Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Woffboot VI - Dogs of Empire v Ogre Kingdoms‏

"They're gonna kill us," said Sergeant Ricardo. "They're gonna cook us. And they're gonna frackin' eat us!"

Commissar Pendleton ignored his Schiltron officer and looked around at the battered remnants of the Enterprise of Campogrotta. It had been a hard campaign: thrashing the greenskins and those lizardmen had brought them within touching distance of their goal. But facing the ratmen swarm had cost precious time, and they had barely escaped with their lives against the vampire's nightmare host. It was time to cut their losses and go home.

Except now the ogre brutes of the East were blocking their route. A big mob of raging bulls were gathered around a butcher-chief in a bloodsoaked apron. To the right, another butcher was leading a pack of ogres that wielded cannons like they were handguns. And towering above the ogres, towering above the buildings, towering above the forest, was a mighty frost-mammoth.

In the last few days, the taverns of Zenres had buzzed with news of the legendary Thundertusk, striding out of legend to trample the ogres' foes. They were said to be invincible, destroying any army that lay in its path.

Now the Enterprise of Campogrotta lay in its path.

The mercenaries of Tilea were on good terms - if such a thing could exist - with many ogres, sharing a similar outlook on profit and fighting. Except these ones were looking hungry.

"Come on," Pendleton started dragging his much-depleted paychest. "Let's get this moveable feast underway!"


Master Gunner Boomhaur adjusted his sextant, careful to measure the exact range. It would be hard to miss the massive elephant, but after four ineffectual displays in a row, he got the impression that the Paymaster was losing patience with the Spitfyre volley gun.

This time, there would be no mistakes. His crew had laboriously dragged the war machine up to the top of an abandoned stone watchtower. Set on the extreme right of the battlefield, while the rest of the army had deployed on the hill to the left, the volley gun would be able to rake the ogres with deadly shots as they passed by. Nothing could go wrong.

"They're shooting at us, sir!" The crew flinched as the ogre cannons coughed out blasts of grey smoke.

Boomhaur didn't flinch as the scraps of metal rebounded off the stone walls. "It's panic fire, boys." He saw one of the Thundertusk-riders level an outsized crossbow at them. The ogre brain clearly couldn't grasp the concept of extreme range.

"There's nothing they can do to hurt us, lads." He turned away in derision, failing to notice the harpoon soaring through the narrow gap in the crenellations and precisely striking the volley gun's tiny exhaust port. "This is our moment of triumph."


Sergeant Jones saw the explosion of fire and smoke rocket up from the top of the watchtower. He reckoned they wouldn't have to listen to Boomhaur's bombast any more.

He loosened his pistols in their saddle-holsters and cracked his whip to bring the rest of the Riders into line. Time to go to work. Shooting up that undead coach had been fun, reminding him of his old days as a highwayman. Now he wanted to fight something bigger. And they didn't come much bigger than an ice-mammoth.

"Elephants," he smirked to himself. "Why'd it have to be elephants?"

Shaking off the enemy magic that tried to buck their steeds, the horsemen galloped round and round the tusked behemoth, peppering its frosted backside with shots.

The creature did not respond to their gnat-stings, and continued lumbering towards the Paymaster and his elite Schiltrons. There was no stopping it.

Jones spun his pistol and slipped it back onto his holster. Ah well. Shame Pendleton hadn't paid them in advance.


"Steady!" Captain Fagiolo's stern command was almost inaudible over the oncoming stampede. "Steady..."

Every crossbow bolt had been poured onto the big unit of bulls. Even that crazy wizard, Aurelius, had added his share of fireballs to the barrage. And yet over half the ogres remained to charge into the packed ranks of the Viadaza Toreadors.

The unstoppable mass of iron and muscle smashed into them, shattering their slender spears like kindling. Led by their Butcher, the ogres hacked through the mercenaries, taking scarcely a wound in reply.

Even Fagiolo was stunned. As the regiment began to falter under the onslaught, he knew that only an act of insane courage would save them now.

He drew a last, desperate breath, and tried to remember what he had learned in the Altdorf Academy.

"Hold the line!"


With a quick glance over his shoulder, Pendleton saw that Fagiolo was still securing the right flank against the main assault. They looked to be in trouble, but he couldn't spare a thought for the spearmen. He had elephantine problems of his own.

The Schiltrons had already shied away from the Thundertusk, stopping short as Pendleton tried to lead them into combat. But there could be no avoiding the mammoth's own charge. The monster crashed into the mercenaries, tossing the armour-plated men into the air with its mighty tusks.

But the Schiltrons struck back, thrusting powerful greatspears deep into the beast's underbelly. Blood streamed down the hairy flanks as Sergeant Ricardo stepped forward and plunged his schiltron deep into the mammoth's heart.

With a low moan, the creature rocked to the side, then toppled over like a felled oak, crushing its ogre handlers beneath it.

The Schiltrons breathed a sigh of relief. Pendleton could see Ricardo looking at him expectantly. He nodded to the sergeant.

"Go on, you can say it."

"Gee boss, that was a mammoth task!"

"Quite. Now get over there and help the Toreadors!"


When the Schiltrons charged in beside then, Fagiolo knew that victory was assured. The greatspears hacked through the ogre flesh. Even the Toreadors fought with renewed heart, dragging down one bull for every three of their own that fell.

The ogres wavered, their rage and hunger blunted against the immovable ranks of men. Fagiolo had fought enough battles to know when an enemy was beaten, and that time was now.

A light caught his eye. Strange magicks were suddenly cascading out from the ogre chief, filling the remaining brutes with a stubborn will to go on.

"One does not simply break a mob of stubborn ogres," he said ruefully, "Not with ten thousand could you do this." He braced himself as the second pack of ogres threw aside their cannons and joined the fray.


Sergeant Ricardo's heels gouged out deep channels in the ground as the greatspears took the impact of this second ogre charge.

It was a bloodbath. Steel-plated bodies were stacking up all around him. He saw the regimental standards of both Viadaza Toreadors and Schiltrons of Tarano fall and be trampled into the mud. Captain Fagiolo was beaten down by the ogre chief, his last act was to drive his sword deep into the brute's ribs. Commissar Pendleton was seized by the second butcher, his desperate promises of wealth going unheeded as he disappeared into the ogre's maw.

There were now only a handful of them left and the ogres were pressing hard. Fagiolo could, perhaps, have held them in line. But Fagiolo was gone.

As the last of the Schiltrons fell, Ricardo made his decision. He decided that practicing his short-distance sprint while wearing full-plate armour had been a very wise move.


As the greatspear sergeant dashed off into the safety of a nearby mausoleum, and the final few spearmen were gobbled up by the ogres, Vernon Aurelius felt almost offended. Everyone was ignoring him.

But he was getting used to that. Even before he had returned from the mystical void, eyes gleaming with the true insanity of one who glimpsed the infinite, he got the feeling the other mercenaries were afraid of him.

Certainly, the Tettoverde Greenjackets now refused to fight alongside him. Which was very unfair given that, this time, his unstable magicks had barely scorched them.

Speaking of the crossbowmen, they and the pistoliers now represented the sum total of the Enterprise's fighting men. Undaunted, they shot at the ironclad ogres until only their chief was left, bloody and battered, but still on his feet.

And then they ran away from him.

Aurelius clicked his fingers like the mechanism of a tinderbox. As he always said, don't send a soldier to do a wizard's job. This would come down to him.

Oh crap, the ogre was turning into a dragon.

The ogre chief was also a spellcaster, and was now drawing on the most powerful of the bestial witchcraft to transform himself. Aurelius could see the magical outline take shape: the neck lengthening, the talons growing, two great wings spreading across the sky...

And then, nothing. The ogre has failed to harness the winds of magic, and the spell died on his bloody lips.

Throwing back his sleeves, Aurelius would show this ogre how it was done. "Oi, M'grash!" he said, mimicking the brutish language. "Yer fired!"

A cascade of fireballs pounded into the ogre chief, burning and tearing him apart many times over. Aurelius coolly blew the smoke from his fingers.

Both sides had fought each other to a standstill. The bloodied survivors gathered up what remained of their comrades and went on their way.

A red dusk settled over the battlefield. Nothing was left but the cries of the dying, the call of gathering carrion-birds, and the stench of charred flesh.

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