Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, Aug 1, 2019.
Reminder to myself to read those stories soon.
The second, wild bunch: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE REVIEWER
Story 4: Got your gear?
My first thought was: the usual human party that goes into Lustria to search for gold, doomed to find death. I was almost right.
The author did a clever job with the "accent"... if there's a typo i won't understand if it was wanted or not!
Just kidding, it gives a certain personality to the crew, which helps the first part of the reading, as the structure of this kind of story is: to present the characters, let them have a taste of Lustria with growing difficulties, doom.
The story is nice and good, but let's come to the ending and the fight against lizardmen.
The good part: Mundane and the magic! the theme strikes perfectly, it's cool to see how much a saurus is hard to kill, tnx to its natural armor, and how much things can change with just a little bit of magic. It remembers me the good old WHFB, when you gave a cheap magical weapon to anyone just to be able to face ethereal.
the meh part: the ending is nice, for once the humans get some gold instead of the usual death… but it is so? we don't know what there is in the treasure (is there something valuable for lizardmen, enough to follow the thieves?), and sauri are rarely alone. Basically, the story let us without knowing how it will end for the humans.
Nice one, anyway
Story 5: The cowards weapon
Oh guys, from where can i start?
the story is really entertaining, and the theme is developed in a great way. The "traditional" commander, that must overcome is inner convinctions to kill the enemy. The story is well structured and goes to the point. Most of all, it has a real ending.
But there are also things that… i don't know.
A saurus devoted to the Horned Rat, or anyway a betrayal of its race to join skaven? Madness exists, so a single warped individual makes a great premise for a story (I should know, i wrote one with a mad chameleon skink)
but a large number of lizardmen? a Cult? that's MUCH harder to digest, to the point that it breaks my suspension of disbelief.
unless… unless is something made by skaven. A much subtle plot, some corruption of spawning pools that drives mad sauri, during the course of years. A long time plan. Kinda like the Genestealr Cult in 40k: puppets doomed to die.
That would be incredibly cool, but in that case I would have liked some hint, and i dont find it. Hope the author will clear my doubts.
Alas, the things that don't sell the story to me, is the command structure of lizardmen: Colonel, lieutenant, corporal, regiment… it's too human. One of the things that I, as author, force myself to do, is to avoid to make lizardmen too much similar to warmbloods, always trying to give a different, "alien" point of view… in this case, the story works even if you use terms as "first hunter" "cluster leader" and so on.
Story 6: Peals of thunder
Ok, i've got a BIG problem with this one.
the building of the story arc is exceptional. The visual descriptions, the feelings, the emotions of the 2 protagonists, the power of dark magic, the theme (the inability of the mundane to resist magic, the inability of magic to activate without mundane help), the chase, the brief flashes of images that let us imagine things…
it's perfect. It's by far the best one of the whole competition, at least imo.
The real and only downside to this story is that it abruptly ends, and it's not finished. Really, this needs a second chapter, to develope the story :
reveal the real nature of the archway (the toothy maw seems related to the Great Maw of Ogres… but why should Seraphon be triggered by destruction?)
explain the magio's figure that is still cloacked in mystery
various unanswered things (what the dino really is? it seems a Dread Saurian, and that would put things on a completely different scale)
… i hope the author will write it, becaus frankly this is incomplete, and it's a real pity given the effort put into it and the excellent premise.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE REVIEWER: the final shoot-out
Story 7: Two strengths
At the very beginning, i thought Gu was a kroxigor, as it speaks in the typical way here on Lustria Kroxigors speak, but it was a saurus, instead. I suppose that only ScarVet, Oldblood and leaders are capable to develope some higher level of speech. They are bred for combat, after all.
But back to the story.
This one is elegant in its simplicity.
it developes in a very classic way: there's a mysterious threat, 2 friends very different one from the other, which have different abilities (the mundane and the magic). By themselves, they wouldn't be able to complete the quest but together they will.
It's clear cut, well written and very clean, and the sleeping saurus with his friend watching over him is a very warming image.
if i need to find what's wrong in this story, probably is that it's not too much memorable. There is not an epic struggle, there is not inner conflict, there is not a charismatic enemy… i fear it will soon slip away from my memory, but other than that, is pretty good.
Story 8: Tzlatoc and the Gate Warden
this one is a story with very colored images, sprinkled with some humor.
A chameleon on a terradon is not something usual, and Tzlatoc is a very unique protagonist. He finds many bizarre and mundane doodads, he goes on mysterious missions, he's a sort of guy you can count on when you need someone able to solve problems.
I liked the intro of the character(s), and then suddenly the plot thickens, with Priests and a Slann that do unclear magical shenanigans.
Well, maybe too much unclear, as i don't really understand what's going on… which is probably a wanted thing, but still i struggle to follow the middle parts of the story.
The final is delicious: we don't need to know what the mission is, and Tlatoc cannot even talk about it… there's no more room for mundane quests, now it's magic time. And that's enough.
Story 9: The mythology of Ghur
@Warden, is that you?
you are my main guess for the author of this very nice piece.
First, it recalls me "The Extermination of the Fimir", but the structure here is much more solid, we still have a lost piece of mythological tale, but we don't know what's behind it.
during the reading, all pieces fall in their place in this unusual setting, and suddenly we understand that we are dealing with a Plaque of the Old Ones, and that the good but fool translator is doomed to die. This sometime happens when people applies a mundane approach to magical things!
I appreciated a lot the effort put into the research of Aztec myth and how the author put them into the story: Ometotl, Cipactli… (another hint that leads me toward Warden) ...all of them entwined with Lizardmen gods, and also with the religion of WHFB / AoS (Dracothion, Drakatoa, Gorkamorka...).
There are some thing that are unclear (especially when Sotek would have been described as an aelf dragon-kin… i missed that part and i hope it will be clarified by the author), but all in all it's brilliant, really.
I usually don't say which pieces take my vote, but this one is among them.
Here's my nonsensical thoughts.
“The Polar Warp Gate.”
The story is very compact and short, yet tells a satisfyingly complete story nonetheless. I really like that! I appreciate the quick pacing as the Main character tries his best to cope with being chosen by one of the Old Ones. The idea of any of the First besides the Slann being the focal point of interest for the Old Ones is pretty novel and exciting, and this story definitely delivered on this stretch of unexplored territory.
On the other hand, I’d like some more characterization. While there definitely were some lines that offered this characterization, I think they could’ve been expanded upon. Zlat-choa has fears in the story, but it’s only two short lines that detail this. The character has his own stakes in the story to overcome, yet it’s fairly underdeveloped compared to the plot. How much characterization a story needs varies from one and another, and there are no rules concerning this. It’s mostly about making the character sufficiently relatable/exotic through descriptions about their psychological/physical traits, and how either the plot affects them, or the traits themselves affecting the plot. There can even be a mix-mash of the above, and as said, there aren’t any rules (at least any that I go by).
When it comes to Tepok introducing the story’s conflict to Zlat-choa, the reader doesn’t need to know everything. Details that aren’t important for the story’s conflict can largely be ignored as the reader is likely not to remember them. It also could’ve added more onto the story’s mysterious tone if Tepok spoke in a terser, less direct manner.
I adore that this story has a Kroxigor main character, it’s a very interesting decision . Kroxigors as main characters are very rare for a multitude of good reasons, so it’s always nice to dive into something new. In this story’s case, it seems like a nice play on the very common Gentle Giant trope with the Kroxigor’s nonsensical arachnophobia.
I think Zakaku’s dilemma/inner conflict could’ve been expanded upon. Besides that, he didn’t have much characterization at all, so it probably would be nice if it was expanded upon. The fighting scenes were also a little bit confusing to follow too.
“A Friend for Hard Times.”
I love this story’s characterization a lot. The supporting characters each have their own little quarks and traits which nicely flavor the story as a whole. I appreciate Kuklan and Gretha both helping the main character overcome his inner conflict in their own ways. Both of them can be seen as mundane as per the contest’s theme, yet trigger the main character’s dramatic shift in his magical abilities. Gretha, the young human girl triggering the main character’s shift, and Kuklan inspiring him along with it. That’s a very clever take on the contest’s theme!
I was concerned that the memories that were used for exposition were going to be over detailed and thus overbore the reader, but this didn’t happen. The expository memories gave the reader all they needed to know about the story and the characters without boring them out, so nice job!
The action scene in particular was well paced and gave me sufficient amounts of tension reading about Hisstik’s character development.
I think the transitions between the expository memories and the rest of the story could’ve been better defined/described. The reader is reading about a skink and kroxigor helping a group of humans. Fine and even cool, but right after that, the reader is immediately whiplashed with exposition about the main character that doesn’t really explain the interesting situation they just read.
I think better defined/explainable transitions within the narrative could probably solve this. The needed exposition about why Hisstik and Kuklan was accepted could even be condensed into said transitions to save words and the readers’ time. Condensing exposition into dialogue, imagery, symbolism, and other elements within a story is pretty common.
“Got Your Gear?”
I love the overdone accents. I think they contributed more to the story than running the risk of taking away from it by contributing to the story’s humorous tone at the start and throughout. This Hilarious line made the story’s introduction amazing:
The action itself which takes up around half of the story is well executed and paced. The mercenaries and the saurus trade their respective blows with the tension detailed just enough to give the reader a solid picture of the action, while still keeping the pacing fast enough. As most solid action should be. Not to mention it hands claws down has the best line in the entire contest imo:
I would’ve liked the introduction and the exposition to be longer. It is pretty usual in critique to negatively talk about exposition that goes on forever, but in this story’s unique case, I think the exposition/introduction went on for too little time; especially when compared to the action of the story. In my opinion, I also think the short introduction didn’t characterize and expand upon the characters’ fears and motivations enough even though - as said earlier - the story was absolutely on track for this matter.
Expanding upon the characters’ fears and motivations could increase the stakes within the story and possibly make the action that comes later even more impactful and tension fulfilling.
“The Coward’s Weapon.”
It’s always grand to see a sequel of sorts from time to time. I remember a short story that explored what would happen if lizards worshiped the skaven as a cult, and as a result, the story was incredibly interesting and novel with very fun characterization to boot.
This story doesn’t disappoint as a continuation; it even has new characters (mostly), and continues to explore this very interesting idea.
The characterization is superb and comfortably described. Dialogue and very short descriptions on body language and facial expressions do most of the heavy lifting for giving the characters distinct personalities. The reader doesn’t get any backstory or even much internal thoughts from the characters, yet they can still vividly imagine who they are, their conflicts, and what their goals are within the story. They could even piece together cues taken from said dialogue and descriptions and come up with what the characters’ backstories might be.
Such is the power of ‘Show don’t Tell,’ and I think this author mainly used this technique for the aforementioned characterization.
The pacing is fine for the most part. The action is well described and flows quickly and doesn’t bog down on parts that don’t need to be vividly pictured out for the reader. In my opinion this story’s nonchalant stance on action works because its conflict centers on the main character rather than, say, the skaven-loving cult. The main character’s inner-conflict on whether or not to use magic.
In my opinion, however, Ochoa’s major character development could’ve been expanded upon. Ochoa’s shift from absolutely hating magic to reluctantly considering Valentina’s advice on using it was read way too fast, at least for me. Some internal thoughts from Ochoa or more graphic descriptions that slow down the pacing could’ve help worked in etching the character development into my mind.
Additionally, I think Valentina could’ve been done with more characterization. In comparison to Ochoa and the minor characters, she sort of falls flat; even though she’s very important to the story’s plot.
I think the short but thought provoking descriptions that were used so well for Ochoa, could also be inserted for Valentina without much hindrance to the story’s pacing, perhaps giving her more characterization.
“Peals of Thunder.”
The imagery in this story is fantastic. I like how it nicely conveys the characters’ emotions succinctly along with the graphic descriptions of the scenery. It made me feel as if I was there when reading, but also fired up my mind and made me imagine. The action, which was the running (imo), was again supported well enough by the evocative imagery. I adored the tension that came with the spirit-thing catching the main character. It was pretty gripping, and I was even fairly convinced the boy would come to an untimely end, like so many main characters that find themselves onto LO.
The theme of magic and the mundane is well represented with the mundane children, and the magically exotic seraphim-thing. I would’ve liked more representation on the magical side of things, though.
I think I would’ve liked a clearer ending. I think a clearer ending could convey the consequences for the main character more succinctly at the end, as it’s pretty much left largely ambiguous. Such an ambiguous ending is completely fine in stories, but in this one where there’s so much detail put into the characterization and the imagery of the story, and when all of that suddenly stops with no apparent central theme or message, it does confuse more than it intrigues, imo. Especially when there’s no trace of foreshadowing, or any that I can find.
I love the simplicity and the short nature of this story. Furthermore, it also has a pretty clever take on the theme. The characterization is very solid and slightly reminiscent of The Coward’s Weapon. I really like how the two were patronizing and making fun of the other’s weaknesses. It combines and mixes really well with what happens near the end of the story, when they quickly utilized each other’s strengths to overcome a powerful enemy.
Alas, I can’t really find much fault with this story. The pacing flows comfortably with the imagery giving quick, evocative descriptions before quickly moving onward with the story.
If the author wanted to write their story as short as possible, then they did a wonderful job. Otherwise, I will say that the action probably could’ve been something more. It pretty much ends when you first start reading it, which makes the happy, warming ending a bit less undeserving for the characters. I think that if the action was made direr, and if the characters were forced to show off their respective strengths more, then it could’ve made both the ending and the introduction sweeter and more memorable.
“Tzlatoc and the Gate Warden.”
I feel like this is a really good premise or introduction to a story. It introduces a very interesting take on the contest’s theme, and a main character assigned with an unusual goal/mission as if something will happen in the future the main character knows, but the reader doesn’t. It starts to look very promising and gripping with a very unusual twist.
But then it abruptly ends…
I think I would’ve liked more continuation of the story. I got introduced to a very interesting narrative, only for it to get shortened so quick, leaving the conflict and its resolution a bit neutered.
“The Mythology of Ghur.”
The sinister, cold-blooded ending was fantastic! I liked how the professor was very confident in his teachings, making them sound almost true word to word. It gave the surprising end lots of gravitas.
Nothing doesn't really happen in the story besides the ending, so I would’ve liked some form of conflict. Perhaps in the form of the chameleon skink arguing with the professor whilst in disguise or the professor harboring some form of internal doubt about what he was teaching.
Is there anybody out there?
Yeah, I'm working on it.
I will not be able to review them for a few days (heading home from vacation) but when I do get back I will try and get my reviews in
They all looked good
I have been sitting on my reviews for a long time. I follow the philosophy of @Y'ttar Scaletail . I save my reviews for when the thread is sort of slowing down so I can try to stir up late contest interest. I was going to wait for @Warden 's last four story reviews but that is taking too long!
They did all look good. The overall quality of the pieces in our contests is going up year by year, season by seaon
Scalenex's Unimpeachable Wisdom Via Literary Critiques
A lot of our short story contests stand out for shared tendencies between stories. We’ve had a lot of comedic or heart-warming stories in the past but I’m fairly sure, as a whole, this is the most light and cheery contest we ever had. Not every piece was warm and fuzzy, but none of them were grimdark which is unusual.
I would say Story Six and may Story Nine are the only ones that are not particularly light hearted, and even then those pieces are hardly dripping with death and nihlism. In my opinion the only contest that was close to this light hearted was the July-August 2018 Contest where the theme was "Food and Drink" which is fairly hard to make dark without involving cannibalism. And at least one story did involve cannibalism.
Despite the fact that most of the pieces came in at the last minute, all the pieces were pretty well polished. And out of nine pieces, all of them adhered to the theme very well. Usually there is at least one outlier that barely clips the theme but not here. Not that deviating from the theme is a major sin, but it’s still nice that no one did that.
Story Nine, “The Mythology of Ghur”: This is piece has great characterization. I really like the outsider’s view of Lizardmen (Seraphon? Not sure which one this is) and the outsider’s view of humanity from the perspective of a Skink spy. I like the concept of Lizardmen/Seraphon spying in such a sophisticated manner.
This piece didn’t have as much of a solid structure as I’d hope for in a short story with an introduction, conflict, and resolution of some sort. It was lots of characterization, but not a lot of action.
Story Eight, “Tzlatoc and the Gate Warden”: This piece had evocative imagery and did a good job heightening interests in what is to come. It looks like something epic is coming.
My misgiving is that this didn’t read like a short a story. This read like the prologue to a much longer story. It is a story I’d like to read but a short story contest is not the ideal venue for it.
Story Seven, “Two Strengths”: This was a solid piece. Among all the pieces in this contest, this piece balanced the human and alien/bestial aspects of the Lizardmen characters best. That’s always something I look for when a Lizardman or Seraphon is the protagonist. I like how the beginning and ending of the piece mirror each other and had a nice role reversal which enhanced the story structure and the characterization.
I don’t say this often, but the piece was shorter than I would like. Specifically I would have liked more details on the fight scene. Any additional details would have been welcome but I think showing the two characters concerned for the other as they size up the threat would have enhanced this piece.
Story Six, “Peals of Thunder”: This was a solid piece. Well-polished with evocative imagery. Good character development. Great word choices. This writer has a gift for setting up horror scenes.
I said it was well-polished and had good character development and I meant it. I do think it could have been better in both regards. I think some of the larger paragraphs should have been broken up into smaller pieces. It makes reading easier and varying paragraph length can heighten the tone when writing a horror or mystery piece. Large expeditionary paragraphs followed by short paragraphs that punch the readers with action and suspense. As for character development, I would have like a tad more development on the brother-sister dynamic.
Story Five, “The Coward’s Weapon”: This was a solid piece. The Skinks were very human and relatable. Great characterization. This piece had a good balance of serious and comedic tones with excellent transitions. The piece ended rather abruptly but I believe in this case it was a strength not a weakness. It punctuated the protagonists about face on his opinion of magic. The abrupt conclusion enhanced the light hearted undertones of the piece and it fit with the protagonist’s curt and professional demeanor. I thoroughly enjoyed the juxtaposition of Skinks acting like gentleman officers in my head.
The pieces greatest strength was also its greatest weakness. The Skinks almost seemed too human and relatable. This Skinks could have been swapped for Empire officers and the writer would barely have to change a word in the story apart from the names. I think this piece could have been enhanced with a small nod to lizard life. The officer could have been eating grubs, complain about an itchy tail, flick a tongue in annoyance. I think 50-100 words of casually mentioning the Skinks doing a few things that human military officers not be doing. Reminds me of my Avatar that I use the rare times I haunt the Empire forums,
Story Four, “Got Your Gear”: Another comedic piece. The “magic” part of the contest theme didn’t show itself till towards the end of the piece but it was worth the wait. Good characterization. Well described action scenes.
The overall word count and pacing was fine, but the dialogue seemed to drag on a little bit longer than was strictly necessary to advance the plot and establish the characters.
Story Three, “A Friend for Hard Times”: Stellar piece. Possibly the best characterization in this entire run of nine stories. A very solid character arc for the protagonist. The Kroxigor friend made a great dramatic foil. Well-crafted dialog, well-paced. Solid take on the theme.
Hard to find fault with this one. My main misgiving is pretty small. It had a lot of flashbacks and time skips for a short story.
Story Two, “Kroxigor’s Magic”: A nice light-hearted piece with a funny ending. Well polished. Good pacing and structure. Excellent characterization. It is very clever to give a big strong brave Kroxigor a phobia of spiders and other crawly things. I am not afraid of spiders. I like them. I appreciate that they keep the insect population down. I don’t want to keep at tarantula as a pet though. I tend to react poorly to snakes and worms. If I judged pieces on adherence to the theme alone, this piece is the clear winner. Masterfully woven the magic and the mundane together in this story.
It’s probably my fault more than the writers, but I had to reread the middle section multiple times to understand why everyone was saying that Mallus saved them all. It took me a while to figure out that Mallus was knocked out because he accidentally activated the magical staff and not because a goblin shaman blasted him. It’s probably my fault because the title was a dead give away, but I would still have liked another 100 words adding clarifying details to the battle with the goblins. That’s where the meat of the story was afterall.
Story One, “The Polar Warpgate”: Solid piece. Well edited, well structured, well-paced. This had a satisfying ending, positive and uplifting. An interesting twist on the theme. “Magic and the mundane.” In this case it was “a god and a mortal.” This is a variation on a theme I’ve tried to put in my fluff pieces. The Old Ones need the lesser mortals to save the world. The Slann are too far removed from the events on the ground to save the world themselves.
This was under 1100 words. I like short pieces. That’s a mark of a skilled writer, but I would have liked more characterization. Maybe another 100-300 words to humanize the Skink a bit more. Maybe a short paragraph on what the Skink did before Tepok singled him out. Maybe a little bit more cognitive dissonance for the Skink showing his initial lack of confidence.
Though if Warden is right and "Tepok" is really Tzeentch or some other dark entity, that changes everything. When the contest is over, I hope the author of that piece shares what his or her intent was when writing this piece.
Well, some more fine stories have arrived, so it's time for 'Lord Agragax's Review Hour' once again!
Story 1: Set at the end of the golden age of the Lizardmen and upon the eve of the first Chaos incursion, this tale is probably the first I've read that tells of when the Old Ones walked the Warhammer World with their first and greatest creations. The protagonist is an unsung hero of the first war against the Daemons of Chaos, a Skink priest who has been chosen by the Old One Tepok to investigate the strange goings-on in the Warp Gates, and his discovery of a plot by our favourite god of Change and Trickery to destroy the Warp Gates. I like the inclusion of some of the language of the Daemons of Tzeentch in this piece, as well as the idea that the Slann, despite being the most powerful magic users in Warhammer Fantasy, having their own flaws as much as any lowly Skink or Saurus servant, and I also enjoyed seeing the events at the beginning of the Lizardmen's history going on from an unsung hero-type character, as most of the pieces I have read about this era tend to describe things in the perspective of the Slann, most often Kroak, as in that time the Slann were of course more numerous as servants of the still-corporeal Old Ones, and as a result accounts of these events from non-Slann points of view are so much rarer than those set in the later eras of the Fantasy timeline, when the Old Ones left and the Slann started to decline. The ending is also Rogue One-ish, as the Skink Priest sacrifices himself for his Slann masters in the prelude to the war (which is probably why he is then forgotten by the Slann after the Daemon legions are defeated, thereby making him the unsung hero), and that even though he did his best to stop the invasion, his efforts ultimately come to nought as the destructive magic attacking the Warp Gates proved too strong.
This piece has the feel of another of those more narrative and less story pieces like @Warden's 'The Extermination of the Fimir' in the previous contest, although it also adds a hint of story by viewing things through a protagonist. Something else I've noticed that's interesting about this piece is that there are a couple of AoS-isms that have managed to sneak through into the Fantasy setting - the Skink wizards being called 'Starpriests' rather than generic priests, and the Daemons in the protagonist's vision being more like Tzaangors and less like Pink Horrors (Tzaangors didn't appear until the AoS era) - hinting that the writer is more used to the AoS setting. However, not only do I praise the author for having a go at moving out of their comfort zone by writing about a setting they were less familiar with (I did this myself in the previous contest with "The Doom of Vanir Rockfist", and I have to say that it was quite an experience), but also I prefer Tzaangors to Pink Horrors, as they fit better with the avian theme of the Lord of Change than the Horrors do, and it was great to see them in the Fantasy setting as well, as they would certainly fit well in there. Certainly a nice new take on a piece of Warhammer lore that we thought we already knew everything about!
Story 2: Ah, a Kroxigor story! Brilliant! Kroxigor stories always have the capacity to entertain me, at least, because the Warhammer army books make explicit the fact that Kroxigors are the Skinks' big brothers, having been spawned from the same pools, but they give us so little information on how the two species interact as part of this sibling-esque relationship. It's great to see these homebrew stories portray this as the classic 'Big Head and Thick Head' relationship - one is the physically weaker but mentally acute, while the other is as strong as an ox but is as thick as two short planks of wood (being only just above Troll-level stupidity - at least the Old Ones gave Kroxigors the mental capacity to work out that to be useful, they have do go and do things useful, but that's about it). The result is the endless comedy that forms the basis for several of the most famous double acts known to exist (The Two Ronnies sketches and Asterix and Obelix comics immediately come to my mind). In the case of Skinks and Kroxigors, the Skinks have to constantly put up with the minute attention spans and knowledge of Kroxigors, but because the Skinks themselves are so scrawny, they still need the Kroxigors to do the heavy jobs about the Temple City, so neither can work without the other even if they get on each others' nerves.
In the case of this Kroxigor, the poor chap is suffering from arachnophobia despite having the strength to pulverise most forms of spider with one fist, a common fear in our own world. Luckily his Skink Priest pal is there to support him with a big hug and a reminder of more battles ahead to cheer him up, but everyone has to face their fears at some point, and the time for Mallus to do so comes sooner than expected with the news of the enemy not being the Skaven, but Forest Goblins riding not just spiders, but massive spiders! This, however, does not stop our Kroxigor hero, as his anger at the sight of his dead and wounded comrades overpowers any fears of the arachnids, and not only does he rescue the hallowed Staff of the Lost Sun after a brief detour caused by his wandering off from the main group, but he also returns in time to save his friends from the Greenskin threat. A story that balances comedy with drama, this tale perfectly captures the simple but fearsome nature of a Kroxigor, and even has an uncertain ending as it is evident the brave company have much more to worry about than Spider Riders. Apart from a couple of inaccuracies (Kroxigors more often wield stone clubs than warhammers, and those clubs would more likely smash the enemy into a pulp than bisect them), this is an excellent story that is certainly one of my favourite entries, and the author's decision to write much of the story from the single-minded point of view of the Kroxigor means I'm proud to present "Kroxigor's Magic" with the Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl Comedy Award for July-August 2019!
Story 3: This one is a slight departure from most of the others in this contest - where most of the entries feature a Skink Priests reliably casting spells again and again, this one is about a Skink Priest who has begun to experience nasty after-effects, and has exiled himself as a result, with a solitary loyal Kroxigor his one remaining reptilian supporter. Having since built a new life for himself among a human community, he has used his knowledge of herbs to become a Cadfael-esque apothecary, while his Kroxigor friend Kuklan has become a workman, but every night he continues to have nightmares about his failure to defeat a Skaven army and the decline of his magic. However, all seems not to be lost, as when his new friends' New World colony becomes under attack by Dark Elf raiders, his magic returns to him as he's able to smite the invaders right and left without suffering any of the unpleasanst side-effects he had endured previously. His morale renewed, our hero proceeds to slay the Sorceress leading the attack and break the resolve of his enemies, sending them packing and saving the village. Finally, as he chats to his Kroxigor friend in the aftermath, it seems that the cause of the after-effects might simply be that he had been practicing his spells too often during his time in his home city, and that his body was becoming stressed at the repetitive magical use - all he needed was a break for a good while. His inner demons (or Daemons - nice little Warhammer pun there) put to rest, he can finally return to living his life to the full.
This story of inner redemption is probably one of my favourites this time around - not only is it so rewarding to read because of the feeling of satisfaction you get after finding out what the cause of the Priest's problems could well have been, but we also get a rare glimpse of Lizardmen trying to integrate into human society (there's a lot about Dwarfs, Ogres and Halflings doing this in Warhammer lore, but nothing about Lizardmen managing such a feat), we're treated to some Lizardman incantation dialogue and even get to witness the Skink's reaction to being kissed - first finding it to be strange and alien, and then rewarding. While I like my Rogue One-esque grimdark tales, like most people I also like a story of a flawed hero redeeming himself (coincidentally something that Rogue One also has in its storyline). A fantastic piece of work, that is certainly one of the contenders for the top spot!
Story 4: One of the three stories featuring other races as the protagonists this time around, this one is the tale of the crew of one of the many Empire ships that set off to Lustria seeking to pinch the Lizardmen's gold after hearing the mad tales of a merchant who probably himself heard those same tales albeit less exaggerated from another merchant a few days earlier (and so on so forth). Most of you know that I really don't like the Empire that much, but the story features plenty of action and jungle-based conflict, and I like how the author gave them German dialects, referred to Greatsword weapons as Zweihanders and slipped in the odd German word here and there (they obviously know more German than I do), which really brings the reader into the point of view of a man of the Empire, perhaps even one of the soldiers themselves, rather than the point of view of an English-speaking Terran reader watching the events from a distance. Certainly if you're a fan of the Empire you'll enjoy this story a lot, as it really conjures the feeling of being an explorer in an unknown land such as Lustria well.
Story 5: The first thing that struck me when reading this one was the marvellously extravagant names the author has given the Skink protagonists - it's always a laugh when story contest authors give Skinks professional army ranks like Colonel and Lieutenant, as they appear to be so militia-like in Warhammer Fantasy that you think that surely a formal ranking system would certainly not exist, yet when you look at how different Lizardmen culture and language are compared to those of the other races, you then start to think that such a formality may be less unlikely than you first thought. The second thing that struck me was the reference to a temple city I remember well from a previous contest - Limza, that abandoned rat-infested hell-hole first explored back in @thedarkfourth's story from the October-November 2018 contest (which won), and having read that the protagonists of this tale had found "two skinks... mauled horrifically and their bodies left hanging from the walls", I'm pretty sure that this must be a sequel to the deliciously grimdark story "Looking for Limza", which I myself quite rightly voted for back in that contest (it seems that Paso and Yoatl are confirmed to not have survived their predicament). In this continuation, the comrades of the now-deceased bounty hunter Captain Iktan discover the remnants of the Jaguar Thief and the deserter and after interrogating one of the Horned Rat-worshipping Skinks that menaced them in 'Looking for Limza', they discover what had 'Come from Above' as Yoatl had described it - an albino Rat Ogre with scales, an attempt by the Horned Rat cult (referred to as 'the Lost Clan' by the prisoner) to create Lizard-Rat-Ogres (as if bog-standard Rat Ogres weren't powerful or terrifying enough).
Having forcibly extracted the information they were looking for from their prisoner, the Skink army find the headquarters of the Lost Clan and are determined to pay them back for the atrocities they have committed. Launching a carefully-prepared ambush, they seem to have every threat the cult could muster covered, only for a surprise attack from cultist Warpfire Throwers to catch them off their guard. Luckily the Skink strike team had also prepared for such an occasion as this, as their Priest not only retracts his illusion magic to unleash Captain Iktan's Terradon, but also drop a comet on the cultists for good measure. Not only is this story an unexpected continuation of an excellent prior Short Story Contest adventure, but it also links very nicely with the theme of this one, with Colonel Ochoa's preference toward the mundane almost dooming the team's operation, only for the Corporal's 'cowardly' magic to turn the tables on the cultists once and for all. I don't know if it was @thedarkfourth who wrote this sequel, but whoever did evidently made sure to read the 'Looking for Limza' first, as the two stories flow together perfectly.
Story 6: This is probably the first story I have ever read where the setting is unclear to me - is it the Warhammer World? Is it the AoS Mortal Realms? Is it somewhere in the Kings of War setting? All the place names are unfamiliar. However, towards the end of the story the identity of the creature chasing the children is revealed to be a Serphim - I'm assuming that that's the name used in the language of the human protagonists denoting a Seraphon (certainly it's described to be a Saurus, and it arrives in the eponymous 'Peals of Thunder' and lightning), so I'm assuming that this must be set somewhere in one of the Mortal Realms - probably Ghur as a lot of cliffs, gorges and untamed woodland surround the protagonists' village. Certainly this story is very good at portraying Seraphon from an outsider's point of view, and a little different in that this particular human culture is more superstitious, as Medieval-esque cultures were, than, say, the Empire soldiers in Story 4, as the people in the town see the Seraphon (or Serphim as they call them) as demons that arrive whenever something bad is about to happen, almost as a bad omen. They don't know much else about these reptilian creatures, so the rest is naturally left to speculation as these people are privy to. The same can be said for Nagash, who is simply referred to as 'Old Nash' or Nagazhan, that figure who comes to claim the dead, and the fact that he is a self-serving, malicious entity is unknown to these people. I'm imagining this little culture to be based on something like the Vikings or the Pagan tribes in the collective kingdom of Lithuania in the Medieval era (I've just been playing Medieval II Total War's Teutonic Campaign, so you can see where that theory came from).
I have to admit this tale took me by surprise when I started to read it due to its unfamiliar setting, but it has its own flavour that's different from the other non-Lizardmen-centric stories in this contest, and indeed all the other contests I've provided reviews for, which is great. Certainly the author has taken a good amount of time to develop a culture and place names to form their own unique area of the Age of Sigmar Mortal Realms, which I am certainly impressed by. The ebvents in the story itself are also enjoyable to read, as it shows how despite their intimidating appearance, the Seraphon are still the good guys as the Saurus helps young Brohnibad to cross the chasm (in its blunt Saurus way), rather than killing him as he thought it would, even considering that it had been Brohnibad who had unwittingly opened the portal in the rock face, allowing a Daemon to run rampant through the land and triggering the Seraphon's intervention.
Story 7: Whereas most of the previous stories have highlighted the differences between those possessed of magical and mundane-based powers, this piece is a classic tale of magic and mundane teaming up to beat the odds, as a Skink Priest and his Saurus Warrior friend and bodyguard explore a ruined temple desecrated by a Chaotic orb. This one ticks all the boxes for a quintessential Lizardman story with dialogue and interaction between Saurus and Skinks being examined with detail, and it has a very RPG-based feel to it, with heroes exploring a forgotten dungeon-like temple to face and defeat the final boss at the end - all fans of D&D, Warhammer Quest and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay will be feeling familiar vibes when reading this one. While at neither end of the grimdark vs lighthearted spectrum and following a very familiar storyline both in the world of Warhammer and in other fantasy universes, when you're striving to write something original, it is sometimes easy to forget that in a contest where everyone else is trying to write something new and different, the most familiar storylines then become different in their own right, if that makes sense. Certainly after reading the last one where everything had different names and settings that I hadn't heard before, it was very nice to return to a tale where everything is so familiar with the environs I am used to when reading Warhammer fiction. Whoever wrote this certainly knows how to write specifically Lizardman-oriented stories well, and certainly knows how to avoid breaking any form of Warhammer canon! Also, as mentioned before, this one adheres to the contest theme especially well, as we have clear archetypes of magic and mundane working in perfect harmony to complete a quest, which gives this one bonus points in my books.
Story 8: I thought I was surprised enough to see one sequel to a previous contest entry, but boy, have we been blessed! This tale is another sequel, this time of @pendrake's "The Wisdom of Coberne and the Shrine of Toxl-Chokta", a spectacularly bizarre and quintessentially Warhammer story of the interactions between a Lizardmen city and a motley collection of human sailors under the influence of wine, wine and more wine, all the way back from last year's July-August contest. The sequel follows, unusually, a Chameleon Skink Terradon Rider who has evidently been acting as a courier disguised as wild Terradon to deliver additional supplies to his Temple City's priesthood, witnessing the Priests being haplessly compelled to copy down Coberne's mad ramblings in the hope that they were some sort of prophecy (and Tzlatoc thinks he has a hard time in his courier duties). After this, he is presented with his own priestly trappings, and seems to have himself been promoted to priest for his endeavours - a possible elevation from mundane to magical. Interestingly enough, whereas "The Coward's Weapon" resoundingly brings the story started by "Looking for Limza" to a close, this especially short sequel to "The Wisdom of Coberne" ends much more ambiguously (why has Tzlatoc been given all these vestments? What will he be using them for?), so we may well be treated to a third part in this saga. Again, because of the anonymity of this contest, whether @pendrake wrote this or somebody else sought to continue his original story is unclear, but I look forward to the next bonkers installment heartily!
Story 9: Our last story starts off with its own piece of lore written in Biblical style but telling of the deities, with unusually Mesoamerican-sounding names, and the creation myth of the Mortal Realm of Ghur. The story proper then reveals the exploits of a professor of the Collegiate Arcanum (which I'm very familiar with having just escaped from my three years' sentence at University) discussing the origins of this creation myth and the so-called Ghyrria Stela, attempting to uncover links between the myths and what he believes to be the established truth by likening the varied figures from the myth with the known gods in the Age of Sigmar, so as to derive the conclusion that the present inhabitants of Ghur righteously conquered the land and installed deities from the locals into their own pantheon to prevent revolts, like the Romans did when they invaded Celtic Britain. However, the Professor is oblivious to the presence of a Chameleon Skink in disguise as one of his human students, who then proceeds to leave the lecture and arrange the professor's death with the Slann he has been communicating with.
This one is interesting because it gives the Seraphon technology not yet explored by GW that more accurately reflect their Protoss-like advancements by the time of AoS, while also portraying them as almost gangster-like in that they plan to eliminate those who insult the Old Ones with their ignorance. I like this grimdark edge to Seraphon lore a lot, and would like to see more of this, both from our Short Story writers and GW themselves, as this could take the Lizardmen into a direction that turns them into a more neutral force that works separately from the Sigmarines. The time taken by the author to devise some Ghyrrian mythology and lace the story with parodies of our own world's views on ancient civilisations are also impressive feats.
Sorry for such late reviews, but I have been very busy for the last few months doing some software work for a company I worked with in two Internships, so I have had precious little time to work on these contest reviews, and have been reduced to typing them out into a saveable Notepad file to avoid losing the reviews already done between turnings-off of my computer (this was also the main reason I couldn't get my own story done and submitted on time).
All in all, once again some excellent stories - our authors are continually increasing the Lustria Online standard for short story quality (I bet there are no other Warhammer forums with such a plethora of talented authors among its ranks!). I can tell you now that my story was pretty different from all of these - I'll still try and finish it to Contest specifications and put it up in its own thread on the forum, so that you can see what my entry would have been had I been blessed with more time to finish it by the deadline.
Don't worry, it was well worth the wait as these were excellent reviews, with lot of food for thoughts!
Given time, i will certainly comment your comments.
We got about nine days left but it looks like we have a clear front runner that is extremely unlikely to be beaten.
I may call this early, but @Warden still needs to post his last four reviews, and we can always use more reviews from others as well. I'm sure the authors would appreciate the feedback.
Busy week(s), but looks like I know what I am doing this weekend!
You're a victim of your own success as reviewer
Four more reviews!!!
Story 6: Peals of Thunder
- Long-abandoned Khesian outpost? Never heard of this civilization before, at first glance I thought I read “Khemri” by mistake.
- wasn’t sure what “Ochre trees” meant at first (ocher means earthen tones, like orange or yellow?) but I found the description of the “archway” the kid found interesting. I was hoping it was something that looked vaguely like one of the Mayan arches from Chicanna but the more I read it sounded like a lot more Khorne was involved…
- Dang, sounds like a Lizard-creature after all? And it threw the two kids across the gourd? Amazed they survived after all!
- I liked the use of referring to Death as “Old Nash,” a word play on Nagash. Later alluded to the Court of Nagazhan too. Interesting.
- Overall story was interesting, but I wish the setup hadn’t just been two kids sneaking away from a village in the middle of a festival. Why was this tiny village so close to an ancient (evil-looking) gateway? Why had no one gone to explore the gateway before? Maybe steal some of the rocks for their houses, or just flat out destroy it when they see how evil looking it is? Especially if the magios came by to visit, they probably would have recognized it for what it was and gotten rid of it for the village. Or they could just move away.
- Also not sure why the Serphim didn’t just kill the boy… as much as that might sound harsh, why not just end the threat of an Unbound coming through the gateway by closing off the connection (the kids blood?). I feel like there was a setup here that could have been expounded upon more. Overall though I like the concepts this story talks about, lots to consider for future works.
Locations: Takes place just outside and back inside an unnamed simple farming village somewhere, most likely AOS on account of the Serephim name for the lizard-thing that shows up, maybe in the Realm of Beasts due to the orange trees. Also there is Ugrusta, sounds like a trading city, make glass there. And an ancient long-lost civ Khesia (adj: Khesian)
Brohnibad- adventurous boy
Nihenya- Straw-haired girl
The Thing- must be a Lizardmen, probably a saurus? Referred to as Serphim by the elf-doctor-magio.
Some villagers- Tigruk, Magister Falz, and Fat Shelly
Lefeifi- sapphire-robed magio who passed through the village, healing magic. Not sure why the Magister Falz would specifically refer to him as “peak-eared,” so probably an elf (aelf).
Story 7: Two Strengths
- Skink priest being tailed by his saurus buddy (manservant? Slave? Butler? Probably just the bodyguard actually). One thing that immediately bothered me was the way the Saurus spoke: he spoke more like what I would have envisioned the kroxigors speak like. Completely my opinion and preference of course. Too childish for my tastes, too simple, not what I normally prefer for saurus. As much as the saurus do have simpler minds than say a skink, they are also genetically engineered extermination machines, pre-programed with how to conduct warfare. That is not simple, just highly specific; they might speak in short sentances, but that would sound more curt and/or gruff. And the skink talked down to him a bit; but it was consistent for the story itself .
- That being said, interesting mission. Not sure where they were going so near a temple-city that seemed to have some dark magic/traps that would fool a skink priest, but there seemed to be some shadow weapons that the skink priest was not prepared for. Good think the saurus was there to push him out of danger; not really sure how the skink possibly thought he could have done it by himself.
- Enjoyed the descriptions in this story, but I wish we had learned more about the temple and what the skink was trying to do in the temple when they arrived. Seems to me they just walked into the temple, fought the shadow-spears, cast some protective spells and defeated the sphere (dying with a villainous cackle), followed by the saurus taking a nap.
Not sure if AOS or old WHF setting; could probably be either, probably WHF because of the jungles near the temple? Also horned rat temple.
Aeheti- Skink Priest, don’t know if there is deeper meaning behind this name or not. Wears a feather cloak.
Gu- saurus guardian of the skink priest. Super simple minded.
Story 8: Tzlatoc and the Gate WARDEN
- No of course not, I am totally not biased to a story with Warden in the title
- Waterfall gate? Cool, immediately makes me think of this. Just really liked the imagery, wish there was more!
- Also a chameleon skink riding a terradon? Sounds like a cool combination… now just need to figure out a way to make that terradon invisible too…
- I liked the short description of trading goods, I have made lists in the past of what stuff Lizardmen would trade with each other so I can appreciate this list. Beetles, mites; I bet Lizardmen grow bugs and termites as delacacies, kind of like how humans grow plants (or even fish in fish hatcheries) for food. I had an idea for “mosquito patties” at one point for my Saurus-Samurai fluff, the idea was based on rice patties, just with skinks harvesting maggots and mosquitoes from them instead of actual rice.
- I liked the description of skink scribes at work. Nice use of “bark-sheets,” especially since that is what the ancient Mesoamericans like the Mayans used to write stuff down. Not sure who the mysterious person they were copying stuff down from just yet though…
- Slann shows up, drops some magical artifacts on the unlikely Tzlatoc, not sure exactly why, ut it sounds like he got a bearded scarf now. And some gold trinkets and stuff.
- Story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I still wish I had a bit more to go on. The Story was titled "and the Gate Warden," but we didn’t see much about the gate warden at all except to bookend the story . I think the title should have been just Tzlatoc the Chameleon Skink Trader-of-Goods or something. Not sure why he got so lucky, maybe he won the Lizard-Lottery? And not sure what his new secret mission is either, hope to learn more!
- Small writing critiques- At the start of the work, the author uses parenthesis to denote Tzlatoc thinking about a “saurus with a sense of humor”; missed that on my first read. I think it would have been easier if the author had put the phrase in italics instead of parenthesis. Also at one point the author used the phrase “at an alarming rate” two sentences in a row; granted it got the emphasis across but having an alternate word choice for the second sentence would have helped.
Seems like WHF to me. There is a Grey Temple- location where there are Reflecting Pools for where Skink Priests can Reflect about the Reflections they see in the Reflecting Pools
Gate Warden Kothe’teq- lord of apostrophes and coolest character in the story even though he didn't get much of a role or any of the cool toys
Tzlatoc- chameleon skink, also a chameleon skink?!! Haven’t seen that combo before, seems to be the actual protagonist and is given a secret mission by the slann.
Chothan-Tzlatoc’s Terradon mount
The Under-Priest- sounds like a lower-ranking Skink Priest of the Grey Temple, bought some mites, reeds, grubs, and beetles.
The Slann- gives up some magic artifacts for the hero in question
Story 9: Mythology of Ghur
- Mesoamerican names in some Biblical-style intro, definitely up my alley. No clue what @Killer Angel is talking about, but obviously the writer of this story is really smart
- Story starts with some good mythology which the magical professor in AOS Hogwarts decides to interpret. Not sure how he is able to translate all the stuff he has come across given the (medieval) technology he has at his disposal. Also touches upon a bunch of older civilizations like Story #6 that I would love to see fleshed out more (Angovals, Traxons).
- Not much happens in the middle of the story (when the professor is talking) other than describing what he has found out, where he describes the myths related in the writings in terms of his own establish mythology. Also talks about ancient practices of human sacrifices, apparently all the vogue long ago, that no longer happen anymore. Per the previous texts the story seemed to imply that the sacrifices of blood were made in order to keep the not-quite-dead Beast sleeping and not awaken? Maybe the ancients were on to something, because the professor discounts the sacrifices and basically the whole tale as a completely mythological creation story that has no relevance to the real, modern world…
- …which is turned on its head slightly when the chameleon skink hidden in the crowd validates much of the nutty professor’s translations. Would liked to have seen what actually happens next, some actual conflict (like the professor translating the works, proving that they are just myths, then finding out they were actually true) or something like that. Didn’t quite get his comeuppance yet.
Definitely AOS due to the mention of Realm of Ghur in the first sentence, specifically a place called Ghyrria
Ometotl the Bright- Celestial God; apparently supposed to be Sigmar
Gukumatz- the Feathered Serpent, corresponds to Dracothion. And possibly Sotek?
Cipatcli- the Great Devourer Beast, the Living Avalanche- evil moster-beastie named Draktoa that Sigmar beats up
Hwatzili-Patzli the Green- the Warring God; Gorkamorka trapped in the Avalanche
Professor Jourdain of the Collegiate Arcanum- teaches a class in Old Ghyrrian mythology
Chameleon in Disguise- hidden as one of the students. Obviously an assassin
Lord Priest- skink priest, the big boss the Chameleon reports too
Again, overall some really great stories. Enjoyed reading them, thanks for sharing!
I'm not 100% sure either. I added a new feature to the Lustriapedia fairly recently. Age of Sigmar stories are marked in turquoise and settings that are not Age of Sigmar or Warhammer Fantasy are magenta, like so.
(6) April-May 2016: Theme was "Anti-Heroes." You can read all fifteen entries and author identieis here. There were five first time entrants. (5, 8) (11, 13)
I think that stories 6 and 9 are only the Age of Sigmar stories this contest and there were no alternate setting this contest. I'm not sure though. If I'm wrong, the author can send me a private message or announce his/her original intention at the end of the contest and I will amend the Lustriapedia entry.
People are welcome and encouraged to keep up commentary but I'm closing the poll and calling the election.
The winner by a wide margin "A Friend for Hard Times" written by Killer Angel. Congratuations to him and thank you to all nine writers for nine excellent pieces!
Story One: "The Polar Warpgate" by @DeathBringer125
Story Two: "Kroxigor's Magic" by @Paradoxical Pacifism
Story Three: "A Friend for Hard Times" by @Killer Angel
Story Four: "Got Your Gear" by @WhenTheSkinksMarch
Story Five: "The Coward's Weapon" by @thedarkfourth
Story Six: "Peals of Thunder" by @CalebTheNomad
Story Seven: "Two Strengths" by @Y'ttar Scaletail
Story Eight" "Tzlatoc and the Gate Warden" by @pendrake
Story Nine: "The Mythology of Ghur" by @Warden
Special thanks to @CalebTheNomad for a very strong first entry!
Congrats to @Killer Angel with his splendid story!
And well done all around.
Let's do the victory dance!
Big congrats to the lizard-angel-saviour-who-was-foretold for a great story. We like to think that we are all about DEATH and GORE in Lustria, but the truth is that a sweet little puppy is probably the surest way to our hearts.
Considering I was on 1 vote for quite a while, I'm pleased with my very distant second place. I'm astonished and impressed that a couple of you noticed it was a sequel. Speaking of which, shout out to @pendrake for an enticing sequel to one of my all-time favourite comp entries, THE WISDOM OF COBERNE AND THE SHRINE OF TOXL-CHOKTA! The gods demand moar from the tzlatoc-verse, preferably faster than one story per year!
So about my story lol. I think people read way to deeply into it way beyond what was intended lol. That being said it does improve the story a bit lol. Also Tepok was indeed Tepok however there was a reason to have Zlat-choa investigate. Although the Slann would have been more then capable of Zlat-choa had not investigated he would not have been there when the demon appeared and thus the Slann would have been wiped out. Also the demon chant isn't any actual words, atleast not that I'm aware of. I just made up some neat words that sound Tzeentchy