The Night Before Gitmas
An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Paul Scorer
Reading Time: 18 minutes
Lost in the shadows of time, a long forgotten Aeldari Craft World spins out of control through the inky void. Its surface is encased in a globe of thick ice and ammonia snow, which cascades from industrial exhaust vents in foul smelling flurries. Here and there, meteor craters pockmark it’s once smooth surface. A solitary white spike juts out of the frigid yellowish powder. Twin stripes of blood red and Ork-flesh green twist up the length of the pillar.
The rulers of the craft world simply call it Da Pole, it is the home of Santork Klaws, champion of the Orkish celebration of Gitmas, the one who rewards the Orkiest of Orks and punishes those who have strayed too far from ‘da Paff.’ It is said amongst the Snakebite tribe that ‘da best Waaaghs start because of Gitmas day!’
Deep within the benighted outer skin of the craft world, millions of Aeldari slaves toil over furnaces, workbenches and foundries shedding blood, sweat and tears in the manufacture of kustom shootas, trukks, war bikes, skorchas and dakka jets to name but a few. The ‘toyz,’ as the orks call them, are crude by Aeldari standards, but the Orks think they are some of ‘da best fings eva’ made.’ Their only complaint is that they ‘is too pretty, an’ need to be Orkified!’
After the Eldar slaves finish the manufacture of the perfect Orkish weapons, the products of their forced labour are taken down to ‘kwality kontrol,’ where a few Ork Nobz devote time to putting dents in trukks, bullet holes in armour and scorch marks on exquisitely painted deff dreads. With each scratch, bash and dent the Aeldari lose a little more of their souls.
Two things keep the slaves going through the millennia of servitude and occupation: firstly they are Aeldari, of a proud and strong nation. While they have bent under the occupation of their Craft World, as a people they have not yet broken. Second, and this is probably most important, they realise that they are occupied by Orks. They know the green skins are a problem that will take care of itself through a combination of brutal kunnin’ and intense stupidity on a cataclysmic scale.
In the control room, the Gitmas Boss Santork sits looking at a list that he pretends he can read. He wears Leathers the colour of human blood, and his enormous chin is covered in rare white Squigs that he had plaited into around fifty tight braids. As he stares at his data sheet the rage and frustration he feels started to intensify. His mechanical arm begins tapping the arm of his throne, softly at first but soon his mood reaches boiling point and his clawed hand grips the armrest of the throne and rips it clean off.
He had been trying to decide which Orks had been good and which had been bad. “Bugger dis!” he growls gutturally, his speech slurred by the vast amounts of Grotale he drinks to keep the boredom at bey. “Let’s just go crump some stuff. AERROL GET DA RIDE READY”…
Across the galaxy, a space hulk was being drawn along in the wake of a planet killing comet. Boss Scomo Beakychoppa was in an elated mood for once. The comet–which Scomo had dubbed Deffbringa–had just entered the outer fringes of a planetary system that held three worlds occupied by the Imperium of Man. He could feel the approach of thousands of other ork bands. When the bands all joined together Scomo would teach these worlds and show da humies da beauty of Waaagh! His plan had three stages:
- Join wiv uva’ Boyz fer some violent crumpin’ before da Waaagh! Kicks off.
- Nudge Deffbringa at one of the worlds and laugh as the world was destroyed by one of the galaxy’s biggest snowballs.
- Start biggest Waaagh! on dis side of Gork’s Grin.
He sat on his throne, which at one point in time was the ship captain’s command couch fiddling with the buttons and switches that were no longer operational. Around him the boyz of his tribe were singing so badly that several Squigs howled in agony and a few managed to chew off their own ears in an act of desperation. Their disharmonious chorus shattered glass panels up and down the length of the derelict ship.‘You’d better watch out! Dum-da-da-dum da. Blah da blah blah da blah blah blah blah- SANTORK KLAWS IS GONNA SMACK DOWN!’
The pre-Gitmas festivities were going well. Some enterprising Ork had inflated a load of balloon Squigs, and hung them around the space hulk, always two round ones with one long in between, for some reason. The Boyz kept looking up at the struggling squigs laughing, with none of them quite knowing why.
Still, other Boyz were ‘dekoratin’ da halls’ with great streams of nearly phosphorescent green snot and rotten entrails that were of a sufficiently festive colour and appearance. They would occasionally stick small pink and red Squigs in the snot further enhancing the atmosphere.
In one of the hulk’s cavernous, cathedral-like corridors, three teams of Boyz and Nobz had chained missiles to the backs of trukks and warbikes, and were dragging them at breakneck speed around a course spanning three of the ships decks. Watching from some quickly erected and incredibly unstable gantries hundreds of Ork Boyz and Grots cheered excitedly when the trukks and tanks went speeding past. They cheered even more wildly when missiles that were being dragging accidentally detonated, engulfing the towing vehicle in a ball of fiery death. Occasionally a boot was planted in the behind of an unsuspecting grot launching him from high up in the gantry onto the track. The stunned creature was soon turned into a fine mist of gore by the speeding vehicles. More and more Grots were kicked under the missile tow and soon the track was slick and dangerous. Just the way the Orks liked it.
Despite the celebrations and festivities, there was a wrongness in the air. Something stale, as if the Boyz weren’t fully able to embrace the Waaagh! that was to come. Something fundamental had to change, and it had to change soon…
Boss Scomo glanced around at the Boyz gathered around one of the only working pictscreens watching the outcome of the Missile Tow race. Scomo cleared his throat and bellowed, ‘LADS SIDDOWN I’S GONNA TELL YEWZ SOMEFIN’
One of his stupider Boyz snapped ‘Boss we’s busy!’
‘SIDDOWN OR YEWS GONNA BE AS DEAD AS DAT GROT’ Scomo yelled, large globs of spittle flying from his mouth, pointing at a clueless Grot with the muzzle of his shoota.
‘Boss, Dat grot ain’t dead.’ The Boy shouted back.
Scomo pulled the trigger and the air was split with a loud staccato burst of noise. DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA. The Boss’s shots pierced the Grot’s body, making it shriek in agony and shock before collapsing to the deck with a soft, wet thud.
The Boyz suddenly had their attention captured and every last one of them sat on the floor with their legs crossed and their hands resting in their laps.
‘We’s sittin’ now boss!’
Boss Scomo snorted loudly and spat a viscous glob of green snot into the one of the many bonfires scattered around the hulks once proud command deck. The flame flared green for a few moments before fading back to red again.
‘Twere da night before Gitmas’
‘I likes dis one!’ One of the Boyz piped up.
‘SHUT IT…’the boss bellowed sending streams of spittle over the offending Boy.
‘Where were I?’
‘Gitmas?’ The interrupting Boy answered hopefully.
When Boss Scomo spoke again his voice was soft and deadly. ‘I fought I told you to SHUT IT.’
As he spoke the last word his shoota muzzle snapped up and spat death into the unfortunate appreciative and helpful Boy. ‘Any bugger else wanna say somefin?’ He growled.
All the Boyz shook their heads enthusiastically.
‘Right,’ the Boss sighed…
‘T’were da night before Gitmas, an’ all frew da gaff,
da boys dey were sleepin’ or havin’ a laff,
Da boots were frone on da ground wiv no care,
In hopes dat Santork Klaws wouldn’t be dere.’
‘Da Grots was hidin’ away in their beds,
While dreams of Squig meat filled up dere ‘eads,
And da Boss wiv ‘is choppa, an’ me wiv me saw,
Began skinnin’ humies, one, two, free,…. err-’
A Boy spoke up from the front row before he could stop himself: ‘Four?’
The Boss’s choppa arced through the air slicing the head from the boys shoulders before he even knew what was coming. A dark red jet of blood gushed over the Orks sat nearby.
‘Fanks…’ Scomo said absentmindedly.
‘When outta da cave dere came a big clatta,
It sounded to me dat it went dakka dakka,
I ran to da cave mouth as quick as I could,
I picked up my shoota like every Ork should.’
‘Da moon on da side of da new painted tank did glow,
Givin’ me cover from da fing waitin’ below,
Den what did I see wiv me tiny red peepers,
A dirty red trukk an’ some Fugly Squig Creepers.’
‘Wiv da most Orky of Orks ‘is chest full of roars,
I knows dat it must ‘av been Santork Klaws,
As fast as a Squighawk dose ‘unters dey came,
He roared and shouted their names.’
‘Oi Scorcha, oi Dakka, oi Shoota, oi Kicksin,
On Choppa, on Killsaw on Launcha on Bitten,
To da top of da cave to da breach in da wall,
Now runaway runaway runaway all.’
‘Like bullets from outta a shoota that fly,
They bounced off ov rocks and took to da sky,
So over our cave da Squig Creepers dey flew,
Wiv a trukk full of weapons an’ Santork Klaws too!’
An’ den in a flash I ‘eard da great roars,
An’ da scritchin’ an’ scrapin’ of each of dere claws,
As I drew me shoota an’ as I was turnin’ around,
Da cave shook as Santork Klaws ‘it da ground.’
‘e were dressed in red leather from his ‘ead to ‘is boots,
‘is cloves was all scorched wiv cordite an’ soot,
A bundle of shootas he ‘ad flung on ‘is back,
‘e looked like a Boss gettin’ ready to attack.’
‘is eyes ‘ow dey sparked, ‘is face it were scary,
‘is cheeks dey was green, an’ ‘is nose it were scarry,
‘is big open mouff were loaded wiv teef,
An’ a beard o’ Squigs he had underneaf.’
A sawn off shoota he ‘ad in ‘is fist,
And da smoke from it went round ‘is wrist,
‘e ‘ad a wide face, an’ ‘e were a bit smelly,
I saw ‘im kick a Grot ‘ard in da belly.’
‘e were Kunnin’ an’ Brutal, a right ol’ Flashgit,
I’d snuck up behind ‘im ready to hit,
Da spark in ‘is eye an da shake of ‘is ‘ead,
Soon let me know if I did I’d be dead!’
‘e never said nuffin’ an’ just went down to biz,
‘e filled up da boots, an’ took a Squig dat weren’t ‘is,
An’ shovin a finger straight up ‘is nose,
He gave me a nod as frew da ceilin’ ‘e rose!’
‘e jumped on ‘is trukk, to ‘is Squigs he did whistle,
An’ dey all flew away like a flamin’ cruise missle,
I ‘ears ‘im roar as dey flew outta sight,
Happy Gitmas to all and to all a good fight.’
A glacial gust blew through the old former command center, causing the bonfires to spit streams of sparks and burning embers over the assembly.
‘er boss?’ A nervous Boy started.
‘Dat were good an’ all but you lost me.’
The Boss snorted in disgust. ‘Where?’
‘I fink it were…’ the Boy swallowed nervously… ‘It were ‘da night before Gitmas…‘’
Boss Scomo sighed sadly. ‘Why can’t yew gitz be kultured like wot I am?’
The Boss cleared his throat and said ‘Right we’ll try dis one:’
‘My tank is red,
violence is good,
need more Dakka;
The Boyz replied with a furious WAAAAAAAAGH! cry of their own. It sounded impressive, but their hearts weren’t in it.
One slow thinker raised his hand. ‘Boss, Boss, Boss…’
‘Wot is it Crumper?’ Scomo asked, the embers of irritation were starting to burn hotly behind his eyes.
‘Well sittin’ around here like dis… it… well it don’t feel very… Orky we should be krumpin’ an’ shootin’ stuff.’ Other Boys around him nodded enthusiastically until they realised what they were doing and backed away from the Boy shaking their heads vigorously.
A look of tiredness crossed Scomo’s face ‘Look, da likes of yews is a normal Ork right? A Nork if ya likes!’ He paused allowing the knowledge bomb to detonate in the Boyz heads before continuing. ‘I is more of a finkin’ Ork, a Fork. Just cos you’re a Nork don’t mean you don’t have to fink. So yeah I’m a Fork among Norks.’ The Boss paused to push an imaginary pair of glasses up the bridge of his nose ‘But ain’t a Fork got eyes? Ain’t a Fork got ‘ands, shootas, teef, choppas, rage? We eats da same squig, ‘urt by da same fings, gets da same owies, an’ ‘ealed by da same Painboyz! We gets ‘ot an’ cold like a Nork. If a beaky shoots us ain’t we gonna bleed? If you tickle us ain’t we gonna rip your arms off? An’ if I is bit by an Iron Snake ain’t I gonna die? An’ if you shoot at me ain’t I gonna shoot back ‘til yer dead?’
Suddenly the fires dimmed down to embers for a few moments. There was a mechanical whirring noise, followed by the sound of meat being torn and bone being crunched. When the fires had recovered. The Boss was no longer stood where he had been. His body was slumped on the floor and his head rested in the large mechanical hands of a gigantic Ork dressed in dark red leathers. The Ork leered down at the Boyz and said. ‘Not very Orky tellin’ stories and rhymes like one of dem soft pink humies. ‘E forgot the golden rule. What wuz it you Boyz were singin’ earlier? You’d better watch out! Oi take dis wouldja.’ He said to one of the Boyz who was staring at him in disbelief. Santork stomped heavily forward and sat down in the newly vacant throne.
The Boy ran forward snatching the head of Scomo. The expression on the decapitated face was surprise, rage and fear. Possibly because the head hadn’t quite realised it was dead yet.
‘‘Appy Gitmas m’boy!’Santork boomed. The Boy took the head into the corner of the room, where he kept his tools and began extracting the Scomo’s teef while trying to avoid getting bitten by the still living head of his old Boss.
The staleness in the air lifted immediately, as if the death of Boss Scomo had unblocked psychic channels and allowed the pent up Waaagh! energy to flow for the first time in months.
‘Right ladz, tomorrow is Gitmas. Da day when you’re gonna ‘ave enough Orks to start da biggest Waaagh dat ‘as eva been seen. So who’s first den?’
Crumper put up his hand again.
‘Wots your name Boss?’
‘I has ‘ad a few. I has been called Farver Gitmas, Saint Nickleork, Santork Claws, Conqueror of Da Pole. I has even been called Dat Fat Bastard Wiv Da Beard.’
The gathered Nobz and Boyz took a step away, knowing that their unexpected visitor could spell death for any one of them at any moment.
‘Relax lads. I’s ‘ere to give yew fings. Who wants some?’
Crumper stepped forward haltingly. His red eyes gleaming with greed. ‘Me boss.’
‘Wotcha want then?’
‘I wanna bunch of shootas an’ armour an’ rokkit launcha an’ a scorcha…’
The red clad figure grinned viciously. ‘AERROL!!’
An Aeldari figure stepped into the room, clad in worn and tarnished carapace armour. His shoulders were slumped in defeat, his face was hidden by his red and green candy-striped helmet. Dragging behind him was a large sack that gave out a clinking sound as the bag passed over the rough surface of the deck.
‘GIVE DIS BOY DA WORKS.’ Santork bellowed at Aerrol.
The Eldar sized up the confused looking Crumper for a few moments before pointing quickly at the opposite wall. Crumper spun around quickly to stare where Santork’s pointy eared helper had gestured. Less than a second later the Eldar launched a luminescent green dart into the base of Crumpers skull. The Orks eyes rolled to the top of his head and he folded to the ground snoring loudly.
Wordlessly the Eldar pointed both of his clenched fists at the recumbent Crumper and launched a quartet of harpoons. The attached ropes pulled taught as soon as the barbed harpoon tips penetrated Crumper’s limbs. Giving a slight grunt Aerrol dragged the body towards the exit of the command deck. As he passed his boss, Santork whispered ‘Make sure yew gets all ‘is teef. Wot ‘e asked for ain’t cheap’ Then he spoke to the stunned crowd of Nobz and Boyz.
‘Ladz, don’t worry young Crumper, is gettin’ everyfin’ ‘e wanted. My Painboyz is fittin’ ‘im up wiv da bestest Deff Dread dat teef can buy. Ooo’s next? Come boyz don’ be shy an’ fill your boots!’ He pointed to the sack that his helper had dragged in with him. The sack opened one baleful eye, and fixed the nearest Boy with a glare that would have turned a less (or more) intelligent being’s bowels to water. The Ork in question gave the sack a lopsided grin when he saw its contents. The Squig sack was filled with teef of every shape and size. A few Orks caught on quickly and tore their boots off and used them to scoop teef out of Santork’s Squig-sack as quickly as they could.
Santork the Gitmas Warboss held court and listened to the Gitmas wishes of Boyz, Nobz and Grots. Tons of lethal ordinance found their way into the eager hands of the mob. Tanks, trukks, battle wagons were gifted to their new highly excited owners. The space hulk’s decks shook and quaked with the rattle, cough and boom of brand new rockitt launchas, boomsticks and kustom shootas. Boyz found themselves hardwired into Deff Dreads; and Grots were wired to Killa Kans. All the while, Aerrol moved silently and wordlessly through the throng distributing their chosen gifts. One Ork tried to rip off the helmet from the Eldar’s head, only to find that his hand was no longer attached to his arm. Aerrol seemed oblivious to the whole affair.
After the gifts came the feast. There were roasted Squigs with snot gravy. Space marine heads with fat apple shaped Squigs stuffed in their mouths several Boyz broke some teef trying to eat them. For desert there Face Eating Squig Surprise. The surprise was the Squig was still alive and had to be eaten quickly to avoid losing a lip or an ear.
Later still some older Orks snoozed where they sat, belts undone with distended stomachs gurgling with wind. While others played party games like pin the tail on the Grot. The younger Boyz tried out their new toyz, so the air was thick and hazy with the stench of burning promethium which mingled with the sharp acrid smell of cordite. Others were gathered around a semi broken pictscreen and tried to listen to a pre-Waaagh broadcast by Ghazghkull, while Grots bickered, argued, fought and eventually broke each other’s toyz.
Hands and fingers were lost when the Gitmas krakkerz were brought out. One Ork would hold on to a grenade and pull the pin. The grenade was tossed back and forth between two Orks. The one holding the krakker when it went bang was the loser. The winner got to pick up his prize from the floor, usually a finger of the loser or a nail that was part of the grenades payload. It was tradition to tell a joke after the prize was claimed, the correct response to the joke was to be stoney faced silence.
Santork grinned into his Squig-beard. The Waaagh energy was beginning to build up pressure. As the ship followed Deffbringa deeper into the system other Orks colonising asteroids arrived at the party. Still more arrived from barren and icey moons. Slowly these new guests served to increase irritation. Irritation turned to anger, anger to rage, rage to bloodlust. Howls of frustration could be heard from many of the ship’s decks.
The quirks of some individuals were adding fuel to the fire: Rebellious Stormboys and Kommandos were marching through the hulk in well organised and tight formations muttering ‘Hutt! Hutt! Hutt!’ under their breaths. They further added insult to injury by crisply saluting to some of the larger Ork Nobz that they happened to encounter.
Chaos reigned down on the missile tow track. Three racers had turned to thirty. Hundreds of Grots and Snotlings were being kicked under the missile tow every minute. While high above the race course Flyboyz performed ‘deff defying’ stunts and the occasional strafing runs on the racing vehicles and the stampeding and panicking crowd.
Some Weird Boyz heads exploded out of sheer excitement. Lootas were lootin’. Meks were Makin’ and the noise from their workshops was irritating the Boyz who were trying to sleep off their huge meal of squig. Painboyz were plying their trade on the willing, the unwilling and the unconscious. Teef were changing hands faster than the eye could follow.
Ork Nobz were growing in size, each one competing to become the next Boss. The Waaagh! energies could be felt crackling in the hearts and minds of every Ork, Grot and Snotling for lightyears around. Greenish lightning grounded itself in exposed electrical wiring, bringing life to long dead weapons systems that were suddenly hungry for destruction. The Waaagh! had hit critical mass and was about to unleash itself in a torrent of uncontained and uncontrolled fury.
Sensing that Gitmas day had finally arrived, Santork filled some empty boots with teef, and slipped unseen to his trukk and team of Fugly Creeper Squigs. Aerrol was sat on the flatbed with his legs dangling over the side staring fixedly at his feet. Behind him a crew of exhausted, but very rich, Painboyz. Skulking in the shadows, the Squig Sack chewed happily on a Boy who tried to get the last few teef from the bottom of the sack. The hapless Ork slipped and landed flat on his back, he only had a few seconds to wonder where all these teef had come from in the first place when the jaws snapped closed and the sack began filling with digestive juices. It would take a few years but the Squig Sack would eventually get refilled.
‘A new war boss is emerging, I take it?’ The Aeldari warrior asked his master.
Santork spat on the ground and grinned. ‘Yeah, an’ ‘e won’t be a Finkin’ Ork neevah!’ Santork regarded his slave for a second ‘I fink dat could be da last time we’re doin’ dis, Aerrol. I reckons dis is da Waaagh to end all Waaaghs. Just fink, you an’ your point eared mates can ‘ave yer worl’ back!’
Aerrol looked up sharply and hope filled his voice ‘Really Boss?’
‘Nah, course not. Da new Boss might by kunnin’ an’ vicious an’ brutal but ‘e is still gonna make a Squigs ear of it… I ‘ad you goin’ for a sec!’ Santork threw his head back and laughed loudly. Just then a violent explosion shook the space hulk, causing dust and debris to cascade from the ceiling.
‘Let’s get outta ‘ere before deese gitz blows us up.’
Aerrol only shrugged. ‘Oh Aerrol, ‘ave a crew ready for salvage. Wiv any luck we can give dis crap away again next time.’
Aerrol sighed. ‘As you wish Boss.’
The Gitmas Boss pulled himself up into the driver seat, pressed a few random buttons on his dashboard, a loud whining shriek filled the air as reality was split open and a portal into the Webway was torn into existence. He pressed a few other buttons and activated the heavy jet packs that each of his monstrous squigs had strapped to their backs and blasted off through the portal and towards Da Pole and home.
About the Author
Paul Scorer is a medical scientist living in Brisbane, Australia with his wife, son, and a mostly blind cocker spaniel.
Paul has been playing role playing games for 20ish years now, and has recently returned to the worlds of 40k after a 15-year hiatus.