Edit- I'll be converting this over as a place to put my Short Stories for the year, and likely further on from that as well. It will be a bit, and I'll be rearranging a few things as well, though it'll keep the structure I have already. Stories in one Post, Critiques in another. This was my January Entry into the Short Story Competition. I'm making it a seperate post so that I can easily link it to my Blog. I'll also have the critiques' that were given (and I could find), in response to it. Feel free to add your own if you so choose! Enjoy! Alone in the Dark The world around him was cold. A chill that had never penetrated his scales, much less crept under his hide, now permeated his bones. The cold was not the only feeling that touched the great beast. Eyes slowly opening, the creature stood up from a jagged bed of rocks. A wetness surrounded him, and dribbled off of his wide shoulders. Blurry images of other scaled forms could be seen in a poorly lit chamber, scattered about the water filled pools. A massive clawed hand reached up from his side and cradled his pounding skull. Another unfamiliar sensation, the rush of blood to the great creature's brain brought confusion. Yet with it came a dim clarity, as his senses sharpened with the sudden pain in his skull. A sweet and repulsive smell filled his nose, the pool at his feet sloshing against his ankles as he took a step back from one of the forms. It too was cold, like he had been, but it was unmoving. Bloody. It looked like one of his spawn-kin. The dots connected themselves slowly, as his memory returned. They were his spawn-kin. His clawed hand moved away from his skull, the wetness there deep crimson against his dark blue-green scales. A bracelet of gold hung from his wrist, glyphs hammered into it. His name, given to him by one of the small ones. The beast rumbled low, reaching out and prodding one of the little bodies. Not one moved of it's own accord as he searched them. His reverberating growl turned to a weak whine. Even the greatest of his spawn-kin, the one with a red crest, lay atop a small rocky platform at the edge of the pool. This one's heart had been pulled from the chest. Another low growl followed as he turned from his slain kin, looking for an exit from this nightmarish place. One was not but a few dozen strides away, on the stony platform that Red Crest was laying on. With a snap of his jaws and a few experimental slaps of his tail in the water, the great beast headed for the tunnel entrance. It too was dark, cold and wet. Streaks of red could be seen along the tunnel floor, leading from the pools behind him and into the darkness before him. Another smell filled the tunnel, one that made saliva pool in his mouth and his muscles tense for a hunt. Rats. Their musk was thick in the air. ----------------------------------------------------------- "Why do we wait-camp here? Scale-things are dead-dead...." muttered a ratman as he stood guard at the edge of a ragged camp. A toothpick of a spear was clutched in one paw lazily, the other holding a shield made of rusted iron and rotten wood. To his left, was another ratman, almost identical were it not for the bandage around his head where an eye would be. "Clawlord Skagllesnirt spoke-squeaked. Think-thinks there are more in the tunnels. Scale-things are tricksy, he say-squeak all the time." the other replied, seeming bored, though his one good eye did eye the other skaven contemptuously. The first scoffed and kicked a rock against the tunnel wall that they stood at. Behind them, the camp was a mess of green sickly light and noise. Situated at a crossroads of three separate tunnels, the camp was supposedly more defensible this way. "Skagllesnirt say-squeak this, say-squeak that...." it mocked the other's reedy voice. This continued for a few moments more before the two were brawling with knives. It was then that a massive pale grey and blue shape came barreling from the darkness. Eyes bright yellow and gleaming with rage. No roar came as its massive jaws closed around the first skaven's head. The second was frozen in fear, seeing half of his compatriot disappear in a bloody mess. Opening his mouth to call for help in a shrill plea, the vermin only got half a word out before the shape twisted violently. A meaty tail smacking him to the side, cutting off his words. Colliding with the tunnel wall, the wind was knocked from the small ratman's lungs. It slumped, dazed, before a giant clawed foot kicked his head against the stone. Blood, brains, and skull-fragments splattered up the wall, touching the ceiling nearly twenty feet up. Despite the violence, no rat in the camp seemed to notice. The great scaled shape grabbed both bodies and dragged them back down the tunnel. It hustled along quickly and as silently as he could. All the while, the great crocodilian reveled at the warmth of meat in his belly. The blood may have tasted of corruption and the meat stringy, but it was meat nonetheless. It was a few minutes of travel back down the tunnel before the warmth seemed to seep away and the great one stuffed the other half of the first skaven into his gullet. Stopping at a branching tunnel, he squeezed into it. It was a much tighter fit, but it served as a hole to hide in while he ate and recollected his dim thoughts. There in the darkened corner of the small tunnel, he looked once more at his bracelet, trying to fathom the writing. He remembered being called something, but what it was escaped him. The memories before awakening were fuzzy, blurred. There had been a reason to come into these tunnels. A reason that he could not fathom. Yet he remembered it had to do with the stars. The thought brought with it a longing, to see the stars, to reach them. Looking to the ceiling of the cave, his crocodilian snout touched the stone there. The headless corpse in his clawed hand was set down, and he too sat. There were many others, he realized. The scent of the camp had been repugnant, but it was not the only source of intriguing smells. Others different from the ratman stench could be detected coming from many more small branching tunnels. One thought pressed against the thick skull of the beast. He was alone. Far from home, and without a memory to guide him. Absently pulling the corpse to his mouth, he tore off an arm and swallowed it whole. The warmth relaxed him enough to make him comfortable against the rough rock. The pain was receding in his skull now, and the cold was retreating from his bones. Perhaps once he had done more hunting, things would be more clear.