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Fiction Short and Shorter Stories

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Slanputin, Jun 18, 2015.

  1. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    This is a side project to my other story, "Lord Xhaltan". Somewhere to bank my other more singular ideas without wedging them into a greater story.

    This also serves as a place to collect my L-O Shorty-Story contest entries.

    Have a peek, critique welcome :)

    Index:

    Act of Power .....pg.1.
    Act of Cessation ....pg.1
    Final Entry (contest entry - theme: "Chameleons").....pg.1.
    New Nature (contest entry - theme: "Man vs. Nature")....-pg.1.
    A Thousand Crimson Crosses (contest "entry" - deadline missed, theme: "Spirit of Horror").....pg.1.
    The Loom at the Threshold (contest entry & winner :D - theme: "Change and Continuity").....pg.2
    Johan's Beast.....pg.2
    Serpent's Brew (contest entry - theme: "Antiheroes").....pg.2
    Kin and Master (contest entry - theme: "Freedom & Slavery").....pg.2
    Commune (contest entry - theme: "Hope/Vengeance").....pg.3
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
  2. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    Act of Power

    Warmth.

    It was the first thing I felt. The first thing I had ever felt, alone in the abyss. All I remembered from before was a vague sensation of suspension, and of darkness. Warmth flooded me. It started as a white-hot point needling the centre of my brow. It spread throughout me; blood boiled and nerves flared. After time, however, I grew accustomed to it. The burning sensation that had wracked my body dulled to a delicate succour that permeated my entire body.

    Next, came light.

    Dull and grey, unlike the fire before, it gradually bloomed to only just barely illuminate the space above me. Here I began learning, assembling two curious notions to which I could not attribute any significance. Firstly was my surrounding: the light was diffuse and shimmered lazily each time I moved. It was apparent that I was suspended in some viscous fluid. Secondly, as my eyes grew accustomed, I could see figures moving near to the source of the light, blurred by the languid turbulence of the liquid.

    Then I heard.

    Shifting within the ooze I attempted to peer closer, and the excitement arose. The figures began to dart through the light; making excited chattering, they occasionally stopped to stare at me. I shifted uncomfortably, and the noise increased. Their voices were muffled, blocked by something. A barrier. An escape.

    I reached up with my arm; long, thin, and guided by three bulbous fingers. I was surprised, I had not thought of my own appearance until that moment. Its shape was disturbing, disjointed with my perception of myself. I felt was strong, indomitable, and limitless. My unexpected deficiency was sickening.

    My fingertips broke the surface and, suddenly released from its sludgy confinement, were needled by the cool air beyond. Curious, I heaved the rest of my body to break the thick surface. The air impressed an unexpected sharpness upon my lungs, but it was not unpleasant. Wind mournfully echoed about me; after the darkness of that liquid I found the sound and sensation exhilarating. I felt alive. The wind held some sort of power. I could sense it as easily as I could breathe or think. I could not gauge or understand what it was other than a spectrum of energy, tangling, untangling, and re-tangling itself as it washed over my body. Reaching out I plucked at it, redirecting the energy to flow throw through me. It felt fulfilling and natural, just like breathing. Inhaling this energy I rose from the fluid, the last thick globules flung from my sizzling skin as I felt my body electrify.

    The noises had fallen silent. I looked about for their masters. It was then that I noticed I was in a cavern, the full extent of which I could not see in the feeble light, and seemed to contain an underground lake composed of the dark liquid. The only evident shore-line was illuminated by flickering torches: there, amongst various objects of intricate design, stood a small group of creatures. Their heads and crests twitched as they whispered nervously to each other. I sought to speak to them, but as I began to open my mouth I realised I could sense their presence far more keenly than by just perceiving shape and colour – I could see their thoughts sparking, causing chain reactions which flittered across their bodies to twitch a tail or blink an eye. I waved my hand, collecting their conscience together in my mind’s eye.

    Who are you?” I asked with a thought. Their bodies shuddered at the sudden mental intrusion, and some even tried to break free. I found this humorous: their minds were far inferior to my own, their perception constrained. How myopic; how naive.

    I repeated my question, and one answered:

    “We…we are your creators.”

    Creators? I found such an answer incredulous. They were so small, they couldn’t possibly comprehend my complexity, my vision.

    “You say you created me. Why?” I asked.

    They feared me. Their thoughts seemed to shy away from my presence, focusing on inconsequential matters: the sunlight outside, the familiar shelter of their homes, those that they called brothers. Irritated by their lack of focus I tightened my grasp on their minds. Their bodies shook and legs bent.

    I repeated my question and the same creature replied:

    “There has been much… hardship. Our world, it is suffering, broken from a great evil that ravages it even now-”.

    “-and so you need me, you need my power to stem this….evil” I curtailed his rambling, the conclusion obvious the moment his lips parted. The creature took it as another question, and replied fervently.

    “Yes, yes we do. Your power is needed to add to those of the others. We may still be able to control the tide of Chaos and seal it back within its realm”.

    His answer disturbed me. Others? How could there be any others like me? With a thought I gripped the energies of the cavern, suckling on their vibrant power. The winds spiralled about me, its power flaring as I delicately strung the individual colourful strands of energy together. Brilliant light burst forth and illuminated the entire cavern; streams of crimson fire arched overhead and looped about my body; individual gusts shattered into thousands of pieces of molten gold before reassembling into nothing; new plants bloomed from the wind-cut contours upon the wall.

    I do not need the help of these… others”.

    The creatures looked about, awed. “Your magical ability, it’s already so….adept”, the speaker whispered. “Please…” the creature pleaded, looking back at me “please, most of the Mage-Priests have died. Their numbers dwindling. Even with though your power is great Chaos is stronger still-“

    I frowned, “So, I am one of the few remaining of my...kind?

    “Yes, too few remain to fight back. No-more of your kind have spawned since the coming of Chaos. So we tried to stimulate the spawning pool in accordance with the ancient plaques, using the artefacts left to us. We have strived hard for many decades in the face of much failure. Now, we have succeeded.”

    You succeeded…” I inhaled sharply, “succeeded in creating a weapon of war and birthing life into a world on the brink of annihilation” I felt anger flush across me: to think that they would control my fate, my life. I would have nothing to do with their strife or matters of their extinction. I would not be given life only to answer to handlers, to those weaker than I.

    Your war does not concern me; my fate is my own to decide” I stated.

    Panic sparked in each of their minds, “You must!” they cried out, “Chaos affects us all, including you. You must help us or else everything will be lost.”

    Angered at their presumption, the magics about me flared brighter: the cavern began to waver as if I were seeing through the viscous waters below, the wind ricocheted off the walls making a deafening sound. It echoed like mocking laughter.

    “You must!” they cried louder, “You must! You must!”

    I must do nothing!” I shouted. Their bodies crumpled on the floor, their sparks gone.

    The waters below seethed furiously under the vortex of magic. As the cavern dimmed again the sound abated, but somehow the laughter remained, inundating my head.

    They knew nothing of your power and they knew nothing of you. Come with us. You are mighty indeed, but we can make you mightier still. Come with us, and you will ascend to a state of power never before experience by your kind.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
  3. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Whoa. Slann-like power with no moral or practical constraints.

    Houston, we have a problem.



    ("Their population is nearing at an end. Even with though your power is great Chaos is stronger still-“ this sentence needs a tweak or two.)
     
  4. Mr Phat
    Skink Chief

    Mr Phat 9th Age Army Support

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    I had one thought, and one thought alone while reading this :D

     
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  5. spawning of Bob
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    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    That was terrifying.
     
  6. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    It's a nice thought, but I couldn't possibly comment on what thinly veiled inspirations were clearly not present in my work... ;p
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2015
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  7. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Wow playing God (or playing the Old Ones) didn't work. Who'd a thunk it.

    I liked this story. Brilliant execution on a classic theme. I figured it would a Frankenstein-esque story but I never saw a Slann coming.
     
  8. discomute
    Temple Guard

    discomute Well-Known Member

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    Really liked that one
     
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  9. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    Cheers Discomute :) it had been on my mind for a while
     
  10. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    Act of Cessation

    Dearest Husband,

    I fear I am going mad again. I feel we can’t survive another of these terrible times. I hear voices, the laughter has returned; I can’t concentrate, and I fear I may once more become a danger to the little ones. I know your arguments, your will for me to survive, but there are only suffer so many visits by the inquisition, so many exorcisms that we could endure. I know your arguments, but please, this is my voice speaking now. Mine alone. The futility becomes all too clear, and so I am embracing it.

    You have been a strength without which I would be broken, patience that has extended far beyond the normal man. Before this corruption I don’t believe our happiness could have been exceeded, no minute any lighter. You’re goodness stays with me, when I work the market it is the one absolute helps me endure; there are only so many unworn shoes one can sell. There are only so many times I can resist this blight.

    You have sacrificed much for me, and I cannot bear to see you lose much more. I already take your strength and strain your patience. You have been incredibly good to me, and so I am to do what I can do with the one act of goodness. I will preserve those happy memories, and you will no longer be distracted; you will work again.

    There is only one other absolute left to me. I do not resent it, I do not discourage it. I ask you, when you find this letter, that you do not try and follow me. That this world will continue on, that it will outlast me, is consoling. This option, this possibility for me, is my own. It is the one thing left I can do without another’s sacrifice, and say with my own voice without another’s doubt.

    Dearest,

    I have always cherished those minutes, every minute.

    Cessation means to end. The theme of this piece was letting go and giving up. A friend of mine once told me the defining attribute of art is that it inspires hope. I disagreed, in that a) to say so was to artificially limit what an artist could create, b) I suspected he was a Tzeentchian Arcanite and thus promptly sacrificed his heart to the Old Ones. Hoplessness, and its manifestations in ennui, are the more extreme motives behind giving up, and are worth a study as much as any noble or exciting subject.

    This piece in particular was inspired by (what is thought to be) Hemming's six word short story:

    "For sale:
    Baby shoes. Never worn."

    Further inspiration came from the films "The Hours" and "Revolutionary Road" (two of my favourite existential films.)

    This is referenced in the story. I wanted to tell of how Chaos affected the family on the ground, away from battlefield heroics and chamber politics. Because I love ambiguity I avoided writing anything too explicit, but the end result dealt in enough heavy-handed allusions that it didn't really matter. This led to my main story: on a woman accepting her fate and leaving her family, but struggling to leave all that is familiar.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2016
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  11. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    Final Entry

    I fear tonight may be my last. I feel them watching me.

    Worn, my muscles tremble under a thick skin of blood and dried earth. I can walk no more; my wounds fester, and I care not for even staying the flies from their feast. I write this as my legacy, to document my last vestige of reason in the hope to warn any who may trespass on this infernal place. By Sigmar’s will, let this land be left to the fogs of history. Too much has been lost in the pursuit of a fool’s dream.

    Cities built with bricks of gold, inlaid with gems as countless as the stars, and inhabited by untamed tribes of warrior women. Rejected by the Nuln College of Engineers and shunned by my peers, such stories were irresistible for the destitute. The Inquisition had seized and expropriated the family wealth, and in a desperate attempt to re-build our lives I had walked the breadth of The Empire to hone what skill I had in engineering. Yet another foolish dream, the College had already been given word of my brother’s apostasy. To even consider an applicant so intimately associated with a defector to the Ruinous Powers would invite heresy. Penniless and crushed, I had spent months living in squalor until I stumbled upon a sailor who sold me tales of exotic treasures across the Great Ocean. The trip would last three years, unpaid of course, but how could one compare material wealth to glory eternal in the annals of adventurers? Three weeks later, upon the promise of a cut of spoils and the remaking of my family’s legacy, we set sail from Port Marienburg.

    A fool indeed. The slums of Nuln are a paradise I now long for.

    I hear them, they are in the trees.

    Over the course of three years we had planned to reap gold from the hills and sail back to the Old World as conquerors. We survived less than a month. This night will finally mark the end of this accursed expedition.

    We were doomed from the first step, dragging the landing boats onto the shore. What should have been the exciting first steps on a new land were swiftly darkened when the boatswain was snatched into the air and born into the canopy. We didn’t see what had taken him nor did we hear its approach, but his screams continued to echo for some time after from a distant point hidden in the trees. Though shaken, the months of hard sailing and the promise of wealth had galvanised our will, so we pressed forth into the dark jungle. Six men were lost in that journey, swallowed by a green hell and ravaged by its shadowy and hungry denizens. “Onward”, our brave Captain had bellowed waving his map, “onward to glory and gold!” Glory and gold, such promises soon dulled as we trekked onwards through the suffocating humidity. The sixth man lost was our Captain: so brave and noble – he was ingested whole by a great reptile that had lunged from the swamps. Ironic it seemed, for barely had we left the swamps when we stumbled onto a clearing dominated by a column of gold which cleaved the canopy. For a brief moment our fears were assuaged: the gold was real, and we had found the first hoard. Surely, soon, the other stories of gem-lined streets and proud female warriors would be validated? Those brief glimmerings of hope were ruined by a terrible sound.

    I hear it now. It surrounds me.

    The chirping of birds, singing back and forth. My heart pounds and veins shudder at their voices. To stand below that golden monument, to think that I had a moment to bask in the birdsong. Nothing in this land is innocent, not even the honeyed chirpings of the birds. Their owners soon revealed their deceit.

    The chirping stopped, and for a moment the forest was silent. Then came a continuous sharp whistling. Men fell about me clutching their necks, feathered darts protruding from between their fingers. Petrified by fear, I watched my comrades carpet the base of the pillar. Shadows skittered through the brush. I tried to see our attackers, but each time I caught sight something changed: either the shadow or the colour, I could not tell. One slipped out from the trees. I could not tell what saw, its body moved with the hues of the jungle, its effect was obvious: the steaming bubbling of blood from my comrade’s throat. I turned and ran, fear overpowering fatigue. In panic, I foolishly glanced a look at my pursuer. A shadowy aspect of changing colour, I could discern few tangible details: a tail curled in a tight spiral, a pair of slitted eyes, moving independent of each other. What horrors! What sinister intelligence has bred in this hell!? I tripped and the tips of blades caressed my flesh. Lucky, perhaps, that my awkward stumble had denied a killing blow. I ran harder, legs and back burning and wet from my wounds. Why they had not chased me then I do not know. I imagine that delivering my companions to Death’s clutches proved a more pressing distraction than a single escapee.

    By Sigmar, I hope their deaths were quick.

    I ran. I ran until my legs were numb and breath was short. I ran blindly, not for the promise of salvation, for this cruel and dark land owes nothing to Men. I ran for the promise of the quick death offered by the creatures that hunted this jungle. Their jaws promised the certainty of death, a promise that I could not hope for at those malevolent and alien hands.

    That promise remains unfulfilled. The forest appeared to acknowledge that I was now quarry of another. It was the pain flaring from my wounds that had eventually toppled me, now I can do nothing but await my fate. With the last of my energy I write this entry. Part of me hopes it will act as some warning to a sorry soul starting their own expedition, but such a hope is a fool’s one at best. This shall be my epitaph, lost and far from the civilised realms of The Empire.

    My brother, we parted on terms that I’m certain no-one else could surpass in its enmity. I remember you told me of the folly of man: it wasn’t the Imperial dream of wealth and power, that was merely a symptom of the foundation of false hope upon which The Empire was built. A false hope that we could tame the world and stubbornly ignore truth, that the world was change, the world was chaos, and our legacy would not survive. It was futile and arrogant to act on any other principle. I had reproached you, called you a pretentious coward, a misanthropic heretic, an idiot whose values were unwanted within our Empire.

    My brother, maybe you were right. This land pumps with the blood of the wild where monsters compete to tear each other apart, where only the strongest and shrewd survive; an environment in turmoil where fire and water and forest re-shapes the earth to their whim. It is little wonder companies pick on the hopeless and ruined for these journeys, those to which extravagant rumours offered redemption. I hope you found your salvation in the North. I hope the Dark Gods offer you something more than what I could.

    Surely Sigmar has abandoned me here?

    This is the final entry of Theodor Krastner of Ostermark, citizen of The Empire of Man. A fool.

    The chirping has stopped.

    The forest is silent.
     
  12. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, I missed Act of Cessation going up. Confused? Yes. Where are the lizards?

    You already know I enjoyed Final Entry so much that I thought Scalenex wrote it. There be too much talent on this forum!

    You might be able to mess with fonts and italics to get something else that looks like hand writing for the last two.
     
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  13. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    New Nature

    The city’s pyramids still peaked above the canopy but Xerans knew he had run far. His prey was swifter than he but the jungle was alien to her. This was his home. However, he could ill afford any respite if he was to catch up. Xerans was quick, but the creature was quicker.

    Crouching, the Saurus inspected the tangled roots and moss nearby; he could smell it. Delicately he bent back a fern and spotted a dark splash blotting the root of a tree: blood. She was bleeding, good. His last attempt at subduing her hadn’t been a waste after all. Breathing in the scent he couldn’t help but lick his lips. The trail fresh once more Xerans leapt back into an excited stride, brushing silently through fern and thicket.

    Killing the creature was his prime objective, but he didn’t doubt that his enthusiasm was stoked by a personal ambition to see it once more. With much chagrin Xerans couldn’t help but appreciate how successful the hunt had been so far: the ferocious predators of the jungle had been ignorant of his passing; the dappled light streaming through the canopy mingled with the haphazard weave of dried blood that covered his body. Some of it his own. Most was that of others: of temple attendees, of his spawn brothers, and, shamefully, his ward. The scent of the Slann’s blood served as a painful reminder to the events of the day.

    The fight had been quick and brutal, but the entire group of attackers bar this one creature had been slain. Xerans had fought the creature and chased it through the streets. He would have easily gutted it had the creature not invoked arcane trickery. The effect, whatever it was, had been shrugged of quickly and Xerans managed to engage in pursuit once more. He cared little for analysing what had been cast, eager only to follow the perpetrator. The Sky Marshal had counselled him from his mount to call off the pursuit, to let the Cold One riders hunt her down. Xerans had ignored him. They didn’t know her. He did.

    Keeping up his punishing stride the Saurus began to notice more explicit marks of his quarry: delicate cuts in the barks of trees, mud churned by dashing claws, and the occasional abnormal, purple growth on various plant and carcass. Some of these tumours were still noticeably growing. The mark of corruption was clear, and only became increasingly as Xerans pressed forward: flowers with odd and changeable hues; ornate, fleshy designs creeping up trees; faint violet mists, steadily getting thicker as he ran.

    The mutating nature of Chaos and its zealous followers, compelled to spread the corruption with each step, all too easily betrayed them. Death came swiftly to the chaotic forces which entered the city’s domain. The younger races were blind to such power: to them chaos was insidious, penetrating every strata of civilisation to manipulate their whims and wants on a path to destruction. Sexless, genderless, singular in mind, and born into roles determined by aeons ago by their ancient creators, the Seraphon of Lustria were stubbornly resistant to the whims of Chaos. Tirelessly the daemonic forces had tried to erode them, corrupt them, but the mutagenic waves of Chaos only broke uselessly upon their hide.

    Thus Xerans strode heedless of the distorted mists, confident in the objective essence that defined his race. In the violaceous hues ahead he saw a familiar shape. He crouched behind a contorted shrub and watched: the creature seemed agitated, the sharp movements of her horns suggested she was taking in the jungle ahead. She was lost, unsure of which path to take.

    Taking his chance Xerans unsheathed his toothed macahuitl and burst into a sprint, leaping over the last few roots that shielded his quarry. Familiar details soon materialised through the mist: her slender ivory body, upright and supple; two sickled horns emerging from a flourish of black hair; the pair of long, cruel claws, still wet with blood. Xerans was quick, but the creature was quicker. Sensing the Saurus’s loping charge the Slaanashi herald spun round to catch the blade in her claws. Her dark eyes widened in recognition.

    “You again...”

    Xerans kicked back and swung the macahuitl once more in a wide arc. The daemon dodged the incoming attack, slipping under the arc to come at the Saurus in a flurry of claws. With the daemon falling for the feint Xerans quickly side-stepped and, gripping the weapon’s hilt with his other hand, brought it down upon the herald. Though swift she could not fully escape the blow; stem and root cracked as the daemon rolled across the earth.

    The herald quickly tried to right herself, but soon found the macahuitl’s teeth pressed into her neck. She tensed, waiting for the teeth to complete the passage through her flesh. But Xerans’ hands stayed. Grasping the moment the daemon leapt backwards, spiralling to her feet with a graceful flip. Both combatants shared a look of confusion.

    Xerans felt his pulse tremble and arms shiver, a heavy sickness seemed to pull at his heart which sent forth waves of anguish: a pain he had never encountered before, one he had not heard reported by any other. The pain felt intangible. The pain had stayed his hand. His heart felt as if it had fluttered violently.

    “What have you done?” he bared his teeth, angrily approaching the daemon once more “what hex is this?”

    The herald did not answer but instead backed away. Xerans leapt forward, breaking through the brush in a shower of wood and leaves to run his blade once more at her throat. The daemon ducked and slipped to his side. Spinning on his heel, he re-directed the blade to follow her. Quickly she jabbed upwards with her claw, breaking through Xerans’ tough scale like a knife through water. White-hot pain bloomed from his ribs, seamlessly merging with the ethereal anguish which gripped his heart.

    He leapt back, one hand gripping his wound and the other raising his macahuitl in defense. He felt dizzy, offended; incredulous that she could hurt him, that she would hurt him. He shook his head; such feelings were alien, unknown. The situation was slipping away from him. He must take her head and yet, bracing himself for an attack, he balked at the idea of hurting her.

    “Why do you not fight, toad-kin?” the silvery song of her voice redrew his attention, “I expected more from the spawn of the Old Ones.” She spoke contemptuously, but Xerans noticed her hanging back, wary of his odd behaviour.

    “I will take your head, Daemon” Xerans hissed.

    “Daemon? To some, to others…” he bounded once more at her, whirling the macahuitl over his head, keen to silence her next words. She leapt swiftly aside but Xerans made no effort to chase after her with his blade. He sighed; the hot pulse of blood at his wound mirrored the drumming, painful rhythm that coursed through his body. Never before had he lost the will to fight.

    The daemon turned her head quizzically, before realisation widened her dark eyes. She gasped, lifting her arms in exaltation and uttering incomprehensible prayers. Xerans did little but watch her prayer. He could kill her now; a swing of his blade could strike her down and let the jungle creatures scavenge her flesh. Instead he stood still, acquiescent.

    Her worship finished she looked over to him and smiled warmly.

    “Welcome.”

    Slowly she walked over to Xerans and, gingerly, ran the moist tip of her claw against his jaw. Xerans did not resist.

    “Tell me, Seraphon, how does it feel? It must be strange for you, cursed with no sex or gender, alienated from the sensuality of life by your own very nature, to now be open to its grandeur, to experience emotion as the mortals do”. She inhaled a deep breath, tasting the air, “I envy the rush you must be experiencing.”

    He winced, stepping back from the Slaaneshi.

    “A mere hex; a trick, I will be free of it soon when I return to the city”.

    “Perhaps. Perhaps not. Are you even sure you wish to return?”

    The daemon began to pace a circle around him.

    “Imagine the many and broad senses newly open for you to explore. It is a gift, an exciting moment. Long has the Prince dreamed of welcoming your kind into his fold, do not disappoint him by slighting his hand now that his doors are finally open.”

    She stepped up and held his scaly hands gently between her claws.

    “Poor soul, you never knew what you were missing. I can show you. Come with me, together we can explore the sensual world far beyond what others have imagined. I know how you feel for me...” Xerans thought she almost looked earnest.

    He broke away from her and shakily raised his blade between them. It was true; he felt a loyalty towards her that he had never felt before. The closest sensation Xerans could related it to be that of the obedience to his ward, to his spawn-brothers. But that made sense; it was all part of the plan. This loyalty was different, it felt uneven, conflicted: it felt warm.

    A sharp cry echoed in the trees nearby. A series of deep roars followed: the hunting party was near.

    Hearing the baying of the Cold Ones the daemon began to step back once more, turning to run through the jungle. Xerans quickly raised the macahuitl and thrust its teeth once more against her throat. “No. You are mine.”

    She turned to look at him: “then come with me.” The cries of the Cold One riders were getting closer: if he could not kill her then they would easily cut the daemon down. But the idea of her dead, body sprawled limp on the floor, once more made his heart convulse. He could go. He could be with her, loyal to her: a guardian for a new ward. The loyalty given to the Slann was sacred, inexorable until death. This warm feeling, this new loyalty felt so similar - how could he deny it? Surely to hold such a loyalty was to consecrate it, and what was a guardian without a ward to guard? The decision was obvious. He gritted his teeth and hoped the gods had averted their eyes.

    “Go. Leave.”

    The Slaaneshi remained still for a moment, her eyes lingering on his before turning to the forest. As she ran the mist departed with her, the signs of corruption in the earth and plants diminished without her aura to sustain them. Soon only the disturbed swaying of fronds signalled that she had ever been there. Though the chaotic presence had faded the sickness on Xerans heart remained: her last silvery words echoing in his mind.

    His thoughts were disrupted by a loud crash as leaves and root were torn up nearby: the hunting party was so close now. He should call out. Call out, and return to the rigid stoicism of temple guardianship as the Old Ones intended – it was his path, the nature bequeathed upon him. But now he had another. Xerans glanced once more in the direction the herald had run, squinting he was sure he could almost see a faint trail of violet mist. An alternative path. He shivered, glancing around furtively at the forest about him: the green verdant vegetation, lush with dew and the skitter of insect life, filled the air with loamy scent and floral perfume. Xerans felt alien to it, every sensation exuded instilled anxiety. Every movement plucked at his predatory instinct. The comfort of the jungle had gone. Even the city’s pyramids were out of sight.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
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  14. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    A Thousand Crimson Crosses

    A deep rumble accompanied the vault’s sealing. Lyxanda stepped back: his veins shuddered and hands trembled. He darted across the room and hid a small barrel of cloud-dew behind a stack of rations. He licked any residue of the pungent lubricant from his hands, ignoring the bitter taste, and hurried towards the entrance of the outpost. His right leg ached at the exertion, but he ignored it – the wound had healed quickly. A hard push with his shoulder slid the heavy stone door aside. Crimson light poured into the outpost, daubing the room and highlighting the Saurus’ scales in bloody hues.

    Lyxanda leaned forward, squinting, to see two other Saurus peering out from the dark landscape. Their strong forms silhouetted against a red sea, the horizon of which was blotted by a dark squall. Crimson occasionally flared from within the storm’s belly, illuminating the heavy and constant rain which bled into the water and whatever earth remained beyond. For three centuries now the blood storm had raged, saturating the mainland and staining the rivers red. The Blood God’s wrath incarnate; inciting his daemonic champions to ever greater feats of slaughter. Released at the collapse of the Polar Gates the storm had shredded the civilisations of the lesser races, but as of yet it had not cast its shadow far beyond the coastline. Its corrupting presence was always there, insidious and persistent: the sea had suffered the engorged rivers and had stained the island with the bloody laps of its tides. However, to the Saurus, the greatest offense came from the towering pillars of red cloud, looming unnaturally high they veiled the Sun. Once a giver of warmth and life, now the land was forever cast under ruby colours.

    Somewhere out there, caught in the madness of warring Gods, at the intersection of heavenly fire, were the mortals. Lyxanda found it hard to imagine that the lesser races had survived this war: not for the scourge of daemons and beastmen, nor for the collapse of mortal empires, but for finding no relief from their gods. Perhaps that’s why Chaos had gained so much: as the gods had turned to concern themselves with the heavenly war, so the mortals had turned to concern themselves with survival; kings without thrones and Gods without believers.

    A glitter of gold finally revealed the identity of one Saurus.

    “Ezlti” Lyxanda said in a cautious greeting to the gold-plated Saurus, still wary of the second Saurus.

    “Lyxanda” the golden Saurus spoke, “we’re here to talk on behalf of Temple Command. This-” the Saurus nodded to his companion “-is Zopilote.”

    Lyxanda nodded.

    Zopilote slowly stepped up onto the threshold. “Good afternoon, although I can’t say that you can tell this is the afternoon under the current climate” the Saurus broke into a wide, toothy grin “or that is a good one”.

    “I’m sure you know of Zopilote by reputation, Lyxanda” the Ezlti said.

    “Yes.”

    “Then you know you must let us in. We’re here to talk…” he repeated.

    Lyxanda nodded and turned back into the outpost, the other two following close behind. Zopilote suddenly stopped and held his snout aloft.

    “My...what a sweet smell. Honey-like, almost.” He turned to Lyxanda expectantly, a curious glimmer in his eyes.

    “Roasted newt” Lyxanda responded without fault “rations.” He nodded towards a barrel by the central table.

    Zopilote laughed. Once and sharp. “Roasted newt, rations! What a time we live in. You don’t mind if I chew on some whilst we’re here, so you now?”

    “No, please help yourself.”

    Zopilote nodded in appreciation. He sat carefully on a stool and, with a careful vulture-like gaze, plucked a roasted newt and began to chew on its head. Somehow his grin remained.

    “Now then” he said, still chewing “I’m sure you’re aware of our duty here.” He paused to crunch on the skull. “Anything that makes our jobs easier will be duly noted; as a Saurus, this is expected of you but as I’m sure you are keenly aware of the corruption of chaos is ever seeking methods, so we can’t help but regard you with some level of…” he paused to swallow the newt’s head “…suspicion.”

    “Are you, or are you aware of, the harbouring of Skinks?” Eztli said. The gold-plated Saurus had barely sat down.

    “No” Lyxanda replied “no, I am not.”

    “Come now Eztli, we need not to be so inquisitorial with him – he is a Saurus after all: one of us.” Zopilote leaned forward, “Now, are you aware of what they call the Skinks, back in the city?”

    Lyxanda shook his head, “I don’t concern myself with such things out here.”

    “But, you are aware, are you not? You can’t be so ignorant of what happens on our isle.”

    “Yes. They call Skinks “The Filth”.”

    “The Filth”, Eztli repeated.

    Zopilote leaned back and intertwined his claws, “Exactly. Now, I understand your hesitation to say it – they are our brothers under the Old Ones. No, I’m not afraid to say it: they are our brothers, although I assure you if you were to say that out loud in the city you’d find yourself a pariah. The city troop does have a different attitude towards routing out Chaos, but it’s forgivable when you understand the pressure of guardianship.” Zopilote cocked his head, “a pressure I’m sure you’re all too aware of, all the way out in this lonely outpost, Lyxanda.”

    Lyxanda nodded, unsure whether to accept it as a compliment.

    “I have to say,” Zopoilote continued “that I cannot be so disparaging to our lesser kin, as weak as they in the face of corruptive forces. After all, beyond the Slann who are so proficient at healing the troops, or taming the Salamanders? Sadly, their number has dwindled, and we need what Skinks we have to remain pure. They have their place. We just need to make sure they understand our decisions when it comes to governance- we are, after all, besieged.”

    Eztli interjected: “Laws on Skink governance is needed, not to indiscriminately enforce against any Skink found, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate our society’s cultural beliefs cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”

    “What do have to say to that Lyxanda? Tough for those poor Skinks, is it?”

    “I understand.”

    “Good: a good Saurus understands and obeys.” Zopoilote said, “and with The Blessing, a good Saurus can now dictate. Why do we dictate, Lyxanda?”

    Lyxanda shifted uncomfortably, he wasn’t prepared for this degree of philosophical wax. “It is our knowledge of war the sets us above others.”

    Eztli glanced across to his partner. Zopoilote’s grin widened “Lyxanda, you are disappointing.”

    He leaned forward. “Don’t go repeating the same old rhetoric of the city troop: you’re isolated enough from that culture. I’m sure, being so close to the Gateway, you have a keener understanding of what really sets us above the rest?”

    Lyxanda didn’t comment, unsure of how to approach such a question.

    “Ah, well, you’ve disappointed me twice now; successively too.” Zopoilote said in a mockingly grave tone, gesturing at Lyxanda with the helf-chewed newt.

    “Saurus superiority” Eztli said, “is epitomised by our unquestionable knowledge in the art of war, but it is ultimately derived from the situation surrounding The Blessing: the Saurus, above all others, were expanded in mind and soul. When the Old Ones vanished, and the Slann disappeared in the blue fire, it was us who were chosen. Whether as a last gesture by the Slann or the Gods it doesn’t matter- we need not focus on its circumstance, only on the two conclusions that we can reach from its happening: firstly, as I said, the Saurus were chosen to lead; secondly, the Skinks were not.”

    “Yes” Lyxanda said, keen to demonstrate his grasp on the situation once more, “their...petty ways make them vulnerable to corruption.”

    “Ah!” Zopoilote said, “there’s the insight I was after. It’s their very nature as a Skink to be corrupted, not as a simple result of wrongful action. Now you understand why we are here. Now we are on the same plaque.”

    “This coming evening the Gateway back to the capital will open for the last time.” Eztli said, “our prophets are to leave for Lustria through it, but it expected that a large rebellion of Skinks intend to hijack the portal for their own selfish ends. This must be stopped, or the forces preying on our sacred isle will gain unfettered access to our realm from behind its defences. A cadre of Saurus is already on its way to secure the grounds. They will be stopping here to relieve you of any supplies you might have. This is why we are here – you must be prepared to service our troops.”

    “I must apologise for our masquerade,” Zopoilote said, “but we must at the very least be seen to be fulfilling our official role, otherwise any Skinks watching our movements could quickly see that we have other intentions. This operation must be done subtly if we are to route them out whilst they prepare. I’m sure you understand?”

    Lyxanda sat, calming his muscles to be still. His heart beat loudly, rattling within his chest. Coldness crept up his spine. “Of course, it is my duty under the Temple Command.”

    “Good. I’m confident you will not disappoint me, again.” Zopoilote winked, pushing himself up from the table. Eztli rose also: the captain glanced towards the door, seemingly eager to leave.

    Lyxanda rose with them and escorted them towards the door, once more opening the door to the red wasteland.

    “The cadre will be here within the hour. Prepare yourself, Lyxanda.”

    “Yes, captain.”

    “And Lyxanda…”

    “Yes, captain?”

    “Your leg has healed remarkably well since my last visit. Perhaps soon you could re-join the city.”

    “Yes, captain. I would be honoured.”

    The two Saurus gave their goodbyes and walked back in the shadows. Lyxanda watched until their silhouettes had gone from the brow of the hill. He closed the door and rushed back over to the vault. Heaving his weight the great circular door complained noisily as it rolled out from the entrance. Eyes blinked in the light.

    “We need to leave. Now.”

    Crests unfolded in agitation; furtive and worried glances exchanged. One figure, stone plaques clasped tightly to his chest, stepped forward: “why, what is it?”

    “A cadre of Saurus is coming to the outpost. It is far too dangerous for your people to be hiding here anymore.”

    The Skink Priest nodded, digesting the information. A rush of whispers rebounded about the vault, growing in momentum and volume. The Priest turned to his cohort:

    “Brothers, silence, please: now is not the time to panic. We always knew it would be dangerous, and we’ve always had have a plan. We cannot stay here – it would be too easy for us to be uncovered. We must empty the outpost and head to the Gateway. There we can hide until dark.”

    The buzz died down as all eyes, wide and unblinking, focused on the Priest.

    “Gather your things: we leave immediately.”

    “Rumi,” Lyxanda addressed the Skink. “I will guide you to the foothills. Patrols are rare but you could be uncovered - you would need my skills with the blade if found.”

    “Thank-you, Lyxanda,” Rumi said “you’ve risked much for us.”

    Lyxanda shrugged “it’s what the Slann would have wanted.”

    A thin trail of blue blotted the landscape: dripping out from the outpost, the Skinks scrambled awkwardly behind rock and crevice. Most hadn’t seen the outside for days on end and were unused to the exertion of travel. At their head Lyxanda led the Skinks, guiding them through a small, shadowy gully. Carved by a stream once fed by the oceanic rains that had visited the island, now it provided a quick yet inconspicuous route up to the mountains.

    All were silent. Tongues clamped by teeth, and palms gripping tightly to weapons. Rumi was the only Skink to walk unarmed: he still clutched tightly on to his plaques, preferring to keep a diligent hand on their arcane knowledge.

    The old Priest was strong, but Lyxanda could tell he was scared: Rumi’s eyes had been peeled wide for the entire journey and kept seeking Lyxanda’s comforting leadership.

    A bright brilliant white flashed. A violent wrench pulled Lyxanda from the earth. Yellow and red boiled and frothed over him, yet he could not hear any noise. He couldn’t hear anything. But he could feel. A hardness was beneath him – the white and yellow had faded. He was on the ground, sprawled over a boulder. He reached to push himself up but found himself slipping.

    Lyxanda raised his hands. Two bloody stumps ejecting bright spurts with each beat of his heart, quickly lost amongst the red earth. Panic swelled: his hands were gone, his hands were gone. Across the boulder he could see a few fingers but the rest couldn’t be seen. A wetness pooled about him, chilling him: his right leg was also gone.

    Noise returned. Screams and cries. Beyond his boulder were other hands, not his, and heads, and legs, and a tapestry of different flesh which had lost all definition to burns.

    One Skink ran past, his crest aflame. Another crawled up the gully slope, dragging behind a crisp leg. A shadow pounced on the Skink and tore it to shreds before he could scream. The Salamander, mouth wet, roared with satisfaction. All about him other Salamanders vomited their fiery breath upon the Skink cohort. Behind them, goading the beasts with spears, stood a legion of Saurus. At their head their captain watched the scene with cool eyes, his armour glinting gold.

    Lyxanda raised his arms. Handless. Impotent. Guardian no more. He roared. He roared at the red Sun and its bleak light; at Chaos, and its unquenchable first for domination; and he roared at the Gods, his fathers, who had left their children. Children lost in the storm. He roared until he felt his throat strain in pain and his tongue tasted blood.

    The body slumped to the floor, twitching in its pitiful attempt at a death throe. Zopoilote raised his hand and inspected his quarry: Lyxanda’s eyes stared back emptily, his tongue lolling from the detached head. The Saurus hadn’t been careful enough.

    “Should we take this body also, master?”

    “No…” Zopoilote turned to his subordinate “no, it would not do to make an example of him. We can’t advertise the vulnerability of the Saurus: bury him quickly. Only take the Skinks.”

    “Yes, master.”

    His subordinate busy relaying his commands, Zopoilote walked back up the gully. Saurus began to search for the better surviving torsos. Already the surviving Skinks had been corralled and were being herded towards the temporary workshop. All would be processed, Zopoilote thought to himself, all would become an example to any other would-be rebellion on the Isles.

    Reaching the brow of the gully Zopoilote stopped, taking in the landscape. The Old Ones will be pleased with their work here – corruption would remain rootless and contained to the Dark Lands abroad.

    Beyond the gully the rolling backs of the foothills rose, scattered with the workings of Saurus. Each small group worked to raise long metallic shafts. The black hills were a forest of such tall posts, each one brilliantly capturing the crimson light of the Sun. Upon each one, open chest raised to the heavens, hung the body of a Skink.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2015
  15. Tziruzitza
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    Wow. Just... wow.

    An amazing piece; I love the depth you've managed to show in both the setting and characters in such a short space, whilst still keeping it moving along at a good pace.

    Towards the end, when Lyxander falls, he should have a death throe, I think? I could be wrong!

    The same goes for the previous pieces too, by the way - fantastic work!
     
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  16. spawning of Bob
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    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Eek. So much horror. I found this to be unsettling and upsetting.

    Mission accomplished, eh?

    Of all the horrors, surely this is the most horrible:
    I prefer my nudes with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

    Funny story about reading this story. I got halfway through (“We need to leave. Now.”) and then thought, "Lyxanda? Wasn't there a historical figure by a similar name? I have cracked Slanputin's code. I will Google "Lysander" (A Spartan Admiral and political leader who forced the capitulation of Athens to end the Peloponnesian war and effectively unite Greece under Spartan influence.) and this will tell me where the story is going. At the end, I will smugly say, "I knew that was going to happen."

    Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. I think that doubled the impact of the injustice and cruelty that came after. This [pretty neatly falls into the same category as my least enjoyed kind of horror movie genre in that all of it was utterly believable.

    I really don't want this story to get any worse (or re-read it anytime soon) but possible tweaks could include some casual desecration of the Old One's tablets, the Saurus handlers being casually cruel to the salamanders and what about this?

    "He roared until he felt his throat strain in pain and his tongue tasted blood." could become "He roared until the rush of air from his lungs was suddenly cut short and his was voice was robbed of its anguish."

    Technical score - 10/10.
    Likelihood of this being in most people's top 4 for the story comp - very high
    Probability of me reading this again before bedtime - zero
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2016
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  17. Slanputin
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    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    Of all the mistakes I thought I'd rectified, I can't believe I left that one in. How Freudian.

    The Saurus wouldn't desecrate the Old One's tablets, as they think they're the favoured of the favoured in the Old Ones' eyes. They're just prejudice against the Skinks. I was going to include some mistreatment of the Salamanders as the Saurus aren't as adept at controlling them unlike the Skinks, but I thought it ruined the flow when the focus was supposed to be on Lyxanda's distress.

    I did think of somehow connecting Lyxanda's final paragraph and Zopilote's section, but I quite liked the sudden jolt between characters - I was hoping the reader would be "wait, what's happening now? Oh, ohhhhh..." in a nice mirror to the sudden attack/demise of Lyxanda and his host.

    Talking of name-origins, Zopilote and Eztli were certainly subject to nomative determinism.

    Did anyone figure out where it was set? Or how Lyxanda gave himself away?
     
  18. spawning of Bob
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    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    I want the answer to be something to do with business raptor.
     
  19. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    Oh BR, I have such plans for him. I'm thinking Christmas break might give me time to put plans into motion. Well, that or Xhaltan.

    Obvious clues about the give-away:
    I'd also included some lines about the pungent vault lubrication/the distraction of the smell by saying it's roasted newt, and how that brought suspicion about on his oddly well-attended vault door. I couldn't think of a subtle way to make such attentive upkeep seem conspicuous however, so I left it in as an additional-if-vague factor.
     
  20. spawning of Bob
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    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure I will kick myself when I get it right.

    And, the description of the miserable rain sounded a lot like England.

    Edit:. You confessed before I had composed a cryptic answer. I considered the cloud-dew as a tell tale, but decided the smells and flavours didn't reconcile.
     

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