An Aussie Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas
But where was the snow?
For this Yuletide story
To Australia we’ll go!

Up north they’ve got reindeer
To pull Santa’s sleigh.
Down south things are different.
But how? I hear you say.

The sleigh’s pulled by wattles
And other native plants.
And instead of presents,
It carries bags of ants.aussiexmas001Saint Nick has a list
Of who’s naughty and nice.
And in rural Australia,
Who’s hepped up on ice.

You won’t see many chimneys
In Hobart or Brisbane,
So jolly Father Christmas
Climbs on down the fan.

The blades spin so quickly,
They cut him up good.
‘Til soon there’s a shower
Of festive red blood.

We feed it to the Christmas tree
Which gives you quite a shock.
I bet you weren’t expecting
To see a full-size croc!

xmascroc.pngThe crocodile’s our Christmas God.
He brings us gifts and joy
And asks for nothing but a taste
Of blood and girls and boys.

Kill all the non-believers.
Destroy their Christmas cake.
You must feed them to crocodile
The cruel legged snake.

Wombat! Beach! Et cetera!
And other Aussie things!
Forget the baby Jesus,
The funnel-web’s our king.

xmas spider.png

So keep your nog and holly
And snow that falls for miles.
Make mine an Aussie Christmas
ALL HAIL THE CROCODILE

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2016 Games

The 2016 Games, formally the 1st Terran Games of the Kanamit Confederacy and commonly known as the Alien Olympics, was a major interplanetary sporting event. It took place in New South Wales, Australia, from 5 to 12 October 2016.

The opening ceremony took place on 5 October at the Stadium, a purpose-built structure constructed over the former town of Gabbadoon in northern NSW. More than 5000 athletes from Australia and across the world competed, along with 30-40 Aliens.

Following first contact and the arrival of the Aliens in Gabbadoon on 3 October 2015, Australia was selected as the host country for the Games. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Sports Minister Sussan Ley announced the Games at a joint press conference with two Alien delegates. Australia was the first country on Earth to host the Kanamit Confederacy Games, and according to the Alien delegates it was chosen because of the country’s enthusiasm for sport.

Development and preparation

The Commonwealth Organising Committee of the Games (COCG) was created to oversee the staging of the Games after the announcement, and held its first board meeting on 2 November 2015. The committee, co-chaired by Ian Thorpe and former Australian PM Tony Abbott, was in charge of implementing and staging the Games, as well as overseeing construction of the Stadium and infrastructure.

In January 2016, some members of the Alien delegation raised security concerns surrounding the hosting of the Games in New South Wales, due to a number of protests and riots in Sydney and around the semi-constructed Stadium. The COCG made assurances that the riots would not affect the Games, and the Australian government passed new legislation criminalising acts of protest against the Games.

Venue

The Games took place entirely within the custom-built Stadium, a venue the size of a small town. The Stadium is 645 metres (2116 feet) tall and contains seating for over 100,000 human spectators and approximately 1000 Alien spectators.

Within the Stadium, a variety of different athletic environments are able to be simulated, depending on the competition being staged. The main track uses two vulcanised rubber layers and one layer of the classified Alien latex-substitute, while the turf in the Stadium is a mix of Australian native grasses and Alien blackfungus.

During the Games, the Stadium’s grandstands contained a holographic system developed by the Aliens that allowed them to function as a giant video display. The system was primarily intended for use during the endgame periods of the various competitions, and allowed human and Alien spectators to experience the final moments of the competitions from their seats.

The Stadium was built on the area formerly occupied by Gabbadoon, a rural town with a former population of only 6380 people at the time of the 2011 census.

Residents of Gabbadoon were offered financial inducements to move out of the area. At least one man, Charlie O’Brien, refused to leave and was shot by police in an ensuing struggle. The incident was later described as a “regrettable accident” by Prime Minister Turnbull, and a small plaque featuring O’Brien’s name was placed at the Stadium by his family and two Alien representatives prior to the opening ceremony.

Financing

While the Games were officially privately funded, the Stadium costs were met largely by public money. The original budget for the Games was $5 billion AUD ($3.5 billion USD) in 2015, but this increased almost fourfold to $19bn ($13.3bn USD) by the time of the opening ceremony. The revised figures were announced to the House of Representatives on 2 May 2016, and the breakdown included infrastructure, elite training funding, security and policing, and compensation for the families of those athletes competing in the games.

Sponsors and mascots

COCG negotiated sponsorship deals with several companies, including Monsanto, American Cyanamid Co., Pfizer, Rio Tinto, Siemens, James Hardie and McDonald’s. These companies cumulatively provided nearly $1bn of funding, in exchange for branding, exclusive distribution rights and legal immunity in Australia.

The official mascots for the Games were unveiled on 19 June 2016. Gabba and Doon are an animated human child and an Alien grub who are best friends. They are named after the town where the Stadium was built and represent the bonds of friendship between humans and Aliens. The writer Andy Griffiths wrote the story concept for the mascots and an animation was produced.

The mascots were available to make appearances at schools and community events around Australia. Appearances were $1250, rising to $2340 for events requiring an overnight stay. In July, a public school in Bankstown was successfully sued by COCG for unauthorised use of Gabba and Doon at a school fundraising event.

Controversies 

During the lead-up to the Games, there were controversies over sponsorship, political issues and the competition itself. In particular, the discovery that many of the Aliens would be killing and eating the bodies of unsuccessful athletes as part of the competition led to a series of small-scale protests across the country, although a nationwide Newspoll published in August 2016 indicated that 76% of respondents still viewed the Games as “an exciting economic opportunity” for Australia.

After the Games, it was discovered that the Stadium was unsuitable for further events due to the nature of the Alien architecture and xenoforming. Despite plans to recoup the costs of the Games through further sporting and cultural events, the Stadium is currently unoccupied, and the surrounding areas are under strict quarantine after blackfungus spores were discovered in the soil and groundwater of the district.

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was held on 5 October and called “Friends from the Stars”. Golden Globe-winning director Baz Luhrmann was its artistic director, with music direction by Sia.

The Games were officially opened by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, accompanied by two senior Alien delegates. The ceremony included a short comic film starring Hugh Jackman, and live musical performers included the Cat Empire, Delta Goodrem and Guy Sebastian.

The closing act was performed by two Alien delegates, and involved the decapitation and consumption of twelve human dancers, accompanied by the Church’s hit single “Under the Milky Way”.

The ceremony was described as a “resounding success” by The Australian and “inspiring” by The Daily Telegraph, although some international media criticised the organisers’ decision to only use Australian dancers.

Closing ceremony

The closing ceremony was held on 12 October. Ian Thorpe gave a speech, and the 5112 athletes who lost their lives during the Games were thanked in a multimedia movement piece. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Aliens departed in their ships, and the words “WE WILL RETURN” were projected into the sky above the Stadium.

Critics were generally positive, but noted that it was not as good as the opening ceremony.

Warning: this article contains unverified, unsourced information from Patrick Magee. Please direct all criticism via Twitter.

As Baile: A Story – Trailer

There was a war going on; one more death shouldn’t have mattered…

Brian gestured to the pile of rocks.

‘We’re going to do it this way.’

He picked up the toppermost stone, a wicked, pockmarked arrowhead. As his brothers watched, he tested the weight of it in his hand, feeling its heft – and suddenly, his arm a striking snake, it was flying through the air and hit the old man under his eye.

The onslaught was relentless, a thundering typhoon of unshaped flintstones that were nonetheless as effective as any carved into axeheads or weapons.

The sons of Tuireann commit a brutal and senseless crime…

‘Warriors, I present to you your general, the boy hero, Lugh of the Long Arm!’

And if the applause before had rumbled like stormclouds, then this cheering hail and hearty roar would have cracked the skin of the earth as though it were an egg. The assembly of soldiers screamed and stamped like all the animals and monsters of the world, til their faces were red and white from shouting and their heels ached from trampling. Lugh of the Long Arm stood, and waited for the noise to subside before opening his mouth; and before a wisp of a word had escaped his lips, the tide of cheers rolled and crashed again against him.

He breathed in deeply, and readied himself.

‘O King, and you mighty warriors of Ireland, nobles all,’ he cried, ‘I ask you this: what vengeance would you wreak upon one who had killed your father?’

…and as their punishment, they must travel to the other side of the world, collecting ancient artefacts of great and powerful magic.

The sky was warm and amber-glowing as the family made their way to Tara. The settlement was five miles east of the farm, across heather and grassland, and on the way they ate black bread dipped in vinegar. They savoured all the time together, all the little histories and shared experiences that entrap us in the bond of kinship, every old gag dusted off and polished up to new, every remembrance given a new sheen; by the time they reached Tara they were giddy from love and laughter.

Deep in their hearts, they knew this was the last of days for their family.

The golden apples of the Hesperides…

A neatly manicured lawn, ringed around the fringe by shrubs, with the apple tree rising lonely from a small hillock of grass in the middle. Hidden in its branches, like modest festive lanterns, the magical fruit glowed a certain shade of gold; and bathing in its tinselly glow were the three sleeping princesses, ebony hair cascading over caramel-coloured faces.

The enchanted pigskin of King Tyce…

The king laughed again, this time with a subtext of steel.

‘My boys, my boys! You’re not getting my pigskin, that’s non-negotiable, and you’re a damn fool to ask. But since I like seeing my critic-in-chief get his comeuppance, you boys will have three pigskins’ worth of gold – white gold for the youngest, rose gold for the middle and crown gold for the eldest. Now, you can’t say fairer than that, can you?’

The Blazing Spear of Persia…

The Spear was starting to vibrate, the air around it humming like a storm of hornets. It was making Uchir’s flesh itch and crawl, a somatic ill-reaction to the power in his hands; overcome for a second, he skidded and collapsed on the road.

The other two were getting away from him, not looking back. He tried to stand, but as though it were a nightmare he could feel his legs giving way again and again beneath him. The Spear was trying to drag him back towards the city, to the blood.

He called out, weakly, to his brothers; his feet scudding up clouds of dust, he dragged himself forward an inch at a time.

The chariot of King Tobin…

If Uchir had become an avatar of warfare, Tefah was rage incarnate; somehow he avoided the magical weapon’s blows, blocked them with instinctive, unthinking fury. Perhaps he still possessed some spark of divine protection from the Hesperides. Or maybe it was the faith-shaped hole inside Tefah that guided and defended him: remove the god, and He is defined as much by his absence as he ever was in his inscrutable, mysterious presence.

The other soldiers fell away, and it was just these young men, locked in violent two-step with each other, dancing across the sand.

The seven piglets of Empress Asa…

‘Some days or weeks ago, I was visited by one of your countrymen. He was an extraordinarily fat gentleman – if memory serves, he ate three of my ickle piglets all at once. After dinner, he warned me of your imminent arrival. He told me that you three had left a trail of devastation in your wake, that kings and warriors had fallen in your bloodthirsty, plunderous quest to rob the world of six treasures.’

…and the hunting hound of the North Way.

The dog stopped, her limbs a tangle of burning muscle, and howled into the sky; it was a sound at once bestial and celestial, and it was answered in the distance by a hunting horn – three short blasts that signalled stop.

Every nerve and fibre in her body strained against her training, begging her to go forth with the pursuit. But the dog was steadfast and loyal to her master, and she stood as firm and footed as stone.

Uchir turned around. He saw the hound, immobile, and his breath caught in his throat as he began to doubt his plan.

Clucking his tongue angrily, he skidded down on to the beach and to the Seameander, where his brother and the druid were waiting.

‘It’s not good,’ he called, ‘the bitch is too clever or well-trained.’

‘So what do we do?’ asked his brother.

Uchir stared at their captive, who was angrily licking his lips. ‘We give her a little snack. Cut off his finger.’

Through it all, the sons of Tuireann are haunted by their own demons…

Iobar suddenly leapt across the deck and pinned his older brother beneath him, one knee on his back and the other on his arm. Brian yelped in surprised pain, unable to move; his brother had drawn his dagger and, pulling up Brian by the hair, held it to his neck. He pushed it hard into the skin, drawing blood, and made no noise but a heavy, horrible panting.

The older brother’s free hand scrabbled up to the blade, tried to pull it off, but his fingers slipped on the blood.

He said, very quietly, ‘Iobar, please. I don’t want to die.’

…and the mistakes of the past will cost them so much more than they could ever have imagined. 

Brian dared not blink, not in front of Lugh and the High King, because at that moment, that hardening kernel of legend, even the flutter of an eyelid would doom the saga for the rest of time.

Instead, he pouted his lips and shrugged his shoulders, said ‘very well then,’ and turned away to walk into the night.

After a pause, his brothers followed him, and in silence and anticipation the warhost of Ireland watched the sons of Tuireann vanish into the cold and darkness; and as a man, they shivered in fear of the trials yet to come.

As Baile: A Story. Available now.

The Dam

Jeremy stood in the corner of the school hall, shuffling awkwardly in time to the music. He didn’t know the song, and he hated himself for not knowing, for not being able to mouth along to the words like the other kids at the dance. He snatched and twisted at the cuff of his jacket – a ridiculous second-hand velvet smoking jacket that he’d begged his parents to buy him for his fifteenth birthday. This was the first time he’d worn it outside the house, and he wished he hadn’t.

He looked like a fucking idiot, and he just wanted to go home.

But his parents wouldn’t be arriving to pick him up until half past ten, and he didn’t want to call them any earlier in case they realised what a maladjusted freak they’d brought up, so he stood against the wall and watched the circles of fluttering dancers move through the disco lights and fog of the smoke machine.

Beside him, a couple were forcing themselves against the gym-mats in the corner. One of them had slipped a hand down the other’s pants, and their faces were locked together in an ostentatious kiss. The air stank of sweat and hormones, and Jeremy felt sick.

He pushed his way out of the hall, and fell to his knees among the trees and bushes that lined the school fence, where he threw up the McDonald’s he’d had for dinner. It splashed and bubbled on the dust, and when he was finished he leaned back and wiped his mouth with the corner of the jacket.

There were warm tears streaming down his face.

He crawled away from the puddle of sick and started to walk away from the school hall. He’d find somewhere to stay and hide until ten thirty, somewhere dark and alone. In a sudden flash of anger he tore off his jacket and threw it into a bin, punching it down and burying it beneath chip wrappers and empty coke bottles.

The girl was standing outside the front of the library, leaning against a tree and smoking a cigarette. Her hair was black and streaked with purple, and she was the most beautiful girl that Jeremy had ever seen.

‘Hey,’ she said, stubbing the cigarette out against the bark of the tree. ‘Who are you?’

Jeremy felt the familiar prickling flush of embarrassment flow up the back of his neck, and he looked down at his feet – and then immediately back up at the girl’s face, hoping she wouldn’t notice that he was wearing school shoes instead of sneakers. ‘Jeremy,’ he said, too quietly, and then repeated himself too loudly.

The girl cocked her head to the side, looking past Jeremy. ‘You go to this school, huh?’

He nodded. ‘How about you?’

She shook her head. ‘Nah,’ she said, and started to walk off beside the library.

Jeremy stood still, paralysed by anxiety and the overwhelming excitement of having spoken to a girl, watching her go until she turned and beckoned.

He looked around, in case there was someone else behind him.

But he was alone on the lawn, and she was only looking at him.

So he walked towards her, and fell in step beside her.

As they walked across the asphalt of the handball courts and on to the grass of the oval, the dull throb of basslines from the dance gave way to silence and the rustling of tree branches in the spring night breeze.

‘There’s a farm,’ said Jeremy, ‘attached to the school. We study agriculture for the HSC.’

The girl seemed uninterested, and Jeremy panicked that he was losing whatever connection he had imagined there was between them.

‘There’s a dam,’ he added, and she stopped.

‘Really?’ she asked, turning to face him. He noticed that she had two piercings in one ear and none in the other, and he wondered why. ‘Can we swim in it?’

Jeremy thought about the times he’d been down the dam during the day, its grey-brown water slurping and sucking against the corpse-coloured mud of the bank. He imagined the feel of fish and crustaceans against his skin, of weeds dragging him below the surface, of a teacher or the groundskeeper discovering that he’d been trespassing…

And then the girl smiled at him, and he smiled back. ‘Yeah,’ he said, and she took his hand.

They climbed over the big wire gate and moved quietly past the toolshed and the greenhouse. Jeremy stared straight ahead, breathing as quietly and as shallowly as he could. In the distance, there were the sounds of cattle or sheep moving in one of the lower paddocks.

The bright moon cast long deep shadows as they walked in silence towards the long knot of trees and bushes at the edge of the dam. Jeremy picked up a branch from the ground and used it to clear a hole in the dark tangle of leaves and thorns and branches for them to go through.

The girl went first, and he followed, and they were standing at the edge of the dam. There was a muddy smell in the air, of things decaying and forgotten, and the dun water yawned away into the blackness of the night.

Little tips and crests of moonlight rippled across its surface, and the girl looked excitedly at Jeremy. ‘Are you ready?’ she asked.

She stripped down until she was standing there in a grey bra and black underpants, her bare feet sinking slightly into the mud. Jeremy turned away, blushing, feeling like a perve or a rapist, like he wasn’t supposed to be there. He concentrated on a fallen leaf: most of it had rotted away or been eaten, leaving a lacey outline of bone-coloured veins.

The girl’s hand brushed against his shoulder. ‘You coming?’ she asked softly, and he nodded quickly.

His heart was stuttering in his chest as he unbuttoned his shirt, and his legs trembled as he kicked off his shoes and pulled off his trousers. His hands moved to cover his forearms, and he hoped the silvery-pink scars weren’t visible in the moonlight.

The girl was smiling at him, and raised a hand to cup his face. Her fingers were cold and dry, and for a brief, horrible second he thought she was going to kiss him; so he moved his head away to avoid the shame of admitting that he didn’t know how to do it.

The girl’s smile faded.

‘Don’t you like me?’ she asked, as she took a step into the dam, the wine-dark water lapping at her thin ankles. Her feet were still visible, pale grey blurs under the surface.

Jeremy shook his head. ‘No, it’s not that.’

He could feel tears forming in the corners of his eye, and he blinked quickly to hide them.

‘Come on then,’ said the girl, wading forward, up to her knees, up to her waist, up to her breasts, before diving almost silently under the water, like a flower furling its petals in the night. Jeremy watched and waited for her head to break the surface, but after ten minutes there was only the sound of the leaves rustling above him.

The ice-white moon’s reflection shivered on the surface of the dam, and Jeremy stepped forward to join her.

Patrick Magee is the codename given to the first detonation of a nuclear weapon. He can be followed onTwitter or you can like his page on Facebook.

In The Grim Darkness Of The Far Future, There Is Only Films

37221_warhammer_40k_space_marines_vs_orks_battle

I’ve been a fan of Warhammer 40,000 for at least the last fifteen years, if not longer. I never quite managed to assemble an entire army, because every time I painted up a squad of Space Marines or Tyranids or Orks I got distracted and excited by another army, and ended up with a bunch of mismatched squads that would end up gathering dust on a shelf somewhere.

(One of these days I’ll get round to finishing my Hornblower-inspired Imperial Guard army…)

But more than the game itself, I loved the fluff and the bleak, depressing dystopia of the far future. A world where there are no good guys, only different shades of black and blood? A galaxy where space elves fight robot skeletons? A science fiction universe with its very own evil version of Batman? I can get lost for hours in the fantastic Lexicanum, just absorbing a thousand articles that rival the Black Library for their depth and breadth of knowledge.

Of course, there have been many books set in the 40k universe, of which the best are clearly Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series. Lately, however, with the ongoing juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe redefining the face of popular culture as we know it, I began to wonder about what a series of movies set in the Imperium of Man would look like. Apart from the frankly terrible Ultramarines movie (basically the answer to the question “how boring can we make a movie about superhuman warriors versus demons from another universe?”), GW has never made any serious attempt to portray 40k in films.

Which I think is a missed trick, basically, so here are my elevator pitches for a hypothetical “Phase One” of the Games Workshop Cinematic Universe. Beware: there are some pretty major deviations from fluff in the final film, but I think it’d be worth it to sit in a cinema, with a bucket of popcorn and a jumbo-sized trough of Coke, and watch the grim darkness of the far future come to life on the silver screen…

Imperial Guard

3575538-cadian_8th_regiment-small

It’s tempting to start off all bolters blazing with the Space Marines or Inquisitors, but this movie has to act as the general public’s entry point into the world of 40K, and the Adeptus Astartes or the Inquisitorial Ordos aren’t great audience identification figures. Yes we all want to see squads of Blood Angels firing plasma rounds into wave after wave of genestealers, or Eisenhorn fighting sword-to-rod with Necron Lords, or even an epic three-film adaptation of the Horus Heresy, but there’ll be plenty of time for that once the audience are immersed in the world of 40k.

Instead, we start off on an unremarkable world somewhere in the Segmentum Solar. Its people live in a vaguely feudal world, and our hero is the firstborn son of a farmer, or something like that. In fact, for the first ten minutes or so of the film it looks as though this is going to be a bog-standard medieval fantasy, with mentions of a distant Emperor.. and then the skies fill with the ships of the Imperial Navy, and shuttles land to take up the planet’s tithe for the Imperial Guard – including our hero.

We follow him through basic training, where we and the audience are introduced to the basics of 40k. Maybe we have a cameo from Yarrick or Tycho, maybe we don’t. After boot camp, it’s battle stations as his squad is despatched to the surface of a planet overrun by Orks. Our hero and his fellow Guardsmen are dropped behind enemy lines, with instructions to sabotage an Ork ammo dump or supply bridge or some other MacGuffin.

From there, the film plays out like a bog-standard war film, only with lasguns and huge green-skinned aliens instead of Nazis. There are skirmishes, there are battles, there are nail-biting and desperately exciting fights against the odds, and at the last minute when all hope is lost, our hero manages to set off the explosives and cripple the Orks’ base! He sends off a signal to the orbiting ships of the Imperial Fleet – and squads of Space Marines arrive in Drop Pods, to finish the job and hog all the glory. That’s the way of the world, his grizzled training sergeant tells him, as they take off on their way to another war.

“There are always more Orks,” he says, as their transport flies past a desert planet once known as Angelis…

Gorkamorka

orko

Now you might think that the logical next step is to have a movie that focuses on the Space Marines, seeing as how we introduced them at the end of the last film. Au contraire, my young Neophyte, we will delay our gratification for a little while longer. Instead, we shift focus completely, to a film based on one of Games Workshop’s greatest and most underrated games of all time – GORKAMORKA!

Watching Mad Max: Fury Road, aka the greatest Warhammer 40,000 film there will never be, it became blindingly obvious that a film about rival mobs racing across a desert in search of fuel and gubbinz would be an incredible spectacle. Our hero is the best Biker Boy on the planet, who gets enlisted by a Nob as an escort during one of the inevitable battles for dominance across the desert.

There are explosions! There are races! There are Gretchins and Squigs going splat! By the end of the film, the Nob has been killed and our Biker Boy has risen to take control of the mob.

And then, in the post-credits sequence, as our Biker Boy sits atop the wreckage of his enemies’ vehicles, a shadow blots out the sun. There is the roar of something very heavy and very dangerous slamming into the ground at high speed, our Biker Boy looks up – and there is the greatest Warlord in the galaxy, resplendent in his Mega Armour, Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka himself.

“You like to fight?” he asks our Biker Boy, who nods enthusiastically.

“Good. Den come wif me. We iz going to the biggest fight of ’em all.”

“Where we goin’?” asks our Biker Boy, and Gazghkull smiles.

“Armageddon.”

Cut to black.

Space Marine

Blood_Angel_Attacks

Momentum is building towards the inevitable Third War for Armageddon. Which is why we will take a breather, and play out a small-scale story of a Space Marine squad’s quest for glory.

But which Chapter? The Ultramarines are too stuffy and pompous to make entertaining heroes, the Dark Angels are too filled with self-loathing for anyone to want to spend any time with them, the Imperial Fists just aren’t cool enough… which means it’s a toss-up between the Space Wolves and the Blood Angels, and because I think Leman Russ is a big stupid jock I’m gonna go with Sanguinus’ finest on this one.

The plot could play out similarly to Gordon Rennie’s Bloodquestwith a disgraced Blood Angels Captain seeking to regain his honour by retrieving some ancient relic of Baal from the clutches of Chaos – and this is where we as an audience get our first glimpse of Mankind’s other great enemy. The villain could be a Blood Angel who has fallen to the Ruinous Powers, providing a counterpoint to our hero and turning this into a very personal story of former battle brothers fighting to death.

Inevitably, our Captain triumphs and returns the relic to Lord Commander Dante – and just in time! The Blood Angels have been asked to despatch several companies to a Sector in the Segmentum Solar, where an Ork fleet on a scale unlike any other has arrived and is heading for the Hive World of the system.

Our hero vows to lead his men to death or glory on the planet known as Armageddon…

Armageddon

Ghazghkull_Armageddon_Steel_Legion

This is it! All-out war as the beleagured Imperial forces are forced to defend the planet against the waves of Ork warriors. Roks and Space Hulks fall from the skies, destroying entire cities; Greenskins swarm over the ruins, hacking and slashing their way through the world; and Titans and Gargants battle each other across the horizon.

Now while this is an entertaining and very visually stimulating backdrop, it’s not a story. Instead, our hero from the first film and our Captain from the third film join forces with Commissar Yarrick to lead a strike against Gazghkull himself, knowing that with the Warlord dead the Waaagh! will fall apart. The Blood Angels and the Imperial Guard must learn to set aside their differences – our Guardsman hero is disgusted and appalled at the Space Marines’ lack of concern for ordinary humans, while our Captain hero thinks of the Imperial Guard as little more than cannon fodder.

But they develop a grudging respect for one another, and eventually Yarrick faces Gazghkull in a climactic battle in which both of them are killed. With the Warlord dead, the Orks become little more than a swarming, mindless mob, and the Imperium is able to regain Armageddon. Our two heroes make their farewells and head off to rejoin their respective armies.

But it has been a costly war, and Mankind has suffered heavy losses. In the post-credits sequence, a shadowy figure in black-and-gold power armour orders his monstrous troops to move out. The Imperium has been weakened, and the time has come for the Thirteenth Black Crusade…

Imperial_eagle

And… that’s it for Phase One of the Games Workshop Cinematic Universe. What do you think? Would you have done it differently? Contact me on Twitter or comment below to discuss and debate the merits and failings of my ideas, and if this gets a big enough response I’ll publish my thoughts about Phase Two in the near future…

Patrick Magee is a particularly strong-willed Chaplain of the Blood Angels, the only Battle-brother to date who has managed to contain the Black Rage. He can be followed on Twitter or you can like his page on Facebook.

The Caribus

They say you can get lost in a good book.

This is, of course, not true.

Because it isn’t just books.

The Caribus are inside every story ever told.

Nobody knows where the Caribus came from. They may have been an idea that broke free from some ancient shaman’s mind, a dream that slipped its mooring and scuttled away into the world, hungry and cold. Or they might have come from outside, slipping through the edges of space like cockroaches spilling through a crack in the wall.

Long ago, before the printing press and The Tale of Genji, before papyrus and Viking sagas carved on runestones, when the first storytellers had gathered the tribe and told tales beneath the glimmering candlelight of the stars, the Caribus were there. They waited in the gaps between the words, like a tiger that pads and prowls in the long dark shadows past the edge of the flickering firelight.

They can never be seen, because they can be anything. Anything ever described in a story, whether through words or song or charcoal and ochre on the wall of a cave, can be hollowed out and made into a shape for the Caribus to wear as they hunt. They hide in words, spinning their nests underneath a foreshadow, or laying their eggs in the twist of an ending, or lurking behind the last full stop on the final page of your favourite book you read as a child.

They bide their time, until you’re tired and unable to fight back. Then, when a half-remembered fragment of story bubbles up in your mind, the Caribus will reach out for you with their claws or tentacles or grasping fingers. Once they have you, they will drink you and drain you until the remains of your life are nothing more than a rattling clutch of letters on the page of a book; a background character mentioned briefly and then forgotten by the end of the chapter.

So if you’re ever reading a book, late at night and warmly wrapped up in your bed, be careful that you don’t take a wrong turn of phrase somewhere. You might end up lost, while all the while there’s the sound of scratching at the back of your mind; the Caribus are clawing their way inside, and they are hungry.

The Caribus are inside every story ever told.

Even this one.

Patrick Magee is a genus of beetles in the family Carabidae. He is performing a one-man show Tincakes & Sausages at the Sydney Comedy Festival. You can follow him on Twitter.

A Recipe For Oatcakes

Once upon a time, outside a little village hidden in the hills of Scotland, a stranger knocked on the door of a lonely cottage. It was a wet and treacherous night, and the door was opened by a kindly looking old man, with white whiskers and a crinkled smile.

“My friend!” cried that man, whose name was Jack Fage, “you must be soaked to the bone. Come in, come in, and warm yourself by the fire!” and he took the stranger in and sat him as close to the fire as he could.

“I’ve already had my supper,” said old Jack Fage, “but I’m sure I could find an oatcake and a hot toddy to keep the chills away.” The stranger thanked him kindly, and in due course Jack Fage had brought out a fresh oatcake from the griddle and a piping hot mug of toddy, which the stranger knocked back without a second thought.

After the oatcake was finished and the plate washed and dried, the stranger and Jack Fage sat by the window and looked out at the rain.

The stranger asked “Why is it that you live so far from the village, in this cottage at the top of a hill?”

Jack Fage puffed at his pipe. “My friend, I live alone because the other villagers want nothing to do with a man like me.”

And why was that, asked the stranger, and Jack Fage explained.

“I am a sin-eater, like my father before me and his before him. Whenever a man or woman or child dies in the village, their trespasses and transgressions are baked into a little crust of bread and a bowl of ale, and then I am called to take upon their sins by eating the food and taking the drink myself, so that they may be admitted into Heaven with a pure spirit.”

And how much was he paid for such a service, asked the stranger with a keen interest.

“A groat, but the price I’ve paid is greater still. For all the people of the village shun me as I walk by, and think of me as a plague bearer. They say the sins sit heavy on my soul, and when I die they’ll drag me down to Hell; but still they call on me when there’s a body to be buried, and like a fool I do my duty.” But enough about me, said old Jack Fage as he wiped a tear from his eye, what brings you to this little corner of the world?

The stranger stood up. “The truth of it is so: I came here seeking you, Jack Fage, and now I have found you.” And he cast off his clothes, and there in front of Jack Fage stood the Devil himself, his skin as black as coal and his eyes burning like embers.

“Jack Fage,” said the Devil, “the time has come for you to be taken down to Hell,” and so saying he opened up a door of fire in the floor of the cottage, and beckoned Jack Fage to join him.

But the old man stood where he was, chuckling away to himself, and he asked the Devil if he’d enjoyed his toddy and the oatcake.

“Aye,” said the Devil, “but that’s neither here nor there nor anywhere. Your life is at an end, Jack Fage, and all the village’s sins have stained your soul as black as my tail.”

And again old Jack Fage did nothing, but started to list the ingredients of his oatcake. “Oats and butter – a cup of sugar – an egg or two to keep it all together – a pinch of cinnamon and a handful of raisins – oh, and a hundred lifetimes’ worth of sin” For the old sin-eater had known from the first that the stranger was the Devil, and baked his many sins into the very oatcake he’d given his guest.

With that, the Devil realised at once how he’d been tricked, and he howled and stamped his cloven hoof right through the floor of Jack Fage’s cottage. The old man threw back his head and laughed, and then he went to his bed, lay down his head, and died a sinless man.

Patrick Magee has represented Peru in organised football since 1927. He co-runs a monthly event called Ghost Stories and he is performing a one-man show Tincakes & Sausages at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. You can follow him on Twitter.