Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Battle for Angel Square (Post-Battle Fluff)

As promised a few posts back, here is the fluff-piece I co-wrote with the Ork player. It is a bit long-winded in the beginning, but I wanted to set the stage for the first real battle of our Campaign.

For those who dig this kind of stuff, enjoy!

The Square was quiet as the morning sun crept over the foothills to the North. The blazing light ushered away the shadows of the night and illuminated the once great city of Exodus. It had sat quiet for almost three weeks now, ever since the skies exploded and blazed with the infinite colours of the Warp as it tore the Hades Gamma System apart. Those on the planet's surface who witnessed the birth of the storm would say that it was the most beautiful sight they would ever hope to see; while undoubtedly true, this fact matters not one bit since they are all long dead.

Angel Square - so named after the Power-Armoured Angels who came down from the heavens over 10,000 years ago to reclaim the planet for the Emperor of Mankind. On this quiet morning the name seemed truly fitting, for it was a scene of perfect serenity. The streaking light bathed the open area in a warm glow, transforming the floating dust motes into tiny shining diamonds and set them dancing to the silent tune of the breeze.

In contrast to this tranquility which bathed the bright morning, the darkness of the fading night was witness to a number of events which would shake the very core of the city in the coming days; lights in the sky - not residual Warp storm activity, but rather those of sentient beings - which soon became larger and larger, culminating in a series of landfalls around the city limits. Some were punctuated by thick trails black smoke and rumbling explosions, while others were fluid and trance-like. A few even pulsed in an eerily organic manner before colliding with the surface in what sounded like a series of wet thuds. But the darkness was now gone and, perhaps with it, so too these nightmares of light and sound?

As the wind picked up a bit and lightly rustled the dead grass that dotted Angel Square, a tiny tremor began to permeate across the ground. The dust motes made no notice of it, happily content to keep dancing their brilliant dance. The tremor quickly built into a low rumble, and the rumble into a bowel-shaking quake. It seemed to be emanating from a point due east of the Square, where a two-story Administratum building with a clear sight to the impressive statue anchoring the middle of the Square stood. Suddenly, the building was torn open with a shuddering explosion of ferrocrete and Itruvian marble that made up its stately facade. A dust cloud momentarily enveloped the immediate vicinity.

As the cloud dispersed, a different scene took shape. In place of the left wing of the building stood a massive tracked war machine. It was crude in design, seemingly put together in great haste by “craftsmen” who had little concept of aesthetics and absolutely no intention of working together in its construction. It belched thick black plumes of sooty smoke and rumbled with the ear-splitting sound of an engine that was one loose bolt away from self-combusting. In spite of this shoddy design, the tank cut an imposing presence as it slowed to a halt. In part, this was due to the cannon positioned on top of the tank. The barrel was so large that it seemed to defy the physical laws themselves, and to further emphasize its deadly intentions, the cannon was flanked on either side by two smaller but still high-caliber armaments.

Even more imposing than its deadly payload, however, was the presence of a massive Ork Warboss leaning over the front of the chassis. He was easily the biggest specimen of Ork seen in this part of the Galaxy, and was decked out in a suit of deadly Mega Armour. The bulging and chorded muscles of his left arm were supporting a Power Klaw of such magnitude that that could comfortably fit around a Space Marine in Terminator Armour and crush him just as easily. Surrounding his right arm was another mechanical monstrosity, a giant double-barreled Shoota. In his Klaw, the Ork held a small nondescript stick. For all of his fearsome aspect, he held the stick gingerly between two metal blades, as if with a mixture of fear and respect. Suddenly realizing how ridiculous he must look, he gestured to a nearby Gretchin, who was given the mysterious relic and ordered to fasten it to the top of the Ork's already imposing Bosspole.

Satisfied with the result and with a quickness that belied the bulky armour he was wearing, the Warboss jumped off the Big Trakk, pulverizing the pavement below his feet. He let out a deafening bellow, so loud that it temporarily drowned out the cacophony of the war machine behind him. Pointing his Klaw past the vastness of the square toward the Palace complex beyond, he then said, "Der it iz Boyz! I reckon dat big buildin' iz where da action will be, or my name izn't Tuskk Klawgrakk! All youz mutts outta da Trukks, we iz foot sloggin’ it from ‘ere! Send da Trukks back fo’ da rez of 'em!"

Between the perimeter of the Square and the imposing Palace walls stood the ruin of a church, a former edifice of the Emperor's glory now reduced to a few dilapidated walls and crumbled archways. From their distance, it was hard to make out any more detail as the area was carpeted with what seemed to be a very dense fog, likely remnants of the cool moist air of the passing night.

A horde of Boyz rushed past the Warboss and assembled into three rough mobs. For a race of crude and brutal savages, the Warboss had a respectable command of tactics and strategy. The three mobs split and began maneuvering to secure the Square, two on each flank and the middle group heading toward the towering statue. Suddenly, a moving shape flitted across the open ground with an unnatural quickness. It looked like a shadow, but when the Warboss looked up his eyes were greeted with nothing but a blue sky and the warm globe of the sun.

Knitting his prominent brow in concentration, Tuskk scanned the area again for any signs of trouble. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The wind must have picked up, he realized, as the mists surrounding the church seemed to be churning faster than before. Before he could turn his head and shout out another command, the quiet was shattered by an alien roar as if a thousand nails were being run across a chalkboard and amplified one hundredfold. Shortly after, a cacophony of various noises took flight, as if the city was transformed into a rain forest at night. Some were the high pitched screeches reminiscent of avian origin. Others were bowel-loosening in their aspect, low and menacing. The mists began to swirl with a lifelike kineticism, and dark shapes - some small, some large, all terrible - appeared momentarily before being re-enveloped.

The Warboss could smell a proper fight brewing, and a big toothy grin crawled up his face. He began barking orders: "Lobbas, take up behind dat wall. Lootas, git up high an’ dakka any ting dat moves." He then turned to a small group of soot-covered Orks holding Burnas. "Stay ‘ere and proteck doze Lobbas"

His retinue of burly Nobs came to his side, as well as Bagrad, a dopey looking Big Mek holding an even more ridiculous-looking Shokk Attack Gun. He was deep in concentration trying to lick his own ear. Tuskk lumbered over to him and gave him a wallop over his head. "Oy, ya weedy git! Go ova’ and sit wit da Lootas. Kill any ting dat ain’t greenskin and dat iz movin’" Bagrad lumbered over to the building where the Lootas had taken up firing positions.

Within moments, what was previously a chaotic mass of greenskins was now organized and deployed for battle. Suddenly, the fog to the left of the church exploded with motion as a herd of what looked like large alien dogs burst forward toward the Ork position. They half-ran, half leaped toward their would-be prey, with two razor sharp talons piercing forth from their forward appendages ready to sink into Orky flesh.

Another wave of his Klaw signaled the launch of a Lobba artillery barrage. A stream of whirling and whistling shells flew over the Square and landed surprisingly accurately in the midst of the herd. When the smoke cleared, nothing remained but a few craters and various piles of charred limbs and steaming viscera. The Ork Horde let out a howl of approval; this was going to be easier than they thought. The Lootas took aim at another mass of bodies forming on the opposite side of the church, and the giant tracked monstrosity shot its cannon inside the ruins where the fog was thickest. From the Lootas came a withering hail of incandescent projectiles, ripping up the concrete surface of the Square, exploding several fleshy creatures in the storm. From within the ruins, a monstrous explosion emanated, followed by a pressure wave and a shower of rocks and debris. The opening salvo from the Orks had been delivered, but its effectiveness could not be determined, as the ruins and smoke obscured visual confirmation.

Bagrad! Shokk Attack!” screamed Tuskk. But only silence followed and no shot came from Bagrad’s position. Little did Tuskk know, but the Big Mek was too busy admiring the pebbles at his feet to hear the order from his Warboss.

An eerie calm settled over the Square. A section of the church wall collapsed in a heap of noise and dust. Had Tuskk’s overwhelming firepower scattered the enemy? It would not take long for Tuskk to get his answer. From within the many ruins, two large creatures took to the sky on massive, leathery wings. Their sizable bulk shot into the air at alarming speed, the smoke and dust swirling behind them. The hideous Harpy and imposing Hive Tyrant swooped over the square and brought their bio-weapons to bear. At the far end of the Square, past the church in what appeared to be a burnt-out Mechanicum facility, a group of Warriors could be seen, aiming their weapons with frightening precision.

Suddenly, the mob of Boyz advancing on the right flank was overwhelmed by a writhing mesh of barbed strangler seed pods. Within seconds, throats were constricted and tracheas probed as the squealing Orks were killed off, one by one. A sickening torrent of corrosive acid shot out of a darkened alcove in the ruins, melting flesh, bone and steel alike. Ork Boyz screamed at the horrendous pain, their legs buckling beneath them as a result of the rapid deterioration. Piercing shrieks and gurgled death rattles echoed across the square as the mysterious fog enveloped the right flank, concealing the final fate of an entire mob of Orks.

Tuskk signaled a helmeted Gretchin, perched high on the battlements to his right. The tiny creature stood up and waved two tattered flags over his head in a frantic manner, one red the other white. Almost immediately, the deafening roar of jet engines screeched over the Square as a blindingly fast Dakkajet flew over their heads, black contrails tracing its path through the sky. It swooped in and opened up its Supa Shootas on the Harpy. The crack and rattle of tracer rounds pierced the air, as several bullets found their mark. Holes were punctured in wing and flesh. The Harpy let out a chilling scream as it barreled down toward the ground, its bulky form disappearing behind another dilapidated building ringing the Square. Losing sight of the beast, the pilot let out a raspy “whoop!” of excitement. However, the expected crash of impact was never heard. The Dakkajet maneuvered around for another run to confirm the kill-shot, but as it approached the area where the Harpy went down, a horrendous supersonic screech burst his eardrums and the beast swooped up toward him, cork-screwing away moments before impact and unleashing another deadly barrage from its twin Stranglethorn Cannons toward an Ork mob below - it would take more than that to fell the terrifying creature.

Sensing the danger in the skies above, the Hive Tyrant swooped in from the West and fired a torrent of parasitic projectiles at the Dakkajet. Unlike the rest of the chittering horde, he moved silently toward his prey. Through sheer luck or disturbing talent, a number of brainleeches pierced the cockpit canopy and lodged themselves onto the wailing pilot. Tuskk watched helplessly as his supersonic dakka machine careened to the East and disappeared behind some Hab Blocks, a distant explosion and tower of smoke all that remained. More shadows shifted within the surrounding ruins, the chitters and shrieks seemed to surround the Ork force now.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, Tuskk screamed, “MOAR DAKKA!!!” and his lines opened up again, an ear-splitting chorus of booming artillery thuds and shrieking Loota salvos. Dozens of advancing Termigants were eviscerated by the Loota fire as the Lobbas pelted the surrounding ruins with saturating bombardments. On the left flank, a mob of Boyz were being overrun by a pack of Rippers. The Orks hooted and howled as they engaged in a brutal melee with the bio-creatures.

Bagrad! Shokk Attack!” screamed Tuskk. But only silence followed and no shot came from Bagrad’s position. Little did Tuskk know, but the Big Mek was too busy choreographing a dance routine with two rats.

Tuskk began to seethe at the Big Mek, wherever he was. But he didn’t have long to seethe as something horrible happened. A low rumble shook the ground beneath his feet. His retinue raised their weapons and scanned the ruins ahead for enemies. But none were there. The rumble grew louder and louder until suddenly, the ground beneath their feet heaved upward violently. Tuskk and his retinue were thrown aside as a Mawloc emerged from its subterranean tunnel. It reared up and let out a bone-chilling scream. Tuskk got to his feet and his Nobz ran to his side. Finally, a target within his reach. Tuskk charged the Mawloc and his Nobz followed. They all smashed into the serpentine flank of the creature as it swung its scythed arms at them. Axe and klaw and blade gouged at the creature until its entrails spilt across the ground and Tuskk drove his power klaw through its skull. Tuskk looked up with a smile on his face as the mob of Boyz securing the square at the foot of the statue howled in approval of their Warboss’s feat. But their celebration was short-lived as they too were enveloped in a deadly cloud of Barbed Stranglers spores, killing them one by one with cruel efficiency.

BAGRAD!!! SHOKK ATTACK!!!” screamed Tuskk. But only silence followed and no shot came from Bagrad’s position. Little did Tuskk know, but the Big Mek was too busy eating rats.

With the same piercing wail that punctuated the beginning of the Tyranid assault, another shadow swept across the battleground. The shape zoomed toward the Hive Tyrant that had downed the Dakkajet with a supernatural quickness, and where only one nightmare once existed, there were now two. They looked almost identical, however Tuskk noticed that the new creature had a more prominent head crest. More obvious still was the fact that, unlike its near-twin, this one was anything but silent, filling the air with a banshee's howl. United in their thirst for carnage, the two large shadows descended from the sky and turned their attention towards Tuskk’s rear flank. The Lootas and Lobba crews were devoured by the sustained brainleech fire coming from the Tyrants.

Tuskk could only watch as his rear flank collapsed and his Lootas were sent running in all directions, their morale completely broken. Tuskk looked at the centre of the square to see the ruined corpses of a mob of Boyz. The Gretchin crews for the Lobbas screeched and wailed as they scattered to find a hole to hide in. In a powerful blast, the Big Trakk toppled over from incoming fire and smoke billowed into the sky from its wreckage. Tuskk came to a grim realization: his firepower had been silenced. At that moment, a blinding beam shot out from the building and careened off towards the church. The deafening roar of the Shokk Attack Gun had finally been unleashed, its blast centering on a floating creature with a massive brain. It was completely engulfed in wreathing flames, but when they finally dissipated the creature still remained, its form surrounded by a shimmering Warp field. Tuskk shook his head.

With his forces scattered or eaten, Tuskk knew he needed to regroup or his campaign on Exodus would be short lived. He gathered his retinue and motioned for the retreat. As he headed back to his base camp, he looked over his shoulder to see a more creatures emerging from the ruins to engorge themselves on the fallen bodies of Tuskk’s reconnaissance force. He was filled with rage, but it did not blind him. He knew what needed to be done, but for now, he needed to lick his wounds.

Tuskk traversed the makeshift Ork base camp in long strides, taking his mind off of the day's earlier events by surveying progress. The scene was a mosaic of motion and turmoil, which was to be expected when thousands of Orks are put to work in close confines. Tuskk was content with what he saw but there was still more to be done.

After falling back from the battle at Angel Square, the Warboss and what remained of his initial scouting party passed through what looked to be the City's Railhead Depots. Dozens of massive storage buildings, Manufactorums and holding stations dotted this part of the city. Here, the Ork forces were gifted with a nearly inexhaustible supply of raw materials to construct their twisted engines of war. Tuskk immediately sent word to his team of Mek Boyz & Engineer Orks to assemble a raiding party while establishing a secure perimeter around the Depots – after his run in with the filthy Xenos from before, he was not taking any chances with another surprise.

The chaotic scene now playing out in front of him was the result of this chance discovery. Sparks flew from hundreds of saws and cutters as metal was shorn apart, while arcs of plasma danced in the darkness as the various pieces were refastened into deadly new utility.

The Warboss' path eventually led him back to the Ork Command Station. Grimy, cracked viewscreens doused the room in a pale green glow, flickering periodically as power was drawn to satisfy the needs of the many construction crews outside. In one corner of the building, a lone Ork sat upon a pile of rubble with his head turned towards the sky above. He was holding some sort of apparatus and mumbling to himself. Tuskk lumbered over to the Mekboy. “Oy Bagzob, you makin’ anyfink outta dat buggy signal weez keep pickin’ up?

Bagzob was a relatively scrawny Ork with a wild shock of white hair. He was wearing a pair of tarnished brass goggles, each lens tinted a different colour and whirring as they focused and refocused at his command. The contraption he was holding was pressed into one ear. It looked like a roughly beaten copper tube, with the far end gradually expanding into a wide opening. It was bent at obtuse angles and covered in wires, transistors, and light bulbs, as well as bits of string, feathers and bone fragments. It looked like it belonged to three separate universes, none of them being the one it currently occupied. “Sorry boss, dis transmogrifier only ‘ears da original fing, iz makin’ no sense. Iz da same girly, sing-song voicez az befo’. But sumfin weirdo iz happenin’ wif da device. Iz all bugged out now, keeps repeatin’ da same ting ova’ and ova’

Tuskk took the tube and placed it into his hear. A transistor pulsed gently as the voice returned. There was considerable interference, but the words came out clear enough:

“...Ash Dras'i Garoth... ...Ash Istar Fraocch... ... La Elehar'sub, kan novars yi Atherakhia...

This repeated again before he removed the contraption in his ear and scowled at Bagzob. “Makes it talk Orky ya weedy git, I can’t makes no sense of it.” he growled. The anger from the battle was coming to the fore again, and the fact that he was also being stymied in this pursuit was not sitting well. The Mekboy, clearly aware of his Warboss' rapidly rising choler, began to stutter. “Boss, I dun’ axed Gork and Mork for help, but dey no ansa. Dis Transmogrifier juz will not wor-

At this, Tuskk let out a roar and crushed the device in his muscular hand before shoving it into Bagzob’s gaping mouth mid-sentence. Suddenly, the Mekboy's eyes turned into his skull and the corneas started glowing a pale blue. The air turned heavy and slick around him. Tuskk was smart enough to take a few steps back.

Even though the transmogrifier was severely damaged, the various lights and tubes lit up and quickly increased in intensity, eventually becoming searing white supernovas before popping in a tiny shower of sparks. At the same time, static began to emanate from the unit, or was it from Bagzob's mouth? It was hard to tell as they were currently one and the same. Then, the words came forth, with the same melancholy sing-song form as the first time, but inexplicably, this time in an Orky toungue, and Tuskk’s ears pricked up.

...The Shadow's Lament... The Silent Fury... One Mind, yet four wings of Destruction...

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