Angel Hordes, The – an overarching term for a variety of loosely organized groups throughout Nourika, united more by the common methods of operation than by any individual creed or leadership. Typical activities involve fast raiding of settlements and smaller states atop small one or two seat vehicles, and providing mercenary services to some of the less scrupulous warlords of the continent.
History: The origins of the Angel Hordes, colloquially known as the Waste Angels, Hell Angels, or the Angels, are believed to go as far back as the first century after the Fall, and perhaps even to the times before that. It becomes hard to ascertain truth from fiction, as different Angels will generally have vastly different and often contradicting stories, while some will refuse to talk outright even when captured and threatened with torture. There is, however, some credence to the claim that the earliest progenitors of the Hordes were likely to come into existence not long after the Fall, and perhaps even concurrently with it, as legends speak much of the disturbances and internecine warfare in the years immediately preceding the Fall – the exact type of circumstances in which the Angels are known to prosper. The technology commonly used by the Angels is also known to have originated prior to the Fall, and the relative lack of advancement of it since can be attributed to the Hordes acquiring the technology early on and learning its proper maintenance, but not any of its intricacies.
Whatever the origin of the Angels truly was, they were not known to be much different from the other, less notable bands of outlaws and criminals until the event that truly shaped them, and made them into a force to be reckoned with for a brief instant of time. While the story of Gavriel Khan is equally the realm of myth and actual history, it can be ascertained for sure that such a leader did truly exist roughly two hundred and fifty years after the Fall, and many of the accomplishments traced down to him were indeed barely embellished truth rather than subsequent generations engaging in myth-making.
A mutant with an extra pair of arms, Gavriel Khan would have been put to death at birth in almost any civilized community in this part of Nourika, however, it was said that the band of raiders where he was born included enough mutants to suffer him to live. Despite his obvious deformity, Khan proved to be an able and a ruthless leader, taking over the leadership of the gang before coming into adulthood, and taking them on a rampage against the other, rival gangs of Angels. By his thirtieth birthday, he was said to have unified the vast majority of the Angel Hordes under his banner, and engaged in a campaign of conquest that saw a massive empire carved from the central and the southwestern Nourika.
Gavriel’s military tactics were little short of revolutionary, using his armies’ speed and skill with their peculiar powered vehicles to mount lightning fast strikes, evading heavier troops of the defenders while reducing them from the distance, and closing in for the killing blow when the time was right. Under his leadership, the Angel Hordes were truly a massive force, including in its ranks not only the tribe gangs that roamed the wastes, but also runaway slaves, outlaws, and mutants that escaped from the more civilized areas. It was said that many of the smaller states, and even some of the larger Anathona outposts chose to pay tribute and accept his nominal suzerainty at the word of the Angel Hordes’ approach, rather than face the unseemly alternative.
For twenty years, Khan’s armies ravaged Nourika, until his bloody reign was cut short by a surprise assassination that the Brotherhood of the Spiral claimed credit for. The truth may never be known due to the general lack of reliable records remaining from that era, and there were numerous books written by historians debating the subject ever since, inspiring hundreds of competing conspiracy theories. Without Khan, however, the fractious nature of the Hordes took toll, and within a year the great host the mutant had assembled disintegrated into warring groups and mutually hostile clans, each of them claiming to be a true inheritor of the great warlord’s legacy. While some of them claimed to be his sons and daughters, we can safely discount such allegations, as a side effect of Gavriel Khan’s particular mutation was known to be sterility; thus, there were no successful claimants to the mantle of the Angel Hordes.
With Khan’s death, the Angels reverted to their usual way of life, although they have been increasingly marginalized in the more civilized parts of Nourika, where different terrain and advances in technology and fortifications made much of the Angels’ favored tactics obsolete and thoroughly outdated. Still, they are an ominous presence in the southwestern part of the continent, and in many of the less settled areas to this day.
Organization: the Angels are essentially nomadic, and have very few permanent settlements, with one notable exception – the city of Lost Vegas, said to be maintained upon the ruins of a pre-Fall metropolis that may or may not have been the purported lost capital of Nourika before the cataclysm. The city is believed to be perhaps one of the largest centers of slave trade in all of Nourika, and its ruler normally holds the title of Khan, in the memory of the great mutant warlord. Nominally, the Khan of Lost Vegas claims overlordship of all Angel Hordes, but in practice, his authority is usually limited by the territory of the city itself, and often not even that much.
Most gangs of Angels travel in groups anywhere from ten to fifty adults, along with their women, children, and slaves. Such a group usually contains a leader, whose exact title varies, but who is more often known as the Boss, although outside of that, each gang is organized however its own Boss sees fit. Some gangs of Angels are egalitarian and highly democratic in their internal structure, while for some others, a strict hierarchy is in place.
While it is not uncommon for women to lead the Angels, most of the gangs are highly patriarchal; while women tend to fight alongside their men, they are often treated as property or second class citizens (although, it must be noted, this is not always the case). Many gangs include mutants and runaways from the civilized states, and it is said that the Angels’ slaves can win the right to ride with the gangs as free men through a formal challenge issued to a fighter of the Boss’s choice, or by the Boss’s decree. The actual mechanic of it may vary between the different groups, as some gangs pointedly refuse to keep slaves, while others engage in highly profitable slave trade.
Each gang functions as an essentially independent unit, and rivalries and even outright warfare between different groups of Angels is common. While most groups make their living by scavenging the remains of the pre-Fall sites, often in the areas considered by others to be too dangerous to wander into (such as those touched by the Grey Wave), some hire themselves out to the local princelings as mercenaries, serving in petty conflicts as an elite force of fast mechanized cavalry. While many Angels fight on foot in case of dire necessity, they are said to be born in the saddle of their motor vehicle, and die in it; amongst the Angels, it is considered a grave dishonor to be slain in battle while not upon one of their vehicles, called the Hogs.
A Hog is a sacred vehicle for any Angel, and its maintenance is considered of paramount importance to them. Any who disregard the maintenance of their Hogs are said to be inviting the wrath of the Harley Spirit, a deity worshipped by the gangs said to be inhabiting every piece of machinery in existence. There is no greater shame for an Angel than to be deprived of his Hog, and it is common for such machines to be handed down from one generation to the next, often having next to no parts from the original machine remaining as it is constantly rebuilt, fixed, and rarely even upgraded.
Due to the lack of genuine replacement parts, most Hogs have been maintained with makeshift parts, often crudely fashioned by the Angel Hordes’ smiths and artificers, and thus prone to malfunction. As a result, the Angels are constantly on the lookout for the pre-Fall stashes of machinery, some of which they are able to salvage into parts necessary to maintain their vehicles. While the secret of mass manufacture of the Hogs had long been lost, the Angels maintain sufficient technical skill to build their vehicles, if slowly and with varying results. The best and the most skilled of them are capable of crafting machines that are the envy of all in Nourika, and a skilled Hog mechanic (or his owner, if such mechanic happens to be a slave) is an individual of extreme influence amidst the Angels, able to demand exorbitant prices for his services.
Technology And Military Doctrine: the specific technology employed by the Angels in the running of their Hogs was considered an antiquated relic even in times immediately before the Fall, at least if the few surviving records are any indication, but it is hard to argue its effectiveness. Despite the relative scarcity of fossil fuels used in the older Hogs, the Angels have managed to adapt to various alternative sources of energy, with some of their vehicles running on distilled alcohol and other substances that are relatively plentiful in Nourika.
While the relative lack of quality roads once presented a problem for such a mobile force operating vehicles, the modern day Angel Hordes have adapted their vehicles to traverse the rough, if somewhat flat terrain in much of the southwestern Nourika with little detriment to their efficiency. Wherever parts of the ancient, pre-Fall road system survive mostly intact, the Angels often hold coming of age trials for their youths, who are expected to race against their peers for the right to join the gang as a full member. It is not known what happens to the losers of the trials, although it is quite likely that they do not survive the experience due to the typical races involving weapons, which most Angels are trained to use since birth.
The weaponry used by the Angel Hordes is as varied as the Hordes themselves, and ranges from swords and lances in the poorer or less fortunate gangs to crude gunpowder weapons and even occasional scavenged pre-Fall technology that a few of the more powerful Bosses command. The most common armaments to the members of the Angel gangs are small and medium firearms, usually modified so that they can be fired with one hand while the other hand is used to steer the hog. For close combat, the Angels employ a variety of swords and axes, although it must be said that the tactical doctrine of the gangs changed little since the days of Gavriel Khan, and the Hordes generally avoid close entanglement unless the enemy is already broken, or they have no other choice.
In a pitched battle, an Angel gang will use their superior speed to get into the range of the enemy troops and fire off their weapons quickly, before retreating to reload and avoid retribution. The Hogs’ maneuverability is utilized to great effect to avoid slower moving infantry, and to outrun most cavalry. It has been noted that the Angels rarely choose to engage in straightforward battle unless they serve as mercenaries in a local warlord’s armies, in which case they play the role of fast attacking, hard hitting troops that are best utilized to disorient the enemy and collapse the enemy line before the main body of allied troops can engage. Moreover, if possible, the Angels will attempt to fight most of their engagements wherever the terrain is relatively flat and open, thus allowing them to use their mobility to the greatest extent; in rough or uneven terrain, their tactics run a chance of mechanical failure or other unforeseen complications that may make the lightly armored warriors easy prey for even conventional troops.
It should be noted that despite the fearsome reputation of Gavriel Khan and the memories of his long dissolved empire, the great mutant warlord was an exception rather than a rule. Where he sought conquest and domination, most Angel Hordes before and after him were content with raiding the settlements for food, plunder, slaves, and women. To the present day, outside of Lost Vegas, there are no significant settlements ruled by the Angels, with only a few hamlets that serve mostly as maintenance and repair stations in the regions where the Angel activity is most noticeable.
Relations With Other Factions: The Angel Hordes are almost universally loathed by most organized governments in Nourika, not in the least because of their casual disregard for law and order, and for their constant depredations. That said, there are very few groups that can boast of more hatred towards the Angels than the Brotherhood of the Spiral, who point to the Hordes as a prime example of what would happen if the mutants were not killed on sight. Indeed, the Angels’ relative tolerance for mutants is anathema to the Brotherhood, although it has not been unknown for the less scrupulous Brotherhood Dragons to recruit gangs of Angels for their own ends.
While the Angels have their own quasi-religious beliefs pertaining to the Harley Spirit, they do not see it as being necessary exclusive, and therefore they maintain relative neutrality on the matters of religion. Thus, most religious groups have concerns with the Angels’ raids and, in some cases, condoning of slavery as a practice, while rarely condemning them as outright heretics.
There are very few instances of the Angels making it as far east as Memfis, or too far north, as the terrain is unfavorable for their style of warfare, and the general density of population makes if much harder for their raiding lifestyle to remain viable without greatly altering their tactics. As such, they are a poorly recalled myth in Memfis or in the cold lands of the north, where the stories of Gavriel Khan and his conquests are regarded as overblown nonsense by many.
Current Status: in the present, the Angel Hordes are slowly on their way to becoming a relic of the past. The relative centralization of power in various parts of Nourika and the advancement of technology, thought to be a product of the works of mysterious and poorly understood Recyclers and other similar groups, combined with the Angels’ dependency on a certain type of landscape, mean that most larger polities are more than capable of fending off Angel attacks and even retaliating in term. While the decline of the Hordes from the empire builders into the dwindling raider gangs may not yet be terminal, it would take another great leader on the scale of Gavriel Khan to unite them into a force to be reckoned with, and this time, they would be faced not with barely recovering communities, but with kingdoms, republics, and other states that now command much of Nourika, and which are more than a match for these relics of the great catastrophe.