Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Paradoxical Pacifism, Jul 24, 2018.
I have to read this again, I think I don't understand it yet.
What do you think i could do differently in order to improve it?
I don't think you did something particular wrong.
I guess I just lost track of the Skink characters.
Chapter Seven: Civility's Mission
Peacefully content with the bustling protrusions of undergrowth and ferns, two scrawny slave rats laid their exhausted bodies next to each other. Their poorly kept brown fur denoted the many struggles their bodies had to endure whilst running their skinny legs away to near collapse. Why these blue scaled creatures wanted to mercilessly kill them, alluded their earnest attempts of understanding. From every angle of the hanging canopy, and from every discreet shadow, death stared them down, eerily stalking their every move along the way. It daunted on their ratty minds as to why this uncommunicative and unresponsive place would want innocent folk such as they, to die as if they were insects destined to be feasted upon by some massive frog.
Nonetheless, the insignificant flicker of civilization flared inside their souls, showing them the dying light at the end of this dark, unforgiving tunnel that was their struggle. Their hope fueled that insignificant light.
Such hope enlightened one of the rat’s nerves and muscles to fully awaken. It groggily observed its whirly surroundings before noticing its brown furred companion with shaken claws.
Conquil’s cold body twitched to the gentle yet surreal feel of his fur being caressed by something unnervingly sharp. His name calmly being spoken gave him all the respite that he needed to know he wasn’t in danger. A welcoming thought for the body that needed its rest after that terrible near-death experience.
“It’s time-now to move out.”
“…Not now,” Conquil whimpered with a lazy yawn.
“Come on!” Sniplit yelled as he angrily tugged at Conquil’s body, “We won’t reach-get to Skavenblight, fast-quicker if we slack around!”
Conquil’s prone body forcefully inclined itself away from Sniplit’s incessant tugging, “How rude! Cannot give my-my body its rest!?”
“…You-You will rest there indefinitely if you stay still-unmoving in this dammed place,” Sniplit retorted, glaring at Conquil to deliver the frankly logical point across.
Sniplit’s resolute, beady eyes gave Conquil the impression of someone being frustrated, and yet, relaxed at the same time. He felt that strange mixture after such a cold remark as well, sternly making him raise his entire body with a firm stance.
“Fine, whatever,” Conquil said before turning his snout around in curiosity, “which direction-way we head-going to?”
“I say-say up ahead!”
With that excited proclamation, the poorly clothed rats carried themselves along the many pressuring ferns and bushes. The seething humidity annoyingly probed at their furred bodies in unison with the merciless sunlight. Chattering bugs sounded off their incoherent calls, seemingly giving themselves a physical presence much larger in size than the towering trees. It was all so peaceful, and yet, any second from now, those blue scaled creatures with bright orange fins could emerge themselves with their sticks, and try to kill them. Nature, in their beady eyes, was so unfairly contrastive.
Blue colored spikes of some unnatural origin protruded and contrasted themselves amongst a myriad of thick bushes. In one of the rat’s erratic visions, it immediately caught its interest.
“Sniplit, what-what’s that? A bit to the right…” Conquil pointed with one of his sharp claws.
Sniplit’s eyes followed suit in curiosity, and immediately found what Conquil was mysteriously bugging on about.
“…I don’t know.”
The two rats prowled across the bushes and made a gruesome discovery.
A humongous body laid prone on the many branches and leafs. Blue scales adorned the entire body, with the massive spikes protruding out from its large backside. Its limbs were small, yet bulky in width, and its head had massive dimensions as well.
However, the deep, red slashes that stretched all across the body caught their attention the most, for it would seem the body’s life was valiantly hanging on to only a decaying rope. Irregularly breathing, the body’s back arched back and forth, signaling to the rats the body was still alive.
Sniplit stepped back in horror, and wondered what savage beast could’ve done this, and what would happen if it showed itself here once more, “…I-I think be wise if we back-retreat o-off.”
“No way! We should help-assist it,” defying Sniplit’s logical fear, Conquil stepped forward towards the body.
“Fool-idiot! What are we going to do once the perpetrator comes back!?” Sniplit shouted with a grab on Conquil’s shoulder, “We’ll be kill-slayed!”
Conquil abrasively smacked Sniplit’s claws away, staring him down with unwavering eyes.
“Go ahead and run. I’m staying.”
Sniplit stared right back into those resolute eyes, and honestly couldn’t understand what got into Conquil. Just a day ago, Conquil was pathetically lying down on the jungle floor, waiting for his malnourished body to mercifully die. Now Conquil was throwing away his life around as if it was only a trivial leaf drifting down onto the ground from the ethereal branches of the towering tress above.
“…Why?” Sniplit questioned before his heart sank once more, “There’s no-nothing to do for this thing!”
“Have you face-confronted death before?”
“…” Sniplit’s entire head flinched backward in surprise at such an awkward question.
“When I was near-closing on death, everything around-surrounding me turned quiet,” Conquil bitterly reminisced as his glare started wavering, “Voices start-began ringing in my mind incessantly.”
“...That’s,” Sniplit uttered, struggling to complete his reply at what he just heard, “…Scary.”
Conquil heavily sighed. From that day onward, those strange, disembodied voices daunted on him. They left an immortal mark on his soul, a mark he fearfully believed was truly unerasable.
“The scariest part, was that they were familiar…”
Before Sniplit could chime in, Conquil conveniently swerved his eyes onto the large body, “Who knows if this… thing is experience-enduring the same thing I was?”
Sniplit rapidly glanced at the body, and Conquil with great difficulty. He didn’t know if Conquil’s talk of disembodied voices chattering inside his mind made any more sense than helping a complete stranger that’s nearing its death. A familiar feeling washed over his entire body. It vividly reminded him of the time he saved Conquil from near death, and how it strangely, but pleasantly gave him another purpose to run his scrawny legs for.
“Fine,” Sniplit said with a heavy sigh before continuing on, “What can we do?”
Conquil smiled as he erratically hogged a clump of leaves. He strode towards the scaly body, plastering on the leaves against the many wounds that were opened upon the rough, scaly skin. Sniplit stood dumbfounded at this for only a second, before realizing that Conquil wanted to cover up the many wounds with the surrounding foliage.
Erratically running from bush to fern alike, they plastered varying amounts of plant matter onto the strange skin that was unlike of their own. The easy, but tedious work of covering all of the bitter wounds ended before they stepped back, and observed their work.
Conquil noticed a large slash was still present at the base of the thing’s thick neck. A slithering line of plant matter still resided in his claws. They unanimously decided not to tend to that wound which was incredibly close to that bulky, ominous head adorned with massive teeth. Even his guts dropped in sight of such fearsome teeth, driving his mind to slightly wonder what would happen if this scaly thing awoke.
Eyeing the thing’s spikey back, Conquil quickly decided he should walk upon the body, and approach the wound from behind, so as to make it physically impossible for the thing’s head to snap at him.
Excited, Conquil easily strode onto the relatively unscathed tail of the massive beast. However, a second later, the body suddenly started to rock side-to-side violently, threating to throw Conquil’s balance off!
“CONQUIL!” Sniplit shouted, trying to make sense with his racing heart as to why Conquil was on top of the shaking body, risking his life needlessly. He stepped forward, staring at the struggling Conquil, but for some reason, despite his racing heart, his muscles couldn’t commit with the raging blood flowing through them.
Nearing the baseline of the wide neck, Conquil finally got to the large, deep cut despite the incessant shaking that almost threw him off onto the branches below. The energy was seeping out from his muscles, draining his will to hang on tight and finish this. He spread the piece of foliage across the large cut and pressed on hard. Soon, the violent turbulence that reverberated throughout his own lightweight body abruptly stopped.
Conquil looked down onto the strain of foliage, and then onto his brown furred self. His heart raced, and his senses prickled at what just happened. Much to his relief, the body wasn’t dead, for it was still breathing, albeit with much slower intervals. He stared onto the concealed wound with tiredness creeping into his nerves, lovingly content that this thing... whatever it is, will live.
Conquil fell onto the large, scaly snout, and tumbled onto a pile of leaves. Methodically for a second, he felt the warm puffs of air assault his brown fur. Twice, and thrice, the air consulted him further as his half-awake eyes swerved and met a pair of small, golden eyes staring at him. He stared back into those methodical eyes that were devoid of emotion, and yet, projected strength into his own soul. He dared not move even an inch in front of such massive teeth that could brutally bare on to his flesh any second from now.
They laid there, staring into each other’s eyes. Hearts raced, thoughts faded amidst the time stopping stare that could conform to a brutal scene of blood and gore.
Logically, he would’ve already been torn apart, but that wasn’t happening in front of his horrified eyes. Peace unsettlingly besieged the atmosphere of around him as time went on, making him able to decipher the feelings of those small, golden eyes. An otherworldly feeling twinged at his guts, and a second later, it was as if his own soul self-constructed empathetic attachments to this ugly, massive thing.
Suddenly, Conquil’s body hooked upon the hardy grip of claws that were akin to his own. Sniplit furiously charged until the foolish Conquil was far away from the teeth’s deadly aura, the aura that shuddered his soul to the core. His claws clenched intensely at the foolish rat before them.
“IS LIVING THAT MEAN-WORTHLESS FOR YOU TO RISK IT FOR THIS!?”
“Hmph. How contradictory,” Conquil coarsely remarked.
Sniplit’s glare sharpened at this but his brain didn’t, for he couldn’t come up with words for this madness.
“Remember how you save-rescued me from certain death?” Conquil smiled as he struggled to incline, “You did so, even though you could’ve save-preserved the food for yourself.”
"Don’t be ridiculous!” Sniplit shouted, thinking how Conquil could even compare that to what had happened before his very eyes, “You’re not the same as this… beast-thing!”
“Maybe so… but, can’t you see-observe the thing’s soul crying out for civility? It’s the same thing we weep-cry out for in this dreaded place.”
“I can only see-observe madness,” Sniplit coldly remarked, crossing his arms in clear disgust.
“You can’t, because you only observe-focus with what your eyes see!”
Sniplit’s patience dissipated at Conquil’s inability to see he’s withering away his life by helping this thing that would have no problem killing them at all. He imagined the carnage this thing could inflict, uninjured and freed.
“Hey, for a second, I think-feared it would actually kill me,” Conquil admitted before explaining once more, “But it had its timeless opportunity in its grasp, but never took-exploited it.”
Sniplit instantly remembered the time he was shocked when it all unfolded. Why he just stood there, and why he forgot about it, became a mystery that pinged at his mind, annoyingly making him extensively ponder on that very moment.
“Also, I truly did mean it when I said-spoke its soul was crying out,” Conquil recalled his vivid images, tearing his heart as he raised a claw above it, “When I stare-leered into those eyes, I never saw the hatred that was infested in the many eyes of the many small, blue figures we ran from,” Conquil raised his entire body and stared in respect at the scrawny rat before him, “I instantly knew from then on, it wasn’t much different from us at all.”
Sniplit stood there, staring at the resolute Conquil in awe. There were no more logical arguments left, no more logical reconsiderations to backfire Conquil’s crazy reasoning. It was still undeniably crazy what Conquil did, but the more he thought about it, the more his empathy extended to something he would’ve thought impossible.
“FINE,” Sniplit loudly uttered before turning around to face the body, “What are we going to do with this thing?”
“Let’s help it.”
“…Help-assisting you is something I would desire the most… oh well.”
Conquil smiled earnestly, gripping Sniplit’s shy claws with his own joyously.
Finally had some time to read this chapter.
Nice job, both story-wise and concerning the language quality.
Especially the latter seemingly increases in each story.
I do feel like i'm improving with each chapter. Still even more things to improve on, i think.
I really like the evocative descriptions of the scenes you lay forth, especially the first few paragraphs. I like the budding relationship between the two Skink characters.
The descriptions of the tainted spawnings confused me. You described missing limbs but the Skinks and Kroxigor were trudging out at a good pace. If you are going to have amputees moving, you need to describe if they are hobbling on one leg, pulling themselves with their arms or whatnot. Also, there are a wide variety of deformities you can use for varieties. Missing skin, stunted limbs, eye-less, contorted spines, etc.
Most importantly the description needed a transition. Was this a flashback the characters didn't see? A hallucination brought on by drunkenness? A nightmare? A repressed memory from a past live? A regular memory? Was this actually happening present time?
This was probably your best chapter. I understood what was happening. You showed good characterization and even the extraneous details of the scenery helped push the theme of the story and the mood of the characters.
It was better polished grammar wise compared to your previous chapters too.
I enjoyed this piece. Great characterization. Great adherence to the theme. I especially like.
You certainly are weaving the different characters together thematically. Your story has the premise/story hook of unexpected mercy but you develop your characters thoroughly enough that their unexpected mercy makes sense for the character and doesn't just seem motivated by storyteller fiat. Well done!
I have a bunch of minor grouses but they are minor grouses, only included because you asked for me to include negative stuff.
My mind is often in the gutter but might it be better phrasing, "two scrawny slave rats lay next to each other" ?
While I only partook of a tiny fraction of the fluff of Under-Empire, kill-slay is what we see the most.
I understand there are no ironclad rules for Skaven accents but you use bigger words than one normally sees in Skaven dialogue.
"Have you face-confronted death before?" seems a bit eloquent for a runaway slave. I guess your top level Skaven commander uses no double speak at all, which is fine because he is/was an arrogant intellectual type, but you should probably give your Skaven character's accents. Sniplit and Conquil are the bottom tier of Skaven society so they should talk like they are on the bottom. At least in my opinion.
Though a case can be made that the more complex nuanced words are the result of them speaking in Queekish which allows them greater fluency of expression. In which case you'd only need to make their dialect super crude if they were speaking something other than Queekish. That's a valid author interpretation too.
Like rushing down stairs to open presents or something when i saw this
Yeah the original phrase instantly made me think of Rats having...uhmm... sexy times.
Chapter Eight: Unattended Ends
Such an unfathomable feeling were mostly alien to the hardened minds of the Kroxigor. Alike the incessant rain falling from clouds above, or Saurus warriors preparing for battle, everything operated in clear accordance to the Old Ones’ wishes. Everything lived out their predetermined roles in life ‘till the fateful end.
If not true, leaders amongst the Skink, Sauri, and Slann would toil the massive, physical prowess of the Kroxigor for utter annihilation of those who defy the clear cut logic of the world, and by extension, the Old Ones’ logic.
Yet, the rats that joyfully skittered around this Kroxigor, defied everything it could have logically expected. The strong desire to kill faded amidst its tranquil stare into one of the rats’ souls. Torment threatened to cave in its mind when it tried to figure out why. It was all nonsensical. All so illogical.
The Kroxigor moved one of its humongous arms closer, withering away a large piece of foliage plastered onto its bloodied scales. A large streak of clotted blood mocked it, showing the Kroxigor how the wound itself got there. Teeth clenched, and the blood seethed.
Two rats pleasantly walked with bundles of foliage clinched in their arms. Their minds enshrouded in joy, for at last, they finally found something that didn’t want to kill them outright. Finally something that understands the plea of civility in a place so dreadful. It would seem the shinning beams of the sun, and the various trees and ferns that stood still, indulged in this moment of serenity as well.
However, something still bothered the rats’ erratic minds…
“Nah, look-seems a bit too simple for such a massive creature,” Conquil replied, fondling with his foliage.
Sniplit’s own foliage angrily trembled at this, “What-what have you got then?”
“…How about Tacitus?”
“Ridiculous!” Sniplit yelled before continuing on, “How do you even say-pronounce that? Tak-ah-it-us?”
“T-ae-S-EE-t-uh-s,” Conquil slowly uttered with a smile. He didn’t even know if this massive thing could talk, so giving it a name was quickly turning into a useless endeavor in his mind.
“Regardless, Tyer plain-clearly is superior, it can easily be said whenever, and you don’t have to bite-destroy your tongue saying it!”
“Yeah, whatever,” Conquil said, admitting defeat with his smile unchanged at Sniplit’s strange insistence on giving the thing a name.
In fact, Conquil didn’t take into consideration what will happen after they heal the thing’s wounds. Will it come along with them? Or will it walk away and tend to its own devices? He never thought about it extensively, but the thing’s shyness daunted on his resolve to help it. Still, the thing needed help, and that kept him going nonetheless. Lest those savage, orange crested things find it first.
The rats continued their walking, talking occasionally along the way, until they finally reached the thing’s resting spot.
However, what expected to be a resting spot, quickly turned into a spot upon which a humongous creature stood, staring lively into the rats’ souls with its small golden eyes.
Suddenly, its massive jaw opened, and a roar of other worldly proportions soon reverberated throughout the trees and ferns, swerving their inanimate postures into violent motion.
The rats’ souls shuddered at such a soul shaking noise, and shortly after, the creature slowly charged at them. It was pathetically slow, yet the trunk sized legs shook the entire jungle with its massive weight stomping upon the undergrowth. The jungle flared in violent motion, yet the rats stood silent there, staring. Legs locked in place, hearts raced with incomprehensible amounts of fear occluding their senses.
Sniplit’s eyes finally flickered, washing his mind anew and tugging Conquil’s arm with his own.
Still no response.
“TACTIUS IS GOING TO KILL-SLAY US!” Sniplit pathetically roared with his own might, violently shaking Conquil’s entire body.
Conquil’s eyes flickered at those small golden eyes that were so peaceful, so methodical, now tainted in pure rage and fury, akin to the large eyes of the many they’ve ran from. Conquil threw himself to the side along with Sniplit, barely dodging the creature’s claws that swooped for them.
Conquil and Sniplit landed on top of each other, seriously disorientating their senses. Sniplit turned his head ‘round to find the creature slowly striding towards him with its massive jaws slightly open.
“Come on! Get-Get up!” Sniplit cried out, trying his hardest to get Conquil up along with him, but it would seem he totally lost it. Conquil’s eyes stared into the abyss that was the cloudy skies with his mind apparently blanked out in pure shock. Sniplit looked around him again and saw the massive creature towering over him and Conquil. Any second from now, the thing will roar and kill them, gnawing on their meat and bones, Sniplit depressingly thought.
However, before Sniplit could send his final prayers, a dark hued figure appeared from seemingly nowhere, jumping above the towering creature with what seemed to be a sword of sorts. It drove its sword down onto the large neck wound Conquil successful covered, spewing blood onto itself and the creature. The Kroxigor's eyes widened at the sudden feeling of extreme pain searing throughout its body. Roaring and tumbling from side to side, the creature tried to shake off whatever was slicing its neck wide open.
But it was too late. The figure was securely tight on the thing’s back, brutally driving its sword repeatedly onto the wound, until the loud roaring finally stopped. It succumbed down onto Sniplit and Conquil.
Luckily, Sniplit got himself and Conquil out of the way, seconds before the weighty body crashed down onto where they originally were. Disorientated, His glare fixated upon the mysterious figure that stood on top of the beastly creature it had slain.
Its overall physique matched his own and Conquil’s, signifying to him that it was one of his kin. Despite that, it was much taller than they, and slightly more built as well. The dark clothing it wore was incredibly refined, so much more than their own clothes, much to Sniplit’s slight jealousy. Its face maintained a very chilled expression as it stared onto the rats it saved.
“…Hey. Name’s Gingkin.”
“You kill-slay a gigantic beast that was going to eat us, and all you can say is hey?” Sniplit slightly smirked at this Gingkin’s nonchalant tone after he heroically saved them from this fearsome creature.
“Sorry, I have been quite lone-“ Gingkin couldn’t finish when one of the rats suddenly rushed at him. It solemnly dropped down before the massive creature’s snout and began caressing it. Soon, caressing turned into tugging, and the rat’s eyes teared up.
Gingkin looked down upon the rat, widening his eyes. Sniplit followed suit as they stared at the desperate rat trying its best to revive the tough scales with its own measly claws.
“WHAT IS WRONG-IDOTIC WITH YOU!? THIS THING TRIED TO KILL-SLAY US!”
Turning around, Conquil saw Sniplit’s furious eyes glare at him. His own anger flared within him as well when those loud, bombastic words ringed inside his ears.
“You… You help-assisted this thing as well!” Conquil shouted, angrily pointing with his claws.
Gingkin’s glance swerved onto Sniplit whom was fumbling with rage. As if a slave rat crying on its knees for a mindless beast wasn’t confusing enough, it would seem the both of them tried helping this Kroxigor in an effort to increase their numbers and chances of survival. It made him smirk a little. The irony of slave rats risking their lives so much just to stay alive a little longer, satisfied him. Still, he couldn’t judge such otherworldly efforts to survive. His own life dangled upon a cliff, defying the rules of gravity and living at the same time, he thought.
“You control-MANIPULATED me in-“ Sniplit tried shouting out once more, but Gingkin landed right beside Conquil, consoling his skinny shoulder gently.
“Alright, enough of this incessant squeaking,” Gingkin ordered, brandishing his bloodied sword near Conquil, “It’s not repaying the debt-deeds the both of you owe.”
Sniplit froze at that indirect threat, racing his heart once again. Conquil suffered worse, for the menacing sword that stood on the opposite side of Gingkin, concealed its motivations.
Gingkin snickered at such a tense scene he created, “Actually, It’s nothing much. Just want to know-sense where the rest of the slave rat detachment is.”
“Rest?” Sniplit quietly questioned with his mind trying to figure out probable answers as to what this meant.
“Yes. Your parent detachment.”
Sniplit’s mind placed the mental pieces together, and spotted the matching arrangements. Rage diluted his fear instantly.
“Are you imply-suggesting I’m a slave!?”
“Isn’t that what both of you are?” Gingkin’s face turned curious at the slave’s hot headed attitude, making him retrieve his consoling hand away from the other slave’s shoulder.
“I am a person!” Sniplit shouted as he got up, “As Free-equal as you.”
Gingkin’s eyes sharpened, powering his legs to walk past the kneeling rat.
“Indeed, you are a person,” Gingkin calmly stated with a wide grin forming upon his face, “A person that lives, fights, and dies for rats like me.”
Conquil turned around to see Gingkin staring down Sniplit with his large sword. The latter stayed firm, but was visibly shaking uncontrollably. He as well could feel his heart race at the word slave. Who does this Gingkin think he is with his superior clothing?
Nonetheless, the nonsense that laid before him, pinged at his mind, and he earnestly wanted it to stop before it ended itself in needless bloodshed. He grimly glanced at the wound he happily tried covering, now turned into a huge, bloody cavity. His own blood seethed when he couldn't figure out why this happened, and why those docile eyes turned themselves into a fury of pure rage.
As a blessing, or an introduction for even more woe, the sound of branches snapping ringed in Conquil’s ears. He knew all too well it was those orange crested things with their deadly sticks, eagerly hunting down their brown hides for some bloody reason.
Gingkin heard it right behind him as well, and he too, knew what this meant. He frantically charged right at Sniplit.
“RUN! NOW!” Gingkin roared as he tugged Sniplit’s shoulder, instantly willing the latter’s legs to life.
Gingkin, Sniplit, and Conquil slightly following in from behind, ran for their dear lives from the all too familiar darts that either trailed, or zoomed right past them.
“Bob-weave from tree to tree!” Gingkin shouted as he looked at Sniplit’s maneuvers not focusing on taking cover with the trees. He looked behind him, and saw Conquil tailing him, doing exactly as he said. Amidst the adrenaline, this provoked a feeling he hadn’t felt in seemingly years: Pride. He wondered if that was why he abandoned the war camp, settling his mind upon finding a group of rats that had virtually no chance of even surviving a fight?
Gingkin bobbed his head intensely. Such thoughts endangered his focus, and thus, his survival as well. He planned that he and the slaves will have to continue running until whoever’s chasing them, run out of their precious darts.
The three rats continued with what seemed to be an eternity, the accuracy and precision of the darts not improving at all, much to Gingkin’s joy. They reached with what seemed to be the end of the vast trees up ahead. Beyond the last line of trees, laid a vast, empty field. Darts finally stopped their relentless assault, telling Gingkin his pursuers ran out.
“Keep run-evading.” Gingkin ordered, slowing down his pace and fastening his grip upon the sword harder, “I’ll delay them.”
Both Conquil and Sniplit looked at each other with shock, before continuing onwards in Gingkin’s vision onto the fields beyond the tree line.
Gingkin surveyed the numerous trees and surrounding jungle foliage in search of these dastardly blue figures. They blended in awfully well with the lush, green foliage much more than what their skin color would suggest. He didn’t have to question anymore when two blue figures reveled themselves, charging at him with what seemed to be daggers in hand.
Patience enveloped Gingkin’s mind as he waited for the charging Skinks to come in close. His nerves turning themselves into cold stone as he waited for the onslaught.
Shrieking, the Skinks let out a loud battle cry as they came down upon the rat they deemed an ineffective coward to die in their homeland it dared invade with superior numbers.
Swiping with such unpredictable ferocity, Gingkin slashed both of their underbellies, raining a torrent of blood before him. The Skinks immediately convulsed onto the unforgiving dirt and flooded the dirt with pools of their own red hot blood.
Gingkin retrieved two objects that resembled branches of sorts from which they shot their darts, and respectively, two of the Skinks’ daggers as well. He settled his eyes upon the tree line where the slaves ran off into, decreasing his heart’s erratic rhythm now that the danger finally is over.
Surprised, Gingkin could see Sniplit and Conquil's rough, brown outlines kneeling beyond the tree line as he got closer. He bolted himself through, enlarging his pupils at the vast sight that came into fruition.
Scrawny corpses of slave rats, alike Conquil and Sniplit’s, laid dead upon the empty field before them. Limbs frequently propped up in their visions when they tried to pan away from this madness. But it didn’t help. The bodies laid themselves everywhere the eye could swerve away to.
Gingkin’s gut twinged at how many bodies there were, trying his hardest not to throw up. Sorrow followed instantly when he noted the brown outline of the bodies, denoting them as the slave rats he joyfully wanted to find alive, now displayed peacefully lying in their clotting blood pools. It was awfully funny. Why couldn’t I accept the obvious truth?
Conquil and Sniplit turned their heads around to see Gingkin staring onto the field alike they were. The beast slaying hero smirked as he suddenly threw his sword down onto the dirt in front of them.
Sniplit immediately flinched at this, preparing himself to shout angrily afterward, until Gingkin stepped forward.
“Go ahead. Kill me.”
Both Sniplit and Conquil’s jaws opened in surprised shock, but Gingkin continued once more before they could even find words to close them.
“Yes… these were, indeed, my slaves,” Gingkin’s eyes teared themselves into endless oblivion, “It would seem they lived, fought, and died for me…”
Sniplit’s claws reached out for the sword in clear display of fury, but Conquil’s own reached Sniplit’s first.
“…Who did this?” Conquil questioned, trying his hardest not to let the tears fall.
“The same ones that hunt us down," Gingkin answered whilst staring at Conquil, "Akin to that beast the both of you help-assisted."
Silence presided over the three at that revelation. Gingkin’s tears still ran down on his brown furred snout, contemplating on why the brain hasn’t stopped functioning yet.
“Please just kill me… my life no longer has purpose.”
“Absolutely not!” Conquil shouted, almost stepping on the sword by accident, “Why not help us reach-arrive at Skavenblight? I’m sure you’ll find peace there.”
“You talk as if it’s a morning's march away."
“Well… is it?”
“Most likely not, but I’m actually not sure,” Gingkin smiled slightly at the sudden turnaround of atmosphere. He didn’t know why these slave rats would want to return to Skaven blight, the heaven for slavers, and hell for slaves. But amidst his inner turmoil, this didn’t matter. He existed purposeless, willing to die by the revenge of the couple that seemed to be the only survivors.
“If you want to join us, lose-waste the slavery tripe!” Sniplit angrily stepped up with Conquil, “Such a thing doesn’t exist anymore!”
Gingkin’s teary eyes swerved. This hotheaded one was uniquely funny, making him almost giggle a little. Still, the future ahead of him remained lonely and desolate of any desires he could have.
“What he said,” Conquil uttered out, rolling his eyes slightly before continuing, “What do you say?”
Gingkin eyed the very sword he wanted the slaves to wield, “…Are you sure you don’t want to just kill me? I could’ve prevented this, I could-“
“Stop that incessant self-loathing, fool-idiot,” Conquil sternly interrupted before walking towards Gingkin with heavy steps, “Yes, It drain-sucks on me how so many could die like this, but we’ve got to push through regardless of the pain,” Conquil meekly smiled when his body unknowingly eclipsed the bloodied sword in Gingkin’s vision, “It’s only going to get worse-crappier, before it gets any better.”
"You're talking crap!" Gingkin yelled with his reddened eyes glaring, "YOU could've been the many that lay dead there right behind you!"
Conquil and Sniplit flinched at this sudden outburst before Gingkin slowly collapsed on his knees before them.
"...So how can you just brush this off?"
"I was question-wondering the same thing, y'know," Conquil spoke softly, consoling Gingkin's shoulder with his dirty claws, "When you killed our beast."
Gingkin’s teeth clenched intensely at that. Whether or not slaves having so much more resolve than he, or finding out that he no longer has purpose, was something he couldn’t figure out as to what made him more depressed. The slave rats walked past him, signifying to him he had no other choice but to follow in their tracks where ever they thought of heading.
Gingkin looked back at the numerous bodies, and could’ve sworn he saw himself amongst the pile of corpses. Ahead of them, resided what seemed to be ruins of some sort of reptile-thing origin. As if it was an answer, the corpses suddenly smiled and waved at him. A howling cold breeze gusted throughout his entire body from the dark, encompassing clouds above, gently bending surrounding grasses of the field that were filled with ghastly death. Such graceful forces were highly welcoming.
Gingkin’s fur, however, prickled intensely.
Unattended end, huh? So when will the time come when I attend?
This has so far been an incredible journey. Sympathetic characters, playing against type. I can't give much more criticism than what's been stated already. But I can say keep it going. The story has been brilliant so far.
I actually know what to do with the rest of the story, so as of now, it's already about 2/3 done.
I was a little disappointed that after all that effort into healing the wounded beast, it died fairly quickly. That felt a little like a wasted opportunity.
On the other hand this portion had very good characterization and by linking Conquil and Sniplit with Gringkin, this has de-cluttered the narrative and seems to be pushing the plot to it's final conclusion.
So get us to the final conclusion please...
Chapter Nine: Yuatek River
Many miles south of Zlatlan, ran the Yuatek River’s enraged waters. For hundreds of miles, east to west, water by the uncountable tons streamed their journey down from The Great Mountains, all the way towards divine affinity into The Great Ocean. Along the way, they and their mother river etched an irreversible mark upon the lands, drowning flora and animals alike with occasional floods. For such destructive power, the river would’ve been considered a heinous blight upon the land by the many, but naught as it would easily seem, for the river’s unique freshness satisfied the needs of the flora and animals it periodically kills.
Such paradoxical attributes of this eye-stretching monstrosity of a river, slightly reminded Gingkin about himself; killing without remorse and then pillaging the reptile-things’ riches with negligible support of the slaves. If anything, the slaves themselves often were a thorn lodged in his side, always requiring his life to risk itself in the heat of battle for them. Now with them utterly crushed, he should be happy such a heavy burden was no more, allowing him to live and kill as he pleased.
But it would painfully seem that burden was replaced with an even heavier one, bearing his entire body down until he was one with the dreadful undergrowth beneath.
In Gingkin’s blood drenched life of slaughter, this distressing feeling that had first haunted him for the past hour couldn’t be understood, or even made sense of. It brutally stabbed his heart and robbed the strength of his poor musculature. It slightly reminded him of a time long ago when he killed a human-thing, only to go back and see its brethren dig a massive hole in the dirt and throw his later-to-be convenient carrion down into it in a strange ritual-esque burial. Apparently, human-things respect the dead of their kin and bury them underneath not only in an effort to ease the sorrow, but to preserve the dead for their Afterlife.
Such weak, ineffectual behavior would’ve made Gingkin laugh a long time ago. But right here, in his incessant stare of the raging natural beauty before him, the urge to mock was quickly superseded by the sorrow he would’ve laughed at when he recalled his feelings an hour before. Truly scarier than a Saurus charging at him, he wondered a thought.
Was I always this weak? Always so fragile?
With a controlled but deep sigh, Gingkin’s head swerved to the left of him and saw Conquil hunched with his head depressingly knelt down. Sniplit was also hunched over on the opposite side of Conquil, angrily leering at the expansive river up ahead in his usual display of fury and incessant discontent.
These slaves to the left of Gingkin were incredibly unusual. They dreamed of reaching Skavenblight; a truly great bastion of civilization they say they themselves hailed from. No poverty, no hardship, and most strange of all, no slavery was amidst the many uncanny declarations on their beloved Skavenblight.
Not long did it take when Gingkin’s cold, unloving truth clashed with the slaves’ fond wishes, forming a typhoon of rage and malice between the two parties that eventually led to the tense silence besieging the three rats.
Gingkin didn’t mind it much at all, for the silence perfectly fitted the serene scene that was his environment. Green flora of uncountable variations encompassed his vison where ever he could swerve his eyes towards to. The only visual escape from all this green – a humongous blue river, streaming and splashing water against its drenched banks. To him, this lifeless river vividly enslaved his mind, making his worries of past and future alike become nothing more than dying leaves drifting away from him with powerful, gusting winds.
It wasn’t just enjoyable, it was timeless, and Gingkin could spend all day – staring at the methodical river.
But of course, orderly peace doesn’t last forever; especially with company. Squeaking of a very low tone sounded off in Gingkin’s ears.
“…I don’t get-get it.”
Gingkin reluctantly swerved his eyes to the left of him and met a pair of beady eyes teetering on the verge of raining tears.
“Slavery!” Conquil shouted out with all of his might, furiously baring his rotted teeth for his savior to abhor.
Gingkin slightly stuttered at that sudden outburst, and with Sniplit’s conjoined hissing, it seemed the quagmire of last hour resurfaced itself. No worries immediately inflamed his mind, for he was perfectly fine heeding their baseless, nonsensical claims yet agian… for now at least.
“You’ll get it sooner or later…”
“No, no! I refuse-reject it!” Conquil angrily stepped towards Gingkin with uncontrollable tears streaming down, “It’s crazy-unthinkable!”
“Honestly,” Gingkin uttered before he took a step back and examined the slaves before him, “Is run-scurrying your lives away for a purpose that’s obviously false what you two truly desire?”
Gingkin swerved his snout away to the side towards a random patch of ferns and bushes in strong display of animosity. But in truth, he cringed… at himself. He knew the feeling that he was trying to belittle all too well; even from them.
“So, is that it then?” Sniplit questioned from behind Conquil, angrily leering at Gingkin, “You see us as expandable, worthless…” Sniplit’s enraged snout opened after a long, reckoning period, “Slaves.”
“I…” Gingkin’s words struggled to trickle out when he turned back and saw the slaves’ furious faces stare him down. He had always known and forgotten the erratic, rebellious nature that can often show itself in slaves. But these two, right here in front of him, transcended that nature to the point it would seem they themselves actually think they aren’t who they really are. It pondered on his mind as to why they were like that. Had the jungle driven their lonely minds astray? Or had they truly gotten so completely fed up with being slaves, they went towards great lengths in erasing their memories and tried writing new ones?
“Well?” Sniplit impatiently questioned with a tapping foot.
“Well, you two truly are worthless,” Gingkin calmly responded before staring the slaves down himself.
The slaves’ jaws dropped at such a blunt answer, they couldn’t conjure words to detest such an unexpected response that reverberated throughout their ears.
“However, I will say-admit from personal experience…” Gingkin’s vivid memories raged before his very eyes, whether or not he actually wanted them to do so, “The slaves I’ve personally known and lead, were priceless. They were everything in my struggles – and indeed, so weak they were, yet all the more relatable at the same time when their lives and mine frequently hanged on to the uneven cliffs that were the battles we fought in…”
Gingkin expected the slaves before them to add on or detest with their squawking, but instead, it seemed their jaws refused to shut. Turning his snout away, he slightly smirked – and not at them.
“I guess I was a fool-idiot for loving things that were so fragile… take your focus off of them for only a second, and they’re swept away from you… so far away…”
Conquil’s mind didn’t know what to think. He purely hated Gingkin’s continual use of the word slave, yet at the same time, he couldn’t help but sympathize with what Gingkin felt. Sniplit’s raging pyre decreased, but still burned on. The word worthless stuck on to him like mud on fur, and he furiously hated it.
“Well, time’s a wasting by just standing here,” Gingkin realigned his snout weakly, “You two want to reach Skavenblight, right?”
“Y-You know where it is!?” Conquil eagerly questioned, immensely astonished that they’re finally making progress.
“I thought you said you didn’t know where it was…” Sniplit added on with a more disappointed tone.
“I know for sure it’s roughly twenty thousand miles up north, tucked somewhere in the Old World,” Gingkin said, trying his best to restrain his urge to mock such an expansive distance they would have to cover if they wanted to reach Skavenblight, “However, I don’t know the exact tunnel routes that lead to the capital itself, and the both of you need to know this.”
“Why?” The slaves questioned in unison, making Gingkin slightly stutter at a rather mediocre question.
“Have you two forgotten the complexity of the tunnels?” Gingkin slightly frowned that he had to spoon feed an obvious fact, “One wrong turn, and you’ll run-meet with certain death.”
“Running away from death, and running away into death...” Conquil weakly smiled, “All the same-same!”
Sniplit chuckled at Conquil’s dark attempt at humor. It, however, went straight over Gingkin’s rolling eyes.
“Anyway, there’s a ra-“
Gingkin couldn’t finish his crucial sentence when a stainless blade braced against his neck. Nearly at the same time, he spotted claws rested firmly on his right shoulder. He couldn’t see it, but he sensed another rat behind him – its blade hard pressed against his neck – perfectly prepared to slice his own throat wide open.
“Desertion. Conspiracy. Betrayal,” the threatening voice reverberated itself behind Gingkin, “You know there’s only one cure for these.”
Gingkin’s heart firmly accelerated itself at the well-backed up threat, “W-Wouldn’t you agree they define us rats as a whole?" His head nervously perked up in an effort to get away from the blade however he could, “Also, who ar-“
The blade pressed harder against Gingkin’s neck, drawing its drivel of fresh blood.
The slaves themselves stepped back in horror, for the situation that unfolded before them happened so fast, they found it hard to remember how it had gotten up to this point. They saw a fully black cladded rat embark forth from the trees above, and dashed at Gingkin from behind at incredible speed. Somehow, it didn’t even make any noise despite how fast it was.
“Hey, where do you two slaves think you’re going?” The mysterious figure barked before easing off the blade’s pressure on Gingkin’s neck, “Disembark.”
Both Conquil and Sniplit didn’t know the meaning behind this word, or what’s going to happen to their Gingkin. They soon got the answer to their first worry when more black cladded rats emerged forth from the trees all around them. Deadly blades in hand.
Conquil, Sniplit, and Gingkin were surrounded – their flickered anew souls hopelessly obscured by a gang of darkness whose intentions were eerily discreet.
The Yuatek River, in the meantime, splashed and enthralled water against its drenched banks without a care in the world.
Kha’kor stared at the bloodied mess that was his spear. Two days ago, he plucked it from a Skink’s corpse. A Skink that shouldn’t had fought with such a massive weapon that dwarfed its height. It was then that he learned that the Southlands’ spawning caverns were producing negligible amounts of Saurus. In Zlatlan’s case, there wasn’t enough to fill only but a single full-strength cohort.
This, among many other factors, were the reasons for Zlatlan’s detrimental situation in its war for survival. Such a war he was glad to be a part of anyway, for the past year enshrouded itself in a terrible peace where the raging fire of war went out cold. Thankfully, the recent battles he fought for the past few days, satisfied his blood soaked yearnings. He earnestly believed the ratty blood splatter on his spear affirmed his affinity for war… the very thing that could easily take his own life away from him as well.
Kha’kor had to admit that was the only thing he feared. How long will it take until his Saurian body can’t handle the only thing he craved for? It seemed his own soul’s desires outgrew his body’s ability to fulfill them. His weakened state was proof of that frankly scary thought.
Kha’kor glanced at the rat commander he killed in the tent that still wasn’t cleared of the gems that were stolen. Its pool of blood clotted up, and the warm air whiffed of the bloody stench the body reeked of.
For some strange reason unbeknownst to him, this sight furiously enraged his blood.
Soft footsteps sounded off in Kha’kor’s unfocused hearing, immediately making his stare brake off of the rat leader’s body.
A small Skink adorned with colorful trinkets and feathers emerged forth from the tent’s entrance. The spear it firmly held was proportionally equal to its size.
“Messenger? Messenger!?” Conquatza angrily trembled, “No one would want to send messages to you!”
“Why?” Kha’kor turned confused at the Skink chief’s sudden tirade. He expected passed-down orders.
“You’re an ungrateful oaf!”
Kha’kor’s stomach tumbled in slight embarrassment. He realized – Skink chiefs probably wouldn’t like it if they were mentioned as simple Skink massagers – a job well suited for those that ride Terradons, but a versatile role for Skink chiefs to fulfill nonetheless.
“Sorry – your purpose here, however?”
Conquatza’s tremble ceased. He thought long and hard when he tried to gift the saurian commander his appreciation, only for such a gift to be turned down in such an unappreciative way, he himself destroyed it in rage. The bloody injuries that scarred his lustrian comrade gave him all the more sympathetic rationale to stop his useless berating, and actually fulfill the urgent reason he came here.
Something, however… didn’t smell right; and it wasn’t the decapitated rat.
Kha’kor spotted a small outline hidden in the dark corner behind Conquatza to the left. A blade suspended itself nakedly without blood to conceal its crystal clear glint.
Conquatza staggered back at the sudden roar coinciding with Kha’kor stumbling weakly towards him. Before he could even detest this, a sharp blade flew through the back of his head. Acute, agonizing pain purged his conscious before a never ending pit of nothingness followed suit.
The Skink chief’s body collapsed without argument, fueling Kha’kor’s rage as he stumbled past it. Another blade glanced off his breastplate, making his stumbling progress faster.
More blades flew – all directed at the Saurus’ unprotected neck. The strange, well-hidden figure capitalized on its second victim with well-aimed throws which would prove fatal if they stayed true.
It was, however, its undoing when Kha’kor deflected all of them with his spear, skillfully weaving it in a manner of defensive swings and swipes – all the while charging with undaunted rage.
Whimpering, the figure tried to get away from the very thing it hunted. Not before the humongous spear it thought was a safe distance away, unexpectedly cleaved through his right arm and sundered it completely from its body. The humongous spear, devoid of mercy, then slashed itself across the figure’s ebony clothed back in its lust for bloody revenge.
The black cladded figure pathetically roared out a painful cry as it fell on to the unforgiving dirt below; its arm nowhere to be seen.
Kha’kor rushed over to the Skink chief in a frenzy. He removed the bloodied blade forcefully, pulling out blood in his desperate attempt to see whether or not the Skink was still alive.
But it would seem the Skink died seconds after the blade impaled itself in the back of its head. Kha’kor’s throat voiced out low guttural roars of rage. If there was anything as despicable as chaos, it had to be deception; and those skilled in using it to their own ends. His failure to kill the vermin before it was too late, was what burned his innards the most. The humongous spear earnestly agreed, shaking uncontrollably with its saurian master.
Unlike the Skink, however, the rat that he expected was dead, was limply dragging itself towards one of its blades, leaving a trail of blood. The incessant crying told Kha’kor all he needed to know it was still alive, as if the rat itself was indirectly mocking his failure to kill it. Laughing or was it crying? He couldn't tell the difference from such alien emotions that fiercely enraged him.
With an ear shattering roar, Kha’kor jumped on the rat, tearing his prey apart, limb by limb, until only a pile of unrecognizable flesh and its own pool of blood remained.
The Yuatek River, in the meantime, splashed and enthralled water against its drenched banks without a care in the world.
Yolotli stared at the gigantic lake before him. It was static, gentle, unmoving; akin to the cloudy skies above. If he hadn’t known better, he would’ve thought time itself stopped and contemplated alike an immersed Slann. The tress and ferns agreed, it seemed, for they paced their swerves slower than the eyes could tell. It was eerie, yet enjoyable at the same time.
The silence fed Yolotli the willpower to think hard about the past. Tenx scurried away from him after he had his way with revenge. He honestly couldn’t blame him, for indiscriminately punching another Skink in the gut was a heavy sin that bared upon him.
What scattered Yolotli’s mind the most, however, was why he did what he did. It was completely incomprehensible and distant, almost as if something – whatever it was – peered into his past and commandeered his fears accordingly.
Yolotli thoroughly sighed. All this thinking daunted on him, and he probably should go back to the encampment; lest he gets accused of deser-
Yolotli turned to see a Skink frantically running towards him; bladed club in claw. It seemed to be Tenx, and he didn’t know the reason behind his shout… or his incessant panting.
“Rat assassins… Kha’kor… Skink chief…”
“What happened!?” Yolotli questioned; confused with his shaken claws at what Tenx was hinting at, and at the same time, why he's here.
“It’s a bad time to be alone – Kha’kor killed a rat spy, not before it killed a Skink chief,” Tenx explained, panting excessively.
Yolotli stepped back and widened his eyes slightly, and it wasn’t just the news itself. It would seem Tenx had a certain care for him despite what he had done.
“If you’re honestly worried about me…” Yolotli said, weakly smiling, “I’m fine!”
“Figured,” Tenx smiled back in unison, masking what little embarrassment arose from Yolotli’s assumption, “With your fighting techniques, you’re better prepared for anything than the rest of us Skinks.”
Yolotli’s weak smile withered away. It seemed Tenx hadn’t forgotten the time he easily beat him in a fair fight, and the fact that he could do so again.
“I just wanted to ask…” Tenx lowered his club, “Forget and forgive?”
Surprised, Yolotli's eyes and himself twitched at Tenx. He was particularly astonished at how Tenx could forgive him for such an asinine act he couldn’t even remember. Eventually, however, such personal quarrels need to be settled however they could; lest they carry on into battle where everyone will need to depend on each other. Although it went against the guilt in his heart, he felt compelled to leave what happened last night, and the morning after, behind; enslaved only by the past.
“...Forget and forgive.”
“Good, I do believe we’re even then…” Tenx looked away randomly to conceal whatever he couldn’t hide, “However, I must ask you something else.”
Yolotli stuttered slightly; unsure as to what Tenx wanted out of him yet again.
“Who are you exactly?”
“Eh!?” Yolotli shouted in bemusement, increasing the rhythm of his tail beating in wild confusion, “I… I am Yolotli!”
The two Skinks stared at each other, intimately bewildered at what their conversation devolved into.
“I-I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Yolotli shouted, angrily crossing his blue scaled arms.
“Fine, whatever,” Tenx’s eyes resolutely stared down into Yolotli’s soul, strengthening the perseverance in his heart, “Let it be known, however, that it’s completely possible to live two lives simultaneously, with one contradicting the other…”
Yolotli’s eyes widened and he took a fearful step back. It was completely impossible for Tenx to know, for he hadn’t told anyone… but how? Not long did it take when his heart started to burn with such ferocity, he could’ve roared.
“You want to know… who I really am?” Yolotli angrily regained his firm footing, “Earn it.”
“Eh!?” Tenx’s entire body shuddered in an uncontrollable rhythm. It took a good few seconds to realize what Yolotli wanted of him.
“A friendly spar?”
“Fine!” Tenx threw his club away behind him excitedly, “Prepare to lose to my might!”
“I appreciate the enthusiasm,” Yolotli smirked at Tenx’s confidence. Stupid, but nonetheless vital for winning over an opponent.
Tenx charged headlong with his claws eager for the sensation of the familiar scales it had long ago. His mind, however, enshrouded by a sea of doubt. If past experiences were anything to go by, the doubt that occluded his mind warned him dutifully of what's going to happen.
Almost as if this spar was already decided...
The Yuatek River, in the meantime, splashed and enthralled water against its drenched banks without a care in the world.
Giving mortals’ minds lasting pieces of their own they yearn for.
And yet washes them far away with raging currents, mindlessly.
"Terror"? I'd have chosen a softer word like "melancholy" or "disappointment", but did take the hint.
Chapter 9 critiques
Brilliant characterization. The writer is more polished than your previous installments.
I noticed you were advising @TheCrazyKhorneGuy to incorporate scenery and then you clearly worked hard on incorporating scenery into your own piece.
Rivers are such powerful and versatile things they can symbolize many different things. The way I see it either the river symbolizing that the various groups of named characters are following the same river, the same destiny to some ultimate shared conclusion.
The river is ever changing but also constant and the river symbolizes the continuation of conflict, life, misery, and perseverance.
Outside the subject of rivers, I was mildly concerned that this piece was a little clunky because it has every set of surviving characters in it, but i think the river ties them together well enough. And the characterization is so spot on, I think the extra length of this section is justified.
I especially like how Gingkin isn't immediately punishing or kill-slaying the wayward slaves because he enjoy truth bombing them and watching them squirm. Lots of Skaven are good at inflicting hurt on the outside, but only the greatest Skaven make other creatures hurt on the inside. Are you taking notes @Y'ttar Scaletail?
I really like Kha'kor despite the apostrophe in his name. You wrote an an excellent window into the mind of a Saurus warrior.
Tenx and Yotili is my least favorite part. Not in that I don't like it, I just find them less compelling than the other two sets of interacting characters you have in this chapter.
Tenx an Yotili and among your most intriguing characters but they haven't done much but philosophize and argue.
Gingkin actually wants to help them, though
Chapter Ten: Tensed Hearts
Tenx’s heart thumped rapidly.
Once, twice, thrice, and an uncountable amount of times after, it thumped on as Tenx looked up towards the cloudy skies above, uncomfortably laying down flat upon his tail. The puffy white clouds oozed comfortability and tranquility with their timeless, expansive surroundings. Much the same couldn’t be said true for the rough dirt pummeling his nerves and the burning pain searing throughout his scales, though.
“Are we already worn out, Tenx?”
Tenx weakly rested a claw on his beating chest, smiling wildly. The other clenched firmly into the grainy soil beside him.
“No… this ends when one of us can no longer get up!” Tenx shouted, propelling his body upward into a hastily readied stance.
Yolotli smirked whilst crouching his entire body forward, “Good. I was worried I would find myself disappointed after such… eagerness from you.”
Tenx’s guts heavily twinged at this. His false sense of confidence he propped up in hopes of supporting his will to fight, crumbled like undergrowth beneath a Stegadon’s might. Still, his resolve to find out the truth clanged on to his beating heart nonetheless, and with that alone, he propelled his legs into a charge yet again.
Yolotli’s eyes dutifully squinted at Tenx’s charge that went straight towards them; ever watchful. The muscles tensed; the mind restrained. His excited smirk withered away in the focused storm that was his concentration.
Tenx lunged with all his might, propelling a clenched set of claws towards Yolotli.
Anticipating this, Yolotli sidestepped slightly astride from Tenx’s lunge; barely enough for his shoulder to evade. More of the lunges fiercely came, showing Yolotli Tenx clearly had improved… slightly. As he swiftly evaded the claws with each sidestep, he took notice of Tenx’s power and speed behind his throws gradually increase. However, the lunges themselves still remained predictable and clumsy at best, preventing his heart’s rhythm from increasing as he honestly would have hoped.
Tenx’s heart, however, incessantly pounded against his chest as he threw his claws, hitting nothing but the defenseless air. Yolotli’s evasion techniques only served to enrage his muscles further, and his mind drifted off into slight ponder as to how this could even be won.
Tenx’s mind enshrouded itself in perhaps too much thinking, for it didn’t notice Yolotli’s sudden stride towards him right after one of his evasions. Tenx hurriedly lunged with his other clawed hand instinctively. But Yolotli easily blocked it with one of his own, providing him a second’s opening for him to exploit. Taking the initiative, Yolotli hastily punched Tenx’s shoulder, staggering him enough for a resolute uppercut to follow up on Tenx’s chest.
Yolotli slightly sighed to himself in disappointment. Tenx staggered before uncontrollably falling back-down; his tail bent underneath the weight of his entire body.
It had been the seventh time in this nonsensical spar, and the end results remained the same. Tenx’s pained yelps reminded Yolotli of the time his innards burned when Tenx inquired on his real identity. Reminiscent of the time when Tenx came to him for help, it seemed the shackles that was his self-control withered away into nothingness, whilst his rage freely commandeered the rest of his soul. His urge to start this spar bared witness.
And yet, Yolotli knew all of this fully well. What truly was bothering him, however, was why…
Tenx’s body rolled on itself with difficulty, slowly rising before Yolotli. Wearily, his hunched over stance slowly transitioned into one readied to fight yet again; his large golden eyes undeterred and willed unlike his weakened body. The pain shouted and lambasted at him to end this suffering, but for some nonsensical reason he couldn’t comply. His own personal urge to fight dwarfed the reason he excitedly accepted this spar. Amidst the pounding pangs of pain, it felt good; so good, he forced a weak smile.
“Y-You’re good… too good.”
“Training and time does that to you, naturally,” Yolotli said; his golden eyes tinting themselves with slight sympathy, “So we’re done here then, no?”
Tenx growled whilst staggering a slight step forward.
“No… I’m still standing!”
Yolotli’s tail flinched in erratic bouts of swerves, utterly bemused at Tenx. Most Skinks, even he himself, would give up at these kinds of games when all seemed hopeless for them. But Tenx still seemed perfectly intent on fighting, even though he probably knew it was a hapless endeavor. Such stubbornness was fairly akin to a Saurus’, Yolotli thought with sudden sprouts of warm admiration.
“Alright, but this’ll be the last time,” Yolotli said before gently crouching in preparation, “Give me your be-”
A sudden crackling sound immediately echoed in Yolotli’s ears, instantly cutting off his reassurance. Quickly, he turned around only to see the numerous flora and trees stand behind him stoutly and as silent ever. Nothing out of the ordinary, but his frantically beating heart wasn’t so sure…
“What’s wrong!?” Tenx barked worriedly, flinching his body forward.
Yolotli couldn’t see it, but he sensed something was watching him and Tenx. Whatever it was, it mahrlect’d up badly by snapping on a branch of some sort, giving away its presence soundly.
Yolotli’s golden eyes swerved up towards a tree to his right, spotting a faint black outline hiding itself within a myriad of leaves and branches. Instantly, it emerged forth from above, glistening with a large sword tipped in green and fully intent for his red blood. He strode well off course from the sword’s downward path and catched a thorough glimpse of the assailant’s features as it stared straight into his soul – the soul it apparently wanted.
Tenx shrieked and ran for his club. Yolotli focused and relaxed the rhythm of his tail to a stand-still. The monotone flora and tress watched eerily, as the two stared with the blood of the both of them freezing, and their hearts pumping excitedly.
Yolotli noted the extremely excessive black attire of the figure, and its long pink tail which swerved from side to side. No doubt in his mind prevented him from thinking this was a rat that belonged to some sort of army or clan that specializes in scouting and deception. He didn’t have time to ponder anymore, for the rat with its mysteriously green tipped sword, took to the initiative, and charged.
Tenx frantically searched for his club, whilst casting terrified glances behind him. Yolotli was good, but fighting unarmed like that was practically suicide! After unnerving seconds of frantic searching and frustrated growls, he finally found his club, forging his claws onto the handle of it as if they were one. The ferocity in his heart rushed him back to Yolotli, only to see it was too late.
Yolotli’s eyes, once again, squinted as the figure’s green tipped sword came at him in a powerful, horizontal swipe. Swiftly, his body collapsed into a dive, barely dodging underneath with his bright orange crest almost meeting an ugly end.
Frustrated, the black cladded brought its sword ‘round, and tried forcefully landing it on top of Yolotli with the same ferocious vertical swing it attempted earlier.
It was but only in vain, however, as Yolotli swung his long thick tail in a strong side-ways swipe, hastily.
The rat clumsily tripped, dropping its green tipped sword harmlessly off to the side. Quickly, Yolotli threw himself on top of the black rat, clawing and kicking alike until he achieved victory with his Skink mass firmly pressed top of his black cladded assailant. He glared at the green tipped sword that rested right beside them, free for him to kill the rat.
Tenx’s eyes unnervingly widened. It instantly became clear to him Yolotli wasn’t what he seemed. Even the red crested Skinks of Tehenhauin wouldn’t have been able to turn the tables like that – not even any of the other high ranking Skinks he could’ve known about.
Amidst Tenx’s stomach churning episode of uncertainty, however, the sight before him made his heart gleam with bloody admiration at the same time. The irony of a well-armed rat descending upon an unarmed Skink and losing decisively nonetheless, was just too good for him. He earnestly wanted himself to be sated in ratty blood with excited chirps and growls.
“What are you waiting for!? Kill it!”
The long green tipped sword trembled in Yolotli’s clawed grip. It would be the first time he would spill blood for what would seem years. A natural deed long overdue for a Skink of his nature, the many would say. Yet, for some reason unbeknownst to him, his claws couldn’t comply with the just calling of ratty blood to be spelt and splattered.
Yolotli could feel the warmth of the verminous warmblood beneath him – so alien – yet strangely relatable at the time. With the desperate breathing patterns of the rat, he felt something so much more than embarrassment and fear – a feeling that every mortal is enslaved by…
Suddenly, the rat’s elbow thrusted into Yolotli’s shoulder, instantly tipping him off of the rat’s back. Ripped asunder from the reptile-thingy’s claws, the rat instantly scurried off, breathing erratically and swashing its tail for survival.
Tenx angrily chased the rat, cursing Yolotli, but also himself for just standing there and not taking it upon himself in killing Yolotli’s kill. His rage couldn’t be dutifully sated, however, for the black cladded rat was incredibly fast, and didn’t take long for it to elude Tenx’s senses amongst a vast myriad of trees and flora that helped mask its escape.
The heart raced. The blood seethed. Words couldn’t come into fruition as Tenx marched back towards Yolotli with heavy steps and a firmer grip on his club. Suspicions abounded; questions sunk.
Yolotli looked into Tenx’s fierce eyes, and nervously arose from his fallen position – the green tipped sword still beside him on the dirt. With a pounding heart, he nervously smiled and instinctively looked down, for it would seem Tenx knew the obvious.
“…Sorry. I-I just couldn’t do it…”
Tenx still stared; fierce as ever.
“For it reminded me of the thousands of rats I spared…”
“So, it’s true…” Tenx uttered, his club trembling with rage, “You’re Xa’yaotl!”
Yolotli filched as Tenx angrily stuttered forward.
“You’ve made thousands of the vermin escape from the claws of Tehenhauin! You’ve betrayed everyone!”
“I-Indeed…” Yolotli glumly confirmed before placing a foot on the mysteriously green tipped sword and propelling it behind him on the dirt, far away. His mind caved in with pain; his heart wrought down heavily with guilt. It seemed his death wasn’t far away, and ironically enough, it would be his friend to deliver it to him. Never the more devastated, though, for the past year, he ran and hid away alike from his crime under a new name and meaning – a meaning so utterly deviated from his true purpose…
“Yes… I am Xa’yaotl, the most wanted Skink in Lustria!” Yolotli shouted, burgeoning on raining tears, “Go ahead and cement yourself a hero by killing me!”
“N-Never said I wanted to kill you…” Tenx’s club loosened itself from his claws. Yolotli was panting incessantly; his large golden eyes leaking tears. It clearly seemed the state of one expecting, detesting, but also accepting an inescapable death.
“Really? Because otherwise you’ll end up like me! Out casted and condemned to death…”
“No!” Tenx roared back, planting his club firmly into the soil, “I won’t do it, no matter what!”
Yolotli stopped his panting instantly. The tail stopped its violent swaying, and the tears started drying upon his scales. What he expected soon started becoming the most implausible.
“Never will – never even thought about it,” Tenx said before gently stepping forward, realizing what Yolotli was probably feeling, “Just wanted to know, however… why?”
Tenx’s golden eyes quickly squinted; confused at the vague answer. Before he could add on or detest this in any way he could, Yolotli turned his snout away weakly and smirked.
“I’ll be blunt, Tenx. I’m tired… tired of war and the only two things that seem to come out of it: blood of the fallen and survival of those that still stand.”
“Is that so?” Tenx questioned whilst his claws scratched his crest. Xa’yaotl was a fierce, talented fighter and one of the many keen commanders brooded under the great Tehenhauin. With such experience and finesse for war, this tiredness seemed rather confusing for Tenx.
“Yeah… almost makes me wish I was spawned a Saurus. Killing and following orders would’ve been so much easier.”
“You are who you are, though – right? The Old Ones made who you are, and there’s nothing to change that.”
“That’s a sad truth then, for they made one hell of a traitor.”
The two Skinks intimately stared at each other as the silence besieged them. The lake’s surface watched with unwavering patience as if it was frozen solid – the trees all around them leered with their sprawling branches. One of them finally sighed, heavily.
“At the very least, you’re going spill the truth about me, right?” Yolotli questioned as his heart laboriously sucked up all of the pain it could from those words.
“I’m not going to do anything.”
“I only have two things on my mind, Yolotli,” Tenx’s eyes stared at the implanted club in front of them – their golden tint brimming resolutely, “Purging these rats from this place, and returning home; back across the vast sea.”
“I…” Yolotli uttered, losing his words in the abyss that was his bemused mind. Tenx’s seemingly forgiving attitude greatly confused him, and yet, affectionately encapsulated his heart at the same time.
“And I don’t like what you did long ago, nor do I hate it,” Tenx sternly admitted whilst resting a clawed hand upon his chest, “But I understand the reasoning behind your actions… at least a little.”
“Understand, huh?” Yolotli repeated that word to himself as it clanged on to him, making his tail accelerate into an intense sway, “You really shouldn’t…”
“But I will nonetheless!” Tenx shouted back before his face gleamed with a slight grin, warming up his scaled body.
The two Skinks stared at each other’s faces; one of uncertainty, and the other of acceptance. All around them, wavered the branches from above – empty of anything, save for the wind gusts that intertwined with them, occasionally.
“Huh… we should probably go back,” Tenx said, breaking the silence.
Yolotli slightly smirked before recalling exactly what he was thinking before Tenx showed up, “Yeah… lest we get accused of desertion.”
Both Tenx and Yolotli stared at each other for what would seem timeless hours, until one of them finally turned ‘round and started its trek back towards the encampment with heavy steps. The other Skink hefted its planted club and joined by its side.
All was silent, for there was nothing more to talk about. The wind gusts and their effect upon the wavering branches above, seemed to have drowned out any argument left for Yolotli’s past. All that seemed to be left, then, was the future – an uncertain and unpredictable one at that.
But there was something else.
Something calling in the deepest depths of Yololtli’s mind.
Something about blood, and it earnestly shuddered him to the core.
The cold, never ending darkness seemed to go on forever, or so Gingkin thought. He tried mentally putting together the pieces that were his fuzzy memories. One of them being at the mercy of a mysterious rat, another being pushed and pulled upon by its subordinates, and last of all, being brought to a large gathering of rats before everything succumbed into sudden darkness.
Gingkin honestly would’ve been fine if everything ended there, but instead, his arms were chained to the legs of a wooden table. As a result, he sat dormant inside of a fairly large tent with maps of all sizes and apparent purposes dotted all over, showing him that these were a war lord’s or leader’s quarters.
With a Heavy sigh, Gingkin flung his head up, closing the eyes so as to enter a deep sleep and await his fate; whatever it was. As he did so, he heard something enter the tent with its faint footsteps – somewhat silently, but not enough for him to not notice it.
Those soft, yet firmly spoken words sounded off in Gingkin’s ears, flickering his eyes in order to spot a rather tall rat cladded in dark – a lot alike himself, except with much more finesse.
“W-Who are you?”
“Sulkhatten…” It uttered smoothly, glaring at Gingkin, “Sulkhatten of the fifth Nightstalkers.”
Gingkin’s eyes widened. This was the rat he wanted to tell Sniplit and Conquil about all along, and if he wasn’t chained with death hanging in the air, he would’ve snickered at the irony.
“Sulkhatten, eh? I guess you would be happy to know Zhen’s very likely de-”
“Zhen’s head came clean off, I know,” Sulkhatten interrupted whilst glaring at Gingkin with renewed intensity, “My spies upon many other spies told me so long ago.”
“Ah…” Gingkin’s heart thundered, and it wasn’t Sulkhatten’s intensified glare alone that made him shudder.
“Zhen’s loss is unacceptable, but also a bearable one,” Sulkhatten calmly said whilst turning his furred head to a pile of maps with a smile appearing, “Also, you’re supposed to be dead, Gingkin. Logic would say so, but nonetheless, I’m happy you’ve defied death unlike the many others.”
“Y-You don’t want me dead?” Gingkin quickly questioned, leering at Sulkhatten with puzzled eyes.
“Of course not. I’ve caught wind of your past, and it whiffs of utility, efficiency, and violence… everything that I need.”
Those words echoed in Gingkin’s mind. He pondered on what Sulkhatten meant, and how in the world he caught wind of his past. It frustrated and confused him to the core so much, he begun baring his teeth and letting the blood flow wildly. However, not long did it take for him to vaguely recall something he inadvertently swore to protect… at least personally.
“As such, it would only be sensible for me to employ your abilities to the best affe-”
“Wait…” Gingkin quickly interrupted, bobbing his head erratically, “Conquil and Sniplit… where are they!?”
“The Runaway slave rats?” Sulkhatten smirked as he placed a claw on his black furred chin, “I’ve contemplated on killing them, but they’ll enjoy their company with the others on the frontline where they will die anyway.”
Gingkin grasped heavily, widening his eyes.
“I… I can’t allow that…”
“Let me fight with them!” Gingkin shouted back, furiously testing his chains as he tried leaping forward.
“Why…” Sulkhatten muttered before stepping forward heavily towards Gingkin, “I selflessly give you the opportunity to become one of my spies, and you turn it down!?”
Gingkin openly glared back with not a word to say. His fur all around him prickled at the blood-curdling moment it found itself in.
“Fine,” Sulkhatten’s snout beamed with a sinister grin as he crossed his arms, “Your death wish has been granted… you’ll be assigned with the slave rats then.”
Gingkin and Sulkhatten stared at each other – One’s blood seething itself as if it was lava, and the other’s blood frozen solid as it said those powerful words with naught a drop of warm remorse.
Breaking Gingkin and Sulkhatten’s stares, two black cladded rats; cladded in a manner much similar to Gingkin, entered into the tent from behind Sulkhatten – their faces firmly attuned in seriousness, and strangely enough, one of them felt familiar.
Turning around, Sulkhatten noted the two new strangers and bent slightly before them in apparent glee.
“Erhiul. Polkul. What’s the news so far?”
One of the strange rats stepped forward, glancing at Gingkin for a second before realigning on Sulkhatten dutifully.
“Sulkhatten the strategizer – the reptile-things plan on marching back towards Zlatlan northwest at approximately 1900 hours,” The black cladded rat silently grasped before continuing on, “Additionally, one of my rats seemed to have taken out a high ranking reptile-thing, but sadly, it wasn’t successful in its escape – another one of my rats is missing as well.”
Surprised, Gingkin glared at the rat who just spit out all that information. Its voice was much more higher pitched than what could even be remotely considered normal… almost as if the rat in question was a breeder… no, but rather a female?
Sulkhatten clearly didn’t mind, or even care, for he regarded the rat with a minute’s full of contemplative silence, grasping underneath his snout with his claws before smiling, slightly.
“Solid news, Erhiul. It would be best if we isolate and destroy this pocket of resistance as soon as possible before they bolster Zlatlan’s defenses…”
The silence within the tent persisted as the two rats stood vigilant as ever before their master. Gingkin glanced at the contemplating Sulkhatten with slight admiration; even amongst his burning hatred, for the strategizer part within Sulkhatten’s title seemed partially true to its meaning…
“We’ll press the attack head-on from their south eastern flank – Erhiul, gather the rest of your rats and continue monitoring whatever move they make. Polkul, gather your rats and relay to the Seventh Nightstalkers my planto march east and try to cut off the reptile-things’ north western approach towards Zlatlan – should they unlikely choose to retreat, but also to completely surround them.”
Erhiul and Polkul both nodded respectfully as they masterfully absorbed Sulkhatten’s orders into their stalwart minds. Gingkin, however, titled his head in a rather warm mixture of both bemusement and astonishment before Sulkhatten prepared for another barrage of orders.
“The Seventh Nightstalkers should easily achieve this – they’re roughly thirty-three miles north east of the reptile-things, and about double that North of us… we shall commence marching at 1700 hours, and the Seventh should commence theirs at 1800 hours.”
“With utmost efficiency,” The rats replied with straight snouts, turning their backs towards the exit with renewed tasks in mind.
“Oh, and Gingkin,” Sulkhatten turned to Gingkin, smirking slightly, “Excuse Polkul for his earlier show of force. What he did was… unwarranted to say the least.”
Gingkin curiously bent his head to feel a dried line of blood that stretched across the length of most of his neck. The chains that restrained him begun to shake wildly as his glare fixated on the rat he deemed familiar earlier.
“Polkul, eh!? Once these dammed chains are off, you’ll wish you silt my throat when you had the chance!”
Polkul gave his stare right back before silently reaching for what seemed to be a handle that protruded from his lower right side…
Erhiul, however, quickly extended her arm across Polkul’s chest to immediately stop whatever Polkul was thinking, and Sulkhatten rhythmically turned between the rats and Gingkin, contorting his snout that was brimming of slight glee, to a hint of disgust.
“I only expect the very best of all of you rats and nothing less… Dismissed.”
Nodding slightly, Erhiul and Polkul parted their respective ways, leaving Sulkhatten and a livid Gingkin behind – though partially sated with the departure of his would-be throat slitter.
Sulkhatten suddenly strode towards Gingkin’s chains, unlocking them with a key before gesturing for Gingkin to leave as well without so much as saying a word.
Flustered, but with not much else to object, Gingkin did what he was insinuated, and walked – though with wobbling to occasionally disrupt, for he sat chained in seemingly hours that couldn’t be counted, yet bared heavily on his mind.
Before Gingkin could grace the outside’s winds, and at least tell the time by the sky’s tint, that same smooth voice pierced his ears, stopping him in his tracks.
“Actually, before you sod off and predictably die, let me ask you a question first.”
Gingkin turned around to an all familiar face that sternly stared back, vaguely showing off a masked smirk.
“Assassins and spies alike sport a 95% survivability rate – death is as strange to them as survival is towards slaves…”
“I’m rather curious about your affinity towards slave rats… what do they offer others do not?”
“I…” Gingkin tried muttering his usual rebuttals, but it was as if they solidified into something so much more than words, “I don’t know…”
“You don’t know, huh?” Sulkhatten chuckled, “A strange affinity, and if it hadn’t amused me, I would’ve forced you to become my pawn among many others… or have you killed.”
Gingkin’s tail accelerated in its frantic swaying, unsure of Sulkhatten’s intentions. A second later, however, Sulkhatten’s snout slightly opened yet again.
“That is all I needed to discuss. Dismissed.”
Gingkin heavily let out a masked sigh, briskly turning round’ before walking through the tent’s exit and tasting the fresh air as it surfed his fur comfortably. His eyes pained for a second under the new light’s seething wrath, but stopped when he noted the crimson red’s tint upon the sky, showing him there were still a few hours before the whole offensive will begin.
Everything seemed to not have changed at all – rats were still brandishing their swords – their black outlines contrasting against the various tents and trees. Gingkin settled out walking to the edge of the encampment, passing by the occasional pair of eyes whom stared from the discreet shadows.
As Gingkin reached the border that divided the encampment and the vast trees, he noted the blazing sun sinking beyond the horizon. For some reason, unknown to even himself, he couldn’t break off his stare of the burning beauty that beckoned his soul to question everything he has done so far, and the meaning behind it all.
Gingkin randomly turned his head to observe and study the scenery when he suddenly heard heavy panting jumbled amongst the rhythmic sound of fast running.
Turning around, Gingkin saw two very familiar slave rats uncontrollably shuddering with cracked short swords in hand.
“Gingkin! This-this is a major misunderstanding alright!”
“We-we’re not soldier-fighters!” Sniplit cried, “Yet they still want us to fight-die as if they don’t care about our precious lives!”
Gingkin’s snout slightly wavered at this sudden outburst with his head tilted.
“Well of course you two are… the both of you were likely forced to take up arms and join Zhen.”
“Zhen!? Who the hell-hell is that!?”
“…You don’t remember?”
“We only remember awake-waking up in this god forsaken place, run-scurrying for our lives constantly…” Conquil grimly responded before his eyes started watering.
Gingkin contemplated on this, observing the rats whom were shuddering uncontrollably, now staring solemnly back. A word suddenly came to mind – a word that made the slaves’ strange behavior suddenly all the more understandable.
“I don’t know!” Sniplit shouted, leaning towards Gingkin, “All I know is that they want to send-send us to our deaths by running into those blue-things, instead of run-scurrying away from them.”
Both Sniplit and Conquil flinched at this response they hadn’t expected. Gingkin glared back with naught a discernable emotion apparent, and then smiled – slightly.
“Don’t be ashamed, for what you’re feeling is relatable… fear and terror are omnipresent emotions every mortal is enslaved by…”
Gingkin returned his stare towards the burning beauty that seemingly encapsulated his entire being as his tail slowly swayed side to side.
“All I can say is to stay alert, keep the blood freezing, and envy death… then maybe… just maybe…”
The slaves stared at Gingkin’s back with Conquil’s water fall of tears stopping suddenly, and Sniplit's claws pressed over his tingling heart.
“The both of you will survive.”