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Contest January-February 2016 Short Story Contest Voting Thread

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, Feb 1, 2016.

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What is/are you favorite story or stories? (you may select up to three)

Poll closed Mar 2, 2016.
  1. Story One: A Fracturing Line

    9 vote(s)
    32.1%
  2. Story Two: Out of Formation

    11 vote(s)
    39.3%
  3. Story Three: A Day in the Life of a Temple City

    4 vote(s)
    14.3%
  4. Story Four: Blasphemy

    10 vote(s)
    35.7%
  5. Story Five: The Seraphon Legend

    9 vote(s)
    32.1%
  6. Story Six: The Loom at the Threshold

    13 vote(s)
    46.4%
  7. Story Seven: Changing Times

    3 vote(s)
    10.7%
  8. Story Eight: Sunblood

    5 vote(s)
    17.9%
  9. Story Nine: Certainty

    4 vote(s)
    14.3%
  10. Story Ten: The Monument

    5 vote(s)
    17.9%
  11. Story Eleven: Sun Turns Gears of War

    7 vote(s)
    25.0%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Here are the stories. I randomized the order because most authors announced their order of entry. If something is not right in general, reply to the main topic. If something is off with your piece, and you want me to fix or change something, let me know with a PM.

    I proofread a little over half the pieces. I reserve the right to make small changes to pieces after posting them here. In fact if you have a request as an author I can implement minor changes on your behalf.

    The contest theme this time was " "Continuity and Change"

    Polls open for 30 days (that means it will technically end in March). Might extend voting if we have a deadlock. Please do not submit a vote until you have read all eleven pieces.

    You can vote for up to three pieces but make sure you are sure of what you are doing before you submit your votes because they are a pain in the butt to change. In fact, might Scalenex decrees "no backsies!".

    A Fracturing Line

    The sky was clear bar a few wisps of clouds that gently sailed in the breeze. The twin moons were out; the sickly green Morrslieb waxing and seemingly closer tonight than its brother. In the vast blanket of darkness a thousand glittering candle-like stars gazed down upon the jungle clearing. Away in the trees came the sound of nocturnal birds and other such creatures, mournful and yet full of life.

    The group of saurus warriors did not look up at the sky, nor pay the creatures of the jungle any heed. Like stony statues they continued to stand guard in the ruins of what was once a city. How long they had stood guard, none of them likely knew let alone cared. That the spawning pool they protected was not befouled was reason enough. Stiffly they stood, their weapons prepared for an attack.

    The sun greeted them, golden, bright, and warm. Yet they did not move. Their eyes were fixed upon the forest around them. The sun ascended and balefully glared down at them, and then it sombrely sank, dipping below the treeline. The moons returned as the sky grew dark again. The candles in the night sky were lit once more. The eternal watchers paid it no heed. Night turned into day and day into night. All passed by unnoticed.

    Then change.

    One of the saurus raised its club-like blade and twitched its head. Its tongue slithered out of its mouth and it gave a hiss. The others replied and the group moved together into a ranked block. They seemed to stand there for an age before there was a burbling squeak and a clutch of misshapen creatures emerged from the forest. They were hunched creatures wearing dirtied robes of green. Disease marked their slimy fur and their rotten fangs clacked together as they screeched praise to their verminous god. Worm-like tails waved threateningly as they brandished corroded blades, worm-ridden staves, and dirty claws.

    Like a wave of pestilence, the skaven smashed into the saurus. Overhead the sun reddened and began to sink as it did at the conclusion of every day. The sounds of squeaking cries, dull grunts, and the crunch of weapons on flesh echoed as the sky candles were ignited once more.

    There was a last chittering cry and then silence.

    The sun rose again, slowly and painfully, revealing the scenes of bloodshed. Dozens of the verminous creatures lay in various states of death and dismemberment with but a mere handful of saurus corpses to their names. Two of the worst injured saurus dragged away the carcasses to the forest edge; it was illogical to risk verminous disease to the healthier saurus. The others had taken up their positions as if nothing had changed.

    Once more the sun began its descent and the twin moons rose. One of the saurus corpse carriers did not return, though the motionless watchers did not seem to mourn this. Once again the stars bloomed into life and twinkled out as dawn arrived. The sun continued to rise and set, ignored by the saurus as they continued their ceaseless vigil.

    After an age more invaders came and were destroyed, shrieking skaven and once a band of human explorers. The saurus did not waver in their watch as their numbers slowly grew smaller and smaller. The sun rose and the sun set. Until only one of the saurus remained, sorely wounded but unflinching in its duty.

    How long it had stood guard over the spawning pool, it did not seem to know nor care. How many suns and moons had greeted it, it wouldn’t say nor care. Alone it stood, the poison from a vermin weapon slowly killing it. The moons rose again, the green tinged Morrslieb seeming to sneer at the lone saurus. The orb of fire swiftly replaced them. Neither the moons, nor stars, nor sun seemed to care as the last watcher finally collapsed.

    Such is the sorrow of all things great that time and ruination will chip away at even those that seem eternal. And yet...

    The spawning pool began to bubble.

    The dying saurus broke off from its watch and peered at the pool now given life. The sun rose and the sun set. Shapes began to emerge from the pool, diminutive bar the red crests that crowned their heads. If its failing mind were capable of such a thing, the dying saurus might have smiled.

    Too long had the works of the Old Ones been chipped away by the invaders, too long had their children been on the defence. The red crested skinks gave a chirping cry and left the clearing. They were the vengeance of the Old Ones. No longer a fracturing line in the dirt, they would reclaim what belonged to their creators.

    Out of Formation

    Xhotilaq didn’t exactly know what he was anymore. He prodded the leathery scales of his forearm where they could be found between the plates of his armour. They were firm and cool to touch, as they should be. But underneath, where glutinous purple blood should have coursed through his veins, cold starlight flowed instead.

    He knew this well enough because he had seen his own ‘blood’ and that of his battalion spilled numerous times during their brief forays into this bizarre new future. The battle they were about to join with a horde of Chaos-sworn promised more of the same.

    He may not have known what he was, whether a construct of magic or some kind of solid illusion, but he knew precisely who he was. Or at least who he had been. His intellect and memories had somehow survived the process of his death and much later summoning from the recollection of Eidetiq, his ancient slann lord.

    The old Xhotilaq had faithfully served the Great Plan for the five hundred years of his natural life. He had been spawned with his brothers in the usual way and they had been taken to the training pens to learn mastery of fierce cold-one mounts.

    Through training and combat his brothers had each fallen by the way. Xhotilaq himself had only just survived a score of terrible wounds over the years. As he recovered from each, his scar-hashed scales grew lighter in colour and they hardened to become almost impervious. He rose in rank along the way, leading first another spawning of wet cold one riders, then a cohort of saurus warriors. By the end, he was an old-blood general in his own right, a clever tactician and the architect of many significant victories in the prosecution of the Great Plan.

    The end of his natural life came as his master’s host faced an army of the Nehekharan undead which was beyond count. Xhotilaq could see that there was no victory to be had, nor likelihood of the Lustrians’ survival while the dusty hierophant survived to continue his enchantments of raising.

    The old-blood weighed all tactical options, but there was only one costly course by which victory could be bought. With his toothed mace raised, he led his riders to the centre of the Nehekharan force. His formation plunged like a spear deep into the enemy lines, with him as its obsidian point. Before their momentum stalled, he reached the hierophant and reduced him to a shower of bone fragments with a single blow.

    The wings of the undead army folded around its stricken centre and the remainder of the Lustrian force swiftly routed the disordered mass of collapsing skeletons and crumbling statuary. Victory for the Great Plan was snatched from the jaws of defeat, but Xhotilaq and every last one of his riders were slain by vengeful desert blades.

    His last victory must have been his most memorable. Lord Eidetiq clearly had that particular battle in mind whenever he summoned the old-blood and his riders back from oblivion. Every time they recovered from the disorientation of a fresh summoning, they found themselves in a forward position, hopelessly out of formation with the main Starhost battle line. They would also be gripped by their lord’s telepathic compulsion to drive forward and throw themselves and their mounts onto the enemy line without regard for safety.

    The riders had given a good account on each occasion, before they were inevitably robbed of their momentum and bled of their light. Yet Xhotilaq chafed at the waste of tactical utility whenever their swift savagery was squandered on a mire of foot troops or on the walls of a fortified position.

    This day’s battle with the bloodthirsty Chaos-sworn promised more of the same.

    Unless…

    As usual, the cold one troop charged blindly under the Slann’s compulsion. Xhotilaq bode his time until his lord’s attention was distracted by a ritual of casting. At the last possible moment before contact, the old-blood general brought his own will to bear on the riders.

    Xhotilaq stood in his saddle with celestite lance held crossways to the right. “Wheel,” he roared and, even beneath the pressure of the slann’s compulsion, his riders’ battle discipline was awakened and they responded.

    The formation changed direction as fluidly as a school of fish. They passed across the faces of the Chaos Sworn vanguard and, when they drew level with a frenzied slaughterbrute, Xhotilaq turned them again, this time away from the Chaos-sworn line. The crazed monster could not bear to watch their retreating tails and it lurched after them.

    Xhotilaq eyed the approach of his own army as he enticed the brute back across its own line. The chase ended squarely in front of a trio of gorebeast chariots. It was there that the sharpened horns of the starhost’s stegadon found the unprotected flank of the distracted slaughterbrute. The monster was slain outright and its broken body completely obstructed the path of the chariots.

    With one entire wing of the Chaos-sworn army in disarray, Xhotilaq wheeled his champions back to reform, ready for another charge. He had not yet decided whether he would continue to harry the disordered flank, or if he would turn back across the main battle line in search of other opportunities to sow confusion and death.

    Whatever his next course of action would be, Old-Blood Xhotilaq was going to make sure it was memorable.

    A Day in the Life of a Temple City

    Huintzi woke up early in the morning. When the time skinks walked down the roads in the skink fawellas announcing at the top of their lungs that the disk of Chotec had been sighted from the tops of the pyramids. He came out of the little hut he shared with his two remaining spawn kin. It was still dark at the feet of the pyramids when he made his way to the plazas in the center of the city together with thousands of other skinks for the Morning Prayer to Chotec. This morning there was even a slann present leading the prayer. Even though a skink priest was the one shouting from the top of Chotec's pyramid. The skink priesthood stood at the highest levels of the pyramid below them was the Temple Guard positioned frozen in straight lines and at the foot of the pyramids was the Sauruses standing in just as straight lines. And behind them were the skink hordes standing spewing out in the alleys with the huge lumbering kroxigors mixed in among them.

    The ritual continued for an hour and at the end of it, the light of Chotec reached the bottom of the pyramid. Most of the skinks felt a lot warmer and all were chatting as the inhabitants of the Temple city made their way to the cooking pits for breakfast. At the cooking pit closest to Huintzi's spawn's hut in the fawella did he stop to eat his portion of grubs that the cooking skinks had prepared before the prayer. Huintzi took his leave of food with him to the pottery workshop, so he and his spawn kin could chat alone before anyone else arrived. Soon after they had finished their food the other pottery spawns started to arrive. The rest of the day did Huintzi and his spawn work on the enormous ritual pots, a privilege given to them as they were the oldest spawning at the workshop. The rest were doing mundane food and water pots except the youngest who were doing the sanitary pots that constantly needed to be replaced or the city would be covered in filth.

    When Huintzi's spawning left the workshop in the evening heading to the cooking pits for their evening meal did Huintzi think of other parts of the city were the weavers, masons and smiths had also been working all day just like them. The Sauruses had been patrolling the city and discussing battle tactics in preparation for the wars that were constantly waged in the name of the old ones. And on the tops of the pyramids had the priests praised the old ones, everybody doing their parts just as every generation before them also had for thousands of years. And as the Sun set did the city settle in for the night did the city setle in for the night.

    Blasphemy

    “Drear ritual turned its wheel. The ferment of the heart, within these walls, was mocked by every length of sleeping shadow. The passions, no greater than candle flames, flickered in Time's yawn, for Gormenghast, huge and adumbrate, out-crumbles all.”
    ― Mervyn Peake


    Bar-quentzl scraped himself, tortuously, into the antechamber. The entry process took several minutes, owing to the ancient priest’s prefered method of self-conveyance: a kind of violently laboured shuffle. Each pathetic jerk of his frail claws on the stone corridors, seemingly more intense and unexpected than the last, nevertheless only carried him the merest smidgen further towards his destination. Since the crumbling skink was never seen without the drafty carapace of his faded religious vestments - a badge of office that doubled the tiny creature’s size - the overall effect was that of an epileptic spectre writhing its slow way into dust.

    Tae-tx watched the priest’s progress with his typical, well-meaning curiosity. Even after all this time, it still retained an awful fascination. The acolyte thought of the many centuries through which he and his predecessors had studied this old lizard as he performed the same feat of entry. Today was just one more day.

    “Morning, reverence,” chirped the younger skink as the elder eventually came to a stop. “You look...well.” Tae-tx knew that the Master of Ceremonies was thoroughly immune to any infection his enthusiasm might communicate, but that never stopped him trying. Bar-quentzl was a permanent nest of irritation.

    “The most sacred Ritual of the 14 Planets begins in barely three hours. Are you ready? Dammit, whelp! Have the necessary preparations been made?! Answer your priest this instant!”

    Tae-tx blinked. This wasn’t going to go well. “Ah...the, uh, 14 Planets, your worshipfulness?”

    “Yes boy, out with it!”

    “Your holiness, ah...is this not the eighth Sunday of the 63rd month?”

    “What of it, worm, what of it?!”

    “And, well, haven’t we just had both an unusually dry summer and recent incursions of Skaven into our lands?”

    “Your point, by Chotec’s wrath! Your point!”

    “I merely thought, reverence, since there have been no sightings of the great winged serpent recently, and the next eclipse is not for more than a year, that today we would perform the Ceremony of Sotek’s Mighty Fangs. Not, er, as you stated, the Ritual of the 14 Planets.”

    There was a brief moment in which Bar-quentzl struggled to articulate his boiling fury, until it was finally released like steam from a kettle.

    “Fool! Imbecile! Unworthy grub! The revered and righteous Ceremony of Sotek’s Mighty Fangs is only performed when the Chaos Moon is in the ascendent! Think of the horror, the unspeakable corruption and catastrophe that may have come to pass had we performed that rite today! May the heavens have mercy on my soul for having born witness to a suggestion of such blasphemy.”

    Tae-tx hung his head with an inward curse. He had been so sure. He’d checked every tome, cross referenced each of the hundreds of official temple tablets, plaques and other carvings. He was confident he’d finally got it right. But in the Great Temple, there was always something you’d forgotten.

    Two hours later, Tae-tx arrived back in the antechamber. He’d sprinted around the store rooms of the city to collect the objects needed for the ritual and placed them all in their proper positions in the Innermost Sanctuary. An unfortunate run-in with a pair of uncooperative kroxigors had meant he’d only just made it back in time. He would require the entirety of the next hour to accompany the old Master of Ceremonies from the antechamber to the Sanctuary, a distance of about 20 yards. At least they could spend the time going over the order of events.

    “You will be seated before the Almighty Palanquin, and myself two paces behind and 7 to the left,” he recited as he stood beside Bar-quentzl, while the latter made his excruciating progress down the ornate corridor, its murals of transcendent splendour unnoticed by either. Every few minutes, the younger lizard took a small step to catch up.

    The High Priest simply muttered to himself, seemingly hearing nothing of what Tae-tx was saying.

    “You will intone the 14 blessings, and then I will bring you the Goblet of Cuexotl, for you to stir. Yeaaargh!” continued the acolyte, as Bar-quentzl’s jade rod caught him a stinging blow to the back of the legs. There was an indifferent murmur of “new-spawned idiot”, but this and the quick movement of the rod-wielding arm continued to be the only signs that the Master of Ceremonies was paying any attention. Absently staring down the corridor, he concentrated only on his spasmodic inching ever onwards.

    “Sorry, I bring you the Goblet for you to ...shake?” ventured Tae-tx when the pain had subsided. The muttering continued. “Right, for you to shake. OK. And then I will take the Goblet and stand by the first of the Planetary Icons, assuming the position of the Jaguar - gah! gods that hurts! - the position of the Serpent. And you will read from the prophecies of Mage Priest Poxaxalan, after which I will daub the holy water onto the cardinal points, ow ow ow!...”

    The recitation - punctuated by echoing cries of pain - continued for the rest of the hour. Finally, they reached the formidable entrance to the Innermost Sanctuary, passing the pair of towering, bone-clad saurus guardians positioned on either side. The ancient priest seemed to rouse himself. He unleashed a beady look in the young skink’s direction.

    “Remember, boy, we are entering the sanctum of a child of the Old Ones. One wrong move and the entirety of the Great Plan could unravel.” Tae-tx lowered his head again, unable to meet the long stare. When the High Priest was satisfied, he turned back to the entrance. “Begin,” he said.

    Tae-tx always hated this bit. It wasn’t just the humiliation of having to bodily lift his master, the Grand High Priest, and carry him to his little marble throne, in which a considerable hollow had been worn over the centuries by said priest’s venerable backside. It was what the throne faced.

    A gigantic stone palanquin, inscribed with symbols of incomprehensible power. And the bulk that perched upon it: the Mage Priest Sepl-kravl himself. The creature, spawned in the earliest depths of the newborn world, had done nothing for the last seventeen thousand years but hover pointlessly in this one small room, its eyes rolled back and its lower lip dangling inanely in a preposterous mask of gormlessness. Tae-tx couldn’t bear even to contemplate the enormity of the powers channeled by this senseless toad.

    Bar-quentzl was seated and the ceremony began after a fitful bout of throat-clearing.

    “In the name of the most holy and revered of the blessed Old Ones, we greet thee Mage Priest on this salubrious day of ceremony. The Planets configured for the Great Plan will turn and wind their way through the firmament wherein the blessed dwell…”

    The priest grumbled the incantations in an inaudible monotone. They were meaningless. Not even Bar-quentzl knew what significance, if any, the daily rituals aimed at. All the priesthood knew was that the formalities were paramount. The merest hint at compromise was anathema, and the routine was no less sacred for being unintelligible.

    Seated off to the side, Tae-tx strained to listen for the moment in the uniform babble when he would be required to act. Absorbed in their arcane labours, both skinks completely failed to notice that something was wrong until a powerful groaning was heard across the sanctum.

    “Gruuuuuuh,” said the slann, loudly.

    They looked up. Its bulging eyes, never more than faint white slits between the lids, were now fixed hugely on the tiny figure of the Master of Ceremonies below. For the first time that Tae-tx could remember, the priest was unnerved. It was also the first time that he had ever paused mid-incantation. He looked up at the Mage Priest as if he had just seen a herd of stegadon transformed into butterflies.

    “Gruuuuuuh,” said the slann again. Bar-quentzl remained petrified. Finally, not taking his eyes from the creature above, the High Priest continued, albeit in a somewhat more cautious tone:

    “...and we beseech the spirit of mighty Quetzl to give strength to the armies of the Old Ones for the furtherance of the Plan, in your wisdom so shall it be…”

    Tae-tx could hardly breathe. What. Was. Happening? Bar-quentzl’s mind had snapped at last. In the face of a roused slann, whose eyes were protruding more horribly by the minute, the old skink had resorted to the only thing he knew: reciting the incantations. Surely something ...else should be done? It was the most stressful predicament of the young acolyte’s life by a ridiculous margin.

    Suddenly he was aware that Bar-quentzl had stopped again. The priest was looking at him expectantly. Instinctively, Tae-tx lept up, dashing over with the Goblet of Cuexotl. Oh gods, was this happening? Yes, Bar-quentzl was now shaking the Goblet. The ritual was proceeding. But that meant…

    His heart stopped as he realised what was required of him next. He was to stand behind the first of the limestone Icons representing the 14 planets. But these had been arranged in precise spots immediately in front of the palanquin. The position required would leave him with the back of his head about six inches away from the toes of one of the most powerful beings in the world - a being that was now emitting another distressed moan.

    Both lizards peered up at the harrowing gaze of the toad. Neither could conceive of any remotely appropriate action.

    At this moment, the thin, flabby leg of the slann closest to the edge of the palanquin, a limb that had lain serenely undisturbed for seventeen thousand years, flopped listlessly over the lip of the floating platform and knocked over numbers 4 through 9 of the revered Planetary Icons. A fragment of number 5 chipped off with the impact and skittered across the ground.

    Bar-quentzl’s mouth opened and closed in absolute stupefaction. Tae-tx had once gone without food for an entire year as punishment for mispositioning one of the Icons by less than a millimeter.

    “Gruuuuxltraplequezpramatlxentirestplrenblizl,” proclaimed the slann, its lips finally achieving a few twitches of animation.

    The skink priests continued to gape.

    Tae-tx thought he caught the scent of tin. Suddenly the ancient Mage Priest’s entire half-moon cranium rolled backwards in what looked like convulsive agony. At the same time, the room began to fill with wisps of threaded lightning. There was the sound of rushing winds, but the air remained deathly still. A ghastly gurgling cry began to issue from the slann’s direction, gathering vehemence.

    “Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyooouuuuu!!!!” howled the ancient being, triumphantly. It pulled itself into an imperious upright position, stretching out its glutinous arm to point terribly at Bar-quentzl, who quivered like an incautious tomb raider cornered by Dracula in a crypt.

    In a fit of passion, the skink launched off his throne and spreadeagled himself in utter debasement on the flagstones beneath the palanquin. Tae-tx could do nothing but look on, still too terrified to move.

    The lightning dissipated. The slann’s corpulence seemed to flow back to a more relaxed state. The arm was lowered.

    “There we go,” it said, jovially. “Back in the material world. What a trip, you guys! You on the floor, what’s your name?”

    “Grand High Priest Bar-quentzl, your gloriousness,” he stammered, voice muffled by the ground.

    “Right, well, I’ve just come to say, enough with the rituals, OK?”

    “My Lord?”

    “I mean, I have no sense for the passing of time when I’m in a higher state of consciousness, but it feels like you’ve been coming in here like what, every day? More than once a day? Get a grip, seriously. It’s like this really annoying background buzz when you’re trying to meditate on the great mysteries of the universe, you know?”

    “I...yes, my Lord. Of course.”

    “Like once a year or so is fine for the rituals. You know, just to keep in practice. But more than that is silly. It’s not like there’s any real point. OK, back to work. Just make sure I’m not disturbed, thanks.”

    It picked up its leg and replaced it in the folded position atop the palanquin. Tae-tx felt the terrible power of the vast mind slowly ebb from the room. The toady eyes returned to slits. Eventually, the acolyte realised that there was only one sound remaining in the sacred chamber. He looked down at his stricken master.

    The High Priest was weeping like a child.

    The Seraphon Legend

    A team of four mules plodded along, pulling a finely crafted Duardin wagon. Carved wood and steel, a few precious metals accented the wagon. Could be hauling anything. Fine armour, guns and powder, gem stones, at the very least some of the most potent ale you could ever ask for. The bearded driver had been wearing his driving gear, scarf, goggles, hat, and gloves, and of course his trusty rifle across his lap. Suddenly he looked around and reached down for his rifle. Too late. 3 shots echoed in the clearing and one of the wooden wheels of the wagon shattered. The corner of the cart and axle digging into the ground. The two lead mules brayed loudly as they slumped over to die, blood spilling out their necks at a rapid pace. The other two mules kicking and braying to try to get away. A flurry of cross bow bolts came screaming through the air, destroying the Duardin drivers arm and sending his rifle flying. Cursing himself for not smoking his pipe, he frantically searched for his flint with his remaining arm. Under the seat was enough black powder to destroy the cart. His signature self destruct plan to keep enemies from benefiting from his death. It was too late. Three assailants, a Human, an Aelf exhile, and most heartbreakingly, one of his own approached. "May the Seraphon drag you to the fiery pits of death." Were his final words.

    The unlikely trio sat around their camp fire in the woods. Surrounded by tall thick evergreen trees, they cooked mule meat and drank the beautiful Duardin ale. A finely crafted Duardin wagon with one ill fitting wheel attached to a team of two mules sat nearby.

    "I didn't think your people were a superstitious lot there Halstein." The ex witch hunter in retort to the victim's final curse.

    "A man of Sigmar such as yourself has surely heard of the devils called Seraphon." came the gruff retort from the grizzled beard.

    "Just what I heard from my grand sire and all the old wives trying to scare children into a good life." Said ex witch hunter Pulcifer.

    "Seems that all of our peoples have a myth about these creatures." Chimed in the dark haired Aelf.

    "Go on then. Let's hear what the Aelfs know of these Daemons." Pulcifer said before biting into the tough, stringy mule meat.

    "Very well. The tales I heard go back to when the realms were all contained on one world. In that world was these lizard beasts. They would keep to themselves, hoarding gold in their pyramids deep within the jungle and sacrificing to false gods. When the chaos daemons attacked that world, the lizard beasts would not stir from their jungles. The leaders were said to be giant toads with the power of the gods. Aelfs, Duardin, and Man would come to them begging for their power in battle. But the big toads would just fall asleep. The wars raged, and the toads with the godlike powers slept until it was too late. The chaos was winning and destroying the world. Instead of using their magic to help the other races fight, they tried to flee the world. Malerion was angered by their cowardice and captured every one of the scaly bastards. Malerion harnessed the power of the toads and was able to split the world into the realms to continue the fight. As punishment for their inaction, Malerion took the captured lizard people, and infused them with chaos Daemons he had also captured. He made them the same stock as the Daemons to serve as a constant reminder that they were just as responsible for the apocalypse as the other Daemons. Now they serve as guards of the afterlife. Dragging beings of chaos kicking and screaming to the afterlife to keep them in fiery prisons to prevent their return to the realms of the mortals." Garth finished his tale and took a swig of the ill gotten ale.

    "Seems to me, that you said Malerion when surely you meant Sigmar." Said Pulcifer snidely.

    "This is why you are my best friend, and my most hated enemy. You know damn well I mean Malerion. You stick up for your god even after how far you have fallen from his grace. What do you Imperials know of the Seraphon?" Spat the Aelf.

    "Let's not bring up the painful past, you have your own to worry about. Your accent with the soft consonants still brings my blood to a boil." Stuttered Pulcifer

    "Get on with it." Interjected Halstein.

    "Right. While I don't know about your old world claims, I do know the story of the Seraphon. Sigmar was making his Stormcast, an army of guardians and avengers. Nearly perfect. But for the one imperfect ingredient. Souls. As his legion fought the damned chaos, the chaos in turn damned a few of the Stormcast, which caused them to become prideful, thinking that they could rule High Azyr, thinking they could be greater Gods than Sigmar. Their true forms taking shape of the slimy little cold blooded lizards. They created a civil war in High Azyr, battling the Stormcast in bloody conflict until Sigmar returned. Sigmar showed these fallen angels his true power. He banished them to an unknown place, and tasked them with tormenting the souls unworthy of becoming Stormcast. Souls like their own. Eternal damnation in the hell fires of High Azyr. Eternal damnation by the eternally damned." The Man twirled his well groomed moustache.

    "Ach! The pair of you haven't a clue." The short and stout Halstein exclaimed, well into his cups.

    "Oh? You think the people who live under a rock would know better?" Quipped the Aelf.

    "Oh aye. We keep our records like we keep our grudges. Now the thing about the Seraphon is they do not fear death. They are the grim reapers. They are death. You might say Nagash is the God of death, but Nagash is just a puppet. The true God of Death is a Seraphon. He goes by the grim name 'Lord Kroak.' When you see him, you'll croak. Dead for innumerable ages. His power so great that he controls the stars in the sky. Said to call down mighty comets from the night sky to smite the criminals and the chaotic. He sends his Lizardmen, 7 foot tall warriors, down to the realms, to drag the living sinners to the realm of the afterlife. A large powerful frog man looks deep into your soul. You are judged, and if you are unworthy, he finds your deepest fears and makes you relive them for the rest of time. If you are judged worthy your soul becomes a lesser lizardman, Small and fast, you scour the realms for sinners and report back to Lord Kroak, the true God of Death. If you see a Seraphon it's too late. You're already dead. Also... OH NO THEY'RE RIGHT BEHIND YOU!"

    The stone faced expressions of the Man and Aelf did not flinch.

    "Well you two are no fun." Laughed the Bearded one.

    "You think we will fall for your childish..." The man trailed off, his stone face twisting to a grimace of horror.

    Garth ran for the trees, Pulcifer ran for the wagon and snapped the mules into a run.

    "Really funny, trying to use my own jokes on me." Were the last words the Duardin uttered before a red mist sprayed over the fire. The head hit the ground toward the fire, the short stout body fell away from the fire.

    The Aelf hid high up in the trees. his black cloak blending into the trees. He slowed his breathing. and took stock of the surrounding environment. The needles from the tree had scratched him up, but he had seemed safe. That was until the tree across from him seemed to come alive. As the things in the trees dropped their camouflage he saw several small lizards, seeming to grin at him. Then a stinging pain. Then his body fell heavy on to the ground below. Paralysed, he lay there feeling every second of pain until death took him. Cursing Halstein for getting the luxury of a swift death.

    Pulcifer did not look back. going as fast as his lopsided wagon and mules would take him. He made it out to the road. Only ten kilometres from the nearest town. He prayed for the first time in years. Promising himself that he would go back to the righteous path. Repenting his wicked ways. Then the wagon came to a sudden halt as the mules reared up. In front of him giant Lizard like men on their lizard like steeds. The one out front, the biggest and meanest looking one stared directly into Witch Hunter Pulcifer's eyes. He swore it was looking into his soul. From behind him a smaller Lizard man put a hand on his shoulder and sniffed the seat of the wagon. It sent a shiver up his spine. He tried to swat away the little devil. It leapt from the seat and was gone. Pulcifer stood to dismount his wagon but he saw the big Lizard charging towards him. The lance it lowered lit up with hell fire. Pulcifer tried to jump but the wagon exploded. The heat was intense. Pulcifer felt his clothes melting into his flesh and his flesh twisting as it boiled under the extreme heat. Tears of pain turning to steam and blinding him. An excruciating minute of burning before his body finally gave out and he was a smouldering corpse. The last thought that ran through his mind was Halstein saying "If you see a Seraphon it's too late. You're already dead."

    The Loom at the Threshold

    The gateway closed with a crisp, cool gasp; the constant warm light that basked the constellations of the Seraphon was gone. Ateskatl could do little but clasp his arms tightly. Awaiting the arrival of the welcome party he attempted to hold composure: the stars were distant and the air cold. Gazing about from the pyramid’s summit the great complex was lit on both sides by starkly different lights. One an ever-changing and violent maelstrom which broke over stone and metal like fiery waves, the other was a pale, delicate and unfaltering yet strong, and whose source Ateskatl instantly recognised: far in the distance, a single constellation of ever-distant stars. The tears of the star dragon.

    He shivered. Waiting, he preened his ceremonial feathers: he was to play a significant role in the salvation of the people here. He had to look the part.

    “You’ve come then.”

    Ateskatl turned to see a single Skink Priest – his trappings were notably archaic, and his collection of icons and talismans incongruous to Ateskatl’s own. To see such a stubborn figure of the past was irksome. Far more annoying, however, was the presence of only a single delegate. Was this the custom now, or had he just remembered the old ways wrongly?

    “Yes, well…” Ateskatl replied, “One doesn’t lightly disregard the meeting of Starmaster. Especially a Slann so… well known.”

    He stepped forward to give a custom bow of greeting, but the Priest had already turned back towards the way he came. The Priest gave a sharp twitch to indicate Ateskatl to follow him and led him down a narrow set of stairs, burrowing itself into the pyramid like the scars of an ancient, cyclopean drill. Ateskatl followed him in silence, the guide rebuffing what conversational pieces Ateskatl had prepared. Little indication was given of their direction.. Ateskatl held onto the assumption that he was being brought to the Starmaster, but he couldn’t feel somewhat disgruntled at the lack of appreciation. The lack of any positive response to their salvation was worrying.

    As they descended deeper into the temple, away from the conflicting lights, Ateskatl noticed an odd change come over his guide: a faint glow seemed to be emanating from him. All Seraphon had an aspect of starlight from them, gifted to them by the unfathomable magicks of their Slann masters and the godlike aspect of the star dragon. The azure brilliance of the Seraphon was lacking from the Priest however: the light seemed dampened, almost gray.

    “You needn’t have come” the Priest said. The Priest had stopped by a door, his hand placed ready to roll it aside. “We have no desire to involve ourselves with your interests, or whatever interests you represent.”

    Ateskatl found himself taken aback: “I represent the final attempt to rescue this forsaken temple. After this you’ll be abandoned to the aether: your brothers, the Slann, and Dracothion will have no part in wasting anymore resources on your…your whimsy.”

    Ateskatl was breathless: never had he seen such disregard to the wishes of his Starmasters. Order was paramount in the Great War against Chaos. To shun the Slann was to shun order, a concept no Seraphon could rightfully accept.

    “What brothers?” the Priest scoffed. “You won’t find many of them to save here, so-called Seraphon.”

    The Priest heaved the door aside, and stepped into a long corridor. He turned back to Ateskatl:

    “My Master awaits your visit, but please be aware your discussions will only be short: he cannot be distracted for long.”

    “He will listen to me” Ateskatl replied firmly. Despite his resolve, he could not feel a heavy tug at his confidence. He might persuade a Skink of the confidence in his mission, but a Slann would not be duped. He must work hard to convince the Starmaster of his rationale.

    Stepping up to the doorway Ateskatl found the threshold suddenly blocked once more by the Priest:

    “I’d ask you to avoid talking to the others. It would do neither party any good.”

    Ateskatl found the request odd. However, as they started down the corridor to the Slann’s stellar chamber, he found the warning unnecessary: those Skinks that clustered the complex hastily made their business to avoid him. Of what he could glimpse, the odd curious peeking head or fleeting glance of a tail, all others glowed with the same odd gray aspect. All, he also noted, seemed to not just glow but shimmer - as if their light emanated on a similar frequency. Though disturbed, Ateskatl found himself pitying them.

    “What is going on here?” Ateskatl said, half to himself.

    The Priest finally broke the silence: his eyes watching Ateskatl nervously fiddle with his feathers with an air of detached amusement.

    “Do you know why they avoid you, Seraphon?”

    Ateskatl finally made eye contact with guide, pressing him for answers he was afraid to ask for.

    “They fear your starlight. You must remember that they, we, are still flesh and blood, and lack the blessing of your star-drake. To them, we are the last bastion of what has been: what was felt and thought by the ancients.”

    “My starlight…” Ateskatl muttered, “Is that what this is all about? My celestial self is nothing to fear. Guide, let me speak to them. They should know, they must know of the greatness that welcomes them in the Mortal Realms-“

    The guide gripped his wrist tightly. “You will do no such thing: you would only stress them more. My brothers here, my brothers, shall not suffer more at the designs of your stars.”

    Ateskatl tentatively peeled the fingers from his wrist. This guide suddenly regained his composure and released Ateskatl’s hand.

    “Let me show you something, it may change your mind.”

    Setting a brisk pace the guide stalked quickly up the corridor, turning sharp corners with the decisive swirl of feathers. Ateskatl jogged slightly to keep up: the starpriest suddenly felt unanchored and confused. Turning down the corners a pitched, staccato scraping sound grew echo throughout the complex. His guide pushed at a door and the sound burst louder. Ateskatl realised he was hearing wailing. Agony.

    “Look” the guide said, stepping aside.

    The room was almost empty save for a dias. Writhing on top was a Skink, naked of any trappings or icons of status. Across his body long gashes flinched and sputtered; dried blood powdered the table. Back arched, hands clawing at air, the Skink spasmed with each flinch of a wound. With each spasm a piercing scream escaped.

    The Priest closed the door.

    Ateskatl found himself paralysed. He had forgotten the sight of blood, of ruined flesh.

    “You never get used to these resurrections,” the Priest said.

    Ateskatl turned, eyes still wide from the sight.

    “Resurrections...” Ateskatl muttered. The Seraphon were reborn from star-stuff should their enemies destroy them, but resurrection was unheard of in the times before the coming of Dracothian. “What is this brutal magic?”

    The Priest sighed. “This is the sweet spot between the flash and thunderclap, the dive and the plunge. Here, our people await the final ultimatum – return to the forsaken world as we are; creatures of flesh and bone, or move forward and join your masters as starlight. A third option is not possible. This why they always return – it’s not a supernatural occurrence; no method you could take back to your battle fields in the Realms. There are two absolutes open to us here and death is not one of them. At least, death here. Our weaker brothers try and remove themselves from the equation, but it’s a natural certainty that they are included; they have to exist."

    The Priest, whose gaze had become distant suddenly refocused back on Ateskatl.

    "This is the choice imposed upon them, upon us. We are being of order, but to be forced into a situation where order and reason prevails and yet still where one believes such a thing to be reasonable, that such an action would uphold order…this is why we come to reject what you stand for.”

    Ateskatl smoothed back his feathers. He was unsure he absorbed all of what his guide had said, but what unsettled him more was that uncertainty had extended to his resolve. He could not let the Priest leave without one question, however:

    “If this pain is being suffered, why stay? The gateway to High Azyr has always been open to you.”

    “Open for what?” the guide hissed. “To be remade from memory, stripped of our flesh?”

    “There really is nothing to fear. All those that died during the Chaos victory, our great heroes, even they returned-“

    “They are not saurian, they are not Lustrian. Facsimile; simulacra, all of it.”

    The Priest tore away, his feathered cloaked billowing behind. Ateskatl found himself hesitant to follow.

    “Come.” The Priest finally shouted back, “It’s time you met my master.”

    Ateskatl slunked behind his guide: he told himself to keep up the conversation, to be evangelical and earnest with his wishes. But he found what had been a keen and solid ambition had a growing hollow.

    “I will wait here” the guide said. A large door of glinting obsidian rose before them, monolithic its peak disappeared into the gloom above. Emblazoned upon it was a large rune of complex geometries – the sigil of the stellar chamber.

    Before Ateskatl could recount his much-practiced speech the door cracked open and he was hastily ushered through its slim crack. The door quickly shut behind.

    Ateskatl stepped forward: glinting the same gray light as the Skinks, hunched and prone the great Slann Zeno’tom sat silently. Ateskatl was unsure whether he should wake the corpulent Mage-Priest from his meditations, and began to ponder on what method would best wake a sleeping Slann. Seemingly sensing the Skink’s train of thought a blubbery cough echoed about the chamber and the Slann opened your eyes.

    “I have little time. I know why you’re here. All of your arguments; I know them already. You may still speak however. But before you do I suggest you inform yourself.”

    Ateskatl pushed back his feathers. The speech he had long laboured other suddenly evaporated from his tongue. The Slann’s eyes remained unblinking, unfocused upon him. He had to say something. He couldn’t look foolish, and yet one couldn’t hide from the vast intelligence of his masters.

    “Why?” he stuttered. “All of this, I don’t understand.”

    The Slann blinked. Slowly, as if he moved with great effort, he parted his lips and spoke.

    “As the World-That-Was fell into the Chaos maelstrom already my brothers had sought their new path: following their new god they beckoned the other survivors to ascend to a new promised existence. Following the trail of tears, all were compelled to alight the celestial realm of the God-Drake. But then I saw them: tired and weary and afraid. This change, it was beyond what all the Skinks been taught in our old culture. I could not ask it of them to sacrifice who they had grown into back in Lustria. So I weaved a spell…”

    Ateskatl could see it: a brightness behind the Slann’s eyes. Something shimmered and danced.

    “I took it: the compelling and transcendental starlight of the Celestial Dragon, and the arcane death throes of our world as it was consumed by the Dark Gods, I took it all. I took it all and I weaved it about a loom bolted by their souls. One side pulling them towards an end of the old world, a finality for their flesh, and another pulling them into the new existence as starlight. Once the spell came taught started by hardest task: such a spell could be broken by the burning magick of Gods. I could not let the meddling of heavens intervene, chaos, celestial, or otherwise. I wove their souls, feeding them towards one force and then looping them back against another. Again and again. Each loop tighter than the last. Each loop threaded in half the time as the previous. Now they are safe, unable to be taken be either force until the spell ends.”

    A spell? Ateskatl had to say something. Perhaps he could convince the Mage-Priest to unbind it somehow. “But if I stopped the spell, right now. What would they be? Could that not make the choice for them? If you stopped it, they would be heading to one state or the other, no?”

    “It would be neither – they are caught in an accelerating infinite loop of state. There is never a loop not followed by another. To thread them towards starlight, the next step is always to thread them back along the loom to chaos. It is the nature of infinity: there is no final loop. Only by breaking the loom will they be able to become celestial or remain flesh. But once the loom is broken, once my work is dispelled, they will be irreversibly pulled in one direction or the other. By then, I would hope, they would at least be able to choose the direction each wished to follow."

    "Surely.." Ateskatl, braced himself once more, legs shaking from challenging the words of the Slann-Lord. "Surely they must do whatever you wished? Why give them this choice?"

    “The soul recedes slowly; a sea, unquenched by the dry deltas of insight, visited by harshness loses its water until one day a puddle vanishes and nothing remains. They dress in feathers to please the Gods. They inscribe on gold to please the Slann. It is not for the Skink to nurture their self. It is not for the Skink to feel. Skinks are artisans of the ethereal world: they worship, they nurture, they hunt. Anything else is hidden; everything else is shadows. Now you ask to bring all into starlight, and they ask me what will happen to them: will they transcend wholly, or will the shadows be burnt away? I cannot answer, like the Gods before me: I am impotent without guidance from the Great Plan. Our millennial empire has been scratched out. Our Gods never returned for us. Our beliefs are being re-written. These surviving Skinks, as much as every Slann lord, now only remain with the carrion of a dead culture. It is up to them which path they should take - follow the Celestial Dragon’s tears into starlight or embrace as they who they know, taking each to their ultimate destination.”

    “Were any other Skinks given this choice?”

    “I do not know.”

    Ateskatl paused, a cool sensation creeped up his back.

    “They say each person, each creature: Skink, Saurus, Hero, warbeast, all which were lost in the final war with Chaos, they were recreated in starlight from the Slann’s memory.”

    “This is true.”

    He twitched his crest.

    “But, how perfect is the memory a Slann?”

    Zeno’tom shifted his weight. The starpriest realised it was the first time the ancient Starmaster had moved.

    “I should not worry, starpriest. You live now, what has changed and what has been reborn occurred before your starlight body was born. You can only press forward. The view behind is to yearn back towards the Chaos victory.”

    Ateskatl stood awkwardly. He wasn’t sure had quite understood, and whether it was an answer at all. The Slann cloaked their intention in words.

    “Return to the others, starpriest. They expect you.” Zeno’tom added. His eyelids were already sagging, returning to monitor the weave of his infinite spell.

    Ateskatl returned to the temple outer chambers, following the guide back to the gateway. The guide silently plodded ahead of him. Had he already made his choice, or was his assurance a product of the job? The guide was the only one who still so carefully attended to his feathers. The other Skinks had remained unchanged, some looked like they had barely twitched, others conversed in hushed groups.

    Pity, unease, and revulsion. He remembered his reaction to the Skinks of the temple. Their incorporeal, their oscillating state. Towards them now he felt the faint thorny grip of envy, rooted in a single question that began to saturate his mind. Ateskatl tried hard to push it to the back of his head and focus on how he would report back to the Slann, but it was still there, in the corners of his mind, lapping at his thoughts: what if he had been remembered wrongly?

    Changing Times

    Xxlacc wandered through the shard gardens, little creatures darting between the hovering crystals, each showing a fragment of a possible timeline.

    It had been many years since he had set foot on the mortal realm, the last time would've been, oh, about 50 years ago when he had tried to flood the world with chaos through the tainted Paths of The Old Ones via their geometric power grid. That had gone so well up until the point when he had been banished by a dwarf and a human, curiously he could sense a blindingly strong magical presence when he had fought them, the dwarf who was dressed in the garb that would mark him out as a "slayer" a doom seeker amongst his own kind, had carried a weapon older than time itself and overtime, had infused the dwarf with the magics bound within its metal, the human had carried a sword of less magical ability but had somehow preserved his age so that he still looked young.

    Suddenly a bluish-yellow portal had opened a few feet from him and hissed and warped, with a long sigh he turned to the portal and without a glance back strolled through it

    "Another tear" he murmured and was sucked into the yowling, screaming portal of pure chaos.

    "Mmrm."

    This was the discontent grunt of a lost and presumed dead fleet master, Bascillious lay on his back groaning like a sick bear, and with a small howl of agony and a few painful minutes, he had managed to rise into a sitting position, and moved his arm, instantly regretting it and biting back the urge to scream. He assessed his body for signs of injury and found some: his right bicep had a fairly gnarly gash across it which had now crusted with crimson blood which dislodged ever now and again in small flakes that looked like red snow, his arms were bruised and slightly grazed and there was bruising almost everywhere, he looked at his midsection and saw a dart embedded there. With great care he removed the dart and threw it away and checked where it had hit, luckily it had struck his Sigmarite pendant and had dislodged a treacly substance which burnt the wood, quickly tearing it off he threw it away and felt his hand close around the hilt of the sword he had come looking for the one which he had found out about in a tavern. An old wizened man had who had claimed to be with his father on an expedition to find treasure but that they were interrupted by scaly blue creatures and that he only escaped by running for his life, little did the man know that he had just told the son of Maverivk Karov,the story. With a bout of sadness and anger, Bascillious ripped his dagger out and slashed the air as if it was the man’s throat again, he would get back and he would avenge his father.

    "Coward," he murmured and began the long descent downwards off the ziggurat.

    Lord Huinetuinichi looked around and silently grumbled, his skink attendant had roused him from his slumber yet again, and proceeded to converse with him in a long thoughtful conversation, grammatically sound in every way, which was a feat for any lizardmen except the slann. Lord Huinetuinichi had become quite attached to his attendant; it's aquamarine blue skin and it's head which had the pattern not dissimilar to that of a half cracked egg. With a long drawn out sigh the slann hovered slowly towards the exit of his eternity chamber.

    Xxlacc's twisted and warped feet gently touched the ground, causing the nearby leaves to warp and shift into some horrific twisted things that gibbered out of many eyes and mouths, turning round to see the portal close after him, he began to chuckle and began to walk through the living deathtrap that was Lustria’s jungles, as if it was a stroll through the paradox paths back in what the uncivilised primates called the warp. He looked at his arm and scratched a little causing some of the broken eyes to shut and change, ahh yes, he thought,

    Change.

    The Benelovent one had tasked him with the downfall of the slann, their magic saturated country would be fit to hold the lands of Tzeentch, its jungles would be turned into something more pleasing than the hot sticky mess they are now, the native fauna could do with some work too, everything was far too wrong and not normal to fit the great masters realm, Die or change he thought, yes that's fair I'm giving them a choice, unlike the blood-soaked meat-heads of the almighty blood god, he would just gut them and drain their blood into baths and wallow in it. After he had achieved his task, his ascension would be imminent.

    Sro-Lax stalked the ancient city of Tlax, he was tasked with bringing down a petty necromancer, the self-proclaimed "Carcass Carpenter" who was little more than a maddened butcher who had dabbled in dark magic and had aspirations to lead a hoard of zombies and crush the world. He had stowed away on a galleon headed for Lustria, and had raced into the jungle to find a city which his necronomicon had told him to. Little did he know he had stolen a book of forbidden knowledge that had a voice of its own and had enslaved the humans mind to do its bidding, with a great effort the necromancer managed to raise a so bicker skink: its body had a chunk taken out of it and its ribs and intestines were showing, it ambled around a bit then stopped, and began to sniff the air catching the scent of food. The Carpenter turned around as he heard a rush of air and was confronted by a barely visible skink, in a desperate bid for safety he wove a spell but was cut short as the skink split the man from groin to head in a split second, and then proceeded to kick the mess towards the zombie, which in turn managed to get a mouthful of dripping g flesh down its throat before it too was dispatched by this creature. Without a glance back Sro-Lax turned and scaled a tree, running along the tree tops making the long journey back to his master.

    Lord Huinetuinichi surveyed the jungle atop his lofty perch, it was going well, kroxigors and skinks bustled everywhere building and working in efforts to rebuild the Great Wall that had tumbled around the city long ago, lazily groping for an Ixti grub he picked up the last three from an ornate bowl that would have been worth a prince’s ransom and shoved them in his mouth, he repeated this action and was disappointed when he grasped a small dead moth. He looked at it witheringly and popped it in his mouth, scorning every chew, with a last gulp he waved the attendant away and gazed into the distance, he sensed his assassin would be back soon he could feel it bounding through the trees returning to him, with the threat of the Great Enemy low to none existent he hoped that the work of the Old Ones could continue.

    Bascillious lumbered along a trail to which he thought was the right way back to the shore, he walked for hours pressing into the jungle ever wary of any threats, as the day pressed on he found a cave entrance that looked I inhabited: it was overgrown with vines, and slightly moist with water, in the center was a small circle of rocks that may have once served as a fire pit, long cold from their years of neglect, with a grunt he settled there for the night in a slightly hidden hole inside of the cave away from anything that may have wanted to use him as an evening meal, with a final cough he wrapped his naval tunic around him and dropped off to sleep.

    Xxlacc's laughed as blue fire shot from his hands burning and mutating all the forest around him in a paradise of insanity, he then began to draw symbols in the dirt and chant a hellish melody, as the symbols started to glow he got louder and louder until a swirling screaming portal swirled into existence and warped appendages and hand slowly began to materialise and become real, Yes, he murmured to himself, let the time of change commence. With that he threw bolts of blue flame streaking skywards.

    Lord Huinetuinichi was woken yet again from his lumber to the garbled reports of warp-fire trailing across the sky. With unnatural speed he was atop his ziggurat and looked at the blue lights streaking upwards, croaking and dispatching orders lord Huinetuinichi mustered his guard and regiments of saurus and prepared for the worst, quickly he relayed an order to a fellow slann, Qupakoco to take charge of the city and stem the flow of wild magic, war was afoot.

    Bascillious awoke from his maddened dreams to the smell of burning, grabbing the sword he rushed out the cave to find the trees and vines gone for 15 meters and found a long strip leading off into the distance, then he heard it; a horrible howl of agony and looked along the burnt path, in the distance he could see little pink and blue dots covering ground very quickly, with a sudden realisation he turned very swiftly and ran down the scorched path in opposite direction dodging strange blue mewling piles of twisted blue flesh and eyes and unwittingly headed for the amassing armies of lizardmen waiting for interlopers and preparing for battle.

    Xxlacc screamed in delight as he sped over his army on his trusted mount, Tlezic; a bronze disk perforated with patches of blue and long trails of chaos pouring off it, it served as a palaquin for Xxlacc and a way of travelling quickly and avoiding obstacles. Behind him was a small army of pink horrors and flamers that loped after their master, behind that ranks of the forsaken lumbered after them flanked by at least seven hundred warriors blessed by Tzeentch thrice times over. And finally he had managed to lure a greater deamon through which towered above the soldiers like a giant vulture headed giant, with a howl of delight he commanded his legions further on getting closer to the temple city they could see in the distance.

    Lord Huinetuinichi used the perception of the old ones, a simple spell that gifted the user with unnaturally far sight. With a look of miles shock and determination, he began to place wards and protective barriers around himself and his troops.

    Bascillious came to a massive clearing which was filled with lizardmen all standing still and not moving, with a groan he turned around and saw the pink things only a kilometre away now, with a prayer to Sigmar, he strode towards the lizardmen hoping for a quick death instead of the excruciating pain at the hands of a demon, with a grim look he turned to face his doom.

    Lord Huinetuinichi saw the human and was mildly surprised, with a single gesture he sent a group of temple guard out to bring the human before him, mere minutes away from the chaos forces colliding with his own.

    Bascillious thought what he had done to deserve this, he thought and thought and still came to the conclusion that fate was a bitch and if he survived, well he hadn't planned on it and would probably try and make his way back to the shore, which he now had a suspicion that it was the opposite direction, well fuck me, this is worse than the Than that Cathay girl who tried to kill me because I said she looked a little slanted around the face, oh well, let's see if I get a quick death from this wretched frog.

    So close thought Xxlacc, so close.

    Lord Huinetuinichi watched the human as he was brought before him, stared at him briefly and said in slurred Reikspiel

    "Choose"

    He gestures to the oncoming hoard and then pointed at himself, and awaited the humans next move.

    Bascillious thought for a moment, and then with a disparaging look pointed back at the slann, and like water the temple guard went back into their ranks leaving the human side by side with them and the slann.

    The Chaos charge hit like a thunderbolt, the melee that ensued was horrendous: long pink limbs were flung in the air, ichor christened the ground like seasonal rainfall, blue blood gushed out of jagged wounds, heads were thrown backwards by blows that would've cleaved a tree in two, lord Huinetuinichi and Xxlacc battled above the battle like an angel and a demon both sides countering the opponents spells and flinging their own back at them, Sro-Lax burst out of the jungle like an avenging angel seeking out the greater demon he began firing darts at it until the studded its hide like scales, it returned these attacks with bolts of lightning striking the place he was a few moments ago, Bascillious carved through pink horrors like a farmer scythes wheat, nothing could withstand its godly power.

    Xxlacc shouted in triumph as he broke the slann’s shield and sent a bolt of pure energy straight at him. Lord Huinetuinichi saw his death glide towards him and then dissipate into nothing, then came the barrage.

    Atop the pyramid Qupakoco sweated and strained, with all his might and sent centuries of dormant magic into an apocalyptic barrage into the chaos sorcerer and with that he collapsed on his palaquin and was pushed into a chamber by skink attendants that chirped and soothed their master.

    With an almighty explosion the chaos army dissipated as their master died in a blaze of magic.

    With a grim smile Bascillious turned only to see the butt of a spear descending on him and he knew no more.

    To be continued....

    Sunblood

    He couldn't stop limping, no matter what he tried; at this point, even using his polearm as a crutch barely got him more speed than pressing himself along the smooth obsidian walls of the corridor. He could feel his dewclaws click against the sandstone below him, all the while every step he took on his left talon made him hiss and sent a fresh trickle of blood down his leg. Jade armor rattled as the Oldblood dragged himself through the hallways of the Exodus Engine, stepping over the scattered corpses of skink and saurus warriors as he felt his instinctual need to protect his Mage-Priest drag his crippled body onwards.

    By the time he reached the command altar, the saurus could barely stay conscious. He remembered forcing the priest into an acceleration harness as what remained of the skink crew finally managed to lurch the Exodus Engine into subspace. He felt suddenly weightless, and then blacked out as inertia slammed him bodily into the observation dome.

    The last thing that he saw was the cracked viewport he slammed into; outside, glowing red with heat and burst at the seams, the shattered remnants of the world he once called home floated, finally claimed by the Great Enemy. Lustria, the Southlands, Naggaroth, the Reiksland, Bretonnia, Cathay... nothing remained of the World That Was save a searing funeral pyre; a monument to the final failure of the Old Ones’ reptilian children.

    As the saurus lay dying against the glass, his flickering gaze moved across the smouldering ruins of their lost world, the Oldblood felt his blood boil with fury and loss; he never thought his cold-blooded heart could perceive of grief on this scale, but as he found his reptilian gaze turning to watch the planet shed a chunk of molten rock into the black of space, he felt-




    -warm.

    He opened his eyes, and slowly, vision returned. He blinked, trying to clear the stars from his eyes as they adjusted to sight after so long… only to realize the stars were not in his eyes.

    His first thought was that he was still pressed against the observation window on the command altar… at least until he realized that there was no glass to touch, or ground to push himself up on. He floated, transfixed by the sweeping beauty of the cosmos, a luminous being amidst a sea of stars.

    At first, he believed it a dream; some trick of the senses brought on by his imminent death. It was a notion quickly dispelled after some time had passed. This was real… and as an Oldblood should, he had to find advantage in it somewhere. As he watched he began to see patterns in their movements, a great cosmic machine whose rules and workings seemed oddly familiar.

    Time passed, and after what felt like an eternity or a moment, he felt something pull at him. He felt a great heat grow inside him, and watched as the constellation he sat within began to move in unison. He fell like a comet, hurtling forwards as his brother-stars fell with him. He heard the roar of their twinkling bodies hit the air, and he swore he could hear familiar saurian war cries over the whistling wind. Pack instincts long repressed came flooding back, and suddenly, he recognized the pattern.

    He knew… why he was here. He could never explain it, but it was never his charge to understand. By the time the Seraphon struck the metallic plains of Chammon, the Sunblood was already running to the side of his Mage-Priest, a predatory gleam in his eye and a savage roar of joy rising above the din of battle.

    All the while, almost imperceptibly, the Mage-Priest watched, his serene features disrupted only with a small, nostalgic smile as his favored servant once more took battle to their ancient enemy.

    Certainty

    Something bothered Tlazgar as he looked across tomorrow's battlefield. Slowly the sun set as the enemy's colourful camp was easily seen in the distance. Tomorrow hell would be unleashed, but tonight both sides slept easy, happily basking in the righteousness of their gods.

    He spat on the ground, as he did as the crisp air produced a small mist. It wasn't that long ago these humans with their glorious cavalry were their allies, joining forces against the rats that had arrived from the ground. But then things had changed, now these humans had to die.

    Tlazgar wondered what their sin was. He would never find out. Slann didn't need to justify their actions, even to the Oldblood who led their army. Soon enough his troops would plunge into battle. Many would die. He knew he would win tomorrow, as he had faced far worse odds before. He estimated loses to be a quarter of his force. A quarter of his troops, dead. A quarter of his friends. A quarter of his responsibility. Gone.

    He closed his eyes and remembered back, many centuries ago, when he first cut his teeth on the battlefield. It was amazing. He fought the most foul and despicable beings the chaos gods could create. He never wavered, he never tired. He had personally cut down seven daemons in one battle. By the end of the campaign he led his own unit. And that was just the beginning of his life dedicated to war.

    When he opened his eyes again he could still see the humans making camp. It was only a few seasons ago that he would have been in the camp with them. They were valuable allies and a most interesting people. He got to know their ways very well. Their generals were very proud of the interest he showed in their military endeavours, that a warrior like him would seek to learn their ways. He found them interesting, but that wasn’t why he did it. You live long enough and all things change. He knew eventually, his allies would be his enemies. It was the way the world worked. But he had thought it would take centuries, not seasons.

    But then the humans aged like animals. They would die soon anyway, so killing his former comrades didn't bother him.

    His most glorious campaign was against the Tomb Kings and their mighty army of the walking dead. He wondered if history would remember their epic march into the Ogre Kingdoms, or who it really was who repelled them. The Slann had used their magic to send the entire army there. The campaign had been long and bloody. His mentor, Oldblood Dax'id had been cut down. Tlazgar had taken the reigns of the army, and it had been the turning point in the war. He knew luck was part of it, but that wasn't the way his troops saw it. They worshipped him as a warrior and a leader, he alone was the reason they won battle after battle, terribly outnumbered, victory after victory. Soon the campaign was won, and the once mighty undead were vanquished.

    What came next was a bitter winter in a foreign land, with no word from the Slann and no way home. For the first time it had made him curious about the decisions they made. He had thought about it a great deal, like trying to understand them would make him wiser. The extremely long march and sail back home had taken more seasons than he could count.

    Yes, a quarter of all his troops would soon be dead. And he hated the fact that he didn't really care. He couldn't. If he did, he would jeopardise the lives of the rest. He had to separate himself from them, and perform his role as best he could. Cold and calculating – it was what was best for his troops. He made the decisions and they lived with it. And his troops wouldn't have it any other way.

    He sighed and spat again. He was so good at justifying his own actions. It was probably true, that being indifferent to losses made him better as a general. But the truth was he didn't care about loss because he loved war. He thrived on the competition, the mayhem. Being close to death also meant you were close to life. The feeling you had an hour after a victorious battle was like nothing else.

    Really, the losses didn't bother him.

    He took one last survey of the terrain before the light escaped him. He would make his last moves at nightfall, moving some blocks of infantry around, to make it harder for enemy archers to get into position at first light. This was a move he got into a habit of when the High Elves first came to Lustria. They had arrived to wage war against an amassing force of Khaine. The Slann had ordered him to cut the High Elves down to a man before they could engage the forces of Khaine. He had taken heavy losses, yet immediately after the battle he was ordered to turn his army against the Dark Elf force. It had made no sense to him. And it wasn't the strangest order he had ever received.

    He turned turned his mind back to tomorrow's battle. The humans would die, and his force would march on. The light had gone, so he started to walk back to camp. He didn't really know what bothered him. But he missed his certainty.

    The Monument

    The red and green terradon cruised in long gliding arcs not far above the tree-tops. It stayed low, but just out of blowpipe range at the bottom of each arc. Each sweeping glide was also a long curving dive followed by smooth climb and never quite the same length as the last one. Fast is good. Hard to hit is better.

    The wary rider of this terradon spied a Harklberry grove on the creature's next climb out. "That would do nicely", the rider thought, nudging his mount in that direction. They circled the grove twice before landing in the branches between the tallest pair of the tangled bushes. The terradon instantly went to work spearing the fat hand-sized berries. His rider checked his blowpipe for the fourteenth time that hour. It kept slipping. It had lost its leather overwraps and strap in the last fight. The skink checked the heavy pouch at his throat — his most precious cargo was safe. Then he pulled the blowpipe out of his belt and looked at it carefully.

    It was also red and green but of darker hues than his winged mount. There was an alternating triangular pattern inlaid on most of the barrel. As he turned it over, inspecting it for damage, he thought back to the day he had received it:


    That whole morning had been spent taking out squads of ratmen. Bait them into the trees, dissappear, bring them down in a hail of darts, feed the remains to the jungle. Repeat with next band of vermin. His band of chameleons had reached the ancient monument of Loquatzla, their objective, two hours before sundown. The final push to reach it had been an all out assault by the entire battalion (krox, a pair of salamander, a javelineer cohort, the chameleons and some terradons). His first blowpipe had given its last, by blocking a stroke from the jagged edge of a rat-thing's blade. But they had relieved the Chameleon scouts guarding the strange, stepped structure. Only to discover that the ratmen had a full war host, had flanked around on all sides, and had the monument and Lizard battalion surrounded.

    The Senior Skink Chieftan in charge had signaled down a squad of terradon riders in the hope they could carry a message back to the Temple City. From out of the trees a massive volley of jezzail bullets exploded: hissing and trailing green sparks and foul smoke. All but one terradon was brought down. The remaining one had broken off, circled high, and refused to land — plainly ignoring its rider's commands. The remaining Lizard force scrambled to the side of the monument away from the jezzails, before they could reload. There they spotted a second terradon, still alive on the safer side of the monument, but crouched over the place where its lifeless rider had fallen and died.

    Another chameleon skink had clutched his arm at that point and said, "Follow me. Blend with the stone." Together they had crept back to where most of the terradons had fallen and one by one they had retrieved the small golden glyphs each rider wore pendant from straps about their necks. Upon returning to the safer side of the monument they'd been interrogated by the Chieftan where they'd had to confess that every rider was dead.

    The Chieftan looked stoic for a moment, and told the other chameleon, "I am combining the remaining chameleon hunters into one unit; there are only twelve of you left. You are in charge." That was when Tzlatoc noticed the other chameleon bore a glyph of rank — a unit commander.

    After the Chieftan moved away to organize what defense he could, the other chameleon said, "I am Xhol-Quet and I have a plan. I know that terradon."

    Xhol-Quet's plan was to put all the glyphs from the terradon unit on Tzlatoc's neckband. Xhol-Quet explained the rest as they threaded the glyphs into place, "That rider is Zlatec. He was spawned of the same pool as I, but the year following my spawning. We are like spawn-brothers and his terradon knows me. First, we will retrieve his body and let the terradon follow. We will carry him as if he is wounded."

    Somehow it worked. It helped that Xhol-Quet could mimic the markings of Zlatec. The terradon followed them back under the shadow of the monument. Gradually, they coaxed the terradon into letting other skinks carry the body back into a recess of the stone structure, as if to tend him. Xhol-Quet's last orders were, "Remain with this terradon. Keep him quiet. Feed him these."

    With that last order he had handed over a pouch he had retrieved from Zlatec and hurried away to look for the Chieftan. The pouch contained Harklberries.

    It was about two hours later when the Chieftan returned with Xhol-Quet who asked, "Any berries left?"

    Tzlatoc replied, "Three."

    The Chieftan said, "It could work." And then Tzlatoc had gotten new orders: he was was ordered to try and fly the terradon back to the Temple City with a message detailing the location and estimated size of this ratman army. Even though he was a chameleon and not a terradon rider. And he was to leave once it was full-dark.

    After the Chieftan left, he asked Xhol-Quet, "How am I supposed to fly this creature? I do not know its ways. How will I find the trail back?"

    Xhol-Quet answered, "You will follow the old causeway this monument marks. Let the terradon show you its ways and the way back. And it will fly you, you will not fly it. You have stood here a full two hours feeding it those berries. It has accepted you. Those are its favorite plant by the way, but they will sicken you — otherwise feed him fish and meat."

    "And, take this blowpipe to replace yours. I have found another."

    "The tradition of my pool is to hand down weapons borne by the prior spawnings of our pool. My unit is down several lizards and there are pipes to spare. And, your terradon knows this pipe. He has seen me with it many times and maybe he just likes its colors. Any little thing that will convince him to take you back swift and true is to be done."

    "Remember, let nothing delay you: fast is good."



    Tzlatoc looked down at his pipe. It had served him well. While he had been thinking of the day he'd spent at The Monument of Loquatzla his hands had been peeling strips of bark from the branches his steed had stripped of berries. He had woven a new strap. He had replaced the windings at one end of the blowpipe and was ready to do the other.

    Soon they were on their way. Again, Tzlatoc was flying back (that is, being flown back) to the Temple City bearing something important. This time it was a full Plaque and there was a perturbed Slann wanting it back in its rightful spot.

    Afterward, he would go look for his old friend Xhol-Quet. He was too old to fight or hunt now but as a Master Blowpipe Craftsman he schooled younger chameleon Skinks in the craft of making new blowpipes.

    Sun Turns Gears of War

    To date, no invasion force has ever stepped foot into these lands. Orcs and Beastmen raiding parties are
    very regularly engaged, however their seasonal patterns are predictable, allowing all the generals
    throughout history to counter the seasonal surges in activity.

    Lately something unusual has been happening; discovered along the borderlands are abandoned camps. Many camps still had the dead bodies inside the tents due to the excessive heat of the summer. At first glance it may seem that these camps were non-threatening, however, what was unsettling was that this increase in activity was well before the rainy season.

    Niyol and a small skink patrol were on their way back from an investigation of a camp that was not only settling in, but growing too. Using some tricks Niyol recently learned, much insight was gained about the mindset of these Beastmen. The skink patrol was tracking troop movement, and Niyol was getting a peek into the tents. The party thought the patrol was a success, so they wanted to deliver the news to Alsamse quickly. Alsamse, a fiery skink chief, was the head of the armed forces and had personally ordered this patrol, and much would be decided based on the findings.

    Approaching the city, the noise of war churned as Alsamse had ordered an increase in all production. What was most noticable was that the Kroxigor were without weapon and hard at work with the rest (there hadn't been a major construction project under any of the last 3 generals, Kroxigor mostly knew a life of war).

    The party went straight for the war temple where they knew they could find Alsamse. Niyol greeted Alsamse with a nod. "We return with rich information." Niyol said quickly, eager to share the rest.

    "Why did I have to find out while you were gone that you've never gone through the Trials?" Alsamse was eager to share the disdain for Niyol after learning this.

    "I was appointed by our great slann, T..." Niyol was cut short.

    "If you are to serve in the military as a Priest, then you need to have passed through the Trials." Alsamse said bluntly, staring back for an answer, to which Niyol had none. With a shaking head, Niyol turned to walk away and avoided eye contact with the rest of the accompanying patrol.

    Niyol stepped outside to the heat of day, and stood alone in a rushing river of activity. Without anyone to report to right now, Niyol shook off the shame, and headed towards the Terradon pens. Of late, Niyol had made friends with the captain of the Terradon Corps, Zikala, who was the right hand of Alsamse, yet with a completely different demeanor. The Terradon pens were alive with all manner of noises, not all from Terradons; Bullheaded Raptors were squished in with each other, some clawing and scratching to stand on top of the others. Niyol rushed to get out of the way of beasts being led in and out of the pens, side stepping a new threat with every turn. Niyol met Zikala out of breath, so rather than asking, instead pointed to the nearest cage with raptors in it with a questioning look.

    "Yes! Alsamse has ramped up the Bullheaded Raptor taming efforts, they are coming in faster than they can build the new pens." Zikala said lightly.

    "How many elite Saurus do we have these days?" Niyol inquired because traditionally, only distinguished saurus were raised onto the backs of Bullheaded Raptors to ride into battle.

    "Alsamse has opened enrollment for the Bullheaded Corps, I think they're even allowing Skinks to apply."

    "What about the Terradon Corps?" Niyol got excited, remembering that single time, being a part of the sky.

    "No, you still need to be chosen for our classes," Zikala said while putting on a glove. "They are expanding our pens though, and making all new ones for the Bullheaders at every outpost. It should be nice to have quicker reinforcements during the rainy season." Zikala put on another glove and stood up to grab some reins off a hook.

    "About that, I just got back from investigating that Beastmen camp..."

    "Oh yeah, how was that? Alsamse won't let me near that area right now!" Zikala sat back down, interested in the details.

    "We found out that they have elite troops we have never encountered before, wielding massive weapons. They guard a "herdstone" and some bigger tents." Niyol took in a deep breath, "That's the part that Alsamse knows about... I used a few tricks and found out that these big tents house a warlord as well as a shaman. I'm sure they can guess about the warlord, but we've never seen their shamans before now."

    Zikala looked down for a moment, "Wait, why doesn't Alsamse know about the shamans?"

    "Because I didn't tell the rest of the patrol this information..." Niyols' sense of shame was coming back.

    "And you couldn't tell Alsamse youself...?" Zikala was trying to draw it out of Niyol at this point.

    "Before I delivered my report, Alsamse dismissed me for not having completed the Trials." Niyol was now bathing in the shame from earlier.

    "Alsamse needs to know, I'll have to relay this information." Zikala stood up to get back to work.

    Niyol stammered, "Well, no, didn't you say..."

    "Yeah, yeah, I'll figure something out." Zikala turned to wave before rounding the corner.

    Without a reason to be in the pens anymore, Niyol rushed out while all the gates were closed, back outside to the midday heat. Niyol tried to clear the mind by walking aimlessly, but there seemed to be a pull from the inside toward the Initiates Temple. There, Niyol would be able to read up on The Trials, but the thought that this was only to prove to Alsamse there was worth as a Priest in this skink, disgusted Niyol. Resistant to the pull, Niyol was found sleeping outside the Initiates Temple by one of its Priests the next morning.

    Niyol woke up inside the Initiates Temple, well lit and plenty of ferns growing out of large pots. The main room was filled with stools and tables. A Priest walked out of a room with aisles of shelves with scrolls on them, the Priest was carrying a few of them.

    The Priest lay the scrolls down on the table and presumably called toward Niyol, "Come, sit." Niyol took the seat and turned one of the scrolls to read it. It started with "So you want to be a Priest..." and Niyol shuddered a bit, continuing by skimming the words on the scroll; Niyol had already learned to sense the Winds and manipulate them, this felt useless.

    Niyol wasn't done reading the scroll but with under estimating confidence spoke, "Can I start The Trials tomorrow?", to which the Priest simply nodded. Niyols eyes rested on a map of the region, and the path to the sacred site where initiates meditate until their true source of strength reveals where it comes from. The journey is two weeks on foot, and initiates are expected to fast for the entire trip which is essential to find their true strength.

    Niyol spent the day reading multiple scrolls, each one with less information than the last. Going to bed that night, Niyol could only think of how difficult it would be to meditate; something not part of Niyols strong suit.

    The Priest woke Niyol very early, before the sun was up. The priest was holding a jug, presenting it to Niyol, who asked, "What's this?"

    "You must return with this, full." It was a jug full of water, "Did you not read the scrolls?"

    Niyol didn't say anything and grabbed the jug. Meditating and now a jug of water; the confidence from yesterday was already leaving. Niyol set out any ways, towards the rising sun. The sound of the artisans tools waking up for war as Niyol left.

    By sticking to the training they give you fresh out of the spawning pools, Niyol made way through the wilds in short time and without event; wildlife seemed thinned out due to the recent taming efforts. There was a stone standing erect on a low, flat shelf in the cliff ahead. Winds of all kinds were swirling toward the stone, some of which Niyol hadn't learned about yet. Walking toward the site, the focus was set on the winds.

    As Niyol got close to the ridge where the stone was, the winds began to shudder and vibrate. A beastman could be heard on the other side, braying, in pain? When Niyol peeked up to see, the beastman was running, but didn't look like it had been struck in battle. Fear was prevalent in its eyes though. Niyol froze and waited to see what would reveal itself to be chasing this beastman; what appeared was a pale skinned elf with dark hair. It seemed to be smiling as it strode up to the clearing. The beastman was loudly catching its breath just out of sight of the elf, but the elf broke off the chase to stand in awe at the stones power.

    Slowly walking toward the stone with an extended hand, the air in the area got a bit cooler. Niyol noticed that the light was losing strength, looking toward the sun confirmed, the sun was dimming in and out. Niyol believed the elf to be violating the stone, and using the untapped winds of fire, conjured a blast of flame directed at the elf. With a lucky strike, the elf fell to the ground and quickly got up to move toward Niyol. Niyol panicked and sent a lesser charged bolt off which glanced off the elven sorceror and its wards. Niyol backed away and down the cliff face and tried to remember some wards too; in the short time Niyol has been a priest, most of the time has been spent studying the winds of fire.

    Niyol descended along the cliff face a short way to the bottom and began running. Once in line of sight of the elf, Niyol fell to the ground in agony all throughout the body, letting out shrill chirps of distress. Even the mind was wracked with fel thoughts of self harm, complete destruction, eternal pain. The weight of these thoughts brought the body closer to the ground. Niyol felt residual dark energy lingering but could tell that the attack had ended. Niyol looked back and could see that the elves arms were limp and the whole body was jerking up and down. The body fell forward down the cliff-side, and the beastman from earlier was standing there panting and looking at Niyol.

    Out of breath also, Niyol looked down to see the jug of water broken with shards of clay every where. Looking back at the cliff face, the beastman was gone. Niyol didn't like the greeting, but another week of meditating had to follow this event. Traditionally, the initiates would meditate in front of the stone, but that didn't seem safe any more, so Niyol settled into a small shelf in the cliff, overlooking the giant stone. Attempting to meditate led to falling asleep before the sun went down.

    Waking up late, due to the west facing cliff, Niyol felt like something productive needed to be done. Clay is abundant in this region, and shaping a jug would be easy; without a kiln however, sun drying isn't a reliable option. It would take a few days to sufficiently dry which was fine. Over the next few days more time would be put into braiding string out of the local plants, to build a harness to protect this new jug from further harm.

    One day while braiding and weaving up on the roost, Niyol witnessed the beastman from the other day as it knelt in front of the stone and left a leafy branch on the ground before walking away. This time, the beastman was wielding a gnarled wooden staff. The shaman was heading south, which puzzled Niyol, as did the leafy branch.

    The next day, the harness was finished up and Niyol headed out. First stop was to pick up this branch, nothing native to this region. Next, a stop to pick up the jug that had been baking in the sun for a week or so; fitting the harness snugly around it. On the way back to the city, Niyol would make a few dozen stops at every cactus with a plump red fruit growing out of it, squeezing the juices into the jug as a water substitute to return to the priests.

    Reaching the city with a full jug, Niyol had high spirits, even though "the true source of strength" had not revealed itself. Niyol strolled into the Initiates Temple and placed the jug gently on the table. The attendant priest walked up to the jug with a turned nose; the sweet smell was very strong. The priest scurried the jug into the back where Niyol could still hear the priest say, "the Initiate should be disqualified!" and a clearly older voice laughed back, "This is actually what the Initiates were directed to do thousands of years ago..." the older priest rounded the corner to lay eyes upon Niyol before saying, "you did read the scrolls." with what could be considered a smile.

    Niyol had not read the scrolls; this was pure luck. Niyol did however have a mission in mind and wanted to exploit this momentum, "Have I passed The Trials?"

    The old priest simply asked, "What is the source of your strength?"

    Niyol held out the leafy branch which was still quite fresh and green despite the harsh sun over a few days, "This plant. It helps those who are able to see things differently than their brother."

    The priest was unsure, having never seen the plant before, but the response seemed genuine. The priest added a note of caution, "Let time reveal the true meaning of this strength for you." before bowing to leave. The attendant exchanged places to hand Niyol the smelly jug as well as a scroll which served as the certificate that Niyol had passed The Trials. This effectively restored Niyol's honor, who planned to take it directly to Alsamse.

    Wasting no time, Niyol marched to Alsamse's desk and placed the scroll on the table. Alsamse, who was busy talking to someone at the side stopped to glare at Niyol. Without waiting to be addressed, Niyol blurted, "They aren't invaders, they are refugees."

    Alsamse wore a skeptical look and replied, "Excuse me?"

    Niyol took it to mean an explanation was needed, "The beastmen; they are not here to invade our lands, they are being pushed out of theirs!" Niyols' passion caused a hush to fall upon the warhall for a moment.

    Alsamse looked over the scroll for a moment before nodding, "It's too late, we plan to move on the encampment tomorrow." Alsamse leaned over the table to put the scroll in Niyol's chest. "We will make sure they cannot encroach on our lands any further."

    Niyol's jaw dropped at the blatant refusal to hear the truth. Defeated in this mission to avert war, Niyol clutched the leafy branch in comfort, and retreated back to the living quarters. Sleep was harder to find now more than ever with war rising like dawn.

    EDIT:
    Story One “The Fractured Line” by Y'ttar Scaletail
    Story Two “Out of Formation” by spawning of Bob
    Story Three “A Day in the Life of the Temple City” by Essmir
    Story Four “Blasphemy” by thedarkfourth
    Story Five “The Seraphon Legend” by Bowser
    Story Six “The Loom at the Threshold” by Slanputin
    Story Seven “Changing Times” by Xholankha the lost one
    Story Eight “Sunblood” by Oldblood Itzahuan
    Story Nine “Certainty” by discomute
    Story Ten “The Monument” by pendrake
    Story Eleven “Sun Turns the Gears of War” by Tlac'Natai the Observer
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
    Paradoxical Pacifism and Bowser like this.
  2. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Oh my Old Ones. You guys are good.
     
  3. Crowsfoot
    Slann

    Crowsfoot Guardian of Paints Staff Member

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    Spot on, I wanted to vote for more than 3
     
    Paradoxical Pacifism and Bowser like this.
  4. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    I can't vote at all.

    Contemplations are required. Deep contemplations.

    And I am all out of ixti grubs.
     
  5. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Tempting, but last contest was already the greatest vote inflation we already had. I drew a line in the sand. 4 votes needs 12 entries. We had 11.

    We didn't actually go down in authors because last time Bob wrote two and this time everyone submitted one. I'm kind of glad the competition is anonymous because I'm having trouble divorcing the writer from the work. I am biased towards relative newbies.

    I tend to silently root for newbies as well as veterans who came back after a hiatus. We have a good mix here. One writer who never post on Lustria-Online before (who may or not be my best frenemy ever given that we stole this contest format from him), a couple relative newbies who debuted last contest, some perennial writers who rarely/never miss a contest and a few old seasoned veterans we haven't seen in a while.

    Once again I am thoroughly pleased with both the skill and enthusiasm L-O shows for fluff writing.

    The winner of this contest may pick theme for the April-May contest, unless he or she does not want to in which case I have a backup theme ready.
     
  6. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    I've enjoyed what I've read so far, and in particular I find myself getting into a guessing game for each one: is this WFB or AoS? Rather fitting for the contest theme and recent events I quite liked how three (of what I've read so far) have, in the very least, touched upon the transformation from Lizardmen to Seraphon. The other thread running through the pieces are how much at the whim the LM are to the Slann - it's been interesting to see the varied Slann-Saurus interaction as they're thrown about at the Mage-Priest's unknowable motives.

    So far so good, people! Its-a gonna be difficult to pick, as always.
     
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  7. Bowser
    Slann

    Bowser Third Spawning

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    Well that was an incredibly hard decision. Even with 3 choices. I write down Maybe or definitely on a piece of paper. All went on definitely then re read them and changed some to maybe. Then re read them all again. Didn't make it any easier! Really tough round to judge!
     
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  8. Rednax
    Cold One

    Rednax Active Member

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    dang nam it!, i bumped the enter button before putting in my third vote :(

    And it was so hard to choose!

    great stories everyone!
     
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  9. discomute
    Kroxigor

    discomute Well-Known Member

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    Well I said this time I would wait, read a couple a week, no more than one a day. Whoops, I've read them all.
     
  10. pendrake
    Skink Priest

    pendrake Well-Known Member

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    I am going to read two a day or so...
     
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  11. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Oh my...
    Just read only a couple of 'em, and they're AMAZING. Kudos to you all!
     
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  12. Crowsfoot
    Slann

    Crowsfoot Guardian of Paints Staff Member

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    Same here I wanted to vote for them all, wish I could write like that.
     
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  13. tom ndege
    Skar-Veteran

    tom ndege Well-Known Member

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    Hard... Really hard to decide... Will have to do some more reading... Good that I'm still having my daily train sessions... But man I guess it will not make it easier to make a decision... Maybe I'll have to find another way to go besides the pure liking... Something like counting the letter 'a' or something... ;)
     
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  14. Tlac'Natai the Observer
    Cold One

    Tlac'Natai the Observer Active Member

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    All the entries stuck to the theme very well, which made it so much fun to read everyone's interpretation; such creativity!

    I'm also happy to see people carrying the Seraphon fluff into places I never saw it going... again, such creativity!

    CANNOT WAIT until the next round
     
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  15. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    I curse myself, because I've had an idea worthy of a story, but time slipped away... :(
     
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  16. tom ndege
    Skar-Veteran

    tom ndege Well-Known Member

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    Write it! Post it! And I enjoy it! ;)
     
  17. DrakisKier
    Skink

    DrakisKier New Member

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    Balls. I was too distracted by RL to realize there was another contest going. Too late to start writing another chapter for my army.

    Havent even had time to take photos of my army either!
     
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  18. tom ndege
    Skar-Veteran

    tom ndege Well-Known Member

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    Managed to vote... Don't ask how... Really cool stuff everyone! Once again!
     
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  19. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    I was just informed that in the process of proofreading Story Three, I accidentally cut off the last paragraph. I also was given some minor edits to implement on story six. I have temporally enabled vote changing. Probably for three or four days, then back to "no backsies"
     
  20. Rednax
    Cold One

    Rednax Active Member

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    Thanks :D
     
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