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Fiction Killer Angel's short stories

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Killer Angel, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    inspired by the similar thread by @Scalenex, I've decided to collect here all the stories written by me for the L-O comp.

    I'll start with my first one

    The Coward (April-May 2016, theme was "Anti-Heroes" and I took the fifth place on 15)

    “You are a coward! You bring shame upon our blood! Shame upon me!”

    The Inner Hall was lit by just some torches; the flickering light was casting bizarre shadows and reflections on the ancient banners and the adorned shields, decorating the massive stone walls. It was dark and cold… appropriate for the time being. Thordek Connarsson was used to his brother’s tirades. Nonetheless, they hurt him just the same.

    “The Granite Barrier was not salvageable. There wasn’t only clanrats, it was already filled with jezzails and a couple of Warp Cannons. What should I have done?”

    “For a starter, obey my orders! The Barrier is of vital importance! We cannot afford its loss…”

    “Well, we cannot either afford the loss of one quarter of our troops, charging into a deathtrap. We don’t have warriors to spare, and they would have all died in the assault…”

    “Or you would have died, leading the combat, as a Thane should do! And the Irondrakes would have charged on the breach, breaking their line of defense, to save the Clan’s banner and avenge your death!”

    “Sweet Grimnir… It has already been epic to bring them back into our lines. The rats were prepared, and they were waiting for us. It. Was. A. Trap. They were already closing the way behind us, and we had to break through rat ogres. All I did it was to bring back our troops for the battles to come.”

    “Ah, you’re so a heroic fighter, Thordek! Don’t tell me your fairytales, you’d just run to save your worthless life, and all you brought back, are dwarfs with broken pride. They know far better than you that they failed their duty toward their liege. Are you satisfied? Do you think they are grateful that they are not feasting in Grungni’s Halls? Do I really need to remind you of the Chasm’s Keep?”

    No, it was not necessary. It was still an open wound. The Keep was swarmed by rats… wave after wave, an endless sea of furry scum. They were drowning in slaves. After three days, without a single hour of rest, when they run out of gunpowder, Thordek gave the withdrawal order, leading personally the young warriors, dwarfs with beards too short to die so soon. Those lads needed to return safe home.

    The longbeards simply gave him a stern look, and stood behind the walls, without following. The sound of the longbeards’ warhorn haunted them for miles, and then there was silence. The warriors didn’t say a word… but within a month, they all took the Slayers’ tattoos and threw themselves in the carnage of the battle that cost them the Southern Outposts.

    Thordek lowered his head. This act of apparent submission, seemed to appease the Lord.

    “Listen, Thordek, the life of our Clan is at stake, I cannot take the field all by myself… I need you, but the warriors start calling you names. They still follow you out of respect for me and because they’re all honorable dwarfs, but their loyalty won’t last for long…”

    Thordek raised his eyes. He knew this wasn’t the right moment, but time was running short.

    We won’t last for long! Blame me if this pleases you, but we must face the truth. We have no more lines of defense, and the mines are gone for good. There’s nothing left between the rats and this place. We’re talking about our families, about our bloodlines. We cannot stop them.”

    Lord Alerick Connarsson, Third of his Name, Bearer of the WeepingWidow Greataxe and with-so-many-other-titles-that-a-beardling-would-become-a-ranger-before-hearing-them-all, took a deep and dangerous breath.

    “What are you suggesting, Thordek? Do you have some heroic idea?”

    “We need help. We have plenty of gold, and magical objects that we cannot use. There are wood elves in the northern forest, we could aid each other. Probably we won’t even have to give ‘em the gold, they are in our same boat and they know it. We cannot do it all by ourselves, Alerick, we need allies.”

    Alerick clenched his fist, and gave a hammering blow to his desk.

    “We had allies! Then they took our gold, and our beards, and then King Gotrek gave ‘em our steel! We won’t bow to some pointy ears, only because you fear to die as a dwarf. You won’t humiliate my people. High King Thorgrim would spit on this nonsense.”

    “Probably yes, but King Thorgrim is no more, the Book of Grudges is no more, and even our land is no more… we’re stuck in this chunk of our old empire, floating into the void. There are no other Clans to help us, there are only we, the elves and the endless rats. I would like to have other options, but our duty is to protect our people… “

    Alerick’s face was hard as a stone. Thordek knew he was losing also this battle.

    “Please cousin, help me! Tell something!”

    A third dwarf had remained on the sidelines. He shared many of Thordek’s worries, but when he spoke, he sealed Thordek’s last hope.

    “Here I am as the Clan’s Runelord, Thordek, not as your cousin. I appreciate your concerns, but, as you say, we must protect our people: we must protect their honor. If you don’t live by traditions, then what’s the point of living at all? Our Lord’s will is crystal clear, and I’m fully with him.”

    “This meeting ends here. I suggest to go back to your duty.”


    The final assault was beginning.

    For almost a week, the rats tested their defenses all across the main stonewall, and they knew there wasn’t an unbreakable opposition. Rats were dying in spades, but they had reserves, while each fallen dwarf was irreplaceable.

    It was a sunny day, the roaring of organ cannons reverberated gracefully against the rocky cliffs and the musicians were giving the right mood to the army… but the lines were thin, and their faces were tired.

    That morning, his brother came to see him, bringing a large object, draped in blue velvet with golden embroidery. Thordek knew it was his death sentence.

    “This is our Oathstone. I’m giving it to you. You are going to join the Ironbreakers and you will guard the entrance of the fortress: if our lines crumble, you will be our last line of defense, all the remaining troops will rally around you. If this happens, I will probably be already dead. Don’t fail me.”

    And so he was standing there, within the ranks of the prideful Ironbreakers, nailed to that little personal pedestal, which at least was giving him the advantage of a good sight of the battlefield. Squeaks of pain sounded every time an engraved stone landed in the packed hordes.

    Then it happened. With a rumble, half of the eastern tower collapsed on itself, probably undermined by some tunnel work. Loads of stormvermin, flanked by a couple of Abominations, erupted within the ruins, murdering the remnants of the quarrelers in a matter of seconds.

    The King’s banner moved toward the breach, Thordek heard his brother war cry, echoed by his personal Hammerers’ guard following closely as they joined the fray. For some long minutes, it seemed the vermin would be repelled, then a dozen of stormfiends emerged, and the royal banner fell.

    The beating drums were ordering to fall back and reform, and the secondary cannon batteries were already aimed at point-blank. And Thordek knew he would have failed his brother.

    “Ironbeard. To me!”

    The massive warrior suddenly came to Thordek’s side “Yes, my lord?”.

    Thordek stepped down from the Stone. “We need reinforcements. I entrust you the Oathstone, form the Steel Wall and don’t let them pass.”

    Bewildered eyes looked at him “Sir, you aren’t supposed to…”

    “I’ll be back as soon as possible.”.

    Thordek left the formation, hurrying toward the inside of the mountain. But he had the time to hear someone say “Let him go. We’ll die better without Thordek Cowardisson”.

    Thordek proceeded toward the inner sanctum of the fortress.

    “Of course they despise me, I’m fleeing. I lied to them and they know it. Well, if this is my burden, then be it… I’ve always done the best for my Clan, I’ve always tried to save the lives of the dwarfs under my command. What do you think? That dying on the walls will save the lives of your beloved ones? There are almost a thousand women and beardlings in the Great Hall, all waiting for their fate. To die in battle is just the easy way out, you don’t hear their screams, when the rats will find ‘em!”

    Thordek’s plan was simple. He needed to save that thousand dwarfs, the future of the Clan. Firstly, he would have took all the unused magical gear that was lying in the Inner Vault. Dwarfs were too proud to use items without dwarves runes carved on them, but elves are not so choosy. Then he would have guided the women and children toward the elves, through the northern tunnel (since there were no reports about skaven in that one), collapsing the tunnel behind them. Within two days, he would have find the rangers and the border garrison… this way, he would bring also more than 50 fighters and couple of cannons with him. More important than fighting, the rangers could help forage given all the mouths he had to feed.

    The Inner Vault was huge. Thordek took an Arabyan Carpet, crafted by human wizards and therefore unusable by proper Dwarfs. Next he began to amass all the items he could find, flying from one chest to the other.

    The echo of a distant explosion stopped his search. A Rune of Immolation… time was running short.

    It was at that point that something leapt on the carpet, and a blade tried to cut its way right into Thordek’s kidney, just to be stopped by the gromril armor.

    Thordek turned to face his assailant… a couple of malevolent little eyes, a pointed snout and a fierce grin, bordered by a black cape, an Eshin Assassin.

    The poisoned blade tried to find an opening between the full plate joints, so Thordek closed the gap, clenching his armored fist upon the skaven’s wrist. A satisfying noise of broken bones.

    The grappled skaven tried to bite away Thodeks face, without much luck; the Thane grabbed firmly the head’s pelt, turning it away… and then he dropped his axe on the neck.

    The decapitated assassin fell upon the treasury, spilling blood all across the carpet; disgusted, Thordek kicked the body out and gained some height, keeping his eyes on his kill. “It’s just a drop in the bucket, but you at least, you won’t feast this night.”

    At that point, he noticed the glowing light.

    It was coming from something in the stack of the magical items; it was a red light, almost purple. The source was a strange, golden plaque, with bizarre symbols engraved on it; looking closely, the pattern resembled a sort of pyramid, with huge snakes around it. The snakes' red ruby eyes, veiled by skaven’s blood, were pulsing, in an almost hypnotic way… and the Plaque itself was absorbing the blood. Thordek was feeling a strange sense of hunger, and cannot help but to add some drop of blood, from the severed head. The pulsing become brighter.

    Something hisssssed, breaking the enchantment.

    Thordek raised his eyes; he was surrounded by many strange, blue lizard-things, with a red crest, and they were all threatening him with blowpipes.

    In the middle of the hall, a sort of.. portal? was floating mid-air, a white, luminescent oval, growing larger each second. From it, a dozen warbeasts were coming, followed by other lizard-things with spears, prodding them forward, when they tried to stop to smell the dead rat.

    “This cannot be… I know what this things are. These should be the Lizardmen, I remember them from my Grandfater’s stories, but… but…”.

    The lizards with blowpipes didn’t care about his confusion and remained hostile; for once, Thordek didn’t knew what to do.

    Then the portal become even larger, and something impossible emerged from it. It was a huge beast, bigger than a steamtank, with a massive, three horned armored head. Upon it, there was a sort of palanquin, with a large banner, made entirely of… fur? “it isn’t simple fur”, realized Thordek “those are skaven pelts”.

    On the palanquin, there was another red-crested lizard, stouter than the other ones, armed with a serpentine blade, and with a golden plaque on its chest, very similar to the one that was at Thordek’s feet… and that now was levitating, at a gesture of the lizardchief’s hand, floating toward him.

    He finally took the plaque, caressing it, then he looked at Thordek, which was still holding the severed head of the skaven. The lizardchief hissed something, and the blowpipers relaxed, diverting their attention from Thordek.

    The whole lizardmen army started moving across the Inner Vault and into the tunnel, toward the sounds of battle. Other lizardmen were emerging from the portal: another three-horned beast with a ballista on it, then more red-crested little ones, accompanied by large crocodile-like beings; a seemingly endless river of troops.

    And Thordek realized that the Ironbreakers were in its path.

    “For the Ancestors, someone must tell them that reinforcements are arriving!”

    He moved the carpet at full speed, heading for the light of the day.

    As you should have noted, english is not my first language, and The Coward is the first story I’ve ever written in english. I’m sufficiently satisfied with the final result, but I know it can be improved.
    I knew it would have been hard to win (and I didn’t expect it), but my objective was to end in the upper half, both for personal pride, and because it would have meant that my work succeeded in entertaining you, which is the real satisfaction. Mission accomplished!

    The idea behind:

    The core of the idea (dwarfs under siege by skaven, and help from lizardmen tnx to an ancient artifact of Sotek) came to my mind for the previous competition “continuity and change”. It would have been a confrontation between a father and a son, traditionalism (we fight and die our way) vs evolution (let’s try to use the devices in our treasure).
    The idea was too vague, and there was not a believable way for the dwarfs to know how to willingly activate a portal by sacrificing to Sotek, which was the premise, and I wasn’t satisfied with any of the solutions that came to my mind. So, I didn’t developed anything.
    But anti-heroes is a much different thing, and you can do something without knowing what you are doing, and you can open a portal by mere luck (destiny?).
    So, characters changed, the story changed, and pieces were falling in the right places, creating the picture.

    Time of the setting:

    Dwarfs isolated, with lizardmen coming through a portal, would be possible in AoS; but with AoS Seraphon are summoned by Slanns, and there’s no Sotek, and no Tehenhauin.
    So, I mixed 8th and AoS, setting the story immediately after the End of Times, after maybe a couple of centuries, mixing the old world (the dwarfs’ runes, the magic items, Tehenhauin) and the beginning of Age of Sigmar (The old world shattered in fragments of reality floating into the warp, before the passing of millennia, Sigmar’s return and the rising of the Seraphon).
    It’s more 8th or AoS? It doesn’t really matter, the reader chooses the setting he likes more to imagine the story.
    Travelling toward the stars in their ships, there are still living lizardmen, but now they are becoming seraphons, so they move through space with magical means. Did the Slaans left behind some items (as the plaque) to open portals and still wage war with their eternal enemies? Was the plaque a sacred object, lost millenia ago, still able to call the faithful servants of Sotek to battle? It’s deliberately left vague, so the reader can choose what likes more.

    The Anti-hero:

    The way I see, Thordek fits the anti-hero theme, because he tries to do the best things for his people, and he somehow succeeds, but the way he acts is totally different from what is the “right way” for all the other dwarfs. The more he tries, the more he falls down at his people’s eyes. There’s no redemption for him: even now, he will be certainly blamed to have summoned the lizardmen (such inappropriate act! And those fire breathing beasts pooped in the Hall of the Ancestors!)… and he will be lucky if the dwarfs won’t cast him away for leaving the Oathstone.

    The style:

    My stories usually born through pictures or phrases, that appear in my mind, and the work is to connect them in a solid pattern. The Coward is no different, I’ve got some vivid images, as the protagonist upon the Oathstone, watching the impending doom; the portal with the skinks’ army emerging from it; some part of the initial dialogue, and so on. A growing process.
    The story would have been divided in two parts: the first half, that needs to set the stage for the second part, with the final assault, the end of all hopes of resistance, and the twist with the lizzies’ arrival. There were many informations that must be given in the first half:

    a) the desperate situation of the dwarfs, their low but continuous loss of terrain
    b) establish the character of Thordek, his personality, his motivations
    c) show the way the other dwarfs see him and his actions, thus setting his anti-heroic figure
    d) give some cool image (the fall of the Chasm’s Keep)
    e) introduce the “wood elves idea” to beforehand justify Tordek’s fleeing during the combat and his picking of the magical items (and the McGuffin), so the second part of the story will flow without interruptions and in a believable way.

    a lot of things, and all of this, must be done quickly, because it’s the premise to the final showdown, and so it should possibly cover no more than an half of the story. I opted for the dialogue between brothers, to underline the clash between the two points of view, and because it was possible to give lot of infos, and was also possible to optimize the showing of the Chasm’s Keep disaster, with the flashback.
    Sadly, I’m aware that (as commented by some corrupted dwarf) conflicts must not be debated, and dialogues can be boring. In the first draft, the dialogue part was longer, and during my personal review it was cut down by a third, before submitting it to Scalenex, but probably it could have been shorter, telling the same concepts.
    The second part was much easier. In my mind it flowed like a movie, so all I needed was simply to write it and show it to you.
    The only critical passage, was the summoning, the physical act to put the skaven’s blood upon Sotek’s Sacred Plaque. The first hypothesis (Thordek with skaven’s blood on his hands that pick the plaque) was highly unsatisfying, also because there was the problem of how to put the blood on Thordek’s hands. Luckily, Eshin assassins exist, and their job is also to sneak into castles to assassinate lords, so… at that point, the pieces fell into position by themselves: it was perfect, the decapitated skaven would have spilled a nice amount of blood directly on the sacrificial plaque, activating its power and (probably) sending a signal to someone that would have opened the portal to investigate who was doing a sacrifice (Sotek’s beacon FTW!). And Thordek still holdin the skaven head was a natural thing, that leads to a part that I really like.
    Usually lizardmen are not nice to the ones that have their most valuable ancient artifacts. Servants of Sotek are even less inclined to show mercy. But who knows? Maybe the High Priest was amused by the fact that the “thief” was showing the proper respect to the plaque, sacrificing to Sotek. Or maybe the device was deliberately left behind by Tehenhauin for this scope. The real reason doesn’t matter: it’s believable in a matter of ways, and that’s why I like it.

    Last edited: Jul 29, 2018
  2. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The Weight of our Actions (July-August 2016, theme was "Conjunction and/or Choices" and I took the fifth place on 9)

    The golden artefact was in the Lord’s Treasury. The priests of the pyramid-temple were prepared to protect it for countless ages.

    The first part of the expedition went well, they entered enemy’s land without finding any real opposition, apart the excessive dryness of the heat in that sea of sand. The negligible defenses of the old city were easily crushed by lizardmen forces, and they took the temple near the strange, smooth sided pyramid.
    Then, things went wrong. Fragile skeleton warriors started to emerge from the sand itself, an easy prey for the seasoned saurus fighters, but there were more, and more, and more… numerous as skaven, except they didn’t break when burned by salamanders.
    They were annoying, but things were still manageable, until the huge decorative statues, revealed themselves as something different.
    In the chaos of the city combat, the frontline shattered. At a certain point, Qor-Tec heard the familiar roar of Loq-Loq’s carnosaur… but, almost at the other end of the battleline, he also saw for a brief moment Tepozi’s banner. Qor-Tec desire to join the fray at Loq-Loq’s side was almost a physical need, but surely the skink priest Tepozi would have been near his master, Lord Tlaxli… growling in frustration, Qor-Tec went toward the banner.

    So, their forces ended torned in two, and Qor-Tec found himself in the wrong part of the army; Lord Tlaxli was with the Oldblood Loq-Loq, and so their temporary commander was the skink priest Tepozi-Tzin. Qor-Tec was fine with Tepozi, but was worried by the absence of Loq-Loq; the Oldblood could keep in line Qor-Tec’s presumptuous rivals. And they were in open range… not a single tree, not a shade for the skink scouts to hide in, while the mounted vanguards of the enemy would have spotted the lizardmen from miles away. No, it wouldn’t have been an easy walk…

    Amon-Rha was standing near the royal sphinx, peering the two diverging clouds of dust.
    The High Priest Thutmek was bowing at his side. “The frog-god is in the western army, My King. But we don’t know where the stolen treasure is.”
    “No one steals my possessions. I’ll pursue the frog, probably the Plaque is there; but in case it’s a trap, you will take a part of the army, following the eastern fugitives”.
    “My King… there lies the Kinslayer. What should I do with him?”
    Amon-Rha pondered the choices. Thutmek would have needed some help? Can a traitor ever be trusted again?
    “Send him a message. His assistance will be rewarded”.
    "Wouldn't the traitor take the treasure for himself?"
    The king replied "It has no value to him, and I have other things he desires. Let him know that his outcast status could be softened."

    It began as a dusty cloud on the horizon, a rapidly approaching cloud. The sandstorm hit them faster than a Lustrian hurricane. Qor-Tec stood still against the raging sands, the nictitating membranes protecting the pupils. Not that it was of any help, they couldn’t see anything one yard away.
    Then, the storm calmed down, forced to kneel before Tepozi’s magic, revealing the approaching enemy units. The wardrums dictated the defensive formation, and the disciplined warriors moved into positions strategically optimized by millennia of warfare.
    Qor-Tec was confident; all the saurus near him were spawned from the pool that gave him birth centuries ago, they all shared the same genetic memory and the wisdom of the ancient Oldbloods, previously buried in that same pool. There wasn’t the same link of true spawned brothers, but the tie was strong and they would have followed him everywhere.
    The pressure on the lizardmen lines was constantly increasing. Tepozi’s lightning bolts were opening large holes through the attackers, but the bows of the dead were taking a heavy toll, and almost all the saurus warriors were stuck in combat with huge units of skeletons.
    The few chariots were trying to surround them, but the Cold One cavalry, leaded by Itza-Uax, was able to keep them away… Itza-Uax lured the chariots where he wanted, and then he acted: the Cold Ones crushed the first line of chariots, then the second one, leaving nothing between the Cold Ones and the screaming catapults… at that point, a dune of sand bursted, revealing some bizarre huge snakes, that charged Itza-Uax on the flank. Even at a distance, Qor-Tec saw the death of the Scarvet, decapitated by a masterful stroke, and his Cold One stabbed by the fangs of the snake-thing. The rest of the cavalry didn’t last much longer.
    Qor-Tec realized that things were going bad, when he saw also the unit of Tepozi was fighting. The kroxigors were dealing tremendous damage against their counterpart, some strange large beings with animal heads, but those cursed things were coming back from their apparent death, while the kroxigors didn’t…
    Qor-Tec’s unit doubled the efforts against the skeletons they were facing, finally wiping them away, but it was too late. To Qor-Tec’s horror, after the fall of the last kroxigor, Tepozi’s unit broke, with the few survivors running away.

    Tepozi was fleeing, and he knew he was short on options. There was another skink cohort ready to be joined, but with no hero, or kroxigors, and then there was a large group of warriors led by a Scarvet: a strong unit but made by saurus; the sense of impending doom was strong.
    And Tepozi moved alone, toward Qor-Tec.

    “No, it’s a mistake, he cannot find shelter within my unit…” Qor-Tec knew it was wrong, saurus are not fit to guard skink priests. So Qor-Tek stood immobile, without knowing what to do, while Tepozi came closer.
    But it wouldn’t have been necessary to take decisions. An arrow pierced Tepozi’s throat, and the priest fell to the ground, spurting blood. Qor-Tec went to his side, already knowing that the fate of his commander was sealed.
    Tepozi was holding an engraved gold tablet. Qor-Tec recognized the mark of the Old Ones, and he knew that the item should be brought to Lord Tlaxli, but it was also a sacred object, and he was not supposed to touch it. Tepozi’s last breath, exhaled “takeee…”, and so Qor-Tec took the tablet from the dead hands of the priest, hiding it within his armor.
    Then arrows fell like hail upon Qor-Tec’s unit.

    The watcher-in-the-sand, was lurking near Tepozi, ready to strike, but when the saurus took the shiny object from the dead skink, he drew back his arm. The big lizard had not gone to the smaller one's aid - he had gone to rob him and leave him to die. “Interesting… maybe almost interesting as Amon-Rha promises”, he thought. “There is no rush to recover the treasure. I will watch this one a little longer”.

    In the end, they made it. But losses were staggering… and, as if the loss of Tepozi and Itza-Uax wasn’t enough, Qor-Tec’s companion were all dead; only the champion Gorak survived the slaughter, and now he was silently following Qor-Tec with lifeless eyes. Qor-Tec knew that sensation of void and loss, but now there was a more urgent matter: the tablet was not a burden he could bring by himself.
    Tehechi was with his troops. His squadron suffered minimal losses and was one of the most reliable unit still remaining, and so, not surprisingly, Tetechi was acting as if he was the appointed general.
    Qor-Tec cursed his weakness. To ask for help, would have put ahead his direct rival for the Oldblood rank, and without the promotion, no chance for Qor-Tec to be buried in his old spawning pool. No inheritance of memories, his name would be forgotten.
    But Qor-Tec needed help, so he swallowed his pride, and approached the Scarvet. “Tehechi, I need to talk about an important thing…”

    Tetechi saw a defeated Qor-Tec approaching him. The chance to humiliate the rival was a strong temptation, but he also knew that the army was in danger, and that their forces were relying on the two survived veterans… When Qor-Tec talked, Tetechi opted to exploit his advantage.
    “I don’t need to talk. Your scars are the mark of defeats. You lead warriors to death, my warriors are still alive. I will be the next general, and my first order is: stay away from me”.
    And so Qor-Tec obeyed. There was only a thing he could do.
    “Gorak, I need your help…”
    Qor-Tec didn’t speak for long, but at the end, Gorak’s eyes were alive again.

    The skeletons didn’t even bother to hide their moves. There was only one way home for the lizardmen, and it was through the pass of rocky cliffs placed at the border of the desert sea.
    The undead army was there, waiting for them.
    Tetechi planned the assault, with his troops in the center, shielded by less reliable units; salamanders and all the remaining shooting on the wings, to protect the center from side attacks. If it worked, Tetechi and his troops would have probably been the only ones returning into the jungle.
    But Qor-Tec knew the enemy had different plans and so, when the charge begun, he and Gorak left the army, slipping between the skeleton horsemen, too occupied in pincushioning larger targets to lose time chasing a couple of fugitives.

    The watcher-in-the-sand was satisfied. “the commander escapes with his stolen prize, and the soldiers die. Such a beautiful, egoistic behavior…it recalls my youth. I think that Amon-Rha’s interests can wait a little”.

    Qor-Tec and Gorak were climbing the rocky slope. From their high point of view, it was easy to see that the army was dying, shredded by magical vortexes. A large group of skeletons halted Tetechi, and sallies were probably already dead, as the only visible flames were breathed by a large lionesque monster.
    The two last survivors of the lizardmen’s force, moved out of sight, and proceeded toward South.
    After a couple of hours, the breeze was carrying the first, weak jungle smells. Smells of life, and a sort of victory, ‘cause armies can be spawned again, but a Slann’s artefact cannot.
    “We are chased”.
    Qor-Tec turned. Two large scorpions were tracking their footprints on the sand, it was only a matter of minutes before they would have to fight.
    “We’ll wait for them. Set an ambush”.
    “No, commander. You go. Your duty is to bring back the tablet, mine is to fight”.
    Qor-Tec’s pond was murky. Strong emotions were running through him, something he’d never experienced before. “I don’t want to”.
    “You must obey Tepozi’s will. It’s the only way.”
    And so Qor-Tec ran away.

    The watcher-in-the-sand was excited. “You’re even leaving your friend to die for you. This is better than I could ever hope… I really fear that I shall disappoint the King’s expectations”.
    When the scorpions finished with Gorak, they started to follow the trace of the last saurus. But someone had deleted them.

    Qor-Tec was tired, but now the horizon was a green line… and much nearer, there was the Slann’s army, successfully escaped to the deadly sands. And a small group of temple guards was heading toward him!
    The Scarvet’s relief was immense.
    Then his foot sank into a soft hole. A swarm of scarabs emerged at blinding speed from the hole, enveloping the feet and the leg, starting to chew his flesh despite the scaly skin.
    Qor-Tec tried to wipe them off, but more scarabs came out, from all around; they were covering him almost entirely now, and the black mass was also building a strange heap just in front of Qor-Tec, forming a sort of man-sized silhouette, enclosing a skull-faced mask. Scarabs were devouring him alive, entering the ears, but leaving intact his eyes, so he can see that the black and blue mass was forming also a pseudopod, which was holding a sacrificial dagger…

    When the temple guards arrived, there were only dry bones, and a golden plaque.

    Qor-Tec woke up, feeling really strange.
    He was in a cave, a sort of darkened shrine with huge statues, very similar to the ones that fought with Tepozi’s unit. The only light was given by blue auras cast by evanescent spirits, some sort of will ‘o wisp, floating around the cave. Qor-Tec realized that he was a will ‘o wisp, too, attached with a thin silver cord to a chunk of bloodied flesh: his still beating heart, lying on a plate.
    A large being, with a black jackal’s head, was in front of a set of scales, listening to the figure standing in front of him; Qor-Tec recognized his killer, the skull-faced scarab-man.
    “Oh mighty Usirian, it must be him! I followed him closely, he betrayed his liege, his army and his friends, all for the lust of gold and magical power. His soul is black as mine, and it will free me from my torment!”.
    “So you say, Apophas, my little prince of Scarabs, so you say… but only the Weighing of the Heart will tell us the Truth”
    There was a hint of amusement in the jackals’ tone? Qor-Tec was not sure, he could not take away his senses from the God that was putting his heart on one plate, while on the other one there was a black, dessicated lump of flesh.
    The scales was probably broken, because his heart was clearly heavier than its counterpart, and yet his plate was standing high, while the dessicated heart dropped as much as it could.
    “You are still mine, Apophas.”
    Skull-face was shocked “it’s not possible! I was sure it was him!”
    “Apparently not, my poor prince of Scarabs. You have chosen… poorly. The actions of this soul were guided by something better than what you were thinking.”
    For the first time, the eyes of the jackal pointed on Qor-Tec, sending shivers into his mind.
    “And this soul is not for my Kingdom. Something else claims his spirit, and it’s time to let it go”.

    The honor ceremony was almost ended. Qor-Tec’s bones were ready to be dissolved in his old spawning pool, to transmit his memories and courage to the new generation of warriors. Lord Tlaxli was pleased.

    The golden artefact was in the Lord’s Treasury. The priests of the pyramid-temple were prepared to protect it for countless ages.

    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  3. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The Butterfly Effect (Oct-nov 2016, theme was "Freedom and Slavery" and I took the fourth place on 12)

    Chichimek was spawned to serve.

    Many skinks live lives filled with wonders and personal satisfactions: the scouts that roam the jungle, the warriors that ride the sky, the artisans that build the city. Sometimes he wondered how would have been to live that way, but not today.

    “I’m late! For the love of the Old Ones, I’m late!”

    Chichimek was running as if his life was at peril. Despite starting work well before dawn, the removal of spiders’ nests in the lower chambers had been a long affair, and even the cleaning of the accessories for the Solstice Ceremony took far more time than expected; now, the problem was the he needed to pick from the greenhouse the itxi grubs before the precious Bringer of Visions had eaten too much, ruining their flavor.
    To his immense relief, only the young and immatures grubs were eating, while the grown up were still lazily storing the heat of the sun.
    The skink picked a bunch of the chubbiest ones and placed them on a bed of leaves in the golden bowl, then he rushed toward the pyramid, slipping between the temple guards at the entrance, that stood immobile, being used to the frantic races of the Slann’s servant.
    Chichimek ran up the steps, to the higher levels; he passed through the stone portal, moving aside the living curtain of bignonia’s bloomed vines, upon finally entering into the Meditation Chamber, the fatigue, the orders and the endless duties vanished all at once.

    The Slann Huanch’ai was already floating mid-air upon his throne, bathing in the sun that was entering from the large windows. His relaxed expression had the power to fill the room with serenity.
    “Here I am, Master. Please forgive me for my lateness”.
    Chichimek climbed the throne, sitting at the Slann’s side and offering the bowl with the grubs; Huanch’ai started to eat with closed eyes, slowly, without paying attention to the physical gestures. His breath slowed, and time passed… Chichimek, following the rhythm of the Slann, almost entered in a state of drowsiness.

    “A good picking, Chichimek. It has been… satisfying”.
    The skink woke up in a blink. The moments when Huanch’ai talked to him, were his most precious treasures.
    “Have you pondered on the Great Plan, Master?”
    “The Great Plan? No. That would be bizarre, the Great Plan is not something to be pondered about.”
    Huanch’ai stood silent, leaving Chichimek with his unsaid doubts for what seemed an eternity.
    “I sense your uncertainty, Chichimek. I had just pondered on the fact that you need to be aware. Today I will be your teacher, and I will show you the Great Plan.”
    Chichimek was speechless. He never heard of a Slann explaining the Great Plan, and certainly not to a simple servant. Even the Skink Priests can only guess it! This was almost a heresy… if not that it was a Slann suggesting it.
    “Don’t stand there like a dumb kroxigor. You have some work to do.”

    In the end, the work was simple.
    Chichimek placed 3 pedestals, and on each pedestal was fixed a metal ring, each one large just few inches; the 3 rings were perfectly aligned.
    He was waiting for more instructions, but apparently Huanch’ai had no others. The Slann took position on one end of the “tunnel of rings” and then closed his eyes, in a relaxed position.

    Hours passed.

    Chichimek was wondering what was happening. Apparently, Huanch’ai was sleeping and in the Chamber nothing was changing. Probably the Slann was waiting for the night, when the stars would have made their appearance in the sky.
    The skink relaxed as well on the stone floor, enjoying the flight of a wonderful butterfly, with iridescent blue wings, that was dancing through the dangling flowers. It was amazing how it was impossible to predict the movements of it… the butterfly explored the room, following her mysterious purposes.

    Huanch’ai pointed a finger, and a ray of searing light passed through the rings, incinerating the butterfly. Then the Slann opened his eyes.
    “There, it has been done”.
    Chichimek was trying to recover from the surprise.
    “Done… what?”
    “Isn’t it clear? You’ve built an obligatory route for my spell, and I’ve killed the butterfly.”
    “but… that butterfly could have never flown in that exact place! It was impossible… how did you know?
    “Maybe I did, or maybe I didn’t. Look at the moon Chichimek, not at the finger: the point is that the destiny of that butterfly was to die “through” my spell.”
    “That’s the beauty and the meaning of the Plan, Chichimek: we are all fated… we follow the patterns traced by the Old Ones. The Plan is flawless, and our destiny is to adhere to its perfect scheme, nothing more and nothing less.”
    “But Master, you are the Slann of this city! You take the decisions that will lead us to the accomplishment of the Plan… I live to serve, but you rule! You are free to choose your destiny… and ours as well!”
    “Chichimek, you are misguided. I take the decisions, but every time I face a crossroad there’s only one right path, and I have no choice but to take it. The Great Plan is Order, and Order follows its laws. Freedom finds its nest in Chaos, not in my mind. And Chaos will be vanquished.”
    Huanch’ai picked another grub and closed his eyes, satisfied, floating toward his personal platform, thus signaling that the day was over, leaving Chichimek alone with his thoughts.

    Chichimek stood immobile for a moment, then he looked at the powder that once was a butterfly, and ran away. Out of his master’s chambers, the breeze was a gentle caress, filled by the scents of the jungle, but he was having difficulty breathing it in, as if an invisible hand were squeezing his heart.
    What is the meaning of servitude, if your own master is not free? How does anyone appreciate your sacrifice, if there is no choice? Did really the Old Ones just put their children in an invisible cage?
    From atop of the pyramid, Chichimek stared at the city’s landscape… in the distance, dusk was creeping through the jungle. The evening was dark, and cold.
    A parrot was perching on the flagstaff of one of the temple’s banners, peaceful and uncaring. Something snapped inside Chichimek.

    “AARRRGHH! Go away! Find your place in the Great Plan somewhere else!!!”

    Scared, the bird flew away in a hurry, toward the jungle. Chichimek looked at the shape that was vanishing in the distance, with a bitter taste in mouth.

    The theme of the contest was really cool... except I had no idea on how to develope it.
    All i knew it was that i wanted to avoid scenes of great battles in the distance, since i already depicted those in my two previous stories.
    Then, Warden posted this:
    the bolded part triggered something. Especially the "slave" to the Great Plan, it was something to consider, as i didn't wanted to treat the topic in a literal way.
    So the idea was growing, and i imagined this skink that is, indeed, "spawned to serve", but that likes his servitude because, in his mind, it serves a greater purpose.
    Of course, I needed to demolish the convinctions (and the meaning of life) of my poor protagonist.
    I've had the image of the butterfly and the absurd coincidence of the killing shot through the rings, and from that point it was just a matter to build a story around it, using the trope of the "you can't escape your destiny".
    I liked also to play with the umpteenth version of the Great Plan (apparently, judging from the fluff in our stories, there are dozens of different Great Plans).
    One by one, the pieces of the puzzle went together... it was just a matter of making the pov of the Slann sufficiently logical (to the point that freedom is not a good thing!), and to find a nicely bitter ending.
    As I've said in the main thread, Chichimek reminds me the figure of Hopkins' Butler in The Remains of The Day. Our reptilian butler discovers that his life's convinctions were just an illusion.
    Chichimek that watches the parrot flying away is a sort of symbolism: after the Slann's revelation, the serenity of our skink is vanished forever, as his convinctions about the meaning of his sacrifice are shaken to the ground. Chichimek's life won't ever be the same, from now on.

    I wanted to avoid a broader story, because, even if it's true that I could have developed more some aspects, it's also true that all I wanted to say was already there. A longer story could also mean useless parts / details, that water down the story.

    I like that you appreciated the simplicity of the story, it was one of the points i wanted to take home.
    Regarding the resolution, it should be what i've said before: Chichimek's serenity has been shattered, and his life won't ever be the same. Predestination and destiny aren't a so great thing...

    The formatting in the contest wasn't exactly my final draft, but it wasn't a so big problem, so i didn't bothered Scalenex about it. I would like to know if the one i posted suits more your tastes. ;)

    When the winner of the contest writes such a review, all I can say is "HORRAY!" :D
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  4. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Blood for the Blood God (April-May 2017, theme was "Man Vs Self / Inner Conflict" and I took the second place on 9)

    The massive axe opened a large hole through the ranks of the Skinks, then Grinnorarcen closed in and delivered another swing, taking down more opponents.

    Of all Sigmar’s armies, Seraphon were one of the most unsatisfying enemy… every kill produces just a flash of painful light, and the corpse disappears. No skulls for the Skull Throne, no blood for the Blood God, no screams for fear or mercy, just ranks upon ranks of puppets, sent into battle by their lazy Frog-Master, hidden behind some rock.

    A worthless foe, that spoils the fun of battling and killing.

    The red Daemon roared with fury and the champion of the next regiment took the challenge. It didn’t last the blink of an eye. How was it possible that there was not a single worthy opponent?
    He was full with frustration… “STOP SUMMONING FRAIL GHOSTS! I WANT TO FIGHT!!!”
    In this conditions, Grinnorarcen was not able to be fully embraced by the blind fury of the sheer battle, so he took a moment to see how the fight was going.
    His army was advancing as expected, crushing all resistance, except…

    On the right wing, something had halted the run of the Bloodcrushers.

    Grinnorarcen focused on the distant fight and he saw a large unit of Knights on small dinosaurs, armed with blazing spears, that just cut in two the front line, halting the Juggernauts’ momentum and turning them into prey for the falchions of the following two-legged crocodiles.
    They were led by a Saurus, mounted on a Carnosaur, bearing the insignia of some constellation… so the Frog must have sent some memory of a past hero, to act as leader of this army. With some luck, that general could be one of the rare, ancient Sauri still alive.

    Grinnorarcen growled with satisfaction. Ghost or living flesh, at least there would have been one good fight.
    The Daemon turned to the mechanical work of cutting down chaffs upon chaffs… the task was so unexciting that he decided to keep an eye on the enemy on his right. But the charge had raised a large cloud of dust, that even his enhanced sight could not pierce.
    And when the dust cleared, it wasn’t there.
    How was that possible? The right wing was the only place where the combat was going bad for the follower of Khorne. The Saurus commander should have been there, to support the fight and enjoy the massacre.

    Grinnorarcen was still looking for his foe, when a cry of alarm called his attention… something was happening on the left wing. Grinnorarcen recognized the banner, and the gore splattered Carnosaur.
    Fast as the wind, their general must have moved behind the frontline, followed by the cold ones, and now they were turning the combat on the other side of the battlefield. As land sharks, the Knights were slipping between the blocks of the Bloodletters, taking the toll with their lances, too fast to be chased by the demonic infantries… and the standards of the Saurus Guards, were now approaching the disrupted ranks.

    Grinnorarcen grinned. “you are a smart guy, aren’t you? You stopped our wings, so only our center will advance, and your army will close upon us as a pincer. The problem is: are you sure this morsel isn’t too hard to swallow?”.

    The bulky Daemon now was confident that his enemy would have come for him, so he continued his personal one-way fight; the massive muscles were covered by sweat, mixed with sand… the blood of the enemies normally would have washed away his body, triggering the Fury, but against Seraphon it was not possible; Grinnorarcen could not rage, and so he studied the approaching Saurus Hero that was now afoot.

    In combat, Grinnoraren was pure fury, and every one of his blows carried an excessive amount of sheer power. Grinnorarcen’s style was not the killing, but the onslaught.

    The Saurus was elegance incarnate.

    He was armed with a sort of war-mace, surmounted by a skull… an enemy attacks, the Saurus feints, the mace comes down. An enemy attacks, the Saurus parries, the mace comes down. And so on.
    Each time with a different manoveur, each time with the minimal effort to cut down the opponent. No one was able to stop him, it was like watching a deadly dance, a disciplined warhound between sheep.

    To see his enemy approaching, covered by blood and swirling a weapon made by a grinning skull, was definitely a strange sight for Grinnorarcen. “it should be the opposite. This is wrong, and I will stop it right now.

    With a crack of the whip and a mighty roar, Grinnorarcen announced the challenge, and the lesser Daemons created a circle, to watch the fight of the two Champions.
    Both were slowly advancing, with the Saurus being cautious, knowing the large Daemon would have gained the first strike, thanks to its superior reach.

    And Grinnorarcen knew what he was going to do. Against that kind of opponent, a tactic that never failed him, was to sweep the field with the whip, forcing the opponent to be entangled by the lash, or jump to avoid it… meeting the battleaxe midair, with no chance to dodge.
    And so he did when the Saurus rushed forward.
    As planned, the fool jumped to avoid the whip… but he deliberately left the tail down. The coiled tail slowed down the jump, and the axe swung just above the curled up target, missing it by few inches.
    Grinnorarcen was caught off guard, and the mace came down.

    Time almost froze… as in slow motion, an amazed Grinnorarcen contemplated the skull upon the mace, aiming for his head. The syllables of the spell that would have diverted the blow were rolling upon the Daemon’s tongue.
    The skull of the mace was nearer, its eyes fixed upon him.
    The urge to cast the defensive spell was almost overwhelming.
    Time flew again. The mace crushed into Grinnorarcen’s head, felling the Daemon to the ground.

    Grinnorarcen’s brain was bleeding. The Daemon looked at the opponent, standing in front of him.
    “In more than a thousand years of battle against Sigmarites, you were the first… you truly please Khorne. Wipe my army, take skulls for the Throne, blood for the Blood God. May this day be a magnificent offering.”

    The mace landed the final blow.
    The Oldblood looked at the dead Daemon with contempt. “Old Ones be praised”.

    Man Vs Self / Inner Conflict

    Well, that’s the main point of the story. Usually Daemons of Khorne are pretty much streamlined, with no characterization other than “rhaarrrghkillkillkill”.
    I’ve tried to imagine a different angle. What kind of inner conflict could ever have a greater Daemon, voted to onslaught and massacre?
    Well, what could happen when you realize that you are not doing the job “good”, and you see that your enemy is doing it better?
    When Khorne is pleased by wanton massacre and wants BLOOD to calm its insatiable thirst, will it matter who’s the one doing it?
    The story tells what could happen, when your urge to kill and slay the enemy, conflicts with the desire to please your God.
    Obviously, I needed to set the story in Age of Sigmar setting, when lizardmen are now Seraphon, summoned beings made from the starlight, so they leave no blood or bones when they die.

    Cold Blooded Honor

    In my mind it’s probably a lesser theme in the story, but it’s still there (but, as testified by other comments, you can see it in numerous ways).
    The "honor" of the Daemon and its last desire, was to please his God, putting his life behind the “wellness” of Khorne.
    But the cold blooded homor applies even more to the Oldblood (be it a ghost and even more if it's a still living saurus). In AoS, the Old Ones are no more, but he shows that he remains faithful to his memories of the Old World: he doesn’t care about Sigmar, neither about the great Order Allegiance. He’s still the champion of the Old Gods, because that’s how it must be.

    I'm always happy when thedarkfourth likes one of my stories. :)
    Yeah, I was tempted to expand the lizard character... but imo the story was centered about the daemon; or i go for the double route, giving almost the same depth to both the antagonists, or i focus on one, and the daemon's pov was what interested me. I feared that another phrase dedicated to the feelings of the Oldblood, would have been "out of place", because it would have diverted the last part of the story from the climax, that was Grinnorarcen's sacrifice.

    This is a perfect example of what I was talking about.
    I thought the story was more "inner conflict" than "cold blooded honor", and here we have Scalenex with a totally different impression.
    Well, a story with just one way to be seen, it's not an interesting story... ;)

    Three reviews, and three readers that found a sympathetic connection with a Greater Daemon of Khorne (!), which was basically the real challenge i decided to confront myself with.
    Mission accomplished, I'd say... :)
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
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  5. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The Hunter (July-August 2017, theme was "Fire and/or Time" and I took the fifth place on 7)

    The city was burning, engulfed in raging pink flames.

    The city was burned down to ashes centuries ago, and yet its defenders were still fighting and dying, corpses laying in the boiling orange river. Then, the flames turned green and filled the sky, and the city was no more. It would probably be made entire again tomorrow, or the next year. The details would have been different, but the fire would have eventually razed it to the ground.
    The hunter knew it, it saw it happen many times…. And as much it was painful, it was necessary, because this was its favorite hunting ground.

    The old woman with a burning silk dress was walking near the volcano, picking flowers, but she stopped gardening, sensing that something was wrong. She picked a dead tree from her purse… it was without branches, but it was blue colored, so the Hunter knew time was running short: the flames would have force it out of its hiding place, and a direct confrontation was not an option.
    The Hunter blew gracefully some paper butterfly from its hands toward her… at midair, the butterflies turned into tiny wasps that breathed soap bubbles to the old woman; when a bubble touched her, she started howling, as water consumed the flames, killing her.

    The cry of pain would have called unwanted attentions, so the Hunter descended the cliff, toward the higher clouds, until it reached a plain with bright yellow moss.
    In the distance, probably ten miles away, there was a fissure in the sky, the only way out; the fissure was invisible, but the Hunter could hear it was purple.

    There were only two possible ways… the short one was paved with daggers, and it would have took probably a couple of years; the long one was aimed at a mountain range, for no more than a 10 minutes journey.
    The hunter took the middle way, being careful of the horses that would have gladly feasted upon its blood.

    After no more than a week travel, the fissure was at hand… but there was a cave in the nearby glacier, and a dozen of penguins emerged from it, and they wanted to dance, offering biscuits.
    The Hunter started a swing, but the penguins wanted to minuet and they were simply too many, surrounding it.

    In the end one biscuit touched the shoulder of the Hunter, creating the mysterious scar that was already there since one year.
    Now that the scar mystery was solved, the Hunter knew what must be done. It adapted its dance to the minuet, taking the penguins by surprise.
    A couple of them clashed into each other, creating an opening for a classic chassè, quickly executed by the Hunter, which promptly flew through the fissure.

    The passage was like jumping into a lake of honey, made one day ago… like, realizing how much you are hampered by something that completely occludes yourself. This sensation persisted even when it passed on the other side. The honey was still within the Hunter, and it smelled awfully.

    The Hunter was surrounded by a weird colonnade of frozen flames; a bunch of scorpions was there, motionless, and one of them slipped away, clicking its pincers.
    The Hunter relaxed, while other scorpions arrived… then came also a leaping rabbit, holding a wand.
    A slow, white light irradiated from the wand and hit the Hunter, consuming the rotten molasses, cleansing its soul and its senses.
    The Hunter was now in a jungle, near the bottom of a pyramid, with many skinks standing in awe. A Slann was floating in front of the Hunter, smiling.

    “Welcome back, Oxyotl”.

    This one was written mostly for fun, with Lewis Carol in mind. The subtitle of "the Hunter" could well be "lizardmen in wonderland"...
    the story is supposed to be weird and mysterious... weird, most of all.
    That's also one of the reasons I've kept it so short... otherwise I would have needed more clarity and a more developed plot.
    you can sustain only a certain amount of weirdness in a story, after all.

    If you wonder, the city at the beginning is Pahuax, the city of Oxyotl, that was partially drawn into the Chaos Realm when the Slann Lord Pocaxalan took too much power from the Winds of Magic. Of course when Oxyotl go for a hunt in the chaos realm, he likes to chase the daemons that prey on his old city, still trapped there.

    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
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  6. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Rats in the Walls (Oct-Novt 2017, theme was "The Rat and/or the Serpent" and I took the FIRST PLACE on 5 :))

    Pik-Tek was on duty at the Sacred Reptile House.

    You will feed them, you will take care of them, you will pray with them, you will live with them… and hopefully, you will become one with them. This is your duty, as apprentice Priest of Sotek”.
    High Priest Temek gave these instructions to Pik-Tek a month ago, or maybe two, or a year. Time moves strangely in the Sacred Reptile House.
    The City of Tehuanchli was desperately in need of priests, and Pik-Tek was the only apprentice; those accursed skaven had polluted a couple of the outer Spawning Pools, and the Slann was still asleep, but despite the urgency, High Priest Temek was a Skink not in habit to speed up times of the apprenticeship.
    The Rites of Passage must be fulfilled… “there’s no such thing as a half-formed Priest. You will carry the Sacred Vest only when your mind will fully belong to Sotek”.
    Pik-Tek was eager to walk the path of priesthood, and though the tasks he conducted each day were repetitive he was constantly discovering new things. The smell of moss had penetrated into his scaly skin, his usually quick way of moving was adapting to the slow motions of the snakes, and he was able to contemplate the reptiles for hours, trying to guess their choices. Snakes were amazing.
    A little rat was pretending to be invisible, standing motionless at the corner of the cage, but Pik-Tek could almost hear its pounding heart… and certainly the constrictor snake in the cage could hear it too. Slowly and relentlessly it was moving toward the prey.
    Then, the big snake halted its move, and raised its massive head, higher and higher, over the edge of the cage, and it looked Pik-Tek in the eyes. Time froze, in Pik-Tek’s mind, when the serpent spoke to him.
    Ratsssss are in the eassssstern wallsssss…. they ssssssneak toward usssssssss…”

    When Pik-Tek recovered from the shock, the little rat was already in the serpent’s gut.
    “What.. did.. you talked? was that real? I… sweet Sotek, what should I do now?”
    The sacred snake now was doing what snakes do after eating, so it wasn’t a great help for Pik-Tek, and it gave no answer to the skink’s doubts.
    “I need to calm down and reason. Maybe it was an unknown side effect of all the time passed with the snakes… but no, snakes don’t talk, it could only be a vision granted by Sotek… but those are ONLY for prophets, and I am NOT a prophet, I was not spawned with the marks. It must be something else”.
    This realization calmed a little the skink’s pounding heart. Pik-Tek concentrated on his breath, relaxing and organizing his thoughts.
    “Probably it is really something in the air, a sort of test by the High Priest, to see if I crumble as a weak-minded child. No, I will stay strong, and I’ll wait.”
    Pik-Tek looked at the constrictor snake.
    “There are no ratmen that are digging through our eastern walls, right?”
    But the sleeping reptile gave no answer.

    Even if the rest of the day passed without other weird events, Pik-Tek was not at ease with himself.
    He went to bed late that night, hoping to blank his mind, but without much success.
    The night was a long one and Pik-Tek barely slept at all, bouncing at every rustle. The early morning found him sleepy and tired, desperately praying to Sotek; things did not go well as Pik-Tek started his daily routine.
    First, he stumbled into a stool, dropping the bowl with fresh water.
    Second, he mixed the fodder for the Guinea pig with poisonous berries.
    Then he forgot to open the blinds for the heating sun, leaving many of the snakes half-stunned after the night.
    And so on, for all day long.
    “Marlecht. I'm screwing myself. I’m just glad the evening is almost here and nothing happ..”
    sssssoon the eassssstern wallsssss…
    The snake was there, looking at him.
    After a moment of silence, Pik-Tek heard a strange sound, much like the far cry of a baby terradon. It took to him some seconds to realize that the sound was coming from his throat.

    Several hours later, after a broken mug and a couple of hot herbal teas, Pik-Tek nerves started to calm down.
    “This has gone too far. I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t care if it’s a test or something else. The High Priest must be informed… even if he thinks I am going crazy.”
    Pik-Tek went for the exit of the Reptile House… when he realized that the moon had already risen.
    “Great. Temek will be sleeping. If I wake him without being absolutely sure that something is going to happen, I will be the next sacrifice to Sotek. But I can still do something, waiting for tomorrow”.
    He took a paper, pondering how much he could tell without going over his (actually non-existant) authority. To speak the truth without telling it.
    To the Commander of the Eastern Fortifications.
    I know this is not a proper procedure, but before bringing the matter to High Priest Temek’s attention, I want to inform you that I am observing a strange behavior in Sotek’s Sacred Snakes. Since the poisoning of the Spawning Pools we don’t dismiss any detail. I’m not saying this is a True Sign that something is happening, as I am not a Priest, but I would be glad if tonight the guards will keep a higher level of attention.
    Respectfully yours, Apprentice Priest Pik-Tek
    He called one of the servants and gave it the letter. Only when the servant skink had departed to deliver the message, Pik-Tek went to his bed. He fell asleep before touching the pillow.

    The rats were swarming through the cracks of the foundations. A black swirling mass in a blacker night. Sentries were lying in pools of blood, with rats wrapped in hooded cloaks standing nearby the corpses.
    Pik-Tek wanted to cry alarm, but he could only utter a silent scream. The cracks went wider, to let an abomination emerge, bathed in a green, ill light. Hundreds of furry warriors swarmed the night, setting the city ablaze…

    Pik-Tek woke up screaming, surrounded by darkness. It was probably a little past midnight.
    “So real… it was so real…”
    Even before realize what he was doing, he was already running toward the High Priest’s rooms, as if hell was unleashed behind him.


    Pik-Tek was in front of the High Priest Temek, waiting for him to pronounce his doom.
    “We have searched for 3 days, Pik-Tek. There’s nothing… absolutely nothing. The walls are intact, the foundations are solid, there is literally not even a mole’s hole under the eastern fortifications.
    I’ve also personally examined the snake and the terrarium, and I’ve found no evidence of Sotek’s presence.
    Pik-Tek, there’s literally nothing that supports your statements. There are no rats in the walls”.
    Temek took a deep breath.
    “I know you truly believed in it, and this fills me with sadness, because I’ve got only a thing to do.
    The task is still too much for your strength, Pik-Tek… you need some time to regain the right perspective.
    Today you will leave the temple, you will be given a… less demanding assignment. We will call you here again when we consider it appropriate.”
    Temek watched Pik-Tek, while the skink was slowly going away, toward the exit, his shoulders bent over by defeat.
    Another priest stepped at Temek’s side.
    “What a waste. We can only hope in the next spawnings…”
    “We don’t have that luxury. I was honest with Pik-Tek, and I will still keep an open eye, before discarding him as possible priest. Time will tell if that skink can retake his life in his own hands.”

    Pik-Tek was slowly walking in the avenue, going further away from the temple with each step.
    The sense of failure was a heavy burden, and he still didn’t know what happened.
    “Temek is right… I still believe in it. But what I really saw? It was all real, but nothing was true. I threw away my life for nothing.”
    Pik-Tek sat on a stone bench, without finding any comfort in the warm of the sun. The cold inside him was too deep for any sun to melt it.
    This was not the case for an iguana that was enjoying the sun’s heat upon a nearby marble floor.
    One of the omnipresent monkeys, slipped into town from the jungle to easy steal some fruit in the market place, approached the iguana from behind and pulled its tail. The iguana, caught by surprise in a place that was usually safe, ran frantically toward a shadowy cover, chased by the derisive laughter of the monkey.
    A moment before reaching shelter, the iguana stopped her run, realizing that no one was pursuing.
    She turned back, staring at the monkey… she raised the dorsal spines and inflated the jowls, hissing a challenge.
    When the iguana started the charge, the monkey quickly leaved the field, and the winner took again the place under the sun.
    Pik-Tek contemplated the whole scene, amazed by what he saw. He let the event sink deeper and deeper into him.
    “Maybe it was a test, after all. If I am to do Sotek’s work, I cannot hide in shadows. I must be Iguana. I will be Iguana”.
    Pik-Tek got up, his back straight, his shoulders no longer bent.
    And the cold was gone.


    Meanwhile, two figures were sneaking into a secret tunnel below the western walls…

    The gallery was dark, with walls covered by large stains of rancid fat and the silence was broken by the suffocated echoes of the water from the vault, dripping into stagnant pools of smelly mud. It was a place unknown to lizardmen, a deep tunnel connected to even deeper mazes.
    The first furry figure was taller and bulky, with black fur covered by spiked pieces of armor, while the second one was wrapped in filthy robes, behind which it was half visible a glowing green pendant. This one was very excited, and was keeping the pace of the stormvermin, despite being half crippled and needing a staff to walk.
    “It has been a great success, yes-yes! Stoopid lizard-thing has been fooled by smart magik, yes-yes!”
    “As you say, your worshipness.”
    “It is so! Magik illusion fooled the fool! A priest-thing it won’t be! Now few priests, then even less and they wont stop us! All because of me! Soon-soon the city will be ours! The city will burn! Their temple will burn! False Sotek will be forgotten! The Horned Rat will be fed! We maim-kill all those hideous serpents! We…”
    The leading skaven suddenly halted his march, and the Seer stopped against him.
    “what the…”
    The hallway was blocked by a strange boulder, big as a rat ogre. Then the boulder moved… no, the boulder rose to mid-air. The flickering light of the torch revealed that the boulder was covered by scales.
    Then the boulder showed a couple of yellow eyes, with vertical pupils, and a forked tongue darted toward the skavens, sensing the pungent stench of fear. There was a cry, then silence fell over the musty tunnel air.

    In the end, High Priest Temek was right. There were no rats in the walls.

    From what you read, the character solves its problems.
    He was an unsecure skink, and in front of a mysterious situation he was unable to handle it properly.
    He definitely knows he was not going crazy (he tells that he knows it was real, even if he doesn't know what really happened), and in the end, he realizes that he cannot fear the unknown, and he decides that from that point he will be the embodiment of a son of Sotek, and he will have no more fear. At least, that's what it seems.
    This is the "main" story.

    The last paragraph shows that there was indeed something behind the talking snake, and it's almost a sort of mini-story, just related to the main one: the planning of ratmen and the (usually unseen) struggle between Skaven and Sotek and its "children" (the denizen of the lustrian underground).

    Last edited: Aug 21, 2018
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  7. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    A time to remember (Jan-Feb 2018, theme was "The Power of music" and I took the second place on 7. This story won the "Scalenex Cup" :))

    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”.

    Last edited: Aug 21, 2018
  8. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Some Rhymes with the End Times (lizardmen poetry contest)

    Proud Sauri and brave Skinks, behold!
    Take up your seats, your skin will pale
    The end of the world has been foretold!
    How will it be? I’ll tell the tale.

    The old style vampire, wreathed in blight
    Will leave its coffin near the sea
    He will prowl the Lustrian night
    But for our Basti, he’s just a flea

    Things will darken, when chaos arrives
    The daemons come! the Slann will tell
    Skarbrand, Malekith, just one survives
    Who knows for whom will toll the bell?
    But surely, from that feast of gore
    Enemies aim at Lustria’s core.

    Then the rats, with pestilential darts
    Will spoil our sacred spawning pool
    But they cannot shake our strong hearts
    Cause the horned rat will prove a fool
    They’ll rip the sky, they’ll blast the moon
    Lord Kroak will stand, not enough soon

    Alas! magic wards are doomed to fail
    But the twinned tail will show the way
    On ancient vessels, upward we sail
    The final vengeance, we’ll have someday

    And so we say: Old World, farewell
    No one can say it hasn’t been nice
    Now, Age of Sigmar is selling well
    So for the Old Ones, let’s roll some dice!

    I've tried to keep the tone high, but obviously it's not a "serious" poem.
    It mixes a narrative that remains true to the Lizardmen Lore, and an ending that is true to the gaming aspect of the hobby.

    Looking for symmetry and pattern...
    There are 6 stanzas, respectively with 4-4-6-6-4-4 lines.
    The rhyming scheme going is ABAB and ABABCC.
    There are 8-9 syllables per line: not perfect, but hey.
    Aginor likes this.
  9. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Anyway I'm just going to comment that your started out the gate very strong. "The Coward" was not only one of my favorite pieces of that contest, but of the hundred or so short stories we've had, it is one I remember more clearly than most even now.

    I didn't realize till I read your explanation that Thordek actually opened the portal by "sacrificing" a Skaven to Sotek. Common etiquette rule, when approaching strange Lizardmen always carry a severed Skaven head as a sign of respect. I thought the Lizardmen were coincidentally on their way to kill the Skaven already and just through fortuitous timing assumed the Dwarf seemed to be trying to return the golden plaque that was stolen by the Skaven, but your explanation was better.

    If the Lizardmen were coming anyway, that makes Thordek's actions less heroic (anti-heroic?). Thordek's actions really made a greater difference than I thought. I thought his actions just convinced the Lizardmen that the Dwarfs were potential allies and not just allies of convenience, but the idea that Thordek summoned the Lizardmen is even better.

    Also I just like the little details. The idea that the Dwarfs would horde and guard non-Dwarf made magic items but not use them reveals a lot of character.

    Unrelated note. I don't know if this was intended but a lot of your relaying of people's critiques have the end of the critique truncated.
    Paradoxical Pacifism likes this.
  10. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Heart of Darkness (July-August 2018, theme was "Food and Drink" and I took the fifth place on 8 - tie with the sixth one)

    The terradons continue to fly slowly, peacefully, over the burning jungle. I was holding myself to the back saddle, trying in vain to pierce the smoke, while Tepiki, the Sky Leader, was keeping in line the majestic beast that was carrying both of us.
    Has it been set afire by the skaven to burn down our home, or by our forces, to cleanse some vile plague spread by the ratkin?
    When I was in the jungle, I wanted to be in Xlanhuapec. When I was there, behind the protective banks of mist...all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. Waiting for a mission. Because every day the rat squats in the bush...he gets stronger.


    “Stand at ease, Captain Tikkit. Are you feeling fit? Are you ready for duty?”
    “Yes, General. Very much so, sir.”
    “Good. Captain, have you heard of Colonel T’Pok?”
    “Yes, sir. I've heard the name. If I’m not wrong, he was personally trained by Oxyotl.”
    “Exactly. He’s actually commanding Special Forces in the region of Chaqua. After the destruction of the Temple City, that part of Lustria is just an immense killing ground. He was ordered to go into that nightmare, to contain and repel the vermin, and things were going sufficiently good… but reports have become more and more vague and less frequent. The last one is… unsound. It talks about a sort of snail, crawling on a razor’s edge.”
    “A snail, sir? could it be…a Nurgle daemon?”
    A Nurgle daemon that joins the fight alongside Clan Pestilence would be a terrifying sight to behold. But I don’t know. That report is a month old, and we are blind to what’s actually happening. I need intelligence… I need you there.”


    The night had been unpleasantly hot; the earth was decidedly too much warm and the wind had been a wet, sticky torment, carrying unusual, rancid smells. When the morning sun came, the heat raised more than it should have done. The faces of the terradon riders were already tired… and worried. Even far beyond the smoking sectors, many portions of the jungle were withering, as poisoned.
    Tepiki was tending his mount: “The beasts need some freshness. The night’s so hot that their blood doesn’t slow enough. It’s too much energy consuming”.
    And your terradon must carry also me. but you are not going to say it.
    “I understand your concern, but this is one of the places I must investigate. This morning we’ll fly over all the clearings we saw yesterday. Both our forces and the enemy’s are hiding, and I want to see if something has changed, before leaving.
    So we got up in the air.

    It took 2 hours to find it. A clearing previously empty, now with something inside. A sort of geometric figure.
    We flew lower, cautiously... There were poles, with dead, impaled skaven upon them, and those poles were placed in a way that, seeing it from the sky, could be a twinned tail.
    Tepiki grinned. “It seems we’ve just found our guys.”
    “Sotek be praised. Fly down”.
    We landed near the skaven bodies and we began searching for further clues.
    I saw many sacrifices to Sotek, in Xlanhuapec. This was similar, but somewhat… different.
    “There’s something wrong here. It’s crude. Too many details are missing.”
    “Well captain, maybe it’s just that this was not part of a true ceremony. A scout patrol? they would lack a priest, hence the awkward result”.
    “Yes, it could be. Unless… unless it was just made for us to see it and land here.”
    In the meantime, Tepiki’s mount had noticed a fresh mango, laying in the grass, so he moved toward it. Near the fruit, it collapsed into a concealed hollow; there was a sudden sound of broken glass, and a burst of green vapors enveloped the beast, that started screaming.
    Tepiki ran toward his companion, but the green vapors were expanding.
    I tried to warn the other members of my patrol, but the trap was already on its course… a globe, launched from the jungle, shattered directly upon a terradon and the explosion took away both the mount and the nearby rider.
    The third terradon flew away, terrified and deaf to the calls of its skink.
    Tepiki looked at me, holding his javelin.
    “Run away, you fool! We’ll buy you some time! Find our troops and… don’t let it go waste.”
    I watched him charge toward the invisible enemies, screaming a war cry.
    To my shame, I ran in the opposite direction, into the jungle, as if hell was on my back. I purposely fled into the thickest part of it, not caring about the bushes and the thorns, until my lungs were on fire, then I ran some more, until my legs were on fire too, then I fell into a natural trench, hiding as a scared child.

    I stood there for a very long time, trying to calm down, as I had no idea of what I could do. But as time passed, I focused on my body.
    I’ve been sitting here doing nothing, but my blood still runs. I also sense a terrible hunger… it’s this unnatural high temperature, is doing something to my metabolism. The ground is hot. The skaven are doing something from below… they’re hurting the forest, and us.
    Then, a voice came out of nothing.
    “You are a very noisy fellow, do you know it? And you left a trail that even a kroxigor would have been able to follow”.
    I freezed, and reached for my dagger… but it was lost somewhere in the jungle.
    “Who’s there?”
    The cortex of a tree moved, creating the shapes of a reptilian head; an eye was pinned upon me, while the other one was pivoting to control the surrounding area.
    “A chameleon scout! I am Captain Tikkit, from Xlanhuapec; you must carry me to Colonel T’Pok, we were searching signs of our army since days, but we fell in an ambush.”
    “I know”.
    The chameleon changed color, letting himself become totally visible. The distinctive crest identified him as an alpha.
    “Your search is over. I’m T’Pok, but don’t bother about the colonel. And now that you have found me, you can go back to the City of Mists”.
    “Go back…? Sir, I was ordered to find you. Reports are missing and the Central Command wants information about what’s happening here. I need to know how our forces are positioned and verify Chaqua’s actual situation.”
    Both of T’Pok eyes looked at me.
    “Information…? Son, you’re coming from a million years away. While Oxyotl was fighting daemons, he learned that in our wars even the very laws of nature stop working… and you’re worried about trivial things as ranks, orders and reports? I’m fighting a war, and I intend to win it. That’s the only information you need. Go back home.”
    I sighed heavily.
    “Sir, I cannot.”
    “Very well then. Follow me, we’re heading for Chaqua: I’ll show you the war.”

    We marched through the jungle for hours. T’Pok ignored all my attempts to start a speech, to the point I stopped trying, saving my energies.
    Then, T’Pok took a halt.
    “The enemy is near.”
    “What’s the plan?”
    “I will take it by deceit. Just continue along and be yourself.”
    After that, the chameleon vanished.
    Great. Now I must play the bait. I don’t know if the colonel is still fit for command, but I hope at least he’s still a good assassin.
    So I went forward, trying to be as silent as possible.
    I walked for a few minutes, each meter requiring a greater effort. At a certain point, I noticed vaguely that I had a blurry sight… I stumbled over my feet, and I tried to reach for a branch to avoid falling, but I missed it.
    I tried to stand up, but my legs refused to move; huge orchids were in front of me, pink and purple. So fragrant... their scent was strange…
    I watched them turning into an indistinct stain, then my consciousness went away.


    I woke up slowly, still filled with the sensation of dizziness.
    I was in an underground, dirty place, with a strong reek of putrefaction that almost made me puke… but more probably my weakness was due to whatever cursed substance stroke me down. I was unable to move, and my head was hurting like hell.
    I sensed some low speech, and a sort of light… so I focused my sight to the still unclear figure that was near the source of light, trying to distinguish the words.
    “…almighty Sotek, this is the offering from your unworthy servant. I will drink the corrupt blood, and I will devour the rotten flesh. Let the poison fill my body and let it strengthen my resistance. Give me Your favor so I will kill in Your Name, give me the…”
    “T’Pok… is that you?”
    The speech ended abruptly. A chameleon eye turned toward me.
    “Welcome back my friend. Yes, it’s me.”
    “Those bastards must have poisoned me… did you killed them? have you saved me?”
    “I brought you here”.
    The chameleon skink was near a sort of stone table; the source of the light was due to the glowing embers under a small cooking grid. Upon the grid there was some sort of meat and… over the table, there was the half cut corpse of a skaven… and more skaven corpses were hanging from the ceiling, some of them were flayed and smoked, some of them were simply left to rot away, with flies all over them. Many furs were amassed over the pavement, creating an amorphous pile, mixed with the remains of ragged clothes.
    There was also a shelf, with skaven weapons, darts, daggers, even translucent globes with a core of pulsing green light.
    “What is this place? What are you doing here?”
    T’Pok was sitting toward the table, intent on doing something; only his right, unnerving eye, was looking at me.
    “This is my temple, and I am doing a ceremonial sacrifice. Now I’m going to complete the ritual, if you don’t mind.”
    “A temple? T’Pok, this is wrong on so many levels… you are no priest and you have no rights to do ceremonies. Plus, what kind of inappropriate rite are you supposed to celebrate here in this morgue?”

    T’Pok turned to me; he was holding a knife, and in the other hand he had a piece of half cooked meat; he chomped away a chunk of it, chewing it slowly. His look was cold, unnerving. And suddenly I realized that I was not immobilized by some drug… I was tied up.
    “Haven’t you heard what I’ve said to you? Only war matters, the strength to wage it. Physical and moral laws are an unnecessary burden. Why do you think it should be different for Gods? They don’t care about form… They care only about what’s due to Them. If you satisfy Their hunger, They will reward you. That’s why I’m winning this war. That’s why this land is mine.”
    “This is Lustria, not your land. Now cut away this rope and…”
    “This is no more Lustria. Lizardmen are unable to win because they just care about Sotek and Old Ones. Skaven are not able to win because they only care about the Horned Rat. That’s why I am winning”.
    The sense of dizziness was fading away, and I was able to focus on the rest of the room. The sense of nausea grew to an almost unbearable point.
    There were scaled tails hanging on hooks, and sauris' hands left to rot near holes in the walls; reptilian eyeballs were floating in a jello liquid into glass jars…and there was the severed head of Sky Leader Tepiki, placed on a plate, with dead, accusatory eyes staring at me.
    I was not able to divert my look from the remains of Tepiki, but I heard T’Pok was moving.

    “Sotek has been satisfied. Now, we’d better feed also the Horned Rat…”

    As guessed, this was a revisiting of Apocalypse Now, which is derived from Hearth of Darkness.
    The story developes in a way similar to the movie… a captain that goes into the jungle to see what's happening to a colonel gone mad. Of course, somethings are different (in the movie the captain knows since the beginning that Kurtz is mad, here you'll see at the end), some other things are pretty similar, both from a visual pov (the beginning, with the terradons flying over the burning jungle, instead of the helicopters) and from a narrative pov (the dialogue when the general gives the mission to the captain).

    I'm surprised and sad for the poor result of the piece, however, reading all the reviews, it appears clearly that:

    1. some weird grammar / use of words. Clunky dialogue and out-of-place expressions.

    This is partially due to me being not native speaker, combined with the fact that i managed to write the story in its entirety in the few days of the submissions phase, so in a hurry.
    These facts clearly detract something to the piece, so for the next time i must be careful and possibly gain some time to have a constructive review by someone else. ;)

    2. the ending and the portrayal of the madness were cool and appreciated, and at least that's a good point. I'm happy with the result.

    And finally, last but not least, here we are with the illustrations made for my piece! I'm truly proud, not all the stories received this visual homage! :D:)

    (at least, i believe the second one was still about Heart of Darkness)
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
  11. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    This helps a lot because while I did enjoy the Lewis Carol tribute, I had trouble following what was going on.

    Also, I would strongly recommend posting your Tomb King pieces in their own thread, without spoiler tags. You'll get more likes and comments that way. Some people gloss over reposts of contest pieces. You sort of put your lantern under a bowl hiding it here. I only just noticed them.
  12. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Then i will do it.
    Tnx for the suggestion ;)
    Paradoxical Pacifism likes this.

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