Chapter 2 Ork Kultur
SkagNet gathered his camp and set off at a plod toward his home herding ranch. The grots gawped at the wide open plains that surrounded the woodland spawning ground. They felt rather exposed and crouched furtively as SkagNet drove them on into the night. Only Smirking strolled along with apparent disregard for the strange new world unfolding around him. Of Skagnet’s seven new grots only Snikkit remained in chains. Still too wild to be trusted he skulked at SkagNet’s side as the other grots marched ahead.
SkagNet had left the spawning ground with reluctance. He had not caught his prey. The seven grots before him were easily bagged but none were the one he had hunted. As a runtherd, he had achieved his goal. As a hunter, he was defeated. He felt the sting of old age; the shame of being a toothless old has been. Beaten by a grot. He was furious and he lashed and pressed his charges all the harder for his rage.
After a hard evening’s march the party finally stopped for rest. He tossed a small squig carcass to his grots and let out the chain for Snikit to join them. Their squabbling was vicious but in his foul mood he let them fight it out. It was good for his new group to establish their own pecking order. He slumped in the shadows of a large rocky outcrop and took a minute to himself. Gnawing on a dried bracket fungus SkagNet observed the murky sky. Clouds rolling in from the east spelled a storm. SkagNet considered his options. He had none. Even if he doubled their pace he would still have no chance of reaching his homestead or any other shelter before it hit. He groaned as his aged joints creaked into service raising him to his feet.
Resolved to move on the old runtherd checked his camp with a final glance around. SkagNet’s Kommando training was still second nature and he knew that many a raid had failed because the boys left their bombs behind at their last camp, or had forgotten to lift a vital piece of equipment. Out of the corner of his eye SkagNet thought he saw something: Something small, a squig perhaps, or a large bird. Whatever it was it had darted behind a tall rock on the far side of the outcrop just as he had turned. SkagNet jerked Snikkit from the pack and reeled in his chain. The grot shrieked a feeble protest but was soon silenced by SkagNet’s apparent lack of attention. Snikkit realised that he old ork had not even looked at him. SkagNet’s eye remained fixed on the middle distance, on a rock a few paces away. He held the grot by the throat still eyeing the rock and released the chain from Snikkit’s ankle. SkagNet waited until the grot had a clear sense of what was going on. Something was behind that rock and they were going to catch it. Slowly releasing his grip he indicated his intent with a grunt and a nod and began to stalk toward their prey. Snikkit followed suit in silent complicity gnawing the end of a broken leg bone from the squig carcass to a fine point. The pair of hunters closed the distance quickly and as quietly as they could until they were a few steps from their goal on either side. SkagNet stopped and snatched the weapon from Snikkit’s grip. A baleful glare from his one remaining eye and a stiff nod communicated a surprisingly clear plan of action to the eager grot: This was a capture and hold, not a stab and dismember kind of a hunt. Snikkit was to go round one way and drive their prey toward SkagNet who would be waiting here on the other side of the rock. The diminutive stalker darted behind the rock and a screech went up followed by the sound of scuffling. SkagNet waited a few seconds but soon realised his prey was not about to come running into his open arms. He rounded the rock to find Snikkit astride a beaten and bloody mess pounding away with gleeful abandon. SkagNet dislodged him with a rough back hand and scooped the unfortunate victim off the ground. This was the one, undoubtedly. Covered from head to green-skinned toe in what any self respecting Kommando would call…
“Smudge.” He mused aloud. A word that encompassed any material, no matter how foul that was lying around and could be liberally smeared on an ork’s body as camouflage, and as perfect a name for the grot Kommando that had eluded him until now as he could have hoped for. Snikkit stood and looked mightily pleased with himself as the boss inspected his handy work. SkagNet glanced down at him and grinned wide. He tossed Snikkit his half gnawed leg bone and spun on his heel.
“Gerra move on Snikkit.”
He picked up a skull sized rock with his grabba stick and lobbed it at the rest of his grots with expert dexterity. It landed with a dead thud into the remains of the squig at the centre of the mêlée and showered them all with offal. The grots were momentarily startled to attention. A lash of his whip against the ground tore free a sizeable chunk of turf and the grots were more than motivated. They did not so much march as flee before their master as he drove them on.
They arrived at SkagNet s stomping grounds wet and dishevelled. The storm had hit and caught them out in the open long before they had reached home turf. SkagNet tossed his last and largest squib carcass into a fenced enclosure and held open a heavy rusty gate as his hungry crew charged inside. He let the latch drop with a clanking ring of metal on metal and disappeared into an adjoining sheltered hut.
Life at the SkagNet’s was simple. The code of ‘size matters’ was a simple one and could be largely applied across all of what passed for ork society. The orks beat on the grots. The bigger grots beat on the smaller grots who beat on the snotlings, and the snotlings beat on anything that moved that was smaller than a snotling. Orks ruled and grots served and snotlings were largely ignored, that was how it was. SkagNet was the only ork on the ranch so he was obviously the Boss. The next largest was a grot named Unki. A larger than average, seasoned and very useful grot who SkagNet had elected not to sell but to use around the ranch. The only other grot around apart from those recent arrivals was an oddly easy going creature named Fungrot. He was chiefly employed in the cultivation of fungus which fed a herd of Squiggly beasts which fed the herd of grots and SkagNet himself. Some grots were called gretchin. Unki and Fungrot were considered gretchin, at least they thought so: the new grots were just grots. SkagNet left the new grots in the tender care of his gretchin and for a couple of nights busied himself in the repair of his gear and the building of cages.
Nurd observed one evening as one by one SkagNet loaded up a stack of cages on a rough two wheeled cart, and counting them out Nurd thought he could see an alarming pattern emerging. Unki leashed a pair of squig-hounds to the front of the cart and sure enough, before the night was much advanced SkagNet was on his way to market with Naff, Nurd, Smudge, Smirking, Snikkit, Runt, Slaka and Fuggit and not much hope of an easy sale. When he arrived at the bustling throng that passed for an ork market SkagNet hoisted his old Blood Axe banner pole, much to the disgust of the mostly Goff crowd. He didn’t care; an ork was proud of his clan no matter how bad it was for business. With his banner on show and his wares, such as they were, on display he considered himself open for business.
Smirking peered out at the chaos of the market passing by his cage. Orks and gretchin alike looked back and laughed at him, he felt glad to be in such a happy place. Nurd was occupied in working out the going rate in teef for a grot like himself of more than average intelligence and was determined to settle for no less than five. Smudge looked terrified, cornered in his cage out in the open and on show. Naff sat and scratched himself. Fuggit was making obscene gestures and insulting anyone who showed anything more than a passing interest in SkagNet’s stall. Runt had slipped his cage and was sitting on top of it and occasionally running errands for SkagNet though he was still on sale. Slaka was asleep and Snikkit was doing his best to try and wake him up with a broken splinter of cage-wood.
“Grots fer Sale!” SkagNet growled over the din. A nearby Snakebite Wierdboy was causing quite a scene spluttering and fuming about Oomans and Waaagh!’s, a sure-fire topic to grasp the imagination of any ork crowd. SkagNet was glad that so many orks were at least gathering in his vicinity even if they were mostly facing the other way.
“Get yer Grots!” he drawled.
“Oi, SkagNet!” an ork yelled over the hubbub of the crowd. “Sellin’ snotlings now, are ya?” SkagNet ignored the heckler who had begun picking over SkagNet’s less than premium wares with a critical eye.
“Dis ‘ere one’s cockeyed! An’ wots wif im? E’s ‘sleep!” The stranger shook Slaka's cage roughly.
“E’s a day-grot." SkagNet proposed with an effort of enthusiasm. "Good fer guardin’ an dat.”
“E’s a lazy git!”
“Naff off, yer ould mug!” SkagNet hefted a dirt clod at the ork who laughed it off as he went on his way.
“Boss, Boss!” it was Runt returning from GrubGuts apparently empty handed. “Dey won' take squig teef, Boss. Not dees-uns anyways.”
“Buncha snivilin tightgits!” he grumbled. “Givus dem teef, an’ get back in yer cage!” SkagNet was broke and hungry and down to his last batch of miserable grots and nobody was buying. Smirking smiled at him benignly.
“Grots fer sale, too fer da price a won!”
Nobody was listening, the wierdboy’s crowd was getting bigger and more and more raucous. It was drawing other stall holders and the market was grinding to a standstill as the throng amassed around the frantic frothing prophet. A large and heavily laden ork clanked into view just off to one side of SkagNet’s banner pole. It was GrodMek the local Boss’s chief-hanger-on who thought himself something of a boss in his own right.
“Oi, GrodMek! Where’s me leg!” Skagnet yelled.
“Wot leg?” the crafty mekboy sniggered on the other side of his face knowing full well that he’d taken SkagNet’s bionic leg, ostensibly for repairs and sold it on to one of the Boss’s Nobs.
“yer cowardly mutt! You gimme back my leg or…”
“or wot yer snivilin grot? I sez oo ‘as da legs an oo ‘as da snazz-gunz an wot-‘as-ya!” he looked the old runtherd over with undisguised contempt and appraised his wares with equal disgust. “look-it-yer, bah!” he spat on SkagNet’s banner and considered that a conclusion to the matter.
Before SkagNet could respond a nearby ork’s head exploded in a shower of green mist and an unmistakable fizzle of pure raw Waaagh! energy. The Weirdboy’s rant was reaching fever pitch and the crowd went berserk.
“WAAAAAAAAAGH!” they screamed as orks clamoured, fought and tore their way out of the crowd in all directions.
“wait’ll da Boss ‘ere’s ‘bout dis!” shouted GrodMek over the clarion. “Der’s gonna be a Waaagh! fer sure!”
Smirking caught a glimpse of something creeping over SkagNet’s gummy maw. It looked, to Smirking like a smirk.