Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, May 10, 2016.
Good to know!
Spoiler: Thought Process on Writing This
I wrote this piece rather fast. I wasn't sure I wanted to enter this piece and I ended up trashing my first idea. I was going to have a Skink praying to Xapati for vengeance while a Dark Elf prayed to his obscure vengeance god (whatever his/her name is) as they narrated a Dark Elf/Lizardmen fight from their alternative points of view. I opted not to because the dual viewpoint structure was going to be hard to fit in the viewpoint and I was concerned this would affect pacing. Also I frequently critiqued pieces for lacking a clearly defined beginning, middle and end and I would be a hypocrite if I wrote a piece that had that lack of definition
I came up with this inspiration a few days before the deadline listening to my friend and recent convert to Age of Sigmar waxing poetically about his forming Khorne army. I wanted to try a more subtle Khorne follower. I figured Khorne warriors have to come from somewhere so I wrote this story around a young man targeted by a Khorne talent scout. In this case the recruiter is attempting to subvert the protagonists desires for strength and self reliance. I tried to put in multiple instances of Khorne references without beating the reader over the head with them.
His Own Hands
Most of those around the bonfire were either very young or very old. Harti felt out of place surrounded by children and elderly, but he was desperate for something to keep occupied this midsummer night. The house was stuffy midsummer. The crops were all planted and growing nicely. There was relatively little work to do tomorrow worth getting up early for.
Harti was very carefully adjusting his toasting stick. He wanted to get the piece of bread evenly golden brown. He wasn’t particularly hungry, and he was not picky about toast, but meticulous focus on the toast kept his mind occupied. He was only barely listening to the old man’s story.
“See those stars? That constellation is the Guardian Dragon.”
“Which stars, Mister Schaffer?”
In the darkness no one saw Harti roll his eyes. Everyone knows the Guardian Dragon. It’s the second most obvious constellation after the Great Dipper. My best friend Dagmar died along with his pretty sister, Daega. Who survived? Dagmar’s annoying baby brother, Ritter.
The old man humored the youth.
“See those starts sort of making a hook. That’s the Dragon’s back. The two points there. Those are the Dragon’s fangs.”
“I see it!”
“From there the Seraphon watch over us. When the Forces of Chaos or Death threaten, the Seraphon descend from the stars on beams of light to combat the Forces of Darkness”
“Like before when the big rats came!”
“Exactly, they saved us all when you barely crawling. We are fortunate to have them as protectors.”
Harti’s toast caught on fire. He threw the smoldering square into the flame.
“You are full of skite old man! You can gloss it over for those too young to remember but I remember. The magical lizards didn’t come down until the Skaven were in the misty forest when the visibility for their weird guns was blocked. The Seraphon came to kill Skaven, helping us never mattered to their plans.
We are running and hiding for four days and nights. Poison gas was exploding everywhere. Horse sized rats were tearing up everything in sight. If the magic lizards cared about us, they wouldn’t have waiting till almost quarter of us were dead. They would have cleansed the lingering illness that followed and halved our livestock! They would have chased after the warbeasts that escaped and are breeding in the forest right now!”
The youngest girl there started crying looking fearfully out at the woods
“They're…not…really…monsters…in the woods?”
The other children began to crack. Ritter edged closed to the bonfire. Immediately the elders swooped in.
“Of course not. Even if they're were dark creatures in the woods. The Seraphon will protect us.”
Harti barely realized he was standing now.
“If we want to be secure we have earn our safety with the work of our own hands. My own hands.”
Harti stormed away.
* * * * *
For several days he thought about his own words. He wanted to be able to defend himself, his people, but he didn’t know how a farmer’s son could fight against the creatures of darkness. He was gathering firewood in the outskirts of the woods. Since Harti had not-so-accidentally reawakened the fears of rogue rat beasts in the woods, it was not worth the effort to convince the youth to collect firewood.
For a brief moment he was afraid as he considered that if they're was a rat creature in the woods, there was nothing he could do about. A strange voice interrupted his thoughts.
“Young man, you are out in the woods pretty far. Dusk will soon be upon us. It’s dangerous to go alone.”
Harti turned to see an older man in a dirty earthen cloak. His face half-hidden.
“You are alone.”
“I have faith”
“In magical sky lizards from the sky or gold plated sky minions of Sigmar? I bet if I bought your good luck talisman I would be safe forever….”
“I only want you to be able earn your safety with the work of your own hands.”
The old man adjusted his cloak and unsheathed a gleaming sword.
“I have this blade, an extension of my hands.”
He sheathed his sword and unshouldered his pack. From it he pulled a sheathed and wrapped sword of similar make. He presented it to the youth.
“Now you have a blade.”
Harti examined the blade. It looked better than anything crafted within 30 miles. He took a practice swing. It seemed like it was perfectly balanced for Harti’s body. He touched the blade as lightly as he could with his finger. A drop of blood formed. The blade almost seemed to warm up in his hands.
* * * * *
Harti kept his sword a secret from those in his village. He often made excuses to go into the woods to practice swinging it. He was concerned in dulling his blade and avoided hitting anything but once he missed and clipped a tree branch. It sawed through the branch as easily as flesh. Not that the blade had tasted flesh yet, not counting the small prick on his finger.
Harti wandered out farther and farther, more than half-hoping he would find an excuse to use the blade. One day his wish came true. He heard a snarl and barely turned in time to see the rat creature. It looked like an ordinary rat except for its size, half as big as a horse. Harti wondered how it got so close without him seeing it, but that was not the real problem.
Harti drew his blade and swung wildly grazing the rat creature’s shoulder. The creature backed up with bleeding haunches. Normally a wounded predator goes elsewhere when a prey that fights back, but this was not a normal predator. This was one of the Skaven’s foul war creatures gone feral.
Harti swung at the giant rat but it backed away. It began circling the human. Harti swung several times more but the beast could skitter backwards with impressive speed avoiding each swing. It had Harti’s measure. Harti remembered when he discovered father’s gnawed bones, the poisoned corpses of his neighbors, and rage built with him. He swings became wilder.
“FIGHT ME MONSTER!”
Harti was as livid and wild and as any Skaven-spawned creature. Sensing his foe’s lack of focus, the creature charged narrowly, avoiding the humans blade as he bit Harti’s torso. Harti brought down his blade into the rat’s head then slashed at the creature again and again until its body was in shreds.
* * * * *
Harti could not make up a plausible excuse for his bite mark, and he needed treatment, so he had to tell the truth about the rat creature. Since everyone wanted to know how he survived with a relatively small bite he had to tell others of his sword as well. Most were too impressed with his valor enough that they chose not to probe too deeply into where his blade came from. Most.
One visitor came in the middle of the night. The old man with the sword.
“Well done, but it is a miracle your bite wound did not become infected. To be a true warrior you will need suitable armor. When you recover, meet me where you received your sword.”
As soon as he could walk, Harti sneaked off to the woods to find the mysterious old man again. This time there two lumps covered with blankest. The old man withdrew one of the blankets revealing a glimmering suit of steel armor partially painted red. Harti’s swords seemed to hum in sympathy. He didn’t think he ever wanted anything more his whole life.
The old man pulled back the other blanked revealing the quivering form of young Ritter, bound and gagged.
“Why did you bring him.”
“If you want the armor, you must earn it with the work of your own hands.”
Unfortunately the critiques of my piece were marred by my editing errors and not purely about my literary brilliance. I cleaned it up a little both before and after the initial posting, but it's still a bit sloppy. I should never post a fluff piece without running it by a second set of eyes.
I did want to do a twist on the coming of age story. Warden's critique revealed that I wasn't clear enough that Mister Schaffer and the creepy man in the woods were intended to be separate characters.
This made me feel warm and fuzzy. Bowser picked up on the stuff I wanted people to catch. Less zealous seraphon worshippers. Faustian pact, Zelda reference.
Yeah, I kind of feel dirty writing an Age of Copyright story. I did this partially to push my comfort zone, and partially to hide my author ID. I left skite as a quiet flag. Discomute pointed out a few things that more editing could have fixed. He wasn't asked to kill his brother. He was asked to kill his best friend's annoying kid brother. The crime was shocking and terrible because it's child murder, but there was no family betrayal here. The Chaos recruiter used a kid he didn't like in order to make his slippery slide to evil easier. Why is the old man giving out stuff? He is giving out Khorne-blessed weapons that will taint their user.
I was worried no one would sniff out my clue
Mahrlect, once again I was unclear with my characters!
I did go through your list and fix these errors. Thank you.
I figured if every minion of Khorne was a drooling blood-soaked troglodyte, they wouldn't last very long as a faction.
That's actually a good idea, I should have had cannibalism. Your point stands, no one is better at physical horror than Discomute.
Seriously have you forgotten about poor beleaguered Verrick. Have I forgotten about Verrick, I don't think I've written an installment for him in at least two months. Oh no!
Ouch. The there/their/they're thing was embarrassing. If anything tells me that I should never post a piece without proofing it extra thorough and then submit it to a different person for outside editing.
Yay, someone doesn't completely question that Khorne can be somewhat subtle. But yeah, there are no disinterested benefactors in WHFB or AoS
This was basically to try to hide my author ID
Pure coincidence, though I'm sure Fate played a hand.
Yeah, I guess I was going for Dark Fairy Tale (before Disney, all Fairy Tales were pretty dark). I do enjoy the Rule of Three, but the Rule of Three assumes there is even handed universal justice. That didn't exist in the World that Was. The Age of Sigmar is less dark than the World that Was but it's still too dark. Bad things happen to good people, then they happen to bad people, then they happen to good people a second time.
As mentioned before, the mysterious stranger was intended to be a recruiter for Khorne. I figured Khorne had to have some subtle minions. Perhaps, he has forced to adapt in the Age of Sigmar.
It was a really enjoyable read, the thought process is always great to have after reading these short stories. So much behind the scenes stuff always fascinates me.
I definitely see a lot more to this story now than I did in my other reads.
True, even Champions of Khorne may have humble beginnings. Genghis Khan wasn't born a conqueror, he became a conqueror due to various reasons (not a very good example as he was actually of 'noble birth' and the ruling class of Mongol society, but still). This story takes a look at the start of a small, insignificant figure on their way to ultimate power. Cool stuff!
Thanks for the inspiration. I would also love to see any story you come up with on the obscure old one Xapati, as there is no real lore on the subject.
Spoiler: Thought Process While Writing This
I actually have been sitting on this idea of combining Skaven and the "Pied Piper" story into one piece.. I came up with the idea for the October-November contest which had the theme "The Rat and the Serpent," but didn't get around to doing it.
Maybe the fact that I was having a rough patch at work and daydreaming in my cubicle made me envision the Skaven slave's futile quest to free himself. Maybe. My muses are dark.
Then when @Killer Angel told me he wanted to do "Power of Music" for the next contest theme I thought, "Mahrlect, I can't not do this now." I was also mildly concerned this would have a low entry count because Killer Angel was the only one who submitted anything by the start of the third week, so I wanted to pad the numbers, but per usual whenever I am concerned about low entries, it's just a slow start.
Anyway I had the idea of doing the Pied Piper and the plan to take the Skaven's viewpoint and make the Skaven as sympathetic as possible. Then I created an outline. Skaven here's song, is motivated to escape his chain gang, survives a bunch of challenges, then dies anti-climatically. I wrote the beginning and the end then I went back to the middle. Basically I made a big list of things the Skaven could do, then I whittled it down, figuring if the Skaven did EVERYTHING the piece would get bogged down.
-Find some edible plants
-Hunt or trap some meat
-Find clean water
-Remove the vestiges of his chains
-Throw off his Skaven pursuers
-Evade a predator
-Build a shelter
-Tend a wound
-Fashion some tools/weapons
-Fashion a shelter
I chose to focus on food because it went with the survival theme, and I wanted him to evade a predator to show he can overcome a physical challenge and I believe a fantasy story cannot avoid action too long.
I chose the name Drekit because I liked the sound of it. I also like to make Skaven names end in "t" but that's not a hard rule. Also in the world of Shadowrun, drek is slang for poop. A good name for a Skaven slave.
Song of Freedom
Drekit had identified a weak link in the chain binding him to his fellows and the overseers’ lash weeks ago but didn’t think anything of it. Freedom was impossible. Where would he run? Where could he go that the Masters wouldn’t find him?
Then it came.
At night, he heard a distant sound stirring at the depths of his soul. A soul he assumed had withered and died years ago. A siren call to freedom. Find me and you will know joy, peace, security, FREEDOM. His whiskers perked. The other slaves couldn’t hear it. For a moment Drekit considered it. It doesn’t matter, this is for me. I will seek-find this freedom.
During the meager hours the Masters let the skaven slaves sleep, Drekit was exhausted from his pointless toil, but he didn’t dare sleep. Drekit was vaguely aware that it was day above. Above the tunnels there was noise: pouring rain, thundering beasts, chirping insects. Normally Drekit paid attention to these things but he somehow knew the song of freedom began at dawn and ended at dusk. Drekit waited for times of lots of noise to bash the weak link on his chain with a rock he had concealed in his filthy tunic.
For three days Drekit worked for his masters at night while working towards his freedom during the day the call of freedom pulling him onward. Finally the chain broke, and Drekit scurried away towards the song of freedom.
Drekit ran and ran down random tunnels, until the music stopped then he collapsed with exhaustion and finally slept for the first time in days, a brief hint of a smile visible on his snout.
He awoke at dawn as the heavenly music resumed. Part of Drekit wanted to keep sleeping, but sleep was not freedom. The more time he spent in the tunnels, the more likely the Masters would be able to find him and punish him as an example to the others assuming they noticed he was gone. The tunnels had little to hide his vibrations. The tunnels had nothing to mask his sent. Above the tunnels there was noise, there was vibrations, there was smells. Above the tunnels there was freedom.
Drekit looked for a tunnel sloping upward, he ran as far as he could and began bashing the hardened dirt ceiling with his rock till it loosened. Then he clawed at the soft dirt. Vaguely aware of the risk of a cave-in, he persisted towards the sound of freedom.
His efforts awarded him with a deluge of dirt, a mound of dirt and a small ray of sunlight. His beady eyes blinked as he adjusted to the new light. He kept digging till he could make an opening wide enough to wriggle out of.
Drekit knew the jungle would hide his trail from the Masters methods of tracking him, but only if he had enough distance. Hole easy to see-smell, flee fast.
Still exhausted beyond measure, he forced himself to keep marching towards the sound of the song, till he march walk no further. Night fell and the music stopped. Drekit wasn’t used to sleeping at night, but he was so tired that it was easy.
Shortly after dawn the music resumed and Drekit awoke. He swatted some of the insects trying to make a meal out of him. His stomach rumbled. He needed to find something to eat himself, or he would perish. He didn’t even have the Masters’ meager rations now and would have to find his own. It didn’t matter at the moment because for the first time in his life, Derkit’s spirit felt full.
He moved in the vague direction of the song, but moved slowly. Eyes peels and nostrils flared. Food, find food. He found a tree with sweet smelling fruit. Deftly, he climbed the tree, finding it less difficult to climb than some rickety skaven scaffolding he was forced to work on while carrying full chains. He still was dragging about two feet of chain. He’d need to fix that.
Timidly, he sniffed the fruit. It didn’t smell of poison, though not all poison announces itself with smell. Drekit would need to take some risks, for to do nothing was to die. The fresh fruit was the best food he tasted his whole short miserable life. He spent the next hour combing every branch for every piece he could find.
Next he found a stream to slake his thirst. Water can rust-eat cheap metal. Cleanliness was never a skaven virtue but he bathed in the stream large to soak his manacles. Once they weakened enough and his fur was slick enough, he wriggled out of them.
Maybe a short length of chain would be a useful but no. Chains gone forever now, not carry-wear them. Briefly he considered on the off-chance the Masters were searching for him above ground the chains would be a clue as to his whereabouts. He buried them in the stream hoping the water would destroy them and continued on his way towards the music which fueled him. Till night fell and he once again slept, happier and more peaceful than ever before.
He awoke the next day and began once again looking for food. He found a few fruit bearing trees with some decent things he could eat but most of these were picked over by flying or climbing beasts first so it was a lot of work, for a small payoff. Need more than fruit to eat-live.
Most of the beasts he saw fled from him. Drekit bathed in a stream and then mud to lose his scent then took pains to move more quietly. Eventually his efforts paid off and he was able to get close to a rabbit. He shadowed it for almost two hours noted what plants it ate and which plants it avoided. Then he got impatient and hit it with a rock. His prey emitted a brief high pitched scream before perishing.
He was planning the best way to eat his kill when the skaven’s hackles perked up. A vague sense of danger that all his kind have. A second later he smelled it, a large reptile. Instinctively the skaven fled even before he could hear its heavy footsteps. Not a lizard man but a lizard beast, but was chasing scents not making plans. The cold one pursued him, she was quickly distracted by blood and went for the dead rabbit first. This gave Drekit a spare moment to climb a tree. The cold one paced around Drekit’s tree taking some futile leaps at the branches for an hour before losing interest and moving on.
The skaven waited another hour then left his tree. He needed some weapons and tools. He used a flat rock to sharpen a few sticks. This would do for now. With even more carefulness, he proceeded through the jungle once more, a spring in his step. He escaped; he broke his chains; he discovered food; he bested a danger.
Drekit would could continue to study the animals. He would learn how to evade or if necessary defeat the predators. He would watch the herbivores to learn how to hunt them, and by watching what they eat would figure out which plants he could eat. Even his eyes were gradually adjusting to the brighter light Life would be hard, but life would be his. He was free.
The music stopped.
Two skinks walked over to where the dead skaven lay, a large smile visible on his dead face.
“Finally got one. All that time crafting the magic flute and a week of straight playing and we lured one skaven to its death. What a waste of time and effort”
The trees rustled as more skinks moved closer to hear him talk. A few were chuckling. One chimed in.
“We could kill one skaven every hour for a year, and they wouldn’t even notice!”
The skink priest lowered his flute. The warrior mirrored him lowering his blowpipe.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of time, we know this flute works now. And when you see a lone skaven he is probably an elite assassin or poisoner. Who knows what this one skaven could have been planning?”
The skinks assembled nodded grimly.
“He did carry himself taller with more confidence than usual for his filthy kind. Look at his face. What ever could make as skaven so happy must be vile indeed.”
“Indeed, well I get back to playing, maybe we'll get another one”
TD4 made me feel warm and fuzzy because this was exactly what I was trying to communicate. I got a L-O forum to refer to "a rat's heroism." By an astonishing coincidence, I am quite fond of "I Will Survive," and I entertained many friends in college singing it for karaoke.
The reason I had the Skinks complain about how few Skaven were killed and speculate on just how dangerous the protagonist might have been was intended for gallows humor and tragic contrast. The reader knows if the Skaven survived he would not have harmed the Lizardmen, but the Skinks' prejudices won out. I'm not sure how well that last part was communicated, but that
So I tried to hide I was the author by getting very nit picky about the lack of focus on the music and pushing this for the Scalenex Cup (despite being ineligible for it), but I thought this piece sort of screamed my hand wrote them.
The critique that I could have started with an attention grabber is valid. Maybe if I revised this I would add a paragraph or two describing his horrific slave life in detail. Then you know what he's running from.
Makes sense, I suppose it was something along these lines.
A unique thread to collect all your personal stories is a good idea. I think I'll borrow it...