Hmm, shame to see that there were only 7 stories this time for such an interesting category, but regardless, here are my reviews: Story 1: Haha, I'm pretty sure this is @Scalenex's entry! Why am I so quick to judge, you may ask? Well, the facts that the setting for this tale is a Wild West version of the Warhammer world, and that it is so similar to the Wild West universe that Scalenex was discussing with me and several other frequenters of the fluff section on a thread a while back points to him as being the principal suspect. Of course, the promising theme of 'Alternative settings' gives the perfect opportunity to kick-start a collection of fluff sagas in this universe, so I'm all in for it. It all starts with two Rango gunslingers riding terror-bird like Culchans along a snowy track to discover that a spate of brutal killings have occurred in the neighbourhood. Arriving at the nearest town, they team up with the deputy Sheriff and some veterans of the Warhammer version of the American Civil War to track down the culprit. As they head further and further away from civilisation, they encounter the perpetrator - a Wendigo, a skeletal embodiment of the cold and starvation that winter brings based upon evil spirits from Native American folklore. After a quick but brutal battle that sees one of their number perish alongside the monster, everything seems to end happily as the heroes get their cold hard cash reward and part ways. However, what they never realised was that the real threat was still out there, and indeed as Private Dimitri heads to another town to spend his loot, that threat catches up with him. Preying upon the experiences he endured during the Civil War, a malevolent black rider possessed of powerful sorcerous capabilities, most likely a Tzeentchian Lesser Daemon in disguise, turns him into another Wendigo, starting the cycle anew. As you know I like my grimdark pieces, and I'm pretty impressed to see such a piece in a universe I know pretty well from helping to shape it, as well as some of the concepts fully visualised for the first time, such as how a Wendigo is birthed and the nature of the shadowy servants of Chaos. A great read here! Story 2: From an unexpected surprise to something... just completely unexpected. Scooby Doo meets Warhammer? I must admit, I didn't see that coming, not even in a Short Story Contest with 'Alternative Settings' as the theme! Indeed, Scooby and the gang have been summoned through a portal by the Skinks of Itza during the First War against Chaos to aid them against the unstoppable tides of Daemons. Fred, Velma and Daphne explore the Temple City, while Shaggy and Scooby head in a different direction to a ruined temple, where Scooby encounters what sounds like a Mutalith Vortex Beast by backing into it in typical Hanna-Barbera fashion. The ensuing chase sequence, which shares a suspicious similarity to many other cartoon chases, causes our heroes and the Daemon to end up in a heap in the streets of Itza just as the other three are walking past, whereupon Velma discovers that, just like in every other Scooby episode in existence, the monster is a bloke in a costume, specifically an old Skink they met earlier on, who is then apprehended for supposedly causing the first Daemonic Incursion. Now, I'm not much of a fan of Scooby (personally I prefer Wacky Races, The Flintstones and Yogi Bear), but I have to say that I just couldn't help but laugh at this. All the stereotypically cartoony tropes are here, from characters disappearing in a cloud of dust to Shaggy demanding a 'comically oversized sandwich' as a reward, which makes this story all the more authentic as the author was clearly aiming to write a Scooby-Doo parody of Warhammer, rather than a Warhammer parody of Scooby-Doo. Therefore, I'm awarding "What's all the fusstria about Lustria?" the Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl Comedy Award for October-November 2019! Story 3: As opposed to most of the other entries in this contest, which mix Warhammer Fantasy with other universes to get crossovers, this particular entry is especially intriguing because it is still set solely within the Warhammer Fantasy universe, but in a scenario completely nonexistent within mainstream canon - the alternative scenario of Lizardmen being a tribal race like the Aztecs and Mayans they were based on, and being prone to regular infighting amongst themselves. We join a warband from Tlaxtlan, the City of the Moon, after they have just won a victory over a warband from Xlanhuapec, the City of Mists, as part of one of many Civil Wars between the Temple Cities that have gone on in the past few centuries. While most of the victors are seen celebrating their triumph, one, Chaska the ancient Saurus Scar-Veteran, stands apart from the rest, simply standing and staring at the sky, repeating the single word "Madness" over and over again. While one of the two Skinks that question him doesn't understand his utterances and becomes impatient, the other believes the Scar-Veteran is afraid of more and more years of this war, and attempts to show him compassion even though the Skink himself knows very little of the true extent that the Saurus has gone through. This particular tale is an especially poignant story that perfectly encapsulates the horror and the pointlessness of specifically Civil Wars - when Chaska simply stands there, repeating "Madness" again and again, he is clearly relating to the madness of the whole Lustrian Civil War, the madness that he had to endure witnessing the deaths of his spawn-brothers to weapons used by his own race, and also the madness that he has to rob other Saurus of their spawn-brothers. The whole cause of the Civil War is not known, so we don't even know why all these Lizardmen are killing each other. All we know is that they have been ordered to do it, and that there is no sign of it stopping. Not as directly grimdark as story 1, but certainly a sad piece that really pulls the emotional heartstrings. Story 4: This piece is another clever merging of multiple franchises to create a particularly engaging story. Whereas Story 2 brought to life the wacky cartoon universe of Scooby Doo with a Warhammer twist, this one has more in common with the Star Trek 'Prime Universe vs Mirror Universe' theme with a dash of 40K added in for the Mirror Universe. It all starts with the familiar story of the Lizardmen setting out to reclaim something of theirs that was stolen by some impudent men of the Empire - the Oldblood Borg'qar leads his phalanx of Saurus into the town, repel a squadron of Knights sent to dispatch the attackers and immediately go about searching for the Twenty Seventh Plaque of Chotec. He breaks into an old and ill-kept house and finds the Plaque in the grubby mitts of an Empire Wizard, who is promptly pulverised for his trouble. However, that's where the similarity ends - the Oldblood is promptly sucked along a magical portal conjured by the Wizard just before he died, and ends up in an alternative version of the Old World where the Empire, rather than being a neo-German good/neutral faction, is in this case a neo-Roman dictatorship, akin to a Fantasy version of the 40K universe's own Imperium of Man. Certainly similarities to 40K are commonplace here, with familiar-sounding 'Imperial Marines' who 'know no fear' quickly arresting our Oldblood hero and taking him to a very one-sided trial, where the Emprah himself (not a skeleton) arrives on the scene, declares him to be pretty much the Fantasy version of 'Xenos scum' and sentences him to death in a very Roman-esque arena fight. To add insult to injury, the deliberately short and blunt ending reveals that Borg-qar's opponent is none other than his own Carnosaur, either a mirror universe incarnation or his prime universe Carnosaur abducted sometime beforehand. An entry that will arguably resonate with every Star Trek fan on the forum at least, if not everyone else (I'd imagine the neo-German and neo-Latin text might throw some readers), I'd say this one is one of the most well thought-out in terms of delivering an alternative setting that is new and has not been previously thought of or discussed. Story 5: Another set in the world of Warhammer Fantasy, this story had me confused for much of its duration as to its relevance to the theme of 'Alternative settings' - what is it in this case that makes the setting alternative? The story revolving around Gru'tun and his comrades fighting a force of Undead is thematic and very well described, but this happens in the Warhammer Fantasy world already. There is no alternative other than that the Lizardmen are fighting a different foe from the usual suspects (Skaven and humans). It's only at the very end that the reader finally finds the link - after Gru'tun dies from a poisoned wound inflicted by a Skaven Assassin, he finds himself leading his former Saurus cavalry division once again, but this time in the Mortal Realms of the Age of Sigmar. While this story nicely recollects the AoS lore of Saurus being remembered into existence in and links it nicely with Warhammer Fantasy, we don't actually see this until the very end - the vast majority of the story is of the Saurus recovering from the loss of his comrades in the Warhammer Fantasy world, which would make for a pretty strong entry in most Short Story Contests on this forum, but in this particular Contest, where the theme has conjured some really diverse and imaginative pieces, this one just feels tame, especially as the 'Alternative setting' in this instance is just the Age of Sigmar Mortal Realms in place of the Warhammer Fantasy world - we have crossovers between the two fairly frequently in contests that don't have the 'Alternative Settings' theme, and this one doesn't distinguish from the others that much. Nevertheless, it was great to see the Saurus Cavalry commander 'reunited once again' with his fallen comrades, and the description of the battle was great, so other than falling short of the theme, this piece is still a really good read. Story 6: Of all the possible crossovers you could include in a story set in the worlds of Warhammer Fantasy and Age of Sigmar, the most obvious candidate would be Warhammer 40K - certainly before I began to read these entries I was expecting at least one to feature a 40K crossover, given the contest theme, but I was surprised that this one was the only one, and a particularly short one too. This tale starts with the familiar 40K image of a Space Marine Scout Squad attempting to infiltrate a Khorne Chaos Space Marine encampment to destroy the means by which the Chaos forces have reached the planet - a polar warp gate, not unlike those in the Warhammer Fantasy world. The operation initially goes according to plan, with the three Scouts assassinating several Khorne Berzerkers guarding the area near the warp gate before they can raise the alarm. However, just as they attempt the rush to the gate to plant the mine, they are ambushed by a squad of Fallen Dark Angels, who take out one of their number immediately and are then kept busy by the protagonist's comrade, who provides covering fire to give him more time to activate the mine. However, a Chaos Dreadnought is then attracted to their location by the sounds of battle, and proceeds to blast the protagonist twice with its Autocannon to render the team's mission a failure. We are then transported to the actual setting of the story - the Lizardman settlement of New Tlanxla sometime in the future of the AoS mortal realms (or it could be in the Warhammer Fantasy world if New Tlanxla is in Nehekhara), where the Lizardmen are corporeal again and have defeated Nagash, whose Black Pyramid is now a ruined monument in the centre of the Lizardman city. The 40K scenario was merely a VR computer game being played by a Skink, now exasperated at his inability to defeat the level he is playing, and discussing ways he could succeed with one of his mates, alongside studying Advanced Biochemical Engineering to help maintain the Spawning Pools. This story is a particularly clever take on the theme of this contest, as there are two alternative settings - the 40K setting of the computer game (which is a fictional setting within the fiction of the story) and the high-tech version of the Mortal Realms. About the only flaw with this one that I can see is that I personally think it was a little too short, but apart from that it's an excellent piece! Story 7: When I had thought I had seen it all, we are finally treated to ANOTHER Warhammer Wild West story - while I'm not certain this one was set within Scalenex's Warhammer Wild West universe as none of the terminology brainstormed in that thread is present here, it could easily be set in that universe. It follows the eponymous Skink With No Name (obviously a parody of Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name) as he languishes in a gaol cell after being captured by Dark Elves with no company except Ruco, a talkative Dwarf prisoner, in the adjacent cell. He is removed from the cell by his guards and dragged to their leader, who offers him his freedom in exchange for his help in the search for a sunken Black Ark and its stolen Lizardman treasure. Sceptical at the possibility of the Dark Elf actually keeping his word, the Skink waits for a timely cannon shot to smash into the leader's throne room as a distraction before helping himself to both the Lizardman map leading to the wreck and his confiscated rifle and legging it, managing to sneak his way into the fortress stables and steal a Cold One to ride home. He follows the map to a great symmetrical mountain with a mine shaft at the top of it, but almost as soon as he enters the cavern, he is greeted by the Dark Elf leader, who also survived the attack and followed the path that he took. Threatening him with his crossbow pistol (obviously an evolution of the Dark Elf repeater handbow), he forces the Skink to lead him into the network of mine passages. As they travel deeper into the earth, they find that the passage ultimately leads to the tomb of a Slann, and that the map led to it rather than the wreck of the Blue Dark. Thinking that either the treasure was rescued and interred here, or that the Slann's tomb would contain a priceless Slann corpse imbued with magical energy, the Dark Elf is still hopeful that riches can be found, as is Ruco, for it is discovered that he was freed when the barrage destroyed his chains and that he followed the Dark Elf captain just as the Elf followed the Skink. This third party distracts the Dark Elf, who points his crossbow at the Dwarf, which gives the Skink the chance to ready his rifle. After some 'dramatic eye close-ups' as featured in some of the most renowned Western films ever made, the three all fire at each other, resulting in Ruco accidentally dropping his stick of dynamite and blowing up the chamber, killing himself and knocking out the Skink and the Dark Elf. The Dark Elf is the first to awaken, and, believing he's the sole survivor, starts to investigate the stone sarcophagus, but all he can find is a meagre frog-shaped pendant. Leaving the tomb in a rage, he returns to his Cold One and prepares to leave, but is then shot by the Skink, who claims the frog pendant for himself, the 'Blue Bart' he was looking for, and rides off into the sunset to claim the bounty laid upon it. A brilliant piece that combined action, adventure and both Western and Warhammer humour (the aforementioned dramatic eye close-ups, the Skink's Scaly Skin save protecting him from the explosion and Dark Elf Cold Ones looking more menacing than 'derpy' Lustrian Cold Ones) perfectly. This piece ticks all the boxes for me - engaging story, compelling characters and compatibility with the theme!