"Come and get it, boys!" came a shout from behind him. Lonni turned. A little behind him, back near the wagon laager, a plump blonde figure turned the handle of a roasting spit and waved eagerly to them all.
"Sergeant Axalson! Fall the lads out and let them eat!" Lanni said.
The big Sergeant turned away from his stone thrower and regarded his officer with cool blue eyes.
"Goblins coming, Sir." he observed, in a calm and measured tone.
"No need, Sir! No need!" cried Cookie. I can bring the food down to the lads if time's pressing!
Captain Lonni smiled to himself as he watched the corpulent cook come hopping down the hillside, balancing platters of roast goat meat and buttered mushrooms in his arms. Cookie was no warrior. He looked about as awkward in helm and mail-coat as would a troll trying to learn to play a harp, but he'd run through a den of dragons to bring chow to his mates, and the boys knew it, and loved him for it. Lonni squirmed on his seat and tried to stretch his lower back muscles a little. His perch was lumpy, shifting and uncomfortable. If they had had a little more time, he would have asked somebody to saw him off a tree-stump for a chair, but the situation being what it was, he had to make do with what he had at hand, a heap of severed Goblin-heads pared from the scouting party they had caught that morning, all roped and netted together into a loose package. It wasn't a King's cushion by any means, but these days Lonni's back tended to pain him considerably if he was on his feet for too long.
The Dwarves had marched all night, and felled trees and dug all morning, and they were hungry. They eagerly seized what Cookie brought them and ate it with their fingers. It was good Dwarven fare, simple and fortifying. It scalded their lips and tounges but they didn't much care. They felt their weary limbs awaken, thier eyes sharpen, and their spirits rise as they filled their bellies. Sated, they wiped grease from their whiskers and watched the valley floor. The Goblins were sorting themselves out. Their voices grew louder and more and more shrill as the mass of greenskins began to organize itself into storming columns...
The Gobbos came on, splashed through the net of silver streams and rolled forward in many companies, all packed densely together to help maintain their stupid bravado. They slowed a little as they hit the slope, but they came on, their gruesome standards waving, their drums rattling, their crude trumpets making macabre squealing and farting noises.
Lonni counted how many seconds it took them to pass between marks on his reticle, his lips moving, shaping the numbers silently. As they passed the twisted, forked tree which Lonni had picked that morning to mark the extreme range of the stone throwers, the old captain, still squinting through his spyglass, shouted in a bold voice, "Number 1! Range 46! Loose! Number 2! Range 44! Loose! Number 3! Range 42! Loose!" As he shouted, the Dwarves of each crew echoed him at the tops of their lungs, ensuring that everyone in the battery heard what was ordered. The great wooden arms swept up, struck their crossbeams, and three great black stones were lifted into the air, flying as if they had a life of their own. Sergeant Axalson watched them go. He felt his heart rise with them. He loved that part. He loved it even more than the killing that was to follow.
Lonni's thoughts were winged, now. A mind sharpened by centuries of careful study and hard experience was marking the points where the stones had fallen, was gauging how far the Gobbo column had traveled in the minute or so that had passed while the great wooden spoons were hauled down, cinched into place, and re-armed with new stones. This was what Lonni was born to do, and he knew it. It was why he wore the red cap of a Thunder Mountain Bombardier, presented to him with the King's own hand.
"READY 3!" shouted the individual engine commanders as their machines were made ready.
"READY 3!" shouted the individual engine commanders as their machines were made ready.
"Make the range all engines--36!!"
"All Engines 36!"
"All Engines 36!!!!" echoed all the crewmen...
In the circle of light through which Lonni marked their advance, the leading edge of the Goblin column touched a certain line of his reticle...line 37...In the time it took the stones to fly, the Gobbos would cross the 36th line...
"ALL LOOSE!!!" shouted Lonni...
When it started again, it seemed like everybody was screaming. Goblin warriors, splashed with and entangled in the internals of their mates glared and kicked and bit at each other and howled in their confusion and dismay. "DON'T STOP!! roared Squiggy. "Ya can't stand still fer it, ya dumb cunts! They'll chew us to pieces!! Ya gots ta move! Run! Run! No, not that way, UP the hill! UP THE BLOODY HILL!"
Behind him, he could see Bad Bloody Frumpkin's boys coming up, their eyes wide with horror at the mess they had just seen the Stunties make of his boys. The look on their faces made Squiggy go almost mad with rage. He began laying about him, knocking in helmets and slicing off ears in his desperation to salvage some semblance of order...
"Good work, boys!" Shouted Lonni, as the crews gave him the ready in loud, exhilarated voices.
"Number 1, Number 2: Range 36! Number 3: load Gob-shot!" Number 3 would be firing much smaller, lighter shot. They would need to make their range farther..."Number 3, Range: Maximum!"
The crews echoed him in a voice so loud and joyous that it reverberated like a peal of thunder in the valley.
Squiggy had just about got things in order again, he felt, when his boys began to scream and flap about like chickens. "More's a-comin!!!" somebody shrieked, and Squiggy turned and looked up, cursing the luck. Two more great stones had bounded into the air and were arcing toward them, and behind those, something else...some small shot that flew higher and slower...Again the ground shook and again gobbos wailed and groveled and died...or that's what it sounded like anyway. Hard to tell, really, 'cause it was so dark... Squiggy realized he'd been hiding his eyes in his hands and peeked between his fingers.
There were heads everywhere.
Some rather crushed and pulpy, but a lot of heads. Too many heads. It seemed like Squiggy's whole mob must have been decapitated. That was the conclusion many of his boys soon came to.
"'Ey! Some fella's head's off!" somebody shouted.
"An that fella's head's off!" somebody else squealed.
"An I don't even know this guy, and his head's off, too!" another Gobbo croaked in horror.
"Calm down!" Squiggy shouted, seeing what was happening.
"Ey! EY!" I think MY head's off!" shouted another Gobbo, clutching frantically at his helmet and unable to feel his scalp beneath his fingers...
"MY HEAD'S OFF TOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!" Squealed a tiny Gobbo, not much bigger than a snotling. Squiggy watched him run about in circles, pulling, panic-stricken, at his long ears, his eyes rolling about in the ecstacy of his terror.
"Everybody's head's off!" roared Rugracsh, Squiggy's champion, now thoroughly caught up in the hysteria.
"Now, stop it!!!" yelled Squiggy! None of your heads is off, and you know it!"
It made sense at the time, but later, Squiggy had to admit to himself that it had been the wrong thing to say. Clearly, heads WERE off, the Gobbos thought, and if their leadership was lying to them about it, then, just as clearly, the situation must be even worse than they feared...
On the ridge far above, the Dwarf Crews watched, fascinated, as the rigid corners of the Goblin company dissolved into a disordered mass, then drifted rapidly away down the mountainside, gaining speed the further they went, their mail and weapons glinting here and there in the sunlight like the scales of a shoal of frightened fish.
"Ey!" Shouted Sergeant Axalson, in a stentorian voice that shook them out of their triumphant observations..."No Idling, Lads! This is a fight, not a damned stage-play! Re-load!"
Bad Bloody Frumpkin's boys saw Squiggy Squirrel-Chewer's mob disintegrate and come rushing back down the slope toward them in an abysmal disorder. Stopping for nothing, they plowed straight through Frumkin's lads, sprinting away down the mountain for all they were worth.
One of Frumkin's boys shouted to one of the rear-most Goblins as he passed.
"Ey! What's goin' on?"
"Everybody's head's off!!!" gasped the fleeing Gobbo, his eyes wild with mindless terror, and then he, too, vanished down the slope.
And as Frumkin's lads stared, startled, at one another, trying to digest this fearsome piece of intelligence, somebody cried out...
"Ey! 'Ere comes sumfin!"
Bad Bloody Frumpkin stopped shouting at his halted formation and glanced skyward. Arcing toward them were two great, black stones, and, behind them, something else, some small, roundish munition that flew higher, and descended upon them with a sort of sickening slowness...
Okay, I'm actually getting kind of excited, now. I'm within striking distance of a 2,000 point army. I still need to paint up 20 crossbowmen, 10 Giant Slayers and a baggage cart with 5 baggage handlers...My hope is I can finish them all by April, which I think I can do.
Strong Artillery is critical for Dwarves, I think. They really need good firepower to cancel out their lack of mobility. Big guns and stone throwers can do a lot to cut up meddlesome enemy units trying to outflank and envelop your Dwarves.
The Warhammer Armies book says an army can have 3 3-man stone throwers at the most, so I have have 3.
Plus it's been a fun regiment to paint.