So I know its been ages since I posted last but you can’t say I didn’t warn you. I have been rather busy with the whole “real-life” thing and its been a real pain in the neck. Anyhow, here is the short story that I wrote for the Warhammer beta, some months ago. I guess I was happy with how it came out. It was fun to write at least. It never earned my way into the beta so it must of not been that good.
The Orange Lights of Altdorf
The milky, orange lights of day were making their last stand against the coming night outside of the gates of Altdorf. They cut graceful swaths across the sky before gradually fading away into grays and purples. Somewhere, off in the distance, a black bird called out to its fellows before taking flight. For a moment, Jonas closed his eyes and forgot about the bubbling, seething mass of Greenskins poised over the hills, just outside of his sight.
He imagined himself back in the fields of Averheim, long before its destruction at the hands of the monstrous Gorbad Ironclaw. Ironclaw had come thundering down from the mountains with a fury unlike any of the War Bosses before him. He led his minions like a green wave over house, home and city. No questions, no surrender and no survivors. Jonas fled to Altdorf when the Greenskins swept over his home, claiming the lives of his sons Keen and Graev, along with his darling Isabel.
He was ripped from his revelry by the calling of loud voices.
“Lord Durmstroff hereby calls the council to order. All members are ordered to report to the command post!”
Jonas took one last look out into the thick, coming night before turning to leave. For a fleeting moment he thought he could see the orange glow of a thousand fires roaring in the distance.
* * *
The light from dozens of torches danced across faded gray stone, polished long ago from constant running water and encroaching fungus. The sewers of Altdorf were a far worse place than Jonas could have ever imagined.
His party marched in silence, the soft movement of water and the distant, lonely drips were their only company. Occasionally a deep rumble could be heard from overhead as an Orcish boulder came crashing from the heavens.
The Greenskins had begun their siege of Altdorf that evening, pushing down trees and lighting up the country side for miles around with their war fires. The rock lobbers came with the night, intermittently spitting their flaming contents into the sky. Nearly half the shots missed completely and more than a few either hurled the wrong direction or somehow exploded without ever leaving the platforms. The rest came screaming into Altdorf, smashing against the walls or crashing into the crumbling mass of homes and buildings. Lord Durmstroff expected the siege to last no more than a few days. It wouldn’t take long for the Orcs to grow weary of the siege and begin storming the city themselves, whether or not the defenses had fallen. The Orcs had never been known for their patience.
Lord Durmstroff had also been informed that the Orcs, having just finished raiding a large Dwarven outpost, had acquired a large store of explosives and black powder. Normally, one would not have to bat an eye lash at Orcs having powder. If by some chance, they learned how to properly harness the power of black powder, they would most certainly blow themselves up before using it to any effect. This time had been different.
As if empowered by some force greater than themselves, the Orcs had been laying siege and attacking with a cunning, tactical ruthlessness that was wholly unlike anything ever seen. Not only were they picking their battles rather wisely but they had learned how to convert their siege equipment to hurl large bombs, to devastating effect. No one was totally sure where the Orcs had gathered their newfound capabilities, but Durmstroff was determined to put an end to it.
Jonas and a dozen other men had been assigned to move through the sewers of Altdorf and emerge on the far west side of the city. There, they were to circle around, gain access to the Orcs powder supplies and set it ablaze. Durmstroff had been very clear about the gravity of the mission as he stood in front of the potential volunteers.
“Make no mistake, this mission has a very low chance of survival — but without the destruction of the black powder, they will be camping within the walls of Altdorf by this time next week.” Volunteers had come quickly after that. Most of the men slowly made their way to the front to sign as a few others skulked out of the back, hanging their heads low.
Jonas knew why they had all chosen this duty. They were all men that had lost something. They all shared a brotherhood of loss and that had brought them all here, in the face of inevitable doom. Despite this grim reality, Jonas found himself thinking about bread.
For his family, the end of the week was always a time for baking. Jonas and his sons would gather up the grain they had harvested and haul the sacks to town. They would load up the mule at first light and head out through the woods. They would return before nightfall at a sprint, following the smell of baking bread all the way through the door. Isabel was often still behind the house pulling loaves of bread out of the stone oven and sitting them in baskets. Smiling at him over the top of the oven, she would wipe the sweat from her brow with one finger and brush her hair out of her face. At night, they would sit outside under the stars in silence, listening to the world as it slept.
They reached the western sewer grate after several long hours of traveling. A soft breeze blew through the rusty bars and judging by the sky, they had several hours before morning. They pried two of the bars apart and slipped through one at a time, dropping down into the water and making their way ashore. Drying themselves off as best they could, they readied their weapons and headed out into the night.
They circled around through the forest, passing a few houses and farm land that had been burnt to a cinder. The forest would often flash with light as flaming boulders shot skyward. Eventually the trees started disappearing, making way for ruined stumps and vast clearings of smoldering ruin. As they crested the last rise, they stopped.
The valley below them looked as if the earth was on fire. Thousands of campfires blazed and a sea of bodies could be seen writhing around them. The Greenskins had formed an army unlike anything he could have possibly imagined. The long, deep calls of horns and the thunderous beatings of war drums could be heard. Banners of red, green and orange all waved from the backs of numerous siege engines. Thousands of voices roared and called into the night. Apparently the Greenskins had gotten bored with the siege sooner than expected and were already organizing for invasion. Wasting no time, they began their entry
The black powder supplies were almost exactly where the scouts had reported them to be. They had been piled high in large barrels near the back of the war host, laid carelessly next to mountains of butchered farm animals and raw meat. Nearby, several large giants could be seen curled up and sleeping, along with tiny goblins that scurried around, grabbing what they could.
Using the landscape, they crawled on their stomachs down the hill towards the camp. Jonas was shaking with anticipation as he reached their target. The powder barrels were larger than a man and decorated with strange runes that looked as if they were painted in blood. The nearby mountain of rotting animals made his stomach churn and for a moment he believed he would retch. He could hear the faint skittering of feet close by but when he turned, was only greeted by darkness.
The last few men were arriving when it happened. Horns began bellowing all around them, ringing into the night with deep calls that made Jonas’ hair stand on end. They increased in frequency and the sounds of commotion could be heard.
With no time to waste, they began pulling out fuses and slipping them into the barrels. Taking deep breaths to try and calm his shaking hands, Jonas began carefully tying the fuses together in bundles, and connecting them to the bases.
“YAHH,” screeched a tiny voice suddenly. Standing near one side of the supply pile, stood a small, naked, green goblin, no larger than a dog. He stood paralyzed, holding a small piece of meat in one hand and staring wide eyed in fright.
“’Umiez…,” he squeaked. “’Umiez? Der’ be ‘Umiez here!” Having come to his senses and settled on a course of action, the goblin screamed in terror and began sprinting off towards the camp. Bringing his gun forward, Jonas took a moment to steady himself and track the fleeing Greenskin. Holding his breath, he gently squeezed the trigger.
The shot rang out louder than he would have expected, given the surrounding commotion. It struck the goblin in the neck, tossing him forward onto the ground. They all froze in silence, listening for any disturbances. After a long moment, they begin to hear voices and the sounds of thousands of moving feet. Bright orange fire light began growing in the surrounding country side, nearing their position.
Rushing back to their work, they began working as quickly as they could. They finished their tasks and were lighting the fuses as bright torch light fell upon them. Behind, Orcs had begun pouring through the bushes, quickly approaching the supplies. Judging by the sound of the drums and the increasing horn blasts, the time had come for the Orcs to begin their advance. They had come for their supplies.
Lifting themselves off of the ground, they began sprinting back up the hill. Taking a last glance down at the burning fuses, Jonas stooped low and followed. They were almost half way up the hill when the commotion began. The Orcs, possessing a keen sense of smell, hadn’t been fooled by their hasty retreat and were beginning to charge up the hill en masse, faces twisted in unimaginable anger. Jonas could hear the thunder of armored feet quickly approaching, shaking the ground behind them. Goblin arrows began whizzing down from the sky, burying themselves into the backs and shoulders of the men in front of him. The men screamed as they fell, clutching at their wounds as vile squig poison quickly took hold and set their insides on fire.
As Jonas crested the top of the hill, a sharp pain exploded in his thigh and he toppled onto the ground. More men collapsed behind him, turning and firing their pistols into the approaching hoard. With an earth-shattering crash, the sky behind them erupted into bright yellow and orange light. The barrels exploded in clusters, shaking the ground and cascading into a crescendo that lit up the country side for leagues.
Over the chaos, Jonas could make out the bright, clear call of Altdorf bells, ringing throughout the city, calling the army to war. Durmstroff had planned on attacking at first light and was undoubtedly sending his forces charging out of the city. With the distraction provided and the Orcish powder effectively neutralized, he had a decisive advantage. Jonas prayed to Sigmar that he would bless this day.
As the Orcs fell upon him and the poison pumped towards his heart, Jonas collapsed onto his back, casting his gaze towards the heavens. The sky was a dark purple and the stars were shining bright that night. Jonas could see the faint light of the sun creeping its way into the sky, forever chasing the moon. He felt the soft grass and the cool earth under his head.
Above him, he could see his two sons smiling and gently calling his name. They had just charged into his bedroom and were trying to catch him sleeping. Isabel lay beside him, grinning and pretending not to notice. The moment Jonas had been waiting on for two years had finally come. He smiled and opened his arms to them, embracing their warm, orange light.