Chained to the chair in the dimly lit cellar with the Ork Warboss looming over me, I knew I had about a minute to live. Maybe longer if I was really unlucky.
‘What did ya tell the Bad Moons?’ Warboss Ironsnik growls.
‘Nothing!’ I protest. A green iron fist smashes my soft pink face. I gargle teeth. The Warboss grabs me by the lapels and shakes violently.
‘I spare ya life, give yoo a snazzy uniform, and then yoo betray me, Jeramiah!?’
He’s right, I am a traitor. To the Astra Militarum. The greenskins had us on the ropes. The offensive stalled, my regiment decimated, all my men dead – or at least all the ones I liked. Warboss Ironsnik emerged from the fog of war with a proposal. Join his Blood Axe warband as a ‘umie advisor and he’d spare my life. It was an easy choice. I knew the Imperium would’ve tossed me aside without a second thought, and I didn’t hesitate to do the same. But Ironsnik was also wrong. I may have betrayed the Imperium, but I hadn’t betrayed him.
‘I haven’t betrayed anyone! Recently…’. Another fist, more lost teeth.
‘Is dis how you repay me?!’
I spit teeth at Ironsnik.
‘Here’s your repayment. Keep the change!’ I splutter. Some of the Orks chuckle. Ironsnik sneers, showing me what proper Orky teeth look like.
‘Ya couldn’t buy a grot’s winky wiv those,’ he smirks.
The ceiling shakes, lights sway and dust trickles down. The assembled Ork Nobs looked up nervously. Ironsnik leans close.
‘My fortress is crawling with Bad Moons! Yoo told them how to bypass the kustom force field. If I’m gonna make a kunnin’ plan, I need to know what else yoo told them!’
I try to think through the brain fog. I’m not the traitor, so it has to be one of the Nobs. But who? I don’t have to guess right, just convince Ironsnik I’m right. What about old “No-Gob” Gorstab? I look at the scarred Nob silently glaring at me over the top of his wielded-shut iron jaw. That would be a hard sell. How about “Choppa” Bludruk, who stood brushing stone dust from his Blood Axe uniform? No, the only thing Bludruk liked more than cleaning his medals was licking the Warboss’s boots. My eyes fell on “Flash” Skumzog. He wasn’t even looking at me, just stood off to the side polishing his brand new snazzgun. Ironsnik was pulling back for another punch – Skumzog would have to do!
‘Wait! I know who the traitor is!’ I yell.
Ironsnik and the other Nobs turn to look at Skumzog, who stops cleaning his gun in surprise.
‘How do yoo figure?’ asks Ironsnik thoughtfully.
‘Well, look at him, standing there keeping quiet,’ I say, thinking quickly, ‘cleaning his fancy snazzgun. How did he afford that? A bribe from the Bad Moons!’
Skumzog’s face darkens like a storm brewing over a green ocean. ‘Dis iz an outrage! Slander! I demand trial by kombat!’
Ah, I hadn’t counted on that. The ground shakes as artillery explodes above. Ironsnik grunts.
‘Alright, but make it quick. We’ve wasted enough time. Kill the ‘umie traitor so we can go and give the Bad Moons a taste of zoggin boot leather!’
Ironsnik roughly frees me and thrusts me into the centre of the room. Skumzog very carefully puts his snazzgun on the floor and lopes towards me, cracking his knuckles.
‘Can I at least have a weapon?’ I ask as I step back. I inadvertently collide with “No-Gob” Gorstab. The grizzled Nob silently presses his smallest knife into my hand, then shoves me back towards Skumzog. I twirl the blade and take up a fighting stance as Ironsnik and the others begin to chant.
‘Orks Orks Orks ORKS!’
If there was one thing I learned in the Astra Militarum, it was how to fight Orks. Whether an individual or an army, Orks are powerful, but slow and predictable. If you can get them to expend their energy, misdirect their blows, then-
-I don’t see the fist coming that takes me in the gut. I fall to the floor gasping. Maybe that’s why my regiment was wiped out, I think as Skumzog hauls me up by my neck. I try to slash his gut but only succeed in opening one of the leather pouches on his belt. The contents clatter to the floor, along with my knife. I’m face to face with him now. His breath stinks of squig ale and his eyes burn like twin fires beneath his craggy brow.
‘I’m gonna tear yer limbs off one by one,’ he growls softly.
‘The boss said to make it quick,’ I croak.
‘Oh the pullin’ will be quick, but the dyin’ won’t!’
We both turn our heads at the sound of Ironsnik’s voice. The warboss has bent over to pick up the teef that fell from Skumzog’s pouch. The large, impressive, unmistakably Bad Moon teeth! Skumzog drops me like a stikkbomb and holds up his hands.
‘Wait Boss, I can explain-’
Skumzog doesn’t get a chance as Ironsnik puts a surprisingly accurate slugga round between his eyes.
‘Yoo expect treachery from weedy ‘umies, but not from yer own boyz,’ mutters Ironsnik, sounding almost hurt, ‘go on lads, yoo get going, I’ll be right there.’
The Nobs pile out of the room. I lay on the floor where Skumzog dropped me as Ironsnik looms over me. The bombardment above is relentless now. I wonder what he’s going to say. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an Ork apologise…
‘Quit layin’ about ‘umie!’ says Ironsnik, kicking me in the ribs and turning away. He almost makes it out the door before I put a dozen rounds in his back from Skumzog’s snazzgun. Ironsnik collapses in a bloody heap. I get to work sawing off the Warboss’s head. Ironsnik’s warband is done. Maybe the Bad Moons are hiring. Ironsnik here can be my reference!
About the Author
Chris Buxey is a writer, laser safety officer and occasional Tony Stark impersonator. He lives in southern England with his wife and two children. Chris has been travelling the Warhammer 40K universe for nearly thirty years and has so far managed to keep his heresies hidden from the Inquisition.