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Dogs of War

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Dogs of War

Postby chilledmonkeybrains » 18 Apr 2014, 22:08

The following is taken from the journal of the dwarf engineer, Falgrim Ironhand.

I first met the manling on an ill-fated expedition into the Badlands.

It was past the end of summer and we were journeying north; determined to get home before winter closed the mountain passes with her icy breath. We were still many leagues from Karaz-a-Karak, and the going was hard; made all the more difficult by the rocky terrain and the relentless heat, for we were still in the cursed, mesa-strewn desert and had some way to go before we could escape its scorching embrace.

The orcs attacked swiftly, riding fierce wargs that stank of muck and dung, whooping and screaming their war cries. They came from both sides; the paws of their vicious mounts kicking up clouds of dust. Without blinking an eye we quickly formed a defensive perimeter around our waggon, drawing our axes and barring our teeth in a mixture of hatred and fear. They outnumbered us three to one, but my kinsmen were steadfast and I trusted their resolve absolutely. To a dwarf we were determined to defend our cargo to the death.

Within less than thirty heartbeats of first sighting our bitter enemies, the first riders leapt into our ranks, and my heart swelled with pride as my brothers ran to meet them head on. Axes swung and heads flew from greenskin shoulders. A gigantic wolf bounded at me and I reacted instinctively, crouching and bringing my hammer around in a low horizontal arc, striking the beast’s legs and hearing the satisfying sound of bones shattering. The wolf slammed jaw-first into the ground, and its rider was hurled from the saddle, smashing its face into the hard metal chassis of the waggon. Remarkably, the orc slowly began to get up, shaking its head as if to clear it of stars. I did not wait and with a downward motion quickly stove in the skull of the prone wolf, before running and brining my hammer down onto the orc’s back, breaking its spine and finally killing it.

Before I could even think, two more wolf riders were on me, and I had to vigorously defend myself whilst I was pushed back against the waggon, such was the ferocity of their joint attack. War paint covered their otherwise naked bodies, and their tiny crazed eyes bore nothing but murderous intent towards me. The wolves’ hot breath stank as they snapped their jaws, aiming to take out my jugular. But I am made of stern stuff. There was no way I was going to allow myself to be killed by such base savages.

Another swing of my hammer took one of the orc’s in the shoulder, causing it to shout in pain and drop its club. Spinning and ducking as a wolf took a swipe for my head, I brought my weapon around again, feeling the satisfying crunch as the hammer head obliterated the other orc’s jaw, dropping the creature to the ground. One of the wolves thought it had me and went for my face with its open maw, but I was faster and head-butted its teeth with my helm, sending canines flying. I finished the job with my hammer, before the other wolf jumped onto me and bore me to the ground.

Foetid breath like rotten meat assailed my nostrils, and I almost gagged, such was the stench. Gasping in disgust I wrestled with the creature, eventually managing to grasp its front legs and, pushing with all my might perpendicular to the shoulder joints, I wrenched the legs out of their sockets and caused the beast to whine terribly. I pushed it off from me, just in time to see the orc with the wounded shoulder scoop up its weapon and come running, screaming towards me. I reached for my hammer and hurled it at the creature’s face, caving it in and killing it dead.

I pulled my weapon from the wreckage of the orc’s head, and quickly assessed the battle around me. It was not going well. Despite the fact that dozens of orcs and wolves lay dead or dying on the ground, several of my kinsmen lay there amongst them. I fought back tears as I knew then with a certainty that we could not prevail. Anger, pride and the indomitable urge for revenge filled me and I roared in my hate and charged our enemy, determined to take as many of them with me.

It was then that we heard the horn. It sounded somewhere in the distance, and it echoed amongst the towering mesa around us. The orcs stopped and cocked their ears in confusion, allowing us to hack down a few more in the momentary lull in combat. The horn sounded again, louder, closer, and the wolves became skittish; their riders looking to each other with what can only be described as looks of fear. Patently it was not an orc horn.

It blared a third time and this time was accompanied by the sound of many hooves. From around the base of one the mesa a mass of mounted warriors came charging. As I killed another distracted orc, I made a quick estimate of their number. There were about thirty mounted knights, wearing billowing hooded cloaks of dust-caked grey over light chainmail. They lowered their lances when they got within fifty metres and to a manling – for they were obviously human – they let out a loud war cry.

That was more than enough for the cowardly greenskin. Yelping and shouting in confusion, they turned to flee. We hacked a few down as they ran, and moments later the manlings finished the job as their disciplined charge smashed into the flank of our retreating foes, impaling orc and wolf alike on their sharp lances, and sending even more flying through the air to be crushed under hoof. By the time me and my surviving kinsmen reached the battle, the humans had already killed them all; only a couple of rider-less wolves escaping with tails between legs.

The knights withdrew from amongst the mass of broken orc and wolf bodies, each of them covered in gore. Whilst one or two appeared to carry minor wounds, they had not lost a single man to the greenskin. These were obviously highly-trained warriors. However, despite the fact they had intervened at a timely moment, saving our lives, we could not be sure that they did not bare us any ill intent. We formed a small but determined defensive line as their leader approached. We are a naturally suspicious people, us dwarfs. A suspicion born of necessity.

Their leader wiped his face and beard with a rag taken from his saddle bag as he approached, still on horseback. His warriors had formed a ring around us, and whilst their stances were neutral, they all had their hands on weapon hilts. The leader held up a hand to signal that his warriors stay put, and swung his leg across the back of his horse and dismounted.

I squinted at him in the afternoon sun. He was a big man, tall and broad, and was well past middle-aged, although I could not say with any great certainty how old he was. Humans are a short-lived race and, as such, seem to age rapidly. However, despite being older than most of his men, he looked as strong as an ox. He removed his helm and shook out a great mane of dark hair that was almost eclipsed by his beard which, for a human at least, was quite impressive. My knuckles whitened as I gripped the haft of my war hammer tighter.

“Come no closer, manling,” I growled. “We appreciate your timely assistance with the orcs,” I paused to spit on the pile of bodies, “but would know your intentions in these evil lands.”

Their leader scowled at me for the briefest moment before a broad, strong-toothed grin spread beneath his moustaches. He made an awkward bow in his armour.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” he spoke in a loud, sonorous tone. An Imperial accent.

“I am Baron Ulric von Beck. And I am here to kill orcs.”
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