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Hey all, I'm bored, sick and not snowboarding, and it's winter break. Yep. So, to alleviate some of the depression resulting from the previously mentioned conditions, I think I'll write up a bit of fluff off the top of my head about my WIP Kroot Mercenary Band, the Aloh'shas'Ka warband. Heres we go:
The rumble of Imperial Armor and the crunch of boots on thickening snow were the only noises that could be heard above the howl of the unending wind that so cursed this planet. The Imperial Cadian 66th Regiment trudged determinedly through the gale, biting back the brutal cold and managing to stay in close formations despite the harsh conditions. A long, straight line of grey and black against the unbroken white of the barren world, this regiment was indeed a testiment to the might of Imperium of Man. Mighty tanks were flanked by smaller, agile transports, Heavy Weapons teams marched in rows, Mortars and Heavy Bolters thrown over their shoulders, often supported by two or three men, and the brave foot soldiers of Cadia surrounded everything, an all-enveloping mass of lasguns and helmets.
The commander of this great force, Commisar Teryan Stremgard, scanned the proscession with a cold, calculating gaze, his heart swelling with the view of such might working to purge the enemies of the holy god-Emporer. But then again, where were the filthy mercenaries reported to be inhabiting this sad planet? There had been no sign of any kind of base of operations any where above or below the thick layer of sleet and snow that covered the planet. In fact, the '66th hadn't seen or heard any sign of any life at all on this planet since they arrived, four days previous. The men were holding strong, marching on with little complaint, but he knew that their determination would wear thin soon if they didn't find any trace of the enemy. With a determined sigh, Stremgard turned his gaze away from the viewscreen and onto his operations crew.
"Another thermal sweep, 30 Clicks on all sides." The Commisar looked back at his force, and muttered to himself. "Where the hell are they?" The operations crew busied themselves with the panels and instruments in the belly of the Chimera, bringing another sweep of the barren ice world to bear, searching for life, any life. Several minutes passed, and the low hum of the machinery that made up the holy vehicle was the only noise.
"Nothing, sir. Just more weeds. Another field up ahead, about 10 clicks." Stremgard cursed under his breath. The weeds his crew were talking about had been seen sporadically throughout the trek so far. They were thick and spiny, a dull brownish color with paler, bone colored tips. They were found in small patches all along the path the Cadians had taken so far. With another sigh, the Commisar gave his orders.
"Order an all-stop after we pass the field. We'll take a rest once we get past it."
Stremgard clambered through the hatch of the transport to get a better look around as his crew gave a quiet "Affirmative, sir".
The Imperial forces covered the distance within the hour, and, once again formed up into a defensive camp, although there was, and had been, no sign of the mercenaries. Sentries were posted, and men sat down to recieve rations. The vehicles were checked for fuel and any minor wear and tear. Tales were passed between soldiers, talk of loved ones at home or accounts of horrific battles. Anything to lighten the mood and ward off the boredom that was as numbing as the constant blizzards.
A far way off, on the perimiter, a sentry blinked. When the man opened his eyes again, he stared for a second. He rubbed his eyes. There hadn't been weeds there before. Had there? Dumbfounded, the man decided to blame it on exhaustion or malnutrition, neither of which, he knew, he was suffering from. He turned, and continued on his patrol. Or, started to, at least. Infront of him, there was another field. Ok, this was getting wierd. He knew that this one hadn't been here before. Now a bit panicy, the gaurdsman turned and started to run for camp. But them something hit him in the back. Hard. He stumbled, and fell to the snow. A searing agony filled the man, and he tried to scream. His back was on fire, there were knives stabbing into it. He tried to scream, but his mouth was full of snow. He gagged. His vision slowly blackened, and he felt warm suddenly. So very warm...
Back at the Imperial Camp, the men heard the shot. At first they jumped, instinctively reaching for lasguns and grenades. Then their sensibilities returned, and they figured that a sentry had merely gotten a bit jumpy and had shot at what had looked like an Orc or some Chaos Marines, but what was only a mound of snow. There had been no sign of any life, let alone hostile or humanoid life in the last four days. There couldn't have been anything. They settled back down. About a minute passed, and there was no more commotion. Then a piercing howl was carried to the Cadians on the chill wind. Only, it wasn't like any howl they had heard before. It sounded somehow, higher, more like the cry of a hunting bird. Suddenly alert, the 66th Regiment clutched their weapons tightly, Gaurdsmen glanced around, and Commisar Stremgard barked orders to his force. Grabbing the vox, the commander's voice echoed across the barren landscape, almost indistinguishable form the howling wind.
"All units, form defensive positions. We don't know what that was, and there's nothing on the thermal," Stremgard yelled, referring to the renewed thermal sweeps that were, again, revealing nothing. "Hold positions. Forward Scouts, report!" A long silence followed the last barked command. It seemed as if the entire regiment was holding it's breath, faces pale and nervous, knuckles whitened from gripping weapons so hard. Only the wind, the ceaseless wind, continued on, it's mournful howling filling the straining ears of every gaurdsmen in the camp. Then the howling of the wind was joined by louder, higher, much more savage sounding howling. Very real howling. It came from every direction. Men turned this was and that, trying to cover every angle leading into the camp.
And there they were. The weeds. They were everywhere. On all sides of the camp, forming a massive ring. But there was something strange about these weeds. It might have been the constant fluffy of snow hindering vision, or the pumping adrenaline now flooding every man's veins, but if one looked carefully, one might notice that the weeds, instead of sprouting directly from the ground, seemed to hang, suspended about a foot above it. And, if one were to stare at one small cluster of weeds for a while, one might notice that slowly, slowly and steadily, the weeds were advancing. It took several minutes of eerie silence for any of the gaurdsmen assembled to look that closely, or to stare that long. And by then, it was too late.
A man screamed as a solid slug impacted on his right shoulder, knowcking him to the ground and spraying crimson over the pristine white ground. Before anybody could react, before anybody could even open their mouth, another man fell. And then another. By the time the majority of the Imperial Force had reacted, throwing themselves to the ground or taking shelter behind some of the vehicals, several squads worth of men lay on the freezing ground, dead or dying. One brave Cadian ducked out from behind the Leman Russ tank he was shelting behind - the great vehicle having just started up, it's mighty cannon swinging around - sprinted for a small snowdrift with six Gaurdsmen huddling behind it. He almost made it, only seven or eight feet from shelter, he as knocked from his feet.He hit the snow hard, and something popped in his right arm. He grunted in pain, and then screamed as he felt something clamp down hard on his legs. Then another pair of what felt like jaws closed around his left wrist. He tried to wrench his arm free, but whatever it was that was clamping on to him began to shake vigorously, as did the thing on his legs. The unfortunate Gaurdsman screamed again, a scream that was cut short as yet another pair of jaws closed around his throat. The man was shaken and ripped apart, and the howling - howling that was most deffinetly not the wind - increased.
Commisar Teryan Stremgard watched his men falling, watched the slugs flying from what looked like thin air into his camp, striking down his warriors. He watched the man knocked to the ground, watched as three barely visible figures, no more than canine-looking silhouettes with those same damned weeds atop their heads, tore the man apart, spraying his lifeblood on the men he had tried to reach. He watched as they turned, as they screamed, as they died. He tore his vision fromt he screen, grabbed the vox, and screamed.
"MOBILIZE ALL VEHICLES! UNLOAD ALL UNITS! FORTIFY DEFENSIVE POSITIONS! ALL UNITS, OPEN FIRE!" He was greeted with a thunderous report, then another as the two Leman Russ Battle tanks opened fire, spewing death into the snow. But there was nothing there. The thermal said so! There was deffinetly nothing alive out in the field of weeds. The weeds. The weeds! The Commisar reached for the vox again, his eyes wide. But before he could grasp it, they rose. The weeds launched forward. But they were more then weeds. Stremgard caught one good look at one of the things before it landed atop a screaming man. It was tall, at least seven feet, with long arms ending in wicked claws. It's skin was a very, very light grey, almost white, but not quite. It blended seamlessly with the snow, making the thing's movements nearly impossible to track. There was a savage beak, a crude looking rifle, rusty with use, a jagged knife, a light brown tunic made of some thick cloth, and a pair of blazing red eyes. And then it was gone in a spray of gore as the man fell beneath it. Only then did Teryan realize the scale of his predicament. The weeds, the wide, wide field of weeds that encompassed the camp, very moving now. Very fast. And there were more of the canine things, all quick and feral, ripping men apart before moving to the next. Some Imperial Gaurdsmen had taken up positions on top of and behind vihecles, and were raining las down on the things, but it was not nearly enough. The Hellhound had come about, spraying the icy landscape with a torent of fire, but it was causing more confusion to the Imperial forces then to the enemy. Snow and ice turned to water, then to steam, further impeding vision.
The vox was in his hand, Stremgard realized. He started, and began spouting orders once again, trying to rally his forces.
"Hellhound unit, cease fire immediatly! Squads 4 and 17, move to assist squad 5! All units, aim for the wee-" The Commisar was cut short, his breath taken away as he watched several of the vicious things, farther to the back of the approaching forces, sprint full tilt,a dn then leap into the air. Leathery wings unfolded, and the monsters were off in to the air. He watched in abject terror as one swooped low, coming in hard at a Gaurdsman from behind. One of the man's comrades turned and yelled, but the unfortunate target was too slow. The winged thing drew forth a wicked rifle, bedecked with many, many crual blades. Angling the weapon horizontally, so the blades faced forward, the creature hit. The Guardsman was impaled in several places, the momentum of the dive lifting him almost fifteen feet from the ground as the creatured pulled up. Then man was shaken loose of the rifle, and fell. The slaughter continued, and indeed, it was a slaughter. The unorganized Imperial forces were putting up resistance in some places, a heavy wepaon team spraying lead here or a chimera's lascannon melting holes in the ground there, but it was not enough. Suddenly, quite suddenly, a loud hissing noise drowned out the sounds coming from the viewscreen. The Commisar turned, his face paler then a sheet. He drew a laspistol and backed against the far wall as the side fo the chimera simply melted away. A thick, obviously corosive yellow liquid dripped onto the floor, burnign through the reinforced metal. Another pale grey form stood in the new hole, the liquid dripping from it's maw. Only this one's weeds, or whatever the things on it's head were, were the same bright yellow as the acid at the tips.
Teryan yelled, and dashed for the hatch. He made it outside, blocking out the screams of his operations crew as their skin was slowly burned away, and ran. He didn't know where. He was crying now, tears of pure fear. He stumbled, and fell, twisting to land on his back. His head cracked against something hard, and he was dazed. He saw a dark silhouette moving slowly, lazily high above him. How dreamlike it all seemed then, the slow, calm movements of that dot of black against the pale sun. Then it was growing larger and larger, descending towards him faster and faster. His senses slowly returning, the Commisar tried to roll away tried to get up. The thing was visible plainly now, another winged horror, but this one had a large, tattered crimson cloak. It seemed to be holding some sort of glowing glaive, a long staff with a curving blade at the end, a blade that was pulsing a warm green. Then the glaive was in his shoulder, through his shoulder. He was pinned to the ground, gasping for breath, sobbing. He looked up into the curved beak of the Kroot Mercenary. It seemed to be grinning at him. He couldn't tell. Everything was spinning, his head, the sky, those red eyes. His vision narrowed, and he heard his men dieing. A mighty explosion rocked the ground, and a Leman Russ turret slammed into the hard snow nearbym sending sprays of steam high into the air. Teryan cried, and everything left him.
Wow, that took a little while to write. Kinda went on a bit, sorry for that. Well, that took a couple hours, so that much less time unitl, well, nothing I guess. Damn. Thought I was waiting for something. Oh well. I hope you guys like it, I think it turned out pretty good If I say so myself. If you have any question, please don't hesitate to ask me. Thanks for your time.
Last edited by Aether-Moose; February 22nd, 2007 at 01:17.
That was a really good story ^^ I liked it, keep them comming I definetly want to read more about this. I just a couple of things to point out ^^ silly thing though so no worries.
When Commissar Teryan calls out 'Where in the Nine Hells' I dunno but I felt it was kinda D&Dish to me (and I love D&D so it made me smile) but I think there's no longer a belief in heaven or hell so it might not fly. If anything wouldn't he say 'Where in the Warp' or somesuch. I may be wrong of course ^^;
When the crewman says '10 K' do you mean ten kilometers or is that something else? If you want to sound more military-like, you could say '10 clicks from here' they use 'click' to say mile I believe. It would feed into the whole war-vocabulary thing.
Also, are the Kroot good fighters in snow? I thought I read somewhere that they originally came from tropical climate, don't they dwell in warm, temperate conditions such as savannahs and jungles?
-- I hope you don't take these little criticisms in a bad way, and rather not only as proof that I read your story all the way, but that I also figure you'd want to know these things ^^
Last edited by Adahn; February 22nd, 2007 at 00:44.
It's a nice one.. very vivid descriptions.. I like how you used the hellhound too.. I hadn't thought of what one of those would do to snow.
If there's one thing I add, it's an epilogue in which the master shaper/shaper council recieves payment for the kindred's work or some other kind of social interraction, thus giving you an opportunity to introduce him as a character and play up the mercenary nature of the kroot. At present, they could almost be Tyranids or generic alien horrors.
Kroot may be horrible, but they're also intelligent, sentient beings with their own personalities. The shapers in particular may well be quite quirky individuals.
As for kroot habitat.. they're generally arboreal avians. However, by eating the local wildlife, I'd presume they can probably adapt to all kinds of environments to a limited degree. I envisoned the kroot in my Tau army as troglodytes, living and hunting in cave systems as Tau and human settlers have cultivated the land above. Kinda like a certain H.G. Wells story..
Their flesh-eating weirds me out a bit though. But I suppose it's their way of survival, since they give birth to the genetic material in a way do they not? They eat a sertain type of meat, and they can reproduce it 'Kroot-like'.
Hey, thanks for your helpful comments!
@ Adahn: Yea, about the whole 'Nine hells' thing, I'm an avid R.A. Salvatore reader (Forgotten Realms) and I actually got that from there, although during writing, I wasn't sure If I'd heard the phrase from Salvator of 40k. Thanks, I'll edit that too make it sound more appropriate.
Also yea, I did mean Kilometers when I said 'Ten K'. I thought it sounded kinda slang-y, so abbreviated. I had heard of clicks before but whasn't quite sure as to how big they were. Thanks for that, I'll change that bit too.
And finally, yes. Kroot are highly adaptive, and this particular kindred ("Aloh'shas'ka", by name) has taken this planet as their main base of operations and home. The Kroot of Aloh'shas'ka have adapted to be able to enter a hybernative state, lowering their body temp to about 0 degrees. Got this idea from the discovery channel, apparently theres some kind of bug that can do this, and it uses anti-freeze to keep it alive.
@ Mantis: Yea, that's a really good idea. I tried to play up the more savage, canibalistic side of the Kroot, but they ARE sentient beings too. I think I'll do that once I get some more free time (Damn you homework!).
Glad that both of you guys liked it!
God I love R.A. Salvatore as well! I just finished reading Promise of the Witch King ^^ - No worries, I tend to use a lot of Forgotten Realms expressions myself ^^ And yes, I very much enjoyed your story, can't wait for more to come!
So when kroot eat a strong predator, for example, they literally start to become grow stronger.. It's not intergenerational, but happens within their own lifetimes. I don't think they pass the new information onto their children.. rather, I think the process of transition is a little more.. interesting in most cases.
Shapers are a special class of kroot who have an instinctive understanding of how the whole process works. Their main role is to coordinate the feeding habits of the other kroot so that they only absorb useful genetic material.. Unlike with Tyranids, kroot DNA can go wrong, resulting in dead ends like the krootox and kroot hounds.
And yes, I know this is all scientifically impossible, but we're talking about fictional aliens.
Kroot eating habits make more sense when you consider that they also eat their own dead (this is why I don't think they pass on acquired information to their children, except in the case of subspecies, the next generation can acquire its parents strengths through eating their bodies.) There is no irreverence for them in consuming bodies.. Indeed, it shows that a body has a desirable quality. Kroot are hunters, and like all good hunters, they respect their prey. However, it doesn't mean they show it any more mercy than we would show a cow at the slaughterhouse.
And no, I don't think they would pick out the Commisar and just eat him, as he didn't have any special genetic traits that the others didn't. He was just a higher rank.
Oh, and Mantis, I don't mean to be argumentative, but I think I read somehwere (Kroot Mercs list, I think) that although the Kroot do extract alien DNA into their own, only the next generation, or possibly the one after that benefit, or change at all. I could easily be wrong here.
I absolutely love the story, it is a great read and I really enjoyed it.
The only problem I had was the Commissar crying in fear. Commissars tend to be the unbreakable backbones that would laugh at a titan (at least in my mind).