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Contest January-February 2018 Short Story Contest Voting Thread

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, Feb 1, 2018.

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Which Story or Do Stories Like Best (choose up to two)?

Poll closed Mar 1, 2018.
  1. Story One: "Song of Freedom"

    5 vote(s)
    35.7%
  2. Story Two: "Drawn to the Beat"

    3 vote(s)
    21.4%
  3. Story Three: "A Time to Remember"

    5 vote(s)
    35.7%
  4. Story Four: "The Instrument"

    6 vote(s)
    42.9%
  5. Story Five: "Dirge"

    1 vote(s)
    7.1%
  6. Story Six: "Splashing of Spawning"

    3 vote(s)
    21.4%
  7. Story Seven: "Here Comes the Sun"

    2 vote(s)
    14.3%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    If I missed something that needs to be fixed, let me know by a private message. If there is more than one error in a single piece, please message me the entire edited piece rather than just copy and past the corrected sentences.

    We have seven very fine pieces this month. Please read all seven pieces before casting your vote(s). You may vote for up to two. Voting will remain open for the rest of the month.

    Theme was "The Power of Music"

    Song of Freedom

    Drekit had identified a weak link in the chain binding him to his fellows and the overseers’ lash weeks ago but didn’t think anything of it. Freedom was impossible. Where would he run? Where could he go that the Masters wouldn’t find him?

    Then it came.

    At night, he heard a distant sound stirring at the depths of his soul. A soul he assumed had withered and died years ago. A siren call to freedom. Find me and you will know joy, peace, security, FREEDOM. His whiskers perked. The other slaves couldn’t hear it. For a moment Drekit considered it. It doesn’t matter, this is for me. I will seek-find this freedom.

    During the meager hours the Masters let the skaven slaves sleep, Drekit was exhausted from his pointless toil, but he didn’t dare sleep. Drekit was vaguely aware that it was day above. Above the tunnels there was noise: pouring rain, thundering beasts, chirping insects. Normally Drekit paid attention to these things but he somehow knew the song of freedom began at dawn and ended at dusk. Drekit waited for times of lots of noise to bash the weak link on his chain with a rock he had concealed in his filthy tunic.

    For three days Drekit worked for his masters at night while working towards his freedom during the day the call of freedom pulling him onward. Finally the chain broke, and Drekit scurried away towards the song of freedom.

    Drekit ran and ran down random tunnels, until the music stopped then he collapsed with exhaustion and finally slept for the first time in days, a brief hint of a smile visible on his snout.


    He awoke at dawn as the heavenly music resumed. Part of Drekit wanted to keep sleeping, but sleep was not freedom. The more time he spent in the tunnels, the more likely the Masters would be able to find him and punish him as an example to the others assuming they noticed he was gone. The tunnels had little to hide his vibrations. The tunnels had nothing to mask his sent. Above the tunnels there was noise, there was vibrations, there was smells. Above the tunnels there was freedom.

    Drekit looked for a tunnel sloping upward, he ran as far as he could and began bashing the hardened dirt ceiling with his rock till it loosened. Then he clawed at the soft dirt. Vaguely aware of the risk of a cave-in, he persisted towards the sound of freedom.

    His efforts awarded him with a deluge of dirt, a mound of dirt and a small ray of sunlight. His beady eyes blinked as he adjusted to the new light. He kept digging till he could make an opening wide enough to wriggle out of.

    Drekit knew the jungle would hide his trail from the Masters methods of tracking him, but only if he had enough distance. Hole easy to see-smell, flee fast.

    Still exhausted beyond measure, he forced himself to keep marching towards the sound of the song, till he march walk no further. Night fell and the music stopped. Drekit wasn’t used to sleeping at night, but he was so tired that it was easy.


    Shortly after dawn the music resumed and Drekit awoke. He swatted some of the insects trying to make a meal out of him. His stomach rumbled. He needed to find something to eat himself, or he would perish. He didn’t even have the Masters’ meager rations now and would have to find his own. It didn’t matter at the moment because for the first time in his life, Derkit’s spirit felt full.

    He moved in the vague direction of the song, but moved slowly. Eyes peels and nostrils flared. Food, find food. He found a tree with sweet smelling fruit. Deftly, he climbed the tree, finding it less difficult to climb than some rickety skaven scaffolding he was forced to work on while carrying full chains. He still was dragging about two feet of chain. He’d need to fix that.

    Timidly, he sniffed the fruit. It didn’t smell of poison, though not all poison announces itself with smell. Drekit would need to take some risks, for to do nothing was to die. The fresh fruit was the best food he tasted his whole short miserable life. He spent the next hour combing every branch for every piece he could find.

    Next he found a stream to slake his thirst. Water can rust-eat cheap metal. Cleanliness was never a skaven virtue but he bathed in the stream large to soak his manacles. Once they weakened enough and his fur was slick enough, he wriggled out of them.

    Maybe a short length of chain would be a useful but no. Chains gone forever now, not carry-wear them. Briefly he considered on the off-chance the Masters were searching for him above ground the chains would be a clue as to his whereabouts. He buried them in the stream hoping the water would destroy them and continued on his way towards the music which fueled him. Till night fell and he once again slept, happier and more peaceful than ever before.


    He awoke the next day and began once again looking for food. He found a few fruit bearing trees with some decent things he could eat but most of these were picked over by flying or climbing beasts first so it was a lot of work, for a small payoff. Need more than fruit to eat-live.

    Most of the beasts he saw fled from him. Drekit bathed in a stream and then mud to lose his scent then took pains to move more quietly. Eventually his efforts paid off and he was able to get close to a rabbit. He shadowed it for almost two hours noted what plants it ate and which plants it avoided. Then he got impatient and hit it with a rock. His prey emitted a brief high pitched scream before perishing.

    He was planning the best way to eat his kill when the skaven’s hackles perked up. A vague sense of danger that all his kind have. A second later he smelled it, a large reptile. Instinctively the skaven fled even before he could hear its heavy footsteps. Not a lizard man but a lizard beast, but was chasing scents not making plans. The cold one pursued him, she was quickly distracted by blood and went for the dead rabbit first. This gave Drekit a spare moment to climb a tree. The cold one paced around Drekit’s tree taking some futile leaps at the branches for an hour before losing interest and moving on.

    The skaven waited another hour then left his tree. He needed some weapons and tools. He used a flat rock to sharpen a few sticks. This would do for now. With even more carefulness, he proceeded through the jungle once more, a spring in his step. He escaped; he broke his chains; he discovered food; he bested a danger.

    Drekit would could continue to study the animals. He would learn how to evade or if necessary defeat the predators. He would watch the herbivores to learn how to hunt them, and by watching what they eat would figure out which plants he could eat. Even his eyes were gradually adjusting to the brighter light Life would be hard, but life would be his. He was free.


    Pfft! Pfft!



    The music stopped.

    Two skinks walked over to where the dead skaven lay, a large smile visible on his dead face.

    “Finally got one. All that time crafting the magic flute and a week of straight playing and we lured one skaven to its death. What a waste of time and effort”

    The trees rustled as more skinks moved closer to hear him talk. A few were chuckling. One chimed in.

    “We could kill one skaven every hour for a year, and they wouldn’t even notice!”

    The skink priest lowered his flute. The warrior mirrored him lowering his blowpipe.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of time, we know this flute works now. And when you see a lone skaven he is probably an elite assassin or poisoner. Who knows what this one skaven could have been planning?”

    The skinks assembled nodded grimly.

    “He did carry himself taller with more confidence than usual for his filthy kind. Look at his face. What ever could make as skaven so happy must be vile indeed.”
    “Indeed, well I get back to playing, maybe we'll get another one”

    Drawn to the Beat

    Sken-Dar yanked on Rekdok’s reins and wheeled the disorientated cold-one around. From what he could see, and he couldn’t see much, his whole taskforce was in a rout. Saurus and skinks alike milled around, slashing at wisps of the thick smoke and jumping at shadows, with no semblance of their normal cohesion and discipline. The scar-veteran’s own cohort of riders had scattered out of his view, although he could hear their mounts bleat their confused agitation from various points in the murk. After a single moment of surprise, he and his troops were more of a shambles than the wretched slaves who had routed them. The only difference was that those ratmen were all dead, and the "Pride" of Chaqua, although disordered had barely suffered more than a scorched snout.

    "You, Patrol Leader!" Sken-Dar snarled, "report! Where is your platoon?"

    Zapwok battered his inner eyelids and peered into the haze. "The're gone."

    Sken-Dar grabbed him by his throat ornament and hoisted him off his claws and shook him. "GONE!? Call them back! We have a rathole to cleanse!"

    Zapwok dropped his javelin and spear and feebly tried to release his Commanding Officers grip. He gargled something that might have been a command to rally but it was lost in the general din and choking fume. Sken-Dar cast him away. "Farnarking Ratmen," he grunted.

    A cleansing was never easy, but this should have been simpler than most. This hole was barely a crack in the mountainside, and probably the smallest exit of the whole nest. Sken-Dar's force were to block it up or invade it while a dozen other forces did the same with others. Then Slann Lord Jen-Dobri would lead the main assault on the Skaven-nest's main entrance. No escape would be permitted. Extermination was the only objective.

    As Sken-Dar's force marched up the mountain foot, skaven resistance seemed to be light, almost laughable. First, a dozen mouldy casks bounced out of the hole and shattered in the ravine, spilling a sticky black goo that smelled like the Tar Pits of Mal’liente. The supposed trap was sprung too early, while the lizardmen were still 100 metres distant.

    After that, a foetid cohort of skaven slaves were driven out of the nest. They swarmed down the ravine to just outside javelin range and then there was a green flash from the tunnel. The black goo ignited in roiling red flames which raced along the trails left by each of the slaves and overtook them before barely one had reached the spears of the saurus. The flames leapt up the legs and then the rags that the rat men wore. Rags which had been daubed in the same black filth.

    Skaven slaves afire run scarcely slower than normal, and the mobile torches had filtered through the front lizardmen rank and scattered into the midst before Sken-Dar himself had recovered from his surprise. The slaves died, of course, by spear, blade and flame, but not before the their shrieks and choking black smoke had baffled and disorientated lizardmen.

    Now Sken-Dar found himself surrounded by smouldering carcassess, in nominal control of a disordered rabble and too scattered and too far from the nest's unseen exit to prevent a Skaven breakout enmasse. He pulled Rekdok's dripping muzzle around again and all but collided with Kithmuun, drummer of the Spears of Tsumac. The Cold One reared, threw her master and lurched away. But while he was raised above the fume for an instant, Sken-Dar saw the answer to his dilemma. The slaves had left snaking trails of fire behind them. Any one of them would lead to the ravine, and beyond to the killing bottle neck.

    "Beat the march, Saurus Kithmuun," the Scar Veteran grunted even as he lurched to his feet and regathered his blade. "Beat the march."

    "Beat the march?" Kithmuun gyrated his head like an idiot. "There is no march. No direction...."

    "Follow." Sken-Dar's first footfall crushed the smoking skull of the nearest rat-corpse and his second extinguished the first guttering flames of the trail from thence to his objective.

    Kithmuun didn't understand his leader's intent but he knew better than to disobey. With a rattle of skulls, he settled the strap of Tsumac's Thunder around his neck and then began beat the taut skins of the ancient war drum in time with his commander's inexorable strides.

    Drawn as if unto the Light of Chotec Himself, the nearest of the lizardmen turned to the sound of the beat and soon formed a narrow wedge of bone and scale which followed in Sken-Dar's steps and soon made a thunder of their own as hundreds more joined and stomped in time with their leader. Despite losing formation with their nearest kin, they were the Pride of Chaqua, the Gold Legion, and they advanced like an acute spearpoint towards the mountain's heart.

    *****

    Warpgunner-Skerrit was used to managing without the use of his one glittering eye in his nefarious doings in the Under-Empire. He had other senses which served him well in the treacherous blackness, primarily his keen sense of smell. Currently it was as much use to him as his streaming eye because all he could smell was charred fur and the musk of fear, and most of the latter was his own.

    His Master, Warp-Engineer Trivett, had convinced Skerrit of the virtue of a plan to keep a dignified withdrawal-retreat tunnel open by the use of a sacrificial force of lesser rats. Trivett's own second favourite warp-lightning cannon, the Thirteenth Toll would be used to scatter and harass any surviving lizard things. Skerrit had some misgivings about the plan, considering his missing eye and the Thirteenth Toll's general inability to fire even one aimed shot during a battle and its specific propensity to whir loudly, spin around and spit shards of warpfire every which way.

    Skerrit's misgivings were first allayed by the Engineer encouraging him and his crew to the mouth of the tunnel with an oversized warp-blunderbus, and then restored and reinforced by his master's sudden absence when the slave-flambe gambit appeared to have failed to turn the lizard-things away from a tunnel which was now defended by a one eyed gunner, two witless loaders and a self-immolating warp-cannon.

    With no better than an 80% chance that the Thirteenth would toll at all, Skerrit supposed that he might as well make a brief effort for the Great Horned One's glory before he found a bolt hole of his own. He pounced on the aiming cogs and spun the incline wheel hard, with the intention of blasting out the tunnel's ceiling and then trusting his proven ability to dodge falling stalagmites.

    Then Skerrit heard a resonant sound, a rattle of skulls above the hubbub below. It was followed by a sonorous, rhythmic thudding which seemed to swell as it plodded closer. He closed his one eye, laid a scarred cheek on the Thirteenth Toll's humming irregulator and slowly adjusted the aim downwards and in line with the music which tugged on his dish-like ears like the pipes of the Great Horned Rat Himself.

    A TIME TO REMEMBER


    You sing sweetly, bard. I felt the romantic suffering of Alhana, while her beloved one rode into battle against the usurper. Were you singing about romance, or heroic deeds?”
    “My lady, that was sweet as a lemon. Real romance is very different and I can sing it, but I cannot do it in front of the noble warriors that gathered in this hall. Their ears are used to the sound of battles, and what truly lies in my heart is not for this place…”
    “Then, bard, I command you to follow me out of here, so I can hear it.”
    “As you wish, my lady…”


    ----------------------------------------------

    In horror tales, the coming of undead was always preceded by the silence of the scared animal life.
    Here in Lustria, Hans learned that those tales were false.
    Birds, insects and monkeys were still going about their normal life, paying no attention to the horde of zombies and ghosts that just slaughtered Duke Jurgen’s expeditionary force; their cacophony was the funeral march.
    The zombies were now separating the dead from the wounded soldiers; many of the wounded ended their lives with suffocated screaming, but a few were taken prisoner, just like Hans.
    There was some bitter irony in all of this.

    The expedition was a well prepared one… every detail was planned, officials instructed the troop about the known tactics employed by the lizardmen, and there were antidotes for poisons. Their wizard had a vast array of spells specifically compiled to excel against cold-blooded reptiles and there was even a map with the locations of reported settlements, home to abundances of gold and gems.
    Despite the preparation, nature had other plans. The storm took them away from their intended route, ending their journey near a harsh coastline… constructions were visible far into the jungle, so they went for them, ready to fight lizards. They found none.
    At twilight they were making camp in a clearing. Suddenly, a mist rose from the jungle, enveloping the cannons… the crew fell silently to the ground, then supernatural screeches decimated the harquebusiers.
    Was it an ambush? Nobody had heard a lizard sound like that before.
    There was rustling in the dark thicket, and finally the slow zombies came, pushing their mass through bushes into the unsupported infantry. Hans heard the wizard scream something about a vampire coast, but then the mage was trampled down by a hellish steed, atop it, an undead dark commander.

    It had been a massacre. Mysteriously, Hans and some other soldiers were still alive, taken prisoners. A boy near Hans was sobbing, muttering prayers to Sigmar.
    “Shut up, you moron. We are still alive… would you prefer to be one of those dismembered corpses?”
    “They are going to eat us! they will devour us alive!”
    “If you shit yourself a little more, not even the most rotten zombie will touch you. Now shut up, let me see who’s coming…”

    A man in a black robe was examining the prisoners; his face was incredibly old, with wizened skin and yellow eyes, glossed over by cataracts… he seemed a frail old man, holding himself to a staff, but his movements were vigorous, and his speech firm.
    “Tonight, when Morrslieb is high, you will be given the gift of undeath. The proper rite, with living specimens, will let me create powerful Wights.”
    A faint cry broke the silence, maybe a plea of some sort… a green, malevolent light from the staff, stroke the supplicant, turning the prayers into screams of agony.
    “I need your bodies, not your babblings! I won’t hear pleas of mercy, or you will see that there are fates worse than undeath!”
    The necromancer went away, to oversee the work of the undead that were emptying the battlefield.
    “Sweet Sigmar! We’ll be turned into monsters! Did you want to see who was coming, Hans? It’s our death sentence.”
    “Maybe, or maybe not. He may be evil, but he’s still alive… and I do believe that man will be our way out”.

    --------------------------------------------------------

    You dishonored my daughter, bard. You are going to die for this, You know it, right?
    The guards had beaten him already. Blood was spilling from the broken lip and an eye was swollen shut, but the other one was still spirited, while he was sustaining the duke’s glance.
    “Can I speak in my defense, my Lord Jurgen?”
    There was a moment of silence.
    “Do you think some words can make me change my mind? I’m not a gullible girl, dead man. But please, feel free to speak…”


    -----------------------------------------------------------

    As expected, the necromancer came back to them. Four undead minions took a sort of altar, and he started to decorate it with glyphs, candles and blood paintings.
    Some of the boys were praying to Sigmar, creating a fluctuating litany in the background.
    “Annoying scum… I’m going to rot your worthless tongues as soon as I’m finished with the carvings…”
    That was the sign Hans was waiting for.
    “My Lord, I’m not a religious man and those prayers are giving me a headache. Might I just sing something, to distract my companions in their last hour?”
    The necromancer did not take his eyes off his work “I hate the singing. But if you make them stop praying, I’ll rip out your tongue last.”
    Hans smiled, and started to sing.

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    The Admiral looked at the swabbie with poorly hidden contempt. Hans wore ragged and dirty clothes, that didn’t hide the signs of the whip on his back. The fleet set sail one month ago.
    “I have been given instructions to make your life miserable, boy… but I am a practical man. My musician is ill and dying; I know you can entertain a tune. I think I will give you a chance to please me.”
    “If I’m going to please you, Admiral, I hope my stomach will see some real food, and there will be no more wiping, nor whipping….”.
    The eyes of the fleet’s commander turned hard as iron.
    “You’d better surprise me right now boy, or you will know the joy of keelhauling…”


    -------------------------------------------------------------

    Hans sang, his crystal clear voice filling the open space surrounded by trees.
    He sang about his homeland, about friends, about freedom, remembrances, love, life and joy; about happiness, family, sharing and empathy; then he sang about melancholic feelings for missed opportunities… but there was still hope, redemption, and forgiveness. The song was a delicate flower that was slowly opening, letting them see the chance for a future, a destiny yet to be written, the promise of a…

    “Stop singing. Stop it…. please.”

    The necromancer had spoken.

    Hans had sung for what seemed like hours, and the necromancer had ceased working long ago, staring at the darkness, facing away from the prisoners, lost in thoughts while the bad moon was rising.
    He turned and looked toward the prisoners; his yellow eyes were glistening with tears.
    “I had forgotten it. So many years… so many decades, maybe centuries… the memories were lost to me. There are days when I wonder why I took this path, and I don’t know the answer. My companions are the undead, and I have power over what seems as nothing. Even the lizardmen, those cold-blooded abominations, share a companionship that to me is negated. I question myself, but there’s no past to help me.”
    A deep breath.
    “But now I remember. Me and my kind. The joy of the others, their happiness. The shunning, the cruel jokes, the insults, the false hopes and the derisive laughter. A chasm growing wider each day. The sadness and the bitterness, the anger and the hate. The desire for vengeance, the desire to be feared, the search for a frightening power.”

    The Necromancer looked again at Hans, with cold and dry eyes. The staff glowed green, matching the light casted by Morrslieb.
    “What of me, then?” Hans asked.
    The necromancer grinned, “You have restored my resolution, singer, and you will be rewarded for this. There will be a place of honor for you… in my personal regiment, from here to eternity”.

    A thin trail of smoke spiralled faintly from the once blazing campfire, rising slowly into the pink predawn light. Around the dying coals there was a faint snoring; the newcomers splayed about on the leaf litter, closed off to the world wrapped in the calm of sleep. The light began to play on the ground around the camp, the bird filled canopy failing to block out every ray.


    Eerie birdsong began to fill the dense tropical forest, receiving replies from miles away. The creatures of the night returned to their homes, watching carefully for any signs of danger before tucking a head underwing or curling up in a nest of leaves.


    A slim clawed hand gripped the neck of the small, stringed instrument, hoisting it up and away from the quiet campsite. The Skink carefully picked its way back through the thick jungle, his feet barely touching the ground as he skilfully skipped through the greenery.


    Reaching what he believed to be a safe distance, the Skink scanned the smooth wood with a suspicious gaze before flipping the object over and shaking it vigorously. Placing it down atop a rotting log, he sat across from it and waited.


    Nothing.


    He continued to stare at it, unblinking and unfazed.


    Still nothing.


    The Skink hissed in annoyance narrowed his eyes at the instrument. He quietly approached and gently pulled at one of the strings with a scaled finger.


    *TWANG*


    He leapt back, letting out a surprised squeal. The string continued to vibrate for a while longer, the noise fading to a faint buzz and then to silence.


    Taking a step back towards it, he reached out again and plucked at a different string. It seemed somehow... 'higher' than the last and seemed to fade sooner.


    It didn't sound like it had when the warmblood easily ran his hands along the strings, pulling and plucking at different intervals. The strange song that filled the skinks head as he observed the small camp continued to play through his mind long after he had left.


    Surely only magic could occupy the mind in such a way? A sort of spell that would control your thoughts and actions, perhaps.


    No matter how evil it may be, the Skink knew he had to hear it again.


    >:-:<


    The man sang in a way that reminded the Skink of the bastilodons. Their bellowing cries would ring out through the night in a sorrowful beautiful sort of way. He wasn't entirely sure what the word 'beautiful' meant, but it seemed an appropriate context.


    The humans voice was higher and sweeter; it flitted easily through the words of the song with a sense of familiarity. His fingers plucking and strumming at the strings with a sense of rhythm and order.


    Order was good, it meant control and simplicity. Perhaps is wasn't the correct adjective to use, then, as it also seemed complex and free, like the colourful birds that patrolled the jungle's canopy.


    The Skink easily picked up the speed and regularity of the tune and found his tail unconsciously twitching at the music, his foot tapping the peaty earth. His focus solely on the sound bouncing around his skull, he only realised he had bumped the branch beside him when the sweet melody came to an abrupt halt.


    The small lizard men's eyes refocused and he silently slid back into the darkness of the jungle.


    >:-:<


    Turning his attention back to the object at hand, he picked it up and crouched on the log, grasping the instrument to his chest as the human had done. He strummed a hand over the hole in the wood, pulling at the strings.


    He recoiled in disgust at the untuned mess of noise that erupted from the thing in his hands, hissing and muttering quietly to himself.


    Again.


    He tried again holding the neck tightly. A short, blunt sound briefly occurred before again fading away into silence without a trace.


    Gently the Skink placed the instrument back on the log, again studying it. Where was the music coming from? Not the horrible twang of the strings, but the sweet quiet melody he had heard the previous night.


    Where did the magic come from?


    How could it be held in such a simple wooden object?


    Grabbing the neck of the instrument, the Skink smashed it onto the side of a tree, waiting for some... 'thing' to explode from the shards of wood and the tangled wires. He held his spear at the scraps and pieces, poking and jabbing at different splinters, waiting for anything to happen.


    After a moments consideration, He straightened up and scampered through the trees back to the temple, confused and frustrated at his futile venture.


    The birds continued to call through the trees, the greenery hiding them from sight.


    On the ground, a little Skink picking its way through the leaf litter, began to tap a rhythm, tucked safely away in his own head, a magic in its own right; making one act in the strangest of manners; with complexity and grace, purpose and freedom.

    Dirge


    They’re coming down the ridge. A thousand strong and we so few. Bestial cries from split tongues. Scaled hands with sickle blades.

    It’s the end.

    It boils up within me, the turmoil of countless woes. Crimes against our people, so vast and endless as to drown the world in sin and blood. I can no longer wash my hands of it.

    I feel the call of my brothers and raise my voice in song.

    How many slain? Not by the glorious hand of war, but the fevered touch thereafter. Streets aflame, hearts pounding, screams of children ringing in my ears.

    I remember first how it happened to me. Rushing home to our settlement only to find blank stares and bloodless hands. A ragged cry then, I knew no song, but the lamentations of my heart.

    How many cries have I heard since? How many voices protested my righteous compensation? Countless lives ruined to feed my hate.

    The beasts are here now, their impact staggering.

    All about me, man and beast unleash their rage against each other; ours against theirs. My arm rises and falls, each stroke another life, another victim in the never-ending cycle of vengeance. My voice carries on while my brothers fall.

    I sang for them once; those taken from me. My voice sure and strong. We all sang for them and our enemies trembled, but not for long. In the wake of our righteous anger, something changed.

    Caught up in our hate, we became the despoilers.

    I kill another, but more take his place. Bitter cold drives through me as one of many blades slides past my guard. I stagger and lash out. Another falls.

    Only a few voices carry the tune. They’re draining with their life’s blood. We hold close, but there’s no escape. No hope.

    What do I sing for now?

    My love is taken from me. My home, nothing but ash and broken dreams of a future that will never be. Passion filled my voice as I sought to right wrongs that never cease. Yet now, as I see the hateful gaze of those that would kill us, I see only a reflection of my own demise.

    The hatred festers and spreads, causing only more pain.

    Where are my brother’s voices now?

    Joseph, my neighbor, lay dead in a pool of his making. The baker’s son tries to put his stomach back together. A good boy at first, eventually absorbed by his cruelties. How many of the small ones had he slain in such a way? The scales he collected as they still drew breath... How long had he laughed at their suffering?

    A circle of bodies, a pile of dead.

    I am the last.

    My voice wavers as I fall to a knee. The song falters. I gather my last breath. I will die, and my song will die with me. A dark stain of the man I was, the man I should have been. Let them put me down like the dog I’ve become.

    No.

    I rise up.

    My song carries over the wails of the dying, sharp and clear. My enemy takes a step back as I remember what I was. I surge ahead, words cutting alongside my blade. They will hear my song, my story, my dirge. They will remember it and the sins that gave it life.

    They will hear my song and...

    Splashing of Spawning

    With a gasp, a lizard clicks;
    Every lizard comes into this world with a splash.
    An arched back, a wide eye
    Every lizard yearns to live - see it thrash -
    A burning desire, smothered that instant,
    As the lizard heaves and bursts free with a crash.
    The first thing it knows is the great splashing of spawning.
    The first thing it dreads is the great world ahead, yawning.

    But... the next sensation it feels is a curious thing -
    The whole blazing universe has spilled into its head.
    It's known the splashing, the breathing, the roiling, the seething,
    The deafening thunder of a muted soft tread,
    The terrible brilliance of a dim, sunless chamber,
    After all this is known, and does not need to be said -
    What comes next is a kind hand (feel it drip, feel it glisten)
    And a soft, firm, knowing voice that says,

    Listen

    Every lizard is born simply knowing that song.
    It is the voice of good Lustria, the wet and the green.
    Like the lizard itself, it clicks and it lives.
    It splashes and shrieks, as our skink comes onto the scene,
    Hears the herds lumber and the predators roar,
    And it hears fellow lizards before they're smelled or they're seen.
    The ancient culture it's joined - it too lives and it thrums.
    The third thing a new-spawn knows is the call of the drums.

    Quiet at first, never close to the pools
    The beat grows with each careful step out.
    Until into the light of the great temple city
    The drums fill the air, set the pace, remove doubt.
    They are a struck by a team, of every size chosen,
    Their whole purpose vibrating from tail to snout.
    And everywhere is noise, energy, labour and life...
    But from the wide world beyond comes inevitable strife.

    Listen

    A small shift in the air; every lizard head turns.
    Beasts snort, work stops, skinks skitter and fret
    And the heads turn again, now away from the trees,
    Their gaze on the summit of the temple firmly set.
    Whence come the orders, a comfort to obey
    A comfort to know a pious power dwells there yet.
    And yea, the summit shines as the mage priest comes forth,
    Raises hands, belches. Translated: "Go north."

    The drumbeat redoubles, the host made ready for war.
    They empty the city; each member knows what to do.
    And every lizard heart sings and soars with the song;
    They know nothing so Great as a Plan to pursue.
    Clear orders, firm intentions, gods to honour and please -
    Eyes gleam at a world ordered all the way through.
    While their minds fill with phantoms of prophecies of old,
    There's a man in a boat who dreams of nothing but gold.

    Listen

    Our new-spawn is stationed with a far-advanced vanguard,
    And he hears a new music, an awful clarion call.
    At the treeline the sight hits them, arrayed on the shore
    The regiments of an empire, their ships mighty and tall.
    And the heralds come forward, proclaim glories intended,
    To their lips they raise up the greatest weapons of all.
    Trumpets, bright and bold. Speak to greed, a culture rotted -
    Alas, a second cry: the vanguard skinks have been spotted.

    Men stomp through the trees, come alive with their hate.
    Our skink takes its first life with an unthinking blowpipe.
    But steel pipes are stronger, with their powder and shot;
    Lizards fall from the trees where they hide and they snipe.
    The skink itself seized, dragged onto the sand.
    Not what it imagined for its first day of life.
    The herald draws a sword. It knows its fate comes.
    But the warmbloods stop and look up. Far off, there are drums.

    Listen

    They form ranks in a flash, and stare into the jungle,
    The beat louder and louder as the windless trees sway.
    Onwards, inevitable comes the living earthquake:
    A new music of war, hear it howl, hear it bray.
    As cannon and dinosaur boom on the beach
    Scaled legions relentless march into the fray.
    The chaos of conflict before order's bliss comes;
    The shore of green Lustria turns red in the sun.

    Amid the tumult and fury, our skink tries to escape,
    But it's grabbed by fat hands with a blotched, beardy leer.
    "You're mine!" cries the villain, "You'll make quite a specimen."
    It's dragged into the sea, to a boat anchored near.
    There is brine in its mouth and its eyes and its throat
    And a weight on its chest, the captor falls atop, speared.
    To the sea floor pinned, an underwater cage,
    Lost to the sight of priest, warrior or mage.

    Listen

    There's a great splashing of spawning, but also of death:
    Our hero's destiny fulfilled in less than a day.
    And the splashing is lost among the screams on the beach,
    Until it splashes no longer. A lizard sees now its way.
    It knows its own purpose, and the sweet taste of life.
    It knows hopes, aspirations and what it wishes to say.
    It knows what it is to have a gift, and to lose it.
    But most of all, it knows the sound of sweet

    Music.
    Splashing of Spawning

    With a gasp, a lizard clicks;
    Every lizard comes into this world with a splash.
    An arched back, a wide eye
    Every lizard yearns to live - see it thrash -
    A burning desire, smothered that instant,
    As the lizard heaves and bursts free with a crash.
    The first thing it knows is the great splashing of spawning.
    The first thing it dreads is the great world ahead, yawning.

    But... the next sensation it feels is a curious thing -
    The whole blazing universe has spilled into its head.
    It's known the splashing, the breathing, the roiling, the seething,
    The deafening thunder of a muted soft tread,
    The terrible brilliance of a dim, sunless chamber,
    After all this is known, and does not need to be said -
    What comes next is a kind hand (feel it drip, feel it glisten)
    And a soft, firm, knowing voice that says,

    Listen



    Every lizard is born simply knowing that song.
    It is the voice of good Lustria, the wet and the green.
    Like the lizard itself, it clicks and it lives.
    It splashes and shrieks, as our skink comes onto the scene,
    Hears the herds lumber and the predators roar,
    And it hears fellow lizards before they're smelled or they're seen.
    The ancient culture it's joined - it too lives and it thrums.
    The third thing a new-spawn knows is the call of the drums.

    Quiet at first, never close to the pools
    The beat grows with each careful step out.
    Until into the light of the great temple city
    The drums fill the air, set the pace, remove doubt.
    They are a struck by a team, of every size chosen,
    Their whole purpose vibrating from tail to snout.
    And everywhere is noise, energy, labour and life...
    But from the wide world beyond comes inevitable strife.

    Listen



    A small shift in the air; every lizard head turns.
    Beasts snort, work stops, skinks skitter and fret
    And the heads turn again, now away from the trees,
    Their gaze on the summit of the temple firmly set.
    Whence come the orders, a comfort to obey
    A comfort to know a pious power dwells there yet.
    And yea, the summit shines as the mage priest comes forth,
    Raises hands, belches. Translated: "Go north."

    The drumbeat redoubles, the host made ready for war.
    They empty the city; each member knows what to do.
    And every lizard heart sings and soars with the song;
    They know nothing so Great as a Plan to pursue.
    Clear orders, firm intentions, gods to honour and please -
    Eyes gleam at a world ordered all the way through.
    While their minds fill with phantoms of prophecies of old,
    There's a man in a boat who dreams of nothing but gold.

    Listen



    Our new-spawn is stationed with a far-advanced vanguard,
    And he hears a new music, an awful clarion call.
    At the treeline the sight hits them, arrayed on the shore
    The regiments of an empire, their ships mighty and tall.
    And the heralds come forward, proclaim glories intended,
    To their lips they raise up the greatest weapons of all.
    Trumpets, bright and bold. Speak to greed, a culture rotted -
    Alas, a second cry: the vanguard skinks have been spotted.

    Men stomp through the trees, come alive with their hate.
    Our skink takes its first life with an unthinking blowpipe.
    But steel pipes are stronger, with their powder and shot;
    Lizards fall from the trees where they hide and they snipe.
    The skink itself seized, dragged onto the sand.
    Not what it imagined for its first day of life.
    The herald draws a sword. It knows its fate comes.
    But the warmbloods stop and look up. Far off, there are drums.

    Listen



    They form ranks in a flash, and stare into the jungle,
    The beat louder and louder as the windless trees sway.
    Onwards, inevitable comes the living earthquake:
    A new music of war, hear it howl, hear it bray.
    As cannon and dinosaur boom on the beach
    Scaled legions relentless march into the fray.
    The chaos of conflict before order's bliss comes;
    The shore of green Lustria turns red in the sun.

    Amid the tumult and fury, our skink tries to escape,
    But it's grabbed by fat hands with a blotched, beardy leer.
    "You're mine!" cries the villain, "You'll make quite a specimen."
    It's dragged into the sea, to a boat anchored near.
    There is brine in its mouth and its eyes and its throat
    And a weight on its chest, the captor falls atop, speared.
    To the sea floor pinned, an underwater cage,
    Lost to the sight of priest, warrior or mage.

    Listen



    There's a great splashing of spawning, but also of death:
    Our hero's destiny fulfilled in less than a day.
    And the splashing is lost among the screams on the beach,
    Until it splashes no longer. A lizard sees now its way.
    It knows its own purpose, and the sweet taste of life.
    It knows hopes, aspirations and what it wishes to say.
    It knows what it is to have a gift, and to lose it.
    But most of all, it knows the sound of sweet

    Music.

    Here Comes the Sun


    “I don’t get why you gotta be so gloomy all the time, all this talk about death.”
    “Well you still got all your spawn mates.”
    “We’re only three.”
    “Well you have not lost the rest. “
    “Yes, but you won’t lose anybody else now.”
    “That does not change it.”
    “The world that was is gone, be happy that you survived till the End Times so you can live forever here.”
    “What is a life alone?”
    “There that is what I am talking about. That gloom. Well you got me, and more, if you tried to make some friends. Not sneaking around the maintenance tunnels, where you should not be.”
    “Well there is no place in the sky for a hunter.”
    “hisssh”
    “No. You new spawn just don't get it. You never had a body.”
    “I do. What do you think this is?”
    “Well, it's not real.” Opochli drew his dagger and cut his finger causing a beam of light to stream out.
    “This is not a real body, look at it”
    “Well, we're here and Yuatec needed us for something.” Answered Tek’loq
    +++
    The sword slipped, he could feel the hilt sliding, wet by blood. An Ungor swung at him and he raised his sword even though he shouldn't have. Now it was falling from his fingers. Glenn was left unarmed. The beastman’s club shattered the bones in his forearm, and the whole world exploded in pain.

    Glenn fell with the taste of copper in his mouth. But in the Ungor’s moment of triumph, another warrior stepped forward and slashed through its guts. Roaring, it fell like Glenn who drew his dagger. With a quick movement, Glenn slit the Ungor’s throat. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the warrior was still standing. The man was holding the Beastmen back and filling the gap in the humans’ line of defense. Seeing that he was safe he wrapped his damaged arm in his hood, trying to ignore the pain. As fast as he could, Glenn picked up his sword and retreated from the battle heading towards the houses.

    An old woman rushed to meet him and help him to the makeshift surgeon along the house wall. Without saying a word, the old woman slowly unwrapped his arm from the cloak. Glenn had to bite himself in the chin to not scream from the agony when the cloth that had stuck to his wound was pulled off. Glenn took a quick look at the wound and had to turn away with a sour burning in his mouth. The wound were massive, it were like a chunk of his arm had been bitten off or something. His skin was ripped and muscles and blood covered pulp beneath with splinters of white bone. The worst part was how his whole arm was bent.

    He knew it would never be able to use his arm like before. Here's hoping he wouldn't lose it. That would be a death sentence. He could never do farm work again with only one arm not properly, not worth to get paid for it. Glenn looked to the battle again, it was not going well. There were just too few humans the beasts where legion, a never ending swarm pouring down the valley. He thought they had been rooted out with the coming of Sigmar decades ago. Why wouldn't the Stormcast return and save them like the stories told. They were devoted of Sigmar, the chapel spire was rising behind him at the village centre. Why should they suffer?

    Then he saw a light like the sun coming up but it was already daytime and it raised from the wrong place from the end of the valley behind the beastmen. And the enemy burned in this light, a great beam cutting through the ranks of Gors and Ungors. Great Minotaur caught flame braying at the top of their lungs in pain. And just like that the majority of the herd was gone. The human defenders reinvigorated by this, pushed forward. Glenn looked to the source of the end of the light beam and saw a draconic beast charge across the ashen fields, cinders rising from its path. The great beast slammed into the Brayherds’ rear stamping the Gors down. Smaller lizard like creatures atop its scaled back hacked into the Beastmen with curved blades. The complete disarray of the enemy after the blast made them easy targets for the defenders who shortly had them all cut down. Glenn could just look on with astonishment as the last Gor was killed and the draconic beast disappeared in a light beam coming down from the sky.

    Damn his arm! He would become a bard telling this story across Ghur.

    Per usual, critiques, comparisons and friendly banter is encouraged.

    I'm not going to be too strict on this, but if you are aiming to do a comprehensive critique, I'd prefer you make a few large posts rather than a swarm of little ones. Mainly for the benefit of people who are reading this thread a year from now.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018
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  2. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Polls are closed and the winner is "The Instrument" written by @Infinity Turtle

    Story One: "Song of Freedom" by Scalenex

    Story Two: "Drawn to the Beat" by spawning of Bob

    Story Three: "A Time to Remember" by Killer Angel

    Story Four: "The Instrument" by Infinity Turtle

    Story Five: "Dirge" by lordkingcrow

    Story Six: "Splashing of Spawning" by thedarkfourth

    Story Seven: "Here Comes the Sun" by Essmir
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
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  3. Infinity Turtle
    Saurus

    Infinity Turtle Well-Known Member

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    Nice job, everyone!

    Some great ideas to go alongside this creative theme. It's good to see people thinking outside the box :)

    Keep up the good work!
     
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  4. Killer Angel
    Skink Priest

    Killer Angel Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, many good stories. Need to think because it won't be easy to give those two votes. Luckily for me, I had to choose only between 6 pieces :D


    In the next days, I will also submit my considerations on the stories... trying to develope them in just 1-2 posts.
     
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  5. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    A cracking crop for sure. I've been out of the loop too long to dare author guesses but whoever you'all are have stepped up b in the last 12 months. If it weren't for the restless undead, I would have no idea who did what.
     
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  6. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning

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    Hmmmm read them all and I have favourites, but I am not yet 100% sure what to vote for.
    In fact there's something I like in all of them, in some it is the carefully chosen words, in others it is the content that grips me more...
     
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  7. thedarkfourth
    Temple Guard

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    Greetings all. What a wondrous day to gather at yet another story competition, the gift that keeps on giving. And this time with extra bob, who has grown as old and forgetful as his old nemesis pal Crowsfoot. ("kids these days, not making the author identities obvious! In my day, I used to be able to guess the authors AND do it in a brilliant cryptic way so that no one else could know that I'd guessed them!")

    I loved all of the entries. In homage to the theme and not at all reusing the "Splashing of Spawning" gimmick, I've decided to turn my reviews into L-O's first ever mixtape.

    Song of Freedom

    This was a great little story and the first of a suspiciously large number in the comp whose fundamental message seems to be the futility of action in our brief and meaningless lives. I'm not sure how this ultra-nihilist, pseudo-Kierkegaardian tone managed to permeate a collective literary ode to the Power of Music, but I'm proud of Lustria Online that it did.

    This story works nicely because straight away, you are invested in the protagonist's fate, and its demise comes as a genuine shock. Since I - who refuse to succumb to the tempting melancholy of a world devoid of purpose or joy, and who instead stands proud, embracing my destiny as a Nietzschean uber-lizard - wish to remember this tale by the rat's heroism rather than its total lack of achievement, I feel that the most appropriate track to kick off our tape here is the 1978 Gloria Gayner disco anthem "I Will Survive".





    Drawn to the Beat

    I like to think that the pounding, regular rhythm of disco music makes it a favourite genre at lizard dance parties, but that's by the by. Hi-hats, sequinned outfits and roller skates are not specifically mentioned in "Drawn to the Beat", but then neither are they specifically ruled out, so perhaps the scaled legions' battle music has a little saturday night fever in it after all.

    While the set-up is not quite as juicy as the previous entry, "Drawn to the Beat" more than makes up for it with exceptionally juicy use of language and gloriously layered sentences that almost - almost - remind me of a certain Russian Imperial adviser-themed mage priest who used to haunt these pages. If I read the conclusion correctly, the lizard hero's fine display of discipline and courage through the power of rattled skulls (phwoar!) is doomed to spectacular futility by the impending detonation of skaven warpfire. Which makes this strike two for rampant and unashamed nihilism (thats 2 out of 2 for those keeping score).

    Anyhow, the general death and terror of this piece, as well as its mountainous setting and the need to have a diversity of genres on the tape, has led me to choose for this story the classic metal staple "Run to the Hills", by Iron Maiden.





    A Time to Remember

    Now that we've got all the skulls out of the way, it's time to move on to some nice, ritualised undeath. This cleverly-structured story alternates between our man Hans' current predicament in vampiric captivity and his memories of the events (geddit?! A Time to Remember?! Eh?!) that led him to this place. It's even more cleverly worked together in the finale when the immortal antagonist spends some time of his own remembering (geddit!? geddit?!).

    Oh but wait. Just as you thought this might be leading to a resolution and a moving forward, the hero's attempts at musical seduction dramatically backfire, and all his efforts were for naught. For a second I forgot that nothing ever succeeds in this miserable, uncaring universe, it's like we are morons for ever even trying.

    (I do genuinely enjoy futile endings, so believe me when I say these are not sarcasms but expressions of admiration, one moping existentialist to another).

    For this story, the track is clear. Vampire coast? Rituals by moonlight? Tortured memories? It could only be "The Power of Love" by Hewy Lewis and the News! (He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humour. *hefts axe*)





    The Instrument


    The other stories in this contest only aspire to futility. They are mere charlatans, philanderers, wannabes compared to the true master of nihilism: the author of The Instrument. Other stories might lead the hero on some noble adventure, only to reveal they were doomed from the start. This one is an exhibition of purist anguish of the soul from beginning to end.

    We start with an act of theft, ostensibly bold but clearly senseless from the outset, since the thief has no frame of reference for what he has stolen. He attempts to glean from it clues as to the beauty he once sensed within, only to find himself destroying the object - which was indeed one of enormous potential beauty - in a fit of existential rage. Nothing is learned, and the world is made a little poorer for the effort. The thief's soul is even emptier for his failure than it was at the start.

    Even the reader is left with nothing but a question as to what precisely the instrument of title refers - the eponymous lute, too good for this world? The cold-blooded savage with dreams of something greater that destroyed it? Or the reader themself, simply for the act of witnessing the whole sorry affair? Truly, this is a jewel among downers, and I salute you, author and "instrument" of its forging. (Eh?! What I'm saying is, the real instrument was the friends we made along the way author all along).

    I've had to go to a lot of personal effort to resist the selection of a 00s emo track for this entry, since I adore that unique period in musical history. Instead I must bow to the more obvious choice: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by the Beatles. (Harrison, of course, as well as being referenced in the title of another competition entry, was a great existentialist in his own way).





    Dirge

    OK, folks, so we're four for four here on miserable world-views. Strangely, despite being about a hopeless last stand, Dirge might be the first piece in the competition that isn't an out-and-out endorsement of abnegation and cynicism although it's pretty darn close.

    Firstly, the hopelessness of the situation is acknowledged from the outset, meaning that - unlike the previous entries - the author doesn't cruelly play with the reader's hopes before dashing them to smithereens. Secondly, the protagonist and narrator is a self-professed villain, meaning that we are only half-rooting for him anyhow. And thirdly, while the final sentence and its brutal ellipsis heavily implies that the pre-ordained demise is finally met, it doesn't outright confirm it. There is still some sliver of room for belief that our awful dirge-singer might in fact escape and that attempts to thwart the inevitable death and decay of all life could in fact bear fruit.

    Against this, I am forced to admit that, when it comes to the crunch, the monstrous main character doubles down on his monstrosity, rather than developing into something new or demonstrating any capacity for change. So....maybe this is just as nihilist as all the others. At a spiritual level.

    I don't know what it is about lines like "A ragged cry then, I knew no song, but the lamentations of my heart" ...but somehow I feel the only track to accompany this piece is Primal Scream. Initially my instinct was to plump for the joyous hedonism of "Loaded", but in the end I felt that for a story called "Dirge", I simply had to choose the original, much less upbeat version: the aptly titled "I'm Losing More Than I Ever Had".

     
  8. thedarkfourth
    Temple Guard

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    Splashing of Spawning

    Well this is just straightforward. I mean, if anything it's the saddest of the bunch, since the author clearly wants to embrace the vibrant energy of life. And yet that couldn't stop them from telling a story about a lizard - full of hope and aspiration - who is literally born and killed in a single day, his energy snuffed out before it could even form coherent thoughts about the world. Grim.

    The author already selected their own musical accompaniments for this piece, but six minutes of underwater noise is hardly fitting for our trendy mixtape, so I'm going to go ahead and liven the mood with Young M.C.'s 1989 debut hit "Know How". Hip-hop's general sense of pride and boisterous self-belief is the perfect antidote to the relentless breaking down of ego we've seen in this comp so far.





    Here Comes the Sun

    This story starts like all the others, with an existentialist debate about the anguish of life trapped inside a transient, empty form, but it abruptly shifts into an entirely separate tale about a sun-dragon rescuing sweet villagers from nasty beasts. The tone and material could not be more different between the two sections, and this reviewer admits he has spent long hoursminutes seconds trying to decipher any kind of connection between the two. Certainly none of the characters appear in both parts, unless Yuatec is the name of the dragon...which would only make things more cryptic.

    Whatever the case, the ending of Here Comes the Sun is one of the most genuine, unreservedly happy moments of the entire competition - an extremely fitting way to finish. Therefore, I must crush this nascent optimism by selecting my favourite most miserable song ever: "Exit Music (For A Film)" from Radiohead's legendary record "OK Computer".





    Bonus Track

    So there's a little space left on the tape, and obviously we'll let it spool out until you forget it's still on and then suddenly hit you with a hidden track at the end because we are super cool. I can't in good conscience end this review of a superb competition without playing perhaps the most existentialist song of all time: "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads.

     
  9. Killer Angel
    Skink Priest

    Killer Angel Well-Known Member

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    I always love @thedarkfourth's critiques, but these ones are absolutely brilliant. A perfect idea, to write about the pieces and linking them to appropriate songs.

    I must say you matched perfectly mine... the only song i would change would be "Run to the hill". As Drawn to the Beat talks about a cavalry charge toward an artillery's nest, "The Trooper" (which is about Balaclava) would have been perfect ;)
     
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  10. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Best critique ever TD4! I am working on my own critiques and I was going to comment on a similarity I found across all seven. I didn't do the math but I believe this is the shortest average word count per story we ever had.

    A common theme of nihilism? That's far more meaningful and deep than my paltry technical analysis. I should just give up on my critiques, give up on everything....
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2018
  11. Essmir
    Chameleon Skink

    Essmir Well-Known Member

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    Well, I am not inhabiting this forum in the ether as frequently as I used to. Not since my lizardmen project ended as half painted half striped assortment in a drawer as my local community finally succumbed to the end times. But the story comp still draws me back. But during my forays in the immaterium have I been drawn to the inq28. This community follows the teachings that can be derived from the canvas left by Jhon Blanche. They see beyond the space marines in shining armour whit skulls because they are coool. They see the real people of the forty-second millennium. Pepole living their life under the cruellest regime imaginable. We are these peoples ancestors those who toil in blood and unimaginable psychological stress. To these humans, the skulls represent the vanity of life. The reaper visits everybody high and low and our carrion lord reminds us of this by his ivory aperance, by his grinning skull. What I am trying to say is that it warms my heart to see my friends incorporating nihilism in their art. But still nobody seems to comprehend my english. Ah the curse of being born in a barbaric country whit free healthcare is to not be able to spread one's word ;)
     
  12. discomute
    Kroxigor

    discomute Well-Known Member

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    Running critiques - loved story 1. Good premise, well written and executed. Perhaps could have grabbed attention from the get-go but it built very well.

    Nothing grabs my interests more than shades of grey when it comes to villainy.

    But hey, I'm glad that stinking rat is dead.
     
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  13. discomute
    Kroxigor

    discomute Well-Known Member

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    Drawn to the beat


    Uhhhh what just happened? I do enjoy my subtly in stories but I've read it twice and I only think I understand what happened. Lizards gonna get fried? So obviously I enjoy all writing but you can't leave your audience confused... Unless I'm dim
     
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  14. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning

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    I think so. The rats activate the gun and it might or might not work, killing the Lizardmen and/or the Skaven.
     
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  15. Killer Angel
    Skink Priest

    Killer Angel Well-Known Member

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    No way I'm gonna do excellent reviews as the one made by @thedarkfourth , but these pieces (and their authors) deserve at least an effort.

    Story One: "Song of Freedom"
    Interesting story and good job in making me sympathetic with a skaven slave.
    I knew that the new free life in Lustria couldn't last for long, and the author didn't disappointed me.
    Very nice the "discovery" of the outside world by the ratman, but alas, imo the story loses something in the final (not so much, the story is good)
    They know the flute lures skaven, they've made it for that task... so why the skinks should say something as these lines?:
    "And when you see a lone skaven he is probably an elite assassin or poisoner" ... or probably a random skaven you lured with your magic flute, made for that exact purpose?
    "Who knows what this one skaven could have been planning" ... don't know, probably he was following your magical call?
    After the end of the comp, I would like to hear the author's pov. ;)

    Story Two: "Drawn to the Beat"
    OK, let me start with the weak points of this one.
    Names. Sken-Dar, Rekdok, Zapwok, Jen-Dobri, Kithmuun... not only they are not easy to remember, but they are also almost all pointless. We don't need to know the name of the mount or of the Slann that doesn't appear or act.
    These names are a distraction and add confusion to an already unclear piece, that got some passages in which you don't understand what's really happening...
    Minor nitpick (I'm a geologist): the stalactites are the ones that fall from the ceiling, not the stalagmites. ;)
    What I really like, and what's a big redeeming point, is the double scope of the music. it rallies the scattered sauri, gives them unity, inspires them and drives them to what seems the glorious charge that will let them decide the sort of their part of the battle.
    But the same music will also serve as a point of reference for the skaven warp-artillery, which otherwise wouldn't have been able to concentrate fire.
    So a truly good idea, in a not so strong package.


    Story Three: "A Time to Remember"
    this story developes the concept of "show, don't tell".
    The author don't tell us that the bard Hans can play with people's emotions and he's good at it... we see it tnx to flashbacks: he seduced the daughter of the Duke, he convinces the Duke to don't kill him, he pleases an angry Admiral...
    IN the meantime, the "real" story developes 'til the abrupt end. Necromancers are still somehow human, but to sing about the joy of life probably it's not the appropriate leverage to influence one of them.
    The morale? leave alone noble daughters.
    All in all a good piece, but I feel a little cheated, as yes, by rules lizardmen must be included in the story at least with a mention, and the story does it... but still I would have liked to see "the power of music" on cold blooded minds, we already know how powerful music can be for us human.



    This is the first part of my review. One of my votes went to one of these three stories.
     
  16. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Scalenex Imparts His Unimpeachable Wisdom.


    I am proud of Lustria-Online as well. It will be hard to figure out who the Scalenex Cup goes to this season with all the beautiful misery we have! I am also proud that we got the word count. There are plenty of awesome stories with big word counts, but most of the time I believe skilled writers are more often succinct than verbose. I will state that all seven pieces had a good economy of words.


    I made sure my second and/or third readings were with the soundtrack TD4 selected.


    Story One, Song of Freedom: A cheerful peace with a happy ending, the Skaven died! Tongue-and-cheek intro aside, Impressive work to make a Skaven sympathetic than show he was doomed anyway. That’s pretty Skaven-y. Nice reversal that the Skaven’s motives were fairly pure and the Lizardmen were callous remorseless killers upset that their killing was occurring too slowly.

    Relative to the other pieces, the actual music part struggles with the “show don’t tell” principle. The music was speaking explicit words rather than imply feelings for the readers to come to themselves. Though we did get a fair amount “the feels” from the Skaven protagonist so this is a small issue.

    Despite all his hope and effort he died and had no defense against it. Strong contender for Scalenex Cup though it’s hampered because the protagonist was a Skaven and he died happy.


    Story Two, Drawn to the Beat: First read I had some minor misgivings about the story structure but a slow re-read showed me that this piece is brilliantly constructed. Both the Skaven and Saurus commanders are taking a calculated risk and both are using rhythms to guide their actions. The two point of view characters make excellent mirrors. Not only the stuff I mentioned before, but they are both human enough to be relatable but alien enough to be exotic.

    Well at first I had misgivings about the vague open-ended but on my second read I view that as a strength, not a weakness, though if I had to put money on this I would put my $1 on the Skaven. Since the linchpin of the story is rhythm, I would had added two paragraphs: one elaborating on the drumbeat; one elaborating on the bell. Thus the bell would have both literal and emotional resonance. I think that tweak would have made a strong piece stronger.

    The open ending ratchets up emotions but with both named characters still alive at the end, disqualified from the Scalenex Cup. Yeah, a lot of people died but they were expendable nameless flunkies. They were all gory painful deaths, so honorable mention.


    Story Three, A Time to Remember: Wow, this has a nice nihilistic bent. Adult language and content and a hero who just can’t win no matter how he tries. I especially like the way the flashback and present stories tie so thematically well together. Lustria is great. I mean you might get stabbed by a Saurus, eaten by a dinosaur, poisoned by a Skink, or die of something mundane and slow like an infection or heat stroke…but nope there is also necromancy! Truly the greatest continent in the Warhammer setting. The vocabulary choices really brought forth a terrifying mood that not even the ironic song choice of “The Power of Love” could overcome.

    My main misgiving like most of my misgivings in this contest, is pretty minor. That’s the pseudo-Shakespearean flowery language. I guess if you are writing about bards, it is appropriate to draw on inspiration from the Bard, but I think the author may have laid on a bit too thick. That kind of slowed down my digestion of the story and maybe prevented me from immersing myself in the narrative as deep as I could have been.

    Hero dies, all his efforts fail and he’s going to an undead abomination that probably retains enough memory of his life to suffer more than most. Likely to take the Scalenex Cup.


    Story Four, the Instrument: I love to talk about the need for fantasy and sci-fi writers to mix the relatable “human” with the exotic “alien” traits when covering a non-human sapient creature. One excellent trope to do this is examining a common human thing, in this case a stringed instrument from an alien perspective. While the Warhammer and Age of Sigmar stories lend themselves to what is violent and epic, I really like it when a writer can evoke the setting in a simple non-violent story. The Skink’s character, his hope and dreams all came out very well in this piece.

    I cannot really find anything wrong with this other than maybe a lack of variety in paragraph and that’s a really nitpicky detail. If I can’t poke a hole in something, I generally vote for it. Since it’s rare that a piece truly stands out from among the crowd for an overall impression (all seven had a good overall impression) I generally have to give out my votes basted on technical construction.

    While TD4 really chose an awesome musical pairing with this piece, I disagree with this nihilistic assessment. The Skink did fail to reproduce the beautiful music he desperately longed for, but at the end of the piece he was experimenting with percussion sounds that were not beyond his grasp. This piece had a ray of hope after the suffering. I like a ray of hope amongst the suffering but no one died, so while I enjoyed this piece, this is not a contender for the Scalenex Cup.


    Story Five, Dirge: Wow, this story kind of read like a poem and I liked that. This could work for Lizardemn or Seraphon but usually when our armies are interacting for good or ill with humans minding their own farms, it seems to be Serphon these days. No matter. Whether animated by blood or starlight, this made me really fear and hate the evil lizards and it’s hard to get past my “Warmbloods had it coming!” filter. I was sympathetic for the narrator despite his self-confessed evil.

    My misgivings with this are pretty minor. There was good pacing and plenty of story, but I would have liked a bit more characterization. I was left wanting to know more about the character. I wasn’t sure if he was a Chaos worshipper or a very brutal and ironfisted stalwart of Order. I wasn’t sure how they attracted the Seraphon’s collective attention. I really wanted to know why someone who seemed to be a stern military commander had a poet’s soul.

    The fact that this piece has a villain protagonist does not disqualify his death from the Scalenex Cup, but because of his early acceptance of it and an unusually strong field of competitors for the Cup, I’ll have to give the Cup to another piece.


    Story Six, Splashing of Spawning: A part of me is impressed by the direct incorporation of music into this piece. A part of me is concerned that this is breaking the spirit if not the letter “da rulez” and giving this piece an unfair advantage in what is supposed to be a writing contest. I shouldn’t be such a fuddy-duddy. The musical pairings do capture the mood of each paragraph stanza very well. My only concern with the implementation is that these story sections are very short and the music files are pretty long in comparison. I did listen to them in their entirety and they don’t vary a whole lot, so you don’t miss much if takes you one minute to reach the section or four minutes.

    I had a minor disagreement with the author whether to include embedded videos or hyperlinks. I now revised the original post to include both. What I should have done in the first place.

    So kudos for sound effects are well paired to their sections. I also am very impressed by the poetry. Its good poetic structure, rhyme and rhythm. There is also a nice a poetic theme. From water I was born, into water I die. That’s why I figure scaly versions of Viking funerals and other burials at sea would be the Lizardmen norm. Despite this piece being clearly a poem, it is also a short story in every sense of the word. Those two artistic mediums are hard to blend together seamlessly and the author pulled it off.

    Which segues into my main misgivings. Blending of artistic mediums. I gave this two slow readings. One with the sound files, one without them. The sound files fit the theme of each stanza very well, and the poetic structure is very good, but they get in each other’s way. When I read the piece without the sound, the writer’s poetic sensibilities shone through. When I read this with the sound files, the sound files overwhelmed my internal metronome and it drowned out a lot of the poetry part. Both the poetry and the sound files were great, but together they were slightly less than the sum of their parts.

    Only one day of life? Strong contender for the Scalenex Cup.


    Story Seven, Here Comes the Sun: Like most, nay all of the pieces in this contest, this piece has plenty of angst and suffering. I wouldn’t call it nihilistic. It has been many years since I took my one philosophy elective class, but I’m pretty sure nihilism involves understanding and accepting the meaninglessness of existence. This piece the characters fight against nihilistic impulses. I’m guessing the two Seraphon were part of the rescue force, so they eventually stopped contemplating their navels and got down to business. The main protagonist, the Human protagonist likewise stewed in self-pity for a little bit, then was inspired to make the best of a bad situation.

    I hope I answered TD4’s concern, but I must say that my biggest misgiving with this piece is linking the two different situations together. I think we had a nice thematic link between the two that I covered, but I would have liked more clarity that Opochli and Tek’loq were directly involved in the battle rather than merely inferring it.

    While the characters suffered a lot, the optimistic ending precludes this piece winning the Scalenex Cup, but it certainly has enough misery in it to deserve an honorable mention.


    Still not sure how I’m going to vote, I narrowed it down to four, not two. I will not share my ultimate decision (assuming I make one), but the contenders for the Scalenex Cup are stories one, three, and six. I’m open to hearing suggestions on who wins the Cup.
     
  17. discomute
    Kroxigor

    discomute Well-Known Member

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    A time to remember - wow!

    Split narratives are so hard to do
    Leaving the action out is a risk
    Such a simple yet memorable ending
    Every risk taken paid off. This is one of the better stories I've seen in a competition.
     
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  18. Xholankha the lost one
    Chameleon Skink

    Xholankha the lost one Well-Known Member

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    a good haul of stories, well done gentlemen.
     
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  19. Killer Angel
    Skink Priest

    Killer Angel Well-Known Member

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    At the moment it seems a close race, with four pieces very near.

    Anyway, that's the second part of my reviews.

    Story Four: "The Instrument"
    I truly liked this one. the trope of "destroy what you don't understand" it's not new, but this doesn't mean you cannot write good stories using it, and that's the proof.
    It's a funny story at its core, with a nice reversal of the usual perspective: we have a skink, which is (leaving aside Slanns) a member of the most intelligen sub-race of lizardmen, the oldest race of warhammer, the ones that look with contempt at all those "sapient" apes... and here that skink is the savage one, the barbarian that sees a basic tool of human culture as something magical and powerful, far beyond its poorly limited comprehension.
    The story developes in a classic way, and it's even too much predictable, but I cannot negate its charm and its sweet sadness.


    Story Five: "Dirge"
    A bitter story of vengeance and doomed lives. We don't know anything about antefacts, but it still depicts why our protagonist has become the mosters he is now... and he's not even the worst of the bunch (the baker’s son was more cruel).
    The story itself tells us the moral: "The hatred festers and spreads, causing only more pain".
    So many doomed destinies, so many wasted lives... we are happy that these "monsters" died, and we're sad that they weren't born as monsters but "forced" to descent into darkness.
    Alas, the song of the protagonist will die with him: the enraged lizardmen cannot care less about it: if in "the instrument", the music was a bridge between the two races, here is just another barrier.


    Story Six: "Splashing of Spawning"
    This one was brilliant. it's not a classic story, as more a poem about the beautiful and tragic one day life of a skink. Oldhammer was a brutal world.
    It's exceptional how the music is not only entwined in the structure of the piece, but literally accompanies the words with the musical attachments. Kudos to the author, because this one required a lot of thinking and work, i would be truly happy if this piece could obtain a nice nuber of votes.
    But at the same time, from this point I feel a little cheated, as we have a piece with a different media, other than the simple writing. It gives the piece a unique flavor (one that won't be easily forgotten, at least by me), but it could also give a slightly unfair advantage over the other ones.
    To vote or to not vote for it... both ways, I will be unhappy by my decision.


    Story Seven: "Here Comes the Sun"
    A good story to end a good competition.
    We have an opening scene with Seraphon discussing the meaning of life, waiting to be called to fight in the realms, then we have the desperate battle of humans against beastmen (a not so common opponent in our stories), and when all seems doomed, our seraphon arrive and save the day, riding dinosaurs. A so magnificent vision that inspired our co-protagonist with the will to forge its life anew, becoming a maimed bard.
    All in all a good story, my main complaint is that the music is marginal to the piece, it's only present in the title and in the final resolution... personally, instead of the final declaration I would have liked more another scene, moved forward in time, effectively showing Glenn singing the tale and giving the piece a more intimate connection with the theme.



    Here we are, my reviews have been done. Kudos to all the authors, and my personal thanks for having developed "my" theme with works of such good quality. :)
     
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  20. discomute
    Kroxigor

    discomute Well-Known Member

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    The instrument

    Writing about such a simple story was quite a risk. I like risks.

    I have to say that I assumed that a skink would know a bit about music. They have their rituals, right? I suppose a guitar is different to what they would use. The fact that this story stopped to make me think is good too.

    Overall it was a good not great story. Good because it was so well written simple and interesting. But it is hard to consider it great, it won't leave you with a lasting image like burning down a barn full of villagers, or a skink wondering if the slann remembered him wrong.
     
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