black orc honour guard keeping time and pace with his thunderous strides by loudly clashing their weapons against their shields. The snarling platoon advanced to within forty yards of the goblin lines before Warhuh halted them with a gesture of his mighty axe. The warboss goaded the wyvern further forward to halve the distance between the adversaries.
"Me, and me Good Ole Boyz..." thundered Warhuh, gesturing at his black orc escort. "....'ave a skore to settle wif da Bloo Bruvvers!"
The goblin force courageously took a step backwards leaving Bessie, Bob, Mahtis, Joe, Len and the capering Rychek to face the scrutiny of the warboss. Joe unlimbered the flint tipped spear he had acquired and strode forward. Len spread his pinions menacingly.
Owleggoleggo stretched out his own leathery wings and roared his displeasure at the ibis's challenge. The Wyvern' wings could easily span a cathedral.
"Gawk!" grated Len threateningly. The wyvern recoiled slightly, no longer quite so sure of his supremacy.
"Is this a challenge then?" Joe punctuated the word challenge with a thrust of his spear.
"Yar. But not wif yoo. Wif him!" Warhuh indicated da Bloo Shaman with a grubby finger. The warboss had chosen the smallest foe in order to make a demonstration that size actually did matter.
Before any of the other lizardmen could restrain him, Rychek skittered out to jiggle in front of the wyvern. He waved Gork-on-a-Stick enthusiastically. "Challenge, challenge, challenge!"
Warhuh boggled at the lunacy of the insignificant shaman and drew his axe back in preparation for a sweeping blow. Joe averted his eyes as the axe swished through the air. There was an agonizing silence.
"Swish! Swishshwishshwishshwish!" When Joe looked back he saw Rychek pirouetting with his sceptre in a parody of the blow which he had inexplicably avoided. "Wot tha....!" snarled Warhuh as he swung again with his axe. The steps of the skink's jig carried him out of reach of harm again.
So began the dance of Rychek's life. He bobbed and twisted, span and bowed away from certain death as blades, claws, fangs and orcish curses rained down around him. The warboss and his mount became more and more frustrated until both were fairly foaming with rage.
It did not help that the goblins had started to jeer and heckle with every air swing. "Laydeez, take a look at my ginormous weapun!" they would hoot, or "Work on yar Teckneek!" and "don' wurry - keep yar pekkah up!"
Finally after another clumsy and impotent swing with his enormous choppa, Warhuh lost balance and slipped from his saddle atop the frenzied wyvern. He landed heavily on the ground.
When he lifted his head, his gaze locked on the maniacal eyes of the shaman, who was bobbing on the spot. Owleggoleggo was creeping up behind Rychek just as stealthily as only a house sized, slavering, homicidal monster can. Warhuh managed a grim smile as he clambered to his feet. He realized that as long as he held the shaman's eyes, the bloo idiot jiggled less erratically. Without turning away, Warhuh groped for the haft of his battle axe. If the shaman stayed still enough, he was confident that he could cut the impertinent fool down to size.
Rychek was almost still, but for the occasional twitch, and he was about to be pincered by a frenzied monster and a belligerent warrior.
"Gawk!" Len unfroze the tableau with a warning cry.
"Gork?" Rychek snapped his gaze away from the warboss and threw his arms in the air.
Owleggoleggo was looming over the skink shaman, ready to chomp. Instead of a satisfying crunch and a spurt of blood, the wyvern was rewarded with Gork-on-a-Stick up his left nostril. The sceptre did no harm, but the feathers did tickle somewhat. The monster lurched back, curling his lips and drawing a sharp breath.
Grunting with effort, Warhuh swiped with his axe, putting all of his frustration and malice into one last mighty blow. Rychek fell like a puppet which had had its strings cut, a split second before the blade whistled past. At the same instant, Owleggoleggo released his breath in a colossal flaming sneeze.
The draconic release of pressure enveloped Warhuh Wotsitgudfaw in a gout of flames and melted the green flesh from his crackling bones.
The wyvern recovered its composure and lunged forward, desiring to crunch the crumpled blue form of the shaman when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, swooped a murderous curved blade.
Len had launched from his perch on Joe's head like some kind of avenging angel, buffeting Owleggoleggo's face with beating wings and slashing at his beady eyes with his savage hooked beak.
"Gawk! Gawk! GAWK!"
The wyvern could not endure this terrifying onslaught. He bounded into the air and wheeled towards the nearby World's Edge Mountains with Len in vengeful pursuit.
The trio of lizard men rushed to the fallen body of their comrade as the whole mass of goblins surged forward to lash out with blade and tooth and ball at the black orcs before them.
The orcs, who had witnessed the immolation of their leader and a Hork Hat coming alive to spook a deadly wyvern, drew two hasty conclusions. Firstly, the Hawkhatz Gobbos had the favour of the gods, and secondly that size, while providing some advantages in certain social situations, was clearly NOT everything. To the last orc they turned tail and fled towards the main orc battle line.
"They flee!" bellowed Mahtis.
"We must pursue! Again!" chorused Bob and Joe.
"Wait....wait! Restrain pursuit!" a weak voice piped from near their feet. The three predatory fighters paused in puzzlement as Rychek struggled to his feet.
"Have you noticed that they," he gestured towards the wall of iron and muscle which constituted the late warboss's Waaagh!, the vast majority of whom were not fleeing, "is bigger than they are."
He nodded towards the rabble of diminutive goblins streaming across the valley. The goblins, although numerous, were clearly about to meet a sticky end.
"E's right!" Bob observed.
Rychek ushered them back to climb onto Bessie's howdah, and stopped with his mouth agape. The decorated Bastiladon shivered her broad hips which set all of her skulls clacking together with a sound like an avalanche of coconut shells.
"What happened to Bessie? Where is Len? Why have I got a doll on a stick? Why is my neck itchy? Urgh!" Rychek stripped off his dwarf skin and other trappings and prodded them suspiciously with the sceptre as if they might suddenly crawl away.
"Let's explain later," Bob cringed at the terrified screeching of the doomed goblins and turned Bessie's painted head away towards the foothills of the mountains.
Eventually they crossed a ridge and left the greenskins to finish settling their philosophical differences unobserved.
Joe kept looking anxiously into the sky.
"What?" Bob demanded.
"I'm worried about what happened to Len. The wyvern flew off this way."
"It doesn't matter"
"If I don't look for him, his feelings will be hurt."
"He's a bird. He doesn't have feelings."
"Yes he does!"
"No he doesn't!"
"What's that?" Mahtis was pointing at a fleet shadow in the sky. An triumphant ibis swooped above the party, like some kind of avenging angel.
With an earsplitting "Gawk!" it released a single dropping which plopped into Bob's eye. Without so much as a backward glance the bird continued unwaveringly south, back to friends and family.
"Touchy little fellow, isn't he?" observed Bob as he wiped the gift from his eye.
Chapter 13: Beneath the World's Edge - due out soon