Sunday, 22 May 2016

Another week of happenings

Hello again... I know... the second time in one day (see this earlier BLOG POST about a Mantic Forge Fathers unboxing, including a review of the new Steel Warriors) but that was then and this is now.

This week has been one of highs and lows. I have been ticking along getting things done (slowly) but have topped the week off by getting a stinker of a head cold so I am not really in the frame of mind for that much at all at the moment. However, never one to let things get me down, I have been ticking along with a bit of sculpting and have got quite far with my Jedi Beastman:


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I just have his arms to sculpt, his pouches/pistol to add to his belt and then it will be a case of tidying him up. I also have to deal with a slight centre of gravity issue with him... he is leaning back a bit far... so I will need to rebase him to adjust that as well. I'm happy with the way he has gone so far and expect him to be finished quite soon.

In other sculpting news, I have been really struggling with the second Squat body; particularly due to my hatred of sculpting feet so I am really happy to have got this far with it:


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Now the feet are out of the way, the rest should be pretty plain sailing.

In other news, I linked to another post all about Forge Fathers. Well, in order for me to fit the new Forge Guards (Exo Squats) into my army, I needed to get a bunch of chain sword bits so I sent off for ten Chain Glaives from Anvil Industries and while I was there got a Small Mech Pack and a Large Mech Pack for when I think about adding more Engineseers to the army.

With the Forge Fathers in mind, in order for me to use the Steel Warriors that I bought, I will need to sculpt a few pairs of legs and work out how I am going to replicate them. Fortunately, I have lots of other things to be getting on with so I have time to ponder. I am thinking that getting some Blue Stuff and casting the legs with Milliput may be the way to go... but I'll think on it.

Well... I think that's about it for now.

See you from the Severn Estuary!

A Mantic Deadzone Post.

Hello and welcome to Inso's World again. There will be two posts today and this first one is going to be all about two boxes of miniatures I have bought this week.

To set the scene, Mantic Games put together a Kickstarter for Deadzone. They removed all of the Deadzone miniatures from their shop so that they could start again with some new miniatures... a sort of reorganisation with some units disappearing in order for them to be replaced with more upto date versions. Obviously, my attention was grabbed by the Forge Father part of the Kickstarter; namely these:


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Yes the new design for the Steel Warriors was great but I didn't fancy jumping on board with the Kickstarter... so the long wait started. Well, this week, after a preorder, my Forge Father Faction Starters arrived:


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Straight away I noticed that the video cassette style boxes had been replaced by sturdy cardboard ones but they were very tough and had lovely artwork on them so it was all good so far.

Inside each box were 6 Forge Guard:


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These appeared to be exactly the same miniatures as had previously been released and were made from injection moulded plastic that can be glued with polystyrene cement. Also in the box were 4 Brokkrs and 20 standard mantic bases:


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Again, these were the same miniatures that had previously been released and were made from premium plastic (restic) that needs to be glued with super glue and can be difficult to clean. The bases are injection moulded plastic. Finally, we have 10 of the brand new Steel Warriors:



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The first pic shows how the Steel Warriors arrived with some of the components being on a sprue and the others in a bag. The contents of the bag are in the bottom image. Each box contains 2 lots of sprues/bags so that you can build 10 troops.

The Steel Warriors are made from injection moulded plastic that can be glued with polystyrene cement.

Due to me already having loads of Brokkrs (from previous a Kickstarter) and already using the Forge Guard in my Squat army, the focus of this post will now swap to only the Steel Warriors because they are the bit everyone will want to know about.

First of all, the Steel Warriors have lots of nice details. There are enough components on each sprue/bag to build 5 standard troopers with machine guns wearing the same helmet. There are also additional helmets to peronalise your troops to be leaders (little winglets), gunners (targeting lense), out of gas masks or a main leader with ornate helmet. There are a couple of extra chest pieces to flavour things up along with 2 flamers, a melta, a heavy machine gun and a missile launcher. There is also a pistol and hammer combo with a bunch of little bits of equipment to add to belts, like ammo pouches and grenades. There are 7 back packs to add to your troops to finish them off and plenty of shoulder pads to bulk them up (including some heavier ones and a pair of ornate ones for the main leader type).

Due to the multi part aspect of the kit, you will be able to pose your miniaturesin lots of different ways with a bit of mix and match giving a huge range of possibilities.

In order to see how they went together, I started with the first one and immediately noticed a number of issues:
  • The fit between the torso and legs was very poor (it left a large gap).
  • The fit between the chest and back plate was poor, with very little plastic to glue and no firm connection (allowing for the parts to slip)
  • The cup for the head to fit in seemed just big enough if you wanted the head to face forward but if you turned the head, it rose up out of the cup.
  • The arm sockets were larger than the ball of the arm so you have to spend extra time making sure the arm stays where you put it.
  • Some of the details have been lost during the casting process.
  • The assmbled troops are bigger than I expected (not an issue for people playing Deadzone but for me personally, it is an issue).
So, let's have a look at some of the issues:



Click the Pic!

In the image, you can clearly see the big gap between the torso and top of the legs. This could easily be filled but you would expect a better fit. There are only two small points of contact (front and rear) that keep the torso glued on. You can also see the poor casting of the torso in the shoulder socket. When you look at the legs, you can see the poor quality of the details in certain areas. It is almost like the moulds didn't have enough plastic in them. Now, most of the detail is insanely good but there are a few areas that you will have to spend time repairing them and that lets these down... fortunately, it seems that most of the problem sits with the legs and unless you want to go all 'Golden Demon', on the table top it won't matter too much.

So... how big are they? This big:



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In the upper pic I have a pair of existing Forge Fathers either side of the new Steel Warrior. In the lower pic, I have a GW Squat, a new Steel Warrior Torso on a pair of GW Squat legs,  a Steel Warrior and a GW Space Marine.

To finish up, I really love the style of the new miniatures and because I would class myself as an experienced modeller, I will have no problem assembling them and possibly repairing the damage to the legs. If you are inexperienced, I can see the assembly of these becoming really frustrating, really quickly (just the gap between the torso and legs... the rest should be no problem). 

Now to explain why I think they are too big. Well, I bought them to fit in with my other Squats as part of the army. I didn't really pay too much attention to how big they looked because I thought they were so cool (rule of cool blinded me to size!) so when they arrived, I got a bit of a shock. That is why in the image above, I have tried a torso on a pair of Squat legs to see if it works and I think it does... so I now have the problem of making 20 pairs of up-armoured, shorter legs.

For everyone playing Deadzone with these new miniatures, I am sure that the size will not be an issue... especially seeing as they have been designed for that game! 

That about sums everything up. If you have any questions, leave comments and I will try to answer them.

See you from the sidelines!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The wait is finally over.

Hello and welcome to Inso's World on this gloriously sunny Sunday.

This week has been one of those weeks where all sorts has happened so I'll kick off with some family stuff and then move on to hobby stuff.

So... 'the wait is finally over'... what does that mean? Well, on Friday I went to my son's graduation ceremony accompanied by my wife and his girlfriend. He has now completed his training to join the Royal Air Force and is now a fully qualified Leading Aircraftsman in the ranks. He has moved his kit to his first base and will start work proper on Monday. Of course I am extremely proud... so here is a pic:


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That was my son accepting his graduation certificate and this is him with his dad (with his very first rank slides):


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It is just so AWESOME to have him take this step, I cannot begin to say how happy I am.

In other news, I have been struggling this week...life just got on top of me and I have just struggled with it. I think the enormity of everything (lack of sleep... LIFE) has caught up with me and I just needed to explode. Fortunately, it happened and a few bits and bobs got sorted but at the moment my focus is completely shot. As a result, I may have done a few random things this week... the first being, that I finally broke and pre-ordered something I have wanted for ages:


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These are from Mantic Games and I have pre-ordered two sets that should arrive at the end of May. I have been looking forward to the miniatures at the top, ever since I first saw them as part of Mantic's Deadzone Kickstarter. My plan is to have four squads of five troops that will act as Space Marine Scouts in my Squat army. The twelve Exos will end up as a ten man Terminator squad (with two spare) to go with my others. The orange dudes will join the others I have and will wait for ideas as to what to do with them. This little purchase will tidy up the Space Marine part of the Squat army nicely.

Speaking of my Squat army, I have done a very small amount of sculpting on my latest Primaris Beastman:


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As you can see, he is at a very early stage but he has been started so that's a good thing. 

Last night was Eurovision and while my skin was crawling off me I decided to start a miniature for a friend of mine. I thought it came with a scenic base but it didn't so I sculpted one and have just finished all the assembly, ready for a bit of filling. Here is Death:


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It's not my usual fare... but sometimes a bit of diversity recharges the batteries and that is something I really need at the moment.

Unfortunately, I haven't touched the running Squat but that is because I am being taunted by his feet. Feet are my big hate when it comes to sculpting and I am struggling with them on this miniature. Hopefully, when I get back on track in the game of life, I can shake off this issue and get back to sculpting him again... it's always the bloody feet!!!!

Well... that's that. Have a good week and keep hobbying.

See you from the sofa!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Back to normal again.

Hello and welcome to Inso's World.

It has been a bit of an odd week seeing as I have been at home instead of working and that has led me to post a bit more often on here... However, I am just about to put things back to normal so here is a picture:


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It is the second Primaris Psyker (or Jedi Beastman) for my Squat army. He still needs the tips of his dual light-sabre sanding down but apart from that, I think he has turned out OK. The next one hasn't been started yet (although I have the components set aside for it) but I am not sure whether to continue with the last Psyker or start the Ministorum Priests...

... decisions; decisions!

In other news, I managed to finish a gift for a friend as part of the 'pay it forward' initiative. The idea is that you do something nice for five people... and they in turn do something nice for five more... and they do something nice for five more... and it goes on until everyone in the world is being nice to one another...

Anyway, here's the finished product:


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So... there you have it... "IN DOG WE TRUST".

See you from the copilot's seat!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

After the setbacks...

Back in the day, we had the guilds. Each guild specialised in a form of war. There were the biker guilds who used bikes and trikes to power headlong into the thick of the fighting and attack with pistols, axes and lances. We had the transport guilds who used massive, heavily armoured land-trains to ferry resources and troops from A to B in relative safety whilst also being able to provide artillery support and a place to mount reconnaissance missions from. Then there were the aerial guilds with their gyrocopters and airships that provided reconnaissance and support for the ground troops. Finally, there were the warrior guilds; filled with formations of infantry. The guild-masters formed the lynch pin of each battle guild and contained all of the heaviest battle armour worn by the oldest and wisest squats of the home-world. The living ancestors were the advisors and provided psychic support where it was needed. There were, of course other guilds like the brewer's guild but those, along with countless others, were not part of the battle formations and are not really part of this discussion.

During the times of strife, we quickly learned a number of things...

... first, we discovered that the living ancestors acted as a beacon to the Tyranid hive mind. Almost as soon as the creatures entered our galaxy, the living ancestors were beset by visions of death and destruction. They became sick and suffered terrible fevers that wracked their bodies and caused them to ramble incoherently about the end of times. After only a few days, they began to perish and within a couple of weeks they had all gone to meet the ancestors. It was a terrible blow to us but it turned out to be a good thing that they had died because for a few weeks afterwards, the Tyranid advance slowed, as if searching for guidance. This gave us valuable time to gather our defences and prepare the Arks for departure.

Secondly, during the invasion we quickly discovered that the slow and cumbersome gyrocopters and airships were no match for Gargoyles and Harridans. They were quickly destroyed by weight of numbers; gargoyles clogging lift fans and scything through airship balloons with equal efficiency. Most of the aircraft were downed before they really had any time to get their shots off... so many Squats died without even taking a toll for their demise.

Thirdly, we hoped that the biker guilds would fare well in battle but although they were able to get into contact with the enemy quickly, their lack of armour and having to use one hand to control their bikes meant that they were quickly brought down by the hordes of hormagaunts and Tyranid warriors. Only the Exo armoured trikes of the guild-masters fared better but without armoured support, they too were overrun.

Fourthly, The land trains were particularly effective. Their tough armour, void shields and extensive arrays of anti personnel batteries, coupled with anti aircraft and anti armour weapons made them ideally suited for surviving the hordes of Tyranids. It was with huge regret that they all were sacrificed when the home-worlds were destroyed but they were pivotal in providing the time for the Arks to escape whilst drawing in countless creatures to their demise.

Finally, and most importantly, we learned valuable lessons about how we field our infantry. Small brotherhoods of troops fared poorly without the backup and support of other units so it was decided that the Imperial doctrine of using platoons was the best way to go. That way, we could have a mix of infantry and support elements that vastly improved survival rates. We also found out that the use of jump packs was suicidal and we lost far too many Squats due to lack of jump control and troopers becoming separated from their units. Our mole mortars were fairly effective but didn't have the rate of fire we needed and were overcomplicated; failing quickly and ending up useless to us. The ubiquitous thudd-guns were excellent at destroying the horde creatures and were another piece of equipment that we had to reluctantly leave behind. Fortunately, we were able to save all of the blue prints for all of our weapons of war (amongst countless other devices) so thudd-guns or even an advanced version of them are likely to be put into service in the future.

With infantry in mind, we were able to mix Squat and Imperial doctrines to provide support. With the bikers gone and the Exo troops being hard pressed, we discovered that the armoured Sentinels were just what we needed to plug the close support gap. They could take a beating from the smaller creatures and take a heavy toll with their heavy flamers and multi-lasers. They were even able to take down the larger beasts with their las-cannons and single shot missiles. Another Imperial practice we chose was the use of cavalry. Our giant badgers were able to attack just as hard as the troops who rode them to battle and were as keen to get into the fight as their brave riders. They were controlled using verbal commands and physically with the rider's boots so the trooper could use both hands to fight with.

Once the Ark ships had arrived in what the Imperials know as 'Runt Space', where the abhuman worlds are, we were able to make pacts with the inhabitants and begin to settle. Fortunately, these worlds were almost medieval in their technology so we could help the inhabitants by showing them how we build machines and mine the ore. Through our efforts we were granted the use of large areas of uninhabited land to settle and in return helped the beastmen to understand how our technology worked and how it could be produced. Unfortunately, they were not really ready for the advanced technology we could provide so we gave them weapons and technology that they could understand and were always nearby to provide repairs.

It quickly became apparent that our defensive capabilities were not up to speed. We had managed to salvage many weapons from the home-worlds but there were nowhere near enough to properly defend us. We couldn't turn to the Imperials for help because they were now in the books of grudge and deemed traitorous to us. Through our diplomatic relations with the beastmen, they introduced us to the blue men; the Tau. They were fascinated by our ion technology so we were able to trade with them. They had large manufactoriums on the star-ships that accompanied their trading fleets and, using the data we provided, were able to mass produce replacement weapons for us in the designs we wanted. Over a period of just a few months, our arsenals were replenished and our small support vehicles had been created. Some of the designs we provided the Tau with were adapted by them to improve efficiency; especially the Sentinels. The Tau's expertise with battle-suits enabled them to create a more robust design that fully encapsulated a wearer and turned it into an enlarged suit of armour, rather than a machine that was driven. It was the Tau's idea for us to replace our man-carried heavy weapons with drone mounted ones instead. That enabled the operators to get a better view of the battlefield and not be encumbered by heavy equipment. Originally they suggested that the drones should hover but we reined them in and said that we preferred the more practical design of tracked carriages. They were happy to oblige. In fact, our two races got on so well that some of our engineers and artisans were accepted into what the Tau called 'The Greater Good' and left with the Tau to work with them and share ideas on technology.

The early times on the abhuman planets were difficult but happy. After a while, we had settled in and had completed our underground dwellings and mines. Our manufactoriums were operational and were soon converting the ore from nearby asteroids into the raw materials for building our transports and war-machines. The beastmen introduced us to other abhumans; the Ogryn and Ratlings and we were able to share our weapons and mead with them in exchange for labour. The Ogryn were ideal to work in the heavy smelting plants and thoroughly enjoyed mining... even though they preferred hand tools to the laser cutting equipment. It didn't matter much because they were massively strong and were able to mine almost as quickly as the lasers so we were happy for them to be helping us. The Ratlings were a different matter. They were weak and small but they were excellent cooks, brewers and entertainers. The ideas that we shared led to the infamous 'Dominion Ale'... a brew so potent that only the abhumans could stomach it... any humans who tried it in the future were beset by hallucinations and in severe cases, were killed by it.

Yes, the early times were good.

We got back on our feet, made good allies and were establishing ourselves as a race again... but we knew that we needed worlds of our own and began planning our departure...

Friday, 6 May 2016

The demons.

The light dimmed. The clawing sense of dread leeched into Mikkel's subconscious as he confronted this familiar situation. He turned left and right; his power axe glowing dimly in the light starved room and his bolt pistol flicking from one direction to another in the vain hope that it would be on target, should the inevitable happen. It was the same every time. Every time there was the gripping fear... no knowing which direction it would come from... but it always came.

He felt the surge of pain as his axe dropped to the floor, his bloody stump pumping blood like water spraying from a tap... his disbelief as his pistol dropped to the floor, his arm ripped off at the shoulder...

...Then he awoke. It was the same every time. The dread, the pain and the sudden outburst that always woke him up just before the end of the nightmare... where he lost his legs.

Mikkel reached for his glass of water and swigged down a mouthful before rifling through his drawer to find his medication. The tablets were large but he swallowed them down and hoped that they would go some way to easing the pain in his shoulder. He got to his feet and walked to the mirror. He filled the sink with water and carefully splashed his face; wiping the beads of dew from his magnificent, ginger beard. He leant heavily on the sink and stared at his shoulder. Where the prosthetic, cybernetic arm had been fused with his flesh was a ruddy colour and sensitive to the touch. He had been warned that the Mechanicus had a strange way of dealing with pain... they treated it as a blessing... a glorious penance in honour of the Omnisiah granting them metal over flesh. Mikkel was no techno-zealot. He was a simple Squat soldier. His religion was honour... honour the ancestors, the family, the battle-brother... not some imaginary creature that demands sacrifice all the time.

The pills started to do their work and Mikkel could see the redness lessening around his shoulder. Now that he could relax, he looked at the rest of his 'blessings'. He had a metal breast and back plate that he had to wear all the time because it had been grafted to him. It housed the power cells and mechanisms for his various cybernetics, including his right arm that was attached directly to it. His left arm terminated in a cybernetic hand which, strangely, only had three fingers and they were fatter than his old ones.  The left side of his neck had a sheathed, metallic, tendril array that acted as the muscles that supported his head on that side and responded similarly to normal muscles but with every movement, there were whirring noises as tiny servos tensed and flexed the bundles. Instinctively, Mikkel moved his head around so that he could hear them working before looking further down... and there were his two metal legs, grafted on just below his knees. As he stared, he flexed his toes and heard the motors whir and the toes tap on the wooden floor.

Mikkel sighed. Was it really worth it? Was it worth prolonging the pain... the anguish... the suffering...

... of course it was! He was a Squat! He was a warrior! Through his constant struggle with pain and the demons that awoke him every night, he was able to share his battle experiences and those of the brave kings, brothers and sisters who sold their lives so dearly with the destruction of their home-worlds causing the extinction of the Tyranid fleets that assailed them.

Mikkel instinctively braced up, standing proudly when he thought of his battle brothers and sisters. He couldn't let pain and a few bad dreams tarnish the good name of his comrades... it was his duty and his honour to continue with his work; sharing his battle knowledge and the stories of the struggle for his home world. He also knew that he wasn't alone in his suffering. There were many who arrived at the Ark ships changed beyond recognition... not even keeping their faces but having to wear the metallic mockeries of the Mechanicus' interpretation of what a Squat face should look like. Some had to eat via a tube that went directly to their stomachs because they had no operational mouths, just speakers that allowed them to communicate. There were even those who were little more than torsos that travelled around on small, tracked chairs. He couldn't even begin to understand the nightmares they suffered when they were alone in their subconscious.

No... he couldn't let his ordeals bring him down.

One day a week, Mikkel had to go and talk to one of the Valkyries; what the soldiers called the medics and morgue-keepers. He would always see Freya because she was the last member of his brotherhood and she had managed to get him aboard the escape ship and, ultimately, to Mechanicus space for 'repair'. Freya understood what he was going through because she counselled many Squats who had gone through similar processes as he had. Her chats always started the same way... "so, sergeant, how have you been this week?" It had been a long time since Mikkel was a sergeant, having been promoted through the ranks to Senior Battle Leader (with only two more ranks to Ancient... the most revered of all Squat leaders) but it was a way of taking him back and helping him to come to terms with things. It also helped to keep him honest. He knew that Freya would see right through any lies and he maintained that in order to honour the ancestors, he needed to be truthful and share each and every tiny detail of his physical and mental wellbeing. It was working. After every therapy session, Mikkel was finding it easier and easier to shed the self destructive feelings that had plagued him for so long and, with Freya's guidance, he had been given coping mechanisms to begin to rebuild as normal a life as possible.

What also helped, were the children. He loved to be in their company. They reminded him of his home-world and made him understand that, had he and his fellow Squats not fought so fiercely, there would be no children... and most likely, no more Squats either. After every therapy session, Mikkel would make his way to the same feasting hall and fetch a large ham pie and a tankard of mead before finding a comfy spot by the open fire. It was his time to sit and remember old times and what better way to do that, than to share tales with the children. Normally, within moments of him getting comfortable, the first of the children would arrive and ask him to tell them about things. He had been asked many things... even what it was like to die... but he always tried to keep things fairly gentle so as not to terrify his little audience. His favourite stories were those of his home world before the invasion and ultimate destruction. He would wax lyrical about the vast halls carved out of the rock by massive drilling machines and mining lasers. He would talk of the enormous generators that sparked blue lightning when they were used at full power. Then of course, were the wide hydroponic chambers filled with wheat and illuminated by light tubes that were directed from the surface of the planet all the way down to the depths of the chambers. He recalled the feasting halls that were so big you couldn't see from one end to the other without a telescope and the wonderful feasts that were held there. Of course there were the artisans and engineers who created the most spectacular machines and practical works of art and architecture; subtly sprinkled with runes of power and strength.

... And the mead! No finer mead could be found anywhere in the universe (although the mead he was drinking always came a close second to it... he never wished to speak ill of the brewers in their new home)...

Yes, the children were as much a therapy as what Freya provided and Mikkel often spent far too much time sharing his tales... but on one occasion, he found himself wiping tears from his beard.

"Did you ever have a missus Mikkel?" asked Brond the lesser (they called him the lesser because he was very small for his age).

"Now that is a question I didn't expect" replied Mikkel "yes, there was a missus Mikkel. Her name was Brithiof, Glassa, Stroms-dottir... and she was the finest Maiden you could ever wish to meet."

Brithiof was a soldier. She fought alongside many brotherhoods but her own brotherhood was of the Wolf. She was recon and she was a sniper/scout. On one occasion, her brotherhood was assigned in support to Mikkel's and she had to liaise with him in order for the mission to succeed. The moment Mikkel met her, he knew that he was smitten and after just a week, he pledged his life to her and she accepted. As was the custom, she was transferred to Mikkel's brotherhood and fought alongside him in many battles. He marvelled at her prowess; what she lacked in brute strength, she more than made up for with agility and to see her in full swing during a melee was like watching a ballet. When off the battlefield she always wore her golden yellow hair in braids and she would go everywhere with Mikkel. She was also renowned for her ability to sing the most outrageously rude drinking songs and would often be found fighting in the feasting halls with Mikkel sitting back, letting her get on with it. They were so in tune with each other that they were complete soulmates.

The last time Mikkel saw her was when his remaining brotherhood were gathered in the stronghold on his home world, just before he was rendered unconscious by the Ravener. From then on, he only had the testimony of the scribes and from what they said, she sold her life as finely as any squat ever had. Not only did she manage to kill the Ravener that had laid Mikkel low but in her rage at his falling, she launched herself with such ferocity towards the nearest Mawloc that the berserk claimed her. Her eyes glazed and her mouth foamed as she piled towards the giant Tyranid beast. She threw her pistol aside and picked up a second power- axe before impacting the creature with such fury that she split its breast bone. She didn't stop there and as the creature's massive scythes flailed around her she dodged each one before decapitating the beast. With the beast defeated, the smaller creatures seemed to be confused and this enabled the remaining Squats to fight back the horde enough for the wounded to be loaded onto the escape ships ready to leave the planet. It was a great pity that Brithiof was so berserk at this time that she had charged after the remaining Raveners, never to be seen again... and it was impossible to think that she ever left the home world before it was destroyed.

"And had it not been for my darling Brithiof, many of the veterans would not be here today" said Mikkel "and you see these tears? These aren't for sadness, these are for pride."

With that, he silently sipped his mead and the children dispersed so that Mikkel could spend some time looking into the flames that danced in the hearth.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A Dwarf's Tale.

Mikkel sat by the fire and gazed into the distance as he puffed casually on his pipe. Thoughts of his home-world, filled his mind... the better days, the days before the invasion.

He started as he felt a gentle tug on his jerkin and the servos in his neck whirred  as he looked down into the eyes of a young child.

"And what can I do for you, young sir?" he asked.

"Why are your hands shiny?" asked the child.

"If you tell me your name, I will share my story" replied Mikkel.

"I am Jonas" replied the boy as he sat down on the bench in front of Mikkel's stout chair.

"Well, Jonas" said Mikkel "I will tell you how I got shiny hands but I warn you... it is a very scary tale."

Jonas, with eyes wide, nodded for Mikkel to continue and the old Squat did just that...
It was a good twenty years since Mikkel had stood on his home world and watched the Ark ships depart. He knew what was required of him and he knew how to do what he was good at; make war. He was the leader of a small brotherhood of maybe thirty warriors; both male and female and it was his responsibility to ensure that they all made the encroaching aliens pay for every inch of Squat territory with as much blood as possible. Mikkel knew that it didn't matter where he was positioned or what he was protecting and he knew that he would be meeting his ancestors soon. His brotherhood were of the same reason... they would not be leaving their home-world; they were here to blaze a trail into the history books and sell their lives dearly.

A couple of weeks later, the skies turned black and the invasion began. The Tyranid advance organisms had already taken out the orbital defences and were now pouring down from the sky into the direct fire of a million magma batteries. The guns incinerated millions of pods but for every one destroyed, two reached the surface unharmed and released their wretched payloads. Soon Hormagaunts, Ripper swarms and Raveners were swarming over the surface of the planet. They met heavy resistance but were so plentiful that eventually, the surface was theirs and the Squat warriors were sealed in their fortresses awaiting their fate.

It was as if the Tyranids knew that the end was near because shortly after the final stronghold gates had been sealed shut, the big guys arrived... massive bio-titans, Mawlocks, Tervigons burst from massive bio-pods and began to hammer on the walls and burrow into the earth. Inside the Strongholds, the kings waited with their honour guards; encased in their strongest exo armour and surrounded by the remaining strength of the Squad warrior brotherhoods. Mikkel was there. the ten remaining members of his brotherhood were there too. He remembers the moment perfectly...

... then the floor erupted. A giant Mawlock burst into the chamber and was immediately set upon by the Hearthguard. Their massive power axes cleaving into the beast as it flailed it's fearsome claws around; disembowelling and beheading brave warriors with every sweep. More burrows erupted and smaller beasts leapt out. They were smaller versions of the Mawlock... they were Raveners and they raced towards the kings. Mikkel felt his martial pride well up in his chest as he shouted "BROTHERS! WITH ME!" before he sprinted towards the kings, his bolt pistol blazing as he ran. In moments, he was amongst the Raveners, slicing left and right with his power axe and selectively firing his pistol. He watched as a round disappeared into the eye of one of the beasts and exploded, showering its companions with brain matter. He dodged a scything talon and parried a further attack before cleaving through another beast's breastbone. He could taste the spores in the air and they tasted of damp and blood. He spat before charging into yet another beast but only managed two steps before he was overcome by agony. He looked down at the source of his pain and the stump of his wrist was where his hand should have been.  He tried to bring his pistol to bear but it was too late; a talon burst through his flak armour at the shoulder and his pistol arm was lost. Mikkel watched, mesmerised as it tumbled through the air and disappeared into the maelstrom of bodies fighting desperately.  The last thing Mikkel saw as he looked into the eye of his assailant was its head burst and at that point, the pain overwhelmed him and he gave into unconsciousness.

Mikkel paused in his story and returned to the present. He looked at the bench in front of him and there were now twenty children staring at him with wonderment. He took a draft of his pipe and smiled.

"And then" he said "the Valkyrie came to get me".

The children ghasped and with a broad grin, Mikkel continued with his story.

The home-world was lost. The kings were all but slain and the ion charges were set to blow. Unknown to Mikkel, the remaining Squat warriors had managed to stave off the Tyranid advance for long enough to evacuate the wounded and get them, along with the scribes to the escape ships that were still in safety in their launch tubes. Many of the wounded were in a critical condition with blood loss from amputations and acid burns being the most common injury. The medics worked tirelessly to stabilise the injured and as the doors closed behind them, they knew they were in for a very rough ride. Soon the ships had burst through the Tyranid blockade and out into space. They couldn't head directly for the rendezvous point because some of the wounded would die if they didn't get urgent attention soon; the medics were experts in their field but some of the injured were beyond their help. It was then that the pilot decided to chance his luck and divert the rescue ships towards mechanicus space.

When Mikkel woke up, he felt strange. He was restrained on a gurney and felt groggy.
"What's going on!?" he asked urgently as he struggled with his bonds. A face he knew appeared; Freya the medic from his brotherhood.

"You are safe, sergeant... but you have had to have extensive surgery. You are being restrained until tests have been carried out and will be released as soon as they are finished" said Freya.

"What tests... what surgery?!" Mikkel responded as he began to get angry "I want out!" he screamed as one of his restraints burst open and he was shocked to see a robotic hand at the end of his arm. He immediately stopped struggling and stared first at his hand and then at Freya. Confused, he asked Freya "what have you done?!"

"Not me, sergeant" she replied as she gestured towards a cloaked figure in the shadows "them".

The Mechanicus stepped forward and nodded "Abhuman; Homo-Rotundus is repaired" it said flatly with a synthetically generated voice "tests will be complete in thirteen point seven seconds".

Mikkel lay back and listened to the strange mechanical sounds all around him. He dreaded thinking about what he had become. He dreaded thinking that he had failed in his mission and should be feasting in the halls of his ancestors instead of lying in surgery, alive.

"Tests complete" said the Mechanicus as it turned on its heels and clanked out of the room without emotion or care.

"Let me help you" said Freya as she unstrapped Mikkel from the gurney. "I'll be blunt... you lost both legs and both arms... part of your shoulder and neck too."

"Oh" replied Mikkel in a stunned reply.

"You were one of the lucky ones" replied Freya "the chemical burns and spore ingestion has caused wounds Like I could never imagine."

"And what of the home-world?" asked Mikkel.

"Gone" replied Freya with a faraway look on her face but she snapped to before saying "but she went out like a dying sun and utterly destroyed the enemy fleet."

"So it wasn't for nought then?" Asked Mikkel.

"The ancestors will be greeting the fallen with mead and cheers in their halls tonight!" replied Freya.

"Then let's get to the Arks and join them in the toast... I am parched and need some cheer!" said Mikkel as he stared at his hand, flexing his metallic fingers while he did so... "I'm sure I'll get used to these" he said to himself.

Mikkel paused and noticed that the children sat around him were clapping and one of them had come over to him and was holding his metal hand. Mikkel smiled and looked at the child's face. It was full of awe.

"And that" said Mikkel, "is how I got my metal hands... and legs too!"

"More!" cried the children but Mikkel was tired. He got to his feet and said to the children "not now, young 'uns... I am tired but thanks to the Ancestors and their guidance, there will be plenty of time for stories another day."

With that, he slowly made his way out into the throng of the feasting hall and merged with the revellers.