In the distance, a cruel orc horn sounded a note of mocking challenge. Sounding with it were thousands of guttural cries—a raucous chorus of hate and spite. The orcs had assembled for war, and the whole of Lustria was to be their battlefield.
“You will hold this part of the line,” Kai-Gor ordered down to his Captain Qua-Tli, “Make them come to you. When the time is right, call the charge.”
Qua-Tli saluted the Sandmaw’s warbanner across his chest, “I will General.”
Kai-Gor nodded, then squeezed at his mount’s sides with his taloned feet. The carnosaur Graulla leapt forward into a gallop with a roar between parted jaws. The mighty beast could already smell his opponents’ stink wafting in the humid air. The carnosaur salivated at the thought of so much prey to be had.
Kai-Gor led Graulla to the far end of the Lizardmen line, past a mighty phalanx of Stegadon and Triceradon warbeasts, past hundreds of gnarled Saurus warriors, and on to the extreme left corner of the assembled Lizardmen army. As he passed the True Moon’s formation of Temple Guard, the palanquin of the Slann Mazatl rose from their midst to let the generals of the two armies see one another. The face of the great Slann was unhindered as always by lines of worry or doubt, but Kai-Gor thought he sensed the least bit of apprehension from the wizard, like a frayed edge at the corner of a great tapestry. The Army of the True Moon and the forces of the Sandmaw had joined together to face the Orc horde, but the two lizardmen forces still had not become one in mind or spirit. They would fight together this day, but there was still much to keep them apart.
Kai-Gor turned at the end of the line and wondered if the orcs had similar differences among them. From where he was he could see broad-chested orcs and scuttling goblins, towering giants and bouncing Squigs. Somewhere behind their line he saw scaled wings rise to stretch emerald scales in the blistering midday sun. This would be their Wyvern-rider—his first opponent. As the war drums started he looked out across the field to determine the best course to the beast.
Mazatl started the battle with balls of fire thrown across the field, and soon after the Sandmaw’s Terradons and the True Moon’s jungle swarms were rushing forward to face the orcish line. Giant bows on the back of the Sandmaw’s Triceradons snapped, only to have their bolts thud uselessly against the leather skin of the orc’s giants. Kai-Gor spurred Graulla forward, and loose formations of skinks rushed forward to join him on either side. Ahead of them were two boar chariots and a line of orc bowman. As Kai-Gor watched, the orcs descended into a self-initiated brawl rather than fire their arrows. Kai-Gor ignored the squabbling louts and turned his attention toward the chariots.
He was met instead by the strangest of opponents, a goblin warlord on squig-back bouncing forward with a maniacal gleam in his eyes. He raised a crooked blade and called a challenge to Kai-Gor. There was no way the Old-Blood could refuse. Kai-Gor reined Graulla to the left and met the strange goblin with spear and shield.
Their fight was brief and brutal. Kai-Gor cut down the goblin while Graulla grabbed the squig and crushed it in his brutal maw. But as the creature died a strange magical reaction occurred. The squig exploded in an emerald sphere of Waaagh-magic that engulfed both Kai-Gor and his mount. Kai-Gor leaned forward to charge Graulla through the conflagration, and together they found themselves on the far side of the battle line.
Kai-Gor rounded his now-frenzied mount back toward the center of the fight, and barreled past a thicket of trees to find the wyvern. But at his arrival, he found the orc’s great beast already slain. The wyvern had been burned and pierced by the bows of the Triceradons, and its master had escaped his mount’s death to hide among the trees. Kai-Gor cursed his luck and looked back to the maelstrom at the center of the battlefield. What he saw was a chaotic sight indeed.
A giant clashed with Mazatl’s temple guard, the lizardmen’s warbeasts bellowed their fierce cries, and in the center of the fray the True Moon’s divine engine burned with its strange magic. Beyond the panic and chaos of the central fighting, Kai-Gor could make out the orc vanguard pushing forward to confront the saurus line. Beyond them, he could see the Sandmaw’s warbanner rippling in the breeze. Kai-Gor felt a moment of immense pride.
And then—in an instant—his pride turned to dread. He heard the wardrums quicken in the Sandmaw ranks, and knew that it was to call a charge. Qua-Tli and his warriors ran forward with a formation of the True Moon’s warriors to clash with a legion of orcs in heavy armor. Their weapons met and a few orcs were felled. But raging in the center of the orc formation was the Greenskin general himself—a savage brute named Grimgor—a warrior who struck forward with blinding speed and furious hate. Qua-Tli met him in challenge, only to be cut down with hardly a thought. The True Moon’s warriors fled at the sight. The Sandmaw ranks held for a moment more, and then were overrun by a wave of rampaging orcs. Kai-Gor watched with bitter rage as their banner fell to be crushed beneath the orcs’ brutal advance.
And in this moment of defeat, Kai-Gor hesitated. He wanted to charge forward, he wanted to punish those who had killed so many of his warriors. But he didn’t know where to attack, where to target Graulla’s bloodlust. To move too far forward would plunge him too deep into the orc center, but to act too far to the rear would divert him from the bulk of the fighting. The battlefield was spinning apart in front of him, and he didn’t know what to do. His warriors were dying on all fronts, but his indecision held him still. Kai-Gor waited for an opportunity that did not come.
The rest of the battle went quickly. The True Moon’s Stegadons broke the orcs at the center of the field while Mazatl rained fire on their survivors from his position on a far hill. Many of the orcs broke to run, and seeing that the bulk of his army had been run down, the orc general called retreat. On his command the fleeing orc units reformed and turned to follow the path Grimgor cut off the field. What remained of the True Moon and Sandmaw forces came together at Mazatl’s position to regroup. Kai-Gor was one of the last to join them.
The twin Skink priests of the Sandmaw sought Kai-Gor out to report as Graulla lumbered up. Both Qori and Qolle were haggard and tired, but were apparently unscathed from their actions in combat. They seemed relieved to find their general in one piece. “It is good to see you Lord,” Qori offered eagerly. Qolle nodded and added, “We saw an explosion and feared the worst.”
“I’m fine,” Kai-Gor replied gruffly, “Where is Qua-Tli?”
The skinks traded looks. Qori said, “He fell in battle General.”
“I know,” Kai-Gor growled, “Where is he? What are the nature of his wounds?”
Qolle swallowed, “They were fatal Lord.”
Kai-Gor’s grimace sharpened, “Then get him ready for transport. We’ll have him to the Temple by morning.”
Qori shook his head, “No Lord, you don’t understand.” Qolle swallowed, “He has been lost Lord. His spirit has passed on.” Qori nodded, “There is nothing more to be done.”
Kai-Gor stared down at his priests for a long moment. Then, looking away, he ordered, “Bring his body to me.”
“But why Lord?” Qolle asked.
Kai-Gor’s anger surged, “Because I won’t have him buried here. He is a hero of our tribe—he belongs in Itlcouzal with the legacy he died for. I will take him there.”
“But what of the war?” Qori questioned.
“The war will wait until I return!” Kai-Gor roared, “Bring him to me! Do as I say!”
The priests stared for a moment more, then bowed and hurried away. Qua-Tli’s body was gathered, wrapped in bandages, and delivered to Kai-Gor. Kai-Gor took his Lieutenant’s body like a pack upon his back. As he hefted the weight, he said softly, “I’m sorry friend.”
Then, with a cry and a kick to Graulla’s ribs, Kai-Gor spurred the Carnosaur away from the bloodied battlefield. Heads turned and the lizardmen’s troubled eyes asked innumerable questions. But not a sound was voiced. His soldiers let their General go to do what he must.
In the distance, a cruel orc horn sounded a note of mocking triumph.