‘Dere’s no such fing az ‘umies!’ Boss Skumskab spat out the words with the same casual confidence that he’d bite out an opponent’s throat. Boss Rutgob and Warboss ‘Eadchoppa stared at the hulking Ork across the campfire. Around the boss-circle the boyz sang and drank to celebrate the day’s victory over a rival tribe.
‘Yoo what?’ said Rutgob, handing his stein to Holdit, his cup-bearer grot. The weedy greenskin scurried away through the throng to fetch more squig ale.
‘Ain’t never seen one. Dey are made up!’ Boss Skumskab took a big bite out of a boar haunch, chewed thoughtfully for a moment, and then jabbed it in Rutgob’s direction. ‘Yoo ever seen one Rutgob?’
Rutgob tried to think, which was unappealing at the best of times, never mind after so much ale. He’d travelled the star cluster from Skarbad’s Star to Totemrok, fighting and looting all the way. But he’d never seen any ‘umies.
‘Nah, can’t say I ‘ave.’
‘So what yoo sayin’, Skumskab?’ asked Warboss ‘Eadchoppa. Skumskab pointed the severely mauled chunk of meat at the sky.
‘Yoo said yoo wuz tired of fightin’ Orks in dis cluster. Yoo want to ‘ead inwards, where da stars get thicker. Waste o’ time. ‘Umies ain’t real, der will be no-one to fight. Dead borin’.’ Skumskab waved the meat against the night sky as he spoke. Illuminated in the firelight, Rutgob briefly pictured it as a misshapen space hulk, the chunks of meat falling off into the flames of war below.
‘So we should head out to da fringe, looking for more Orks to fight?’ rumbled Warboss ‘Eadchoppa.
‘Exactly!’ Rutgob guestered enthusiastically with the boar haunch. The last of the meat sloughed to the floor with a wet flop. ‘Everyone knows Orks are best at fightin’.’
‘Nah,’ ‘Eadchoppa shifted his muscled bulk on the pile of furs. Even without his makeshift throne he would still have sat a head taller than the other two Orks. ‘It ain’t fun no more. I want someone else to bash.’
Holdit returned with Rutgob’s stein, and the boss took a long swig. Skumskab wasn’t normally this talkative. Would he ever shut-up?
‘Even if da stories are true, and ‘umies are real, den we know dey are runty and dead weedy. I bet dey break real easy.’ Skumskab snapped the boar bone in two and tossed it away.
‘Don’t sound like a good enemy to me.’
‘I dunno,’ ventured Rutgob, ‘I ‘eard dey ‘ave big tin boyz wot will give ya a good fight.’
‘Yeah, I ‘eard ‘umies are all gold an’ big az a warboss and can shoot fire out of der arses!’ tittered Holdit, climbing up onto Rutgob’s shoulder.
‘I fink dat’s just da big ‘umie warboss,’ said Rutgob, batting the grot away.
‘I don’t know why yer all still flappin’ ya jaws,’ said Warboss ‘Eadchoppa, his eyes glinting like steel in the firelight, ‘I’ve made up me mind. I’m da big boss and I say we fly da kroozers inward and look for ‘umies. And dat’s dat.’ There was a moment of silence.
‘And dat’s dat,’ echoed Skumskab in a resigned tone.
Something landed in the fire, sending a cloud of sparks dancing up towards the stars. Rutgob blinked across the flames at his pal Skumskab, suddenly not clear what he was seeing. Rusted armour plates clattered to the floor as Skumskab’s shadow shifted.
‘‘Ere, Skumskab mate,’ said Rutgob, squinting through an alcoholic haze, ‘yooz gone a bit… melty.’
A lithe black figure lept at Warboss ‘Eadchoppa, go-fasta red hair whipping and sword blade shining in a way that owed nothing to the firelight.
‘Zoggin’ ‘eck!’ cried Rutgob, falling backwards from his pile of loot and squashing Holdit flat. The shadow that had been Skumskab moved in the darkness between the flames, quicker than Rutgob could follow. But ‘Eadchoppa hadn’t become warboss by not being ready for the occasional casual attempt on his life. Buzzsaw-headed axe met green powered blade in an indecisive crash of fields that made Rutgob’s teeth ache. The shadow had speed and surprise on its side but the warboss had mass and a bad temper. Rutgob scrambled about for his shoota in the strobing light of weapon clashes. He found it and clambered to his feet just in time to see the warboss catch Skumskab’s shadow with a powerful backhand, sending it sprawling. Rutgob kept his shoota trained as the warboss loomed over his would-be assassin.
‘‘Umie…’ growled Warboss ‘Eadchoppa as he raised his axe for the killing blow.
Rutgob was suddenly thrown back by an explosion as whatever Skumskab had thrown into the campfire finally cooked off. Dazed, it took him a moment to get his bearings. The camp was in uproar. Boyz were running everywhere, yelling and fighting. Skumskab’s shadow was gone, and Warboss ‘Eadchoppa was slowly cooling in the dirt, his head nowhere to be seen. Rutgob thought this was probably how the boss would have wanted to go. Shaking his head to clear the ringing in his ears, he was suddenly filled with a sense of purpose.
Rutgob fired his shoota in the air, glad he had paid for that extra noisy kustom upgrade. Most of the boyz stopped to look. Some kept fighting, until Rutgob cracked their heads together.
‘Listen up yoo lot! Warboss ‘Eadchoppa is dead! I’m da warboss now!’
There was some muttering, and a bit of half-hearted clapping. This won’t do, thought Rutgob.
‘What happened boss?’ someone yelled from the back.
‘A no good zoggin’ ‘umie snuck into da camp, killed da big boss, and my mate Skumskab… I fink… and, erm, dey even flattened poor little Holdit!’
There was some angry muttering and howls of rage.
‘What’s da plan?’ someone else yelled.
‘We’re getting in da kroozers and followin’ ol’ ‘Eadchoppa’s plan! We look for some ‘umies to stomp!’ yelled Rutgob. The boyz roared their approval. And judging by that ‘umie, thought Rutgob, it will be one ‘eck of a fight!
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.