Up and down the great, dark river the word had gone out. The word had gone north, where Willie da Wheela raced his Waagghh! Wagons over the brown hills; "Big Blackie lookin fer a fight!" "AAOOAOOOH-AH-OOO!" barked Willie. Willie da Wheela came a-wheeling.
The word had traveled south, as far as the East Bank Toves, where Black Annie and her Troll-sons gnawed giant eels amoung the warty willow-bowels. "Big Blackie gonna go git stuck in some place!" "Don't Buvver me, I'm eatin'!" Croaked Black Annie. Black Annie did not come.
The Word had traveled east, across the waste. It had found the Bad Moon boys boozing around their fires in their stony gullies, wired with drink, stoked up with hate, squinting at each other and feeling for their knives. "Big Blackie gonna go south and have a bash!" Clay cups were dropped and broke upon the stones. "KILL KILL KILL!!!!!!" bellowed the Bad Moon Boys. The Bad Moon Boys gathered up their gear and they began to run.
***They had run all day. The sun that had risen at their sweating backs fell upon the Thunder Mountains and bathed the shapes of the land in red. On they loped, untiring, westward into the deepening night. Nyunkel Pickscab shouted once, and they all raised their eyes to the sky toward which he cast a gnarled arm. There, riding high above a bank of silvered cloud hung the moon, an enormous, sharp-horned crescent. It's pallid light silvered the moon-standard that hung from the great pole Nyunkel bore. The Bad Moon clan bellowed in approval. A good omen.
The shoulders that bore up their hauberks and packs unyielding as stone. The sinews of their legs as unwearying as steel...
On, on, into the night. Hook up with Big Blackie. Go somewhere, pick a fight. Crush and break and kill. WAGGH! These were their only thoughts. Why didn't matter. Not too much, anyhow. The rumour carried on stinking tounge from out of the West had said that Aulech Henschblutt, the Knight of Khorne, had come up from Lost Veguzz,had crossed over the bad, broken country that marked the border of the Orcs' territory. He had burned the huts of a few Goblin Pig-herders and taken their stock, and was now camped on the very southern-most verge of Big Blackie's realm, munching on pig, his Chaos Hounds making the night hideous with their dreadful baying. That seemed to be about the extent of it.
It wasn't much, as provocations go, but the bulk of the Black River Orcs wanted to fight, and Big Blackie knew it. He could smell, or feel, or hear, or whatever, the WAGGH...that slow-burning fire, coming in like the tide slowly...slowly...so slow and steady you sometimes didn't even know it was there until you felt the air snap and pop with it, and could see the eyes of the boys catchin' the light of the campfire in that most peculiar, metallic-red sorta way. The WAGGH came every so often, as natural as breathin...most Boys didn't know what it was. But the Shamans knew. Some of the Chiefs knew. Big Blackie knew better than anybody. The WAGGH was CHANGE. The WAGGH was the Great Gods Gork n' Mork stirrin' the pot, makin' sure things didn't get too settled, didn't get quiet and sleepy and things go all to rot. Things goin to rot happened a lot with the humans. But not with the Orcs. WAGHH kept 'em strong. WAGHH was full of perils, sure. WAGHH could get a boy so crackling, tooth-grinding, hopping crazy stirred up mad, he'd kill his best mate over an old pig-rib had a little tit nit of fat still on it. Kill him before he'd known he'd done it! But the WAGGH was good. It pruned away the weak. Pushed the lazy down. Gave the hard and the go-gettin' a chance to come up and lead. WAGHH killed off old, bad bosses and brought in new, good ones. WAGHH kept the whole world turnin.' Big Blackie knew it. And he knew how to use it. No use lettin' the boys go at each other and spill each others' guts for no good reason. Waste of perfectly good muscle, that. Nar, best gang 'em up, spin 'em up n' turn 'em loose on the outlanders. Which ones? Didn't really matter, long as somebody out beyond the borders got taught a lesson...A WAGHH was brewing. The Knight of Khorne had offered himself as a target. The knight of Khorne it would be.
They came off the great plateau and poured eagerly down into the broken jumble of stony slopes and narrow gullies that ran down to the great river. There she was, Black River, the bitter moon playing up and down her, striking silver fire off her great, smooth back. Down there, near the water, they could see the big camp. Bloody red camp fires blazing in the dark. Big camp was where it always was, at The Skull Pile. There, some years ago, Big Blackie had caught a pack of the The Big Baron's raiders with some Dwarves as they were trying to get in their boats and get back to the west bank. Forty men and Dwarves had died on the river bank gravel, and Big Blackie had piled the heads up, with those of some Orcs and Gobbos who had died in the fight too. The Skulls all looked west, toward the Baron's realm and the Dwarves' mountains. Year in and year out they lay there, Autumn leaves drifted own on them, spring rain gurgled in their eye-sockets. "Waggh. is what the skulls said. Here's what you'll get if you come here, messin! Waggh. Red, red Waagh."
They could see that there were fires springing up on the west bank, too. Little lights that soon grew to strong golden blazes shining out across the dark waters. That would be the Baron's men. The Rangers would have seen the Orc camp at Skull-Pile, and would be coming down to the water with bows and dogs, they'd build more watch fires and wait throughout the night, while the Sheriff's riders galloped from stead to stead all the way to the Refnsburg. All over the Mittelmark, men would be waking and arming, preparing to march down to the river and fight the Orcs when they tried to cross.
They were wasting their time. The Orcs were going south, not west.
The Bad Moon Boys came into the camp and reveled at the sight of the Orcs and Gobbos gathered about the bonfires. The air was hot and savory with that WAGGH-ish wrath, a searing sort of joy, a wildly cheerful viciousness. They saw Gobbos leaping over the great conflagrations, bouncing through the walls of fire; the ultra-exuberant, showing off for their mates. Sometimes they misjudged, fell short, were wrapped in the hungry flames and devoured, screaming horribly. Their friends guffawed and cackled hysterically. Best of times.
Big Bad Moon, Chief of the clan, could see that not all the Orc-bands had come, not everybody was feeling the WAAGH like he and his boys were feeling it, but he saw his old mate, Scarffgagg Sorehead, sitting on a driftwood log, rubbing his jaw and muttering to himself, his red eyes stabbing the wildest sort of wrath. He saw wily old Narchukk Tounge-cutter cursing and kicking savagely at a pair of his Arrer boys who were locked in one another's arms, rolling around beside a huge fire, trying to kill each other over some trifle. "OY!! OY!!! Leave it, you shits! Save it fer...fer...fer dem uvver shits!!"
He saw Willie da Wheela, the only Gobbo he had ever come close to having any respect for, go tearing by in his wolf chariot. knocking one of Oogie Spazzjabber's gobbo boys unconscious with the flat of his enormous great sword as he passed. Just for fun, you know. Willie's wild cackle trailed after him as his chariot rumbled away into the dark.
"WAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" bellowed Big Badd Moon, no longer able to contain his raw exhultation. Behind him he heard his boys raise their voices to the mad moon, echoing him. All around them there now ran, like a rip-tide, a jibbering, jammering, wild wailing, tumult of response...
|Big Badd Moon|
It was a voice every Orc and Goblin in the Black River country knew well. A sound like great stones grinding beneath the surface of the earth. A sound like the iron gates of hell grinding ponderously open...Once a boy experienced that voice, he never forgot it. You didn't so much hear Big Blackie's voice in your ears as you felt it in the pit of your stomach. Every other voice fell silent. There was only the crackle and snap of fires in the dark, the slow thunder of the great river in her passage.
"OOOOOZAT, HUH? ZAT ME MATE, BIG BADD MOON? ZAT ME BAD MOON BOYS??!!!"
Not too distant was a great fire who's light was almost hidden by a great crowd of boys gathered around it. Abruptly they gave way, a retreating wave of Orcs and Gobbos scurrying to clear a path, nobody wanting to be caught between the great chief and the object of his attentions. Left outlined against the leaping red flames was an enormous Orc, a squatting silhouette more like to that of an Ogre than to a son of Gork and Mork.
Big Badd Moon felt a powerful quiver in his bowels. He felt his marrow turn to water, but his cold, grey heart swelled and burst with pride that the great Black Orc would call on him direct-like, would speak to him like a mate.
"AYE!! I, Da Big Badd Moon 'ave come, War Boss, and I brung all me lads! Da Bad Moon is rising!"
The awful voice spoke again, a sound like thunder on the Dwarf-mountain, a sound like the waters of the great river rushing in flood...
"UMM! BAD MOON RISING! CUMMERE, BIG BADD MOON! LESSEE YOU AN YER BOYS!" And Big Bad Moon strode forward into the firelight, into the gaze of the great Orc...
To be continued...