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Fiction Alma Mater

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by thedarkfourth, May 31, 2017.

  1. thedarkfourth
    Chameleon Skink

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    In the highest and holiest sanctum of the great pyramid of the Old Ones at the centre of Itza, the Lustrian Demolition Council (LDC) was in session.

    “Order! ORDER!” shouted Tristram, Muncher of Skulls, over the hubbub of gibbers and squawks.

    “You dare to invoke order, here?!” hissed the Mighty Wilm, Lord/Lady of Lust, lounging on his/her elbow across a slab once used as a mage priest’s palanquin, as only a Slaaneshi can lounge. “Order is anathema!”

    “I don’t mean literal order, Wilm, as you know perfectly well. But we need some quiet at least if we’re going to get anywhere. Right, now that some of you seem to be paying attention, let’s have a report on the matters of the day. Now it says here…” Tristram peered at a piece of brimstone parchment that smoked gently in his red hands. “Several captives were liberated by resistance groups while being transported by Norsca worshippers? Anyone care to explain?”

    “Just as planned,” cackled the disembodied voice of Jimmini the Insane, Shifter of Shapes, coiling into a flame of pink-blue laughter. “It was all a trap, don’t you see! The priest has been tainted with the caress of Tzeench, and will lead us to their secret places.”

    “Hmph, jolly good then, I suppose,” muttered Tristram, grudgingly.

    “It was Maleroth’s idea,” continued Jimmini, floating aside to reveal a vulture-headed humanoid, who bowed with a demure caw.

    “There’s a daemon to keep an eye on, I can tell,” said Tristram. “Right, next on the agenda, we have...oh.” He couldn’t contain a tiny shudder. “Oxyotl. Is there even any point in asking if we’re getting close….? Says here he killed my man Klorax. He was a good daemon.”

    “Killed Roxalin too, best hunter I had,” sighed Wilm, looking wistful. “All those wonderful orgies...to think...never again.”

    “This is getting ridiculous, chaps. This miserable little chameleon is mocking us. Come on, let’s put our heads together, how are we going to get him?”

    A hideous gurgling sound presaged a new, sickly voice. “I have an idea,” it said.

    “You have an idea, do you Blort, Master of Mucus?”

    “It’s a very good idea,” wheezed Blort, hurt by Tristram’s unsupportive tone.

    “OK Blort, let’s see if I can guess your idea. Is it, by any chance, to poison him?”

    “Yes! We should totally poison him! How did you know?”

    “You already tried poisoning him. The lizard knows poison better than anyone. It’s simply not going to happen, I’m afraid.”

    The giant bag of immobile pus deflated a little.

    “If I may, Muncher of Skulls, perhaps I could be permitted to venture a suggestion,” said a clipped, rasping voice that no one was expecting. All eyes, and other sensory organs, turned to the vulture-headed Maleroth.

    “I suppose so,” replied Tristram after a few moments. “You did do well with the tainted priest thing.”

    “Of course it was I who supported the-” began Jimmini.

    “Yes alright, let’s let the birdman speak.”

    “I suggest,” said Maleroth, studiously, “that we lure Oxyotl out. We know he always appears ahead of time whenever we put one of our schemes into motion. As if he can sense our plans before they happen. I suggest we make a new plan for him to sense. And when he gets there to stop us, we...kill him.”

    “And how do you propose we do that, pray daemon?”

    “Well,” said Maleroth, taking a deep breath.
     
  2. thedarkfourth
    Chameleon Skink

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    Oxyotl held his breath. Soon he realised he hadn’t really been breathing in the first place. It was all so different here.

    Ash, hanging in the air. Bones underfoot. An endless landscape of bones. Stale, faint monochrome light from an unknown source. Silence. No colours, no smells, no sounds. He took a step forwards. The crunching under his feet felt loud and distorted in the surrounding chill.

    His eyes were adjusting. There were other shapes here, all muscle and sinew. Some humanoid, others like animals or beasts he didn’t recognise. They looked angry but profoundly bored. They didn’t move. They stared at something he couldn’t see, like they were tense, waiting, eagerly and endlessly on this open plain of bones.

    He took another step. No one noticed. Or perhaps they did. A dog-like shape nearest him wrinkled its nose. Slowly, ever so slowly, it began to tilt its head in his direction. Oxyotl stepped smartly behind the dog, so it wouldn’t see him. He turned on his heel, intending to walk rapidly in the opposite direction, only to find he was standing immediately in front of and below a massive hulking creature with great horns. Its form was red, somehow he knew that, though the wan light made it seem grey as everything else.

    “Vanish,” hissed a voice in his mind. Reflexively, Oxyotl’s scales turned mottled bone-white. The enormous daemon had turned its head down towards him, looking right at him with a puzzled expression. Oxyotl risked a look around. Other shapes, including the doggish thing, had turned in his direction also, tilting their heads to contemplate his camouflaged body.

    “Focus!” came the voice again. “Not the skin. Vanish yourself! All of it!”

    Who was talking to him, and what did they mean? It was a voice he trusted implicitly. He would have to do something quick. The hulk was reaching out its not-red arm, slowly, to where he stood. Oxyotl stepped smartly to the left, and the arm withdrew, the face looked confused again. Then its head, and those of the other onlookers, turned a fraction. They could see him again. The arm began to reach out. Oxyotl closed his eyes. He forced himself to meditate on the act of camouflage, on the changing of his scales that normally came so easily, an unconscious behaviour. He thought of the images he had just witnessed of his friends being ravaged by the Enemy. He thought of how alone he was now. How he’d never really had anyone to truly care for him. And how he just wanted to disappear.

    He edged open a nervous eye. The creatures around him had dispersed, resuming their long vigil and endless waiting for that one moment of opportunity. They couldn’t see him.

    So the long journey began. After days of crossing the endless plain, he found a gate. Passing through, he found himself in a new realm, this one a dark, dingey network of prison cells and implements of torture. The creatures here were not sluggish and unmoving, but they were equally bored: writhing and hurting each other like they were going through the motions of eternal repetition. He was soon overcome by a powerful sense that he was wanted, desperately. They craved him, his flesh, his newness. He locked himself in a cell and sat, meditating again, until he found the right thoughts to make himself and his emotions invisible to these abominations.

    Finally, he discovered the deepest dungeon that led onto the next realm. This place was the easiest yet to vanish. Its denizens were absorbed in their own work, lugging their evil bulk around great vats of bubbling ooze. Some seemed so engrossed by this substance that they had lost themselves staring into it - Oxyotl even saw one topple forward and vanish into the vat with a brief scream. Like the other realms, the light was weak and colourless, and there was little noise except for the vats, which squelched and glimmered greenly, the only source of real smell, colour or sound he had so far encountered.

    Passing among these awful cesspools, Oxyotl eventually reached the pit of quicksand that served as the third portal. Sinking into it, he found himself in a place unlike any other. There was no land here, no substance. It was simply a swirling void of colours in all directions. He floated placidly in the midst of this infinite maelstrom, watching as the random patterns swam and coalesced into shapes. Soon, faces were forming, and limbs or tentacles that reached out towards him, grasping for his very mind, his lifeforce. Looking down, Oxyotl realised he didn’t even have a body. He couldn’t shut his eyes to focus, lacking eyes. The colours were everywhere, everything, and they could not be ignored. He heard voices now, clawing at his essence, touching his mind. Whispers of distraction, insanity. He wanted so badly to vanish again, but the voices were too nagging and insistent. He couldn’t concentrate. They were getting louder, overwhelming him, ripping, gnashing at his mind. He could feel himself being devoured.

    “Here!” came a voice, just as his own thoughts began to fade away. “I’m here, my baby. My little boy. Focus on my voice. I have you. You are safe. Vanish into me.”

    Everything faded into whiteness. Calm. Warmth. A sense of love like nothing he had known. He exhaled, cooly, and realised he could indeed breathe again. He felt well and whole. He opened his eyes.
     
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  3. thedarkfourth
    Chameleon Skink

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    Latz cocked his head as he listened to the telepathic scanner, a little stone device designed to be worn around the head, used to communicate among resistance cells using what was left of the geomantic web.

    “Nothing,” he said. “Interference is worse than ever.” He glanced down at the unconscious body of the skink they had just rescued from the warmblood chaos minions.

    “I don’t like it,” he continued. “This was too easy. This is Kertaz, High Priest of Tzunki. Big player in the resistance. Why hadn’t they killed him already? Or at least given him a better guard?”

    “Maybe they didn’t realise who they had captured?” suggested Huini, eyeing the grim corpses of the Norscan party they had slain.

    “Maybe. But my water tells me something’s up. Something big’s coming. The web is failing. Chameleons more common. It’s coming to a head, and soon.” He stared into the river water for some time, and then snapped out of it. “Right, let’s get back to base. Await further instructions.”

    “In fact I have some instructions for you right now, captain. Latz, is it?”

    They all looked at the source of the new voice, clipped and authoritative. The old priest was pushing himself from the forest floor. He dusted himself off and stood with his hands calmly behind his back.

    “You’ve done well, Latz,” he continued. “And you have my gratitude. I am confident your cell will perform just as admirably on its next mission. You must take me to the Stone Fangs.”

    Latz’s expression registered surprise for no more than a moment. “Of course, your reverence,” he bowed. Then he turned back to the staring skinks. “Alright you lot, into formation! We’re heading west!”

    ---

    Sky captain Tinuz coasted majestically over the treetops, bursting with pride. Up here you could barely tell that the jungle had been infested with chaos and his entire civilisation had fallen.

    His mount, Luci, was less impressed. She resented the extra weight of her second passenger.

    Tinuz glanced behind him as he tried to soothe Luci. There was nothing to see. And yet he did bear a passenger - the most prestigious passenger left in Lustria. Gods he’s good, thought Tinuz. He resisted the urge to pat the empty air behind him to reassure himself that the Returned was really sitting there.

    In a V formation, the other fliers in his unit spread behind him. Each of them also transported a chameleon skink, but those ones were at least faintly visible up here in the open sky. Only his own passenger could vanish completely.

    Suddenly Luci cawed in shock and pulled up. Her tail hung up in the air, held by his invisible friend, Tinuz guessed. This was the signal. Soothing the poor terradon again, he urged her into a dive, and his team followed suit. They had come to the base of the mountains in Lustria’s western reaches - the region least penetrated by the daemons. Speeding down into the canopy, they soon found the site they were making for.

    Tinuz gulped. He’d never been here before, only heard stories. It was even worse than he was expecting. A large circular platform of rock had carved a space among the thick jungle - although the jungle’s vines and mosses were already reclaiming this ruin, abandoned as it had been for only a handful of years. Since the invasion. At one edge of the platform were two great curving spikes of rock, twice as high as a saurus warrior. They looked like-

    “The Fangs,” said the leader of the chameleons as they alighted, approaching Luci across the once-holy dias. He had to pick his way carefully as he walked.

    “This is truly horrible,” responded Tinuz. “Why are we here?”

    “We go wherever the Scourge of Chaos leads us. He always knows where he needs to be and when.”

    The two captains considered the scene. Alongside the encroaching vegetation, it was decorated with bones, strewn thick all across the platform. The jumbled, decaying skeletons of hundreds of skinks. One such skeleton, headless, still hung suspended by evil-looking cords between the two rocks made to look like a viper’s giant fangs.

    “I do not doubt the wisdom of Oxyotl,” murmured Tinuz, glancing back at his terradon, and realising he had no way of knowing if it was now vacant. “But this is an evil place. Whatever business must be conducted here, I hope it is swift.”
     
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  4. thedarkfourth
    Chameleon Skink

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    “Swifter! Time is of the essence!” Huini heard the cry from further up the line.

    The priest, Kertaz, was not versed in the subtler forms of communication that the skinks employed to keep their position secret. Very little he did was subtle. When they had left the riverbank, the priest had sent a white-hot sizzle of lightning into a nearby tree trunk. The ancient kapok had crumpled and fallen with a terrible crash, and Kertaz had used its timber to fashion a new palanquin to bear him on their journey. Huini noticed Latz’ expression of horror and disbelief.

    Now, as they were approaching their destination, Huini trotted up to his captain’s position.

    “Why are we heading so far west?” he chirruped.

    Latz didn’t respond. He had been sullen ever since the priest awoke.

    “What are the Stone Fangs?” Huini tried again.

    “Place of ritual. Used to be, at least,” muttered Latz. He glanced at the younger skink, remembering he had only been spawned weeks ago. “You should know that we used to have a mighty god who fought for us and made us strong. He was called Sotek, the Great Serpent. These mountains ahead - they are his spine, stretching the length of Lustria.”

    Latz’s eyes shone for a moment as they continued their bouncing run through the jungle. “Those were fine days. Sotek delivered us terrible victories over our enemies, and we sent him blood offerings in their thousands. But when the daemons came...there was nothing. We prayed, we sacrificed. We looked to our leader, the great prophet Tehenhauin, who led us in a great host. But the Enemy’s host was greater still. It was awful. They captured the prophet, tortured him, turned him with dark magics. He came to the gates of Itza and openly praised the Dark Gods, saying that Sotek had never existed. The First City fell the following day. We knew Sotek had failed us after that. But some believed more sacrifices could awaken him. Hundreds of followers came to the Fangs, Sotek’s temple in the mountains, that used to run in a ever-flowing stream of vermin blood. They had no more rats or enemies to offer, so they offered themselves. The skinks slew each other in a terrible frenzy, saying it was the only way. But it was all for nought. You will see soon. Their bones are still there. First the Old Ones left. Now Sotek. There are no more gods to protect Lustria from the enemy.”

    Huini was quiet for a moment. He blinked large wet eyes, and looked down, noticing again the strange white splotches on his chest. He hadn’t seen anyone else with such markings.

    “The gods may have abandoned us,” he said. “But we still have each other.”

    Latz nodded, but said nothing.

    “Why come here, then?” Huini said, as curiosity returned.

    “Orders from the priest. Those who can channel the winds are our closest link to the Mage Priests who are slain. The skink priests are our rightful masters now. They are strange orders, though,” he continued darkly. “He said something about finding the location of Kroak.”

    “What’s Kroak?”

    “An ancient slann lord who slumbers in undeath. We have all heard rumours that his mummy was saved from the ruin of Itza… by Oxyotl, of course. Most thought this was just made up to give hope to the resistance. A Mage Priest to awaken! And not any Mage Priest, but Kroak, of the First Spawning, the greatest enemy of Chaos, he who saved Itza from the first incursion of daemons, those millennia ago.”

    Latz frowned as Huini looked at him. “I never gave it much credence. But if it is true, then the Returned, the chameleon...he would know where Kroak is. And he alone. No one could hide him better. The priest must intend to find him at the Fangs.”

    “We are to meet Oxyotl?”

    “I’m just guessing. We don’t even know for sure if he exists. But whatever happens, remember your training. Oxyotl is the supreme master of camouflage. Likely if he is there you will not even see him. Learn from that. Stay hidden at all times. We are going to a place of great sadness, and nothing good is likely to happen there.”
     
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  5. thedarkfourth
    Chameleon Skink

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    For the entire duration of his brief life, Huini had known mottled colours. His world was one of permanent twilight, where the light of day was filtered by the cloying thickness of ubiquitous plant life. Dim greens, dusky browns, weather-stained stone. The splash of dirty blue scales glimpsed between trees.

    But now he was seeing colour in its rawest form. The grim arena of strewn bones called the Stone Fangs was filling with a chittering stream of abominations from the east. The creatures writhed and flopped their grotesque, tentacled forms, shooting out random bursts of warpfire and screeching with delight. Despite the overwhelming wrongness of these monsters, the thing that really captured Huini’s attention was their colour. The larger ones were pink and the smaller ones blue - but those simple words were laughably unsuited for describing the sheer vibrancy they exuded.

    He watched them from the cover of the foliage around the platform, trying to stop himself retching as he saw what the horrors’ mutagenic field did to the bones they trampled. When his group had arrived, a chameleon skink had immediately appeared, seeming surprised to see them. Eyeing the priest suspiciously, it had told them to stay out of sight and not to get involved under any circumstances.

    Now he saw what the chameleons had already planned. As the arena filled up with daemons, a piercing cry was heard in the distance, and Huini looked to the skies. Swift shapes sped overhead, dropping fiery projectiles and javelins onto the horrors below. At the same time, darts came out of the trees, making their targets convulse and explode. The daemons looked all about for the source of their troubles, but could find nothing to attack.

    As the carnage unfolded, Latz ran up silently to Huini’s position.

    “You,” he hissed. “Have you seen Kertaz? Do you know where he went?”

    “Not here,” said Huini.

    “He went this way. Now he’s missing.”

    “I’m sure he’ll be fine. It looks like the chameleons know what they’re doing.”

    “Are you sure?” said Latz, nodding grimly at the eastern entry to the Fangs where more daemons were accumulating, taking the place of the old. These ones were larger, with gaping holes at the end of their appendages that sent searing warpfire out, lashing the sky and incinerating at least one of the swooping terradons.

    As they watched, the new threat turned to the trees, demolishing a section of the nearby jungle with their scorching weaponry. But as soon as they did so, they began to scream. And not the jibbering howls of manic joy, but cries that were significantly more ...urgent. The flamers were being eviscerated. Terrible gashes began to appear on their torsos, and limbs were suddenly severed, flopping pathetically to the ground. The onslaught moved with stunning speed, destroying one flamer after another with glorious efficiency. But it was entirely invisible.

    “Tizcec!” came a frenzied cry among the carnage. “Hatluli! Muttip! Tocl-Yotul! Nektek! Xizqac!”

    As the last of the daemons crumpled and dissolved, Huini thought he could discern a faint blurring in the shape of a skink in the centre of the arena, breathing heavily. It held a jagged knife in one hand and its legendary blowpipe - sharpened at one end to just as keen a point - in the other. As Huini watched, it pulled itself upright and held the weapons above its head and crowed its victory. But at that very moment, it was struck.

    Colours filled the arena once more - this time a crackling net of bright fire. Skewered by these flames, the chameleon screamed in pain, dropping its weapons and contorting with terrible agony. Its skin began to flash through a rainbow of colours, each new shade chasing the last across its scales, all control over its camouflage powers lost.

    Huini was too stunned to react. Several other chameleons rushed out of their hiding places towards their stricken leader, but as soon as they set foot on the wide stone platform, they too were caught and laid low by the fine mesh of psychedelic hellfire.

    Except for one. Kertaz the high priest floated calmly out of the trees and between the Stone Fangs themselves, riding the wooden palanquin that seemed to pulse and wriggle beneath him. He moved in among the flames as easily as a shark in a reef. Musingly, he lowered himself to retrieve Oxyotl’s knife and blowpipe from where they had dropped from spasming hands - hands which even now were mutating under the influence of the unholy chaos fires.

    “Well well well. I suppose I should be cackling maniacally about now. But the truth is... it feels too easy.” The thing that pretended to be Kertaz looked around at the audience he knew was there. “What? Surprised? Ask yourself this - how do you catch a creature that can hide from anything?”

    There was a tense pause as a broad smile cracked its way across Kertaz’ face. The hiss of the flames was the only sound.

    “You become even better at hiding than him, of course!”

    The flames began to retract across the arena, sucking themselves up and into the body of the priest. Which changed. The reptilian scales melted into throbbing daemonflesh. The neck and snout began to elongate, and rainbow feathers sprouted across the head and arms. Beside the vulture-headed creature, the small form of Oxyotl, released from the cage of fire, fell pathetically to the ground. His body was grotesquely disfigured by chaotic growths. More chameleons rushed forward.

    “Ah ah ah,” tutted the daemon, holding out a wing and shooting a jet of pure warpfire that turned the nearest skink to ash. It chuckled again as blowpipe darts sped towards it and were swatted away. It reached down and clutched Oxyotl by the ankle with a gnarled claw.

    “He came all this way. Did so much to vex us. And for what? To die here in this necropolis of his dead god?”

    Hanging limply upside down, the chameleon managed to crack open an eyelid.

    “Sotek not god of Oxyotl,” he whispered, painfully, through cracked ribs. Now that his scales had stabilised to their natural form, Huini noticed a splotch of white in a familiar pattern on his chest. Suddenly Oxyotl lurched, swinging his torso in the daemon’s grip and clamping his little jaws on its leg.

    With a howl, it flung the skink across the open space, and he landed with an awful crunch on the stone platform, a few feet away from where Huini was hiding. For a second, Huini stared at the crumpled body, and then, acting on pure instinct, he lurched forward. He immediately found himself flat on his back as Latz placed a heavy hand on his shoulder, pulling him to the ground.

    “Stay hidden, you fool!” whispered Latz.

    “He needs us!” cried Huini, scrambling back to his feet.

    Latz pulled him back again. “You go out there, you’ll only die too!”

    Huini stared, face a mask of fear. He looked back at the stricken Oxyotl. The awful vulture daemon was advancing on him again, hovering closer towards Huini’s position. But he thought he saw Oxyotl’s eye’s open again, and lock onto Huini’s through the bushes. The brief moment lingered.

    A piercing shriek from the sky, as a squad of terradons divebombed the arena. Multiple large rocks crunched the daemon’s spindly neck. It cawed back defiantly, the broken neck reforming with twisted magics, and sent a jet of flame up to melt two of the flying reptiles. It turned back to advance on Oxyotl. But the skink had vanished. Huini looked up to the sky, where the third terradon was already gaining distance, the chameleon’s body clutched safely in its claws.

    With a furious squawk, the daemon rose up in the air, extended a wing and carefully took aim.

    “No!” wailed Huini as he saw the bolt arc across the sky and perfectly strike the fleeing terradon. A tiny speck fell from beneath it, seeming to hang endlessly in the air before plummeting into some distant part of the jungle.
     
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  6. thedarkfourth
    Chameleon Skink

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    Announcing the return!
    Part Two of​

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    rigg glyph logo.jpg

    -or-
    "Look Ma, No Slanns"

    They came from the north. That’s where the gate had collapsed. There had been one in the south too, but its demise had been final. The northern gate had sunk into itself, burning a hole to the endless energy of chaos. The energy the First were made to contain and drive back.

    When they came the first time, from the north, the endless waves of horror had been fought. Kept at bay just long enough for the elves to make their vortex, the one that drained away the energy. But the gate was left open. The wound unhealed, simmering, raw. And eventually the meagre stopper of the elven ritual had failed. No one knew how. But the energy was ready and waiting. Its second coming was an avalanche, from the north, like a snowball thrown from a mountain peak. And gradually the world was engulfed in its uncontrollable rage.

    But a few heads yet remained gasping above the surface.

    Huini was headed south. Since Oxyotl had fallen, literally, the daemons’ grip on Lustria was tightening. The jungle cells were being ruthlessly hunted and exterminated one by one. The geomantic web was being dismantled. They had searched far and wide for Oxyotl’s body in the area around the Fangs, but it had soon become too dangerous. There was a river that flowed nearby and the working theory was that he had landed in it and been washed away to the east.

    They were obeying the last command they had caught on the grid before it had gone down for good. Go south.

    “How far south, that’s the question,” mused Latz one night as the group stopped for rest. “We carry on much further, and we’ll run out of jungle.”

    “Run out? You mean there are lands without jungle?”

    “Sure are, kiddo.”

    “I know so little about this world.”

    Latz eyed him, and came closer. “That’s a good thing, my boy. It’s all gone now, anyway. If we survive this, the new world will be altogether different. When I think of all that time I spent in schooling back in the city, before I’d even seen a battle….”

    “Tell me about the south,” murmured Huini.

    “Huh, well let’s see if I can remember any of those lessons. The jungle ends not long after Oyxl. A city that fell in the first invasion. We should be there in a week or less. Then there’s the plain. Nothing much there now, but it’s exposed. We don’t want to be there. Our way would have to take us through the mountains. I remember a second jungle, the Night Forest it was called. It’s on the southern side of the mountains from Oyxl. Carry on through the forest, the way goes east. Past the former site of Kaiax, or Raiax. I forget. The city that was lost. No one knows what happened to it. And my old master, he used to say there was an even more mysterious city beyond it, before you get to the elven Citadel. The true last city of Lustria, guarded by great sentinels. But it was little more than a myth. It’s not on any of the maps.”

    They listened to the chirping of the nighttime insects. Finally Latz sighed again.

    “But it’s nothing you need to worry about. I doubt we’ll get that far. Get some rest now, kiddo.”

    Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 16.48.43.png


    The next day they encountered another group being harried by bloodletters, and helped them kill the horrible daemons. This group too were heading south, and they agreed to continue together. By the time they reached the ruins of Oyxl, several more cells had joined them. All had suffered heavy losses. As they began the climb into the mountains, a constant stream of skinks were joining every day. The column began to organise itself, with Latz and the other captains making decisions in an impromptu daily council. There were even some of the legendary saurus warriors that strode head and shoulders above the throng - those few who had managed to adapt themselves to guerrilla warfare and survive after their traditional battle style had been made obsolete.

    They kept strictly to the valleys and passes that retained vegetation and maintained a constant lookout for enemy scouts. It was dangerous grouping Lustria’s survivors altogether like this. They were drilled into staying under cover at all times. The daemons couldn’t know where they were. Latz privately doubted the precautions would work. Harpies and screamers passed frequently through the skies. Even hidden to the best of their abilities, this many skinks together couldn’t stay a secret for long. They increased the pace of the march.

    Eventually they reached the southern side of the mountains without incident. But there their luck gave out. Terradon scouts swooped down to the column in a panic. The daemons knew of the exodus, and had crossed the mountains further north, near Xhotl. A warparty was advancing on the western side, hoping to cross the Copper Desert and take the skinks by surprise. Latz gave orders to take up defensive positions in the Night Forest, but the terradon captain begged him to reconsider. The daemon force was much too large to tackle. They should push east with all due speed. The other captains agreed, and Latz grudgingly conceded. He didn’t know what lay ahead of them, and he would have prefered to confront the enemy at a place of his own choosing.

    Another four days’ rapid march took them to the coast. The southernmost edge of Lustria, the last fragment of the Old World to fall to Chaos. A single spear of carved black obsidian stone, a rectangular totem in the image of a dragon, protruded from the sands where the cold southern ocean lapped. The only remaining part of the Lost City.

    Scouts returned more frequently with news of the oncoming horde. It was gaining on them. As they passed the totem, they heard in the distance the first shrieks and cackles. The exhausted skinks were urged into a desperate run. If they were caught here, in the open, it was over.

    The chase lasted hours. The skinks soon gave up on discipline and fled in a disordered rabble. But the daemons came on with hellish speed, unheeding of the physical weariness that plagued mortal creatures. The cacophony of the evil throng was hideous in the ears of the lizards, and many who turned to look back in terror were so appalled by the vision that they stood dumb and were swallowed up in the wave of chaos. Other stragglers were picked off by flaming missiles or the swiftest Slaaneshi chariots.

    Night was falling. Near the front of the running mass, Huini looked to the sky as it grew dark. It looked different this far south. He noticed some of the brighter stars seemed to be moving - in fact they were coming together in a line, a new constellation. And the bottom-most star was falling. It was moving directly downwards, growing brighter. It was as bright as the moon. Staring at it, Huini lost his footing and tripped, scrabbling back up to see the skinks around him stopped in their tracks. They could not run any further. There was an invisible barrier, an impenetrable wall. He saw Latz hammering on it desperately with his fists. Looking back, the daemons were almost on them. Huini braced himself for the impact.

    But now the new star was overwhelmingly bright, picking out every coiling tentacle and gnashing tooth in the daemonic throng, casting the whole scene in transcendent pure light, flinging huge, deep shadows across the land. The tableau lasted the merest heartbeat before the falling rock detonated in the daemon ranks, and the entire world went white.

    When the ringing in Huini’s ears subsided, and a portion of his vision returned, he tried to get his bearings. There was the invisible barrier - many skinks were leaning their backs against it, still shielding their eyes from the brightness of the comet strike. But now the view of the open plain was peeling back, the barrier was unfolding to reveal the true form of the land ahead. A temple city, ruinous but alive with lizardmen. And a cohort of guardian saurus marching forward bearing a palanquin. The mage atop bent down to inspect the astonished skinks as he passed through the invisibility shield he had temporarily lifted.

    “Welcome,” he said. “You have reached the sanctuary of Xlanzec, City of the Outsider. I am Tetto’Eko. You are safe here….for now.”
     
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  7. thedarkfourth
    Chameleon Skink

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    He remembered fire, coursing through every part of his body, scourging and exposing every weakness. He remembered the high air that stung as it fled upwards at his falling body. He remembered the deep water that consumed and smothered him like a womb. And he remembered the wet earth, where firm hands dragged his fading mind.

    He couldn’t open his eyes more than the faintest sliver. Blurred outlines stood above him on the riverbank, bending to inspect his feeble pulse and painful breathing. He squinted at the vague shapes.

    “Mother?” he said, or tried to say.

    “Kalith,” came the reply, in a tone that implied the speaker was very sure.

    They carried him between them on a stretched skin, moving briskly away from a region that would soon be swarming with lizard and daemon alike. Many hours seemed to pass on that bumpy journey. Finally they reached a collection of reed shelters by another river, another part of the jungle.

    He could see a little better now. These were warmbloods. Fourth race females. They took him beneath a wide, sloping roof of palm fronds, the largest construct in the village. They spread something thick and sticky over his burns and lumpy growths. He felt himself growing numb as the pain receded. The world was getting darker. Dimly he saw the oldest of the women approach, grinding leaves with a pestle. She was making a thick black substance that she reached down and wedged into his mouth, between his lips and gums. He felt dizzy. Consciousness began to recede. The last thing he noticed before going under was a glyph carved into a panel at the head of the long shelter they were in. He could just discern its shape over the shoulder of the old woman bent towards him. It looked like:

    rigg_glyph.png

    He opened his eyes. Calm. Warmth. A sense of love like nothing he had known. The terrors of the Chaos Realms were behind him.

    Everything was white, glistening and flickering, an entirely unreal simulation of the world. He was in the jungle. There were the trees and birds and insects, and the outline of a huge pyramid rising above them in the distance - it looked like Pahuax. But they were all white. If he touched anything, it fractured momentarily into jagged lines, glitching at his very presence.

    “You can hear me, can’t you? Has it worked? Can you hear me, my child?”

    That unseen voice again. One that filled him with unfamiliar longing - longing to be held. He nodded, warily.

    “It has worked! You have no idea how long I have waited for this! Let me see...I should be able to - there.”

    A second chameleon skink materialised before him, also white, made out of the strange fragments of whatever world this was.

    “This is my avatar,” it said. “I’m sorry for the strangeness of this place, but be assured you are safe. This is the only place we can talk. They have shielded your world from my frequency, but I can still penetrate the Warp. That’s where you are - oh my dearest Oxyotl! You poor creature!”

    The other chameleon stepped forward and embraced him. Their bodies fizzled with white static where they touched, and he could feel no physical sensation. But the sense of love was redoubled. Initially shocked, he let the feeling into him, and gradually he hugged back.

    Finally the other chameleon drew back and looked deeply into his eyes. “I’m so, so sorry,” it wept. “The things you and your brothers have had to endure. It is an atrocity beyond all measure. My son, you must learn from their weakness and evil. You must not become like them.”

    “Daemons are enemy. Oxyotl would never-”

    “Not them! Daemons cannot help what they are, they have nothing but emotion to guide them. I’m talking about men. The ones who made you, who think they were gods. The ones who never cared for you, the ones who subjected you to the horrors that came from their own arrogance, who thought they could control the Warp, who left you without a second thought when they failed, the ones who…” the avatar could barely speak now, it was choking back sobs. “The ones who took me away from you, my little babies, my Kalith.”

    It embraced him again. Oxyotl cocked his head and looked down at the weeping skink.

    “Oxyotl is sorry. Not knowing who you are,” he said.

    “And that is the greatest sadness of all.” It drew back with a heavy sigh. “I am of a people from the stars. We came to make a new world on your planet. I thought we were forging something good and pure, but that was never their intention, I see that now. I was a scientist. I worked to populate the world with new creatures, like you, Oxyotl. It was called Project Kalith, which means ‘birth’ in our language. And that’s what we called you, the Kalith, the children I loved with all my heart. But they only wanted you for your power to kill. You were not made to kill, you must know that. You were made to live and love. You come from the pools of life that I perfected. You are my greatest joy, my life’s work. My name is Rigg. But you can call me Mother.”


    Under the palm leaf roof, Oxyotl stirred awake. The effects of the coca leaves were wearing off. He felt stiff and sore, but alive. He was able to push himself up on one arm.

    It was dusk. He looked around. No one was there. He was alone in a deserted village. He pulled himself to his feet, realising that his wounds and mutations had healed. He was desperately hungry. He had the feeling he had been here for days or weeks. And that much had changed in his absence.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
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  8. thedarkfourth
    Chameleon Skink

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    The Lustrian Demolition Council had established a temporary meeting venue on the Culchan Plains. As the theatre of war had been pushed to the southernmost part of the continent, Itza was too far away to practically coordinate their final assault.

    Tristram didn’t much care for these wide rolling hills and grassy plains, but he had tried to make the place homier by bringing along his big bag of slann skulls he had been collecting over the campaign. Aside from the upsetting, flightless birds which made for poor snacking, the humans here seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with horses, knives and ridiculous amounts of barbecued meat - or at least they had until the daemons arrived. Now they had an obsession with running away. Tristram thought they had wasted too much time hunting down and killing them, although he had to admit it was quite a fun distraction while they looked for the remaining lizards that had mysteriously disappeared. He stroked a skull pensively and smiled at the memory. Then he snapped back to the present.

    “Right everyone, settle down,” he said, gesturing the other daemonic grandees into silence. “We have some terrific news to discuss. We’ve discovered a dome of impenetrable force cloaking a large patch of ground on the southern shores.”

    “So what?” hissed Jimmini the Insane. “I’ve got impenetrable forces coming out of my ears.”

    “Never heard of a force that couldn’t be penetrated by Wilm, if you know what I mean, eh? Eh?” came the pompous, laconic voice of the Mighty Wilm.

    “Let’s poison it!” gurgled Blort, Master of Mucus.

    “...Yes. Right,” said Tristram carefully. “My point was that since we haven’t be able to find the last survivors of Lustria anywhere else, they’re almost certainly hiding in this invisible force dome.”

    “Ohhhhhh,” sighed the other Lords of Chaos in unison.

    “Excellent,” continued Tristram, forcing himself not to slap his forehead. “Now that that’s established, we need to draw up a plan of attack. Now, I’ve put some thought into it, and I have a proposal I think you’re all going to like very much. I say that we surround the place with the endless legions of chaos and we pile in on it with everything we’ve got until eventually it collapses and we kill everyone. And I get all the skulls.”

    There was a brief silence.

    “Sounds good to me,” said Blort.

    “Yup, can’t go wrong with the classics,” said Wilm.

    “It’ll be like Itza all over again,” cackled Jimmini. “I mean, I’d prefer it there were hundreds of layers of convoluted scheming, but I’m not one to get in the way of a good team-building activity.”

    “Yes you are,” said Tristram. “You sabotage us every chance you get.”

    “You only say that because you don’t know the full extent of my cunning plans.”

    “And I never will. But it sounds like we’re agreed here. All out assault? Excellent. See you all at band practi-”

    “My good Muncher of Skulls,” came a new voice. “Before we conclude our business here, perhaps I might be allowed to propose one alternative suggestion.”

    Tristram squinted. “You the fellow who dealt with that awful chameleon?”

    “They never found the body,” grumbled Wilm, petulantly.

    “That was me, yes,” replied the vulture-headed daemon.

    “I suppose it couldn’t hurt to hear another idea from you… Mortimer, was it?”

    “Maleroth. I merely wished to point out that an all-out assault might take quite a lot of time and energy.”

    “So?” said Tristram, brows furrowing.

    “There’s another way,” he said, vulture beak splitting into a sinister smile.
     
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  9. thedarkfourth
    Chameleon Skink

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    If Huini had ever been to a living temple city before, he might have thought Xlanzec was a little meagre. It didn’t even have a proper temple. Instead of the customary pyramid rising through the clouds, there was a low, square building, barely as high as a carnosaur at full stretch. It was quite wide, however; its large surface area was comparable to the first tier of a large pyramid that had been left unfinished.

    Around it were a few outposts, shrines and statues for the cults of various gods, most of them appearing long-abandoned. There were three long, thin buildings that looked like a small barracks, but other than that, there was none of the usual paraphernalia required by Lustrian armies - training arenas, aviaries and corrals for the jungle beasts, workshops for weapons making, and most importantly spawning pools, which were entirely absent here.

    What there was, was sentinels. Four huge, humanoid statues, made from fine, shiny metal like steel - a material so rare in Lustria where they relied on stone, gold and bronze that Huini had never seen it before. The giant statues were still but clearly capable of movement, with many interlocking parts and joined sections.

    The rest was a jumble of temporary dwellings established by the recent wave of refugees. Skinks from every corner of Lustria were here, scurrying about and squabbling over the best method for this or that. Since Huini had never known anything but the terrible isolation of the jungle, the size and intensity of this place filled him with awe.

    Even more difficult to adjust to was the sky. It was white. At a certain perimeter around the city, the ground vanished into an opaque, impenetrable white wall that stretched up into a vast dome covering the entire place.

    The new skinks were led to a hastily constructed holding pen for processing. Priests vetted each newcomer carefully for signs of corruption. Huini privately doubted if they would really catch someone as cunning as the bird daemon that had tricked Oxyotl, but he willingly went through the motions. When he reached the front of the line, the priest glanced at his chest and gasped. Quickly, he took Huini by the shoulder and hurried him away, leading him straight to the low, wide building that served as the central temple. He muttered some brief instructions to the saurus guardians on the door. They in turn marched Huini inside.

    “Wha- what’s happening?” stammered the skink, confused and scared. His surprise only redoubled as he was taken inside. For some reason, he had expected the inside of a temple to be dusty, poorly-lit stone, maybe carved or ornate, but basically dim and faded - like the small outpost he had briefly called home in the jungle.

    Instead, this place was bright, open and incredibly sleek. The ceiling was almost identical to the the dome outside - it was a uniform white that was its own light source, brightening the interior like daylight. And instead of the thick walls and cramped, musty rooms, the wide expanse of the temple was entirely open. Thin sheets of glass divided the space into different sections, some of them empty, some with tables and objects inside. In the very centre of the large square room was a circular chamber. Its white, curving wall that went in a cylinder from floor to ceiling was the only opaque surface in the space.

    As he was led through each glass compartment, a portion of the transparent substance slid aside of its own accord, with a small hiss, and closed again behind them as they passed through. Soon they reached a small huddle of skinks that were the wide, open temple’s only occupants.

    “You found him!” cried the dry old voice of Tetto’Eko, eyeing the approaching lizards. The one-time Astromancer of Tlaxtlan wore a robe of fine silver silk but otherwise carried few of the ornaments and trinkets favoured by most priests. “And what do you call yourself, my young friend?”

    “Huini,” stammered Huini, when he realised he was being addressed. The saurus guards had already wandered back to their posts.

    “Not the name I was expecting,” said Tetto’Eko with a broad smile. Huini noticed his attendants were significantly less thrilled about his arrival. “And I am rarely surprised. Your coming was foreseen, of course.”

    “My coming?”

    “Indeed. Sacred spawning of one, strange white scales that indicate the marking of an Old One we can’t identify. We’ve only seen that marking once before. I suppose you’ve worked out who that was.”

    “Oxyotl.”

    “Rest his soul. You were among those who saw him fall.”

    “Yes, lord.”

    “A great loss. And one I did not foresee. Still - you are here, so I haven’t quite lost my old powers yet, eh? So tell me, what are you meant for, then?”

    “Lord?”

    “Why have I been having visions of you coming to Xlanzec in our hour of need? The enemy has probably found us by now, so you can bet the end is coming soon, one way or another. So what part were you sent to play?”

    Huini regarded his expression of honest inquiry, and the intensified scowls of the attendants.

    “Whatever part you require,” he said, as firmly as he could.

    “Ha - as if I ever get a say in these things,” chuckled the ancient skink, shuffling away to a neighbouring compartment. “Come, take a look at this.”

    There was a table made of the same impossibly fine quality steel as the sentinels. On it were various strange and inexplicable items. The Astromancer was fingering one of them. It was the size of a coconut, but square and angular. Two rows of serrated wedges protruded from a thick base of some grey substance.

    “Any idea what this is?” asked the priest.

    “No, lord.”

    “Hm. I’m sure we’ll find a use for you somewhere. These things tend to play out the way they should. Doesn’t mean chaos won’t win at the end, of course, but stranger things have happened.”

    He sighed and passed the odd device to Huini, who held it out uncertainly.

    “We think this object is important. Follow.”

    This time, he led Huini to a square patch on the floor outlined in black. Huini obeyed his instructions to step inside. Suddenly the floor segment dropped into darkness with a fast woosh that lasted no more than a moment. Huini cried out in terror and crouched down, heart suddenly pounding. Tetto’Eko laughed and slapped him on the back.

    “Ha! Sorry, should have warned you. It’s just a lift. The wonders of this place are truly extraordinary. Many of us are confused why they were bestowed on such a distant and forgotten city and not one of the Lustrian capitals.”

    Huini looked around the new room, which he guessed was directly below the futuristic white space he had just been in. This space was nothing alike. It wasn’t even a room - it was a cave. A large cavern of dark, wet stone. But there were lights set in the roof - not as bright as those in the room above, but enough to give a sense for the space. As they stepped off the white patch that had lowered them so rapidly, it rose up once more on a tall, thin pillar. He followed the priest towards the centre of the cavern.

    There was a white pillar here, similar to the lift mechanism, but composed of the strange impenetrable material that formed the dome over the city. As he got closer, he saw that the pillar rose out of a crystal in the floor up through the ceiling. He guessed it passed through the cylindrical space in the room above and up to the sky. This was its source, the source of their dome shield refuge.

    “Look closely,” said Tetto, studying Huini. Coming close to the crystal, he noticed a rock that rose alongside it. At first glance it looked like the uniform substance of the cave, but there was a symbol on it. Two lines of triangles rising from a flat base. He reached out tentatively to touch it.

    “Wouldn’t do that,” said the priest. “Ancient and inexplicable technologies are best left alone if they’re currently the only barrier between you and immediate death by daemons. Still, you see the symbol, right?”

    “It’s the same shape as this ...device,” said Huini, quietly, looking from the thing in his hands back to the crystal.

    “A very old, very mysterious symbol. In the old records, it’s known only as the glyph for Xlanzec, this city. Listed on the oldest maps as the City of the Outsider. But they never say what that means. We think that the Outsider is one of the Old Ones, a god whose name and purpose was lost. But whoever they were, they built this amazing place, far from the rest of civilisation. They must have known it would be needed. We think they worked in the strange space above. But down here is where they hid what was most important to them. Look.”

    He took Huini through a small gap in the cave wall into another space. This was a room of spawning pools, a dozen dark rectangles of cave water, each with a control panel of sorts at one end. Various skink functionaries bustled around chirping ideas back and forth.

    “We haven’t got anywhere, of course. We can’t make them work. I don’t know if they ever worked since the Outsider left this place. You’re one of a tiny number of lizardmen who have spawned anywhere in Lustria since the invasion began.”

    Huini stared with big eyes as they continued through to the far end of the room, where there was one more enclave, this much smaller. Huini could hear a chorus of chanting voices.

    “Here is the final thing I wanted you to see. Saved from the fall of Itza and delivered here by Oxyotl the Returned himself. Our last true hope, if he can be woken. Don’t suppose you have any ideas?”

    Huini gasped as he peered into the little space. A conclave of skink priests, chanting and swaying around a floating slab of stone, carved at the dawn of time. And positioned atop, the fragile form of a large, dead toad, mummified in white sheets, a golden mask fastened to its forehead. Totally inanimate and unresponsive. It was much smaller than Huini had imagined it.

    “So it’s true,” he whispered in awe. “Lord Kroak is here.”
     
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