Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers
Tooth and Claw
Preview <> Introduction <> Army Lists
Battle #1 <> Battle #2 <> Battle #3 <> Battle #4 <> Battle #5 <> Battle #6 <> Final Thoughts
Tooth and Claw: Battle #5 ("Fire Sweep")
“Ah, there you are, you little bastard,” a voice growled. It was the Dreadnought Ferin, his hammer dripping gore. Behind him lay the shattered remains of Eklavdrah’s squad, which the metal monster had torn through while Jheste was watching the Silver Scorpions fight. Of Eklavdrah herself, there was no sign.
“I’ve got you at last,” Ferin said. He raised his weapon.
Jheste felt his bowels let go in a fetid wet trickle before the hammer smashed him into jelly. Jheste’s spirit—the only part of him still left alive—shrieked noiselessly as he passed through the soil as if he were water through a sieve, feeling himself phase through and between every molecule of dirt below as he plunged away from the planet Veda, into the great outer blackness of the Warp.
He could see nothing in the inky darkness, but he could feel some great force pulling him downward, headfirst. Hundreds—thousands, perhaps—of tiny, cold, wet things slithered across him, as if he were sliding down a tunnel filled with worms. Around him, he could sense the terror of the other Dark Eldar Ozone Scorpions that had been killed in the battle. They were nearby—perhaps no farther away than the length of an arm—yet they seemed to be impossibly distant, unreachable by touch or voice or telepathy. Jheste screamed and screamed again, but his cries were swallowed up by the howling of the ether as it roared past.
Suddenly there was something bright up ahead, something that crackled and hummed with eldritch white energy. The ancient human religions had taught of a soothing light appearing at life’s end, a gateway to Paradise. But Jheste and all the Eldar knew that the humans deluded themselves. The white light was no benign god, and certainly not their Emperor. It was nothing more than the gaping, all-consuming maw of Slaanesh, She-Who-Thirsts.
Still screaming soundlessly, Jheste hurtled towards it.
After the Dark Eldar had re-captured Fighting Tiger Captain Jirbu Ghosh, they had not taken her back to her old cell, near the ones where they kept the Space Wolves. Instead, they had kept her locked up in Dr. Jheste’s chambers. Seemingly confident that they had her safely contained, the Dark Eldar had not chained her. Her new, smaller cell was three paces long, two paces wide and had very a high ceiling—about thirty feet, she estimated. The only way out was a thick door made of a hard, clear substance that allowed light and sound to pass through unimpeded but resisted her strongest blows and even the acidic spittle that all Space Marines had. She had tried clawing her way through the granite walls, but to no avail.
From time to time she had seen Jheste’s guards drag in a heavily-sedated Space Wolf and she had watched the Haemonculus perform his unspeakable work upon them. All of them had died, and sometimes there was not enough of them left to fill a water bucket, Jheste’s “operating table” looking like a butcher’s block, stained with blood and littered with a few scraps of meat. It was a horrible way for a warrior to die, especially for the brave and honorable Fenrisians. Despite what she had been taught about the virtues of administering a swift death to an opponent, Jirbu Ghosh, in her heart of hearts, wished she could strap Jheste onto his own table and give him a similar end.
She watched and she waited, of course—waited for her turn. Several times the clear door had slid open and the guards had come for her, stunning her with long electric lances that paralyzed her muscles and left her crumpled but conscious on the cold stone floor. Then they had blindfolded her, dragged her to the table, hoisted her onto it, and strapped her down. Sometimes Jheste had been there, sometimes not.
And then they had let her lie there, sometimes for hours, while they stood and watched and whispered amongst themselves. The machines Jheste kept for his “operations” had hummed in anticipation. And all the while, she had silently recited prayers to the Vedic gods and fought to quiet her pounding hearts. Then they had taken her down from the table and returned her to her cell, unharmed—for the time being.
After a while, she began to envy the Wolves that had already perished on Jheste’s table: at least their wait was over and—if their religion was correct—their souls were celebrating in the meadhalls of their gods.
And so Jirbu Ghosh existed like that for a long time—how long, she didn’t know.
One day, the door to Jheste’s chambers slid open and a female Ozone Scorpion—Jirbu Ghosh had heard her called “Eklavdrah”—entered, accompanied by three male Dark Eldar. Two of the men held the third, who was naked, chained, and sobbing hysterically. As the door shut behind them, the chained one fell to his knees, crying out in the Dark Eldar tongue, which Jirbu Ghosh did not speak. He seemed to be begging something of the woman.
“Yes, I’m sorry that the Doctor was killed, too, Avinder,” Eklavdrah replied, in Imperial Gothic. Jirbu Ghosh’s spirits rose even as she realized that it was intended that she witness this scene. “But someone has to take the blame, now don’t they?”
The bound Eldar shrieked as Eklavdrah picked up a controller from a nearby bench and pushed a button. The portion of the stone floor under the operating table opened up with a great grinding sound. The table began to fold up and lower itself into the space below. Then Jirbu Ghosh saw a large, black metal sarcophagus rise up in the table’s place. It stood on its end and was featureless save for a slim line down the center. Eklavdrah pressed another button on the controller and the line widened as two slim doors opened down the front.
The sarcophagus was filled with what seemed to be a thick black liquid. It did not spill out when the door opened, but remained suspended, quivering like gelatin, inside the sarcophagus. Her eyes fixed on Jirbu Ghosh, Eklavdrah jerked her thumb toward the sarcophagus. “Put him in,” she smiled. The two guards started to drag him closer.
The black liquid started to ripple excitedly, like the surface of a lake on a breezy day. Avinder flailed with all his strength as part of the liquid formed into a huge pseudopod of black goo which lashed out and grabbed the closest guard instead of the twisting, wriggling captive. The guard screamed, letting go of Avinder and beating at the pseudopod, but with a horrid sucking noise, he disappeared under the surface of the liquid, seemingly vanishing despite the fact that the sarcophagus was only a few inches deep.
Eklavdrah swore in her native tongue, pulled her splinter pistol, and shot Avinder through the throat. He fell to the floor, gurgling in his blood as his shredded windpipe fought to suck down air. Drawing her knife, Eklavdrah stabbed him again and again until he stopped twitching.
She glared at Jirbu Ghosh and the remaining guard, then stepped away from the sarcophagus. The black liquid had re-absorbed the pseudopod into itself and had gone still, as smooth as ebon glass.
Jirbu Ghosh found herself more terrified than any time she had been strapped to the table.
Suddenly, the black liquid flowed together into a humanoid shape. Its body hairless but thin and well-proportioned, the figure opened its burning red eyes and screamed. And screamed. And screamed again until it fell to the floor, gasping for breath, as tiny rivulets of black goo ran off its rapidly congealing black skin.
Eklavdrah waited impassively as the figure—solidifying into the form of a Dark Eldar male—hauled itself off the floor and lurched to its feet. She moved to a metal cabinet nearby, opened it, and retrieved a blue and silver robe, some sandals, and a few other items from within. She spared a glance at Jirbu Ghosh as she approached the unearthly being, which was muttering to itself.
“Welcome home, Doctor,” she said, handing the reborn Jheste his trademark silver mask.
“It’s good to be home,” he said, donning the mask. “It’s good to be alive. The spirit anchor succeeded—barely.”
“But it did succeed,” she replied. “His Greatness will be most pleased.” She turned to the remaining guard, pointed to Avinder’s corpse, and barked something in the Dark Eldar language. The guard bowed, grabbed the body by its ankles, and started dragging it away.
Jheste finished dressing, then took the controller from Eklavdrah. The sarcophagus, now empty of black liquid, closed and lowered itself under the floor. The operating table took its place. He turned back to face Jirbu Ghosh, her hands and face still pressed against the transparent door of her cell.
“If you think you’re shocked, dear,” he chuckled, “imagine how those poor barbaric Space Wolves will feel when they see me again. Although, if anyone gave it a little thought, they shouldn’t really be surprised. For what is a ‘haemonculus’ anyway but an artificial being grown in a laboratory? And so long as the spirit, the spark of life, can be preserved, that artificial body can be re-made again and again and again.”
Jirbu Ghosh recoiled as he pressed his hands up against the door, leaving wet black smears from his still-moist skin. “Eklavdrah tells me that your friends are on their way. They’re at the outskirts of the city. So I’m going to go now, and deal with them. And after I do, it’s playtime at last for you and me,” he giggled. His purple tongue, newly regrown, wriggled through the mouthslot of his mask and licked the door.
Jirbu Ghosh spat at him and he laughed and laughed and laughed.
Lars cared little. He and his men advanced into a low building and climbed to the top floor. Gray Hunter Pack Roskva, led by the redoubtable Hodur, disembarked from their Rhino and took cover inside another building. Pack Mimir stayed in their transport, which headed off to seize another building and provide a second line of fire toward the Dark Eldar. The Typhoon “Maelstrom” and the Tornado “Ragnarok” moved forward, and at the command of the Venerable Dreadnought Ferin Ironhammer, a firestorm erupted.
The primary target was the Talos: the Space Wolves knew from bitter experience that it was death to them if they should get within reach of its armored pincers. Ferin’s heavy bolter rounds failed to harm it, as did “Maelstrom’s” weaponry. But Lars and his Terminators fired everything they had into the mechanical monster and its grav-engines exploded in a shower of sparks, sending it crashing to the worn stone street below. The Wolves cheered as it erupted into flame.
Their work was not done, however. The Whirlwind “Kraken” landed a volley of rockets onto Kharynydia’s squad but they saw it coming and took cover: none of them were harmed. As they stood back up, the storm bolter on Roskva’s Rhino dropped one and the Long Fangs of Pack Aesir blew apart another five with their heavy bolters. The Dark Eldar fell back, and the Tornado “Ragnarok” destroyed their transport with a few well-placed rounds from its assault cannon and heavy bolter.
“Get back up here,” Dr. Jheste snarled, and Kharynydia and her crew summoned the nerve to obey. He was what they had been guarding—he and his webway portal, to which he gave a final adjustment. From atop this building, the Dark Eldar forces would swoop down upon the Space Wolves. But first, there were some other matters to attend to. Kharynydia pointed, and her squad opened fire on “Ragnarok,” their blaster stunning the crew.
Not far away, Blygos and his Silver Scorpions—Wyches by another name—rocketed forward on their Raider, darting from the safety of one city block to another. They were escorted by the Reavers, members of Archon Lynatharr’s personal guard.
Jheste smiled grimly. Soon, the Space Wolves would be outmaneuvered and overwhelmed. It was only a matter of time.
He snarled out a curse, however, when the aim of his heavy bolter fire was off and he failed to land a significant hit on any of Kharynydia’s crew. The “Kraken’s” missile barrage missed, Pack Roskva and their Rhino failed to kill any of the svartalfir, and even the heavy bolters of the Long Fangs only managed to bring down one Ozone Scorpion.
“Have you been checked by a real Iron Priest recently? I think your systems must be failing,” Lars sneered over the comnet. “Why don’t you step aside and let me handle this, old man?” As the Speeder “Ragnarok” drifted out of the way, the Terminators opened fire with storm bolter and assault cannons, obliterating the rest of the squad.
Ferin sighed. Lars was smug and sarcastic at the best of times. Now he’d be insufferable for at least a week.
Behind them, the crew of the “Maelstrom” were only able to draw a bead on the Reavers escorting the Silver Scorpions: the Wyches’ Raider had taken shelter behind a very solid building. Nevertheless, the Typhoon unleashed both its weapons and three of the four jetbikes spun out of control, killing the riders.
“Maelstrom’s” pilot alerted Ferin. “Force Leader, be advised that we have a situation here—” he began, as a ball of searing plasma blew out his craft’s engines. The Speeder hurtled to the street below and shattered into thousands of metal fragments, killing both crewmen.
You have a situation indeed, thought Dr. Jheste, chuckling as he listened to the Space Wolves’ transmissions.
With a keening screech, four fully-loaded Raiders rocketed out of the webway portal and zeroed in on the left side of the Space Wolves’ line. As they hurtled toward their targets, two of them set off some proximity mines that the Wolves had hastily planted to funnel the Ozone Scorpion attack. Jheste clucked his tongue as the explosions did nothing to slow down the Dark Eldar attack craft. Mines, he thought. Really. What will these primitives use next—rocks and sticks?
The Raiders slowed to a halt before several stone towers where some of the Wolves had taken up defensive positions. As the Raider squads leapt to the attack, their transports provided covering fire, one of them destroying the grav-drives on the stricken Land Speeder “Ragnarok.” Most of the Dark Eldar eschewed firing to run towards their targets, but Eklavdrah’s squad chose to fire, their blaster destroying Pack Roskva’s Rhino with a powerful bolt of dark matter. As the Wolves swung their forces to counter this sudden attack, the Silver Scorpions and the Reavers pounced on the right side of their lines.
The Wyches struck first, their Raider suddenly appearing over a tower and then dropping straight down, almost to the stone street. As it did, the pilot unleashed his Dark Lance against Ferin and disabled his heavy bolters. The old Dreadnought snarled and turned to face them, but as he did, the blaster of the last remaining Reaver blew out part of his vulnerable hip joints, partially immobilized him: he could pivot at the waist, but his legs would not move him.
“There, there, off you go,” Jheste said, pointing out the Space Wolves to the first scorpion-like Warp Beast to emerge from the webway portal. It looked around, unsure of itself, its huge compound eyes looking up at him with a look that was almost quizzical. Beastmaster Wormwood—himself mutated into a centaur-like fusion of Dark Eldar and scorpion—appeared, with more of his pets.
“This way,” he called, in his buzzing voice. He beckoned to them with his right arm, his hand long-since transformed into a giant pincer. As he often did, Jheste wondered what Wormwood’s face looked like under his silver helmet. Perhaps one day he would find out. The Warp Beasts, seemingly disoriented from their sudden arrival in real space, slowly scuttled after their master.
No matter. The rest of the Ozone Scorpion force had reached the Wolves and the carnage began. Vhlondryll’s and Relonarr’s squads easily slashed their way through the Long Fangs pack, kicking the bodies of the slain Marines to the street. Blygos thumbed an insult at Ferin as he and his Silver Scorpions tore into Gray Hunter Pack Roskva, pulling down seven of the Fenrisians without losing a single Wych. Still, Hodur and his men stood their ground. Too dumb to know any better, Jheste chuckled.
Jheste’s job was done—the webway portal was open and there was no need to stick around. Crouching low to avoid fire, he made his way across the rooftop, away from the battle, and began descending a ladder. Let the rest of them carry on, he said to himself. As he climbed down, he fumbled with a flask that hung from his belt. All this fighting makes me parched.
Safely on the ground, hidden in the deep shadows behind the towers, he toasted the Dark Eldar forces and helped himself to a cocktail—his own recipe, of course.
“I’m here, I’m here. Stop shouting already,” his second-in-command replied.
“I’m out of this—nearly out of this, anyway,” Ferin replied. Something whizzed past him; on instinct he whirled and unleashed his heavy flamer, the only ranged weapon he had left. The last Reaver shrieked like a meadhall wench as he and his jetbike melted into a flaming lump that crashed to the street not far from Ferin’s motionless feet. Ferin allowed himself a moment of satisfaction: I may not be able to walk, but who’s worse off, eh? He turned his attention back to Lars. “Report!”
“We’re coming down to join the party,” Lars replied. He and his men opened fire, their storm bolters and assault cannons blasting through the flimsy tower and taking out everyone in Eklavdrah’s squad save the one with the blaster. Ferin saw Pack Mimir’s Rhino turn and rumble back to the battle line, Balder and his men dismounting, gunning down four of Vhlondryll’s crew before hurling themselves into the Silver Scorpions. The lone Speeder, “Maelstrom,” swung around and unleashed its heavy bolters and Typhoon missile launcher on the same target, killing two more. With a mighty THOOM, the “Kraken’s” multilauncher fired, its rockets exploding above Relonarr’s squad, killing two of them as the rest cowered behind any scrap of cover they could find. Ferin grunted in satisfaction. Long Fang Pack Aesir was far from avenged, but it would be a while before Relonarr and his sycophants summoned the nerve to get back into the fight.
“Brothers!” Hodur bellowed, catching sight of Balder and his men.
“Brothers!” Balder answered, his power fist cocked back to smash through whichever svartalfir was stupid enough to get in the way. Blygos, the Wyches’ leader, made no sign of panic. As one, the Wyches turned to face Squad Mimir, their blades cutting down three of the Gray Hunter reinforcements before the Marines could bring their weapons to bear. But Balder and his men could not be stopped. They struck down three of the Silver Scorpions and Hodur hacked another in twain; Blygos and the surviving Eldar fell back, deeper into the building.
“After them!” Balder yelled.
“No, they’re mine!” Hodur replied. He pointed into the darkness where the Wyches had retreated. “That one with the claw—their leader—I know I killed him. I stood over him and emptied a magazine into him just a few weeks ago. Yet here he is today. How is that? How can that be?”
“I don’t know,” Balder shouted, over the weapon fire and the screams of the wounded. “But let us go with you. There’s something wrong here—something very wrong.”
“Lord Ferin,” Hodur called. “Their Wyches have retreated into the building. Shall we pursue?”
Straining to face Hodur, Ferin yelled back, “Lars and Pack Jotun are on their way. Hold your position until they arrive. Balder, you and your men resume your mission. They mean to tie us down and slaughter us—break out and attack their rear.”
Under his helmet, Balder grimaced. “My lord, I fear the Wyches are still dangerous. Perhaps it would be better if we stayed.”
“I need you to circle around the main force,” Ferin replied. “Hodur and his men will stand firm. Lars and his Wolf Guard are near. And I am not totally done yet.”
“Very well, Lord Ferin,” Balder replied. He motioned for his squad to return to their Rhino, then turned and gripped Hodur’s hand, the one that Blygos had hacked off in the first battle for Veda. “Be careful, old friend.”
“What fun is that?” Hodur grinned. He watched as Balder and his men mounted up and prepared to drive off.
“I smell something,” said Yrekson, one of Hodur’s men. Magson, the other survivor, raised his bolter.
“They’re on their way,” Hodur replied. “I was hoping they would be.”
They made no noise. In an instant, the Silver Scorpions were upon them, leaping out of the shadows, dodging here and there, knives slashing, nets snaring. A barbed trident went clean through Yrekson’s faceplate and out the back of his helmet, grey brains dripping off the weapons’ prongs. Maggson fired at point blank range, but the Wyches were too fast. Two of them fell on him and when they pulled away, Maggson had crumpled to his knees, attempting to hold in his intestines as they spilled to the floor. Something wet and red splashed across the eyelenses of Hodur’s helmet, and he realized that it was his own blood. There was a great pain in his belly and suddenly he found himself on his back, unable to move.
“Good evening,” Blygos whispered, as he bent over Hodur. “It’s nice to see you again.”
Then everything went black.
“Well, this is not good,” Lars said, as he and his men stepped out of the building. To their left, the Wyches were pulling the bodies of Pack Roskva further back into the shell of the building they held. On the Terminators’ right, the Raider Squads were swarming into other buildings, seizing the high ground and setting up a crossfire. The transports themselves circled like sharks. And headed their way were the Warp Beasts, heedlessly headed for the impromptu minefield that the Wolves had set up. Either their master didn’t know or didn’t care that many of the mines were still active.
Suddenly, Thialfison fell backward, his storm bolter firing, as a black energy bolt from the Wyches’ Raider seared through his chest. From above, Vhlondryll’s squad fired and another of Lars’ men crumpled, screaming as poisoned shards somehow found their way past his armor. More fire—from other squads and from other transports—came their way, and though the Terminators avoided most of it, the last man standing from Eklavdrah’s squad managed to gun down another Wolf Guard with his blaster.
There were a series of explosions from the minefield and for a moment Lars lost sight of the Warp Beasts as smoke billowed upward. Then four of them appeared through the smoke, leaping onto the Terminators, one of them jamming its poisonous tail through Hausryk’s torso. Lars sliced his own monster in two with his sword and looked for their master, but of him there was no sign. I guess he didn’t make it through the minefield, Lars thought. Idiot.
Then the one that had killed Hausryk jumped on him, and Lars found himself fighting for his life.
Not so with this battle. His heart leapt with something akin to joy with every scream that came over the monitor. And the visual images beamed back to him by his troops’ helmetcams and the Raiders’ vidcrystals—well, those gave him particular satisfaction, especially the one that showed Ferin helpless and impotent as the battle swirled around him.
Just you wait, my friend, Jheste chuckled. I think young Jirbu Ghosh will enjoy watching you hauled into my operating theater and split open like the crustacean you resemble. And then we’ll see what’s at the heart of Lord Ferin Whoop-de-doo, won’t we? We’ll see what’s left of you inside that armor. Maybe enough to sauté and serve up as supper to Archon Lynatharr—or maybe even to Kshatriya Ghosh. Wouldn’t that be a tasty dish?
He laughed out loud. Something had changed inside Jheste. Being pulverized by Ferin’s hammer, being sent screaming through the Warp, being dragged back into the material universe by the spirit anchor device and plopped into another synthetic body had twisted something in him, had awakened a spirit of vengeance, had made him no braver but much more cruel. “Here’s to the new me,” he said, downing another swallow of liquor and taking in all the action through the monitor.
The Wolves were trying to strike back, but they were too slow. Gray Hunter Pack Mimir dismounted from their Rhino—too late for Pack Roskva, but perhaps able to help Lars and the Wolf Guard. The crew of the Land Speeder “Maelstrom” were unwisely attempting to engage the Raider transports in an aerial dogfight: it shot the disintegrator off Vhlondryll’s craft, but Jheste felt confident that the other pilots would remember their priorities: to kill Ferin and the Terminators.
Jheste pursed his lips in annoyance as Ferin managed to pivot himself and fry two of Blygos’ men with his heavy flamer. Pack Mimir opened fire on the Wyches, but none were hurt. The Whirlwind managed to drop a Wych with a barrage, and Mimir’s Rhino gunned down another as the Silver Scorpions slunk away. Blygos had been the first to test out the spirit anchor device; if he didn’t smarten up, he’d be trying his luck with it again very soon.
Balder howled—Why do they have to make that awful noise, anyway? Jheste wondered—and he and his men charged the Warp Beasts. As they pulled the scorpion-like monsters off the Terminators and smashed them beneath their armored fists and boots, the one that had jumped on Lars managed to snip a good chunk out of his armor—and his flesh—before the hero could chop it to pieces. Bleeding heavily, Lars led his men back into the safety of the building they had come from as Mimir went back into their Rhino again. In, out, in, out, in, out, thought Jheste. Make up your furry little minds already. Idly, he imagined Balder strapped inside a Talos, his blood and soul slowly leeched out to feed the metal monster, and the thought made him feel even better than the drink did.
The Dark Eldar held their ground as the Raider transports moved in, hunting Ferin and Lars. The dark lance of the Silver Scorpion’s Raider easily hit Ferin but was unable to penetrate his armored bulk. Several of the Raiders and their dismounted squads fired on the Wolf Guard, with Relonarr’s squad bringing down the last of Lars’ bodyguard by rapid-firing their splinter rifles. Lars himself seemed to carry the favor of the Fenrisian gods: even wounded, he was no easy target. But he was all alone.
Jheste activated the comlink in his silver mask. “The one who kills either the Dreadnought or the Terminator Captain gets an hour alone with Jirbu Ghosh,” he announced. It was an easy promise to make, as he had no intention of keeping it, but already it was having the desired effect, the Dark Eldar pouring even more firepower into the Wolves. In moments, this battle would be over.
I love my job, he told himself.
Ferin pivoted as best he could on his shattered hips and fired a huge gout of flame at a Raider as it went whizzing by. No effect: the craft was too fast for him. It remained tantalizingly out of range, the pilot veering around for another shot at Ferin. The Venerable Dreadnought braced himself. “Come on then, you little prick! Take your best shot!” he bellowed.
Suddenly the Raider shuddered as Lars lowered his shoulder and smashed into the side of it. Grabbing the netting that hung from the craft, he swung his sword again and again at the delicate machinery underneath. Sparks flew and the transport lurched to one side, shaking Lars loose. The pilot fought to regain control as Lars picked himself up, unharmed.
“Thank you, my friend,” Ferin said.
“I always tell you that you’re too old for this sort of thing,” Lars replied, grinning. “Good thing you have me around to get you out of trouble.”
Meanwhile, Balder led his men up a winding flight of stairs to attack Eylservs’ squad, the closest batch of svartalfir. The Scorpions were ready for them, of course, opening fire as soon as Pack Mimir erupted from the floor below. One of the Gray Hunters fell from a lucky volley of splinter shards, but the rest crashed into the Raider squad, chopping down six of them. The Sybarite Eylservs spared a glance at the street below, decided it was too far to jump, and screamed for his crew to fight to the death.
Good man, Balder, Ferin thought to himself, as he watched him fight. Balder’s bold counterattack had rattled the alfir and they seemed unsure what to do. None seemed anxious to come to their comrades’ rescue—except for two. The last Silver Scorpions emerged from their hiding place and ran, somewhat hindered by rubble, to help. They’ll never make it, Ferin realized. Too far away. And he was right. Already the storm bolter of Mimir’s Rhino was tracking them: the Wyches were doomed.
The Raider that Lars had damaged drifted helplessly, but the other four surviving transports made another attack run. The foot soldiers held their positions and opened fire. One Raider missed the Whirlwind with its dark lance, but the blaster in Relonarr’s squad scored a direct hit against the tank’s vulnerable top armor, destroying it in a huge explosion. One Raider fired at “Maelstrom” and missed with its dark lance, but another Raider downed it with its disintegrator.
The blaster man from Eklavdrah’s squad attempted to shoot Ferin, but he was out of range. No matter. His counterpart from Vhlondryll’s squad hit Ferin square on the left side of his trunk, nearly knocking the Venerable Dreadnought over. Sparks flew from his metal hide as he re-routed circuits in a desperate attempt to keep functioning. Meanwhile, Eylservs’ squad went down fighting, falling to the axes and power fists of Pack Mimir, who moved forward to engage more Ozone Scorpions.
As black smoke began to billow from deep within Ferin’s armored bulk and more and more systems went offline, the old Dreadnought began to think that perhaps these Dark Eldar might get the better of him….
Jheste’s battlefield monitor could barely pick out the smoke-wreathed form of Ferin Ironhammer, who stood, immobile and ablaze, in the middle of the street. The other Space Wolves were refusing to give up, but that didn’t surprise Jheste much—not that it mattered, really. Lars ducked back into a building and fired his storm bolter at the Silver Scorpions. He missed, but Pack Mimir and their Rhino did not: moving up, they gunned down the last two Wyches.
Jheste used his monitor to zoom in on the wounds suffered by Blygos, the Wyches’ leader. The three bolter rounds that had hit him had almost severed his torso from his waist. If he was still alive, he soon wouldn’t be. Ugly, ugly, ugly, Jheste thought. He watched, with mounting irritation, as Pack Mimir charged into Relonarr’s squad and butchered them, losing a single Space Wolf in the bargain. While Lars, the Terminator Captain, had the good sense to run and hide, the fellow leading these Gray Hunters simply threw himself and his men headlong at the Scorpions. As Pack Mimir carried on the fight to the remnants of Eklavdrah’s and Vhlondryll’s squads, Jheste made a mental note to have Balder brought alive but bound to his operating table.
Jheste mounted the top of the building and took in the scene. Ferin: useless. Lars: alone. Pack Roskva: defeated. Their transport: destroyed. The Long Fangs: butchered. The Space Wolf Land Speeders: destroyed. The Whirlwind: scrap metal. All that were left was the persistent Pack Mimir and their Rhino.
The four surviving Raider transports swooped over the battlefield, a dark lance from one blasting Ferin off his feet, another dark lance slicing right through Lars’ chest. A third dark lance struck Mimir’s Rhino but failed to penetrate its armor.
The last two Raider squads fought well, but there was no stopping Balder and Pack Mimir. Three of Vhlondryll’s crew perished before Jheste gave them the order to retreat. Jheste adjusted the comlink built into his trademark silver mask and hailed his master, Archon Syryx Lynatharr.
“Great One, I have stemmed the Space Wolf advance into our city, as you so commanded. One litter of Marines refuses to acknowledge defeat: I shall order our heavy weapons to wipe them out and—”
“No,” the shadowy form of the mad ruler replied. “You and your forces must return to the palace at once. Allow the Wolves to regroup and progress further into the heart of the city, if that is their wish. Or allow them to crawl back to the surface, if they lack the stomach for further sport.”
Jheste’s brow furrowed. I’m no warrior, but even I know that is folly. Has he missed a dose of medication? “Exalted Archon, may I suggest—”
“No, you may not,” Lynatharr told him. “Take your patient’s advice, Doctor.”
“Very droll, Great One, very droll. I shall, of course, do as you instruct.”
Jheste relayed Lynatharr’s orders to the others and the Raiders peeled away, carrying off the surviving Dark Eldar and their prisoners. As he boarded a Raider to leave the battlefield, Jheste could not help but wave nonchalantly to the Gray Hunters below. They recognized him, of course. Cursing, the Space Wolves fired their weapons, but Jheste was already out of range.
Balder watched him go, his face grim.
Post-game Analysis by
The first thing I did was apply the lessons I had learned the hard way from the last battle. For this battle, I would have to deploy intelligently and remember to get my hand-to-hand units (just about all of my army) into close combat as soon as possible.
The next thing I did was, as I do before every battle, to carefully read through the description of the scenario, analyze how it would affect my army, and develop a strategy. Here I was immensely helped by a new tool I’ve developed, the Battle Plan Sheet. The BPS isn’t sexy, but it helps guides my thinking and lessens the amount of improvising that I have to do during a game.
Looking over the write-up for Fire Sweep (from Codex: Cityfight), I saw that each player would have to divide his army into three concentrations and deploy them within a certain distance from a given point: any units that weren’t deployed would be in reserve, to come on the board at a random table edge. Reserves suck, but I didn’t see any way to deploy all those Raiders within the mission specifications: the models are just too big. I guessed correctly that Pat’s would be able to deploy all of his small army on the board at the start of the game. This was shaping up to be a repeat of last time, when his army just shot mine to pieces on Turn 1.
Fortunately, Dark Eldar possess a wonderful toy called the webway portal. If I deployed correctly, I could have my reserves appear right where I wanted them to instead of appearing on a random table edge. I organized my army into the following concentrations:
#1: Dr. Jheste, Raider Squad #2 (w/ Raider), TalosJheste’s job was to stay alive for one turn and open the portal. I deployed him as close as possible to the center of the board, then surrounded him with Raider Squad #2 to suck down enemy fire. Ordinarily, clustering your guys together is a bad idea, but the Cityfight rules limit the amount of casualties you can suffer from Ordnance and Blast templates to 6 and 3 respectively. So long as I piled enough bodies around Jheste, he’d be safe.
For additional fun and games, I parked the Raider in front of the squad and stuck the Talos out in front (in cover, of course). Pat has a healthy respect for Taloses, and I was sure the Big Bad Bug was going to be Target Numero Uno. Pat won the roll to go first and did not disappoint. Though it sucked to lose the Talos without it pulling some Space Wolves apart, it beat having all those heavy weapons firing at my guy with the portal.
I was sure that Pat was going to throw some Whirlwind fire at my Wyches and Reavers, but Pat focused all his shooting at Concentration #1. In Pat’s first turn, the Talos, the Raider, and most of Squad #2 went down, but Jheste lived, so it was all good. On my turn, Concentration #2 zoomed from cover to cover, Jheste opened the portal, and I waited for my reinforcements to arrive.
On Turn 2 they did, and I tossed all of them at the closest batch of Wolves, swamping the Long Fangs. Meanwhile, the Wyches pounced on the other end of Pat’s line and he suffered a few rounds where he didn’t quite know what to do with Gray Hunter Pack Mimir: Should they continue across the board? Fight the Wyches? Counterattack the Raider squads? Once Pat committed them, Balder and his men did well (as they always seem to, curse them!), but it was too late to affect the outcome.
Not everything went according to plan. Because he had won the last game, Pat had chosen “Spoil of War” D, which allowed him to set up a minefield. My Raiders were lucky in crossing it, but my Warp Beasts were not, losing two of them as I rather recklessly threw them at the Terminators to keep them off my Wyches. Like the Talos, the Warp Beasts didn’t do much besides die, but at least they slowed Pat down and didn’t cost many points.
I can always count on doing at least one bonehead play during a game, and in this battle, it was running my last two Wyches out of a building in a futile attempt to engage Balder and Pack Mimir. Blygos and pal didn’t make it and got shot to pieces, which not only gave Pat full points for that squad but also cost me bonus Victory Points that I would have had by them claiming the building they started off in! Dumb, dumb, dumb. Fortunately, it didn’t cost me the game.
Much more satisfying was how my Raiders performed. I’ve only had one other game where most of my Raiders survived the battle, and that was because my opponent had never fought Dark Eldar before (and boy, did he get a lesson—muwahahahaha!). My transports survived because Pat was busy tearing through my squad members—I lost all of them (bummer!). Still, I enjoyed “killing” Ferin and Lars and those Terminators with my disintegrators and dark lances.
Well, enough gloating. It was a good win, though not an easy one, and the only sure thing about the next battle is that having lost this one, Pat will redouble his efforts. Which means the final fight in the campaign will be doubly hard for the bad guys.
Post-game Analysis by
All things considered, I did as well as I possibly could. While I did not play all that badly, I made some poor choices that were difficult to recover from in the face of Kenton’s concerted effort. The most glaring error was splitting up my forces and allowing them to be whittled down rather than keeping them together.
I credit my opponent for two tactically brilliant maneuvers. One, by using the webway portal to bring on the bulk of his troops, he was able to deliver a large, untouched force right to my doorstep. Two, he was able to use his superior speed to cut off my attempts to regroup. Once I had lost the momentum, I was sorely pressed to even stay in the game.
As with most of our campaigns, this one has been a back and forth affair, but then winning isn’t always the point. I have enjoyed this campaign more for the opportunity to play some really tense battles, develop some interesting characters for my army, and spend some time with my best friend.
Of course, this means I will have
to beat him senseless in the next game.
Like what you've seen? Then vote for the Jungle in the "Top 100 40K Sites"
© Copyright Kenton
Kilgore and Patrick Eibel, May 2003
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers