Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, May 10, 2016.
Good to know!
Spoiler: Thought Process on Writing This
I wrote this piece rather fast. I wasn't sure I wanted to enter this piece and I ended up trashing my first idea. I was going to have a Skink praying to Xapati for vengeance while a Dark Elf prayed to his obscure vengeance god (whatever his/her name is) as they narrated a Dark Elf/Lizardmen fight from their alternative points of view. I opted not to because the dual viewpoint structure was going to be hard to fit in the viewpoint and I was concerned this would affect pacing. Also I frequently critiqued pieces for lacking a clearly defined beginning, middle and end and I would be a hypocrite if I wrote a piece that had that lack of definition
I came up with this inspiration a few days before the deadline listening to my friend and recent convert to Age of Sigmar waxing poetically about his forming Khorne army. I wanted to try a more subtle Khorne follower. I figured Khorne warriors have to come from somewhere so I wrote this story around a young man targeted by a Khorne talent scout. In this case the recruiter is attempting to subvert the protagonists desires for strength and self reliance. I tried to put in multiple instances of Khorne references without beating the reader over the head with them.
His Own Hands
Most of those around the bonfire were either very young or very old. Harti felt out of place surrounded by children and elderly, but he was desperate for something to keep occupied this midsummer night. The house was stuffy midsummer. The crops were all planted and growing nicely. There was relatively little work to do tomorrow worth getting up early for.
Harti was very carefully adjusting his toasting stick. He wanted to get the piece of bread evenly golden brown. He wasn’t particularly hungry, and he was not picky about toast, but meticulous focus on the toast kept his mind occupied. He was only barely listening to the old man’s story.
“See those stars? That constellation is the Guardian Dragon.”
“Which stars, Mister Schaffer?”
In the darkness no one saw Harti roll his eyes. Everyone knows the Guardian Dragon. It’s the second most obvious constellation after the Great Dipper. My best friend Dagmar died along with his pretty sister, Daega. Who survived? Dagmar’s annoying baby brother, Ritter.
The old man humored the youth.
“See those starts sort of making a hook. That’s the Dragon’s back. The two points there. Those are the Dragon’s fangs.”
“I see it!”
“From there the Seraphon watch over us. When the Forces of Chaos or Death threaten, the Seraphon descend from the stars on beams of light to combat the Forces of Darkness”
“Like before when the big rats came!”
“Exactly, they saved us all when you barely crawling. We are fortunate to have them as protectors.”
Harti’s toast caught on fire. He threw the smoldering square into the flame.
“You are full of skite old man! You can gloss it over for those too young to remember but I remember. The magical lizards didn’t come down until the Skaven were in the misty forest when the visibility for their weird guns was blocked. The Seraphon came to kill Skaven, helping us never mattered to their plans.
We are running and hiding for four days and nights. Poison gas was exploding everywhere. Horse sized rats were tearing up everything in sight. If the magic lizards cared about us, they wouldn’t have waiting till almost quarter of us were dead. They would have cleansed the lingering illness that followed and halved our livestock! They would have chased after the warbeasts that escaped and are breeding in the forest right now!”
The youngest girl there started crying looking fearfully out at the woods
“They're…not…really…monsters…in the woods?”
The other children began to crack. Ritter edged closed to the bonfire. Immediately the elders swooped in.
“Of course not. Even if they're were dark creatures in the woods. The Seraphon will protect us.”
Harti barely realized he was standing now.
“If we want to be secure we have earn our safety with the work of our own hands. My own hands.”
Harti stormed away.
* * * * *
For several days he thought about his own words. He wanted to be able to defend himself, his people, but he didn’t know how a farmer’s son could fight against the creatures of darkness. He was gathering firewood in the outskirts of the woods. Since Harti had not-so-accidentally reawakened the fears of rogue rat beasts in the woods, it was not worth the effort to convince the youth to collect firewood.
For a brief moment he was afraid as he considered that if they're was a rat creature in the woods, there was nothing he could do about. A strange voice interrupted his thoughts.
“Young man, you are out in the woods pretty far. Dusk will soon be upon us. It’s dangerous to go alone.”
Harti turned to see an older man in a dirty earthen cloak. His face half-hidden.
“You are alone.”
“I have faith”
“In magical sky lizards from the sky or gold plated sky minions of Sigmar? I bet if I bought your good luck talisman I would be safe forever….”
“I only want you to be able earn your safety with the work of your own hands.”
The old man adjusted his cloak and unsheathed a gleaming sword.
“I have this blade, an extension of my hands.”
He sheathed his sword and unshouldered his pack. From it he pulled a sheathed and wrapped sword of similar make. He presented it to the youth.
“Now you have a blade.”
Harti examined the blade. It looked better than anything crafted within 30 miles. He took a practice swing. It seemed like it was perfectly balanced for Harti’s body. He touched the blade as lightly as he could with his finger. A drop of blood formed. The blade almost seemed to warm up in his hands.
* * * * *
Harti kept his sword a secret from those in his village. He often made excuses to go into the woods to practice swinging it. He was concerned in dulling his blade and avoided hitting anything but once he missed and clipped a tree branch. It sawed through the branch as easily as flesh. Not that the blade had tasted flesh yet, not counting the small prick on his finger.
Harti wandered out farther and farther, more than half-hoping he would find an excuse to use the blade. One day his wish came true. He heard a snarl and barely turned in time to see the rat creature. It looked like an ordinary rat except for its size, half as big as a horse. Harti wondered how it got so close without him seeing it, but that was not the real problem.
Harti drew his blade and swung wildly grazing the rat creature’s shoulder. The creature backed up with bleeding haunches. Normally a wounded predator goes elsewhere when a prey that fights back, but this was not a normal predator. This was one of the Skaven’s foul war creatures gone feral.
Harti swung at the giant rat but it backed away. It began circling the human. Harti swung several times more but the beast could skitter backwards with impressive speed avoiding each swing. It had Harti’s measure. Harti remembered when he discovered father’s gnawed bones, the poisoned corpses of his neighbors, and rage built with him. He swings became wilder.
“FIGHT ME MONSTER!”
Harti was as livid and wild and as any Skaven-spawned creature. Sensing his foe’s lack of focus, the creature charged narrowly, avoiding the humans blade as he bit Harti’s torso. Harti brought down his blade into the rat’s head then slashed at the creature again and again until its body was in shreds.
* * * * *
Harti could not make up a plausible excuse for his bite mark, and he needed treatment, so he had to tell the truth about the rat creature. Since everyone wanted to know how he survived with a relatively small bite he had to tell others of his sword as well. Most were too impressed with his valor enough that they chose not to probe too deeply into where his blade came from. Most.
One visitor came in the middle of the night. The old man with the sword.
“Well done, but it is a miracle your bite wound did not become infected. To be a true warrior you will need suitable armor. When you recover, meet me where you received your sword.”
As soon as he could walk, Harti sneaked off to the woods to find the mysterious old man again. This time there two lumps covered with blankest. The old man withdrew one of the blankets revealing a glimmering suit of steel armor partially painted red. Harti’s swords seemed to hum in sympathy. He didn’t think he ever wanted anything more his whole life.
The old man pulled back the other blanked revealing the quivering form of young Ritter, bound and gagged.
“Why did you bring him.”
“If you want the armor, you must earn it with the work of your own hands.”
Unfortunately the critiques of my piece were marred by my editing errors and not purely about my literary brilliance. I cleaned it up a little both before and after the initial posting, but it's still a bit sloppy. I should never post a fluff piece without running it by a second set of eyes.
I did want to do a twist on the coming of age story. Warden's critique revealed that I wasn't clear enough that Mister Schaffer and the creepy man in the woods were intended to be separate characters.
This made me feel warm and fuzzy. Bowser picked up on the stuff I wanted people to catch. Less zealous seraphon worshippers. Faustian pact, Zelda reference.
Yeah, I kind of feel dirty writing an Age of Copyright story. I did this partially to push my comfort zone, and partially to hide my author ID. I left skite as a quiet flag. Discomute pointed out a few things that more editing could have fixed. He wasn't asked to kill his brother. He was asked to kill his best friend's annoying kid brother. The crime was shocking and terrible because it's child murder, but there was no family betrayal here. The Chaos recruiter used a kid he didn't like in order to make his slippery slide to evil easier. Why is the old man giving out stuff? He is giving out Khorne-blessed weapons that will taint their user.
I was worried no one would sniff out my clue
Mahrlect, once again I was unclear with my characters!
I did go through your list and fix these errors. Thank you.
I figured if every minion of Khorne was a drooling blood-soaked troglodyte, they wouldn't last very long as a faction.
That's actually a good idea, I should have had cannibalism. Your point stands, no one is better at physical horror than Discomute.
Seriously have you forgotten about poor beleaguered Verrick. Have I forgotten about Verrick, I don't think I've written an installment for him in at least two months. Oh no!
Ouch. The there/their/they're thing was embarrassing. If anything tells me that I should never post a piece without proofing it extra thorough and then submit it to a different person for outside editing.
Yay, someone doesn't completely question that Khorne can be somewhat subtle. But yeah, there are no disinterested benefactors in WHFB or AoS
This was basically to try to hide my author ID
Pure coincidence, though I'm sure Fate played a hand.
Yeah, I guess I was going for Dark Fairy Tale (before Disney, all Fairy Tales were pretty dark). I do enjoy the Rule of Three, but the Rule of Three assumes there is even handed universal justice. That didn't exist in the World that Was. The Age of Sigmar is less dark than the World that Was but it's still too dark. Bad things happen to good people, then they happen to bad people, then they happen to good people a second time.
As mentioned before, the mysterious stranger was intended to be a recruiter for Khorne. I figured Khorne had to have some subtle minions. Perhaps, he has forced to adapt in the Age of Sigmar.
It was a really enjoyable read, the thought process is always great to have after reading these short stories. So much behind the scenes stuff always fascinates me.
I definitely see a lot more to this story now than I did in my other reads.
True, even Champions of Khorne may have humble beginnings. Genghis Khan wasn't born a conqueror, he became a conqueror due to various reasons (not a very good example as he was actually of 'noble birth' and the ruling class of Mongol society, but still). This story takes a look at the start of a small, insignificant figure on their way to ultimate power. Cool stuff!
Thanks for the inspiration. I would also love to see any story you come up with on the obscure old one Xapati, as there is no real lore on the subject.
Spoiler: Thought Process While Writing This
I actually have been sitting on this idea of combining Skaven and the "Pied Piper" story into one piece.. I came up with the idea for the October-November contest which had the theme "The Rat and the Serpent," but didn't get around to doing it.
Maybe the fact that I was having a rough patch at work and daydreaming in my cubicle made me envision the Skaven slave's futile quest to free himself. Maybe. My muses are dark.
Then when @Killer Angel told me he wanted to do "Power of Music" for the next contest theme I thought, "Mahrlect, I can't not do this now." I was also mildly concerned this would have a low entry count because Killer Angel was the only one who submitted anything by the start of the third week, so I wanted to pad the numbers, but per usual whenever I am concerned about low entries, it's just a slow start.
Anyway I had the idea of doing the Pied Piper and the plan to take the Skaven's viewpoint and make the Skaven as sympathetic as possible. Then I created an outline. Skaven here's song, is motivated to escape his chain gang, survives a bunch of challenges, then dies anti-climatically. I wrote the beginning and the end then I went back to the middle. Basically I made a big list of things the Skaven could do, then I whittled it down, figuring if the Skaven did EVERYTHING the piece would get bogged down.
-Find some edible plants
-Hunt or trap some meat
-Find clean water
-Remove the vestiges of his chains
-Throw off his Skaven pursuers
-Evade a predator
-Build a shelter
-Tend a wound
-Fashion some tools/weapons
-Fashion a shelter
I chose to focus on food because it went with the survival theme, and I wanted him to evade a predator to show he can overcome a physical challenge and I believe a fantasy story cannot avoid action too long.
I chose the name Drekit because I liked the sound of it. I also like to make Skaven names end in "t" but that's not a hard rule. Also in the world of Shadowrun, drek is slang for poop. A good name for a Skaven slave.
Song of Freedom
Drekit had identified a weak link in the chain binding him to his fellows and the overseers’ lash weeks ago but didn’t think anything of it. Freedom was impossible. Where would he run? Where could he go that the Masters wouldn’t find him?
Then it came.
At night, he heard a distant sound stirring at the depths of his soul. A soul he assumed had withered and died years ago. A siren call to freedom. Find me and you will know joy, peace, security, FREEDOM. His whiskers perked. The other slaves couldn’t hear it. For a moment Drekit considered it. It doesn’t matter, this is for me. I will seek-find this freedom.
During the meager hours the Masters let the skaven slaves sleep, Drekit was exhausted from his pointless toil, but he didn’t dare sleep. Drekit was vaguely aware that it was day above. Above the tunnels there was noise: pouring rain, thundering beasts, chirping insects. Normally Drekit paid attention to these things but he somehow knew the song of freedom began at dawn and ended at dusk. Drekit waited for times of lots of noise to bash the weak link on his chain with a rock he had concealed in his filthy tunic.
For three days Drekit worked for his masters at night while working towards his freedom during the day the call of freedom pulling him onward. Finally the chain broke, and Drekit scurried away towards the song of freedom.
Drekit ran and ran down random tunnels, until the music stopped then he collapsed with exhaustion and finally slept for the first time in days, a brief hint of a smile visible on his snout.
He awoke at dawn as the heavenly music resumed. Part of Drekit wanted to keep sleeping, but sleep was not freedom. The more time he spent in the tunnels, the more likely the Masters would be able to find him and punish him as an example to the others assuming they noticed he was gone. The tunnels had little to hide his vibrations. The tunnels had nothing to mask his sent. Above the tunnels there was noise, there was vibrations, there was smells. Above the tunnels there was freedom.
Drekit looked for a tunnel sloping upward, he ran as far as he could and began bashing the hardened dirt ceiling with his rock till it loosened. Then he clawed at the soft dirt. Vaguely aware of the risk of a cave-in, he persisted towards the sound of freedom.
His efforts awarded him with a deluge of dirt, a mound of dirt and a small ray of sunlight. His beady eyes blinked as he adjusted to the new light. He kept digging till he could make an opening wide enough to wriggle out of.
Drekit knew the jungle would hide his trail from the Masters methods of tracking him, but only if he had enough distance. Hole easy to see-smell, flee fast.
Still exhausted beyond measure, he forced himself to keep marching towards the sound of the song, till he march walk no further. Night fell and the music stopped. Drekit wasn’t used to sleeping at night, but he was so tired that it was easy.
Shortly after dawn the music resumed and Drekit awoke. He swatted some of the insects trying to make a meal out of him. His stomach rumbled. He needed to find something to eat himself, or he would perish. He didn’t even have the Masters’ meager rations now and would have to find his own. It didn’t matter at the moment because for the first time in his life, Derkit’s spirit felt full.
He moved in the vague direction of the song, but moved slowly. Eyes peels and nostrils flared. Food, find food. He found a tree with sweet smelling fruit. Deftly, he climbed the tree, finding it less difficult to climb than some rickety skaven scaffolding he was forced to work on while carrying full chains. He still was dragging about two feet of chain. He’d need to fix that.
Timidly, he sniffed the fruit. It didn’t smell of poison, though not all poison announces itself with smell. Drekit would need to take some risks, for to do nothing was to die. The fresh fruit was the best food he tasted his whole short miserable life. He spent the next hour combing every branch for every piece he could find.
Next he found a stream to slake his thirst. Water can rust-eat cheap metal. Cleanliness was never a skaven virtue but he bathed in the stream large to soak his manacles. Once they weakened enough and his fur was slick enough, he wriggled out of them.
Maybe a short length of chain would be a useful but no. Chains gone forever now, not carry-wear them. Briefly he considered on the off-chance the Masters were searching for him above ground the chains would be a clue as to his whereabouts. He buried them in the stream hoping the water would destroy them and continued on his way towards the music which fueled him. Till night fell and he once again slept, happier and more peaceful than ever before.
He awoke the next day and began once again looking for food. He found a few fruit bearing trees with some decent things he could eat but most of these were picked over by flying or climbing beasts first so it was a lot of work, for a small payoff. Need more than fruit to eat-live.
Most of the beasts he saw fled from him. Drekit bathed in a stream and then mud to lose his scent then took pains to move more quietly. Eventually his efforts paid off and he was able to get close to a rabbit. He shadowed it for almost two hours noted what plants it ate and which plants it avoided. Then he got impatient and hit it with a rock. His prey emitted a brief high pitched scream before perishing.
He was planning the best way to eat his kill when the skaven’s hackles perked up. A vague sense of danger that all his kind have. A second later he smelled it, a large reptile. Instinctively the skaven fled even before he could hear its heavy footsteps. Not a lizard man but a lizard beast, but was chasing scents not making plans. The cold one pursued him, she was quickly distracted by blood and went for the dead rabbit first. This gave Drekit a spare moment to climb a tree. The cold one paced around Drekit’s tree taking some futile leaps at the branches for an hour before losing interest and moving on.
The skaven waited another hour then left his tree. He needed some weapons and tools. He used a flat rock to sharpen a few sticks. This would do for now. With even more carefulness, he proceeded through the jungle once more, a spring in his step. He escaped; he broke his chains; he discovered food; he bested a danger.
Drekit would could continue to study the animals. He would learn how to evade or if necessary defeat the predators. He would watch the herbivores to learn how to hunt them, and by watching what they eat would figure out which plants he could eat. Even his eyes were gradually adjusting to the brighter light Life would be hard, but life would be his. He was free.
The music stopped.
Two skinks walked over to where the dead skaven lay, a large smile visible on his dead face.
“Finally got one. All that time crafting the magic flute and a week of straight playing and we lured one skaven to its death. What a waste of time and effort”
The trees rustled as more skinks moved closer to hear him talk. A few were chuckling. One chimed in.
“We could kill one skaven every hour for a year, and they wouldn’t even notice!”
The skink priest lowered his flute. The warrior mirrored him lowering his blowpipe.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of time, we know this flute works now. And when you see a lone skaven he is probably an elite assassin or poisoner. Who knows what this one skaven could have been planning?”
The skinks assembled nodded grimly.
“He did carry himself taller with more confidence than usual for his filthy kind. Look at his face. What ever could make as skaven so happy must be vile indeed.”
“Indeed, well I get back to playing, maybe we'll get another one”
TD4 made me feel warm and fuzzy because this was exactly what I was trying to communicate. I got a L-O forum to refer to "a rat's heroism." By an astonishing coincidence, I am quite fond of "I Will Survive," and I entertained many friends in college singing it for karaoke.
The reason I had the Skinks complain about how few Skaven were killed and speculate on just how dangerous the protagonist might have been was intended for gallows humor and tragic contrast. The reader knows if the Skaven survived he would not have harmed the Lizardmen, but the Skinks' prejudices won out. I'm not sure how well that last part was communicated, but that is what I was trying to do.
So I tried to hide I was the author by getting very nit picky about the lack of focus on the music and pushing this for the Scalenex Cup (despite being ineligible for it), but I thought this piece sort of screamed my hand wrote it.
The critique that I could have started with an attention grabber is valid. Maybe if I revised this I would add a paragraph or two describing his horrific slave life in detail. Then you know what he's running from.
Makes sense, I suppose it was something along these lines.
A unique thread to collect all your personal stories is a good idea. I think I'll borrow it...
Spoiler: Thought Process on Writing This
I was pondering the "Song of the Old Ones" in bits and pieces even before the L-O Poetry contest motivated me to start on it. I originally intended to cover Slann, Sauri, Skinks, Kroxigor, Elves, Dwarves, Humans and Halflings/Ogres but I didn't have time to finish it so only posted an entry for Slann, Sauri, Skinks, and Dwarfs.
I have long thought of using the Song of the Old Ones as a framing device for a Lizardmen/Warmblood fluff piece. I was/am planning to use the Dwarf chapter as a sequel to New Alliances but that unnamed sequel has to wait in line behind my two WIP Chronicles of the Witch Hunter Verrick and Strange Blood, both pieces I'm working on really slowly, but the very fact that I wrote the Dwarf chapter of the Song of the Old Ones first shows I'm serious about writing this...eventually.
Writing contests are a good way to light a fire under me, because they have a deadline. My plan for Song of the Old Ones was to lump Halflings and Ogres together and to focus mainly on the fact that they like to eat. So when Ratty proposed the topic "Food and Drink," I thought "Ogres and/or Halflings!"
So the first thing I did was to write the stanza of the poem and I wrote this poem early in the contest entry period. Then when I tried to plan this is a framing device for a story I realized I had no story. After fighting a bad case of writer's block, I called on @NIGHTBRINGER and @pendrake for advice and to critique my poem and Pendrake gave me this.
And that is the seed that formed the core of my store, though the shipment included Itxi grubs, as a story finally fell into place I figured a generic resupply was better.
I made an outline. It was basically based around the poem. I got about halfway through turning my outline to story and I found I was rapidly closing on 2000 words. I had to cut a lot of stuff, but ultimately I ended up condensing the end of my piece. I kind of regret my poor pacing, but I didn't want to cut out the characterization for my large cast of characters. Maybe in hindsight I should have left out the human mercenaries, but I think they were a good contrast against the Lizardmen and Eaters.
Originally I was going to have all the Ogres and Halflings grab the food and run, but as I was writing the ending I thought it would be better to have one go for the food and one go for gold.
After I got my piece done, I turned to my trusted adviser @Y'ttar Scaletail as I value his proofreading. Also, he submitted a piece very early so I knew that him taking time to review my piece would not impair his own writing.
The Big and Little Eaters
“Praise to the Old Ones and all they beget
Their Fifth undertaking, sadly is crude
Their incomplete state, the Old Ones regret
Their drives are set for obtaining of food
“Almost giant size or small like a runt
Food fuels their bodies, hunger fuels their deeds
Achieving success, their methods are blunt
Great resourcefulness, they meet all their needs
“The aura of Chaos, they shall resist
Ultimate survivors when others fail
Against all dangers the eaters persist
Tenacity allows them to prevail
“Beware the Fifth Race’s hunger and lust
They’re greedy and selfish, unworthy of trust”
Talek, the skink chief glared at the priest.
“You’re singing the song again, Yotiri!”
"I’m supposed to wait in silence?”
“What if the Prodigals hear you? The Big and Little Eaters already distrust us. We don’t want them to know how much we know about them.”
“So? None of them speak Saurian.”
“We don’t know that!”
“Do they have legendary hearing too? They are all still eating.”
The Skink chief sighed. He walked slowly forward to get a better view. The wooden stockade was only just completed yesterday. If the First alone were building it, it would have been done long ago, but the warmblood captains all wanted a say in how it was built.
There were no walls within the stockade but there was a lot of empty space in the temporary encampment. The First were camped roughly in the center, with relatively few structures erected other than the command tent. The climate of Albion was well suited for the Lizardmen to rest outside, at least for the summer months. The Ogres and Halflings didn’t trust each other, and insisted on the Humans camping in between them. All three tried to maximize their distance to the lizards whilst keeping them in sight.
The First slept in huddles. They ate and socialized in tight groups. Not so the warmbloods, they needed ample personal space even among their own kind. This was made all the more ridiculous because the four groups had to share one stockade. The more personal space everyone had, the wider the stockade had to be.
Old Ones forbid that any one group dominate the supplies! The supplies were to be kept in the middle of the four camps watched like a hawk by at least one representative from each group day and night. Everywhere else, guard duty involved segregated squads who spent as much time watching their allies as looking for the enemy.
The two Skinks looked over the charcoal sketch the Halflings made of the enemy camp which was just barely out of sight. Talek was begrudgingly impressed. This was far more detailed than the oral description a Chameleon Skink would have given. Still, Talek still wished he had Chameleon Skinks providing him intelligence, but the few Chameleons in the Albion campaign were too rare and precious to spare for guarding the army’s rear supply lines.
The Halflings also said the Skaven were collecting lumber. Nothing was more worrying than "The Skaven are building something, and we don't know what."
It seemed that the ratmen and the Chaos tainted humans also liked their space. The two enemy camps were entirely separate, a full “a bow shot apart” the Halfling said. The Skaven had erected their own stockade, but the Fallen Humans preferred ditches with spikes. They were not bothering to enclose their camp entirely, seemingly on purpose.
Unlike the cowardly rats, the Fallen humans wanted the Lizardmen and their mercenaries to attack. That way the stalemate could be broken and they could finally spill blood for their false gods. Fortunately, the skaven were not eager to launch a frontal assault and it would have been suicide for the Chaos forces to attack alone since almost all the mercenaries specialized in missile weapons which were now coated in the best poisons Lustria could offer. There used to be well over a hundred Chaos warriors, but their first attack on the half-finished stockade was a disaster. Then they came back with Skaven.
The Skink and Halfling scouts estimates were similar. They agreed that were about eighty enemy Humans and between three and four hundred Skaven. That compared to forty-seven Skinks, twenty-three Sauri, two Kroxigor, fifteen ogres, thirty-seven humans, and forty-one halflings. Not good odds.
So they waited.
Praise to the Old Ones and all they beget
Their Fifth undertaking, sadly is crude
Their incomplete state, the Old Ones regret
Their soul desire, consumption of food
Finally, the mercenary captains approached the Lizardmen command tent. The First wanted to meet at dawn, but the warmbloods had unsurprisingly insisted on eating a full breakfast before having what was generously being called the “war council.” Talek had to cut the First’s rations due to low supplies but hadn’t dared to cut the warmbloods rations for fear of mutiny.
Talek and Yotiri were present. The spawning leader of the Saurus, Soqtla, was also present. Soqtla couldn’t speak or understand a word of the warmbloods' tongue, but he nevertheless insisted on being present, so he could silently stare at them and size them all up.
Matteo spoke for the humans. Because they were half the size, the small Eaters apparently needed two captains, Drogan and Fredegar. Urgoff spoke for the ogres. Talek addressed them all in the warmblood’s common tongue.
“Thank you for coming….sssso quickly."
Yotiri rolled his eyes.
Now that the ssstockade is complete we need to—” Talek continued.
“—why didn’t they attack last night, or the night before?” Matteo interrupted.
Talek wasn’t good at reading the faces of warmbloods, but Matteo’s eyes were bloodshot. He clearly wasn’t sleeping very well. Yotiri responded first.
“You want to be attacked?” he asked.
“No, but Skaven have better night vision than us, and the darkness would make our shooting less accurate. If I were a Skaven, that’s when I’d attack.” Matteo explained.
“You’re not a Skaven.” Drogan said.
“You smell like one though!” Fredegar quipped.
“Silence whelp!” Matteo replied.
Such tadpoles. I need to stop this before it gets out of control.
“It issss wise to try to think like the enemy but the foul ratmen are too twisted for good people like ourselvessss to really get into their heads. Sssame for the Chaos men”
“Yesssss, we high and mighty lizards are mucccch to pure and unssssssullied to have anything in common with evil beingsssss, unlike you warmbloodssssss” Fredegar said while cross eyed and sticking his tongue out as far as he could.
There was an awkward pause. Soqtla clearly sensed hostility and began to stir. Annoyed as he was, Talek didn’t want the Saurus to brain their little ally. The dull-witted ogre would have probably felt threatened and kill the entire rest of the war council. Before Talek could think of what to say, the other Halfling intervened.
“Be nice, they still are holding our gold.” Drogan said.
There was another pause.
“Our supplies are low. Not much poison left for ammunition. Not much food left. The rats know this, want us hungry and weak.” rumbled Urgoff.
Yotiri craned his neck to look the ogre in the eyes, or at least to look at the underside of his chins.
“My auguries show that we will get our resupply within a few dayssss,” the priest said.
“Does the resupply include more fighting lizards?” asked the ogre.
“Not many.” Talek answered.
“Supplies come over the sea. Enemy is between us and the sea. Resupply is useless if we cannot get to it. We need to attack now,” the Ogre declared.
No one argued, Talek just stared.
That was actually intelligent.
“Very well, let usss plan the attack.”
Almost giant size or small like a runt
Food fuels their bodies, hunger fuels their deeds
Achieving success, their methods are blunt
Great resourcefulness, they meet all their needs
They meant to attack at high noon when the sun was brightest, both so the Lizardmen were fully energized and the Skaven were slightly sunblind, but the coalition had to sort out a dozen minor disagreements. It was mid-afternoon by the time the coalition was able to mobilize.
The Saurus warriors and Ogres marched out boldly while the humans marched alongside their right flank and provided cover fire with their crossbows while several Skinks and both Kroxigor took the other flank. This naturally drew out the Chaos Warriors immediately, the rats moved slower, either because of a weak chain of command or as a treacherous ploy to let their allies take point.
Despite the falling crossbow bolts, the Chaos Warriors marched surprisingly slowly and raised their shields in a tortoise formation rather than charging forward at full speed. The Chaos Warriors were possibly sufficient alone on the open field, but the Skaven revealed what they had been working on: catapults. No warpstone magic or rickety steam engines, but the simple catapults were plenty sufficient to knock down the wooden stockade or when re-purposed, target infantry.
The first two boulders missed, but the next two killed many Humans. The crossbowmen panicked. Once crossbow bolts stopped raining from the sky, the Chaos Warriors charged. Reserves of Skaven finally began to make ready to leave their camp, but the Skaven were not the only ones with a surprise in store.
While most of their foes’ attention was drawn to the larger soldiers. Halflings emerged from the tall grass near the Skaven camp. A few promptly lit torches which were then used to ignite their arrows. Soon the Skaven’s ramshackle tent city was in flames.
Some of the slower moving ratmen, including more than a few slaves encumbered by chains were burned alive. Most escaped a fiery death but many ran around in a literal blind panic as the smoke teared up their eyes and assaulted their sense of smell.
The Halflings continued to rain flaming death engulfing more of the Skaven camp. The wooden wall the Skaven erected to keep the enemy out was now keeping the rats inside. A few were nimble enough to climb over, and few had knocked a few escape holes in their wall, but to little avail. The escaping Skaven that had presence of mind to rush out against the Halflings were intercepted by a wave of Skink Skirmishers.
Once the flames had reached the rats’ catapults, the Halflings began targeting the Chaos Warriors mostly empty camp, but the Fallen humans were not to be distracted. They wanted blood.
The aura of Chaos, they shall resist
Ultimate survivors when others fail
Against all dangers, the eaters persist
Tenacity allows them to prevail
Despite being outnumbered, the Chaos Warriors superior armor and discipline, the Ogres did not hesitate. First to clash with the enemy, they utterly flattening six or seven of the twisted humans in the first few seconds of melee.
The Chaos Warriors drew much blood but few Ogres fell or even slowed. They swung their clubs and axes freely, their strength penetrating the Humans' armor. Within moments they were joined by the Saurus Warriors roaring with fury.
Tactically, Talek knew that the Chaos Warriors were the greater threat, and that his allies were sorely outnumbered. He was, at his core, a follower of Sotek. He directed his Skink and Kroxigor cohort to engage the quivering Skaven reserves who had marched out of the camp before the fires were set.
As the initial impetus of the two charges faded, both the Chaos minions and their foes began to fight a bit more defensively and the spilling of blood slowed somewhat.
The humans rallied and were able to provide cover fire to make sure none of the Skaven that escaped the fires could contribute to the melee. When they ran low on targets, Matteo bravely ordered his men to march around the Chaos Warrior/Ogre/Saurus melee and help the Skinks mop up the Skaven reserves.
Once the Skaven were effectively routed and being mopped up by the Halfling and Skink skirmishers, the Human mercenaries and Skink cohort converged on the remaining Chaos Warriors, but most were already dead. Over half of the Saurus and Ogres had also fallen.
Beware the Fifth Race’s hunger and lust
They’re greedy and selfish, unworthy of trust
Skinks and Saurus warriors like to celebrate a successful battle but the warmbloods seemed to never grow tired of drinking and singing.
The Skink skirmishers had managed to get their claws on the Chaos Warriors small stockpile of gold and silver before the warmbloods did. Talek distributed the worthless shiny metal to the warmbloods in what Matteo called “a bonus.”
The First didn’t dare touch the Chaos warriors other supplies but the Halflings were not afraid to take the dark Humans meat and wine. The Ogres, disgustingly ate roast rat flesh. A lot of Ogres were badly wounded but few were actually killed. Talek noted that they were quick healers, as long as they were well-fed.
While watching the Ogres and Halflings eat had nauseated the Lizardmen, they were still hungry. Almost two weeks of reduced rations meant that they were as eager as anyone to welcome the arrival of their wayward supplies days later.
They set up a new light camp was near a deep water harbor. Soon a giant sea turtle butted its head against the shore. Skink porters exited the creature’s back. Once the Slanns' requested shipment of Itxi grubs was secure, Talek ordered the offloading of the regular supplies assisted by Talek’s Skinks and Kroxigor. The Ogres insisted on helping carry supplies.
Once the supplies were neatly piled, half the Ogres gathered up all the sacks of meat while the others shoved or bludgeoned the lizards nearest to them, scattering the other supply containers across the rocky sand. Then the Ogres ran off.
Soqtla glanced at Talek. His unspoken question hung in the air.
"No, we can subsist on fruit and bread to last till the next resupply, and this way we don’t owe them any gold.”
The Saurus nodded.
Fredegar walked forward. He picked up an apple that rolled out of supply sack, dusted it off and took a bite, chewing slowly. After swallowing, he turned his head towards Talek, and addressed him in perfect Saurian.
“We little Eaters still want the gold you promised us.”
It seemed rushed, because the ending was rushed. I had to struggle to get this piece under the maximum word count. Lizardmen chose to ally with Ogres because (1) my story concept requires it and (2) the Ogres sell their services as mercenaries to pretty much everyone, path of least resistance.
The ending being fairly compressed is a problem I have a lot. Mentioning the poem off-handedly as a framing device was me fishing to see if anyone remembered "The Song of the Old Ones" from the previous poetry contest.
Basically what I was aiming for. Thanks for the praise!
I'm glad the prophetic poem was well received.
Albion was sort of a melting pot with a lot of foreigners. I didn't cover the Albion humans because they are so exotic, they would naturally become central to the story and I wanted to focus on Halflings and Ogres, not side humans. Also, Celts were famous front line fighters. That's not what the Lizardmen need. You hire mercenaries to fill your gaps. The Lizardmen gap is long ranged shooting. Also, they were Tilean (Tilea has a lot of Ogres and Halflings too).
Thank you, that's what I was going for.
Y'ttar helped me edit this so, this is not new to me. He did hit the positive and negative points of my piece quite succinctly per usual.
I actually figured most of the meat would be steak-like and delicious, but who am I to argue with something so cute?
Spoiler: Thought Process when writing this
So when I got the concept of "It came from above" I came up with many ideas that I tossed out.
First I thought about having a piece where the ending is something lands on the protagonists or antagonists much like @Y'ttar Scaletail 's piece "To Escape Fate" though there is no way I could have wrote it that well in under 1000 words. I couldn't think of a suitably funny or tragic way to go to this.
Plan B was to write a piece about the Lizardmen invading a Fimir or Skaven lair underground. For a good "It came from above story." where the Lizardmen are the antagonists. I find the Fimir intriguing but I couldn't figure out a way to make them even slightly symapthetic and I I didn't feel like writing a Skaven protagonist. I've done Skaven protagonists fairly often, but I wasn't feeling it this way around.
Plan C was to do something around the Festival of Tlanxla because I like the idea of using Lizardmen religious festivals as a backdrop. I did that with "Chameleons in the City of Mists" and "Watching Things Burn" and I always wished my thread on Lizardmen religious practices got more love.
Plan C, part a was to have Fimir, Skaven, Daemons, or undead try to stage an attack on the Festival of Tlanxla, but I couldn't think of a reason why such a well informed enemy would choose to attack at a time when they are guaranteed to have a large air force against them. That's too big and complicated to fit in a short story.
Plan C, part b, was to have some enemies try to attack a party of Lizardmen en route to the Festival of Tlanxla. Then they get rescued at the end by some flyers from Tlanxla. Boring. "I hope the Terradon riders can spot our trouble before it's too late!" "Yay, they did!"
Plan C, part c. My plan took the final form. I decided to have a group of Lizardmen overcome normal jungle dangers to reach the Festival of Tlanxla. What could make this story interesting and meaningful? I thought, maybe have the Skinks want to see the Festival of Tlanxla because they are bored and it might be funny if when they get they decide they long for boring.
So that's how I came up with the concept.
EDIT: Fun fact. At the time I was working on this I was talking about Disney films in the off-topic forum. Mulan is my favorite Disney protagonist, so that's where I got the name Mu-Lat from.
I did make an outline for this. Basically I brainstormed a bunch of nasty hazards for them to overcome. I ended up going with fighting Stegadons, a Salamander, Cold Ones, and a carnivorous plant.
Ideas that did not make the final cut included a Carnosaur, wasp swarm, hail storm, Razordon, and a skirmish with warmblood enemies.
“You wish your Cohort to be allowed leave to attend the next Festival of Tlanxla?” asked the Master of the City’s Works.
“Yes, sir” Mu-Lat the spawning leader addressed.
“Hmmm, I’m just curious. Your spawning has no direct association with Tlanxla. You have not worked with Terradon keepers nor have you fought in many battles. You are workers and foragers. Good workers and foragers, you earned some time off for sure, but why spend it doing this?” asked the Skink chief.
“We can use the excitement. We have never been more than a two or three days’ journey from Tlaxtlan. We can use some excitement. We want to see the exhibitions of the greatest Terradon riders up close.” Replied Mu-Lot.
“Very well, your leave is granted, I hope the flyers do not disappoint.” The Skink chief politely waved him out.
One month later
Twenty-three Skinks, all spawning brothers, were trudging through the shallow swamps west of Tlaxtlan. They were tired from the marching, but excitedly all chirping at once.
“Should we set up camp now?”
“Let’s try to get a few more miles in before dusk. Then we can set up camp.”
“The sun seems to be setting faster than last night.”
“Quit complaining. We are actually going to get to attend the Festival of Tlanxla in Tlanxla. I cannot wait to see all those Terradons in one place!”
“Why aren’t we going around the Piranha Swamps?”
“We are going around! The Piranha Swamps are huge!”
“This is a swamp. Those fish are piranha. We are still on the edge of the Piranha Swamps.”
“You want to go that far south by Quittax? We won’t make the ceremony in time.”
“But the piranha!”
“They aren’t biting. They only go after cold blooded prey when they are desperate for food, so we are safe this time of year.”
“There’s more than piranha in these swamps.”
“We were spawned to march through swamps. We can do this!”
“Is that a salamander’s sail!”
“SCATTER!” Mu-Lat shouted.
At the cohort leader’s command, the Skinks scattered rapidly. An earthen toned female salamander emerged from the murky depths at the sight of fleeing prey and expelled a bout of flammable gas.
“Attack!” Mu-Lat shouted.
About half the Skinks had enough of their wits to throw a javelin. Most missed or bounced off the Salamanders hide or sail, but enough hit that the Salamander felt it. She receded into the waters and swam away, seeking easier prey.
“I got singed a little, but I think I should be okay.”
Two Skinks brandished the shiny red marks on their arms.
“We better get some aloe on those burns and cover them.”
“How about we put some distance from that Salamander, and then treat them?”
A dozen heads nodded in agreement.
“Agreed” said Mu-Lat.
Eight Hours later
“It’s not supposed to rain this hard unexpectedly this time in the year!” a Skink shouted through the near horizontal rain.
The Skinks turned their faces away from the wind to protect their eyes as tiny hail lashed against their scaly hides.
“Hope the Terradons don’t have to fly in this mess.”
“The Terradons? What about us?”
“Mahrlect, there goes our supply tent.”
“Grab it! Grab it”
A swell of water carried the tent away. Along the swell, a crocodile rode the wave.
“You grab it!”
Fortunately the beast seemed more interested in finding respite from the storm than finding food, but none of the Skinks wanted to tempt the predator.
Mu-Lat took charge and the spawning brothers cautiously gathered what supplies they could salvage.
“It’ll be dawn in a few hours and no one is getting back to sleep, so we might as well get moving. If the rain doesn’t stop we will have to go entirely around the Pirahna Swamps. We’ll be safer on higher ground. Pick up the pace everyone! We need to move faster if we are going to make it to the festival on time”
three days later
“Run! Faster! Faster!”
The ground shook as the two bull Stegadons continued their brawl. They were ignoring the Skinks but that was precious little comfort as they unintentionally felled tree after tree.
A winded Skink turned to his spawning brother scowling.
“Thanks for advising me to run! It never would have occurred to me to get out of the way of TWO ANGRY STEGADONS!”
“You're welcome,” came the equally sarcastic reply
“Territory fight I guess.” Said a third.
“Maybe a fight over mates.”
There was a loud crash as a tree fell. The jungle reverberated with an ear splitting roar.
“All that fury over mating! Sexual reproduction must surely be a creation of Chaos. I don’t see why the Old Ones didn’t make all life come from pools.”
“Never mind, we need to find the others and regroup. When we get to the thicker foliage and rougher terrain we’ll be out of Stegadon territory, it should be safer away from the larger fauna” Mu-Lat stated.
Two days later
“Into the trees! Quickly!”
The Skinks had killed the first Cold One but a half dozen more followed. The faster ones bought time for the slower ones by raining javelins down at the pack of predators to dissuade them.
By some miracle, all the Skinks safely made it up a tree. Though most of them had to drop their packs and the Cold Ones were savaging them for every scrap of food.
“Thank Tlanxla for granting us speed!”
“Thank Tlanxla for granting us trees.”
“I love trees!”
Three days later
“It’s got me!”
A vine wrapped around a Skink's leg and started dragging him towards the tree trunk nearly twice as thick as a Kroxigor.
“My ankle! Cut it! Cut it!”
“Cut your ankle?
Another spawning brother drew a machete and cut the vine.
“The vine, puddle brain.”
The plants vines and thorns were still writhing. Two Skinks threw javelins which embedded deep in the bark, but the tree didn’t react anymore than a bastladon to a wasp on its shell. It still reached out with its many thorned vines, but the Skinks had all fled a safe distance away.
“I thought carnivorous trees were just a tall tale the Sotek Skinks made up to frighten tadpoles!”
“By the Old Ones, what more can go wrong if the very plants are trying to kill us?”
“I prefer it when we eat the plants, not the other way around!”
Two days later
“We should be very close to Tlanxla now?”
“Good, we are running out of time.”
“Kylek, are you okay?”
“Why are the colors shifting? Woah, look at my claws. They are so big!”
“I told you not to eat that plant…”
The Skink coughed and wretched, his brothers backed away.
"The Cold Ones ate our food, what else could I eat—ack!"
“Don’t worry about Kylek, I think the plants are coming back up….”
One day later
Twenty-three battered, bloodied, and burned Skinks took their seats among the spectator’s viewing platform watching the formations of Terradons flying. A low ranking Skink priest ushered them to some benches
“Ah, you came all the way from Tlaxtlan on foot! This is your first Festival of Tlanxla?”
“Yep.” Mu-Lat replied.
“Made it just in time. This is just practice. The actual festival starts tomorrow.”
“I’m just glad we made it.”
A light green Skink walked over.
“This is our first Festival of Tlanxla too! I can’t wait to see what the Terradon riders, tomorrow will be the most exciting day of our lives! Am I right?”
Mu-Lat looked over his bruised, tired, hungry, burned, poison addled, and scratched brothers and rolled his eyes.
“Yes, I’m sure we can all use some more excitement in our lives...”
Because Story Five was mine. I was so concerned I didn't miss any piece that was submitted to me, I skipped the piece that wasn't submitted to me...mine. Of course last minute entries turned story 5 into story 6 but that's important.
Now I was not expecting or hoping to win, but I was proud of myself for the pacing and economy of words. And Man versus Nature is something I default to when I am stuck.
I don’t know how I could have added more characterization to the larger cast without bogging the short story down with a clunky word count.
I was being facetious here. I think if even one Skink died, the light hearted core of the piece would be broken and this piece would have been an utter failure. I am strong believer that pieces should not have jarring shifts in tone.
Per my thought process, I didn’t plan on this being a road trip story, but it kind of evolved that way. If I had more time and pondered this concept a bit more I might have been able to create a diverse cast of Skinks based on road trip character stereotypes.
Hmm, I sort of pulled this scene out of the ether. I wrote the intro last. As I mentioned in the thought process I plotted out the dangers. Once I wrote the bulk of my piece and knew my word count was okay, I worked on making a succinct introduction that wouldn’t bog down the pacing. I didn’t really think about it modern terms of begging your boss for time off. That’s the fun thing about interpretations. Readers see things the author never intended.
I have been sitting on that reproduction joke for a long time.
I had that concern. I wanted to write something funnier (and by this point I began to see some of the funny stuff other people were writing), but this was the best I could come up with.
I’m glad my attempt at humor worked. Partially inspired by a Scott Adams joke. “Eat a live toad every morning. Nothing worse will happen to you all day.”
I could have made the group of Skinks smaller, but I figured if the characters were Skinks who wanted excitement they would be worker caste Skinks and worker caste Skink spawnings tend to be fairly large, at least how I see it. In this case I let my desire for a consistent setting overtake the needs of this story. Since this is a standalone piece, I needn’t have done this.
Road trip again. Apparently I wrote something in a new genre I never tried before without consciously doing so.
Thanks, I was mildly concerned I wouldn’t do that part justice. Glad it came off well.
My loose tie-in was that they were going to see an air show. I don’t consider that a cop out, I think I hit the theme fairly well but in this contest, lots of people hit the theme extremely well, so by comparison my inclusion of the theme was poor. I guess I agree with Aginor but I don’t consider it a big deal. The other story ideas I had hit the theme more directly but I think they would have been weaker stories on the whole.
So I guess I can add writing Road Movies to my dauntingly massive list of talents. Mostly I was just trying to set up a punchline. Also, I felt carnivorous plants were always underutilized in Lizardmen fluff.
As mentioned before I did not think a smaller group would work well with continuity to Lizardmen fluff. If I wrote this again, I think I would include an optimist, whiner, coward, and a nerd.
Indeed killing off even one Skink would have ruined the innocence of the story. If I rewrote this to include death, I would actually boost the group to over a hundred Skinks. I would make the Skinks forced to go on the religious pilgrimage and I would employ gallows humor. I like gallows humor, but I don’t think I can sustain a whole short story on it.
I rarely write stories that leave much room for a chapter two. I do not want to discourage any writers’ ideas, but in short story contests I almost never vote for stories that take a “chapter one” format like what Bob describes. I believe short stories should be self-contained.
That said, everyone that wrote a chapter one story, wrote a solid one, and if you post a longer saga I promise to at least hit the like button and/or write some meaningful commentary.
I thought WTSKM was the first person to compliment me on dialogue but I did a control F search and lots of people did that, so I guess my dialogue is improving over past pieces. Huzzah.
I did work hard on the timing. I worked to make sure the vignettes were compact and relatively equally weighted.