The theme for our 18th seasonal short story contest provided by @Y'ttar Scaletail was "Doom and/or Destruction." Please read all eight stories before voting. You may vote for up to two pieces. Spoiler: Story One: "Been There, Done That" BEEN THERE, DONE THAT “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”. “Tonight.” 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. Spoiler: Story Two: "Knee-Deep in the Dead" Knee-Deep in the Dead The great spear erupted from the bloodletter, brains and viscera splattering back onto Varxin’s shield as he retrieved his weapon from the head of the fallen demon. The hulking saurus looked down with contempt at the bodies strewn about the room. A greater challenge had been expected today, for while he was used to operating on his own, he had never before attacked a fortified position without reinforcements. Despite the risks, Varxin was happy to die in service of the Old Ones and had yet to meet the foe who would prove to be his end. Perhaps a greater demon yet lurked within this Chaos outpost. One could only hope, he thought as he pressed on deeper into the depths. The warmblood followers of Chaos were formed up in the next room, shields at the ready, prepared for his arrival, prepared for death. With his spear, Varxin hooked the top of the shield of the nearest enemy, pulling him forward to meet his end at the sharp edge of Varxin’s own aegis. Enemy polearms thrusted at him from multiple directions, only to be expertly dodged, blocked by his shield, or to glance off of the ancient warrior’s scar-toughened hide. More importantly, there was now a gap in their ranks, the opportunity of their doom. After hurling his spear at the crossbow wielding warrior hiding behind the front line, he set to work with shield, tooth, and claw. Within the guard of the enemy, he was unstoppable. Soon, all that remained was a pile of bloody corpses and shattered armor. The silence in the room palpable given the chaotic cacophony that was present just moments before. Varxin recovered his polearm and spat the lingering chunks of flesh from his maw. Onward. Around the next bend, he came across a strange sight. A doorway, from which emenated a dim red glow, and through which the world seemed… distorted, or warped. Staring through it made Varxin’s eyes hurt, it was as if the objects beyond lacked definition, depth, dimensionality? The words escaped him, they were not words of battle, of war, of victory. Two words did emerge from the murk, strategic intelligence. Varxin knew he must learn all he could about this mysterious portal, and report the information back to his masters. A brief moment of disappointment flickered across his consciousness at the realization that this meant his survival was now mission critical. With a shrug, a tail slap, and a shake of the head, Varxin marched forward, deliberate, arms at the ready, eyes narrowing in readiness to target his next prey + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + As Varxin crossed the portal threshold, his disorientation worsened. He had thought the distortion that he’d seen peering through the doorway was a result of some layer of air or magic at the junction itself. It now appeared he was wrong. The entire world maintained that blocky and ill-defined rendering making it harder for Varxin to find his bearings. Flat, muted, the colors less vibrant than even a saurus’s eyes suited to the dark were used to. Everything seemed too straight, too uniform. The randomness of life was missing, as if everything here were carefully constructed, with perfect precision. To make matters worse, his movement felt constricted, like he could only turn his head in discrete degrees of movement, instead of fluidly and continuously keeping his head on a swivel as usual. To make matters worse, wherever his head turned, his body seemed to follow. Mahrlect, these foul magics were more than Varxin bargained for. He was here to vanquish demons and punish the mortal followers of Chaos for their poor decisions of faith, not to explore uncharted realms. He began backing up, expecting to return to the bloody familiarity of the Chaos outpost, to continue as bringer of death. Instead of the expected smell of corpses, he found he could no longer move backwards. In fact, he turned to look at where the doorway should have been and was met by nothing but a blocky, blurry wall. An unfamiliar feeling welled up inside him. Panic. The lack of mobility, the thought he may never return to Lustria, the fear there would be no purpose for him in this strange realm. He had never feared death, had welcomed it on many occasions, this was worse than death. Before he could dwell further, he noticed a sudden movement. From the hallway straight ahead, a small bloodletter, frozen in place, appeared as if from nowhere. Varxin moved to bring his spear up, but watched as his arm shoved the gleaming weapon forward as if of its own volition. The bloodletter started getting bigger, and bigger, not bigger, closer. Eventually the demon was the size Varxin expected it to be, and so he thrust forward once more, vanquishing the monster with one fell stroke. To his surprise, the vanquished demon disappeared, more foul magic. Before he could think on it further, more began to emerge from up ahead. Varxin pressed forward, ensuring that none of the monsters flanked him, he took them out one by one, it wasn’t pretty, the joy of combat through fluid motion that he was used to escaped him here in this hell. The urge to roar his frustration surged through him, but Varxin found himself physically unable to vocalize his despair. All thoughts of strategic intelligence left him, and while some hope persisted he would find an escape from this dimension, he resolved to spend the rest of his days ridding this world of as many demon spawn as he could. He plodded forward incrementally, wanting to break into a run but constrained by the physics of this strange realm. As he turned the corner, he heard the bellowing of a large creature, though it lacked the resonance he was used to, in this world it sounded tinny, empty, weak. He could tell it still belonged to a fearsome foe, or at least this dimension’s representation of one. Perhaps today would be the day he met his doom, it hardly mattered, there were demons to kill. Spoiler: Story Three: "The Flying Saurus" Flying Saurus In a dimly lit cave, two attentive skinks stood side by side, swinging their tails amidst the cold, drafty air. An abrupt breeze surfed their scales as they returned stares at the silent and aloof ripperdactyl before them. “Heh. I don’t think it’ll budge anytime soon,” Laz chirped. “What was Cahmahgazi thinking!? We’re a reconnaissance detachment!” Choki hissed loudly. “I’m sure he has his reasons…” Laz interjected as the ripperdactyl lazily swung its razor sharp beak aside, “He was assigned pack leader for a reason.” Choki casted off a furiously shivering smile. “Yeah, I thought getting us killed was one of them, but this is getting ridiculous!” “If it wanted to, we’d already be dead.” The cave fell silent from chirping and hissing at those coldly true words. Both Laz and Choki thought hard on how to get the rather timid ripperdactyl airborne and finally commence their sortie. Their train of thought, however, abruptly ended when a shadow loomed over the both of them, obscuring the rocky ground at their clawed feet in complete darkness. They turned around to see a hulking saurus, Munna, stare them down with a saddle meant for Cold Ones clenched firmly by one of his arms. Laz noted Munna’s saddle with perplexed eyes. It pondered upon him why Munna was still clinging onto something gone so long ago, and though he hid it well like any other saurus, it was still readable. “Itz’xa’khax. Elves. Intrude. North-East.” “We’re grounded,” Choki grudgingly replied, “Our ripperdactyl has found himself to be mentally challenged, and won’t even move for Sotek’s grace… or ours!” Munna noticed the ripperdactyl’s massive wingspan beginning to beat up and down rhythmically until a faint wind current could be felt throughout the cave. His blood rushed when he realized what the flying beast was attempting to do. “RUN! SKNIKS!” Both Laz and Choki startled back from Munna’s sudden roar before looking behind them. The ripperdactyl’s wings flapped aggressively until it leaped right past the skinks, instantly knocking them down and bolting towards Munna with an ear piercing screech. Stunned, Munna dropped his saddle and threw himself hastily onto the ground, dodging all but one of the monstrous talons whom were sharper than spears his scaly hide once had to bear. It scythed a long streak of blood throughout the entire length of his torso before finally parting ways. Munna quickly got up and clenched his chest as blood fell relentlessly from his claws. The ripperdactyl sized him up with its humongous wings spread out, readying itself to pounce him any moment. Realizing this, Munna’s instincts took complete control amidst the seething rage. He charged ferociously. The winged beast leaped up yet again with its talons stretched out mercilessly. Before they could scythe Munna apart, he slid underneath as they harmlessly whooshed above him. Quickly, he regained his posture and jumped upon the ripperdactyl’s back who was still recovering from its leap whilst thrashing uncontrollably. Munna excitedly bared his dagger-like teeth before working his way up to the neck to deliver the killing blow, only to find it was completely encased by a thick golden ring used for controlling and directing the beast. With no other option, and with no weapons at his disposal, Munna tried the only thing plausible that came to his frenzied mind: restraint. An impossible task made crazier, for the ripperdactyl constantly fluttered and flapped into the air until crashing down, all the while threatening Munna’s fall, and by extension, his death. This continued monotonously until the ripperdactyl finally tired out from exhaustion. Munna looked for the avian rider skinks, but they vanished like leaves before the breeze. The lack of body parts and significant amounts of blood strewn across the cave floor made him think they’re safe. Before he could reach for the beast’s thickly built neck for further restraint, the ripperdactyl’s head swiveled around and gave off a nervous glare. It glared and glared, patiently awaiting its ill-fated end in tense expectation, reptilian eye to eye. It felt as if the ripperdactyl’s eyes themselves were a mirror of Munna himself. He could feel and sense its weakness ooze from within as it scantly reminded him of the dreaded day he lost his Cold One - a day he lost something so much more than pride. He could sense the ripperdactyl lost something too, and whatever it was, it eroded from deep within. Munna eased up on the pinning, and instead, brought his head alongside the ripperdactyl’s, embracing the beast who tried killing him. The ripperdactyl flinched abruptly. It was a rashly dangerous move, but it was one unorthodox way of taming and relaxing a mount; all reliant on soothing the mount’s confused mind. Excreting the same odor of these creatures helped his cause, but this was no Cold One. Despite that, it still excreted that familiar odor that resonated along with his life of mounted warfare. Wounds of the past slowly begun clotting up. As Munna continually embraced, the ripperdactyl’s large wings flapped once. There was no warning or noticeable startup this time when the ripperdactyl, along with Munna, leapt into the air and bolted out of the cave. Munna growled a surprised yelp as wind suddenly blew. He looked underneath to see the breath of the jungle canopy below moving at a slow pace. He looked above to see the clouds shadowing him. He was flying. Munna’s mind raced with a whirlwind of thoughts. It was rarely fear, sometimes excitement, and mostly wondering on how in Chotec’s name to get down from this freezing place! That large ring that encased the ripperdactyl’s neck occurred to him. There was a large handle on the top, presumably for the skinks to toil its direction. Munna yanked it back towards him only for the ripperdactyl to inversely incline its flightpath. He yanked it again, but only forwards this time, declining its flight path. Munna tried yanking it left and right to see how the ripperdactyl would respond to his inputs. Soon enough, and with adequate amounts of trial and error, he could reliably direct the ripperdactyl’s flightpath. Landing, however, was still a mystery. The wind’s harsh rush reminded him of his cherished Cold One riding days. Ecstasy of the breeze's howling kept on emboldening his heart the faster he flew. Munna noticed small white blobs moving amidst the jungle floor. Itz’xa’khax. The intruding elves. He abruptly yanked the handle and rolled the ripperdactyl over into a steep dive. Munna roared as the wind blew harshly against him and the ripperdactyl. His blood lust rushed to new heights as the jungle canopy and its elf-spawn prey became clearer. He gave another look to accurately pick out his targets, only to find the white spots suddenly disappeared from view. Munna yanked the handle in order to recover from the dive, but the ripperdactyl wouldn’t budge. Continuously, he tried everything he could to recover their suicidal dive but to no avail. Munna glared, hopelessly, as the jungle canopy thundered into closer view until he and the Ripperdactyl splattered onto the jungle floor in an unrecognizable pile of gore. If only their descent was slower, if only he was able to comprehend what was going to happen, and if only he could consult the ripperdactyl one last time… He would’ve smiled nonetheless. Spoiler: Story Four: "The Doom of Vanir Rockfist" The Doom of Vanir Rockfist “Grand job, Inferno, that’ll be the last we see of them,” commended an aged Fyreslayer who went by the name of Vanir Rockfist. His Magmadroth, Inferno, had just wiped out the last of a coven of Spite-Revenants that had dared to approach Baeldrag Lodge uninvited. The younger brother by two years of the current Runefather, Aesir Doomaxe, Vanir had left the lodge several years ago after a quarrel between the two of them had resulted in his exile. The two of them had fought over the rights to marry a sturdy female named Hyja - Vanir had been the first to woo the flame-haired Duardin woman when he had met her during one of his brother’s great feasts. The two had developed the beginnings of a caring relationship when Aesir had discovered them together. While initially nonplussed at the idea of his brother having found a potential wife of his own, Aesir had soon started to covet Hyja to add to his collection of wives. Yes, it was the tradition for the Lodge’s Runefather to have many wives with whom to have strong, skilled sons, but Aesir already had half a dozen wives of his own, while Vanir had never yet found the right woman for him. Surely Aesir could have found other women of his own if he wanted them? In any case, the two had resolved to a duel with their strongest axes. Vanir had won, knocking his brother to the ground and disarming him of his weapon, but Aesir had then used his authority as Runefather to have Vanir banished from the Lodge. Furious, Vanir had left with pleasure, taking his axes and Inferno with him. Since that fateful duel, however, Vanir had regretted his eagerness to leave. He had always loved his Lodge, and while he still hadn’t forgiven Aesir for cheating, he still loved him too. Most of all, he longed to see Hyja again sometime. Just before he had set out from his home for the last time, she had given him a torc forged from pure Ur-Gold in the shape of one of the drakes of old, catching its tail in its mouth. Every day he looked at that torc around his wrist, and thought of how it essentially symbolised his whole life and cause. Grimnir had evidently meant for him to be a loner, as it featured one Dragon, not two. It was also a material representation of both Hyja’s love for him and his love for her. That was why he still stayed near his lodge in Ghyran, when he could be hiring out his combat abilities to manlings all across the Realms for precious Ur-Gold all of his own. That was why he ritualistically defended it from invaders every day, even though his brother’s trickery had cost him his honour and his future wife. That was why he was still risking his life to protect those who, for all he knew, could have branded him as a traitor and a threat by now, or even forgotten him completely. As an inhabitant of Ghyran, he knew of the war between the spiteful servants of that Aelf many called the Everqueen and the loathsome disease-bringers of the Plague God. Of course, Vanir couldn’t have cared less about who would ultimately prevail, so long as neither of the belligerent forces sent warbands to threaten Baeldrag - protecting his home and kin were his top priority. He goaded Inferno to continue upon his patrol route now, the Magmadroth turning from the remnants of predatory ferocity to diligent obedience in an instant as he turned smoothly back into the mass of trees. For a long while, Vanir could see nothing of note as the pair travelled through the forest, only the usual creatures that flew, crawled and scampered about the place, but all that began to change as they moved onward. The first thing that Vanir noticed was that the forest became quieter and less active - the usual inhabitants seemed to dwindle the further they travelled. Then the air started to take on a particularly pungent flavour - soon the stench was so vile that it could be physically seen clogging the air as a thin, green, low-lying fog, and a human or Aelf could have died from breathing it in (luckily duardin had always been made of far sterner stuff). However, it was not long before it became clear what - or in this case who - was responsible. Vanir saw that the trunks of the trees had become distended and bloated in unnatural ways, with huge buboes and splits weeping horrid green slime. The only animals that were not dead were deformed, leprous things that dragged, slithered or ambled listlessly around, with long tongues that quivered and slavered, or bulbous eyes sprouting all over their ballooned bodies. The Plague God had dug his malevolent green fingers into this part of the woodland, and it was at the mercy of his sickening pleasures. “So, a champion of the long-deceased Grimnir decides to frequent my patron’s new garden, does he?” A slobbering voice rang out from deep within the trees, causing Vanir to rein Inferno in a little and scan the area for any sign of the monstrosity that caused this damage. A pair of massive green hands parted a dead tree to both sides like a man would part tall grass, pulling the thing apart and causing the trunk to split and thick green pus to spill out, before the creature pushed its revolting head through the gap to look upon Vanir. “How small and feeble you look,” the Great Unclean One belched, “but don’t fret - Grandfather Nurgle can soon put an end to your weakness, if you join us.” The Greater Daemon lurched forward, crushing the remnants of the tree under his colossal bulk so that Vanir could now see him fully in the distended green flesh, and extending a disease-ridden green hand towards Vanir in a mockery of friendship, but now he was not the only denizen who stirred. A large number of smaller green Daemons, each as foetid and diseased as their master, were emerging from the shadows and shambling towards Vanir, rusty choppers at the ready. “Grimnir has given me a strength that your Plague God could never understand,” retorted Vanir, and as if to prove his point, the Ur-Gold runes set in his arms, shoulders and back began to shimmer as the Fyreslayer focussed his aggression. The lost power of Grimnir began to surge through his body, hardening his skin into a natural armour and empowering his muscles. Vanir twirled his war-axe in his right hand, before urging Inferno into a frontal charge at the Great Unclean One. The Magmadroth cannoned into the Greater Daemon, yet the corpulent creature had anticipated this, tensing his bulk for the impact so that when it came, the Daemon remained upon his bloated feet. Inferno gored with his horns and swiped a clawed limb at the Daemon, but the resilient monster grabbed the Magmadroth by the middle and forced it down onto its side, pinning Vanir to the saddle with his left leg trapped between the ground and his mount’s body. Chortling with slime dribbling from his nose and mouth, the foetid Unclean One drew a massive sword from a scabbard on his back with his right hand while pressing Inferno to the ground with the left. “How so very easy,” the Greater Daemon burbled contentedly, “Now keep still, and this won’t hurt a bit.” He raised his drooping right arm, intending to bisect Vanir, but the resourceful Fyreslayer drew a Fyresteel throwing axe and pitched it cleanly into the Greater Daemon’s face, right between the eyes. Of course the axe didn’t actually hurt the Great Unclean One, for his blubbery skin was far too tough and gristly, but it distracted him long enough to slacken his grip upon Inferno, allowing the Magmadroth to raise his head and follow the axe with a blast of lava right in the Nurgle Daemon’s face. That hurt the Daemon a lot more, as even his regenerative Flesh was no match for the searing, burning heat of the lava, and he let go of the Magmadroth entirely, clutching his burned face with his left hand and swinging his sword wildly to try and retaliate at the Ur-Salamander. That gave Inferno enough time to get to his feet, rear up and push the humongous Daemon over with a tremendous thump that shook the ground, blasting another stream of lava into his face. The Magmadroth tore great rents in the Daemon’s thick hide with his claws, yet the enemy refused to give up. He thrust his great sword deep into the Magmadroth’s stomach and out the other side, but the Ur-Salamander’s molten blood began to melt the sword and spray yet more lava over the creature’s body so that even the toughened flesh of one of Grandfather Nurgle’s greatest creations was melted to the bone. It was then that the Great Unclean One finally knew he was beaten, his right arm slumping to the ground with the molten hit of his sword in his hand, his body now more reeking of burning flesh than diseases. Vanir leapt off the critically wounded Inferno’s saddle and stumped his way up the Daemon’s body, avoiding patches burned by lava, until he reached the Daemon’s chest. He had long heard the Runemasters tell of the Fyreslayers’ ancestry, and knew that his people originated as a doomseeking cult known simply as Slayers, who wandered the world-that-was in search for ever bigger foes to defeat through martial prowess alone. He felt like one of his Slayer ancestors now. “Grimnir may be gone, but his sons continue his fight,” he told the Daemon simply as he calmly raised his war-axe high and brought it down upon its neck, cutting through the last of the flesh that had avoided being incinerated by Inferno’s fyrestreams. Vanir had triumphed, but he would have no time to celebrate his victory, for as soon as the leprous horde had seen their hallowed father die, they began to lurch toward the Fyreslayer, eager for revenge. Scores of Plaguebearers were immediately falling upon the mortally-wounded Inferno, stabbing and hacking at the dying Magmadroth. Inferno lashed out with his tail at the Lesser Daemons and burned them with his lava breath, but the Great Unclean One’s sword had cut through many vital organs, and the Magmadroth couldn’t get up. Vanir himself was also surrounded by Plaguebearers, and was so preoccupied fighting his opponents that he knew he was powerless to stop the horde of Daemons from overwhelming his faithful steed and killing him. The Fyreslayer bellowed like an enraged bull and doubled his efforts, beheading Daemons left and right, but the Daemons all now converged upon the lone duardin. Rusty blades lacerated his hardened skin, and one stabbed him in the abdomen, but Vanir continued his fight, drawing more and more power from his Ur-Gold runes. He could now see Plague Drones buzzing above him, and one of them headed straight over him in a flyby attack, the Rot-fly’s stinger tearing into him. Feeling the energy provided by his runes run low, Vanir mustered all his last strength and swung his war-axe around with a roar, cutting through the Rot Fly’s body as it buzzed over, the two halves falling to the ground in mid flight. The Plaguebearer rider got up off the ground and raised its rusty sword, only to be decapitated by the weakened Fyreslayer, yet more Daemons approached. Covered in Daemon bile and his own blood, Vanir sank to his knees, his great Fyresteel axe falling to the ground. He couldn’t defeat them all, especially with the Rot Fly’s thick venom coursing through his veins. He let them come, and waited for them to finish him, but suddenly a bright light filled the diseased grove. The Fyreslayer looked up, and saw bright pillars of blue light form all around him, only to be replaced with tall reptilian figures armed with clubs and spears that shone with the same blue light. The new arrivals formed a shieldwall around Vanir, before advancing, cleaving through the hordes of Nurgle Daemons and mortals in clean efficient cuts that cauterised the wounds inflicted to stop the creatures’ skin from regenerating. More of these reptiles materialised all the time and followed their comrades into the new fray. As he lay dying, Vanir then spotted one last of these creatures materialise. It was bedecked in golden armour and looked especially large and imposing - evidently the leader of the reptilian army. Although bewildered at their sudden arrival, he was nevertheless grateful for their timely assistance. As the reptilian leader stalked forward to command its subordinates, Vanir had one last thought. He removed the Ur-Gold torc that Hyja had given him, and raised it to the reptile as it passed. “Give this to Hyja, of Baeldrag Lodge,” he called to it. The Saurus Oldblood cocked his head to one side, perplexed at the request made by this dying duardin, but at last, he took the trinket in one clawed hand before resuming his advance into the fray, roaring an order to his Saurus Warriors pushing the Nurgle army back and launching his own attack. Watching the reptile, and his torc, head into the battle, Vanir laid back, in great pain from the Rot Fly venom, but otherwise relaxed. He could only hope that the lizard warrior had got the rough understanding of what he had asked him to do, but it was all he could do to make sure his love got the torc back. At least she could stop pining for him then, and live a happier life with Aesir and give him the strongest sons that Baeldrag could have. Vanir could feel his internals liquefying with the venom, and shuddered. The world around him began to dim, and with a tiny smidgeon of remaining energy, the Fyreslayer just managed to reach the handle of his axe and grip it weakly in preparation for death. His last thought as Gazul’s embrace took him was that, just like the Slayers of old, he had finally met his Doom. Spoiler: Story Five: "A Long Journey" A Long Journey Several large planks were brought out and balanced on some logs in a jungle clearing to make a simple table. This table was brimming with carefully prepared meats of at least five different slain beasts. There were twice as many varieties of fruits. There was breads and pies. There were gourds filled with the finest nectars. A large pitcher of the purest water from the most well filtered springs. Fourteen saurus warriors, six skinks, and a kroxigor sat, stood or knelt around this sumptuous feast. “This is one the finest filets of tallosaurus flesh I ever had in a century! Have you tried this Zlakar?” the Scar Veteran asked his elder. Zlakar motioned for the meat. A skink moved it towards him and the Old Blood ripped off a small chunk of meat and ate it. “Very good, yes” “Do you remember that tallosaurus hunt we went on that one time, with the log?” Zlakar nodded and smiled. “It’s not that big a deal, Xoatkrok” he replied. “Not that big a deal?!?” Xoatkrok said incredulously. He turned towards the others at the table and gesticulated enthusiastically. “That was a hunt for the ages! The skink spotters found an old lone bull tallosaurus. Large and strong, but also old and sick. Seemed like good hunting. Anyway, it still had some fight in it. He barreled through the snares the skinks said like they weren’t even there. We were hitting it but the beast but he couldn’t feel it. He knocked out two saurus, others even bolted liked skinks—” He looked awkwardly at the skink chief. “That is to say a lot of the First were not holding steady, but Zlakar wasn’t going to give up even though his axe snapped in half with the blade was stuck in the tallosaurus thigh. The beast moved his big neck to bite at him, and Zlakar just picks up a log and then bashed his brains out. Probably saved some hunters’ lives, and we certainly ate well.” “To eating well!” said Zlakar. The table cheered and everyone took a bite of whatever food they had though Zlakar abstained. “To Zlakar!” said Xoatkrok. “To Zlakar!” the table resounded. Zlakar opened his mouth to speak and then closed it without saying anything. One other saurus besides Zlakar was fairly quiet. Another saurus turned to him. “Tlakori, you are allowed to enjoy yourself. You won’t get stripped of your eternity warden status for having a little fun.” “How often do you get a day off of guard duty anyway?” A skink asked. Tlakori paused then spoke. “We typically get a day off every century or two if we can be spared from our duties.” A few of the other lizards laughed. Then the skink started. “Wait, you are serious aren’t you?” The Eternity Warden nodded. “I am usually quite serious. I rarely ask for or receive time off duty, but I had to be here for my last spawning brother. There were fifty-three of us once. Now we two. I remember a battle, many years before we took on our respective callings. There were twelve of our spawning left then, we were no longer wet warriors, we all had many scars…but many scars still to come. Zlakar had become our new spawn leader, a promotion well deserved. “We didn’t know just how well deserved until this battle. We were fighting Daemons under the command of Oldblood Ikachoa.” He paused turned towards the crowd. “Ikachoa was before most of your times. He was a fine leader. We were on the south flank attached to work with a stegadon crew and a small skink and kroxigor regiment. Ikachoa was battling the enemy general atop his carnosaur and our center was holding. It looked like our flank was quiet. A few demon skirimishers were shot down by our skilled skink compatriots, but no major threats were apparent. “Zlakar had great instinct, worthy of mighty Itzl. Somehow the daemons’ scent and sight was hidden from the stegadon’s mighty nose and the skinks’ sharp eyes. Zlakar intuition found where three score daemons had buried themselves under the ground. They had rigged trap doors with foliage for cover. Zlakar stopped us all from marching into the ambush. We ambushed our ambushers. “Once Zlakar identified where our foes were, the skink chief with us positioned the stegadon for a pre-aimed shot then had his soldiers set fire to the foliage above the demons’ hiding place. I never seen a giant bow fired so accurately. Between the fire, bow, and javelins barely any demons survived long enough to even reach us. Our brothers were ready and made short work of the Old Foes. Naturally, I was the only one of our spawning that was seriously injured.” Tlakori paused, removed the piece of armor over his chest and revealed a deep and old scar. The others politely admired the scar’s impressiveness before Tlakori continued. “While I was barely conscious and staining the forest floor purple with my blood, Zlakar defended me with the ferocity of a carnosaur. If he didn’t save me that day, I would never have survived long enough to be an eternity warden. Everyone and everything I defend is ultimately due to Zlakar.” The table looked at Zlakr with even greater respect. Zlakar took a shaky sip from a gourd of juice to cover his embarrassment and then he spoke. “I cannot take their credit for your accomplishments. You saved my life plenty, brother. That is just what brothers do. You saved my life at least seven times” “I count nine times, but that’s nine against your saving me nineteen. There is no contest—” “—Speaking of contests!” The Skink Chief, Tlayta paused awkwardly. “Forgive me for the interruption, honored one.” The Eternity Warden just nodded and waved on him to continue. The Skink had been clearly aching to tell his story. Tlayta showed obvious relief at the permission then continued. “When I was newly spawned I had a very portentous spawning. I was a spawning of one and this gave me a huge ego. Lots of skink instructors taught me tactics, combat, history and many other things, but only a saurus could teach me what I really needed which was humility. “The first time I met Zlakr was in the training fields. I was doing target practice with javelins. Nearby Zlakr was working with the city’s youngest spawning of saurus warriors. He was drilling them in basic marching formations and maneuvers. I stopped what I was doing and marched over. “I thought the saurus warriors looked clumsy. I made some loud disparaging remarks about how much faster, smarter and more agile Skinks were then lowly saurus….comments unworthy of my pretentious spawning. “Zlakar halted his company and he turns to me said. “Great Skink who is wise and agile, I challenge you to a contest of ranged attacks.’ I could barely hold in my laughter. A saurus beating a skink at ranged attacks? Absurd. So I said ‘I accept your challenge.’ “Zlakar picked up a javelin off the ground, pointed at a wooden practice target and said ‘I can strike this target more than you can.’ I said ‘show me.’ “So Zlakar walks up to the firing line, mimes throwing a javelin, pauses a long time then he puts the javelin down and walks away. I can’t figure out what he’s doing. Is her forfeiting? He picks up this huge rock and takes it to the line. He kind of half-throws half-rolls it towards the target and it’s reduced to kindling. He turns to me and says. ‘Now you try to strike the target. “My jaw just about hit the muddy ground in disbelief. ‘I cannot hit the target, it is impossible for anyone to hit it now.’….. So Zlakar says ‘I guess I win then.’” Everyone at the table erupted in laughter. “I want to tell a story now!” the lone Kroxigor bellowed. “I was with small patrol. Bad elves beat us. Captured me and my big and little spawning brothers. Bound us in chains. Not chains to keep weapons and tools in hand. Bad chains. I was shameful. Bad elves plan to do bad things. Tried to take us away. Zlakar ride in on Cold One. Run at the elves. He killed them and made them run away. Zlakar broke bad chains.” A few continued looking at the ancient kroxigor awkwardly as if there was more details to this story, but he seemed to be done talking. Tlayta broke the silence. “You have no reason to feel shame at anything Xalt. We all lose sometimes. It is good that Zlakar saved you because you went on to lead many kroxigor regiments to victory against many worthy foes.” Xalt beamed with pride. Zlakar took a shaky sip of juice to hide his smile. Tlayta did learn humility and proper respect for the other races of the First afterall. Zlakar’s stomach rumbled. He hoped he wouldn’t vomit all over the table and ruin the good feelings. The companions ate and drank and told stories of Zlakar. Stories of glory, stories of humor, stories of friendship, stories of leadership, all positive. One story remained unspoken but wore on Zlakar’s mind. Zlakar was second in command of the army below only the slann. He rode his faithful cold one of over two centuries, Groq. He was joined by twelve of the city’s bravest cold one cavalry. The southern flank was faltering. The Skaven’s missile troops had defeated the skink skirmishing units. They had slain two razordons and who knows how many skinks. The rest were fleeing being pursued by filthy rats while Tlayta the skink chief tried in vain to get them to the rally and fight back. Zlakar turned his soldiers towards around the fleeing skinks and hit the flank of their singled minded pursuers. The hunters became the hunted and the saurus knights butchered them without mercy. Seeing this, the skinks and their beasts took courage and rallied. The line held. Zlakar ordered his troops to hold position rather than advance. They didn’t need to advance much because the northern flank had decisively defeated the rat men and were turning towards the Skaven’s center. Zlakar positioned his troops to cut off any clear line of retreat. Once properly positioned, the two halves of the army of the First closed in on the Skaven from both sides like the jaws of a carnosaur snapping shut. Zlakar rode at the front. His sword arm already stained red with the warm blood of his enemies. He sensed a weakness in the enemy lines and rode towards the heart of the enemy army. As his comrades butchered their way through the skavens’ supposedly elite infantry, Zlakar looked for the alpha. A large rat almost a full head taller than his fellows and wearing thicker shinier armor. He locked eyes with the enemy general and a challenge was clear. The warlord showed fear but also determination. He knew he almost certainly dead and his only slim chance of survival lay in defeating this new challenger. The rat feinted a strike with his spear towards Zlakar then stabbed downward piercing Groq through his eye into his brain. The cold one thrashed and Zlakar instinctively rolled and got to his feet in a fury he had seldom been in. Groq’s death throws wrenched the spear away. With the rat temporarily unarmed, Zlakar took the opening and struck at the rat’s shoulder, piercing his armor but only slightly. His foe was still standing. The rat unsheathed a sword and squeaked something in its own foul tongue that was clearly some kind of taunt. He pressed forward with almost impossible speed with precision feints, parries and strikes but Zlakar had his foe’s measure now. He knew what to block and what to ignore. The skaven was fast but he was wasting a lot of energy on superfluous motions. So duplicitous he couldn’t stop useless feints even in the face of death death. The warlord was tiring out. Zlakar was not. Most of the ratmen were killed at this point, some of the survivors were already being bound, so they could be rendered unto Sotek later. More and more golden eyes turned to watch Zlakar’s duel. The warlord was almost completely on the defensive now. Despite his fatigue, he clung to life with the tenacity only a desperate Skaven could muster. Finally Zlakar knocked away the rat’s serrated sword then kicked him into the ground, flat on his back. Zlakar put all his weight into the sword to pierce the rat’s armored chest plate. The rat gurgled on his own blood as the onlookers cheered. After his victory Zlakar let his guard down for a split second. With a daemon’s will, the dying Skaven pulled a dagger out of his sleeve and stabbed the Saurus in the thigh, the highest part he could reach. As he died, the skaven mouthed words Zlakar couldn’t translate, but the context was clear “you die too.” Zlakar had recovered from far worst wounds than this. He would have gladly taken three or four such wounds if he could have Groq alive again, but Zlakar didn’t yet know the dagger was coated in an especially virulent poison. The skaven never intended to use the dagger this battle. The dagger and the poison were both intended for the warlord’s superior officer later. The ministrations of the Skink healers were completely ineffectual. Even the magic of the Slann could only slow the poison, not cure it. His strength was slowly but inevitably fading day by day. He couldn’t let the others seem him die like that. He had to undergo the Rite of the Last Journey. Once most of the food was eaten, the laughter and stories died down. Zlakar held up a hand and everyone fell silent respectfully. “It is time.” The assembled lizards respectfully got up and formed two lines while in salute towards the deep jungle. Zlakar’s legs wanted to buckle, but he willed himself to stand up straight and maintain a steady marching pace. After Zlakar crossed the short line. Tlakori shouted. “To Zlakar, the greatest oldblood Xlanhuapec has ever known.” “TO ZLAKAR!” Once out of sight of the others, Zlakar allowed the weakness in his body to show as he hobbled deeper into the jungle. His final journey had begun. Spoiler: Story Six: "A Final Tail" A Final Tail The fortress held its breath. Thin dawn light wafted through the windows of the Great Hall, built in nostalgic imitation of the crumbling castles of Bretonnia. Here were the women, the children and the infirm. They covered the dusty tables and grimy floorboards: fidgeting, muttering, and holding each other tight as they waited for the communal exhalation, the breaking storm, the coming end. "Nicolas is a poopy head!" screamed a determined voice. A woman uncurled from her philosophical pose against the wall, breaking from a reverie. She drew two seven-year-olds into a magnetic embrace. Embalming them in skirt fabrics. "He took my bread! I was saving it for the siege." "I've told you not to call people names, Sara," cooed the woman above. "Nicolas, give her back the roll. Both of you, apolo-" She stopped at the sound of a thud. The little movements in the room ceased. Another thud, far off. At the gates. They could hear the men shouting out on the walls. "Mummy, are the monsters going to kill us?" asked Sara. The woman sat and took the children on her lap. "The monsters will break down the gates. They may kill many brave soldiers. They may burn the town. But they will not kill us." Four eyes, staring up at her. She inhaled slowly. "Thérèse of Bourcier will save us," said the woman. The eyes continued to stare. Mouths hung a little open. "Long ago, before this colony was founded, before anyone had even sailed to Lustria, our kingdom was at war with monsters much like those at the gates. It was an age of darkness, and the monsters we faced were not exotic savages but those who have already died. The darkest fiends of hell." Nicolas looked like he was about to cry. The woman stared fiercely at him as she continued. "The knights of Bretonnia fought bravely, but they were defeated. Only one castle stood between the vampires and the complete destruction of the kingdom. The castle of Vaillancourt. The dead surrounded it on all sides, sending spectres through the walls, and flying wraiths over the battlements. Living corpses moaned and clawed around the moat. The defenders were brave, but their supplies were running low, and terror filled their hearts. "King Charles wanted to ride to their aid, but he too was scared. His finest knights had already been slain by vampires. His generals told him to retreat and wait for more men. And perhaps he would have done so, were it not for Thérèse of Bourcier. "She was just a girl, only sixteen years old, when the Lady of the Lake came to her, the spirit of the Kingdom, and told her what she must do. She embarked on a dangerous quest across the land, seeking out the king. She arrived at his hour of greatest need. When she spoke, her words and manner were so fair that none doubted she was driven by holy purpose. Thérèse was no damsel or priestess, but a warrior. She convinced the king to ride out to break the siege of Vaillancourt, and he asked her to lead his army by his side." There was screaming outside the hall. And a roaring that made the floorboards shake. They were fighting in the streets. But Sara and Nicolas heard none of it. "The army of the dead was vast, and the Bretonnian knights were few. But at their head rode the Lady's champion, and she held the great banner of the goddess, the Veriflamme, the Green Flame, which rippled in the wind as she lead the charge against the darkness. The dead fled at the sight of her, though they had never run from any mortal before. But the monsters regrouped with their strongest vampires at their head, and there was a mighty battle before the city gates. "King Charles was pulled from his horse by their leader, and Thérèse leapt down to save him. The knights saw her take a terrible wound in the neck from an undead sorcerer, and the Veriflamme was lost beneath the throng of battle. The citizens of Vaillancourt thought their end was truly upon them as they gazed down from the walls. But at that moment, the sun rose over the horizon, and from the thick of the fighting the Green Flame burst out in glory. Its radiance burned the darkness away, and Thérèse, though gravely wounded, was welcomed into the city in triumph. "She promised to return to defend her people whenever they were in danger. So you see, little ones-" With a terrible wrenching, the wooden doors of the hall smashed open, and at once, blue-scaled creatures were everywhere. With no sign of feeling or concern, the reptiles began butchering the defenceless inhabitants of the town. The woman pressed Sara and Nicolas' heads deep into her skirts, covering their eyes with her hands. "So you see," she began again, shouting now over the screaming. "We do not fear our doom. We will be saved. For our faith in the Lady of the Lake is strong. And she will send us a champion!" Spoiler: Story Seven: "The Extermination of the Fimir" Extermination of the Fimir Excerpts translated from journal entries recently recovered from the “Sour Sea Scrolls,” obviously the works of some highly-imaginative forgers and wordsmiths out of Marienburg. Currently kept in the Nuln archives under “fiction.” – Chronicler Wigbert Weiskropf, Nuln Archivist The [translated as ‘Old Ones’] landed three days ago. Our scientists theorize they have [translated as ‘sky-ships’] capable of moving through the atmosphere at great speeds. First contact was made by our enemies [translation- ‘shaggoths’]. Reports of a monumental city is sprouting up from within the equatorial jungle. Our delegation was met with indifference upon arrival, though a thriving trade has begun between equatorial cities and our otherworldly visitors. Numerous resources are now being dredged up by their slaves. Our ambassadors report the resources are being exchanged for devices of great power. More disturbingly, our ambassadors also report that the [old ones] are conducting scientific and genetic experimentation on much of the planets flora and fauna, particularly on the crocodilian and saurian creatures of the jungles. Rumors of experimentation on captured [fimir] remain unsubstantiated. Reports of epidemics have erupted from all of our population centers in the wake of the [old ones] grand tour of our major cities. Our more conservative government factions blame the visitors, however our scientists have been unable to establish a direct link between the [old ones] and the pathogens. The medical experts do admit both the outbreaks and the atmospheric temperature anomalies coincide with the alien arrival to the planet. Our capitol city and our two largest industrial centers have been devastated in the wake of the surprise attacks by [old one] weaponry. Most of our central government officials were evacuated in time, though the fate of our ambassadors in the [old one] city is still unknown since communcation was lost with our trading enclaves. Our military is currently mobilizing and deploying between the midline cities and the equatorial jungles. The decades-long armistice between our civilization and the [shaggoths] is over. They have been equipped with [old one] weaponry powered by unknown magical energies. Our forward military armies have been defeated, and the mid-zone cities have been all but overrun. Scientists have confirmed that the legions of [saurian] creatures that have overrun our land forces are the result of the genetic experiments conducted within the [old one] laboratories. They hold the original genetic structure of their base terrestrial creatures, though refined and altered to an alarming degree of sophistication. It appears some [fimir] genetic material was used in their creation, though drastically altered. The [old ones] have also uplifted members of certain mammalian species that they are now breeding for some unknown purpose. All contact has been lost with the eastern cities. Our frontline has disintegrated, as the [old ones] have now set up a network of nodes within each of our cities and seem able to teleport their forces directly into the hearts of our own population centers. Our government is fractured, with regional control now held directly by the military. Scientists believe the [old ones] are using a previously-unknown source of energy to power their weapons. The energy appears nearly infinite in scope, almost magical by nature, and is being channeled into the planet from an “immaterial” realm. The power is channeled through use of tremendous [gates] located on the poles of the planet. How they are able to harness this power is a mystery. The average global temperature has risen by nearly 12 degrees, resulting in the rising of the ocean levels. This has precipitated the melting of the planetary polar ice caps. Our draconic allies fled in the wake of the collapse of our cities, and have retreated to the mountains in the north where the temperature is still at its much lower pre-invasion levels. Our scouts report that the [old ones] have also turned upon their [shaggoth] allies and rendered them all but extinct. The last series of plagues has rendered our own population effectively sterile. No solutions have been proposed by our scientific community as of yet. Degenerates within our ranks have discovered means to repopulate our species numbers by impregnating captured members of the [old ones] experimental mammalian races. These practices are widely condemned by our surviving governments but have not been effectively stamped out. In the wake of the recent massive earthquakes and upheavals, we have received the report the [old ones] have fractured the continent into two halves. All effective resistance has collapsed, with our armies and remaining settlements being destroyed in the [saurian] extermination purges. Survivors have fled our strongholds and are attempting to survive in hideouts across the globe, most within swamplands. Our remaining scientists have issued a final alarming report on the state of the immaterial realm. The magical realm seems to have become increasingly convoluted and corrupted since the invasion has begun, to include manifesting signs of intelligence (and malignance) in the material realm. The report states this is due to the rampant warfare, disease, unbridled change, and even the hedonism in our own ranks that has devastated the planet. The report ends that if this corruption continues unchecked, it could bring about another cataclysm. Due to the destruction of our civilization at the hands of the [old ones] it is unlikely such a cataclysm will be able to be stopped… Spoiler: Story Eight: "Tlatlacolli" Tlatlacolli The prisoner pulled at the golden manacles that chained him to the wall, once more in vain. He hissed low and tried to close his aching eyes instead, yet sleep eluded him as tantalising visions of slaughter and the death of countless rat men continued to surge through his mind, causing his body to painfully spasm with rage and desire to rend and kill. Alone with the madness and torture brought about by solitude and singular purpose drilled and twisted into his being, the dull scaled Saurus called only the Tlatlacolli waited. -------------------------------------------------- “We need to unchain the Doom to meet this threat, Lord Huepanmecatl has decreed it...” The Skink Priest paused and favoured his young acolyte a glance. “You do not know of the Tlatlacolli, the Doom of the Xa'kota... do you, Ichil?” “I do not, master,” Ichil replied. The Skink Priest was quiet for a long while as the two walked, the tapping of his staff upon the stone floor echoing through the corridors and chambers leading to the prison. At length he spoke again. “Long ago the ratspawn defiled many cities and ravaged much of Lustria in great plagues, until Sotek rose and with the prophet we drove out the taint of the rat. Our losses however were great. Many spawning pools had been tainted and too many of our treasures of the Old Ones had been lost forever. And yet within one of these spawning pools, a sole Saurus emerged. Somehow not physically twisted by the poisons of the ratspawn, but instead born with the purpose of the Old Ones to slay the Xa’kota. The Tlatlacolli’s scales, a dull greyish hue, could turn aside any of the ratspawn weapons, their poisons and diseases could not bring him low, and the glowering green stones of magic would grow dim and lifeless around him. He reaped a fearsome slaughter of the ratspawn, and yet he could barely be controlled. Even our lords felt wrongness about him, a hollowness that sapped away their powers and itched like the bites of a swarm of insects.” The Skink Priest paused and ran a claw across part of the glyph inscribed wall. He sighed deeply and to Ichil seemed to suddenly look older and frailer than before. The Skink Priest closed his eyes and sighed. “The Old Ones had blessed us with a weapon to bring destruction to ratspawn. And yet like so many things, an outside element had twisted it. Tlatlacolli often could not tell friend from foe once he began his slaughter. It became necessary to find a plant that could make him sleep despite his resistance to venoms and then chain him like some wild animal. Some even argued to slay him. But twisted or not he was still a gift from the Old Ones. And so we hide him from the sky until he is needed.” Ichil remained quiet, surprised and confused at the Priest’s tone. “This is my third time I have unchained the Tlatlacolli. The first time I was but an acolyte as you are now. I was inquisitive and tried to use my power to see into his mind. For a moment I broke through the emptiness that suckled away my power and I felt the pain and vengeance that wracks the Tlatacolli. But he is a gift from the Old Ones and we must do our duty. Perhaps I have lived too long in the shadows, for every day we number less and the plans set out by the Old Ones can seem further from reach. Like the Tlatacolli, we shall wear doom and destruction about us like a scaled cloak. Though for whom...I do not yet know...” He trailed off and the two continued their rest of their journey in silence. A small host of Temple Guard met the pair outside the glyph marked chamber that housed the prisoner. They led the Priest and Ichil into the ill-lit chamber whose shadows seemed to curl and twist as if in pain. The dull scaled old Saurus chained to the wall opened his glazed eyes. His fanged maw twisted into either a smile or a grimace. It was time. If I missed something that needs to be fixed, let me know by a private message. If there is more than one error in a single piece, please message me the entire edited piece rather than just copy and paste the corrected sentences. Less work for me that way. Per usual, critiques, comparisons and friendly banter is encouraged. I'm not going to be too strict on this, but if you are aiming to do a comprehensive critique, I'd prefer you make a few large posts rather than a swarm of little ones. Mainly for the benefit of people who are reading this thread a year from now.