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Contest April-May 2020 Short Story Contest Reading and Voting Thread

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, May 1, 2020.

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Which Story or Stories Do You Like Best? (choose up to four)

Poll closed May 31, 2020.
  1. Story One: "Bowl of Blood"

    6 vote(s)
    35.3%
  2. Story Two: "Abomination"

    7 vote(s)
    41.2%
  3. Story Three: "Awīak"

    3 vote(s)
    17.6%
  4. Story Four: "Lost and Found"

    3 vote(s)
    17.6%
  5. Story Five: "Return of the King"

    3 vote(s)
    17.6%
  6. Story Six: "Fire of the Old Ones"

    3 vote(s)
    17.6%
  7. Story Seven: "Prayers for Vengeance"

    5 vote(s)
    29.4%
  8. Story Eight: "Tipping the Scales"

    5 vote(s)
    29.4%
  9. Story Nine: "Praying for Reasons, Praying for a Purpose"

    3 vote(s)
    17.6%
  10. Story Ten: "The Ritual"

    7 vote(s)
    41.2%
  11. Story Eleven: "Blooded Water"

    5 vote(s)
    29.4%
  12. Story Twelve: "The Bloodswamp War (part 1)"

    2 vote(s)
    11.8%
  13. Story Thirteen: "Ask and It Will Be Given"

    6 vote(s)
    35.3%
  14. Story Fourteen: "Tzeentchian Rituals"

    5 vote(s)
    29.4%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl
    Slann

    Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl Eleventh Spawning

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    Hey, I put a lot of effort into my reviews - these contest threads wouldn’t be the same without them - and they take time to complete even when there are only a few of them. I’ve reviewed Story 12 today, so I’m on track with my target of Sunday.
     
  2. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    Tick-tock my friend....

    Tick tock.

    ;)
     
  3. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Guess i am not the only one who today is keeping an eye on this thread waiting for that update... :p
     
  4. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    I quite enjoy the reviews actually.

    You may have noticed that I'm quite into the contest :D

    I am trying to get as much interest generated for it across the forum as I consider three things my duty on this forum:

    1) Welcoming any newcomers. This made a really big difference to me when I first started and I like maintaining the tradition

    2) Helping anyone I can on 8th edition rules and tactics. (as best I can as i'm not the best, but fairly good)

    3) Promoting creativeness. I like getting encouragement to the budding authors as it also makes a big difference to their confidence. I also will do what I can for those painting/converting as this also makes a difference to their confidence levels (and hopefully at some point will inspire me to try painting again, as that is a wound that never quite healed ;))
     
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  5. Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl
    Slann

    Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl Eleventh Spawning

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    Heh, don’t worry, lads, I should have it in by this evening.
     
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  6. Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl
    Slann

    Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl Eleventh Spawning

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    Ok chaps, here’s my next lot of reviews:

    This story manages to unite three of the most famous Lizardman characters in Warhammer, and portrays them all very well, as I shall relate below.

    We start with Tehenhauin overseeing the rout of the remnants of a Skaven army the Lizardmen have defeated, with stragglers being chased down by Terradons and Cold Ones. Summoning his tide of serpents to his side, the Prophet joins some of his fellow priests, who are tending to a wounded Nakai. When Tehenhauin thanks the Kroxigor for his assistance, Nakai simply tells him there are more Skaven that still live, and the war must thus continue, refusing the offer to attend the sacrifice of those Skaven that were captured and leaving without a second thought.

    A while later, Kroq-Gar joins Tehenhauin’s army to aid him in another battle against the Skaven and, after the survivors are sent packing, is gifted one of the Skaven leaders to sacrifice. Choosing to slay the Warlord, he is given the Prophet’s own dagger to do the deed, and at the time of the sacrifice kills the Skaven deservedly brutally for the atrocities his kind have committed to the Lizardmen. Shortly afterwards the Grey Seer, the other choice Kroq-Gar was offered, is also brought to the altar, for Tehenhauin himself to sacrifice. Cutting out the Skaven’s heart, the Prophet invokes the wrath of his master, and Sotek responds by summoning thousands of serpents from their hiding places to drink at the altar.

    This story describes the sacrifices in especially gruesome detail, and in this regard is a very strong contender for the contest as it perfectly captures the disciplined yet still undeniably brutal nature of Lizardman rituals to the Serpent God. However, I have a couple of problems with this piece - first of all what does this piece have to do with ‘tipping the scales’ as the piece’s title indicates? The only thing I can think of is that the two battles won by Nakai and Kroq-Gar are what tips the scales of the conflict in the Lizardmen’s favour. Secondly, as great as it is to see Nakai portrayed in a short story contest entry, because he wanders off halfway through the story, he doesn’t really contribute anything to the ritual, because Kroq-Gar appears in the second half to take his place. Surely it would have been better just to have one of the two throughout the whole piece? But then, it did suit Nakai very well to simply wander back into the jungles when he had done what he came to do, so that’s a plus.

    This is an especially detailed and well-written account of an integral piece of Warhammer Fantasy lore, with no grammar or spelling mistakes anywhere (which I have seen in some of the previous entries thus far), and you could certainly say this story is pretty gritty due to the no-holds-barred account of the ritual and that it is viewed by the protagonists as simply something that, in their view, should be done to uphold the Great Plan, rather than something heroic, which is how Lizardmen would see it. The characterisation of the main characters is very faithful to how GW has written them and the plot fits very nicely with the theme. Thumbs up!

    Our next Age of Sigmar story is one that explains how humans of the Free Cities and Seraphon defending them could speak to one another - the Seraphon are developing Star Trek-style translators!

    We start by meeting Mara, an ordinary girl in an ordinary Free City that has become paranoid about seeing reptilian ‘ghosts’ in the immediate vicinity. Her younger brother, who is especially scared, throws milk all over her thinking she is one of these ghosts, after he claims he had seen some before. After getting cleaned up, she heads out to work, carrying her father’s firearm for protection in case she meets one of them, and meet one she does when a Saurus Warrior and Bloodletter are seen fighting in the middle of the street. Knowing the Bloodletter to be the greater threat, she shoots it dead, before the Saurus relents and attempts to speak to her using a translator fashioned by the Slann to help the First Race to communicate with the Old Ones’ later creations. Mara finds out that the ‘ghost’ is an ally sent to help her people against Chaos, their species’ reason for living. After this conversation, the lizard, called Krotototl, vanishes as quickly as it arrived, teleporting back to its Temple-Ship. When Mara heads home, she finds her little brother and tells him what she saw. Sol replies that he also met one of the ‘ghosts’, and it gave him a gem, telling him to use it in times of danger. It’s then that Mara realises that those gems are summoning devices used to call the Seraphon in times of trouble, and that someone must have used another to summon Krotototl.

    This was a good story that progresses the relationship between Lizardmen and warm-bloods well, in that in an effort to prevent the Old Ones’ other creations from mistaking the Lizardmen for additional enemies, the Slann have developed translators to help the two communicate and devices that allow the humans to call upon their aid, to really transform the Lizardmen from being what many would call a neutral party that would attack their masters’ other creations as readily as Chaos to fully-fledged good guys. The only problem I have with this one is that at the beginning of the story the conditions the Free City humans are living in are made out to be closer to the present day than the medieval fantasy that the Age of Sigmar Free Cities are supposed to live in, as the protagonist has a shower (where most Free City peasants would be lucky if they got a wash in the nearest stream without something attacking them), snatches a mug from her little brother (when it would more likely be some sort of tankard or flagon) and wields a rifle (when the closest equivalent would be a handgun).

    Otherwise though, a very enjoyable story that actually makes the effort to progress AoS lore. So far the only other story I’ve seen do this is Story Five, so a big well done to the author of this one for giving it a go!

    This next story captures the unrelenting life of battle that a Saurus experiences very well, and encapsulates exactly what it means to be a Temple Guard specifically.

    We meet the Saurus Ca’raag, who, when visiting the Slann Tezca’coatl, experiences a vision of a battle against an army of Daemons of Chaos that is launching an attack on Hexoatl. Having witnessed the Daemons butcher the Slann’s attendant Priests, he races to save his master from a Bloodthirster, and holds it up long enough for it to be banished by the Slann’s magic, but in the process his ribcage is torn open and he is mortally wounded. Returning to the present, he finds himself gifted with a Sacred obsidian sword and golden armour by the Slann’s High Priest.

    Many centuries later, Ca’raag is given a cremation funeral, as the death that he witnessed in his vision ultimately came to pass. His Slann master, the High Priest and the fellow Oldbloods and Scar-Veterans who fought alongside him all arrive to mourn his passing, but the Slann is unperturbed. Gathering the Winds of Magic, he infuses a rune-marked sphere with sorcerous energy and begins a ritual. Not long after this, a second Saurus champion, Xara’la, also on his way to visit the Slann, experiences the same vision and receives the same weapon and armour. He also dies several centuries later, sacrificing himself to slay a Vermin Lord, and like his predecessor he is cremated with all honours.

    We then see through the eyes of Zilith, the High Priest at this point, as we hear the Slann once again preparing to perform the ritual to Chotec that was enacted after Ca’raag’s funeral, and witness his orders for the Priest to monitor the spawning pools for another successor to arise to bear the obsidian sword and golden armour and accept the rank of protector to the Slann, another with the ‘fire, passion and promise’ of the Sun God. While the Priest carries out these orders and blesses the next generation of Saurus to arrive, the Slann turns to a statue of his original guardian and vows he will meet him again, performing the ritual once more.

    This story was another especially long one, but it was really good at establishing a Chotec-worshipping subculture of Lizardmen, with cremation funerals and the talk of ‘inner fire’ being akin to that of the Sun God. My own Temple City is one dedicated to Chotec, because I like the parallels it has with the Sun-God-worshipping Aztecs that the Lizardmen are based on, so I’m impressed that this was done well. It also explores an especially interesting concept of whether or not the sword and armour given to each of the Slann’s protectors were cursed, because every recipient of these artefacts ends up dead (but then, that is an occupational hazard of the role, as protecting the Slann may require you giving up your life). It’s not often that we specifically get a Temple Guard protagonist, and the theme of the never-ending cycle was very well used here. I like how the Slann was characterised to have a place in his heart for each of his protectors, who despite being easily replaceable, are still individuals with their own personalities, because I imagine a Slann’s protector would be one of the few Lizardmen who would get to know him very well.

    I’ve seen stories depicting spawnings before, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one this dark and primal until now. There also isn’t really any particular protagonist for this tale either, which is something different, and also this looks like an AoS story, from what I can see, so it’s nice to see the Coalesced being given chance to shine.

    We see a new Saurus spawning emerge from their pools, one after the other, but where many stories have portrayed this event as being quite disciplined and peaceful, in this one each of the newborn Saurus is fighting its brethren to get to the surface, and the first to emerge actually dares to attack the Sunblood observing the spawning at the pool’s edge. Of course it is no match for the mighty warrior, who punches it back into the water, and as soon as the others see this, they fall into line and allow the attending Skinks to count them and chain and muzzle them to keep them in order until they learn to behave with discipline and organisation. They are blessed with the favour of each of the Old Ones and as they are armed they are given a speech about what they are meant to do - serve the Slann and the Old Ones with undying unity and bring order to the Realms. Filled with new purpose, the new Saurus roar their allegiance to their masters and surge up out of the Spawning Chamber after the Sunblood to fight in their first battle.

    I was most impressed at how the author made this work so primal, with so much of the text dedicated to the different scents that care detected by the newborn Saurus when they first emerge, from the strong alpha-scent of the Sunblood that forces them to submit to the weak smell of fear emitted by the Skinks - this really is a unique and different way of portraying the world of the Lizardmen that most authors have not touched on at all. I also liked that when the Saurus are first born, they are portrayed as feral, untamed predators that attack the nearest living thing as soon as they emerge, and, much like human children need to be taught what’s right and wrong, young Saurus need to be taught how to restrain their predatory instincts until they get onto the battlefield. Brilliant stuff!

    In this next Age of Sigmar story we are given a view into how the Coalesced Seraphon could develop as they establish their presence in the Mortal Realms, and it looks a pretty grim future for anybody who ends up in their clutches!

    Our protagonist is Lieutenant Colonel Sumerfeld of Tutanum, an officer in the Freeguild Guard. He receives a letter from his mercenary brother, Thomas, telling him of how he has been captured and imprisoned in a cage of bones, in a place where prisoners are executed in myriad ways, from being thrown into pits of serpents to being burned alive by a giant magnifying glass. Men and women alike are taken to either a giant pyramid or an arena to die, in a city governed by humanoid reptiles. As he finishes writing, he among others is chosen to be next, and he gives the letter to a small boy who manages to escape while he and his fellow prisoners provide a distraction, so that Titus would be informed of his fate.

    Alongside his comrade, Titus, and the Elven general Astra Leafblade, Sumerfeld organises scouting parties to be sent into the Bloodwood Swamps, the location his brother was last believed to have been seen, and discovers the presence of a great city there, alongside a massive army of Seraphon advancing towards the nearest established human outpost of Quidalus. Eager for vengeance against the creatures that slew his brother, Sumerfeld advocates an aggressive tactic of sending the majority of available forces to protect the base, for it is in a location that has proved strategic in the past, which puts a stop to the endless debate of the council by gifting them the knowledge that attack would be the best form of defence. Mere days later, the army mustered by the city begins its inexorable march toward the swamps, with the famed Sumerfeld Orruk-Slayer at its head.

    This piece was a more unique take on the contest theme, as where most authors included rituals as being part of the protagonist’s story arc, this piece looks at Lizardman rituals from the point of view of an onlooker from another race, with an especially negative attitude due to the ritualistic executions being carried out on the observer’s comrades, and ultimately Lizardman rituals like this do look barbaric from a human point of view, as we of the Fourth Race know nothing of the Old Ones’ Great Plan and thus know nothing of their reason for performing these rituals. What’s more, we are left guessing at why the Coalesced would turn to such brutality towards creatures that are surely their allies against Chaos - are they renegades, extremists, or even simply trapped in their mindset from the Old World that tells them humans are pillagers and raiders, even though they are creations of the Old Ones too? Additionally, this one is labelled as ‘Part 1’ so I eagerly anticipate the next chapter in what looks to be an especially promising saga!

    Is it a coincidence that the thirteenth story features the Children of the Horned Rat as protagonists? I think not.

    This tale begins with an assembled council of Skaven priests being introduced to one of the latest Clan Moulder creations - A Skavenslave with the fully-working head and mind of a Skink scribe. A Grey Seer purchases this abomination from the Plague Priest proffering it to him, and sets to work using it as part of his nefarious plan.

    He first sets it loose into a Lizardman village, and gets some Plague Monks to infect the village with a disease. When he finds that the Skink-Rat is immune to the disease, the first part of the plot is a success.

    He then takes it to a ruined Temple, and tests the knowledge of the Skink brain inside it by getting it to search for a sacred plaque lost to the Lizardmen. The mutant servant completes this second task also, and the Grey Seer prepares to use this as a means to convert the Lizardmen to a false faith.

    Next he sends the Skink-Rat into a Lizardman town with the objective of recruiting reptilian followers to the new religion. Ordering his top spy to keep observing the Skink-Rat’s progress, he commands him to inform him only when the number of Lizardmen in the town worshipping the Old Ones has halved, so that he can then spring his trap.

    That trap involves an ambush launched by Plague Monks. With the magic of the Old Ones weakened due to lack of faithful followers, the Lizardmen defenders stand no chance and the town is devastated. A small band of Lizardmen escape, but one of these is a puppet following the false faith created by the Grey Seer, who senses his final triumph is near.

    All of this is just preparation for taking the prize the Grey Seer was truly after - a great Temple City nearby that is the hub of the Lizardman community. Once again the Lizardmen are divided by faith, and those who have remained loyal to the Old Ones are overwhelmed. The Seer, watching from a hilltop, cannot believe his luck when he spots the resident Slann of the Temple City dead from disease - the slaying of such a formidable foe is sure to win him the position of head of Clan Pestilens and thus a seat on the Council of Thirteen - but this glee turns into shock when he finds that his plan worked too well. The Lizardmen were so taken-in by his puppet, none other than the Skink that is Tehehenhauin, and the false deity of Sotek, the Serpent God, that they have now turned to him as their saviour who will deliver them from the Skaven. His Skink-Rat slave tells him all of this, before killing him as the first sacrifice to the Serpent-God.

    This was a brilliant story, with such an intelligent twist. The Skaven protagonist was delightfully devilish as Skaven always are, and saving the big reveal for the end was textbook. I’m not sure if there is any particular ritual in this one, but there were lots of religious practices here so that part of the theme is satisfied. I don’t think I’ve actually read a story with a Skaven protagonist as part of this contest before, so that is another feather in this tale’s cap, and the way he uses religion as a weapon to divide the Lizardmen to make them easier to conquer, only for it to all backfire on him, is excellently told. The author of this piece certainly deserves a pat on the back even if they don’t win!

    Finally, the last entry. I wonder what this AoS piece is about? ;)

    The protagonist of this tale is the Chameleon Skink Tla’tzep. Hmm, I’ve heard of that name before... *goes back through previous contest voting threads* yes, he was the star of the comedy piece ‘The Red Thing in the Desert’ from the previous contest! It’s always nice to have a sequel to a previous contest entry (whether written by a different author or the same one) as it causes sagas to evolve from these, and I love a good saga (even though sagas specifically were Viking, the Celts loved stories too, so it’s probably the Celt in me, and being English I probably have some Viking blood in me too anyway).

    After his adventure with the squeaky bone and the Wolf Rats, he’s been tracking some Beastmen, unusual avian Beastmen he has never seen before. When he activates the device he uses to sorcerously capture images and send them to his Starseer master (a magical Lizardman camera), these creatures immediately notice the magical reverberations it gives off, hinting at them being Tzaangors. Taking it upon himself to be even more careful, Tla’tzep hides his device under additional silk coverings and keeps especially meticulous watch on these creatures. During his observations, he spots that they have a female human Battle Wizard as a captive, who is led along by the party of bird-men on their travels with a rope binding her hands. More and more Tzaangors join the procession until they reach a circular arena in the middle of a desert canyon, populated with an altar and eight openings space evenly around it. As night falls, the Chameleon Skink sees the outline of the eight points of the Chaos Star start to manifest around the altar, a sign that a ritual is about to begin.

    A Tzaangor Shaman arrives at the scene upon his Disc, from which he dismounts in order to man the altar and lead the ceremony, which starts with his cawing avian sermon to the other Tzaangors present. Then, two of their number lead the female Battle Wizard to the altar. The Shaman proceeds to read from an enchanted scroll, and to the Chameleon Skink’s horror, the woman proceeds to mutate into another Tzaangor, the Daemons having found a way to create more of their infernal species by sacrificing other magic-users. Mortified by the intelligence he has gathered, Tla’tzep starts to make his way out of the canyon to report what he has seen to the Starseer.

    As well as it being nice to have a Chameleon Skink as a different protagonist character, it’s also great to see Tzaangors as an antagonist race - I’m a big fan of these avian Daemons of the Changer of Ways, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in a story before. What’s more, the author may well have been having a go at advancing their lore by explaining how their race is born (though I haven’t read the Disciples of Tzeentch Battletome so I don’t know if this has already been established as canon by GW or if it is truly the author’s idea), and as you know I love lore progression as long as it is done faithfully, which it is here. I really like the idea of having a Lizardman protagonist observe another race’s rituals (the reverse of what we see in Story 12) as an original plot device. Another brilliant story!


    And with all those reviews done, I think I will retire to a darkened Stasis-Crypt for a while. Thanks to you all for being so patient, sorry I take so long to do my reviews but I like to give each story a really good read and analyse it to establish my critique, which I think you’ll agree is a whole lot more useful than simply saying ‘good’, ‘good’, ‘OK’, ‘bad’, ‘good’ for each one.

    My reviews and votes are now in, and I eagerly await the result of this Contest!
     
  7. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Finally, after this second round of reviews, i can reveal you that you missed the details of one story (and i know it, given that it's mine). Or maybe it was me being unclear. But it doesn't matter. :D

    If you're interested, i will talk about it in PM, given that you already gave your votes.
     
  8. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    For a long time, the pieces i voted for rarely won. The last couple contests, my favorite stories were usually in line with popular opinion's favorite stories. This contest none of my four votes are in the lead, though I guess votes are pretty tightly grouped this time around.
     
  9. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Lately, the winner of the comp has Always been a story which took also my vote.
    Surprisingly, this time i did vote for none of the current leads… but my favs are very near the top!
     
  10. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    The stories I voted for are doing well.

    One of the things that hit me a long time ago was differences of opinion. Not in a glib sense, but really hit me and changed me.

    When I was really young, if I didn't like something I would try to avoid it. I got extremely bright on tactics to somehow get out of things that I wasn't interested in. I was never a confrontational person and also didn't like to see anyone's work being demeaned so I used to avoid.

    As time went on, it became more and more real to me how different people's opinions can be. It became a constant source of both wonder and fear, as there were many things about my life which weren't "popular" or "cool" (for a start I was 1 foot smaler than everyone in my class until 14 years old, whcih didn't help anything).

    After receiving a lot of flak for various things and finding out "friends" weren't really friends, I came to a healthy viewpoint of knowing what I liked, not being afraid to say so but also able to see and applaud other's likes. Even if I didn't personally like them as in taste, but I could still see the skill, art or creation about it.

    This competition is a microcosm of this. I didn't like all the stories, but I appreciate a) people being brave enough to publish their stuff, b) the artistry and create that went into them and c) that I regularly have WILDLY differing opinions of what I like compared to others :D

    So on! On with the games! And may the most unexpected story win!
     
  11. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    Oh and @Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl ironically (considering @Killer Angel ’s post) you also missed something on my story... but I think it’s something I should have made clearer more than anything else... :(

    Ah well. I’ll message you about it after the contest.

    Also, in case anyone cares, I’ll do my reviews after the contest is over. I don’t trust myself to write a review of my own story :rolleyes:
     
  12. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Better than nothing, i suppose… ;)
     
  13. hanskurt
    Skink

    hanskurt Member

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    Don’t read your own work, or analyse what you do.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
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  14. Cho'qomel
    Saurus

    Cho'qomel Active Member

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    Great stuff, I really enjoyed reading! Though voting wasn't that enjoyable, cause the decision was a pretty tough one...
    Kudos to all participants! I'm really looking forward to the next contest!
     
  15. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    I know the pain.

    Typical thoughts pattern:
    "Ah, 4 votes! i will be at ease.."
    ...read all the stories…
    "ARGH!"
     
  16. Cho'qomel
    Saurus

    Cho'qomel Active Member

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    This is exactly what was going on in my head! Maybe it's because you've got 4 votes instead of the 3 we're accustomed to. First makes you think the decision was easier cause of more votes possible but in the end you've still got to decide...
     
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  17. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    1 day to go, right?
    ...what a competition! :woot:
     
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  18. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    2 days capo... Ends at the end of May.

    Yes, very close on the voting!!!
     
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  19. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    About 32 hours to go for voting. Usually I call it by this point but it's too close!

    This was a great contest. Lots of high quality pieces and lots of forum engagement.
     
  20. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    We don't know you're ACTUALLY happy until you post that "You know what? I'm happy" video....

    ...

    Soooooo......
     

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