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Fiction One Man’s Meal is another Man’s Poison: July-August 2018 Short Story Contest Entry

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl, Aug 31, 2018.

  1. Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl
    Skink Chief

    Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl Well-Known Member

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    Just thought I’d post my story on this separate thread before the short story contest ends. Look out for author’s notes coming out posthumously!

    One Man’s Meal is Another Man’s Poison

    Kromm Brokksson, the eldest Longbeard of Barak Varr, was grumbling. Again. He had had news that the Longbeard who was supposed to be telling stories to the Beardlings today, Bael Dragongaze, had overdone it on the Bugman’s XXXXXX and was recovering from an immense hangover, and Kromm himself had been ordered to take his place. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the Beardlings, he just felt that he was too old to be messing around with youngsters, being 379 years of age, and that he would be generally better off just sitting in the tavern with Dwarfs of his own age, slurping beer and grumbling about the loss of his axe. He certainly couldn’t do that while the Beardlings were present - their mothers would scold him no end for the use of such bad language.

    As he trudged into the Great Hall, Jormgard Greathammer the Runesmith wandered over to him.

    “Ah, Kromm! It was most kind of you to volunteer to step in and entertain the Beardlings today,” he croaked.

    Kromm was just about to reply that he didn’t volunteer and was in fact roped in to do it by his superiors, when the Runesmith joked, “I trust you know that they’re all sitting by the hearth, assuming you can remember that far back to when you used to do so. I’ll be back in an hour to take them all on a tour around the armoury.”

    The Runesmith then promptly left, leaving Kromm, grumpy and slightly befuddled, to make his way over to the great chair reserved for storytellers where all the young Dwarfs of the hold were sitting around. There were at least two score of them sitting there, from the youngest children, around 4-5 years old, to adolescents of around 19-20, and all of them watched Kromm as he stumped over to the chair and sat himself down with a grunt.

    “Right then, young’uns, I’m here to recount stories of the days of old today, as Bael is not available,” Kromm said to the assembled Beardlings.

    “From what I’ve heard he got hammered with ale in the tavern!” One of the older Beardlings called from the back rows, which caused a wave of laughter from the younger Dwarfs.

    “Anyway, “ Kromm growled, glaring at the cheeky Beardling before continuing, “What tale do you want to hear today?”

    “The tales of Gotrek and Felix!” Cried one of the younger Beardlings.

    “Pah! Gotrek and Felix? Why, every Dwarf and his mountain-goat on this side of the Worlds Edge Mountains know all about those two and their adventures,” Kromm replied, “Now, how about I tell you of the time when I met the Lizard Folks of the south? Gotrek and Felix never met any Lizard Folk on their travels, now did they?”

    About half the Beardlings shook their heads instantly at this, while the other half sat there and looked vacant.

    “Now then, let me see. It was about three and a half centuries ago. I was a young miner who was embarking upon my first venture beyond the mines I was working in, as I had been chosen as one of the company who were to escort the delivery of six cartloads of iron to the Lizard Folk.

    “It had all started when one of them had arrived at the very gates of Barak Varr. You see, the Lizard Folk are not like us Dwarfs - where we are all one race, the Lizard Folk are made up of three separate groups of beings all living together to survive. The first lot are about as small as Goblins, while the second lot are each taller than an Orc. The last group of them are each bigger and more fearsome than a Ogre, and, lucky for us, about as stupid. In any case, it was one of the smallest ones who reached our gates all those years ago. The Gatekeepers had never seen anything like him before, and quite understandably remained cautious. He was as thin as a twig, with a bright red crest on the back of his head, big yellow eyes, each about as large as my nose, and small sharp teeth that could give you a painful nip but were nothing too formidable. He demanded to see the king, and claimed that he was a diplomat, but he wasn’t going anywhere without a dozen Hammerers all around him. I wasn’t allowed in the Great Hall - of course, a sprog like me at that time was far too young and inexperienced - so I had to rely upon what the others who were there told me, chiefly the Prospector, old “Smelly” Grond Hamarrsson. He informed all of us that the little visitor’s kingdom were willing to forge an alliance with us if we could provide them with a large amount of iron. Of course, we had plenty of iron - it’s the most common resource in the World’s Edge Mountains - so we gladly accepted. Our Corps were chosen to deliver the iron, and according to Smelly, we would be accompanied by the 5th Ironbreaker Corps, the same group who used to stand guard at the very deepest depths of our mines, so we were in safe hands.

    “I was certainly excited - it would give me a chance to see a good deal more of the surface world than I would if I had refused to come - and quite a few of the other younger miners were equally as enthusiastic. Soon enough, all thirty of us, the little ambassador and two dozen Ironbreakers set out with the six carts the next day. Each of them was pulled by a sturdy mountain pony and laden with iron ingots. We travelled along the old mountain road to the west for a good few miles, before we swung sharply to the south around one of the junctions. Gradually, as we made more and more progress, the mountains started to disappear, and rolling green foothills took over, although a branch of the river that served as our natural harbour was still here to guide us.

    Soon, however, our party reached the outskirts of the Badlands, which are riddled with Orcs, Goblins, Giants and Trolls, so we had to be increasingly wary as we went along the road, For much of the journey I found myself walking alongside the little diplomat, and I was finally able to see what he looked like. At first I couldn’t stop thinking how scrawny and pathetic he looked, but then I wondered what he thought of us. We might look just as odd to him as he did to me. He was all on his own away from home with strange company, which was how I felt too. He deserved more respect than we were giving him, so I did the decent thing and asked who he was. He replied in a very squeaky voice something like ‘Itzi-Mitzi-Bitzi’ or something silly like that. I was surprised that he could understand Khazalid, but he then said something more about him being from the ‘great city in the hidden marshes’ and immediately saw that he had mispronounced a basic verb. In any case, he was telling me how his city was running out of metal to make weapons, the reason for which they needed the iron, when I heard Smelly Hamarrsson give the order for us to halt. Dead ahead of us, in the middle of the road, was a tradesman’s cart. It obviously hailed from the Empire, no race of manlings makes more shoddy things than the men of the Empire. When we marched over to it, we found that it had been raided. Whatever had been in the cart was now gone, as we thought, meaning it had been the cargo that had attracted the attackers. The crew and horse were dead, but it was the way they had been killed that made us shudder. The blades that had slain them must have been blunt and crude, and that could have meant only one thing - this had been the work of Orcs.

    We continued on our way, but after seeing the evidence of Orc attack, we were even more cautious. The bodies were quite freshly slain, meaning that the raiders were not far away. Indeed, we would find out later that they were closer than we thought. We were marching through a particularly dense patch of forest, making sure we kept to the road, when there was rustling in the bushes ahead of us. We all stopped and levied our weapons, all except for the ambassador, who hid behind me and poked his head out to see what was approaching. Soon enough, an Orc emerged from the undergrowth to face us, along with another, and another, and yet another, until the whole road was blocked by an Orc horde that outnumbered us at around three to one. The Ironbreakers advanced ahead of us and locked shields to form an impenetrable wall, before the burly Big Boss at the head of our foe bellowed the command to charge. Barely five seconds passed before the Orcs threw themselves into the shield wall with a deafening slam. All us miners hefted our picks and formed a circle around the cargo, while the tiny lizard rushed into the middle to stay with the ponies and the iron, the latter of which, to him, was priceless. He then unstrapped a horn made from the appendage of one of the creatures of his homeland, and blew a low, sonorous note that echoed throughout the forest. The Orcs, bemused for a moment, stopped to listen to the sound, before they launched themselves at us again.

    Initially the Ironbreakers had the upper hand, weathering the Greenskins’ blows with ease and felling many of them in return, but more came, and the first Ironbreaker was toppled by an Orc blade. This chink in the shieldwall made it easier then for the enemy to break through, and gradually they wore the wall of gromril down. Soon the last one was dead, surrounded and cut to pieces, before the monsters turned on us. It looked as if we, along with our cargo and companion, were lost, but then something astounding happened. The Orc attack faltered as most of those who weren’t immediately fighting us began to turn round as one after another of their number were slain by long spears thrust into them from the back. Initially I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on, but as the Orcs’ other enemy killed more and more of them, I noticed blue reptilian jaws sinking themselves into Orc necks, and long blue spiked tails delivering punishing blows. Our companion’s bigger cousins had arrived!

    Although we didn’t know who these creatures were at the time, we threw ourselves at the Greenskins with renewed vigour, and between us and the ambassador’s warriors the Orcs stood no chance. Their whole line collapsed as their warriors turned and fled in all directions, knowing that they were beaten. We made no attempt to pursue, for at the time we did not know whether these new visitors were friendly or hostile. However, that was soon decided when our little reptile companion ran over to them and they made no attempt to harm him. He spoke to them in a strange language we had never heard of before, and they put down their weapons to show they meant no harm. They still looked formidable with their huge jaws full of teeth, but we trusted our companion’s judgement and did the same. The ambassador then arrived back to us and said in his squeaky voice that his people were truly grateful for the generosity we had shown them, and that they would take the carts of iron the remainder of the way back to their city. He then whistled and three of the huge troll-sized ones lumbered over, each one picking up one of the iron carts and its payload and hoisting it onto his back as easily as if it were a backpack.

    Just before he and his new escort were about to leave, I thought that it would be an especially friendly gesture to provide him with a gift he could keep for himself, and I took the piece of chuf out from under my helmet and gave it to him. There’s nothing like a piece of fresh mountain goat’s cheese to keep you going on a long journey, and I thought he may want to eat it on the way home. He sniffed at it tentatively and decided to try it before leaving, taking a small bite out of it and swallowing. However, he didn’t seem to like it very much as he gagged and stuck out his pink tongue, before politely saying that he would have some roasted Chuxtli Beetles when he got home, whatever they were. I felt quite a bit more sorry for him then for only being reared on beetles all his life, but on the other hand, that meant more chuf for me! In any case, we then parted ways with his band, and while he and his cousins departed south, we stayed and buried each of the Ironbreakers and carved a small prayer to Gazul onto each of the spots where they lay, for we couldn’t carry them home with us.

    We then retraced our steps and returned home, our mission complete, without further incident.’

    The assembled Beardlings, impressed by Kromm’s tale, all clapped resoundingly now that the end had been reached.

    “And the moral of that tale, young’uns, is ‘Always remember to take a piece of chuf with you under your helmet’, so you’ll never be hungry on a journey. Oh, and also if you do meet any Lizard Folks on your travels, there’s a manling expression that you may want to take heed of: ‘One man’s meal is another man’s poison’. They don’t seem to like the food that we like. I don’t know why, but there we are. They’re not Dwarfs, so they eat different things. Now, what story would you like to hear next?”

    “Gotrek and Felix!” several young Beardlings shouted.

    Sighing, Kromm composed himself again and began to tell the tale of the Zombie Slayer.
     
  2. Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl
    Skink Chief

    Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl Well-Known Member

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    Author’s Notes
    For my first Short Story Contest entry, I honestly initially had no idea on what to write about. ‘Food and Drink’ was honestly the most obscure theme I had ever seen so far, and I just couldn’t visualise anything directly about both Lizardmen and food in my head. Dwarfs, on the other hand, resonated far more strongly with food in my head at least, not just because of their love of beer, but also through reading about the Dwarf language, Khazalid, in the 6th Edition Dwarf army book, so I thought to myself, “why not tell the story of a Dwarf telling a story of when he met the Lizardmen?” and so the main plot of this story was born.

    In terms of who the protagonist was to be, it had to be a Dwarf with a great amount of experience, so a Longbeard was the obvious choice. In terms of who the Longbeard’s audience would be, I was a bit less sure. Dwarf culture is similar to both Viking and Celtic culture in that stories and poetry were the main ways of keeping records of events, and of course stories could be told to everyone, at feasts as part of the celebrations, before battles to raise morale and also to educate young Dwarfs about how to survive. I thought it would be fun to portray the latter in a story as we don’t see much about Dwarf children in Warhammer.

    Are they any different from human children? In some ways yes, and in some ways no. Because Dwarfs are a longer-lived species than humans by several hundred years, I would imagine that patience would feature as a trait more in Dwarfs, certainly more so in Dwarf children than human children, so it would be more likely that they would be able to sit through a story without fidgeting much or wandering off to do something else. Also storytelling, as I’ve said before, would be much more of a part of Dwarf culture than it is in modern human culture - we do still read books (enough to ensure the demise of the Kindle rather than the other way around as was first predicted), but the art of oral storytelling is considerably less prevalent. Therefore, I would have thought that Dwarf children would try harder to listen and pay attention as it would be seen as a greater affront if they didn’t compared to human children - not listening to a story recounted by the greatest of elders would probably be the equivalent of skipping school for Dwarf children.

    That is not to say that there shouldn’t be any joking interruptions, especially among the older beardlings who would have seen more of the world (hence the older beardling joking about the main teacher having one too many beers), and also the fact that all children have a favourite story that they love to read or listen to over and over again (in this case the tales of Gotrek and Felix, which probably would have had some popularity among the Dwarfs as Gotrek is famously the either the luckiest or unluckiest Slayer in the world, depending upon how you look at things).

    In terms of the portrayal of the Lizardmen, I didn’t want the Lizardmen to be seen as enemies (especially on a Lizardman forum and also because I like Lizardmen just as much as Dwarfs), but there is of course the barrier of languages - Saurian and Khazalid are like chalk and cheese. If the Lizardmen and Dwarfs were to become allies, how could the alliance be sealed? It was then that I thought that trade would be the answer - the Lizardmen have heaps of gold relics that the Dwarfs crave, and the Dwarfs and experts at mining and crafting iron. While Lizardmen in Lustria wouldn’t see any need for iron (as gold is so plentiful), Lizardmen settlements in the Old World would, as fresh gold reserves are comparatively scarce. Of course this means that the Temple City the story is based on is Lunaxoatl (as it is in the middle of the Marshes of Madness - see my fluff post on it for more details). Of course I couldn’t make any references to the city’s name or that of its leader (Lord Agragax) as that would jeopardise the anonymity of the contest, so I couldn’t set the story in the city itself. However, this wouldn’t stop me writing about the Lizardmen visiting the Dwarfs and agreeing upon a trade offer.

    In terms of facilitating communications between the two races, I envisaged the idea of a Skink diplomat being able to speak Khazalid (albeit rather poorly) - I would have thought that the Lizardmen of Lunaxoatl would have felt the need to invested some time into studying the languages of the other races, especially as they are stranded in the Old World without a Slann and no links to the Geomantic Web, so perhaps certain members of Skink nobility may have decided to train as diplomats. However, having spoken Saurian ever since they had been spawned, it would take a long time for any of these Skinks to master the pronunciation and syntax of a language as different as Khazalid.
     
  3. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Don't let that stop you. A lot of fine pieces have Lizardmen in the antagonist role.

    I really like that you went here. I couldn't really find much on similar topics on other forums about fantasy. In what ways would demihuman children act differently than human children? I'm not sure, but I do think human children would sit still for a storyteller, at least in a medieval setting. They literally have nothing better to do for entertainment and they don't get longbeards telling them stories every day.
     
  4. Paul1748
    Jungle Swarm

    Paul1748 New Member

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    Do you have any examples? I am curious.
     
  5. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    The First Contest, Story 2 and Story 5

    The Second Contest. "Final Entry", "The Southern Heat", "Around the Fire", "Chameleons in the City of Mists" "Stranded"

    The Third Contest "Lone Survivor." "First Contact" "The Naturalist"

    The Fourth Contest "Tunnels," "The Days of Terror" "In the Serpent's Eye" "Fool's Gold" "Whispers in the Wind," "Secrets of the Southlands"

    The Fifth Contest "The Seraphon Legend"

    The Sixth Context "Pirates of the Dragon Isles" "Harvest" "Paranoia"

    The Seventh Contest "Slave to the Sword" 'Kin and Master" "Cell Duty"

    The Eighth Contest "A Whimper" "Vengeance's Fire"

    I might go over the other ones later. I haven't checked but I'm guessing every contest has at least one piece where the Lizardmen are the antagonist.


    Outside the contests, I wrote Count Renliss' Journey to Lustria with a villain protagonist fighting the Lizardmen.

    New Alliances and Legacies. a novella had alternating viewpoints between the Lizardmen and their foes.

    Discomute had a villain protagonist in his Hunter's Day Series

    I'm sure I missed some others.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018 at 9:17 PM
  6. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Huh, I just checked and the only Short Story Contest where no one wrote a piece about with a non-Lizardmen protagonist fighting one or more Lizardmen antagonists was the most recent contest where this piece came from.

    It had two Lizardmen versus Lizardmen pieces but I wasn't counting that for those purposes. Lizardmen versus Lizardmen pieces are not uncommon but they aren't in every contest.
     

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