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Fiction Killer Angel's short stories

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Killer Angel, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    inspired by the similar thread by @Scalenex, I've decided to collect here all the stories written by me for the L-O comp.

    I'll start with my first one

    The Coward (April-May 2016, theme was "Anti-Heroes" and I took the fifth place on 15)

    “You are a coward! You bring shame upon our blood! Shame upon me!”

    The Inner Hall was lit by just some torches; the flickering light was casting bizarre shadows and reflections on the ancient banners and the adorned shields, decorating the massive stone walls. It was dark and cold… appropriate for the time being. Thordek Connarsson was used to his brother’s tirades. Nonetheless, they hurt him just the same.

    “The Granite Barrier was not salvageable. There wasn’t only clanrats, it was already filled with jezzails and a couple of Warp Cannons. What should I have done?”

    “For a starter, obey my orders! The Barrier is of vital importance! We cannot afford its loss…”

    “Well, we cannot either afford the loss of one quarter of our troops, charging into a deathtrap. We don’t have warriors to spare, and they would have all died in the assault…”

    “Or you would have died, leading the combat, as a Thane should do! And the Irondrakes would have charged on the breach, breaking their line of defense, to save the Clan’s banner and avenge your death!”

    “Sweet Grimnir… It has already been epic to bring them back into our lines. The rats were prepared, and they were waiting for us. It. Was. A. Trap. They were already closing the way behind us, and we had to break through rat ogres. All I did it was to bring back our troops for the battles to come.”

    “Ah, you’re so a heroic fighter, Thordek! Don’t tell me your fairytales, you’d just run to save your worthless life, and all you brought back, are dwarfs with broken pride. They know far better than you that they failed their duty toward their liege. Are you satisfied? Do you think they are grateful that they are not feasting in Grungni’s Halls? Do I really need to remind you of the Chasm’s Keep?”

    No, it was not necessary. It was still an open wound. The Keep was swarmed by rats… wave after wave, an endless sea of furry scum. They were drowning in slaves. After three days, without a single hour of rest, when they run out of gunpowder, Thordek gave the withdrawal order, leading personally the young warriors, dwarfs with beards too short to die so soon. Those lads needed to return safe home.

    The longbeards simply gave him a stern look, and stood behind the walls, without following. The sound of the longbeards’ warhorn haunted them for miles, and then there was silence. The warriors didn’t say a word… but within a month, they all took the Slayers’ tattoos and threw themselves in the carnage of the battle that cost them the Southern Outposts.

    Thordek lowered his head. This act of apparent submission, seemed to appease the Lord.

    “Listen, Thordek, the life of our Clan is at stake, I cannot take the field all by myself… I need you, but the warriors start calling you names. They still follow you out of respect for me and because they’re all honorable dwarfs, but their loyalty won’t last for long…”

    Thordek raised his eyes. He knew this wasn’t the right moment, but time was running short.

    We won’t last for long! Blame me if this pleases you, but we must face the truth. We have no more lines of defense, and the mines are gone for good. There’s nothing left between the rats and this place. We’re talking about our families, about our bloodlines. We cannot stop them.”

    Lord Alerick Connarsson, Third of his Name, Bearer of the WeepingWidow Greataxe and with-so-many-other-titles-that-a-beardling-would-become-a-ranger-before-hearing-them-all, took a deep and dangerous breath.

    “What are you suggesting, Thordek? Do you have some heroic idea?”

    “We need help. We have plenty of gold, and magical objects that we cannot use. There are wood elves in the northern forest, we could aid each other. Probably we won’t even have to give ‘em the gold, they are in our same boat and they know it. We cannot do it all by ourselves, Alerick, we need allies.”

    Alerick clenched his fist, and gave a hammering blow to his desk.

    “We had allies! Then they took our gold, and our beards, and then King Gotrek gave ‘em our steel! We won’t bow to some pointy ears, only because you fear to die as a dwarf. You won’t humiliate my people. High King Thorgrim would spit on this nonsense.”

    “Probably yes, but King Thorgrim is no more, the Book of Grudges is no more, and even our land is no more… we’re stuck in this chunk of our old empire, floating into the void. There are no other Clans to help us, there are only we, the elves and the endless rats. I would like to have other options, but our duty is to protect our people… “

    Alerick’s face was hard as a stone. Thordek knew he was losing also this battle.

    “Please cousin, help me! Tell something!”

    A third dwarf had remained on the sidelines. He shared many of Thordek’s worries, but when he spoke, he sealed Thordek’s last hope.

    “Here I am as the Clan’s Runelord, Thordek, not as your cousin. I appreciate your concerns, but, as you say, we must protect our people: we must protect their honor. If you don’t live by traditions, then what’s the point of living at all? Our Lord’s will is crystal clear, and I’m fully with him.”

    “This meeting ends here. I suggest to go back to your duty.”


    The final assault was beginning.

    For almost a week, the rats tested their defenses all across the main stonewall, and they knew there wasn’t an unbreakable opposition. Rats were dying in spades, but they had reserves, while each fallen dwarf was irreplaceable.

    It was a sunny day, the roaring of organ cannons reverberated gracefully against the rocky cliffs and the musicians were giving the right mood to the army… but the lines were thin, and their faces were tired.

    That morning, his brother came to see him, bringing a large object, draped in blue velvet with golden embroidery. Thordek knew it was his death sentence.

    “This is our Oathstone. I’m giving it to you. You are going to join the Ironbreakers and you will guard the entrance of the fortress: if our lines crumble, you will be our last line of defense, all the remaining troops will rally around you. If this happens, I will probably be already dead. Don’t fail me.”

    And so he was standing there, within the ranks of the prideful Ironbreakers, nailed to that little personal pedestal, which at least was giving him the advantage of a good sight of the battlefield. Squeaks of pain sounded every time an engraved stone landed in the packed hordes.

    Then it happened. With a rumble, half of the eastern tower collapsed on itself, probably undermined by some tunnel work. Loads of stormvermin, flanked by a couple of Abominations, erupted within the ruins, murdering the remnants of the quarrelers in a matter of seconds.

    The King’s banner moved toward the breach, Thordek heard his brother war cry, echoed by his personal Hammerers’ guard following closely as they joined the fray. For some long minutes, it seemed the vermin would be repelled, then a dozen of stormfiends emerged, and the royal banner fell.

    The beating drums were ordering to fall back and reform, and the secondary cannon batteries were already aimed at point-blank. And Thordek knew he would have failed his brother.

    “Ironbeard. To me!”

    The massive warrior suddenly came to Thordek’s side “Yes, my lord?”.

    Thordek stepped down from the Stone. “We need reinforcements. I entrust you the Oathstone, form the Steel Wall and don’t let them pass.”

    Bewildered eyes looked at him “Sir, you aren’t supposed to…”

    “I’ll be back as soon as possible.”.

    Thordek left the formation, hurrying toward the inside of the mountain. But he had the time to hear someone say “Let him go. We’ll die better without Thordek Cowardisson”.

    Thordek proceeded toward the inner sanctum of the fortress.

    “Of course they despise me, I’m fleeing. I lied to them and they know it. Well, if this is my burden, then be it… I’ve always done the best for my Clan, I’ve always tried to save the lives of the dwarfs under my command. What do you think? That dying on the walls will save the lives of your beloved ones? There are almost a thousand women and beardlings in the Great Hall, all waiting for their fate. To die in battle is just the easy way out, you don’t hear their screams, when the rats will find ‘em!”

    Thordek’s plan was simple. He needed to save that thousand dwarfs, the future of the Clan. Firstly, he would have took all the unused magical gear that was lying in the Inner Vault. Dwarfs were too proud to use items without dwarves runes carved on them, but elves are not so choosy. Then he would have guided the women and children toward the elves, through the northern tunnel (since there were no reports about skaven in that one), collapsing the tunnel behind them. Within two days, he would have find the rangers and the border garrison… this way, he would bring also more than 50 fighters and couple of cannons with him. More important than fighting, the rangers could help forage given all the mouths he had to feed.

    The Inner Vault was huge. Thordek took an Arabyan Carpet, crafted by human wizards and therefore unusable by proper Dwarfs. Next he began to amass all the items he could find, flying from one chest to the other.

    The echo of a distant explosion stopped his search. A Rune of Immolation… time was running short.

    It was at that point that something leapt on the carpet, and a blade tried to cut its way right into Thordek’s kidney, just to be stopped by the gromril armor.

    Thordek turned to face his assailant… a couple of malevolent little eyes, a pointed snout and a fierce grin, bordered by a black cape, an Eshin Assassin.

    The poisoned blade tried to find an opening between the full plate joints, so Thordek closed the gap, clenching his armored fist upon the skaven’s wrist. A satisfying noise of broken bones.

    The grappled skaven tried to bite away Thodeks face, without much luck; the Thane grabbed firmly the head’s pelt, turning it away… and then he dropped his axe on the neck.

    The decapitated assassin fell upon the treasury, spilling blood all across the carpet; disgusted, Thordek kicked the body out and gained some height, keeping his eyes on his kill. “It’s just a drop in the bucket, but you at least, you won’t feast this night.”

    At that point, he noticed the glowing light.

    It was coming from something in the stack of the magical items; it was a red light, almost purple. The source was a strange, golden plaque, with bizarre symbols engraved on it; looking closely, the pattern resembled a sort of pyramid, with huge snakes around it. The snakes' red ruby eyes, veiled by skaven’s blood, were pulsing, in an almost hypnotic way… and the Plaque itself was absorbing the blood. Thordek was feeling a strange sense of hunger, and cannot help but to add some drop of blood, from the severed head. The pulsing become brighter.

    Something hisssssed, breaking the enchantment.

    Thordek raised his eyes; he was surrounded by many strange, blue lizard-things, with a red crest, and they were all threatening him with blowpipes.

    In the middle of the hall, a sort of.. portal? was floating mid-air, a white, luminescent oval, growing larger each second. From it, a dozen warbeasts were coming, followed by other lizard-things with spears, prodding them forward, when they tried to stop to smell the dead rat.

    “This cannot be… I know what this things are. These should be the Lizardmen, I remember them from my Grandfater’s stories, but… but…”.

    The lizards with blowpipes didn’t care about his confusion and remained hostile; for once, Thordek didn’t knew what to do.

    Then the portal become even larger, and something impossible emerged from it. It was a huge beast, bigger than a steamtank, with a massive, three horned armored head. Upon it, there was a sort of palanquin, with a large banner, made entirely of… fur? “it isn’t simple fur”, realized Thordek “those are skaven pelts”.

    On the palanquin, there was another red-crested lizard, stouter than the other ones, armed with a serpentine blade, and with a golden plaque on its chest, very similar to the one that was at Thordek’s feet… and that now was levitating, at a gesture of the lizardchief’s hand, floating toward him.

    He finally took the plaque, caressing it, then he looked at Thordek, which was still holding the severed head of the skaven. The lizardchief hissed something, and the blowpipers relaxed, diverting their attention from Thordek.

    The whole lizardmen army started moving across the Inner Vault and into the tunnel, toward the sounds of battle. Other lizardmen were emerging from the portal: another three-horned beast with a ballista on it, then more red-crested little ones, accompanied by large crocodile-like beings; a seemingly endless river of troops.

    And Thordek realized that the Ironbreakers were in its path.

    “For the Ancestors, someone must tell them that reinforcements are arriving!”

    He moved the carpet at full speed, heading for the light of the day.

    As you should have noted, english is not my first language, and The Coward is the first story I’ve ever written in english. I’m sufficiently satisfied with the final result, but I know it can be improved.
    I knew it would have been hard to win (and I didn’t expect it), but my objective was to end in the upper half, both for personal pride, and because it would have meant that my work succeeded in entertaining you, which is the real satisfaction. Mission accomplished!

    The idea behind:

    The core of the idea (dwarfs under siege by skaven, and help from lizardmen tnx to an ancient artifact of Sotek) came to my mind for the previous competition “continuity and change”. It would have been a confrontation between a father and a son, traditionalism (we fight and die our way) vs evolution (let’s try to use the devices in our treasure).
    The idea was too vague, and there was not a believable way for the dwarfs to know how to willingly activate a portal by sacrificing to Sotek, which was the premise, and I wasn’t satisfied with any of the solutions that came to my mind. So, I didn’t developed anything.
    But anti-heroes is a much different thing, and you can do something without knowing what you are doing, and you can open a portal by mere luck (destiny?).
    So, characters changed, the story changed, and pieces were falling in the right places, creating the picture.

    Time of the setting:

    Dwarfs isolated, with lizardmen coming through a portal, would be possible in AoS; but with AoS Seraphon are summoned by Slanns, and there’s no Sotek, and no Tehenhauin.
    So, I mixed 8th and AoS, setting the story immediately after the End of Times, after maybe a couple of centuries, mixing the old world (the dwarfs’ runes, the magic items, Tehenhauin) and the beginning of Age of Sigmar (The old world shattered in fragments of reality floating into the warp, before the passing of millennia, Sigmar’s return and the rising of the Seraphon).
    It’s more 8th or AoS? It doesn’t really matter, the reader chooses the setting he likes more to imagine the story.
    Travelling toward the stars in their ships, there are still living lizardmen, but now they are becoming seraphons, so they move through space with magical means. Did the Slaans left behind some items (as the plaque) to open portals and still wage war with their eternal enemies? Was the plaque a sacred object, lost millenia ago, still able to call the faithful servants of Sotek to battle? It’s deliberately left vague, so the reader can choose what likes more.

    The Anti-hero:

    The way I see, Thordek fits the anti-hero theme, because he tries to do the best things for his people, and he somehow succeeds, but the way he acts is totally different from what is the “right way” for all the other dwarfs. The more he tries, the more he falls down at his people’s eyes. There’s no redemption for him: even now, he will be certainly blamed to have summoned the lizardmen (such inappropriate act! And those fire breathing beasts pooped in the Hall of the Ancestors!)… and he will be lucky if the dwarfs won’t cast him away for leaving the Oathstone.

    The style:

    My stories usually born through pictures or phrases, that appear in my mind, and the work is to connect them in a solid pattern. The Coward is no different, I’ve got some vivid images, as the protagonist upon the Oathstone, watching the impending doom; the portal with the skinks’ army emerging from it; some part of the initial dialogue, and so on. A growing process.
    The story would have been divided in two parts: the first half, that needs to set the stage for the second part, with the final assault, the end of all hopes of resistance, and the twist with the lizzies’ arrival. There were many informations that must be given in the first half:

    a) the desperate situation of the dwarfs, their low but continuous loss of terrain
    b) establish the character of Thordek, his personality, his motivations
    c) show the way the other dwarfs see him and his actions, thus setting his anti-heroic figure
    d) give some cool image (the fall of the Chasm’s Keep)
    e) introduce the “wood elves idea” to beforehand justify Tordek’s fleeing during the combat and his picking of the magical items (and the McGuffin), so the second part of the story will flow without interruptions and in a believable way.

    a lot of things, and all of this, must be done quickly, because it’s the premise to the final showdown, and so it should possibly cover no more than an half of the story. I opted for the dialogue between brothers, to underline the clash between the two points of view, and because it was possible to give lot of infos, and was also possible to optimize the showing of the Chasm’s Keep disaster, with the flashback.
    Sadly, I’m aware that (as commented by some corrupted dwarf) conflicts must not be debated, and dialogues can be boring. In the first draft, the dialogue part was longer, and during my personal review it was cut down by a third, before submitting it to Scalenex, but probably it could have been shorter, telling the same concepts.
    The second part was much easier. In my mind it flowed like a movie, so all I needed was simply to write it and show it to you.
    The only critical passage, was the summoning, the physical act to put the skaven’s blood upon Sotek’s Sacred Plaque. The first hypothesis (Thordek with skaven’s blood on his hands that pick the plaque) was highly unsatisfying, also because there was the problem of how to put the blood on Thordek’s hands. Luckily, Eshin assassins exist, and their job is also to sneak into castles to assassinate lords, so… at that point, the pieces fell into position by themselves: it was perfect, the decapitated skaven would have spilled a nice amount of blood directly on the sacrificial plaque, activating its power and (probably) sending a signal to someone that would have opened the portal to investigate who was doing a sacrifice (Sotek’s beacon FTW!). And Thordek still holdin the skaven head was a natural thing, that leads to a part that I really like.
    Usually lizardmen are not nice to the ones that have their most valuable ancient artifacts. Servants of Sotek are even less inclined to show mercy. But who knows? Maybe the High Priest was amused by the fact that the “thief” was showing the proper respect to the plaque, sacrificing to Sotek. Or maybe the device was deliberately left behind by Tehenhauin for this scope. The real reason doesn’t matter: it’s believable in a matter of ways, and that’s why I like it.

    Last edited: Jul 29, 2018
  2. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The Weight of our Actions (July-August 2016, theme was "Conjunction and/or Choices" and I took the fifth place on 9)

    The golden artefact was in the Lord’s Treasury. The priests of the pyramid-temple were prepared to protect it for countless ages.

    The first part of the expedition went well, they entered enemy’s land without finding any real opposition, apart the excessive dryness of the heat in that sea of sand. The negligible defenses of the old city were easily crushed by lizardmen forces, and they took the temple near the strange, smooth sided pyramid.
    Then, things went wrong. Fragile skeleton warriors started to emerge from the sand itself, an easy prey for the seasoned saurus fighters, but there were more, and more, and more… numerous as skaven, except they didn’t break when burned by salamanders.
    They were annoying, but things were still manageable, until the huge decorative statues, revealed themselves as something different.
    In the chaos of the city combat, the frontline shattered. At a certain point, Qor-Tec heard the familiar roar of Loq-Loq’s carnosaur… but, almost at the other end of the battleline, he also saw for a brief moment Tepozi’s banner. Qor-Tec desire to join the fray at Loq-Loq’s side was almost a physical need, but surely the skink priest Tepozi would have been near his master, Lord Tlaxli… growling in frustration, Qor-Tec went toward the banner.

    So, their forces ended torned in two, and Qor-Tec found himself in the wrong part of the army; Lord Tlaxli was with the Oldblood Loq-Loq, and so their temporary commander was the skink priest Tepozi-Tzin. Qor-Tec was fine with Tepozi, but was worried by the absence of Loq-Loq; the Oldblood could keep in line Qor-Tec’s presumptuous rivals. And they were in open range… not a single tree, not a shade for the skink scouts to hide in, while the mounted vanguards of the enemy would have spotted the lizardmen from miles away. No, it wouldn’t have been an easy walk…

    Amon-Rha was standing near the royal sphinx, peering the two diverging clouds of dust.
    The High Priest Thutmek was bowing at his side. “The frog-god is in the western army, My King. But we don’t know where the stolen treasure is.”
    “No one steals my possessions. I’ll pursue the frog, probably the Plaque is there; but in case it’s a trap, you will take a part of the army, following the eastern fugitives”.
    “My King… there lies the Kinslayer. What should I do with him?”
    Amon-Rha pondered the choices. Thutmek would have needed some help? Can a traitor ever be trusted again?
    “Send him a message. His assistance will be rewarded”.
    "Wouldn't the traitor take the treasure for himself?"
    The king replied "It has no value to him, and I have other things he desires. Let him know that his outcast status could be softened."

    It began as a dusty cloud on the horizon, a rapidly approaching cloud. The sandstorm hit them faster than a Lustrian hurricane. Qor-Tec stood still against the raging sands, the nictitating membranes protecting the pupils. Not that it was of any help, they couldn’t see anything one yard away.
    Then, the storm calmed down, forced to kneel before Tepozi’s magic, revealing the approaching enemy units. The wardrums dictated the defensive formation, and the disciplined warriors moved into positions strategically optimized by millennia of warfare.
    Qor-Tec was confident; all the saurus near him were spawned from the pool that gave him birth centuries ago, they all shared the same genetic memory and the wisdom of the ancient Oldbloods, previously buried in that same pool. There wasn’t the same link of true spawned brothers, but the tie was strong and they would have followed him everywhere.
    The pressure on the lizardmen lines was constantly increasing. Tepozi’s lightning bolts were opening large holes through the attackers, but the bows of the dead were taking a heavy toll, and almost all the saurus warriors were stuck in combat with huge units of skeletons.
    The few chariots were trying to surround them, but the Cold One cavalry, leaded by Itza-Uax, was able to keep them away… Itza-Uax lured the chariots where he wanted, and then he acted: the Cold Ones crushed the first line of chariots, then the second one, leaving nothing between the Cold Ones and the screaming catapults… at that point, a dune of sand bursted, revealing some bizarre huge snakes, that charged Itza-Uax on the flank. Even at a distance, Qor-Tec saw the death of the Scarvet, decapitated by a masterful stroke, and his Cold One stabbed by the fangs of the snake-thing. The rest of the cavalry didn’t last much longer.
    Qor-Tec realized that things were going bad, when he saw also the unit of Tepozi was fighting. The kroxigors were dealing tremendous damage against their counterpart, some strange large beings with animal heads, but those cursed things were coming back from their apparent death, while the kroxigors didn’t…
    Qor-Tec’s unit doubled the efforts against the skeletons they were facing, finally wiping them away, but it was too late. To Qor-Tec’s horror, after the fall of the last kroxigor, Tepozi’s unit broke, with the few survivors running away.

    Tepozi was fleeing, and he knew he was short on options. There was another skink cohort ready to be joined, but with no hero, or kroxigors, and then there was a large group of warriors led by a Scarvet: a strong unit but made by saurus; the sense of impending doom was strong.
    And Tepozi moved alone, toward Qor-Tec.

    “No, it’s a mistake, he cannot find shelter within my unit…” Qor-Tec knew it was wrong, saurus are not fit to guard skink priests. So Qor-Tek stood immobile, without knowing what to do, while Tepozi came closer.
    But it wouldn’t have been necessary to take decisions. An arrow pierced Tepozi’s throat, and the priest fell to the ground, spurting blood. Qor-Tec went to his side, already knowing that the fate of his commander was sealed.
    Tepozi was holding an engraved gold tablet. Qor-Tec recognized the mark of the Old Ones, and he knew that the item should be brought to Lord Tlaxli, but it was also a sacred object, and he was not supposed to touch it. Tepozi’s last breath, exhaled “takeee…”, and so Qor-Tec took the tablet from the dead hands of the priest, hiding it within his armor.
    Then arrows fell like hail upon Qor-Tec’s unit.

    The watcher-in-the-sand, was lurking near Tepozi, ready to strike, but when the saurus took the shiny object from the dead skink, he drew back his arm. The big lizard had not gone to the smaller one's aid - he had gone to rob him and leave him to die. “Interesting… maybe almost interesting as Amon-Rha promises”, he thought. “There is no rush to recover the treasure. I will watch this one a little longer”.

    In the end, they made it. But losses were staggering… and, as if the loss of Tepozi and Itza-Uax wasn’t enough, Qor-Tec’s companion were all dead; only the champion Gorak survived the slaughter, and now he was silently following Qor-Tec with lifeless eyes. Qor-Tec knew that sensation of void and loss, but now there was a more urgent matter: the tablet was not a burden he could bring by himself.
    Tehechi was with his troops. His squadron suffered minimal losses and was one of the most reliable unit still remaining, and so, not surprisingly, Tetechi was acting as if he was the appointed general.
    Qor-Tec cursed his weakness. To ask for help, would have put ahead his direct rival for the Oldblood rank, and without the promotion, no chance for Qor-Tec to be buried in his old spawning pool. No inheritance of memories, his name would be forgotten.
    But Qor-Tec needed help, so he swallowed his pride, and approached the Scarvet. “Tehechi, I need to talk about an important thing…”

    Tetechi saw a defeated Qor-Tec approaching him. The chance to humiliate the rival was a strong temptation, but he also knew that the army was in danger, and that their forces were relying on the two survived veterans… When Qor-Tec talked, Tetechi opted to exploit his advantage.
    “I don’t need to talk. Your scars are the mark of defeats. You lead warriors to death, my warriors are still alive. I will be the next general, and my first order is: stay away from me”.
    And so Qor-Tec obeyed. There was only a thing he could do.
    “Gorak, I need your help…”
    Qor-Tec didn’t speak for long, but at the end, Gorak’s eyes were alive again.

    The skeletons didn’t even bother to hide their moves. There was only one way home for the lizardmen, and it was through the pass of rocky cliffs placed at the border of the desert sea.
    The undead army was there, waiting for them.
    Tetechi planned the assault, with his troops in the center, shielded by less reliable units; salamanders and all the remaining shooting on the wings, to protect the center from side attacks. If it worked, Tetechi and his troops would have probably been the only ones returning into the jungle.
    But Qor-Tec knew the enemy had different plans and so, when the charge begun, he and Gorak left the army, slipping between the skeleton horsemen, too occupied in pincushioning larger targets to lose time chasing a couple of fugitives.

    The watcher-in-the-sand was satisfied. “the commander escapes with his stolen prize, and the soldiers die. Such a beautiful, egoistic behavior…it recalls my youth. I think that Amon-Rha’s interests can wait a little”.

    Qor-Tec and Gorak were climbing the rocky slope. From their high point of view, it was easy to see that the army was dying, shredded by magical vortexes. A large group of skeletons halted Tetechi, and sallies were probably already dead, as the only visible flames were breathed by a large lionesque monster.
    The two last survivors of the lizardmen’s force, moved out of sight, and proceeded toward South.
    After a couple of hours, the breeze was carrying the first, weak jungle smells. Smells of life, and a sort of victory, ‘cause armies can be spawned again, but a Slann’s artefact cannot.
    “We are chased”.
    Qor-Tec turned. Two large scorpions were tracking their footprints on the sand, it was only a matter of minutes before they would have to fight.
    “We’ll wait for them. Set an ambush”.
    “No, commander. You go. Your duty is to bring back the tablet, mine is to fight”.
    Qor-Tec’s pond was murky. Strong emotions were running through him, something he’d never experienced before. “I don’t want to”.
    “You must obey Tepozi’s will. It’s the only way.”
    And so Qor-Tec ran away.

    The watcher-in-the-sand was excited. “You’re even leaving your friend to die for you. This is better than I could ever hope… I really fear that I shall disappoint the King’s expectations”.
    When the scorpions finished with Gorak, they started to follow the trace of the last saurus. But someone had deleted them.

    Qor-Tec was tired, but now the horizon was a green line… and much nearer, there was the Slann’s army, successfully escaped to the deadly sands. And a small group of temple guards was heading toward him!
    The Scarvet’s relief was immense.
    Then his foot sank into a soft hole. A swarm of scarabs emerged at blinding speed from the hole, enveloping the feet and the leg, starting to chew his flesh despite the scaly skin.
    Qor-Tec tried to wipe them off, but more scarabs came out, from all around; they were covering him almost entirely now, and the black mass was also building a strange heap just in front of Qor-Tec, forming a sort of man-sized silhouette, enclosing a skull-faced mask. Scarabs were devouring him alive, entering the ears, but leaving intact his eyes, so he can see that the black and blue mass was forming also a pseudopod, which was holding a sacrificial dagger…

    When the temple guards arrived, there were only dry bones, and a golden plaque.

    Qor-Tec woke up, feeling really strange.
    He was in a cave, a sort of darkened shrine with huge statues, very similar to the ones that fought with Tepozi’s unit. The only light was given by blue auras cast by evanescent spirits, some sort of will ‘o wisp, floating around the cave. Qor-Tec realized that he was a will ‘o wisp, too, attached with a thin silver cord to a chunk of bloodied flesh: his still beating heart, lying on a plate.
    A large being, with a black jackal’s head, was in front of a set of scales, listening to the figure standing in front of him; Qor-Tec recognized his killer, the skull-faced scarab-man.
    “Oh mighty Usirian, it must be him! I followed him closely, he betrayed his liege, his army and his friends, all for the lust of gold and magical power. His soul is black as mine, and it will free me from my torment!”.
    “So you say, Apophas, my little prince of Scarabs, so you say… but only the Weighing of the Heart will tell us the Truth”
    There was a hint of amusement in the jackals’ tone? Qor-Tec was not sure, he could not take away his senses from the God that was putting his heart on one plate, while on the other one there was a black, dessicated lump of flesh.
    The scales was probably broken, because his heart was clearly heavier than its counterpart, and yet his plate was standing high, while the dessicated heart dropped as much as it could.
    “You are still mine, Apophas.”
    Skull-face was shocked “it’s not possible! I was sure it was him!”
    “Apparently not, my poor prince of Scarabs. You have chosen… poorly. The actions of this soul were guided by something better than what you were thinking.”
    For the first time, the eyes of the jackal pointed on Qor-Tec, sending shivers into his mind.
    “And this soul is not for my Kingdom. Something else claims his spirit, and it’s time to let it go”.

    The honor ceremony was almost ended. Qor-Tec’s bones were ready to be dissolved in his old spawning pool, to transmit his memories and courage to the new generation of warriors. Lord Tlaxli was pleased.

    The golden artefact was in the Lord’s Treasury. The priests of the pyramid-temple were prepared to protect it for countless ages.

    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  3. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The Butterfly Effect (Oct-nov 2016, theme was "Freedom and Slavery" and I took the fourth place on 12)

    Chichimek was spawned to serve.

    Many skinks live lives filled with wonders and personal satisfactions: the scouts that roam the jungle, the warriors that ride the sky, the artisans that build the city. Sometimes he wondered how would have been to live that way, but not today.

    “I’m late! For the love of the Old Ones, I’m late!”

    Chichimek was running as if his life was at peril. Despite starting work well before dawn, the removal of spiders’ nests in the lower chambers had been a long affair, and even the cleaning of the accessories for the Solstice Ceremony took far more time than expected; now, the problem was the he needed to pick from the greenhouse the itxi grubs before the precious Bringer of Visions had eaten too much, ruining their flavor.
    To his immense relief, only the young and immatures grubs were eating, while the grown up were still lazily storing the heat of the sun.
    The skink picked a bunch of the chubbiest ones and placed them on a bed of leaves in the golden bowl, then he rushed toward the pyramid, slipping between the temple guards at the entrance, that stood immobile, being used to the frantic races of the Slann’s servant.
    Chichimek ran up the steps, to the higher levels; he passed through the stone portal, moving aside the living curtain of bignonia’s bloomed vines, upon finally entering into the Meditation Chamber, the fatigue, the orders and the endless duties vanished all at once.

    The Slann Huanch’ai was already floating mid-air upon his throne, bathing in the sun that was entering from the large windows. His relaxed expression had the power to fill the room with serenity.
    “Here I am, Master. Please forgive me for my lateness”.
    Chichimek climbed the throne, sitting at the Slann’s side and offering the bowl with the grubs; Huanch’ai started to eat with closed eyes, slowly, without paying attention to the physical gestures. His breath slowed, and time passed… Chichimek, following the rhythm of the Slann, almost entered in a state of drowsiness.

    “A good picking, Chichimek. It has been… satisfying”.
    The skink woke up in a blink. The moments when Huanch’ai talked to him, were his most precious treasures.
    “Have you pondered on the Great Plan, Master?”
    “The Great Plan? No. That would be bizarre, the Great Plan is not something to be pondered about.”
    Huanch’ai stood silent, leaving Chichimek with his unsaid doubts for what seemed an eternity.
    “I sense your uncertainty, Chichimek. I had just pondered on the fact that you need to be aware. Today I will be your teacher, and I will show you the Great Plan.”
    Chichimek was speechless. He never heard of a Slann explaining the Great Plan, and certainly not to a simple servant. Even the Skink Priests can only guess it! This was almost a heresy… if not that it was a Slann suggesting it.
    “Don’t stand there like a dumb kroxigor. You have some work to do.”

    In the end, the work was simple.
    Chichimek placed 3 pedestals, and on each pedestal was fixed a metal ring, each one large just few inches; the 3 rings were perfectly aligned.
    He was waiting for more instructions, but apparently Huanch’ai had no others. The Slann took position on one end of the “tunnel of rings” and then closed his eyes, in a relaxed position.

    Hours passed.

    Chichimek was wondering what was happening. Apparently, Huanch’ai was sleeping and in the Chamber nothing was changing. Probably the Slann was waiting for the night, when the stars would have made their appearance in the sky.
    The skink relaxed as well on the stone floor, enjoying the flight of a wonderful butterfly, with iridescent blue wings, that was dancing through the dangling flowers. It was amazing how it was impossible to predict the movements of it… the butterfly explored the room, following her mysterious purposes.

    Huanch’ai pointed a finger, and a ray of searing light passed through the rings, incinerating the butterfly. Then the Slann opened his eyes.
    “There, it has been done”.
    Chichimek was trying to recover from the surprise.
    “Done… what?”
    “Isn’t it clear? You’ve built an obligatory route for my spell, and I’ve killed the butterfly.”
    “but… that butterfly could have never flown in that exact place! It was impossible… how did you know?
    “Maybe I did, or maybe I didn’t. Look at the moon Chichimek, not at the finger: the point is that the destiny of that butterfly was to die “through” my spell.”
    “That’s the beauty and the meaning of the Plan, Chichimek: we are all fated… we follow the patterns traced by the Old Ones. The Plan is flawless, and our destiny is to adhere to its perfect scheme, nothing more and nothing less.”
    “But Master, you are the Slann of this city! You take the decisions that will lead us to the accomplishment of the Plan… I live to serve, but you rule! You are free to choose your destiny… and ours as well!”
    “Chichimek, you are misguided. I take the decisions, but every time I face a crossroad there’s only one right path, and I have no choice but to take it. The Great Plan is Order, and Order follows its laws. Freedom finds its nest in Chaos, not in my mind. And Chaos will be vanquished.”
    Huanch’ai picked another grub and closed his eyes, satisfied, floating toward his personal platform, thus signaling that the day was over, leaving Chichimek alone with his thoughts.

    Chichimek stood immobile for a moment, then he looked at the powder that once was a butterfly, and ran away. Out of his master’s chambers, the breeze was a gentle caress, filled by the scents of the jungle, but he was having difficulty breathing it in, as if an invisible hand were squeezing his heart.
    What is the meaning of servitude, if your own master is not free? How does anyone appreciate your sacrifice, if there is no choice? Did really the Old Ones just put their children in an invisible cage?
    From atop of the pyramid, Chichimek stared at the city’s landscape… in the distance, dusk was creeping through the jungle. The evening was dark, and cold.
    A parrot was perching on the flagstaff of one of the temple’s banners, peaceful and uncaring. Something snapped inside Chichimek.

    “AARRRGHH! Go away! Find your place in the Great Plan somewhere else!!!”

    Scared, the bird flew away in a hurry, toward the jungle. Chichimek looked at the shape that was vanishing in the distance, with a bitter taste in mouth.

    The theme of the contest was really cool... except I had no idea on how to develope it.
    All i knew it was that i wanted to avoid scenes of great battles in the distance, since i already depicted those in my two previous stories.
    Then, Warden posted this:
    the bolded part triggered something. Especially the "slave" to the Great Plan, it was something to consider, as i didn't wanted to treat the topic in a literal way.
    So the idea was growing, and i imagined this skink that is, indeed, "spawned to serve", but that likes his servitude because, in his mind, it serves a greater purpose.
    Of course, I needed to demolish the convinctions (and the meaning of life) of my poor protagonist.
    I've had the image of the butterfly and the absurd coincidence of the killing shot through the rings, and from that point it was just a matter to build a story around it, using the trope of the "you can't escape your destiny".
    I liked also to play with the umpteenth version of the Great Plan (apparently, judging from the fluff in our stories, there are dozens of different Great Plans).
    One by one, the pieces of the puzzle went together... it was just a matter of making the pov of the Slann sufficiently logical (to the point that freedom is not a good thing!), and to find a nicely bitter ending.
    As I've said in the main thread, Chichimek reminds me the figure of Hopkins' Butler in The Remains of The Day. Our reptilian butler discovers that his life's convinctions were just an illusion.
    Chichimek that watches the parrot flying away is a sort of symbolism: after the Slann's revelation, the serenity of our skink is vanished forever, as his convinctions about the meaning of his sacrifice are shaken to the ground. Chichimek's life won't ever be the same, from now on.

    I wanted to avoid a broader story, because, even if it's true that I could have developed more some aspects, it's also true that all I wanted to say was already there. A longer story could also mean useless parts / details, that water down the story.

    I like that you appreciated the simplicity of the story, it was one of the points i wanted to take home.
    Regarding the resolution, it should be what i've said before: Chichimek's serenity has been shattered, and his life won't ever be the same. Predestination and destiny aren't a so great thing...

    The formatting in the contest wasn't exactly my final draft, but it wasn't a so big problem, so i didn't bothered Scalenex about it. I would like to know if the one i posted suits more your tastes. ;)

    When the winner of the contest writes such a review, all I can say is "HORRAY!" :D
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  4. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Blood for the Blood God (April-May 2017, theme was "Man Vs Self / Inner Conflict" and I took the second place on 9)

    The massive axe opened a large hole through the ranks of the Skinks, then Grinnorarcen closed in and delivered another swing, taking down more opponents.

    Of all Sigmar’s armies, Seraphon were one of the most unsatisfying enemy… every kill produces just a flash of painful light, and the corpse disappears. No skulls for the Skull Throne, no blood for the Blood God, no screams for fear or mercy, just ranks upon ranks of puppets, sent into battle by their lazy Frog-Master, hidden behind some rock.

    A worthless foe, that spoils the fun of battling and killing.

    The red Daemon roared with fury and the champion of the next regiment took the challenge. It didn’t last the blink of an eye. How was it possible that there was not a single worthy opponent?
    He was full with frustration… “STOP SUMMONING FRAIL GHOSTS! I WANT TO FIGHT!!!”
    In this conditions, Grinnorarcen was not able to be fully embraced by the blind fury of the sheer battle, so he took a moment to see how the fight was going.
    His army was advancing as expected, crushing all resistance, except…

    On the right wing, something had halted the run of the Bloodcrushers.

    Grinnorarcen focused on the distant fight and he saw a large unit of Knights on small dinosaurs, armed with blazing spears, that just cut in two the front line, halting the Juggernauts’ momentum and turning them into prey for the falchions of the following two-legged crocodiles.
    They were led by a Saurus, mounted on a Carnosaur, bearing the insignia of some constellation… so the Frog must have sent some memory of a past hero, to act as leader of this army. With some luck, that general could be one of the rare, ancient Sauri still alive.

    Grinnorarcen growled with satisfaction. Ghost or living flesh, at least there would have been one good fight.
    The Daemon turned to the mechanical work of cutting down chaffs upon chaffs… the task was so unexciting that he decided to keep an eye on the enemy on his right. But the charge had raised a large cloud of dust, that even his enhanced sight could not pierce.
    And when the dust cleared, it wasn’t there.
    How was that possible? The right wing was the only place where the combat was going bad for the follower of Khorne. The Saurus commander should have been there, to support the fight and enjoy the massacre.

    Grinnorarcen was still looking for his foe, when a cry of alarm called his attention… something was happening on the left wing. Grinnorarcen recognized the banner, and the gore splattered Carnosaur.
    Fast as the wind, their general must have moved behind the frontline, followed by the cold ones, and now they were turning the combat on the other side of the battlefield. As land sharks, the Knights were slipping between the blocks of the Bloodletters, taking the toll with their lances, too fast to be chased by the demonic infantries… and the standards of the Saurus Guards, were now approaching the disrupted ranks.

    Grinnorarcen grinned. “you are a smart guy, aren’t you? You stopped our wings, so only our center will advance, and your army will close upon us as a pincer. The problem is: are you sure this morsel isn’t too hard to swallow?”.

    The bulky Daemon now was confident that his enemy would have come for him, so he continued his personal one-way fight; the massive muscles were covered by sweat, mixed with sand… the blood of the enemies normally would have washed away his body, triggering the Fury, but against Seraphon it was not possible; Grinnorarcen could not rage, and so he studied the approaching Saurus Hero that was now afoot.

    In combat, Grinnoraren was pure fury, and every one of his blows carried an excessive amount of sheer power. Grinnorarcen’s style was not the killing, but the onslaught.

    The Saurus was elegance incarnate.

    He was armed with a sort of war-mace, surmounted by a skull… an enemy attacks, the Saurus feints, the mace comes down. An enemy attacks, the Saurus parries, the mace comes down. And so on.
    Each time with a different manoveur, each time with the minimal effort to cut down the opponent. No one was able to stop him, it was like watching a deadly dance, a disciplined warhound between sheep.

    To see his enemy approaching, covered by blood and swirling a weapon made by a grinning skull, was definitely a strange sight for Grinnorarcen. “it should be the opposite. This is wrong, and I will stop it right now.

    With a crack of the whip and a mighty roar, Grinnorarcen announced the challenge, and the lesser Daemons created a circle, to watch the fight of the two Champions.
    Both were slowly advancing, with the Saurus being cautious, knowing the large Daemon would have gained the first strike, thanks to its superior reach.

    And Grinnorarcen knew what he was going to do. Against that kind of opponent, a tactic that never failed him, was to sweep the field with the whip, forcing the opponent to be entangled by the lash, or jump to avoid it… meeting the battleaxe midair, with no chance to dodge.
    And so he did when the Saurus rushed forward.
    As planned, the fool jumped to avoid the whip… but he deliberately left the tail down. The coiled tail slowed down the jump, and the axe swung just above the curled up target, missing it by few inches.
    Grinnorarcen was caught off guard, and the mace came down.

    Time almost froze… as in slow motion, an amazed Grinnorarcen contemplated the skull upon the mace, aiming for his head. The syllables of the spell that would have diverted the blow were rolling upon the Daemon’s tongue.
    The skull of the mace was nearer, its eyes fixed upon him.
    The urge to cast the defensive spell was almost overwhelming.
    Time flew again. The mace crushed into Grinnorarcen’s head, felling the Daemon to the ground.

    Grinnorarcen’s brain was bleeding. The Daemon looked at the opponent, standing in front of him.
    “In more than a thousand years of battle against Sigmarites, you were the first… you truly please Khorne. Wipe my army, take skulls for the Throne, blood for the Blood God. May this day be a magnificent offering.”

    The mace landed the final blow.
    The Oldblood looked at the dead Daemon with contempt. “Old Ones be praised”.

    Man Vs Self / Inner Conflict

    Well, that’s the main point of the story. Usually Daemons of Khorne are pretty much streamlined, with no characterization other than “rhaarrrghkillkillkill”.
    I’ve tried to imagine a different angle. What kind of inner conflict could ever have a greater Daemon, voted to onslaught and massacre?
    Well, what could happen when you realize that you are not doing the job “good”, and you see that your enemy is doing it better?
    When Khorne is pleased by wanton massacre and wants BLOOD to calm its insatiable thirst, will it matter who’s the one doing it?
    The story tells what could happen, when your urge to kill and slay the enemy, conflicts with the desire to please your God.
    Obviously, I needed to set the story in Age of Sigmar setting, when lizardmen are now Seraphon, summoned beings made from the starlight, so they leave no blood or bones when they die.

    Cold Blooded Honor

    In my mind it’s probably a lesser theme in the story, but it’s still there (but, as testified by other comments, you can see it in numerous ways).
    The "honor" of the Daemon and its last desire, was to please his God, putting his life behind the “wellness” of Khorne.
    But the cold blooded homor applies even more to the Oldblood (be it a ghost and even more if it's a still living saurus). In AoS, the Old Ones are no more, but he shows that he remains faithful to his memories of the Old World: he doesn’t care about Sigmar, neither about the great Order Allegiance. He’s still the champion of the Old Gods, because that’s how it must be.

    I'm always happy when thedarkfourth likes one of my stories. :)
    Yeah, I was tempted to expand the lizard character... but imo the story was centered about the daemon; or i go for the double route, giving almost the same depth to both the antagonists, or i focus on one, and the daemon's pov was what interested me. I feared that another phrase dedicated to the feelings of the Oldblood, would have been "out of place", because it would have diverted the last part of the story from the climax, that was Grinnorarcen's sacrifice.

    This is a perfect example of what I was talking about.
    I thought the story was more "inner conflict" than "cold blooded honor", and here we have Scalenex with a totally different impression.
    Well, a story with just one way to be seen, it's not an interesting story... ;)

    Three reviews, and three readers that found a sympathetic connection with a Greater Daemon of Khorne (!), which was basically the real challenge i decided to confront myself with.
    Mission accomplished, I'd say... :)
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
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  5. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The Hunter (July-August 2017, theme was "Fire and/or Time" and I took the fifth place on 7)

    The city was burning, engulfed in raging pink flames.

    The city was burned down to ashes centuries ago, and yet its defenders were still fighting and dying, corpses laying in the boiling orange river. Then, the flames turned green and filled the sky, and the city was no more. It would probably be made entire again tomorrow, or the next year. The details would have been different, but the fire would have eventually razed it to the ground.
    The hunter knew it, it saw it happen many times…. And as much it was painful, it was necessary, because this was its favorite hunting ground.

    The old woman with a burning silk dress was walking near the volcano, picking flowers, but she stopped gardening, sensing that something was wrong. She picked a dead tree from her purse… it was without branches, but it was blue colored, so the Hunter knew time was running short: the flames would have force it out of its hiding place, and a direct confrontation was not an option.
    The Hunter blew gracefully some paper butterfly from its hands toward her… at midair, the butterflies turned into tiny wasps that breathed soap bubbles to the old woman; when a bubble touched her, she started howling, as water consumed the flames, killing her.

    The cry of pain would have called unwanted attentions, so the Hunter descended the cliff, toward the higher clouds, until it reached a plain with bright yellow moss.
    In the distance, probably ten miles away, there was a fissure in the sky, the only way out; the fissure was invisible, but the Hunter could hear it was purple.

    There were only two possible ways… the short one was paved with daggers, and it would have took probably a couple of years; the long one was aimed at a mountain range, for no more than a 10 minutes journey.
    The hunter took the middle way, being careful of the horses that would have gladly feasted upon its blood.

    After no more than a week travel, the fissure was at hand… but there was a cave in the nearby glacier, and a dozen of penguins emerged from it, and they wanted to dance, offering biscuits.
    The Hunter started a swing, but the penguins wanted to minuet and they were simply too many, surrounding it.

    In the end one biscuit touched the shoulder of the Hunter, creating the mysterious scar that was already there since one year.
    Now that the scar mystery was solved, the Hunter knew what must be done. It adapted its dance to the minuet, taking the penguins by surprise.
    A couple of them clashed into each other, creating an opening for a classic chassè, quickly executed by the Hunter, which promptly flew through the fissure.

    The passage was like jumping into a lake of honey, made one day ago… like, realizing how much you are hampered by something that completely occludes yourself. This sensation persisted even when it passed on the other side. The honey was still within the Hunter, and it smelled awfully.

    The Hunter was surrounded by a weird colonnade of frozen flames; a bunch of scorpions was there, motionless, and one of them slipped away, clicking its pincers.
    The Hunter relaxed, while other scorpions arrived… then came also a leaping rabbit, holding a wand.
    A slow, white light irradiated from the wand and hit the Hunter, consuming the rotten molasses, cleansing its soul and its senses.
    The Hunter was now in a jungle, near the bottom of a pyramid, with many skinks standing in awe. A Slann was floating in front of the Hunter, smiling.

    “Welcome back, Oxyotl”.

    This one was written mostly for fun, with Lewis Carol in mind. The subtitle of "the Hunter" could well be "lizardmen in wonderland"...
    the story is supposed to be weird and mysterious... weird, most of all.
    That's also one of the reasons I've kept it so short... otherwise I would have needed more clarity and a more developed plot.
    you can sustain only a certain amount of weirdness in a story, after all.

    If you wonder, the city at the beginning is Pahuax, the city of Oxyotl, that was partially drawn into the Chaos Realm when the Slann Lord Pocaxalan took too much power from the Winds of Magic. Of course when Oxyotl go for a hunt in the chaos realm, he likes to chase the daemons that prey on his old city, still trapped there.

    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
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  6. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Rats in the Walls (Oct-Novt 2017, theme was "The Rat and/or the Serpent" and I took the FIRST PLACE on 5 :))

    Pik-Tek was on duty at the Sacred Reptile House.

    You will feed them, you will take care of them, you will pray with them, you will live with them… and hopefully, you will become one with them. This is your duty, as apprentice Priest of Sotek”.
    High Priest Temek gave these instructions to Pik-Tek a month ago, or maybe two, or a year. Time moves strangely in the Sacred Reptile House.
    The City of Tehuanchli was desperately in need of priests, and Pik-Tek was the only apprentice; those accursed skaven had polluted a couple of the outer Spawning Pools, and the Slann was still asleep, but despite the urgency, High Priest Temek was a Skink not in habit to speed up times of the apprenticeship.
    The Rites of Passage must be fulfilled… “there’s no such thing as a half-formed Priest. You will carry the Sacred Vest only when your mind will fully belong to Sotek”.
    Pik-Tek was eager to walk the path of priesthood, and though the tasks he conducted each day were repetitive he was constantly discovering new things. The smell of moss had penetrated into his scaly skin, his usually quick way of moving was adapting to the slow motions of the snakes, and he was able to contemplate the reptiles for hours, trying to guess their choices. Snakes were amazing.
    A little rat was pretending to be invisible, standing motionless at the corner of the cage, but Pik-Tek could almost hear its pounding heart… and certainly the constrictor snake in the cage could hear it too. Slowly and relentlessly it was moving toward the prey.
    Then, the big snake halted its move, and raised its massive head, higher and higher, over the edge of the cage, and it looked Pik-Tek in the eyes. Time froze, in Pik-Tek’s mind, when the serpent spoke to him.
    Ratsssss are in the eassssstern wallsssss…. they ssssssneak toward usssssssss…”

    When Pik-Tek recovered from the shock, the little rat was already in the serpent’s gut.
    “What.. did.. you talked? was that real? I… sweet Sotek, what should I do now?”
    The sacred snake now was doing what snakes do after eating, so it wasn’t a great help for Pik-Tek, and it gave no answer to the skink’s doubts.
    “I need to calm down and reason. Maybe it was an unknown side effect of all the time passed with the snakes… but no, snakes don’t talk, it could only be a vision granted by Sotek… but those are ONLY for prophets, and I am NOT a prophet, I was not spawned with the marks. It must be something else”.
    This realization calmed a little the skink’s pounding heart. Pik-Tek concentrated on his breath, relaxing and organizing his thoughts.
    “Probably it is really something in the air, a sort of test by the High Priest, to see if I crumble as a weak-minded child. No, I will stay strong, and I’ll wait.”
    Pik-Tek looked at the constrictor snake.
    “There are no ratmen that are digging through our eastern walls, right?”
    But the sleeping reptile gave no answer.

    Even if the rest of the day passed without other weird events, Pik-Tek was not at ease with himself.
    He went to bed late that night, hoping to blank his mind, but without much success.
    The night was a long one and Pik-Tek barely slept at all, bouncing at every rustle. The early morning found him sleepy and tired, desperately praying to Sotek; things did not go well as Pik-Tek started his daily routine.
    First, he stumbled into a stool, dropping the bowl with fresh water.
    Second, he mixed the fodder for the Guinea pig with poisonous berries.
    Then he forgot to open the blinds for the heating sun, leaving many of the snakes half-stunned after the night.
    And so on, for all day long.
    “Marlecht. I'm screwing myself. I’m just glad the evening is almost here and nothing happ..”
    sssssoon the eassssstern wallsssss…
    The snake was there, looking at him.
    After a moment of silence, Pik-Tek heard a strange sound, much like the far cry of a baby terradon. It took to him some seconds to realize that the sound was coming from his throat.

    Several hours later, after a broken mug and a couple of hot herbal teas, Pik-Tek nerves started to calm down.
    “This has gone too far. I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t care if it’s a test or something else. The High Priest must be informed… even if he thinks I am going crazy.”
    Pik-Tek went for the exit of the Reptile House… when he realized that the moon had already risen.
    “Great. Temek will be sleeping. If I wake him without being absolutely sure that something is going to happen, I will be the next sacrifice to Sotek. But I can still do something, waiting for tomorrow”.
    He took a paper, pondering how much he could tell without going over his (actually non-existant) authority. To speak the truth without telling it.
    To the Commander of the Eastern Fortifications.
    I know this is not a proper procedure, but before bringing the matter to High Priest Temek’s attention, I want to inform you that I am observing a strange behavior in Sotek’s Sacred Snakes. Since the poisoning of the Spawning Pools we don’t dismiss any detail. I’m not saying this is a True Sign that something is happening, as I am not a Priest, but I would be glad if tonight the guards will keep a higher level of attention.
    Respectfully yours, Apprentice Priest Pik-Tek
    He called one of the servants and gave it the letter. Only when the servant skink had departed to deliver the message, Pik-Tek went to his bed. He fell asleep before touching the pillow.

    The rats were swarming through the cracks of the foundations. A black swirling mass in a blacker night. Sentries were lying in pools of blood, with rats wrapped in hooded cloaks standing nearby the corpses.
    Pik-Tek wanted to cry alarm, but he could only utter a silent scream. The cracks went wider, to let an abomination emerge, bathed in a green, ill light. Hundreds of furry warriors swarmed the night, setting the city ablaze…

    Pik-Tek woke up screaming, surrounded by darkness. It was probably a little past midnight.
    “So real… it was so real…”
    Even before realize what he was doing, he was already running toward the High Priest’s rooms, as if hell was unleashed behind him.


    Pik-Tek was in front of the High Priest Temek, waiting for him to pronounce his doom.
    “We have searched for 3 days, Pik-Tek. There’s nothing… absolutely nothing. The walls are intact, the foundations are solid, there is literally not even a mole’s hole under the eastern fortifications.
    I’ve also personally examined the snake and the terrarium, and I’ve found no evidence of Sotek’s presence.
    Pik-Tek, there’s literally nothing that supports your statements. There are no rats in the walls”.
    Temek took a deep breath.
    “I know you truly believed in it, and this fills me with sadness, because I’ve got only a thing to do.
    The task is still too much for your strength, Pik-Tek… you need some time to regain the right perspective.
    Today you will leave the temple, you will be given a… less demanding assignment. We will call you here again when we consider it appropriate.”
    Temek watched Pik-Tek, while the skink was slowly going away, toward the exit, his shoulders bent over by defeat.
    Another priest stepped at Temek’s side.
    “What a waste. We can only hope in the next spawnings…”
    “We don’t have that luxury. I was honest with Pik-Tek, and I will still keep an open eye, before discarding him as possible priest. Time will tell if that skink can retake his life in his own hands.”

    Pik-Tek was slowly walking in the avenue, going further away from the temple with each step.
    The sense of failure was a heavy burden, and he still didn’t know what happened.
    “Temek is right… I still believe in it. But what I really saw? It was all real, but nothing was true. I threw away my life for nothing.”
    Pik-Tek sat on a stone bench, without finding any comfort in the warm of the sun. The cold inside him was too deep for any sun to melt it.
    This was not the case for an iguana that was enjoying the sun’s heat upon a nearby marble floor.
    One of the omnipresent monkeys, slipped into town from the jungle to easy steal some fruit in the market place, approached the iguana from behind and pulled its tail. The iguana, caught by surprise in a place that was usually safe, ran frantically toward a shadowy cover, chased by the derisive laughter of the monkey.
    A moment before reaching shelter, the iguana stopped her run, realizing that no one was pursuing.
    She turned back, staring at the monkey… she raised the dorsal spines and inflated the jowls, hissing a challenge.
    When the iguana started the charge, the monkey quickly leaved the field, and the winner took again the place under the sun.
    Pik-Tek contemplated the whole scene, amazed by what he saw. He let the event sink deeper and deeper into him.
    “Maybe it was a test, after all. If I am to do Sotek’s work, I cannot hide in shadows. I must be Iguana. I will be Iguana”.
    Pik-Tek got up, his back straight, his shoulders no longer bent.
    And the cold was gone.


    Meanwhile, two figures were sneaking into a secret tunnel below the western walls…

    The gallery was dark, with walls covered by large stains of rancid fat and the silence was broken by the suffocated echoes of the water from the vault, dripping into stagnant pools of smelly mud. It was a place unknown to lizardmen, a deep tunnel connected to even deeper mazes.
    The first furry figure was taller and bulky, with black fur covered by spiked pieces of armor, while the second one was wrapped in filthy robes, behind which it was half visible a glowing green pendant. This one was very excited, and was keeping the pace of the stormvermin, despite being half crippled and needing a staff to walk.
    “It has been a great success, yes-yes! Stoopid lizard-thing has been fooled by smart magik, yes-yes!”
    “As you say, your worshipness.”
    “It is so! Magik illusion fooled the fool! A priest-thing it won’t be! Now few priests, then even less and they wont stop us! All because of me! Soon-soon the city will be ours! The city will burn! Their temple will burn! False Sotek will be forgotten! The Horned Rat will be fed! We maim-kill all those hideous serpents! We…”
    The leading skaven suddenly halted his march, and the Seer stopped against him.
    “what the…”
    The hallway was blocked by a strange boulder, big as a rat ogre. Then the boulder moved… no, the boulder rose to mid-air. The flickering light of the torch revealed that the boulder was covered by scales.
    Then the boulder showed a couple of yellow eyes, with vertical pupils, and a forked tongue darted toward the skavens, sensing the pungent stench of fear. There was a cry, then silence fell over the musty tunnel air.

    In the end, High Priest Temek was right. There were no rats in the walls.

    From what you read, the character solves its problems.
    He was an unsecure skink, and in front of a mysterious situation he was unable to handle it properly.
    He definitely knows he was not going crazy (he tells that he knows it was real, even if he doesn't know what really happened), and in the end, he realizes that he cannot fear the unknown, and he decides that from that point he will be the embodiment of a son of Sotek, and he will have no more fear. At least, that's what it seems.
    This is the "main" story.

    The last paragraph shows that there was indeed something behind the talking snake, and it's almost a sort of mini-story, just related to the main one: the planning of ratmen and the (usually unseen) struggle between Skaven and Sotek and its "children" (the denizen of the lustrian underground).

    Last edited: Aug 21, 2018
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  7. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    A time to remember (Jan-Feb 2018, theme was "The Power of music" and I took the second place on 7. This story won the "Scalenex Cup" :))

    You sing sweetly, bard. I felt the romantic suffering of Alhana, while her beloved one rode into battle against the usurper. Were you singing about romance, or heroic deeds?”
    “My lady, that was sweet as a lemon. Real romance is very different and I can sing it, but I cannot do it in front of the noble warriors that gathered in this hall. Their ears are used to the sound of battles, and what truly lies in my heart is not for this place…”
    “Then, bard, I command you to follow me out of here, so I can hear it.”
    “As you wish, my lady…”


    In horror tales, the coming of undead was always preceded by the silence of the scared animal life.
    Here in Lustria, Hans learned that those tales were false.
    Birds, insects and monkeys were still going about their normal life, paying no attention to the horde of zombies and ghosts that just slaughtered Duke Jurgen’s expeditionary force; their cacophony was the funeral march.
    The zombies were now separating the dead from the wounded soldiers; many of the wounded ended their lives with suffocated screaming, but a few were taken prisoner, just like Hans.
    There was some bitter irony in all of this.

    The expedition was a well prepared one… every detail was planned, officials instructed the troop about the known tactics employed by the lizardmen, and there were antidotes for poisons. Their wizard had a vast array of spells specifically compiled to excel against cold-blooded reptiles and there was even a map with the locations of reported settlements, home to abundances of gold and gems.
    Despite the preparation, nature had other plans. The storm took them away from their intended route, ending their journey near a harsh coastline… constructions were visible far into the jungle, so they went for them, ready to fight lizards. They found none.
    At twilight they were making camp in a clearing. Suddenly, a mist rose from the jungle, enveloping the cannons… the crew fell silently to the ground, then supernatural screeches decimated the harquebusiers.
    Was it an ambush? Nobody had heard a lizard sound like that before.
    There was rustling in the dark thicket, and finally the slow zombies came, pushing their mass through bushes into the unsupported infantry. Hans heard the wizard scream something about a vampire coast, but then the mage was trampled down by a hellish steed, atop it, an undead dark commander.

    It had been a massacre. Mysteriously, Hans and some other soldiers were still alive, taken prisoners. A boy near Hans was sobbing, muttering prayers to Sigmar.
    “Shut up, you moron. We are still alive… would you prefer to be one of those dismembered corpses?”
    “They are going to eat us! they will devour us alive!”
    “If you shit yourself a little more, not even the most rotten zombie will touch you. Now shut up, let me see who’s coming…”

    A man in a black robe was examining the prisoners; his face was incredibly old, with wizened skin and yellow eyes, glossed over by cataracts… he seemed a frail old man, holding himself to a staff, but his movements were vigorous, and his speech firm.
    “Tonight, when Morrslieb is high, you will be given the gift of undeath. The proper rite, with living specimens, will let me create powerful Wights.”
    A faint cry broke the silence, maybe a plea of some sort… a green, malevolent light from the staff, stroke the supplicant, turning the prayers into screams of agony.
    “I need your bodies, not your babblings! I won’t hear pleas of mercy, or you will see that there are fates worse than undeath!”
    The necromancer went away, to oversee the work of the undead that were emptying the battlefield.
    “Sweet Sigmar! We’ll be turned into monsters! Did you want to see who was coming, Hans? It’s our death sentence.”
    “Maybe, or maybe not. He may be evil, but he’s still alive… and I do believe that man will be our way out”.


    You dishonored my daughter, bard. You are going to die for this, You know it, right?
    The guards had beaten him already. Blood was spilling from the broken lip and an eye was swollen shut, but the other one was still spirited, while he was sustaining the duke’s glance.
    “Can I speak in my defense, my Lord Jurgen?”
    There was a moment of silence.
    “Do you think some words can make me change my mind? I’m not a gullible girl, dead man. But please, feel free to speak…”


    As expected, the necromancer came back to them. Four undead minions took a sort of altar, and he started to decorate it with glyphs, candles and blood paintings.
    Some of the boys were praying to Sigmar, creating a fluctuating litany in the background.
    “Annoying scum… I’m going to rot your worthless tongues as soon as I’m finished with the carvings…”
    That was the sign Hans was waiting for.
    “My Lord, I’m not a religious man and those prayers are giving me a headache. Might I just sing something, to distract my companions in their last hour?”
    The necromancer did not take his eyes off his work “I hate the singing. But if you make them stop praying, I’ll rip out your tongue last.”
    Hans smiled, and started to sing.


    The Admiral looked at the swabbie with poorly hidden contempt. Hans wore ragged and dirty clothes, that didn’t hide the signs of the whip on his back. The fleet set sail one month ago.
    “I have been given instructions to make your life miserable, boy… but I am a practical man. My musician is ill and dying; I know you can entertain a tune. I think I will give you a chance to please me.”
    “If I’m going to please you, Admiral, I hope my stomach will see some real food, and there will be no more wiping, nor whipping….”.
    The eyes of the fleet’s commander turned hard as iron.
    “You’d better surprise me right now boy, or you will know the joy of keelhauling…”


    Hans sang, his crystal clear voice filling the open space surrounded by trees.
    He sang about his homeland, about friends, about freedom, remembrances, love, life and joy; about happiness, family, sharing and empathy; then he sang about melancholic feelings for missed opportunities… but there was still hope, redemption, and forgiveness. The song was a delicate flower that was slowly opening, letting them see the chance for a future, a destiny yet to be written, the promise of a…

    “Stop singing. Stop it…. please.”

    The necromancer had spoken.

    Hans had sung for what seemed like hours, and the necromancer had ceased working long ago, staring at the darkness, facing away from the prisoners, lost in thoughts while the bad moon was rising.
    He turned and looked toward the prisoners; his yellow eyes were glistening with tears.
    “I had forgotten it. So many years… so many decades, maybe centuries… the memories were lost to me. There are days when I wonder why I took this path, and I don’t know the answer. My companions are the undead, and I have power over what seems as nothing. Even the lizardmen, those cold-blooded abominations, share a companionship that to me is negated. I question myself, but there’s no past to help me.”
    A deep breath.
    “But now I remember. Me and my kind. The joy of the others, their happiness. The shunning, the cruel jokes, the insults, the false hopes and the derisive laughter. A chasm growing wider each day. The sadness and the bitterness, the anger and the hate. The desire for vengeance, the desire to be feared, the search for a frightening power.”

    The Necromancer looked again at Hans, with cold and dry eyes. The staff glowed green, matching the light casted by Morrslieb.
    “What of me, then?” Hans asked.
    The necromancer grinned, “You have restored my resolution, singer, and you will be rewarded for this. There will be a place of honor for you… in my personal regiment, from here to eternity”.

    Last edited: Aug 21, 2018
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  8. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Some Rhymes with the End Times (lizardmen poetry contest)

    Proud Sauri and brave Skinks, behold!
    Take up your seats, your skin will pale
    The end of the world has been foretold!
    How will it be? I’ll tell the tale.

    The old style vampire, wreathed in blight
    Will leave its coffin near the sea
    He will prowl the Lustrian night
    But for our Basti, he’s just a flea

    Things will darken, when chaos arrives
    The daemons come! the Slann will tell
    Skarbrand, Malekith, just one survives
    Who knows for whom will toll the bell?
    But surely, from that feast of gore
    Enemies aim at Lustria’s core.

    Then the rats, with pestilential darts
    Will spoil our sacred spawning pool
    But they cannot shake our strong hearts
    Cause the horned rat will prove a fool
    They’ll rip the sky, they’ll blast the moon
    Lord Kroak will stand, not enough soon

    Alas! magic wards are doomed to fail
    But the twinned tail will show the way
    On ancient vessels, upward we sail
    The final vengeance, we’ll have someday

    And so we say: Old World, farewell
    No one can say it hasn’t been nice
    Now, Age of Sigmar is selling well
    So for the Old Ones, let’s roll some dice!

    I've tried to keep the tone high, but obviously it's not a "serious" poem.
    It mixes a narrative that remains true to the Lizardmen Lore, and an ending that is true to the gaming aspect of the hobby.

    Looking for symmetry and pattern...
    There are 6 stanzas, respectively with 4-4-6-6-4-4 lines.
    The rhyming scheme going is ABAB and ABABCC.
    There are 8-9 syllables per line: not perfect, but hey.
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  9. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Anyway I'm just going to comment that your started out the gate very strong. "The Coward" was not only one of my favorite pieces of that contest, but of the hundred or so short stories we've had, it is one I remember more clearly than most even now.

    I didn't realize till I read your explanation that Thordek actually opened the portal by "sacrificing" a Skaven to Sotek. Common etiquette rule, when approaching strange Lizardmen always carry a severed Skaven head as a sign of respect. I thought the Lizardmen were coincidentally on their way to kill the Skaven already and just through fortuitous timing assumed the Dwarf seemed to be trying to return the golden plaque that was stolen by the Skaven, but your explanation was better.

    If the Lizardmen were coming anyway, that makes Thordek's actions less heroic (anti-heroic?). Thordek's actions really made a greater difference than I thought. I thought his actions just convinced the Lizardmen that the Dwarfs were potential allies and not just allies of convenience, but the idea that Thordek summoned the Lizardmen is even better.

    Also I just like the little details. The idea that the Dwarfs would horde and guard non-Dwarf made magic items but not use them reveals a lot of character.

    Unrelated note. I don't know if this was intended but a lot of your relaying of people's critiques have the end of the critique truncated.
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  10. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Heart of Darkness (July-August 2018, theme was "Food and Drink" and I took the fifth place on 8 - tie with the sixth one)

    The terradons continue to fly slowly, peacefully, over the burning jungle. I was holding myself to the back saddle, trying in vain to pierce the smoke, while Tepiki, the Sky Leader, was keeping in line the majestic beast that was carrying both of us.
    Has it been set afire by the skaven to burn down our home, or by our forces, to cleanse some vile plague spread by the ratkin?
    When I was in the jungle, I wanted to be in Xlanhuapec. When I was there, behind the protective banks of mist...all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. Waiting for a mission. Because every day the rat squats in the bush...he gets stronger.


    “Stand at ease, Captain Tikkit. Are you feeling fit? Are you ready for duty?”
    “Yes, General. Very much so, sir.”
    “Good. Captain, have you heard of Colonel T’Pok?”
    “Yes, sir. I've heard the name. If I’m not wrong, he was personally trained by Oxyotl.”
    “Exactly. He’s actually commanding Special Forces in the region of Chaqua. After the destruction of the Temple City, that part of Lustria is just an immense killing ground. He was ordered to go into that nightmare, to contain and repel the vermin, and things were going sufficiently good… but reports have become more and more vague and less frequent. The last one is… unsound. It talks about a sort of snail, crawling on a razor’s edge.”
    “A snail, sir? could it be…a Nurgle daemon?”
    A Nurgle daemon that joins the fight alongside Clan Pestilence would be a terrifying sight to behold. But I don’t know. That report is a month old, and we are blind to what’s actually happening. I need intelligence… I need you there.”


    The night had been unpleasantly hot; the earth was decidedly too much warm and the wind had been a wet, sticky torment, carrying unusual, rancid smells. When the morning sun came, the heat raised more than it should have done. The faces of the terradon riders were already tired… and worried. Even far beyond the smoking sectors, many portions of the jungle were withering, as poisoned.
    Tepiki was tending his mount: “The beasts need some freshness. The night’s so hot that their blood doesn’t slow enough. It’s too much energy consuming”.
    And your terradon must carry also me. but you are not going to say it.
    “I understand your concern, but this is one of the places I must investigate. This morning we’ll fly over all the clearings we saw yesterday. Both our forces and the enemy’s are hiding, and I want to see if something has changed, before leaving.
    So we got up in the air.

    It took 2 hours to find it. A clearing previously empty, now with something inside. A sort of geometric figure.
    We flew lower, cautiously... There were poles, with dead, impaled skaven upon them, and those poles were placed in a way that, seeing it from the sky, could be a twinned tail.
    Tepiki grinned. “It seems we’ve just found our guys.”
    “Sotek be praised. Fly down”.
    We landed near the skaven bodies and we began searching for further clues.
    I saw many sacrifices to Sotek, in Xlanhuapec. This was similar, but somewhat… different.
    “There’s something wrong here. It’s crude. Too many details are missing.”
    “Well captain, maybe it’s just that this was not part of a true ceremony. A scout patrol? they would lack a priest, hence the awkward result”.
    “Yes, it could be. Unless… unless it was just made for us to see it and land here.”
    In the meantime, Tepiki’s mount had noticed a fresh mango, laying in the grass, so he moved toward it. Near the fruit, it collapsed into a concealed hollow; there was a sudden sound of broken glass, and a burst of green vapors enveloped the beast, that started screaming.
    Tepiki ran toward his companion, but the green vapors were expanding.
    I tried to warn the other members of my patrol, but the trap was already on its course… a globe, launched from the jungle, shattered directly upon a terradon and the explosion took away both the mount and the nearby rider.
    The third terradon flew away, terrified and deaf to the calls of its skink.
    Tepiki looked at me, holding his javelin.
    “Run away, you fool! We’ll buy you some time! Find our troops and… don’t let it go waste.”
    I watched him charge toward the invisible enemies, screaming a war cry.
    To my shame, I ran in the opposite direction, into the jungle, as if hell was on my back. I purposely fled into the thickest part of it, not caring about the bushes and the thorns, until my lungs were on fire, then I ran some more, until my legs were on fire too, then I fell into a natural trench, hiding as a scared child.

    I stood there for a very long time, trying to calm down, as I had no idea of what I could do. But as time passed, I focused on my body.
    I’ve been sitting here doing nothing, but my blood still runs. I also sense a terrible hunger… it’s this unnatural high temperature, is doing something to my metabolism. The ground is hot. The skaven are doing something from below… they’re hurting the forest, and us.
    Then, a voice came out of nothing.
    “You are a very noisy fellow, do you know it? And you left a trail that even a kroxigor would have been able to follow”.
    I freezed, and reached for my dagger… but it was lost somewhere in the jungle.
    “Who’s there?”
    The cortex of a tree moved, creating the shapes of a reptilian head; an eye was pinned upon me, while the other one was pivoting to control the surrounding area.
    “A chameleon scout! I am Captain Tikkit, from Xlanhuapec; you must carry me to Colonel T’Pok, we were searching signs of our army since days, but we fell in an ambush.”
    “I know”.
    The chameleon changed color, letting himself become totally visible. The distinctive crest identified him as an alpha.
    “Your search is over. I’m T’Pok, but don’t bother about the colonel. And now that you have found me, you can go back to the City of Mists”.
    “Go back…? Sir, I was ordered to find you. Reports are missing and the Central Command wants information about what’s happening here. I need to know how our forces are positioned and verify Chaqua’s actual situation.”
    Both of T’Pok eyes looked at me.
    “Information…? Son, you’re coming from a million years away. While Oxyotl was fighting daemons, he learned that in our wars even the very laws of nature stop working… and you’re worried about trivial things as ranks, orders and reports? I’m fighting a war, and I intend to win it. That’s the only information you need. Go back home.”
    I sighed heavily.
    “Sir, I cannot.”
    “Very well then. Follow me, we’re heading for Chaqua: I’ll show you the war.”

    We marched through the jungle for hours. T’Pok ignored all my attempts to start a speech, to the point I stopped trying, saving my energies.
    Then, T’Pok took a halt.
    “The enemy is near.”
    “What’s the plan?”
    “I will take it by deceit. Just continue along and be yourself.”
    After that, the chameleon vanished.
    Great. Now I must play the bait. I don’t know if the colonel is still fit for command, but I hope at least he’s still a good assassin.
    So I went forward, trying to be as silent as possible.
    I walked for a few minutes, each meter requiring a greater effort. At a certain point, I noticed vaguely that I had a blurry sight… I stumbled over my feet, and I tried to reach for a branch to avoid falling, but I missed it.
    I tried to stand up, but my legs refused to move; huge orchids were in front of me, pink and purple. So fragrant... their scent was strange…
    I watched them turning into an indistinct stain, then my consciousness went away.


    I woke up slowly, still filled with the sensation of dizziness.
    I was in an underground, dirty place, with a strong reek of putrefaction that almost made me puke… but more probably my weakness was due to whatever cursed substance stroke me down. I was unable to move, and my head was hurting like hell.
    I sensed some low speech, and a sort of light… so I focused my sight to the still unclear figure that was near the source of light, trying to distinguish the words.
    “…almighty Sotek, this is the offering from your unworthy servant. I will drink the corrupt blood, and I will devour the rotten flesh. Let the poison fill my body and let it strengthen my resistance. Give me Your favor so I will kill in Your Name, give me the…”
    “T’Pok… is that you?”
    The speech ended abruptly. A chameleon eye turned toward me.
    “Welcome back my friend. Yes, it’s me.”
    “Those bastards must have poisoned me… did you killed them? have you saved me?”
    “I brought you here”.
    The chameleon skink was near a sort of stone table; the source of the light was due to the glowing embers under a small cooking grid. Upon the grid there was some sort of meat and… over the table, there was the half cut corpse of a skaven… and more skaven corpses were hanging from the ceiling, some of them were flayed and smoked, some of them were simply left to rot away, with flies all over them. Many furs were amassed over the pavement, creating an amorphous pile, mixed with the remains of ragged clothes.
    There was also a shelf, with skaven weapons, darts, daggers, even translucent globes with a core of pulsing green light.
    “What is this place? What are you doing here?”
    T’Pok was sitting toward the table, intent on doing something; only his right, unnerving eye, was looking at me.
    “This is my temple, and I am doing a ceremonial sacrifice. Now I’m going to complete the ritual, if you don’t mind.”
    “A temple? T’Pok, this is wrong on so many levels… you are no priest and you have no rights to do ceremonies. Plus, what kind of inappropriate rite are you supposed to celebrate here in this morgue?”

    T’Pok turned to me; he was holding a knife, and in the other hand he had a piece of half cooked meat; he chomped away a chunk of it, chewing it slowly. His look was cold, unnerving. And suddenly I realized that I was not immobilized by some drug… I was tied up.
    “Haven’t you heard what I’ve said to you? Only war matters, the strength to wage it. Physical and moral laws are an unnecessary burden. Why do you think it should be different for Gods? They don’t care about form… They care only about what’s due to Them. If you satisfy Their hunger, They will reward you. That’s why I’m winning this war. That’s why this land is mine.”
    “This is Lustria, not your land. Now cut away this rope and…”
    “This is no more Lustria. Lizardmen are unable to win because they just care about Sotek and Old Ones. Skaven are not able to win because they only care about the Horned Rat. That’s why I am winning”.
    The sense of dizziness was fading away, and I was able to focus on the rest of the room. The sense of nausea grew to an almost unbearable point.
    There were scaled tails hanging on hooks, and sauris' hands left to rot near holes in the walls; reptilian eyeballs were floating in a jello liquid into glass jars…and there was the severed head of Sky Leader Tepiki, placed on a plate, with dead, accusatory eyes staring at me.
    I was not able to divert my look from the remains of Tepiki, but I heard T’Pok was moving.

    “Sotek has been satisfied. Now, we’d better feed also the Horned Rat…”

    As guessed, this was a revisiting of Apocalypse Now, which is derived from Hearth of Darkness.
    The story developes in a way similar to the movie… a captain that goes into the jungle to see what's happening to a colonel gone mad. Of course, somethings are different (in the movie the captain knows since the beginning that Kurtz is mad, here you'll see at the end), some other things are pretty similar, both from a visual pov (the beginning, with the terradons flying over the burning jungle, instead of the helicopters) and from a narrative pov (the dialogue when the general gives the mission to the captain).

    I'm surprised and sad for the poor result of the piece, however, reading all the reviews, it appears clearly that:

    1. some weird grammar / use of words. Clunky dialogue and out-of-place expressions.

    This is partially due to me being not native speaker, combined with the fact that i managed to write the story in its entirety in the few days of the submissions phase, so in a hurry.
    These facts clearly detract something to the piece, so for the next time i must be careful and possibly gain some time to have a constructive review by someone else. ;)

    2. the ending and the portrayal of the madness were cool and appreciated, and at least that's a good point. I'm happy with the result.

    And finally, last but not least, here we are with the illustrations made for my piece! I'm truly proud, not all the stories received this visual homage! :D:)

    (at least, i believe the second one was still about Heart of Darkness)
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
  11. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    This helps a lot because while I did enjoy the Lewis Carol tribute, I had trouble following what was going on.

    Also, I would strongly recommend posting your Tomb King pieces in their own thread, without spoiler tags. You'll get more likes and comments that way. Some people gloss over reposts of contest pieces. You sort of put your lantern under a bowl hiding it here. I only just noticed them.
  12. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Then i will do it.
    Tnx for the suggestion ;)
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  13. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Been there, done that

    April-May 2019, theme was "Doom and/or Destruction"
    I took the sixth place on 8, with a multiple tie
    This story won the "Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl Comedy Award" and "Scalenex Cup" :) (the Scalenex cup was a tie)

    “Halt! Who goes there?”

    Exiting from the darkened alley, Tekk’it didn’t bother to answer.

    Stupid warmblood…What do you think I could be? A horde of screaming wrathmongers?

    The torches’ light shone upon the plumage adorning the skink’s head, identifying Tekk’it as the high priest, the commander of the Seraphon expeditionary force. The Free Peoples guards in front of the palace’s entrance, rigidly saluted him.

    “Sir! The Council has begun Sir. You are expected.”

    Tekkit moved past the guards without saying a word.

    As if I needed to be told why I’m here. As if I like to enter this place if it wasn’t necessary.

    Tekk’it went up the stairs, feeling uneasy. He hated the weird sensation of walking upon polished marble. His feet were used to the rough cut stones of the temple, worked by kroxigors’ mauls. The way warmbloods built their constructions was unnatural.

    Going upstairs, Tekk’it went above the curtain of buildings that surrounded the governor’s palace. In the distance, the night was lit up by the burning of deamonic fires, surrounding the core of the besieged city; no longer muffled, he could hear the echoes of the Ironweld warmachines, battering the bloodletters without a moment of pause.

    Tekk’it could hear the angry debating only when he was basically arrived.

    “YOUR FORCES LEFT THE CITY! We are allies, how can Sigmar leave us without your support? We won’t last a week without the Hammerhands Chamber!”
    “Always stating the obvious, aren’t you?”

    The discussion stopped, and all the heads turned toward Tekk’it.

    The governor was seated at the head of the table, flanked by two commanders of the Free Peoples, the Chief Engineer of the Ironweld Arsenal, the Thane of Dispossessed, the Battlemage leader of the Collegiate Arcane… all facing the Lord Celestant, the last Stormcast present in all the city. The Excelsior Warpriest of Sigmar, of course, was not there.

    “Finally you’ve joined us!”

    Sigh. As I’ve said, stating the obvious…

    “I am here”
    “Then please, try to reason the Lord Celestant. We cannot hold the line without the SCE”.
    “So what? The leaving of Stormcasts was to be expected… the Temple of Sigmar has fallen and swarmed by Khorne’s daemons. They won’t fight to retake some desecrated, ruined walls”

    Tekk’it raised a claw, to stop the incoming shouting

    “…and for the combat, the Seraphon will cover it. Reinforcements are on the way.”

    There was a brief moment of pause.

    “You keep saying that. We acknowledge that there has been a constant flow of saurus troops, to replenish the losses, but it’s not enough".

    “Slann dominate the stars but are also tied to them. They need the right constellations to bring
    in their full power. Soon our real strength will be clear.”

    The Battlemage entered the debate. “The question is: how much soon? Apparently, I don’t read the stars in the same way of your Slann, as I don’t see meaningful star alignments”.


    The hall fell silent. Expressions of wonder and hope crossed the faces of those present; only the look of the Lord Celestant remained concealed, behind the golden mask.

    “My Master is not a mere Slann. I serve Lord Kroak, the mightiest of them all. No one can match the power of His mind, and our enemies don’t stand a chance. If you want to excuse me, now I need to go on the high tower”.

    Without waiting for an answer, Tikk’it left the room.

    From the high tower there was an impressive view, but Tikk’it was not able to enjoy it. Without the Stormcast Eternals, the defensive line was barely holding the deamons’ pressure.

    You cursed beasts. Your mere presence forces me here, forces me to endure those warmbloods, their annoying habits, this cold place. I hate all of this.

    Then, something changed.

    A weird light began pulsing within the remnants of Sigmar’s temple, filled by octarine tones.

    Tekk’it knew what was going on.

    He saw it happened many times, during the Defense of Itza, during the End Times… Tikk’it was not there, but his master was. He saw it through the memories of Lord Kroak, which crafted him back to life. In a certain sense, every reborn priest possesses the knowledge of its Slann, so that every commander is a seasoned leader.

    The daemons swarmed from the hellish portal, that was growing bigger each second… hundreds, thousands, a whole legion. And then a bellow of rage covered the clash of the battle, mightier than the roar of a Dread Saurian.

    Tikk’it opened his mind.

    My Lord, the Daemon Ka’Banda is here

    A voice answered into his mind, older than everything. Inevitable as Fate itself.

    I know.

    Without the needing to see them, Tikk’it perceived the fading of the saurian regiments, going back to the stars. And while Tikk’it was vanishing too, he took a last look at the night sky, lightened up by the incoming meteor shower.

    Some author's notes.
    I had the idea for this story since 3 months, but never had the time to write it down, and in the end it was wrote in a hurry. The fact that it fits so perfectly the theme, was a luck but also a negative point, as the end is already clear since the beginning.
    One of the interesting thing is that when the Greater Daemon arrives, the Priest Tekk'it knows its name.
    It was a long term plot by Lord Kroak, that wanted to strike down his real target, at the cost of sacrificing worthless warblood. And this was probably known by the Stormcasts (that was left unclear, but it was a possibility).
    Other that that, given that the story was very simple, i played around the protagonist and his pov regarding the human lifestyle and behaviors, to give a light tone to the story and to have a three-dimensional (and hopefully, worth remembering) character. In the end, it worked.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019
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  14. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    A Friend for Hard Times

    July-August 2019, theme was "Magic and the Mundane"
    I took the FIRST place on 9 :)
    AND the story won the "Scolenex Cup" for the cuddly wuddliest story :p


    The skink and the kroxigor were heading toward North. The last lizardmen settlement had been left behind weeks ago. They were following a dusty road, traced with difficulty into the hungry jungle by some clumsy warmblood… It was a sign they were on the right path.

    The trail was blocked by a carriage with a broken wheel, having failed the test of the travel through the lustrian border and that now was laying as a dying bastiladon; four humans were trying to pull it up without any success. The humans noticed the two lizardmen and quickly retreated, holding their staffs as improvised weapons.

    The skink spoke with the kroxigor, and the huge beast left the mace before moving to the wagon and pulling it up, waiting. The skink advanced slowly toward the humans keeping its claws open; one of the men cautiously advanced. A strange negotiation had begun.



    The skink’s dream: the skaven.

    For weeks the skaven had launched countless assaults, wasting thousands of worthless furry lives in order to harass the lizardmen, attempting to tire them and to soften them up for the real attack.

    And indeed Hisstik was tired. Days upon days, casting upon casting… the First Attendant of the High Priest had never ceased to give magical support to the troops with dozens of spells. Easily more than a hundred, in the last two weeks. Before the last battle.

    In the nightmare there was a sea of rats, emerging endlessly from the huge holes, swarming the defenses and trampling the dead saurus warriors. Hisstik was trying to keep them at bay with icy torments and striking comets, his pulsing headache growing more dolorous with each casting. Then Hisstik saw it… the skaven warlord, inciting the horde. An opportunity. The chance for a decisive spell, fighting past the blinding pain inside his head.


    Then something snapped inside Hisskit’s brain and the skink fell to the ground, with blood dripping from his ears and his nose.

    Hisstik awoke, almost crying. As always, the headache had followed him from the dream. I cannot run away from this…. I cannot. The dawn’s light was already filtering through the closed window. Hisstik opened the door, shivering from the early morning cold. The warmblood’s village was quickly waking up to life and the passing humans saluted him with respect, bowing their heads. From the barracks of unmarried laborers a towering mass of scaly muscles hurried toward Hisstik; Kuklan the kroxigor seemed happy, as always.

    “Good morning, revered Priest”
    “How many times will I have to tell you? I am no more a priest, my friend”
    “You speak warmblood. You Great Priest.”
    “I speak the warmblood’s tongue because the Old Ones blessed me with a superior intellect, not because of magic. My days as priest are gone. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here”

    Kuklan remained in silence for some seconds, blinking his eyes.

    “You Priest. Kuklan your guardian. Now I go.”

    He hurried toward the humans that were going to the river banks. A channel must be dug and the Kroxigor’s strength would have been a great help.

    Do you imagine to be a Temple Guard, my friend? That’s why you went into exile with me? Poor deluded fool… but I’m glad you’re here.
    The humans were glad he was here too. It took some time but now the giant lizard and the skink were viewed as part of the community.

    Hisstik’s contribution was of course, less physical; he headed to the botanical garden. The power of the herbs was mundane, but could stop the spreading of a virulent jungle fever. When you hold the power of life, the source of said power is always perceived as divine… especially if you deal with advanced monkeys.

    Now, let us find something for my headache.

    Hisstik was almost finished picking the herbs when someone grabbed him, almost making him fall… and suddenly something cold and warm stamped on his cheek.

    “Fluffy has healed! FLUFFY HAS HEALED!!”

    Hisstik turned toward his aggressor, one of those human children.

    Long and yellow head fur, two braids. She’s Gretha. And Fluffy is the puppy with the hurt leg. Her display of teeth doesn’t mean she’s threatening me, but that she is happy.

    “Lizzie, you’re the greatest wizard EVER!!! I love you!”
    “It was the power of the right medicine, not magic…”
    “you are a wizard! And you are my best friend!”

    The child ran away, leaving Hisstik watching at her back with rhubarb in his claw.

    Foolish warmblood. I shouldn’t be loved for doing something I wasn’t spawned for… but thanks nonetheless.

    He caressed his cheek, where it was kissed. It was a weird sensation.

    Hisstik went back to his house; the herbs had to be treated… but while the various ointments were prepared, the kiss was always there, in a corner of the skink’s mind. Hisstik realized that evening was near only when he heard the settlers coming back from the work… they were singing one of their happy songs and Kuklan was singing too, more or less. He was just shouting made-up verses, trying to mimic the warmbloods voices and to follow the rhythm.

    I am glad you’re happy, my friend… but night is coming. And my daemons too.

    The skink’s dream: the doom.

    He was laying on the bed, with the High Priest standing by his side.

    “I’m sorry Hisstik. There’s not an easy way to say it. I’ve used the crystal skull and I’ve merged my mind with yours. The effort was too great, your astral mind has been damaged. If you cast another spell…”

    the Great Priest stopped, almost afraid to finish the sentence.

    “…I will die”.

    “You could serve our City in different ways. The skaven have been vanquished and it’s time to build again: there’s always a use for supervisors of the Spawning Pools or for archivists. I would be willing to help you in finding a new vocation, the Ritual of New Becoming would be soft.”
    “It won’t be soft. If I have to find a new place for me in the Great Plan, I need to search for it. I choose the Path of Exile”.

    The High Priest face turned hard as stone. “If this is your choice so be it. Leave the city”.

    The dream went on, with Hisstik walking along streets full of sauri and skinks, which were shouting at him, making a constantly growing noise. The screaming was incomprehensible, as if it wasn’t the language of the lizards. Then a thunder suddenly entered the dream, waking Hisstik.

    The screaming was still there coming from the outside. Another thunder and another one… warmbloods’ weapons. Hisstik ran out stopping under the porch.

    The first incoming rays of the sun were eclipsed by the burning fires, as the houses near the palisade were ablaze.

    There were irregular shots coming from the fortified barrack but no soldier was visible, except for a couple of dead sentries. People were running away, scattering themselves at random across the village, just trying to escape the pursuers. Hisstik could hear the growling of cold ones.

    No please no, we didn’t do anything…

    Then a couple of them emerged from behind a house. Metallic armors and weapons, pointy helms and a black banner with a red serpent on it. A lance impaled a villager armed with an axe and then a weighted net caught the human female near him.

    The realization that the enemy wasn’t the lizardmen was a relief for the skink, followed by fright.

    Dark Elves. A raiding party.

    Hisstik was paralyzed. He watched while his little world was collapsing upon itself, cut down by the merciless slavers. Some children were killed, some others were abducted; the same for women and men, without any apparent logic if not for the momentary mood of the attackers.

    A familiar roar came from the barracks… Kuklan was entering the fray, but the kroxigor was too far and probably was too late to save Hisstik, as one of the elves was coming directly toward him.

    No, he’s not looking at me… he’s hunting a child. A child with yellow, braided hair.

    “LIZZIE! HELP!!!”

    Time almost froze… Hisstik watched the girl running to him as fast as she could, but too slow for the elven warrior behind her.


    With a wicked smile the elf raised the sword.

    No please no

    The blade began its descent…


    A blast of wind erupted from the stretched claws of the skink, striking the dark elf and projecting him back several yards. He landed against the wall of the water well with a satisfying crack, the head bended to an unnatural angle.

    The panicked girl was now desperately hugging Hisstik, but he barely noticed it. He was watching his claws, then the dead elf, then his claws again. His mind was crackling with energy. He gently loosened the hug of the child.

    “Stay behind me, Gretha. I will die, but they won’t touch you”.

    One of the Cold Ones riders saw his dead companion, then noticed Hisstik. He lowered the lance and charged.
    I’ve got a lance too, you bastard.


    A translucent bolt, the size of the arrows fired by stegadons, designed a deadly ark, exploding the dinosaur’s head and impaling the rider.

    I did it. I’m not dead.

    In the open square there was now a group of four armed elves and among them, a half-naked female who was watching at Hisstik with surprise and hate. She began chanting and gesturing… more than seeing it, Hisstik perceived the concentration of dark energy around the sorceress, until it reached its peak, finally venting into the spell. Death was heading toward the skink.


    The energy dissipated around the protective gestures made by Hisstik, leaving only some stains upon the wooden wall behind him.

    I’ve never felt so powerful…
    Hisstik looked at the sorcereress in the eye and he saw fear.
    …and now it is my turn.


    Now the thunder was real. The sorceress tried to cast something, weaving her hands into a defensive stance… the magical pressure snapped the layer of defense, one by one. Then a lightning bolt struck her from the darkened sky, enveloping the screaming sorceress with white energy. The lightning bounced from the charred corpse into the nearby bodyguards, slaying them all.

    Hisstik stayed immobile, contemplating the dead enemies and shielding Gretha with his body.

    He could hear the roaring of the kroxigor and the shouts of the soldiers finally emerging from the barracks. Pinched within two counterattacks and without leadership, the dark elves fled, leaving further bodies on the ground and abandoning the captured humans.

    Hisstik stayed near the porch, sitting upon the stair step, still unable to understand why he was still alive. Gretha went away with her mother, which passed 10 minutes crying and swearing eternal gratitude to her savior. The mother kissed Hisstik too… it was definitely nice to have cheeks kissed.

    The settlers were still quenching the fires when a deeply satisfied Kuklan, with a mace covered in blood, reaced his friend.

    “You good?”
    “Yes my friend. And you know what? I’ve killed them with my spells. No more headaches, only the power of real magic.”

    The kroxigor nodded solemnly.

    “Told you. You Revered Priest”.

    “Yes you did. But my friend, these things are not your knowledge and it wasn’t supposed to be that way… the will of the Old Ones works in mysterious ways”.

    Kuklan smiled, showing the teeth as one of those human child.

    “No mystery. Once Kuklan moves very heavy stones. Arms hurt. Kuklan rests two days. Arms hurt no more.”

    Kuklan smiled again, then trotted away without waiting for Hisstik to reply.

    The skink watched the kroxigor walk away. You know what, my friend? Maybe the Old Ones like simple things, once in a while. Hisstik finally got up.

    Better to see if the botanical garden is alright. Our wounded will need some healing.

    Reviews and personal considerations:

    i wonder if i ever have a "classic" review for this story by you. Just out of curiosity. ;)

    Just a couple of things: it wasn't the HighPriest that exiled Hisstik… Hisstik exiled himself.
    The High Priest was offering Hisstik an easy "ritual of new becoming"... which usually is not an easy thing. So when Hisstik refused the generous offer, the High Priest was… disappointed.

    Regarding the spell: “ISS KASS SSARATI SHA…” and all the rest of the phrases, they are all variations of the spells in the Necronomicon, the Evocations of the Guardian/s.

    OK, this is my review. Always difficult to review your own story, so i used this as an excuse to highlight a couple of things i did (the "good" part)

    I see that many readers were intrigued by the "acceptance" of the lizardmen by the humans. I took the situation for granted: it was the premise… in the prologue 2 lizardmen leave their home and go to the humans, real story starts some time after that. Justifications were hinted in the "utility" of the lizardmen (hard labour, herbalism and healing skills), but clearly the gap within was interesting as the story itself. :D

    nothing to add here. :)

    Funnily, in the first version of the story (when it was only in my mind), the girl dies. At that point, Hisstik goes mad and starts casting because in that moment the urge to avenge her is stronger than his self-preservation instinct.
    I like more the idea developed later, when the girl is saved. It gives a far more positive meaning to the character growth of the protagonist.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
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  15. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    I doubt the story would have won if you did that. Not only wast he happy ending nice, but it felt more appropriate that a cause worth fighting for was what was missing rather than a lack of anger since he probably already had anger.

    The alternate ending would have got you the Scalenex Cup though...
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  16. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    In the Grim Darkness

    October-november 2019, theme was "Alternate settings"
    I took the seventh place on 7, which is my worst result up til now. Oh well.
    This story almost won the "Scalenex Cup" (which wasn't awarded this round)

    The huge portal is glowing dark blue in the night: the Polar Gate is oozing darkness and spewing forth mutating energy: the raw stuff of warp is crackling, implementing the engines of the Chaos Warlord Titans that still walk around the battlefield, trampling the remnants of the imperial Baneblades and Land Raiders.

    The assault has been a massacre, as predicted. But the lines of defense have been weakened, and through the cracks the real attack can slip… a small scout squad, equipped with a Vortex Cataclysm mine which, if placed correctly, will do the work. The future of this word rests, literally, upon my shoulders.

    So, here we go.

    Our 3-men squad moves silently, exploiting the cover of bunkers’ ruins and crests of molten rock… we know our camo cloak can hide us up to a certain point, and Khorne’s Raptors patrol the field.

    We have moved through, and we have silently killed random sentries, but the counter on my screen visor reminds me that time is running short. A choke point is ahead us, and I don’t have the luxury to waste time by going around it.

    I see a couple of berzerkers on guard duty… Through the sight of my sniper rifle I observe the pattern of their move, until I’m ready.

    My ceramite pad shoulder absorbs the silent recoil, and the head of one of them becomes a blood flower… the body crumbles in a nearby crater, exactly when the other berzerker, as planned, was looking in a different direction.

    And when he turns, a second shot puts him out, giving him no time to raise a cry of alarm.

    We run forward, finding cover near the fallen traitor.

    Behind the corner, another couple of berserkers are in wait, but this time I cannot do the same trick as before, so I have to risk a combined assault. I shoot one of them, while one of my brothers charges the other one… the power blade cuts his torso in half, but not before a shot of bolt rifle has been fired.

    Now we run into shadows, keeping a low profile and hoping our cloaks will suffice: a Raptor squad is approaching the choke point to investigate, and soon the alarm will be done.

    We’re almost at a pillar of the Gate… it will be guarded, but we have heavy weaponry too, and at that point silence will be unnecessary. Only surprise will matter.

    Then, a overcharged plasma shot takes down my brother with the power sword.

    Totally unseen, a squad of Dark Angel Fallen emerges from a dark alley, opening fire against us. The only unit sneakier than us…

    “Run! You know your duty! For the Emperor!”

    My brother puts himself between me and the Fallen and opens full fire with his heavy bolter… one of the Fallen falls again, and now forever.

    I run forward, but the enemy has been alerted by the noise… I’m only 50 yards away from the pillar, when a Helbrute enters the open space; I throw away my rifle and take the missile launcher, the only way I have to stop that walking behemoth… its reaper autocannon opens fire, and one shot rips apart my flak armor; while my secondary hearth starts to compensate the damage, I let loose the missile.

    The explosion shreds to pieces a leg of the Helbrute and it crumbles to on side.

    Then the autocannon fires again.



    the skink threw away the holovisor on a bed.

    He was in a room with white walls, shelves filled with books and cd. From the radio, Primal Scream was singing to don’t give up… if there was some irony, it went unperceived.

    “Stupid game! it’s impossible to complete the hard mode mission with a warmblood allegiance!”

    A second skink started laughing.

    “Ah! Told you. War for the Gates II is unbalanced. The best camo cloak available gives just an additional 20% of being undetected, while chameleon infiltrators start from a natural 40%. Hard Mode needs Lizardmen. And with the upgrade you gain access to solar beams, while human scouts are limited to those inadequate missile launchers.”

    “Trikkit did it. With humans.”

    “And cheat codes.”

    “… Well, I suppose that against chaos it’s fair game. I really need to borrow a couple of those codes…”

    “What we really need, would be to study advanced biochemical engineering. The next month we’ll have the test on programming Spawning Pools’ cells”.

    The first skink walked to the window.

    It was a sunny day and from the palace there was a nice view of New Tlanxla. The streets were busied with lizardmen walking and riding and there were tiny little rainbows where the fountains were sprinkling drops of water in the air; in the outskirts of the city, the luxuriant palms were keeping at bay the sands of the desert, while airships filled with tourists were floating toward the ruins of the Black Pyramid of Nagash.

    “Yes, I suppose we have to. But the daily summoned rain has ended, so I’d say we could bring the books on the roof, so we can study while taking a sunbath. It’s a win-win!”

    Despite the last place, the story was very well received. Here's the proof(s)

    Some author's notes:
    With such a theme for the comp, I've had in mind a lot of things.
    A post-apocalyptic story ala MadMax or The Book of Eli.
    Or a different aftermath of the End Times with a chunk of the old Lustria that survived in a setting ala Dune.
    But nothing good came out of them, so in the end i opted for this piece, which was kinda bland but at least I knew it was an enjoyable reading.

    The original title was "HARD MODE", which makes perfectly sense but gives away too much, as it would have spoiled the middle twist (which was the main point of the story) so i opted for "In the grim darkness", which not only reveals the initial 40k settings but also acts in a nice contrast with the light ending.

    I like the idea that lizardmen, indeed, triumphed in the Old World and succeeded in enacting the Great Plan (?), conquering the Old World and being able to set a lizard civilisation, free from enemies.
    At that point, the remains of the enemies of the past are just relic good for tourists, and lizardmen are free to develop a sort of terraforming, a modern-futuristic society, which is very similar to ours, but apparently more advanced, with high tech (holovisors) and magic (summoned rain).

    And the warriors of the past are now students of the college / high school / university, with students' problems, and the typical "desire" to study of modern scholars. A funny ending in a sunny desert.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
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  17. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Seasons (winter solstice 2019 poetry contest)

    this poem ended 7th on 12 pieces. GIven that I'm not a poet, i'd say it's not bad. :)

    The gentle Spring, the seeds open to a promise of greatness.

    And so do we, spawned by the Old Ones.

    The warm Summer, strong and many grow the branches of Lustria.

    And so do we, blessed by the Old Ones.

    The melancholic Autumn, fall the leaves blown by first cold winds.

    And so do we, in the wars of the Old Ones.

    The harsh winter, it freezes the ground and life sleeps away.

    And so do we, in the dreams of the Old Ones.

    Until Spring will come again.

    Lizardmen are not wood elves, but still we live in communion with nature, much more then the other races of the Old World, so I have depicted the tie between annual seasons and the story arc of Lizardmen (despite the fact that seasons in a tropical jungle are not the same as the ones we know).

    The spring and the birth of Lizardmen, created by the Old Ones; the summer and the glorious days of our race, before the polar gates and the coming of chaos. The autumn, and the decline of our civilization with the costant wars. The winter, and the End Times.

    The Old Ones are the omnipresent superior beings that rule the life seasons of the lizardmen and so they are the tie between the verse for each season.

    In the end I’ve played with words… “life sleeps away” recalls the lethargy, so typical of winter, but it sound so similar to “life slips away”, the death of the old world.

    And the end wants to be a double hint:

    1) to AoS: after a hiatus of millennia, lizardmen come back again, recalled from the memories of the Slanns, which is presented as an awakening from the letargy into the dreams of the Old Ones.

    2) the announced return of the Old World
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  18. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    A reason to live, a reason to die

    January-february 2020, theme was "New beginnings or Rebirth"
    At the moment of the closure of the pool, I took the fourth place on 10, with a multiple tie.


    The saurus warrior, Gilmok, was on duty patrol, at the border of the jungle. It was not a serious task, as there was no organized opponent in this region. Anyway the chameleon skinks would have warned them for any approaching intruder.

    So Gilmok was relaxing, enjoying the warm sensation of the sun upon his dorsal crest, sending waves of heat through his veins, uncaring of the occasional butterflies and of the hopeless beetles that were trying to chomp through the scaly skin of his feet.

    Behind him, the walls of Itza-Oatl, the First temple-city, were growing higher, raised with the sandstone’s blocks that the kroxigors were bringing from the nearby quarry. In the distance, a small squad of skink handlers was pushing a cart filled with cold ones’ eggs toward the barracks of the freshly spawned saurus knights, for the incoming imprinting ceremony.

    The golden globe upon the pyramid was shining bright, and high in the sky there was the omnipresent Eye of the Gods… dark during the days and bright in the nights, which was keeping watch upon the lizardmen.

    Without even realizing it, Gilmok nodded in approval.


    Lord Tla’Tol, the Fifth of his generation, was floating upon his throne, in the divination room.

    In the Pool of Visions, the reflections of the distant planet’s life were taking form… A Cold One whelp was fixing its ecstatic eyes into the ones of its future rider… at the top of the Temple, a skink priest was preparing the sacred tools for the ceremony of the Blessing of Chotec.

    Tla’Tol sensed a disturbance in the fabric of magic, and promptly let the water turn back to its inactive state.

    After a few moments, a translucent figure materialized in front of him. Tla’Tol greeted his guest with an imperceptible smile.

    “Lord Ulha'up, Fourth of his Generation, I welcome you in my Temple-Ship”

    “Greetings, Lord Tla’Tol… my friend. Let us put aside formalities, do you agree?”

    “I do. I sense you are worried”

    “I am. What are you doing, my friend? The oldest Slanns are uneasy, if such a word can be used. It seems that the Lethargic Chambers of your Temple-Ship are… no more at their full capacity.”

    “Tell them that I needed to do some additional awakening; it is my prerogative, as Lord of this Temple-Ship. Let them know that I could not wait for the Council’s approval, but the Temple and its cargo are not at risk”.

    “I will report your message, but you know they will require a more detailed explanation.”

    “When the time will come, I will”

    Ulha'up stood silently for half a minute. He knew Tla’Tol better than anyone else.

    “Just be careful, my friend. I salute you”.

    The astral projection of Ulha'up wanished, leaving Tla’Tol alone.

    The Slann pondered the inevitable course of actions. After a few moments, a skink priest entered the room.

    “What are your commands, my Lord?”

    “Prepare the Golden Plaques, and tell the High Priest of the Chambers we need to proceed to phase two”.


    The Sacred Plaques were found in the site shown by the falling star… the Tear from the Eye of the Gods.

    The site around the holy meteor was chosen for the building of Chuq-Hex, the Second City, and Gilmok’s regiment had been selected to guard the place.

    In the inner chambers of the growing temple, the High Priests were studying the prophecies written by the Gods… there were rumors about the contents of the Plaques, it was said that great portents were announced, as great threats and mortal dangers.

    But there was no fear in Gilmok’s heart, because he was a warrior born and destined to fight whatever threat they will be going to face.

    Softened by the outer walls of stone, the distant echo of a bellowing roar reached the barracks… it was Itza-Kor, the Great Carnosaur, found in the eastern jungle and tamed by the Veteran Bok-Kai, the undisputed leader of the saurian army.

    No one shall deny the greatness due to Lizardmen, the Children of the Gods.


    Lord Tla’Tol knew the moment would have arrived, and in his mind, he already acted the possible scenes multiple times. There was so much at stakes.

    He was in the Hall of Dawn, staring at the constellations dotting the night sky, through the force field that shielded the opening, when the astral projection of Lord Ulha'up reached him.

    “Lord Tla’Tol, Fifth of his Gener…”

    “Don’t you think it is a beautiful sight?”

    “Lord Tla’Tol, I’m here on an official…”

    “Don’t you think it is a beautiful sight?”

    Ulha'up blinked. Twice.

    “Tla’Tol, I don’t understand...”

    “Lord Ulha'up, you are here as voice of the Slanns’ Council, to inquire me about my conduct as Slann of this Temple-Ship. Am I right?”

    “Yes, you are. Listen, I have asked to be sent here. The Oldest are saying that half of your chambers are empty. I don’t know what you are doing, but it is not too late. Explain to me what is happening, and together we will talk to the Council.”

    “Answer my question, please. Is this a beautiful sight?”

    Ulha'up looked at the stars.

    “It is beautiful, indeed. But cold.”

    Tla’Tol smiled.

    “Tell the Council that I invoke the Great Plan. My actions adhere to it, so I must be given the time to complete them. Within a year from now, I will explain”

    “Don’t do this, I beg you. If you say so, they will dissect your doing, and if they find it is not true…”

    “Just tell them. I, Lord Tla’Tol, have spoken”

    He watched the astral projection fade away.

    “Farewell, my friend… and remember the stars are cold”.


    Gilmok was trying to hold his breath and fight the urge to run away. The other warriors and the skinks that were part of the exploration patrol, were hiding in the shadows. Despite the absence of wind and the undergrowth's heat, the saurus warrior was cold.

    “It cannot be. Such a beast is impossible”.

    Beyond the canopy of foliage and bushes that were hiding them, an enormous four legged reptile was feasting upon the remains of a feral bastiladon. Its crested spine was standing higher than the secular trees. The massive jaws were cracking with ease the iron-like plates of its dead prey.

    “Its head alone is big as a whole stegadon…”

    The gargantuan beast noticed the presence of a terradon that was flying high above, and challenged it with a primeval roar. Gilmok was almost deafened by the power of the scream.

    The beast then turned back on its path, following the trail of destructed trees, tored down during the chase of the Bastiladon.

    The skink chief that was hiding near Gilmok, dared to break the silence. “It’s going North. This must be the border of its territory. It’s a good thing we are expanding toward South”.

    Gilmok nodded. They both knew this was definitely something that needed to be reported.


    Tla’Tol was standing at the center of the Shrine of the Old Ones, the core of the Temple-Ship; in front of him, the Council: Ten Slanns, all of them second and third generation… and behind them, unbothered, was Lord Kroak, sitting silent and immobile as a statue.

    The documents and the monthly reports were floating mid-air from a Slann to another, each one arousing new telepathic questions.

    “Lord Tla’Tol… many details are unclear, but what has been done here is inconceivable. The events of the End Times gifted you with the command of one of our richest Tempe-Ship, despite your young age. So many irreplaceable embryos and eggs… even one of the few remaining true Dread Saurian. All of them awakened on this single world. The Chambers are empty.”
    “The Old Plan was doomed to fail so we could see the truth… the real war that was going to happen, a war that engulfs universes. The destruction of the Old World revealed the Great Plan in its grandeur… and you wasted our limited resources to bring to life a resemblance of old Lustria.”
    “Worse than all, you have created false Plaques, simulating the Sacred ones.”
    “Not only your actions don’t adhere to the Great Plan… they are heresy. We never thought the Ritual of Undoing would have been cast upon a Slann, but your actions give us no choice. Do you have something to say?”.

    Tla’Tol knew the end was near. But something had to be said.

    “We wage war with the power of our minds, our summoned fighters have nothing at stake. The children of the Old Ones deserve something better than cryostasis. I gave them something worth to fight for.”

    A tear was forming in the eye of Tla’Tol, but it never reached his cheek.

    The ten Slanns casted in unison the ancient spell of Undoing, and the body of Tla’Tol vanished into particles of energy which lit up the room for a moment. Then it was dark again.

    “Lord Kroak, what should we do with this… world?”

    Up til now, Lord Kroak had taken no part in the Council; now, his head rose.

    “Nothing. I will hide this Temple-Ship on the planet, in a place where these newborn Lizardmen will be able to find it, when the due time will come. Go away now”.


    The particles of energy that once were Tla’Tol, were dissipating into the universe. They would have been absorbed by Dracothion, minimally increasing the fabric of magical energy of the universe of the Order.

    But something much less stronger, yet much more nearer, dragged the magical essence of the dead Slann toward the underlying planet…


    Almost the whole population of Itza-Oatl had gathered nearby Tza-Mundi, the swamp of the Sacred Pools. The skink priests and their attendants were encircling the central, most mysterious pool. The one that gives no spawnings.

    Gilmok was alongside the other warriors; all of them had been released from any kind of duty and were just standing there, waiting. The officiants were chanting odes to the Old Ones since three days, alternating so as not to interrupt the prayers. Since the Eye of the Gods was no more watching upon them, vanished from the sky.

    The Plaques told it. When the children of the Old Ones would have been ready to walk by themselves, the Gods would have left… but a final gift would have been given to Lizardmen. Their true leader.

    The water of pool began to ripple. Slowly, something emerged.

    A great, bloated toad with large head and bulbous eyes.

    Gilmok bowed down.

    Imrahil and Paradoxical Pacifism like this.
  19. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Ask and it will be given

    April-May 2020, theme was "Rituals and Religious Practices"
    The story took the third place on 14. (or the second? There were 2 winners and i was behind them for 1 vote...)


    The Gathering

    The cave was dark, with stale air filled by scent of dust and echoes of drippings into unseen pools. A place unattended even in the Under-Empire.
    Three figures were standing there. A skaven in a stained grey robe, his face devastated by buboes and clawed hands with bandages encrusted by pus… the stench of decay was slowly filling the cave.
    Another skaven was standing in front of him, his robe emblazoned with the symbol of a glowing green rat. On his side there was… something. A pale body with a naked torso, with dead skin half-covered by patches of mangy fur. A scar all around the neck marked the separation with the head… a blue, reptilian one.
    “As promised, here the creation of Clan Moulder; an exquisite mastercraft tool, yes-yes”.
    The Grey Seer looked skeptically at it.
    “Can it still understand the tongue of the scaly-things? Can it write their runes?”
    “It can, yes-yes. It was a scribe, its brain is almost intact! Very difficult find, great cutting-surgery, yes! And it will be your scaly-slave. If you pay the price…”
    The Grey Seer drew a cloth bag from under his robe. A green, pulsing light was visible inside it.
    The other skaven grabbed the bag, but the Seer didn’t let it go.
    “This is good warpstone, yes. The scaly writing must be good too. I still don’t know if the scaly-slave will be worth this big price…”
    The other skaven caressed his pendant, carved with the symbol of the Packmasters, and gave a cruel smile in return. The cave behind him was dark, and dangerously silent.
    The Grey Seer left the bag.
    “Good deal, yes-yes”.

    First Liturgy

    The Grey Seer was hidden within the dense foliage, observing the sleeping village.
    It was the perfect target for the first part of his magnificent plan… a bunch of laborers far from the cities; the war was a distant thing, here there were no walls and just few big scaly-things, while there were many of the small ones, strong and resistant but weak minded.
    The hooded acolytes were silently sneaking between the cabins. The Grey Seer saw one of them near a garden, which was sprinkling the vegetables with the result of a long and expensive alchemy work. Despite the distance, a slight breeze took some wet particle up to the Seer. His whiskers followed morbidly the scent, tasting the rotting flavor.

    Second Liturgy

    The village was dead.
    Rotting corpses were lying in desiccated pools of vomit, blood and puked innards. Sauri and skinks scattered across the streets, caught by death while they were wandering delirious with fever, in search of an help it wouldn’t come. Swarms of flies were ruling the place and the heavy stench, empowered by the heat and humidity, it was almost unpleasant even for the Grey Seer.
    Still, he was standing there, always hidden, unable to go away.
    And finally here it was.
    A lone, bulky skink emerged from a barrack, moving unsteadily … watching the dead, slowly realizing the size of the massacre.
    The Gray Seer was trembling in excitement, unable to restrain himself.
    “Yes-yes! The survivor! It’s the chosen one! Yes-yes! Worthless scaly-thing, touched-blessed by the Horned Rat! Oh yes! Fall on your knees, you fool-thing. Remember the dream-visions my poison put in your feeble mind! Find shelter in them! Search answers! Find vengeance!”
    An acolyte who was standing nearby the Seer looked at his master. “I still don’t understand why we didn’t kill them all…”
    The Seer spun around, grinning his teeth.
    There was a moment of silence, then another acolyte draw a blade and slit the throat of the first one.
    With a grunt of approval, the Seer looked again at the village; the survivor skink now was walking toward the jungle.
    “The puppet is going. We must sneak-follow it…”

    Third Liturgy

    The place was an ancient ruin, with collapsed walls and granite blocks covered by moss and topsoil, severed columns wrapped by creepers. The massive skink was moving between them, in astonished silence, often stopping his path to sign himself and mutter something.
    “Scaly-slave, I need to know. What is it doing?”
    “It’s praying, master”
    “Stupid puppet-thing…I want it to find the relic-trap. Quick-soon.”
    Finally the skink went on, toward the only stone building that was not yet totally collapsed… toward the dark, inviting entrance. Going inside.
    “Perfect. It should find-take the false tablet. And now we’ll see if the writing skills of the scaly-slave are up to my expectations…”
    Hours passed and when the night arrived, the flickering light of a torch went on inside the building.
    The torch burned all night long.
    When dawn did arrived, the skink emerged from the building. He was now standing tall, holding a stone tablet against his chest with both arms. With hardened eyes, he screamed something to the sky, then he marched on his way back toward the village.
    “Scaly-slave, What did it said?”
    “It sweared that it will show the way prophesied by the sacred plaque. It sweared vengeance, master”.
    “Good-excellent! It’s time for all the scaly-things to discover a new faith…”
    The Gray Seer cruelly smiled.
    “…and abandon their current one”.

    Fourth Liturgy

    After a week of travel, the skink finally reached a small town.
    He did already met small groups of skinks, and some of them followed him. The Grey Seer knew that the danger of being discovered was growing too high, but finally the objective was at hand.
    The Seer called his most trusted and able spy.
    “We will go now. You stay here. No one see-hear you. you will sneak-observe. No killing. Spy the little scaly-things… all of them that live here. Each morning they gather to pray their sun-god. The plan-trap will trigger slowly, yes-yes. They won’t know. There will be less and less little scaly-things to the morning prayers. When there’s only half of them, call me.”
    The Gray Seer looked at the skinks entering the town. The scent of excitement filled the air around him.
    “…and then we will come for them…”

    Fifth Liturgy

    The town was burning.
    Patrols of plague monks were wandering the streets, searching for survivors; in the eastern blocks, the sounds of the battle were closing around the last resistance. The Grey Seer was walking through corpses of saurus warriors, with scales twisted by the underneath flesh swelling; necrotic tissues were depicting an ode to the Horned Rat.
    A group of stormvermin moved toward the Grey Seer, escorting the scaly-slave.
    “What did you see-read, slave-thing?”
    “We entered the houses of the small scaly-things, master. In many of them there is the symbol of the puppet-god”
    “YES! yes-yes!”

    The Grey Seer was so excited that he noticed the approaching Warlord only when he was almost towering him.
    “The battle is almost over, my Seer.”
    “Ah, yes-yes. A great victory yes. But… has it been an easy-simple victory?”
    “Like crushing a slave in the training pit, my Seer. As you told-predicted, their magic was poor-weak. Never seen a thing like this”.
    “Ah, my Warlord… Magic comes from gods. If no one pray the gods, their power becomes feeble-weak.
    I’ve turned a fool scaly-thing into my unaware puppet, and now it’s making the other scaly-things forgot their gods. The made-up scriptures I gave to it… a new false faith in nothing. That is my masterful plan, yes-yes”
    “…is the scaly-puppet the one that we let escape with a bunch of followers?”
    “yes-yes. And now it’s heading for the BIG city…”

    Concluding rite

    The Grey Seer was standing on the top of a hill, contemplating the desolation from his privileged standpoint. He was grasping a Skryre hand-telescope to look at the landscape.
    The walls of the fortified city were poorly defended and the skaven troops were moving with stunning audacy at the border of the jungle, no more caring if the defenders could catch a glimpse of their amassed forces.
    Within the city, columns of dense smoke were raising into the sky, carrying the stench of the burned corpses; in the distance, it could be heard the painful bellow of a dying carnosaur… a pleasant sound, waiting for the soon-to-come Seer’s Screaming Bell.
    Only a final proof of the declining power of the scaly-things magic was needed. And finally, after a month of waiting, the Seer saw it.
    Out of the pyramid-temple, a host of armored reptiles was carrying a palanquin; upon it, an immobile flappy fat corpse, the once bright blue now was a stained grey. The Mage-Slann of the city was dead.
    “Perfect-excellent, yes-yes! tomorrow the city will be mine, and soon… soon the lead of Clan Pestilens too. And then, I will have my seat in the Council of Thirteen, yes-yes.”

    Out of curiosity, the Seer looked for his scaly-puppet.
    It was in a square, waving the fake tablet in front of a thick crowd of scaly-fools, all of them shouting an unintelligible choir.
    The Seer smiled “this time there will be no escape for you, fool scaly-puppet, your utility has been…”
    “They are praising him.”
    The Seer turned toward the voice, surprised and annoyed.
    “I did not asked for translation, you stupid slave-thing…”
    The scaly-slave was standing tall, looking at him with eyes sparkling with a cruel light... its hand was grasping a wooden stake, crudely sharpened.
    “They are hailing your puppet, and they are saying: Praised be Tehenhauin, Prophet of Sotek. Blood will flow”.
    Then the scaly-slave moved with blinding speed, thrusting the stake through the leather armor and the ribs of the Seer, piercing his lung.
    The Seer dropped to the ground, coughing blood; his killer raised the stake for a final blow.
    “…and you will be the first sacrifice to Him”.
    High in the sky, a twin tailed comet was shining bright.

    Some author's notes:

    With this one, i wanted to revisit the "Birth" of Tehenhauin, the prophet of Sotek.
    Both of them have always been figures veiled in mistery. In Lizardmen's fluff, Tehenhauin appeared from nowhere and even the Old-One status of Sotek was subject to debates among the Slanns. Tehenhauin himself has Always been portrayed as basically a fanatical figure, obsessed by sacrifices.
    At this point, i decided to use the old trope of "if a sufficient large amount of people believe in something, that something becomes real"... a thing that every 40k ork player can tell you.

    At that point, the story developed:
    a pestilence Grey Seer got an idea: if skinks lose their faith in the Old Ones, the magical power that gives lizardmen the edge, will vanish. But how? by giving them a false new faith.
    1) buy a frankenmonster with a head of a skink, which will act as translator and scribe, to write false Sacred Plaques with the prophecy of the advent of this new deity… (Sotek, but the reader still doesn't know)
    2) slay a village with a magical poison, one that gives visions… the skink that will survive this, will be forced by the visions to go in the place where the false plaque has been "hidden"
    3) the poor mental damaged skink, which is a mere labourer, will find the plaque. This simple-minded guy, thirsty for vengeance, will learn of a new God that will deliver said vengeance. The Skink now got a task: to spread this amazing new truth to a world haunted by skaven
    4) the skink goes, many skinks listen to him and abandon the faith in the Old Ones; lizardmen's magic becomes weak, skaven win the first battle
    5) the same happens in the big city
    6) the Backfire and the revelation. With so many skinks that pray to Sotek, the "magical energy" reaches a critical point, and Sotek becomes real… with the powers that the Grey Seer gave to it in the false plaque and also with, probably, the personal increases given by Tehenhauin himself. The power of Sotek also frees the mind of the frankenslave, which kills the Grey Seer. The age of Sotek has begun.
    7) not present in the story… this explains why, in the fluff, Tehenhauin came out of nowhere, and also why the Slann debated for so long before accepting Sotek into the pantheon of the Old Ones. They knew the plaque was a false one, but now the new God is undeniably true.
  20. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    The Wile E. Coyote picture represented the Skaven's final thoughts, not mine. You cut out my thoughts. I will add a disclaimer given that your comments show concern that people didn't understand your meta plot. Your piece was one of the first pieces I got so I read it thoroughly and often and we discussed minor rewrites. I had no problems understanding what was going on because I spent extra time on your piece.

    If your piece was one of the last minute entries, I might have been confused. I don't know for sure though.

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