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Here I would like to share some background I'm currently developing for my IG regiment. Maybe I will also post some pictures were it is appropiate. If you have any input or see anything that does not fit the Warhammer 40k fluff I would be happy for your feedback. It is fully intended, that the background is not really grimdark. I 'm looking forward to develop the story of a regiment with a really optimistic, idealistic view on the Imperium confronted with the reality of the 41st millenium.
2nd Thoth Askaris
Initial idea and short history of the planet and regiment: Thoth is classified as desert world and was brought into the imperial fold during the Macharius crusade. Back then, the planet was mainly controlled by psykers and chaos worshippers. During the invasion the Tallarn desert raiders under their captain Al'Raheem made contact with indigenous tribes which called themselves the N'Go and who also struggled against the "evil witches" and their followers. These tribes held on to a deep spiritiual worship of the “great skyfather” and quickly accepted the imperial forces as emissaries and holy warriors of their god. Tribal warriors and imperial guardsmen fought side by side until finally the generals leading the crusade decided that more drastical methods were necessary. The Tallarn desert raiders and their N'Go allies were evacuated together with probes of flora and fauna and the planet was virus bombed. Afterwards both factions were allowed to resettle the desert world together. (So far the official Info on Thoth in the wiki)
During the Macharius heresy, Thoth remained loyal to the Imperium instead of any single general, which was helped by the fact that beeing only recently resettled and practically a barren desert, the planet was not really of great interest.
Being mostly forgotten some centuries passed before Thoth gained the attention of the Imperium again. The arrival of the imperial authorities was initially greeted not very enthusiastically, yet the population responded with faithful worship to the presence of Space Marines and Battle Sisters as well as preachings of the accompanying ecclesiarchy priests, quickly succumbing to the imperiums will. On the notion to solidify his position and get rid of some opposition, the appointed planetary governor quickly ordered the draft of Thoths first regiment by simply collecting almost every man and women in fighting age from the most opposing tribes and sending them off to fight the emperors wars instead of his own government. But they were not ready. Send off to fight a war which they did not understand under the leadership of astra militarum commanders they did not respect, disciplinary problems were manifold. This was not helped by the fact that the commissars controlling the regiment had some problems differentiating between a feinted retreat to prepare a trap and desertion leading to a great number of executions and a further drop in morale. In the end Thoths first regiment was destroyed on some far away world. While the authorities were underwhelmed by their performance and wanted to include further Thoth regiments only as cannon fodder, the ecclasiarchy priests and missionaries immediately realized the potential of Thoths religion and carefully steered it in a productive direction. The main force behind this was a missionary known by the name Hakeem who succeeded in calling in some favors at different positions of the administration on the promise to turn Thoth into a compliant loyal asset for the Imperium.
After the governor passed away due to an unfortunate snake bite, the old traditional council of tribes was reinstalled as government of the planet. Astropaths were send to Thoth and quickly rose to the position of revered oracles, priests visited the tribes and united them under "god send" commanders and Hakeem arranged to find more... patient commissars. The word spread that the evil witches of the old stories told at the fire place were still at large on other planets and that the first regiment drafted on Thoth had failed the skyfather when fighting them. But in his grace and forgiveness, their god granted them another chance to redeem their fallen brothers and repay their deeds. When finally the great skyships arrived again to collect "Terra's Due", they were greated by cheering and praying crowds. Lead by their Missionary now known as "Al'Abu" countless proud warriors of the tribes boarded the transports - the best and worthiest, that Thoth had to offer - eager to do the work of the skyfather and wash away the shame of their first regiments failure.
The planet Thoth
Type: Desert World Geography: Originally being even more arid, Thoth was bombarded with a series of ice asteroids prior to resettling leading to the formation of two small oceans at the polar caps. These are surrounded by a stripe of coastal rainforest and further fertile grassland together covering about 15% of Thoths surface. The rest of the planet is made up of dry savannas and steps with a desert belt around the aequator covering about 50% of the surface.
Classification: Civilized World After resettlement following the Macharius crusade Thoth was separated from the wider imperium for some centuries mostly due to lack of interest in the redeveloping world. Without a specific role to fill the settlement developed in a more or less self-sufficient system. The fertile polar regions are used for intensive agri- and aquaculture and harbor a huge number of cities of varying size. Three Megacities in the southern hemisphere are currently in a process of rapid growth and fusion and will most likely form Thoths first hive somewhere in the next century. Nonetheless the majority (~80%) of the population lives a life on a feudal or even feral development level in tribal communities spreading all over the planet. Since the complete annihilation of the planets chaos worshipers during the Macharius crusade, Thoth had the rare luck of not having encountered any threat – Xenos or Chaos – for centuries. While this allowed for a rather fast development of the refounded colony, the Thoth system is far from being adequately fortified. Should any of the countless enemies of the imperium attempt a serious push on the system it would hardly stand a chance without serious imperial reinforcements.
Population: ~ 500.000.000
Culture: Even though Thoths industrial centers still possess the technology level of the 41st century Imperial Guard, generations of isolation have caused the Tallarn settlers to return to a more tribal lifestyle and adopt religious believes similar to their N’Go neighbours. These local cultures express a lot of similarity with a variety of Arabic and African cultures of ancient earth. Tribal identity is valued highly even in the more civilized regions and a large proportion of the inhabitants of the polar megacities have lived at least some years of their youth in tribal communities of their relatives as kind of “coming of age” ritual.
The N’Go have preserved a deep spiritual believe of the great sky father, his angles and oracles, which was further strengthened and rekindled by the events of the crusade. Fighting a hopeless fight against the overwhelming powers of the evil witches they had witnessed their prayers to the great skyfather being heard. They had seen mighty ships falling from the sky, their tribal tallarn brothers joining them in the hour of need and the power armored sons of their god walking amongst them. And when the skyfather had decided that the evilness of the witches was so strong, that the planet had to be cleansed, he had saved the faithful N'Go who had never strained from his path. Naturally, the ecclesiarchy holds a large mission and a great deal of influence on the planet that is formally ruled by a council of tribal elders.
Tithegrade: Decuma Prima
Thoths only relevant resource and tithe is… sand. Thoths wast deserts are rather rich in sands composed of korund and other aluminiumoxids. These are the base ingredients for armored and ceramic glasses and lenses for tanks and power armors which are produced locally in huge concentrated solar polar plants. They are furthermore valuable as additive for the production of high quality ferrocrete. On the contrary the planet is self-sufficient enough not to need much of the imperium besides every Tithe fleet towing some ice asteroids from the outer asteroid belt of the system to drop them into Thoths atmosphere to prevent it from slowly loosing humidity to solar winds.
Besides that, the tribes are a proud supplier of troops for the skyfathers holy armies, with their second tithe raising 5 million soldiers for the regimentum falling into 100 regiments. Indeed the draft of imperial regiments has had a rather stabilizing effect on Thoths society, since it keeps the population growth on a level that is sustainable for the natural resources of the planet. Furthermore the martial traditions of the tribes now have a clear enemy in form of the xenos and heretic foes of the imperium reducing clashes between the tribes to small skirmishes at best.
This message was edited 4 times. Last update was at 2020/07/31 16:30:57
The vast majority of Thoths PDF forces consists of native warriors of the multitude of clans, tribes and coalitions, who, due to the martial traditions of the tribes, number around 10% of the population. Yet the quality of their training and equipment varies wildly, from feral hunters with obsidian knifes and wooden spears to professional warrior castes who from an early age are trained in the use of lasguns, grenade launchers and even light tanks and vehicles. Since being drafted for the tithe to the great skyfather is seen as a huge honour, the young warriors are keen to proof themselves to their tribal elders, since each chief decides who are the worthiest to go - worth beeing defined not only in strength and durability, but also in devotion to the skyfather.
In addition to that, the more civilized regions at the polar caps maintain some PDF devisions that are more or less indistinguishable from the Astra Militarum standard. Here every adult is conscripted for a year of basic military training. The most promising conscripts then usually remain as professional soldiers in the army with the selection process for the tithe draft being not very different then in the tribes.
While both sexes are treated as equal and a lot of women are also proud warriors, the tithe drafted for the emperor predominantly consisted of males. It's not that the women are forbidden from joining - and some thousands did - but the council of elders ruling the planet were aware that those send to the stars would most likely never return. The loss of a generation of males was harsch, but the population could recover from that easier than from losing a large share of their adult women. Of course this led to controversy, but in the end, the priest of the ecclesiarchy could ease the unrest by preaching that it was the will of the skyfather, that the daughters of Thoth will be the honoured guards of the planet.
honestly: I wanted to try to include at least some explanation, why I only have male models in my army. I plan on including some female models from Victoria Miniatures but as long as I don't find any good female Tallarn heads or N'Go bodies, they will definitly not make up 50%
Equipment: Besides the trusty lasgun, Thoths infantry battalions carry a large number of grenade launchers and flamers. Plasma and Meltaguns can only be produced in rather small numbers and are therefore reserved for veterans and specialists. Being more of a scouting regiment and therefore often lacking knowledge of the nature of the enemy, autoguns and missile launchers are often the heavy weapons of choice due to their flexibility. There might be more effective weapons for specific tasks, but at least you don't go totally wrong, if the tank you suspected to hide behind that rock turns out to be an infantry platoon.
The vehicle park of the regiment is obviously designed under similar considerations: speed, adaptability, sneakyness. Sentinels and different Tauros variants are included in every battalion, mostly accompanied by Hellhounds and Chimeras. Leman Russ tanks are quite rare compared to other regiments, but after a large stock of the smaller, faster Carnodon tanks was rediscovered on Tallarn, the desert raiders have arranged for some of them beeing transfered to Thoth who were welcomed eagerly. The weapons forges of Thoth have already inquired at the adeptus mechanicus, if there are any possibilities to reproduce them locally. The main weakness of the regiment is its near total lack of artillery, which is neither produced nor imported so far. Most of the 2nd Thoth commanders regard those heavy weapons as not appropriate for scouting troops, prefering to include more fast light and medium vehicles. Time will tell if this is a drastic miscalculation or indeed just the more effective approach.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/07/12 08:02:26
Very nice. I like the idealism in the optimistic start. I'm looking forward to seeing some character and unit profiles. Maybe a bit of a story or two?
Pictures very welcome too. I'll be watching your progress.
Samira was born as daughter of shepherds on Tallarn and lived a simple, happy life until it became obvious that she was ridden with the dangerous burden of being a psyker. When she learned what that meant, she wept but was ultimately consoled by her family to remain strong and keep faith in the god emperor for after all, the emperor protects. And her faith she kept, from the maddening, panicking and overcrowded black ship to the frightening horrors awaiting the members of the black tithe during the selection process on Terra. Keeping on to her prayers she remained sane were other spirits broke and thus could count herself as one of the lucky few who were chosen to be stable enough to be brought before the golden throne and become an astropath.
As she spoke the language of her ancestors and was a stern follower of the imperial faith, she was selected to accompany a missionary of the Adeptus Galaxia who specifically requested for someone like her. The holy man, called Hakeem Al’Said was headed to the outer fringes of the segmentum pacificum, towards the desert world of Thoth. During the long travel, they talked a lot, about Tallarn, about her tribe, their shared religion… and about bringing the light of the imperial faith to a world of million souls hungry for spiritual guidance. And thus, Samira understood the role that was her destiny.
Years have passed since these days long gone, as Samira wraps her cape around her shoulders against the cold breeze of the early morning on Thoth. Leaving the large tent, she calls her home, she slides through the tent flap and kneels down to pick up some of the dates and figs the tribesmen have left at her doorstep. Gifts of gratitude for their revered oracle, for predictions of weather and storm, of rich hunting grounds and lost livestock and the arrival of the skyships bringing trade and news from the great empire they were proud citizens of. At first she had felt very uncomfortable using the technology they had brought with them – satellites, meteorological devices and plain old radio to maintain her position as oracle, but Hakeem had eased her mind “It is for their own good. And the end will justify the means” … that was what he always said, and he was right. It had been years until she realized that at least the elders were aware of the root of her predictions always coming true, but that they really did not care. For the native N’Go and their once Tallarn brothers, the technology behind it was not different from holy divination and no less mystical and wondrous. The only thing that was important for them was that the fortunes she told them came true, and that they were the work of their great skyfather and not the evil witches of their old stories.
Lost in her memories, she feels the warm, welcoming touch of the bright sun rising over the horizon on her skin. Hears the soft ripple of the frogs in the pond that forms the center of the small oasis and the gentle rustle of the palm leaves above her. Tastes the sweetness of the dates and the fine dust of the sand brought with the wind from the vast desert planes. Things she never felt as intense back when her eyes still saw this world. Eyes closed, she “looks” to the sky, concentrating, listening to voices unheard of any of the people around her… and finally smiles. “What is it, Samira?” she hears a warm and familiar voice beside her, belonging to her old mentor. “It is time, Hakeem… they are coming.” She does not need eyes to know that behind his confident, sympathetic smile, he is concerned. Will it be enough? Will the tribes persist, where their ancestors failed the emperor? Will this great task that he put upon himself finally bear fruit, or will it all be in vain? She turns to him and plants a soft kiss on his cheek “Don’t doubt them, al’Abu. Believe in them, as they believe in you. And after all, the skyfather protects…”
And far above them, the imperial tithe fleet 423.F29 enters the system and cuts its path through the cold void of space towards a little sand coloured planet, forgotten by the unending tides of war. They will give, what’s Terras due… or suffer the consequences…
This mini will be my Missionary Hakeem for now. To give him a more fitting look I tried to sculpt some turban out of greenstuff on the priest with chainsaw from GW. Needed some tries, but in the end it looked OK. I also really like the lava base which I made following this tutorial: https://prometianpainting.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/tutorial-lava-bases/ Regarding the paint job: I wish I could do better, especially since he is a vital part of my fluff, but at the moment that is what I'm capable of. I hope that when I improve from each model painted I can give him the great mini he deserves somewhere in the future.
I'm still working on some fluffy text for him like for Samira and will add it later.
“So you are really serious? I mean, that’s a lot to ask for, even for the ecclesiarchy…” The old clerk of the Adeptus Administratum behind the massive mahogany desk looked puzzled at Hakeem
“It’s not for the ecclesiarchy… it’s the emperors work. And honestly, something personal. As far as I know you owe me, remember? That were your exact word back on Larsor when these heretics tried to cut your throat. ‘if you ever really need some help, whatever it is… remember, I owe you’” answered the priest in his typical calm, winning voice.
Sanginus shifted uncomfortably in his large, cushion stuffed chair thinking for some seconds and finally nodding “If you really want to cash in on that for… for this. Honestly back then I expected it would be something more in the line of a nice villa on a pleasure planet. Maybe some friendly girls for company… or boys if you prefer…” The offer lingered in the air for some moments, yet Hakeem just asked, “Can it be done?” Scrolling through the letter Sanginus pondered for some moments “I have seriously no idea… Switching some numbers and shuffling some schedules I might be able to give you a decade… maybe three, if you are lucky. But when the Tithefleet finally arrives, there better is a loyal planet waiting for them with a regiment eager to fight or else there will be a reckoning…” He looked again at the missionary before him. “I just wonder. Why? Why are you doing this? What is so special about this little desert rock and its savages?”
“Are you a religious man, Sanginus?” The clerk fell silent, suddenly feeling that every word he said should better be chosen very carefully “Of course. As every loyal citizen should be.” Hakeem just smiled “Those savages… I met them a year ago, during the siege of Opstacia. As you said, they were barely more than raw conscripts. Clad in some leftover flak armor, handed old jamming lasguns and thrown in the meat grinder. Most of them could not even understand the orders the generals were giving them. But they had faith… Much more than I have seen in any regiment I served under before. Not just the kind of faith that so many men have, when they are dying or fear to do so, but so much more. When their power packs failed, I saw them running against the enemy lines armed with stones and pointed sticks, armored and driven by the certainty that their ancestors and the skyfather they prayed to watched them proudly from the heavens.” Sanginus looked concerned “The reports I read painted a quite different picture, you know. Desertion, refusal to obey orders, insubordination…”
Both men shared a long moment of silence before Hakeem spoke again “For every man, the day comes, when he thinks about what he will leave behind in this world. What his legacy will be, if you will. After a life of service, there is still this one thing, I think I could do. Where others saw no more than unruly savages, I see a rough gem. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they will fail again or brake in the process, but I believe that Thoth could be another jewel for the imperium and that its men and women deserve to see the light of the imperial faith. So, I beg you, help me to bring it to them.” They shared another long eye contact before Sanginus emptied his winecup and – still a bit reluctant – signed the forms on his desked and handed them over. “I just hope I won’t regret this one day. Good luck, you will need all you can get.” Hakeem took his papers smiling and bowed deeply to his old companion “You won’t regret it. Thank you Sanginus.” before taking his leave. It was only after he had passed along the long corridor of the administrastivum building and behind a corner in his long, confident strides that he let himself sink on a bench and exhale a long deep breath of relief. Kissing his rosarius he starred on the papers in his slightly shaking hands and whispered to himself “One done… ten to go.”
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/09/08 19:58:11
Here are some images I designed in the style of imperial recruitment/propaganda posters with Thoth Askaris as main theme.
I furthermore did some editing in the texts above. First I want to call the Regimentum "Askaris" - a Suwaheli word meaning "Soldier" that was common for african colonial troops of different european countries. Secondly I realized that I severely overestimated the size of single regiments. Therefore the ~ 5 million soldiers raised for the second tithe should equal not one but more in the range of 100 regiments, even if they are rather large at 50.000 troops each.
Following the Macharius crusade, the Tallarn colonists mainly settled down in the vast mountain and halfdesert regions around the aequator. The imperial technology brought by them proved crucial in surviving in this dry region, employing solar powered moisture collectors to fill huge subterran water zisterns. Were the ground was rocky enough to allow this, settlements were dug deep into the ground to escape the scorching heat of the desert and provide fungus farms to nourish the growing population. Still, a large proportion of the Maghrabians - as they now called themselves refering to their settled region - returned to a more traditional, nomadic, tribal lifestyle, following their lifestock and hunting prey from one meager grazing ground to the next. The descendants of Tallarn still maintain a higher level of technology than most tribes on Thoth and therefore provide the majority of tank crews and the technicians.
Here, the rank of a soldier is shown by his Shemagh. Common soldiers wear sandcoloured scarfs around their head to covers all but a small slit for the eyes against the frequent sandstorms. The most cunning and battleproven veterans earn the right to wear the purple extracted from an indigenous holy plant, while the few specialists instructed to handle the rare plasma- and melterguns proudly present their status through their turquoise headwear.
The regimental standard of these troops usually shows the holy, all seeing eye of the great skyfather, a Symbol most revered throughout all tribes on Thoth
Commanding officers form a different style of turban out of their headscarfes and proudly wear one red shoulder plate, offen with the common holy symbol of the skyfathers allseeing eye. Naturally the platoon and company commanders are drawn from the ranks of the veterans therefore also wearing purple instead of the sergants sandcoloured turbans. Amongst the most well known officers of the Maghrabians are Iskandar ben Fasil and Rasul al'Ankra. While Iskandar has shown an inspiring presence more than once, driving his warriors forward even in the face of terryfying Opposition with his blue power sword and plasma pistol, Rasul is known as a cunning and swift attacker, laying ambushes and feinting retreats before leading devestating surprise charges on his unsuspecting victimes. In battle he offen wields an ancient Scimitar said to be one of the blades once used by the legendary Captain Al'Raheem during his time on Tallarn. Both men share a long grown friendship and if finding themselves on the same battlefield usually act as platoon and company commander, suiting their chain of command according to the mission at hand.
I intend on using only one of both as company commander and the other - if it all - as PC. My second Company Commander will visually be a N'Go. As you might have read I intend on giving both fixed traits and Rasul (the one with the black hat in the photos) will handle the "Claw of the desert tiger" if I take this heirloom.
The light Maghrabian tank squadrons are led by a tank commander only known under his battle name "the roaring Lion", leading his armoured columns riding in a local Leman Russ variant - the missile armed Leman Russ Decimator.
This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2019/10/02 10:44:16
The N'Go people inhabiting Thoth before the Macharius Crusade - and resettling after the virus bombardment performed on their chaos worshipping oppressors - consist of a huge variety of tribes each with their distinctive culture, traditions and sometimes even language. The tribal warriors drafted for the imperial regiments are therefore usually formed into squads composed of one tribe each but mixed Clans thus easing their inclusion into the regiments Organisation and simultanously deepening the bond in between the clans. Lasguns are handed out to every soldier, yet some of the tribesmen prefer to also carry traditional close combat weaponry which is encouraged by the officers in charge. Shields build from a very hard, chitin-like wood are also very common and are often preferred as personal protection instead of flak armour.
Part II: Massani Clans
Settling in the dry Savannas of the southern hemisphere, the Massani are nomads, living of huge herds of local herbivors resembling horse-sized capybaras of old earth, roaming the wide planes of Thoth. While living their everyday live in a preindustrialized society, these tribes still retain a number of Sentinels and Chimeras. These are build and attended to in small cities located at the grazing grounds visited in the winter dry season.
They dress in a traditional attire colored in a deep red that represents their bond to the Massani tribe, while the clan is denoted by a large, colorful sash worn diagonally over the upper body. The soldiers are never seen without the Nkunda - a 5 feet long spear given to each hunter after being initiated to adulthood - or traditional, clublike weapons granted to the older, more experienced Squad leaders. While being mostly ceremonial alongside the regiments lasguns the N'Go are well known for being quite proficient in using these weapons even facing frightening Xenos. For protection a huge, almond-shaped shield out of the mentioned local hardwoods is used - a material similarly resistant than the chitinous hides of Tyranids. Each soldier paints his shield individually in the traditional colors black, red and white. The black represents the dark past under the oppression of the evil witches and reminds the warrior of their neverending schemes to taint his soul and his personal struggle against his dark desires. The white stands for the bright future they were gifted by the skyfather and shall inspire them to strife for personal purity and stay true to their faith. The brigth red stands for the hard and gruel challenges on the way between these two sides of life and driving the warrior onward to prove himself on the battlefield in the eyes of the skyfather and seek an honorable death - one that is worth to be remembered in the stories told at the campfire.
Part III: the N'kunda tribes
Living in the dense, coastal rainforests along the shore of Thoths northern polar ocean, the N'Kunda are dedicated hunters and pathfinders, used to follow their prey sometimes for days through the steaming jungle mists. Being more or less in the stone age, the N'Kunda usually only dress in a turquoise loincloth and a variety of brightly colored stripes of cloth and shimering feathers of paradise birds. The easy to handle guard lasguns are highly priced objects traded in from the coastal cities in exchange for food, plumages and pelts and passed down from grandparent to grandchild. Going to war each warrior traditionally protects himself with a "door shaped" wooden shield combined with a heavy, polished round flint stone club, After being deployed alongside a regiment of Krieg grenadiers, the tribesmen were so deeply impressed by those stern trenchwarriors that these clubs have been phased out for a newer design presenting a shovel-like blade at the opposing end and using iron instead of flintstone.
Part IV: the Pygmies
While the majority of rivers on Thoth flow directly towards one of the two oceans, some exeptions exist, with the most well known being the Lubagu river system on the northern hemisphere, originating from the Zinka mountains then heading southeast through steps and savannas before finally draining away somewhere in the half desert. The riversystem existed - in a smaller form - even before Thoth was bombarded with ice asteroids prior to the resettlement, including a major share of Thoths water. While it was once a lifeline of the old N'Go, its importance has since dwindeled, not to the disliking of its residents. Throughout the millenia, the rivers have cut a dystem of deep canyons in the sandy, rocky ground of Thoth. There the moisture of the river and the protection from sun and wind through the canyon walls have formed a unique microclimate and ecosystem, which could be more or less restored after the virus bombardment. The tribes settling in the crepuscule of the canyon jungles are short of statue, with proportions not unlike ratlings. Yet since they not show any of the other traits of those abhumans beside a talent for sharp-shooting the Adeptus Terra is not sure if they are a case of incomplete reintegration of ratlings into the normal human genepool or just a rather short-grown variation of the standard type. Be it as it may, the Pygmies have been introduced into Thoths regiments without significant problems and get along well with the other tribes. Living a live as hunter gatherers in simple loinclothes praying on very alert and skitish quarry, they are proficient infiltrators and scouts and have proven - after a short training period to acustom them to Longlasguns instead of bow and arrow - to be effective snipers.
The small barge slowly drifted along the dense vegetation of the swampy river delta of the Lumangu as finally a handful of wooden sheds built on stilts came into view. Samira swatted another of the countless mosquitos buzzing through the air, as she felt her modest vehicle slow down and finally stop. The air was damp from the noon rains and thick with the smell of fish being smoked above small fireplaces. She had to bend down to enter the small hut she was led to, finding herself in a single, dimly lit room. The adults greeted her with the utmost respect, as it befitted an oracle of the skyfather. They handed her salt, sugar and hot tea, as it was custom around here for an honored guest, before leaving her with what she had come for. Even though she was blind, she could almost see the anxiety and nervousness on the faces of the two little girls. “My name is Samira and I’m happy to meet you two. What are your names?”
“Mo…” “Ma…” came the prompt answer and after a short pause they added “What is happening…” “… with us? Why do…” “… things move sometimes when…” “… we are thinking about it?” “And why do…” “… we hear each other’s thoughts?” Samira had heard of similar things before, at the Scholastia Psykana, not uncommon especially in twins. With as much hope and warmth as she could muster in her voice she answered, and explained them as simple as possible what burden they were carrying and why it was important to leave their families for their own protection to learn how to control these powers and not fall into darkness. Silently the two girls listened “We dreamed about a giant black bird…” “… gliding down from the sky…” “… in wings of fire. He was… “ “… coming to carry us away.” And again, Samira explained.
All of them had shed tears that night, but young as they were, they understood. Until the black ships came, Samira told her little protégés as much as she could, trying to prepare them for the horrors awaiting them, that you could not really prepare for and hoping they too would prove strong enough.
And they did. Years later they saw each other again, after Hakeem had pulled some strings as he used to. Both had grown up into dignified, silent women, blind but unbroken and still sharing their deep, intimate bond, hardly ever separating as no one else seemed to be able to tell one apart from the other. Together they joined Samira to serve as astropatic choir accompanying Thoths regiments on their journey to the stars.
These two minis (from Cobblestone castings) are intended to be one psyker. They were significantly smaller than heroic scale, therefore I put them on a base with a sea lily made from clay to increase height a little bit. And being together they are also a bit wider. When I got them I just thought “these two look like some spooky twins finishing each other’s sentences”, and so I just went for it.
Otombo – the Shaman
After the blown up sand and dust of their landing place in the northern mountain range of Thoth finally settled, Hela and her Sisters stepped from the ramp of their shuttle, clad in power armor bearing the ensignia of the silent sisterhood. She was alert, as always when psykers were involved, yet the communications from the surface had been friendly, asking for coordinates to meet and complying with every precaution measure and change of plans they had submitted to prevent an ambush. As they approached, she could make out a group of some dozen people, sitting around a campfire, meditating to a slow, almost hypnotic drum beat. One of the figures stood up, a bulky, darkskinned man, clad in nothing more than a loincloth and some pelts, with golden bells at both his feet. Both hands open he approached, bowing down deeply as he closed in. As he looked her in the eyes again, she could see the pain her presence caused him in his tense face and how instincts urged him to flee or fight the abomination before him. Yet the psyker forced himself to remain calm and addressed her in a broken form of low gothic, quite obviously not being his native tongue. “I be Otombo. Shaman of Otambu tribe. You are here for me… for us. We had dream about you. About black ship coming. About the skyfather. We here to go” Hela quite frankly was surprised. Usually they had to search for their quarry or got them delivered by their fellow citizens frightened of the powers of the warp. It was something new to encounter Psykers looking forward to get to the black ships. “Are these all psykers of this region?” She could see that he did not understand her “Are more like you, around here?” she tried again, this time more successful “We all, from here to big river in south.” Knowing that there should have been more psykers born in the region, statistically she asked “Were are the others?” Her counterpart – already bleeding from the nose due to the incredible stress from her close proximity – answered only “When young shaman too weak, dark things come at night, through his dreams. When they are too weak, we find them, and we make an end before dark things can find a way in our world. We will never suffer the evil witches again. We will never be their slaves again!” She nodded approvingly, and led the small assembly into the shuttle.
This mini is from Cobblestone Castings „Ngoni Chiefs and Witchdoctors“ set. Interestingly those are relatively big and bulky (I will post more later) and fit quite nicely with heroic scale minis. This guy somehow just screamed “Shaman” and fluff wise I thought that there might as well be psykers on feral worlds who figure out how to control their powers without turning to the chaos gods even before being trained by the Scholastia Psykana. So this was his background idea. The base is made from clay and intended to be a tree stump.
Edit: all three astropaths together for size comparison
This message was edited 5 times. Last update was at 2019/10/15 08:22:03
It's really great to see such a deep dive into a homebrew 40k guards army. Great to see so many non GW conversions. Really refreshing and seems so full of potential for anything you can imagine. Great job!
Thanks a lot. It is a lot of fun to always find new ways for conversion and the background I got for the regiment allows (and almost forces) for so much diversity.
Here is another one:
Gnaarak let out an ear deafening roar, running after the fat little humie that had been such a pest for the last week. Stupid little git, thinking he could prey on the mighty Gnaarak. Dozends of times he had seen him and his pelt wearing bunch in the distance, watching him and his boyz from large trees or rocks in ghostly silence out of their painted skull eyes, vanishing as soon as they came after them. But one after the other, they had found them and hacked and blasted them to pieces, teaching the stupid fleshbags that Orks are hunters and not the other way around. Fair enough, they had lost Mad Eye Skonka in a spear trap… and his grots Staby and Sticky had been eaten by some kind of scaled swamp monstrosity led to their camp at night… and his biketires had been cut until they had to leave it behind… and than there had been the poisoned arrows… honestly the stupid humie had not been bad at what he was doing, Gnaarak had to grudgingly admit. But that did not matter anymore… He had caught the little bugger sneaking around the bushes and send him flying some yards with a single slap of his wrist, surely breaking some rips. Now it was only him and the fat little guy, reeking of sweat, blood and fear, trying to outrun him – which was futile. His long strides drew him closer and closer and he rejoiced in anticipation of cracking this little pests head with his bare hands. Running for his useless little live, the git dodged and ducked, sliping through the narrow gap under a fallen tree trunk – Gnaarack just bursted through it, sending the old wood into a cloud of flying debris with a hit of his big choppa not even slowing down – 10 meters… The humie ran over another small trunk, spanning over a small puddle looking suspiciously like quicksand – Gnaarack flexed his thick muscled legs and just jumped across – 7 meters left. His victim tried to twist and turn around thorned bushes and poisonous leafs – Gnaarack just walzed right through, barely feeling them scratch his thick, green skin – 4 meters. In a last, ridiculous attempt to avoid the inevitable, the git bend down a bunch of bambus rods to smash them into Gnaaraks face – he just let out a deep roaring laugh as they brushed against his brow reaching out to grab the humie who had jumped into the cover of a rock and turn him into pulp as he deserved it. His mind was full of the hot, searing rage of battle, the lust for fight and bloodshed, too full to even notice the small tripwire, he just set food on… and suddenly their was a deafening boom and the whole world seemed to turn into a thunder of blades and shrapnel. One of the last things he saw, as the dust of the claymore mine settled, was the swift cresecent of a swung power lance decapacitating him and the hunter, breathing at the top of his lungs, bleeding and barely holding upright as the fading adrenalin reminded him of his broken rips and exhaustion. He grabbed Gnaaraks severed head and rose it into the air celebrating the worth of his kill. T’was a good way to die…
Bantu, King of the Tabele people of the dry rainforests of the Kunda province is a living legend among the hunters of the N’Go. Having bested every dangerous beast he could find on Thoth, oftentimes only armed with a knife or even barehanded, the embellished stories told about him at the fireplaces remind a lot of Imperial Guardsmen talking about Sly Marbo. Secretly fearing to die weak of old age in bed, Bantu took the opportunity to lead his people to the stars when the tithefleet came – searching for the mighty beast that would finally be his match, kill it for the glory of the emperor, or die trying. Inspired by his rallying cry a hundred thousand warriors of the low land tribes gathered around his banner eager to proof themselves in the eyes of their idol and the skyfather. Bantu surrounds himself with an inner circle of proud warriors, marking their status by their white war paint covering the face with a skull image, symbolizing their search for a glorious dead. Having heard of the deaths of hundreds of his tribesmen in a fight against a monstrous tyranid creature offworld, Bantu has taken up the trace of the abomination. As a hunter he is patient, methodically collecting information about his nemesis to finally face the monstrosity and bury his old grudge.
The council of elders, witchdoctors and shamans of the N’Go granted Bantu a mighty power lance, said to be forged out of one of the revered Macharian blades beared by the generals of the imperial saint during his crusade – a weapon worthy for one of the greatest warriors of their people that ever lived.
When I saw his mini I was in awe thinking “this guy might have fat around the belly, but underneath, he is packed with muscles. This is not an old, tired chief of a backwater feral tribe, this is someone who has beaten every challenge his planet could muster and now he is out for blood – that of the emperors enemies or his own, as long as it flows in a glorious battle.” So here he is, in all his glory
As indicated: I intend Bantu to wear the blade of conquest or a power lance (depending on how adamant my opponent is on “what you see is what you get”. But I would insist, that “Blade of Conquest” might also include a blade mounted on a spear shaft.
Normally I would not take him as a warlord, since I like the Tallarn “swift attacker” more, but due to the backstory that somehow told itself, he will be my “old grudges” warlord, should I ever meet a Tyranids player. He will most likely die without making much damage, but he will definitely try to get into CC and smash some mandibles!
His Command squad is also from Cobblestone castings, the guys from the “Ngoni Chiefs and Witchdoctors” set, the medic from the “African princesses” pack and the standards from Wargames Foundries Aztec line. I’m not completely sold on the color scheme for the medics standard, but for now it will suffice. Since they are obviously armed for CC I will run them as Laspistol + Chainsword armed, if my opponent does not have to much of a problem with WSYIWYG
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/10/14 20:25:56
The systems central star is called “Mawu” by its residents – referring to an ancient goddess of creation, sun and life. Being younger and about 50% bigger than sol, Mawu shines in a bright, white light and burns relatively steady. Flares and sun eruptions are less common and the solar winds are weaker than in the Terra system, yet the higher percentage of UV radiation in Mawus spectrum affords additional protection on the planets without a protecting ozone layer. The system is further composed of 3 rock planets, two gasgiants and a large asteroid belt. Due to the importance of its second planet, the system itself is commonly referred to as Thoth.
Thoth 1 – Bagwa Classification: Industrial World (in construction) Population: approximately 20.000 Adeptus Mechanicum personnel, 100.000 Servitors
Being a rock planet about 70% the size of Venus, Bagwas orbit around Mawu is tidally locked, separating the planet into one side of eternal night and one of neverending day. Its atmosphere is composed predominantly of nitrogen and carbondioxyde with only traces of water therefore lacking any presence of clouds. Together with its mineral composition being rich in silicium and rare earths the planet is incredibly suited for solar power generation. After the system was conquered by the Macharius Crusade, accompanying Adeptus Mechanicus forces established a small outpost on Bagwa, mostly consisting of Servitors and tasked with the construction of concentrated solar power plants and photovoltaic cells and facilities to produce those. Furthermore the infrastructure to support a yet to be founded industrial complex on the night side was planned to eventually turn Bagwa into another forgeworld. The refounded colony on Thoth was ordered to support this outpost to the best of their ability in anticipation to have a powergrid ready within one decade. Complying with this task everyone involved got to work even after the Segmentum Pacificus fell into the Macharian Heresy after the saints death. Being isolated again from the imperium, the Adeptus Mechanicum mission expected to make use of the finished power grid never arrived. Puzzled about what was expected from them and concerned about potentially being punished for not following imperial orders, the rulers of Thoth decided to just continue plastering Bagwa with power plants – and the Servitors did not contradict anyway. By the time contact to the Imperium was reestablished a century later, getting rid of the surplus power had already become a problem and the grid was on the brink of breaking down due to the enormous amount of created energy. The build-up was slowed down and the forgecomplex planned so long ago finally build, focusing on the production and charging of power cells and the armaments for Thoths regiment. Yet the established power resources still exceeded the demand manyfold. Nac1r - the Magos send to the Thoth system and given free hand to regulate the Adeptus Mechanicus affairs in the region saw a unique opportunity to still his curiosity on one of his long standing fields of interests: the effect of permanent Gellar field exposure on a population as well as potential advantages and disadvantages for the systems security. In any other circumstances the project alone would have been deemed a stupid waste of energy and unnecessary risk to a loyal system, but stilling his curiosity was surely more important than half a billion lifes on some backwater planet. At first some of the leaders of Thoths council of elders where suspicious of his intentions and the purpose of the giant force projectors the Servitors had started building on Bagwa. But handing out some gifts of gratitude to Thoths defence forces in the form of tanks and other valuable equipment they lacked, ultimatly silenced those voices in blissflull ignorance. By now the Gellar field expands well until the orbit of Ulambo and might finally be large enough to include the whole system within three decades. Much to Nac1rs regret, the effects of the field upon activation have been quite underwhelming. Imperial ships have noted a 2.9% higher energy consumption necessary to enter the warp, but nothing “interesting” happened on Thoth besides from some weak clues about the population dreaming significantly fewer – if it all. Yet a sliver of hope formed, when he started to follow reports of the black fleet. Seemingly Thoths population responds less aggressive to the presence of the Silent Sisters - maybe due to acclimatization to forceful reality. Furthermore two psychic Nulls could be acquired as part of the black tithe within only ten years – while only one would have been expected in a generation. As it is the problem with incidents as rare as the birth of a Null, it will take centuries before anyone could even guess if this was just a random coincidence or has anything to do with the Gellar field, but Nac1r is patient and until then he will study his little labrats.
Thinking about Thoths system I found the idea of a tidally locked planet with massive solar power plants appealing, yet I did not really have a good use for all the energy in mind. I collected some ideas in another thread and came up with the giant gellar field. I seriously don’t know if that would have any effect at all, therefore I aimed for some very minor effects imaginable from “increased reality”. Regarding the birth of Nulls I wanted to play around a bit with the statistical problem of incredibly rare events. If something occurs only once some hundred million births, it would be quite hard to distinguish a lucky chance event from something really increasing the probability, even by 100%.
Thoth2 – Thoth Classification: Civilized world Population: ~ 500.000.000
Thoth possesses a single, small moon, and is tidally locked to its orbit – instead of the other way around as Terra and Luna. This means that viewed from Thoth Sharu rotates but is always present over the same region, therefore never appearing on the other side of the planet. The gravitational influence is almost neglectible, yet the main space harbours on Thoth are on its “moon side”, since starting from there consumes a little bit less energy. Having no atmosphere to speak of, Sharu only houses some large telescopes and long range communication relays. After a recent discovery of a large tungsten deposit near the north pole, a small mining outpost is currently under construction to recover the valuable raw material.
I want Thoth to be a rather peaceful system, but if at some point I want to spice it up, I might turn the tungsten deposit into a small subterran Necron outpost in stasis. So no Tomb world, but enough to be a concern for a single system and fitting the classic “but the dwarfs dug too deep…” motive.
The third planet of the system, about three quarters the size of Thoth, is a paradise teeming with life – if you are a fungus or algae. Ulambo rotates fast leading to a daylenght of only 6 hours. Also being covered with a mix of warm, shallow oceans and nutrient rich wet lands, temperatures remain steady on a pleasant level between 10 and 30 degrees Celsius. Yet unfortunately Ulambos atmosphere contains different sulfurous and chloric gases and completely lacks an ozone layer, thus bathing the surface in Mawus intense UV radiation. The indigenous algeous and fungal species have adopted to use the UV light for efficient photosynthesis and seem to cover every inch of the surface. Luckily this thick biofilm can be converted into Prometium, high quality fertilizer or an edible, nutritious - if a bit weird tasting – paste and can be harvested in an enormous rate. Contrary to other developed systems Mawu is therefore more than capable of providing food for itself, even if Thoths population should raise to levels in the tenth of billions. For now this has also proven very valuable, as during the night of thousand rebellions Thoth – as one of few systems not revolting – was able to locally provide provisions for the remaining and arriving loyalist forces inspite of the loss of several Agri-Worlds.
A gasgiant 10 times the mass of Jupiter and surrounded by a large ringsystem, the deeply purple coloured Kitakamba can be seen by the naked eye from every other planet in the system. Due to its high mass and gravitation, Kitakamba is only slightly short of being a brown dwarf and some nuclear fusion has been detected within its inner core. Its resulting high temperature, massive tectonic and storm activity and gravitational pull made the construction of stations within its atmosphere so far impossible. Yet two of Kitakambas 20 moons house small mining outposts. Notably the small moon Otampa houses a large, 100 mile deep low saline ocean making up almost half of its mass. It was calculated that if Otampa could be relocated into Thoths orbit and the water be transferred to the surface, Thoth could be terraformed into a significantly more habitable state almost resembling a paradise world. Yet it is unlike that the ressources for such an endeavor are accessible within the next decades at least.
Thoth 5 - Zaori Classification: Gasgiant Population: ~ 50.000 (on various space stations and docks, currently rapidly increasing)
Zaori is a relatively small gasgiant about half the size of Neptune. Being relatively close to the Mandeville point of Thoths system and having a large proportion of methane and other gases usable as fuel in its relatively calm atmosphere, about a dozen refueling stations and docks were build in its orbit an on 3 of its 8 moons. Prior to the night of a thousand rebellions, a small stationed fleet and some scores of defense batteries provided enough protection against occasional pirates or similar, yet being far under strength to push back should a serious threat to the system arise. During the uprising within the Segmentum Pacificus, Thoth became one of the staging areas of the remaining loyalist forces within the subsector. Since then the docks and refuel depots are working non stop at the brink of breaking down to supply the imperial ships arriving from the many battles in neighboring systems. To handle the demand, the existing stations are hastily expanded and new ones constructed, while high command has also ordered the forge complexes of Bagwa to bolster the local defenses.
This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2019/11/21 13:16:14
Tribes and soldiers of the Thoth Askaris
Part V: The Akita Matriarchies
Over 90% of children born to the tribes hailing from the endless Akita prairie planes of the northern hemisphere are female. The exact reason for this remains unclear but since clans relocating to other areas of the planet returned to a more balanced sex ratio the local Magos Biologis suspects something in the regional water or food supply to mess with the locals hormone balance. Be it as it may, the shortage of men has led to a strictly matriarchic culture that affects almost every aspect of life. The region is dominated by 4 powerful matriarchies which are in ever shifting coalitions with each other and various smaller clans. While most of Thoths tribes raise predominantly male battalions for the imperial regiments to not affect their birth rates, the matriachies obviously do not share this practice. Instead they possess a distinctive warrior caste within their society known as the “Akita Tigresses” after the top predator of the planes. Each Tigress is armed with a “chequer” hard wood shield and a large, traditional bush knife in addition to the common lasgun and a fierce professional fighter.
Some further pictures:
Close ups of my three favorite Akita warriors
My special weapons operator:
The flamer is from Victoria Miniatures, the Promethium canister is from the IG infantry sprue cut in half and fitted with some wire.
My Vox operator
The Vox is from the IG Infantry sprue as well, just cut in half horizontally and vertically, shortened in either direction, flattened and with repositioned antenna, as the normal type was much to big for the female soldier
Regarding kitbashing size and scale some image and recommendations:
From left to right:
1. Victoriaminiatures + Puppetswar heads
2. Frostgrave Ghost Archipelago Tribals
3. Games Workshop + Puppetswar heads
4. Copplestone Castings Chiefs and Witchdoctors
5. Cooplestone Castings African Princesses.
- As you can see, Victoriaminatures has the perfect size and "bulkiness" to stand in for GW miniatures.
- Frostgrave Archipelago Tribals are a little bit shorter (which can be hidden by leaving their small plastic base and glueing it on the 25mm base thus winning about 1-2 mm). And they are also slightly slimer. The tribals specifically are less of a problem, since their offen extensive headgear and hairstyle balances out the slightly slimer heads. They can be fitted with Victoria Miniatures arms and weapons, but the arm pairs already holding weapons don't really fit perfectly. So either prepare yourself to fill in some gaps or just use the single arms + separate weapons if you want to combine parts from both companies. I did the latter and was really satisfied with the result.
- The "Chiefs and Witchdoctors" Set from Copplestone Castings looks really cool, and they are even slightly larger than classic GW Imperial Guard (but way within acceptable limits in my opinion). They are also notably bulkier than the Frostgrave Minis and therefore fit more smothly to GWs heroic scale.
- The African Princesses and Ngoni Female Archers sets I used for the Akita Matriarchies are a different story. They are not only significantly shorter, but also much slimer than heroic scale. You can cheat a bit with the hight by modifying the base a bit, but that does not change the slim proportions. Yet this does not really "spring into the eye" if you keep them all within the same infantry squad.
All in all as you can see, the size variation is quite acceptable.
- the Kromlech grenade launchers I used for my Massani Clans are rather big and bulky and don't look good together with Frostgrave miniatures let alone the Copplestone Females, but go smoothly with Copplestone Males and Victoria Miniatures
- Victoria Miniatures arms and weapons fit nicely to Frostgrave and GW Minis, just use separate arms for Frostgrave since their chest is a bit slimer
- Wargames Foundry shields and close combat weapons fit heroic style IG. The CC weapons are a bit large (see the Massani spears) but that fits the other IG stuff.
- Frostgrave Ghost Archipelago Minis are a real good value since they contain 40 heads (for 20 bodies) + 20 masks that also fit Victoria Miniatures and GW Minis
- Copplestone Castings Minis shown here are made out of metal. Yet with some patience, a bit of bending or cutting/glueing it is possible to change arm and hand positions. Minis holding bow and arrow can be modified to hold rifles even by a novice kitbasher like me
This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 2019/10/25 21:09:10
Some more progress on my regiments rough Riders. I already have some more in the pipeline, including a camel from the Lord of the rings line of GW. While the LoR horses are to small for WH40k, the camels look OK. I also bought some Mongolians from Fireforge Games since they look awesome and the Askaris have picked up some Attillan Rough Riders, that got separated from their Regiment.
I converted these following this tutorial: https://imgur.com/gallery/0mEJX and tried out some things like using contrast colors, practicing color transitions etc.Not everything went perfect, but I'm quite satisfied with the result and the dynamic poses. The "writing" on the flag is just some scribble I tried to make look like arabic. If parts of it make any real sense that would be purely by accident, fluff wise it will be some lucky charm praising the emperor.
The darker horses are painted with Cygor Brown contrast on Wraithbone and then highlighted a bit with Doombull Brown and Tuskor Fur. Pure Cygor comes around rather dark, as you can see.
The lighter horses were painted with a mix of 3:2 Cygor Brown and Skelleton Horde over Wraithbone and look better in my opinion.
The shirts of the riders are painted in Nazdreg Yellow over Wraithbone. As you can easily see, I need more practice using contrast, since my brush control still sucks at times. But so far I think they are a nice additional tool.
For the spear blades I also tried something new an made a transition from Naggaroth Night over Khorne Red and Mephiston Red to Evil Sunz Scarlet. The result is the best looking I managed so far
horses & arms: Games Workshop, Age of Sigmar Dark Riders
torsos, shoulder pads & heads: Anvil Industries
spear blades: Games Workshop WH40K Adeptus Mechanicus ruststalker transsonic blades.
I tried my luck at some piece of story. Not really sure about how it turned out so if you have some input feel free to comment:
Hamid slowly opened his eyes, as the metallic rasping voice of the transport vessels radio called the beginning of a new day. He kept lying on his bed for a minute or two staring at the dorm ceiling before he finally forced himself up. He checked himself in the small mirror shard on the bedside and reached for his shaving knife, pushing away the question why he still even bothered. You had to keep some standards and more importantly – yourself occupied. He took his time and bantered a bit with his clansmen sharing his “bedroom”. Slipping into his kakis he decided to take a little stroll to one of the common rooms further down the enormous hull of the troop carrier to get some breakfast.
He passed some groups biding their time playing dice and cards or just sitting together around a water pipe and chatting, yet with each day he saw more people wandering up and down the corridors suffering the same restlessness that had started to take hold of him too. It had been over a month since they had been picked up and left their home planet. They were transferred to a battle zone - that was clear - and flying through the warp they had crossed the vast reach of space in weeks yet nobody seemed care to tell them when they would finally make planet fall. From the sound of the machinery they seemed to have already dropped out of warp, but he knew it would still take days to reach the systems planets - however they were called. And the waiting started to get until everybodies nerves – regardless of the horrors awaiting them at their destination.
Hamid reached the large hangar that served them as a common room. The air was thick with the heavy flavor of roasted mutton, vegetables and peppers as well as the sharp smell of promethium from the small gas cookers used to prepare them – much to the dismay of the navy crewmen who had given up on trying to talk their passengers out of it instead just switching off the sprinklers and putting more fire extinguishers in the common rooms. Accidents were still common, but as the ship was not endangered any more, nobody really cared enough to keep trying. Hamid aimed for some new faces a – as he tried to do every day for the past month – and took a seat between a group of ebony skinned, short grown N’go he had not seen before. As usual he forced himself to be chatty and start a conversation while filling his plate with a hand full of rice, meat and carrots. It had become quite tiring over time to suffer through the same questions of where he came from, what his craft was and if he had family so he had started to come up with some new and more creative stories every time he was asked. When he managed to make at least one guy laugh at the thought of him training squirrels to weave carpets, he knew he might have made his day. Some others had picked it up which had made at least this small part of the daily routine a bit more sufferable. His new companions seemed to hail from a reclusive tribe in some mountain forest they had never left up until two months ago. A story more or less shared by a large part of their battle brothers aboard the ship. They had tried their best to adapt to the situation and so far did admirably – even though Hamid suspected that they did not really understood much of what was going on, especially regarding what “travelling the warp” really meant and what was likely waiting for them at their destination. But that was quite likely for the best that way. They had their hearts at the right place and would undoubtedly be willing to fight and die for the honour of their tribe and the skyfather and that was all that was required for them.
He left with a piece of fruit in his hand for later and took a stroll through ships corridors – another part of his daily routine. Yet something was different now that they had dropped out of the warp. It had taken a while, but his suspicion that there would have to be some windows to look out somewhere in the ship’s hull he could get too had proven to be true. He had found it two weeks before, but taking a peek outside into the disturbing abyss the navigators where taking them through had been enough to keep his nightmares fuelled for months. Making his way through a crammed storage room and a couple of barely lit maintenance tunnels he squeezed himself through one last manhole before reaching the spacing in between the decks that was full of cables, tubes, roaring and humming engines. At some crossings he had to look for the markings he left and at some point he had to backtrack a bit after getting lost, but finally Hamid found himself in a small room with two port holes, each a feet wide. He did not really know what the machinery inside was for, but it seemed to have something to do with docking and therefore needed some way to look out of the hull and check the distance, if all instruments failed. Putting his face to the glass Hamid squeezed his eyes, trying to see something through the small hole into the outside world and finally let out a defeated sigh. It was no use; they were still too far away and their destination a diffuse speck in the black void. Resigning he pulled the small looking glass he had traded in from one of the navy crewmen out of his pocket and placed it on the thick glass plate of the spaceship. Still he had to search for minutes until he finally found what he was looking for. A blueish grey marble in the dark, orbited by a single small moon – and still days away flying at sub-light speed. He kept on looking, trying to make out the continents and thinking up what it would look like down there. Would there still be loyalists left when they arrived? How many? Why were they revolting? What even was the name of this contested world they were deployed to? Nobody seemed to know, at least none of his fellow Askaris – and the navy officers did not seem to care to tell them. Maybe they had their orders; maybe they just did not care. In the end he tried to tell himself, that knowing would not really change anything.
Instead he let his mind slip, dreaming up how this place would look like. Picturing strange colorful animals and exotic places in his mind… there was nothing better to do today anyway. Finally he pushed away from the small window and started to stroll back to the upper deck to the rest of his platoon. Again he had to almost crawl through the dark, narrow corridor in the ships intestines. The endless humming and hissing of the machines and hydraulics surrounding him was deafening and not for the first time he could not shake the feeling of being watched from something hiding in the deep shadows. For a moment he held still, as he thought he had heard something and a shiver of suspense ran over his neck. He slowly reached for his laspistol trying to tell himself that there was nothing. It was just some empty corridors and unused storage compartments. Just his mind playing tricks with him - He could almost convince himself, until he heard it again. A faint scratching like the claw of a predator lurking in the dark and closing in on it’s prey. He cursed silently, putting his pistol at the ready and slowly making his way forward while trying to put a wall to his back and keeping every direction in check. He was well aware of the absurdity of the situation as he was most likely only suffering from cabin fever, as he was inching his way back to the maintance hatch only a couple yards away. One last turn and he would reach it, and tomorrow he might laugh about his foolishness… He inhaled deeply, grapped the hilt of his weapon, sharply turned around … and sprang back screaming and sending a lasbolt into the ceiling as he stared directly into the face of a servitor.
The lowly servant of the machine god stopped for a moment, seemingly evaluating the relevance of the shot for his current objective before going about his business again in complete silence without any kind of reaction. All the while Hamid tried to not have a heart attack or wet his Kaki shorts. When he finally stopped shaking he started cussing and cursing the damned machine fighting the urge to slap it until he felt a bit better and continued to get back to his dormitory. He kept telling himself, that what he heard must have been the damned servitor, but he never felt the urge to look outside into the abyss again. Because you never know who – or what – is watching you while you do it.
And down in a dark corridor a clawed hand picked up the apple Hamid had dropped when he unholstered his pistol. It WAS biomass after all, wasn’t it?
And again some progress on infantry squad diversity:
During the painting I had a lot of moments were I thought "meeeh... those will suck." but I kept on pushing myself to try my best and in the end I'm really happy with the result.
Those Guardswomen (from Victoria Miniatures who like usual did some great work on the sculpts + the heads are from Statuesque Miniatures, since I liked them more with open hair) will be sprinkled in between their male colleagues instead of building their own squad like the Akita Lionesses.
@banner: thanks, that's what I wanted to achieve. It is inspired from the coat of arms of one of my pen and paper characters. In his case it is a white lotus flower on black, but for my askaris I like a lot of yellow, red and gold
This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 2019/12/14 11:18:47
Akono turned his head away as Malembe beside him bulged over to give way for his breakfast – again. He tried his best to ignore the stench and hold on to his own stomach, which was no easy task sitting tight in the claustrophobic compartment of their lander that was bucking and jerking like a wild bull as it silently made its way towards the surface. “Lander” was also quite a stretch for their ride that was basically just a frame of metal pipes covered with light wood and canvas and held airborne by fragile glider wings and a modified Ogryn grav chute. And according to their fast descent if either of those failed they all would just drop down like stones. Also to call it “their” lander was a bit of a misconception. It was the lander of the 6 wheeled scout car that dominated the glider, while Akono and his battlebrothers where just there to fill in the void spaces in the cargo. They had named the marvelous vehicle “Makete” and Akono was still in awe of the impressive menacing pair of Lascannons in the swiveling mount on top. He ran his hands carefully above the length of his own lasgun he had been gifted by his tribe when he was honored to join the Askaris. Remembering the wounds of his prey when he first took it hunting he shuddered imagining what the incredibly bigger guns might be capable of.
He was shaken from his daydream as they hit another air pocket and banged his head at the framework behind him and for once he was happy about their rides light construction as it only hurt a bit instead of concussing him. As they approached the enemy lines he could see the tension on the face of their small, grumpy pilot rising. They were to penetrate behind those lines – preferably undetected, which was the sole reason they had been dropped from the lower atmosphere in these landers instead of continuing to the main star port still under loyalist control with the rest of the regimento. Lacking propulsion, the glider was quite silent, dark and cold but he was well aware that it was far from invisible. So far they had been lucky enough that the thick clouds above kept the light of both moons away, but the skyfather alone knew if this luck would hold. As he turned back to give Malembe a clap on the back encouraging him to get it all out, the pilot suddenly started cursing and shouting “Hold on and pray you unlucky dogs, here they come”. Akono did not understand at first, as looking out of the small porthole he could see that it was still pitch dark and he could barely make out the glider next to them. But the next moment he could hear it – the whining sound of an air-raid sirene rising before another joined in… and another and another. They had only moments before the first search light came up a mile to the south and started ranging the skies like a hungry wolf looking for lost lambs – and his pack soon followed. The lander lowered into a slight dive to gain speed and as the minutes passed, they dared to get their hopes up that this times the lambs might get lucky. That was when Akono heard the first dull thud from somewhere below and saw how the face of their pilot went paler. The first three time it was just this sound and a weired sensation of pressure on the ears. The next flak grenade did not went that short and knocked their whole vehicle to starboard while a shrapnel punched through the side canvas and missed sergant Okotos face by barely half an inch. Iboti wetted himself and started to panic before their grizzled seasoned leader shouted enough sense into him to stop screaming. He gestured at his comrades to come through to them despite the engulfing cacophony to take their iron wood shields and cover Maketes power generator. Malembe who was covering behind his shield trying to hide as much of himself as possible hesitated but submitted after a dead cold look of Okoto who was well aware that the Lascannons were far more important than a couple of Askaris. A bright column of light entered the cargo through the port hole as one of the other gliders beside them bursted in a spectacular explosion, his still burning remains falling quietly into the dark abyss below like flower petals in a summer nights breeze. Through all the terror of the situation… it was strangely beautiful.
They could make out two other gliders colliding as they tried to evade the enemies fire and from then on it was everyone for himself, as the landers tried to split up. Some tried to get out of the air too fast, not paying attention to the steepness of their dive and crashing into the ground. A lot of them were hit and went ablaze, but still about one third of the gliders seemed to make it through the lines and continued their approach – and Akonos was one of those lucky few. Iboto had a shard of shrapnel sticking through his left foot and was weeping silently while Tombo was bleeding at his temple after a some spare laspacks had come loose and hit him. But they were alive and more importantly, Makete seemed to have only gotten some scratches. He heard the pilot mumbling “A wood… trees… big woody, hard trees… ohhh skyfather, that’s a lot of trees. Trees, you have to be nice now...! Nice and soft…! BRACE!BRACE!BRACE!” by now he screamed at the top of his lungs. Akono curled himself into a ball, put his hands above his head as they had practiced and said his last prayers. Meanwhile the world turned into a deafening orchestra of splintering wood and ripping canvas that ended with the glider crashing – or by now rather scattering its remains and cargo - into a small clearing. A perfect landing, just as planned according to Astra Militarum standards.
I like the description of the Makete, and them deploying via glider is really cool,
I have to ask if these soliders are N'go
Becasue if these soldiers are from a warrior culture they'd be possibly be more prepare and meditated over dying for the skyfather, or have a culture where they might shun outward showing of fear, hell thy might be on a bit of the battle brew and ready to take on anything,
The sergeant might even use a tribal warrior tradition, like a warrior's song, chant etc, (or like the Maori hakka) to put fire in his soldiers, to transform them from scared men, women, boys and girls into blood thirsty warriors.
On the other hand they might even be anxious and fearful of dying before having the opportunity to fight for the skyfather, before being able to prove themselves.
I guess there is a certain helpless terror when there's canvas between you and a plummeting death and flack shells are in the air!
It was a good story, I liked it a lot but I got a lot of fear from the soldiers, and while everyone would be afraid in those circumstances there would be other worries and anxieties, and possibly a traditional means of alleviating this, and drawing the group together to a single purpose.
Thanks for the input Oldmate. I have some ideas along that line, which I will include in further short stories. The battle chant/hakka is a cool point.
And yes, Akono and his brothers are intended to be N'Go. My image of them at the moment is that while they are quite courageous when it comes to fighting etc., things like flying are pretty scary to them as they never did something like that before.
Edit: and also I intend to describe them as - beside their human flaws and fears - not questioning their worth as seen from the Imperiums perspective. They know that they were just put in the glider because the Tauros Venator left a bit of space and that the scout car is much more valuable then themselves, but they don't mind. They don't mind either being send to death, as long as they can believe it's what the skyfather and their ancestors expect of them. They don't have any illusions of their life expectancy or of ever returning home, all they wish for is respect an honour - which might be hard to come by in light of their regiments poor reputation.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/12/20 09:22:03
Fair enough, I think it'd also be the helplessness of being in something so fragile, of not being able to do anything which wold be the worst, I can imagine the same sentiment under artillery fire.
I liked the part when the sergeant got them to protect the vehicle's energy pack with their shields, and I guess by exstension their bodies, he's really got his mind on the job!
So, another shoot at some piece of story. I'm not that sure at the moment of the described ambush makes total sense, as I have never been at war. I just tried to get the general idea out. Also I'm aware that Okoto and his peers got really lucky this time. As usual: if you have any criticism or tips to improve the storytelling they are very welcome.
Okoto pressed his head into the rotting foliage below the thorny bushwork again after taking a quick peek over the embankment into the bed of the small stream down below. The plants still looked weird and had an alien, musky smell to them but then again – he had barely ever seen a tenth of Thoths surface let alone another planet. Carefully he inched back considering his chances with what was left of his squad. Their pilot had been squashed into pulp as the glider crashed and crawling out of its remains they had found Kimba torn to pieces from shrapnel in the back of the wreckage. At least his body had shielded the irreplaceable transmission of Makete so his death had been worthy. Loso had been impaled by a two inch thick log through his belly and all that was left was giving him the skyfathers mercy. It took a while to find Malembe who had been flung into the trees at the end of the clearing and broke his neck – amongst other things. That left him with four – Akono, Pala, Tombo and Iboto the latter two being injured. Lacking any bandages they had packed Iboto up tightly into the small pilots jacket to try and keep him upright but he looked worse with every passing minute, paling and honestly starting to smell of death. They had given him enough moonshine from their pumpkin flasks to dull out the pain and adorned him with the skull white skull face mask denoting him as a holy warrior and thus sealing their pact. He was to spend his life and an act of blazing glory and it was there holy duty to help him find a worthy end in the name of the skyfather.
Okoto gestured with his hands what he had seen. An armored car and a dozen enemy soldiers on patrol. Or more likely on a mission to find the scattered remains of their landing attempt. While that was much more attention than he had wished for he send a short prayer to the skyfather to thank him as Ibotos time was running out. And not only that, as their own Tauros had lost two tires and broken a wheel. They managed to at least shove it into the shrubbery but right now unable to move it was nothing more than sitting duck waiting to get blown up – unless they managed to get a new wheel from somewhere. Sneaking through the thorny bushwork on their bare feet they followed their enemies along the riverbed they used as impromptu road through the dense vegetation. Finally the car was put to a halt. Right before them a couple of suspicious cylindrical metal objects stood stretched out in a line, connected by wires. The enemy soldiers sprang into alert, going into cover or huddling to the sides of their armored vehicle for protection while it retreated back some yards into relative safety. But nothing happened. After some long heartbeats their officer looking out of the scout cars hatch picked two of the soldiers and punched them forward with his rifle stock to investigate.
The unlucky pair carefully approached and picked up a long branch. Crawling on their bellies they tipped the first cylinder over, immediately putting their faces to the ground hoping their steel helmets would protect them from the blast. Lucky as they were, cans of beans and empty jerry cans usually don’t explode. After some brief moments of silence they burst into a healthy laugh and the rest of their squad soon fell in. The two forward scouts kicked the can of beans a healthy distance along the dried out stream joking who could make it further. Some of their peers joined in, just as their captain – not sharing the jolly mood – started to shout some sense into them. And as the third can flew, the spring mine Akono had placed under it came loose lifting itself to about breast height, turning five of the heretecs out of their miserable existence. Their comrades panicked and ran for cover again, as Akono and Tombo opened fire from their left side and Okoto and Pala started firing from the right to put them into crossfire. Okoto visibly fumbled with the big log they had taken and painted black with oil, hoping someone seeing him really could mistake it for a missile launcher in the distance and right so the scout car retreated a bit more to find a bit of cover behind the last turn of the riverbed. Now all they could hope for was that their distraction had everyone occupied, that it had given Iboto enough time to get into position and that there was still enough life left in him to honor his word and their ancestors. As the enemy vehicle opened fire on Akonos cover turning bushes and trees into a hail of splinters and sawdust Okoto could make out the white skull paint mask above the dark leather pilot jacket springing from the bushes and making a run for the scout’s rear. He was almost there, as one of the ambushed soldiers saw him and put a lasgun bolt through his leg sending him to the ground. Okotos heart filled with pride as he saw the young tribal warrior crawl further on his belly, his face filled with determination and the fire of the skyfathers wrath, the krak missiles warhead they had borrowed from Makete in his hand. Rolling down the tilted riverbed he clawed his way onwards slipping in between the scout cars wheels just as another heretic stormed onward and put a barrage of lasgun bolts through his belly. Screaming out his pain and rage, Iboto put the warhead to the escape hatch at the floor of the vehicle and pulled the impromptu trigger they had made out of a hand grenade. A lance of white hot fire shot through the scout blowing off its turret and thus, their pact was sealed.
That was, when the enemy broke. They still outnumbered Okoto and his battlebrothers two to one, but they panicked and without an officer, some started to run for their lives and that was all that it took. They finished off the last remaining in the killzone and then… went hunting.
Later that day they returned to the wreckage, lucky to find its reserve wheel still intact. Makete would still be slow on four tires, but his hunt would continue. Pala was dead, having gutted three of their foes with his machete before he went down. Akono had taken a clean shot through his arm leaving a flesh wound but this time they had managed to patch it up and put some medicine on it they found at one of the corpses. They gathered around the scout cars remains, put Palas body beside Iboto and paid tribute to their brave companions. Okoto felt dissatisfied as somehow he wished for their burial to be more… he searched for words and did not really found anything. Dignified? Worthy? That was when Akono started intonating one of the spirituals they sung back home to honor the skyfather, his servants and basically life itself. They joined in and before long they were singing at the top of their lungs, dancing and clapping, celebrating their god, graceful for the opportunity to prove themselves in his eyes.
This one was really fun to paint and I could try out some new tools again. The body of the camel is just Casandora Yellow and Seraphim Sepia on Wraithbone. The "basketwork" armor was made with two layers of Skeleton Horde Contrast paint. A special mention to the cute little bug in the lower right image. I found his skeleton in my glas of sand I use for basing (filled at the baltic sea) and he has a nice green-metallic shimer to him. Now he makes that base just that little extra smashing ;-)
I'm not completely sure what I will use him for. Most likely he will be a rough rider sergeant (I have an eye on some arabian camel riders from Artizan designs). But as Rough Riders have sadly been moved to legends I consider running my cavalry as death riders, should this be a problem. In that case he might be promoted to Death Korps Rider Squadron Commander.
Sitting up in the sleeping bag they had shared for the night, Shari gratefully took the little clay mug Aaliya was handing her. She carefully blew away the thin cover of old yak butter as they had shown her before and took a small sip from the boiling hot tea inside. It was quite bitter but the warmth spreading through her body felt like heaven - contrary to her muscles that were still aching from yesterday. Her back reminded her that sleeping on the bare, cold rock of this shallow cave had also not really helped to make her feel better. Their hideout had kept the rain and the sharp howling winds away, but it was barely big enough for all of them to lie down stretched out. Not that big of a problem as they had started to spoon anyway a while ago to keep each other warm at night. Some of the others were already up breaking up the little bivouac or sitting around the fireplace drinking their tea and chatting in their throaty accent. A little kettle of thick porridge with dried figs was boiling and filled the air with the promise of a nice breakfast.
As Aaliya they all hailed from some small little maghrabian tribe somewhere in the mountain ranges bordering the large desert belt that had been settled by their Tallarn ancestors. Honoring those, the men still wore traditional shemaghs, colored in a light sand tone, while Aaliya was currently using a little ivory comb to put her auburn hair back into a tight bun. All of them looked a bit scrawny, but sinewy in their shaggy dust covered Kakis, with wind burnt, wrinkled skin and facial features sharp from a life of scarcity. “Goat herders” they were called back home in Nishasa, the megacity Shari had grown up, but to be honest a lot of the elite used to call them less friendly goat related things. By now she was quite ashamed of that, as she would not have made it that far without them. She herself was N’Go, with skin the color of dark chocolate, jet black curly hair and large enough to tower a head above all of them.
To be honest, most of their families indeed were herding goats on Thoth and quite proud about the size of their herds and vitality of their animals. All together their expedition numbered about three dozen heads, distributed in 4 squads. And each of these squads fell into climbing groups of 3 to four Askaris.
In her own there were Achmed and Omar, two out of a bunch of 13 brothers that had chosen a life as Askaris as they would never inherit any of their fathers’ goats and therefore hardly ever marry. Suleiman with his bushy brows, broad smiles and splendid twirled mustache loved poetry and sang in a surprisingly beautiful baritone. Nonetheless he was never ashamed to admit he had left to prevent his family from suffering a vendetta after beating two men to death over cheating at dice. His best friend was called Dastan, but nobody knew what his name really was as he was mute. Nonetheless Suleiman jokingly claimed the silent, skilled marksman and hunter was quite a blabbermouth and liked to gossip a lot when they chatted in sign language. Murat was a heavyset lumberjack with bow legs and arms so thick Sharis fingers did not touch when she grabbed them with both hands, as he had been eager to demonstrate her.
The second in command was Fazil, a veteran whose greatest possession was a marvelous scimitar forged out of damascene steel. It had belonged to his family for centuries back since the war against the evil witches and was said to have taken the head of hundreds of their heretic servants. He was quite a proficient and daring swordsman himself, but a bit dull to talk to, when the topic did not resolve around blades and battles.
Khamil was their Aga, their leader. An old geezer that had already started to shrink as old people often did, with a face wrinkled like a raisin and only a short grey frame of hair left to border his bald head. Back home he had been the elder of their little mountain valley, his word was law and his natural authority still inspired unquestioning respect from his tribesmen.
Aaliya was the last of their Squad and the only woman beside Shari herself. The two of them had gotten to like each other, as different as they were. The Maghrabian did her best to teach Shari the foreign pronunciation and figures of speech of her people. And Shari on the other hand tried her best to answer any of her countless questions about the technological wonders of civilization. Her companions had never bothered to ask why things like lasguns worked or how they were produced and mostly never bothered. It was new to meet someone like Shari who had been an electrician and radio operator before she joined the Askaris as engineer. On the other hand Aaliyas braveness and optimism was pleasantly catching. When Shari once asked her , she laughed and told her that a wise woman had once read in the palm of her hand that she would die as an old hag in a cushioned bed so the one thing she was afraid of were soft silk cushions.
Shari huddled deeper into the thick, dark red, lodden coat she had donned as they started their ascent and dared to take a look down the steep slope of the mountain range. Somewhere to the south she made out the narrow serpentine pass they had traversed together three days ago. Back then when they were still accompanied by the strange beasts of burden her companions used. Sturdy, short legged ungulates covered in a long shaggy fur, strong, slow, smelly and stubborn. Yet by now she wished they had not left them behind at the last camp they had passed. But it had been no use, as the narrow game trail her guides had discovered was much too small and steep even for them, barely enough for some kind of chamois. So they had chosen the bare necessities from the baggage and distributed them before starting the ascent while two Askaris led the small yak herd back into the valley to graze. Kneading her aching calves she cursed the devil that had ridden her to volunteer for this mission, proudly boasting about her climbing experience and not being afraid of a little height. Sure, she had been climbing since she was 8, and even competed in some tournaments but that was back home. She had scaled hundreds, maybe thousands of rocks and boulders ... up to 50 feet ... with standardized handles... in an air-conditioned hall...secured by a high performance rope over a thick mattress. Here the brittle stone crumbled away right under her hands and the only failsafe was a thin, suspicious looking hemp line. A line that might save your life as well as it might end it if the people tied to your fall and pull you with them.
Her impression must have given away her thoughts, as Khamil beside her turned his Shemagh and mustered her with that stern gaze of those grey-green eyes he shared with his tribesmen. Unwilling to lose her face she forced a smile and tried to look more confident as she felt. He offered her a small folded package of the strange dark violet herbs all of them were continuously chewing and this time she gave a damn about her vanity and just took it. It would turn her teeth a dirty amber as it did with theirs, but who cared, as long as it kept you going und dulled the feeling of exhaustion. He nodded in what must have been intended as encouraging approval and gifted her an honest - yet brownish- smile. It turned his leathery, sunburnt face into a labyrinth of wrinkles that really managed to cheer her up a bit. The herbs had a musky, smoky taste to them that was not as bad as she had imagined. Actually it was quite pleasant after you got used to it. Chewing she asked “How much longer?” trying her best to talk slow and clearly as they all had as hard of a time understanding her accent as she did with theirs. He looked outside for some time and wiggled his hand in a gesture of estimate “If the weather holds… Just two more days.” before kissing the little aquilla carved of rosewood hanging around his neck adding “Imshallam!”. If the skyfathers wants it… Yes indeed.
Judging by the sun it must have been way into the afternoon when they stopped again and Shari was wondering why they would set up camp now and not continue until dusk as usual. In front of their little expedition Khamil was arguing silently with Suleiman, who had been scouting the path ahead. The past few hours had been a torture again, but they had almost reached the summit which did its part in raising Sharis spirits at least a little bit. At the worst parts of their summit, their predecessors had hammered in hooks and ropes to pave the way but still she had lost her footing more than once. A quick and determined grab or push from her comrades had mostly been enough to keep her to the face of the mountain without having to put her life and faith into the hemp line that tied her to Aaliya and Murat. Others had been less lucky… Out of nowhere, a loose rock hat hit Fazil, smashing his head in and sending him downwards. The impact on their line had jagged Omar from the brittle rock, smashing him against the cliff. At least he was able to catch a half dead mountain pine on his way down keeping his brother Achmed frantically clutching to the rock above, while Fazils lifeless body dangled as dead weight under him. Heavily breathing he had taken out his knife to cut the corpse loose, before realizing that neither would the crippled little branch hold him long enough nor would he be more than an encumbrance for the others with his broken ribs. She could still hear Achmed screaming at him to stop as Omar told his little brother to stay strong – and started to cut the rope above him… They had taken a moment of silence for his sacrifice – it was all they could do. Then Khamil had cupped Achmeds face in his hands and again just said “Imshallam!”. And somehow, in some strange way, that had been enough for the young man to pull himself together. He had not said a word since, climbing in silent grief, but he kept on going. Shari doubted that she would have had that strength.
Shaking away the memory that would surely keep hunting her at night, she took her time to turn around and admire the marvelous panorama right in front of them. To the east and west, the peaks and ridges stretched as far as the eye could see, but to the north you could finally take a peek at the vast highland plains and valleys behind the mountains they had crossed, reaching far and wide until the horizon. It was a wild, sparsely populated part of the planet, covered by thorny bush land and dry forests and protected by a ten thousand feet high wall of rock and gravel. There were no cities, no resources to speak of, no way through the mountains for any heavy armor, nothing of any military worth – and therefore it was one of the few places in the frontline where you could slip through - if you were willing to sacrifice for it.
With a stern face, Khamil gave the sign to carry on and it was not before long, that Shari could see the reason for their unexpected halt. A rock slide had given way and taken a stretch of about a hundred feet of their path with them. Were a prepared line of hooks and grapples should have enabled them to make the last push for the summit, only a wall of plain, brittle rock remained. The Aga turned to his people and spoke again to them in a rather solemn voice. By now she had picked up enough of their accent to make out that he said something about battle brothers dying this very moment and about honoring those that had given their life to even get here. He broke up some long twigs from scrawny knobby shrub and broke them into straws, one shorter than the others. As Shari grasped what was happening, Achmed stepped forward and grabbed the short straw out of the Agas still open hand without any further comment. The others shared a glance and then nodded approvingly, as the young man began to put down his backpack and the rest of his equipment. Moments later, Achmed was out in the rock alone, clawing his fingertips in crevices at best half an inch deep, creeping forward like a spider. He was only armed with a small rock hammer, some climbing hooks and the longest rope they had. He put the first hook into the gravel, then another one and a third one. He eyeballed the wall for the next crevice to put his foot into and tried to get a bit of momentum to swing his leg over. He hit it, but the cleft in the rock was less deep than it had looked like, providing no foothold. Trying to find his balance again were he had started, gravity and inertia let his body swing like a door and pulled him down, falling heavily into his lifeline. Aaliya shuddered from the impact and started to slip forward, but stubby legged Murrat, with his arms thick from chooping down pines and spruce, held the line. Achmed found his footing again and managed to climb back up, fixing another climbing hook. By now his face was covered in sweat and you could see the exhaustion taking hold of him as his sinewy muscles where strained more and more. As he tried to hammer in the fifth hook, he fell down again and another time Murrat and Aaliya kept him dangling from the hemp line. He tried to get back to the wall again, holding to a short ledge with shaking hands, 4 yards below the hook line. Looking up he sighed, accepting that he was at his end. There would be no getting up any more, and they all knew it. He took a look down and swallowed as his courage began to falter, nonetheless loosening the knot of the security line. Facing his comrades again he shouted “Not like this… I don’t want to fall… Let me die like a warrior!”. Khamil gave him a respectful nod, before bringing his lasgun to bear – together with Suleyman and Dastan. As the lasbolts pierced Achmeds chest he died immediately, his body falling to an unremembered grave, but his soul rising up to his forefathers.
They took no more than some seconds of silence, before Khamil brought up the straws again. After Achmed, Omar and Fazil, there were 6 of them left. But there were only 5 straws in the clenched fist of their commander. Shari felt relieved and guilty at the same time, knowing that she would not have to draw, as bringing her up this god forsaken rock was the whole reason for their mission. The others did not show any sign of fear or hesitation – at least on the outside – and quickly grabbed their straw before presenting them one after the other. Murrat couldn’t help but smile relieved as he saw his long twig. Dastan just breathed out silently, but you could nonetheless see the tension in his body relax that it was not his turn either. Suleyman was awkwardly silent as he opened his hand to find another long straw. Shari turned pale as Aaliya held up a branch barely half an inch long. But her friend only sighed, smiled at her and said in an encouraging tone “Imschallam, habibi.”. Then she turned to the others laughing in their stern faces and tapping into the palm of her hand “Stop looking like little afraid children. I didn’t see no cushions down there, what’s the worst that can happen?”
And indeed, the wise woman that had read her fate from the lifelines on her hand still proved true, as Aaliya managed to reach the other side of the rockslide and fix the hooks and grapples that brought them all across.
Finally they reached the little camp that had been built in front of another shallow cave using some tent flaps, sticks and stones. Inside a little brazier spread warmth and light, so they gathered around it warming their stiff fingers and limbs on the flames. But before they did so, every one of her companions ran his fingers lovingly through a dark brown shaggy pelt that was perched beside the entrance like an honorary guard. It was the fur of the buck that had led the scouts on the game trail that had enabled them to reach this place. And even if it had served them as dinner to celebrate their victory over the mountain, it was bad luck to not pay him respect.
They put down their backpacks and started to unpack. The dried beans and cans of oily fish were put to the others that had been brought up here – quite a luxury compared to the stuff a lot of guardsmen got to eat. But more importantly they carefully unpacked the many transistors, coils, circuits and other transmitter parts they had carried tightly cushioned in wood wool. They placed them like raw eggs to the other parts that had been brought up and stored here over the last weeks. Of course there had been some redundancy taken into account, but Shari only prayed that the components in Fazisl and Omars backpacks lost to the ascent were not irreplaceable. It would be quite a puzzle to bring the radio and transmitter to life, but that was what she was brought up here. That was the sole reason why she did not have to take a straw…
All the while Khamil went over to a little niche on the side of the cave, were a couple of burning incense sticks barely lit a kind of little shrine. The Aga arranged it a bit and put some other things there before taking some silent moments of contemplation. Then he turned around and gestured Shari to come closer, which she reluctantly did. The niche was padded by a prayer-rug and decorated with three dozen little black and white photos of Askaris – men and women – some of them together with dog tags or other little items: a filigree necklace of intertwined goldwires… an ancient wristwatch with greasy leather band… a shemagh embroidered with a personal favorite surah…
In front lay a prayer book with pages so thin you could almost see through them. It was opened in the back, where some space was left free for the reader’s thoughts. They were filled tightly with little passages, each headed by the name of an Askari and followed by some sentences about his life… and how he gave it at this mountain. “Can you write?” Khamil asked silently. She nodded. And one by one all of her companions came by give her a sentence for those that had died, a sentence to be remembered. None of them was afraid to shed some tears and share a hug as they finally said their goodbyes.
Two days later the cave was full of buzzing and humming from the generators and transistors, as the countless diodes on the control panels sprang to live one by one like a beehive awaking from its slumber in the spring. It was the last of a couple of stations, crossing the mountains and finally it could reach out again to the imperials on the other side. And one by one they tied themselves to the thin lifeline bound to their brothers on the other side of the front. Just like that thin hemp line that had brought Shari up here, it would not save them alone, but it would give them a fighting chance against the darkness surrounding them.
A garrison under siege in an imperial bastion left behind as the front had rolled over them rejoiced as they could finally call out for a relief. It never came, but their enkindled fighting spirit kept them from breaking as they sold their stronghold bitterly to the final enemy attack.
A tank column bogged down in a narrow canyon they had been ambushed in could reach an artillery spotter with vital intel that guided them through a lossfull fighting retreat out of that deathtrap.
The fleeing supply column of an annihilated brigade was called south saving two companies in a trench all out of ammunition and about to make their final charge.
In a last stand, the only surviving member of a wiped out black ops team could radio the imperial navy that the general of the heretic forces on the highland planes was about to board an armoured shuttle heading to their capital. While the whole squadron of intercepting Lightings and Thunderbolts was eventually KIA by ground based air defence and escort fighters, two of them managed to ram the shuttles engines before going down. The following explosion not only brought down the general but his whole staff, decapitating the enemy command structure. The pilots as well as the black ops team were posthumously decorated with the golden aquilla for an operation labeled “the beheading of the serpent”.
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