If I missed something that needs to be fixed, let me know by a private message. If there is more than one error in a single piece, please message me the entire edited piece rather than just copy and past the corrected sentences. We have seven very fine pieces this month. Please read all seven pieces before casting your vote(s). You may vote for up to two. Voting will remain open for the rest of the month. Theme was "The Power of Music" Spoiler: ”Story One: Song of Freedom” Song of Freedom Drekit had identified a weak link in the chain binding him to his fellows and the overseers’ lash weeks ago but didn’t think anything of it. Freedom was impossible. Where would he run? Where could he go that the Masters wouldn’t find him? Then it came. At night, he heard a distant sound stirring at the depths of his soul. A soul he assumed had withered and died years ago. A siren call to freedom. Find me and you will know joy, peace, security, FREEDOM. His whiskers perked. The other slaves couldn’t hear it. For a moment Drekit considered it. It doesn’t matter, this is for me. I will seek-find this freedom. During the meager hours the Masters let the skaven slaves sleep, Drekit was exhausted from his pointless toil, but he didn’t dare sleep. Drekit was vaguely aware that it was day above. Above the tunnels there was noise: pouring rain, thundering beasts, chirping insects. Normally Drekit paid attention to these things but he somehow knew the song of freedom began at dawn and ended at dusk. Drekit waited for times of lots of noise to bash the weak link on his chain with a rock he had concealed in his filthy tunic. For three days Drekit worked for his masters at night while working towards his freedom during the day the call of freedom pulling him onward. Finally the chain broke, and Drekit scurried away towards the song of freedom. Drekit ran and ran down random tunnels, until the music stopped then he collapsed with exhaustion and finally slept for the first time in days, a brief hint of a smile visible on his snout. He awoke at dawn as the heavenly music resumed. Part of Drekit wanted to keep sleeping, but sleep was not freedom. The more time he spent in the tunnels, the more likely the Masters would be able to find him and punish him as an example to the others assuming they noticed he was gone. The tunnels had little to hide his vibrations. The tunnels had nothing to mask his sent. Above the tunnels there was noise, there was vibrations, there was smells. Above the tunnels there was freedom. Drekit looked for a tunnel sloping upward, he ran as far as he could and began bashing the hardened dirt ceiling with his rock till it loosened. Then he clawed at the soft dirt. Vaguely aware of the risk of a cave-in, he persisted towards the sound of freedom. His efforts awarded him with a deluge of dirt, a mound of dirt and a small ray of sunlight. His beady eyes blinked as he adjusted to the new light. He kept digging till he could make an opening wide enough to wriggle out of. Drekit knew the jungle would hide his trail from the Masters methods of tracking him, but only if he had enough distance. Hole easy to see-smell, flee fast. Still exhausted beyond measure, he forced himself to keep marching towards the sound of the song, till he march walk no further. Night fell and the music stopped. Drekit wasn’t used to sleeping at night, but he was so tired that it was easy. Shortly after dawn the music resumed and Drekit awoke. He swatted some of the insects trying to make a meal out of him. His stomach rumbled. He needed to find something to eat himself, or he would perish. He didn’t even have the Masters’ meager rations now and would have to find his own. It didn’t matter at the moment because for the first time in his life, Derkit’s spirit felt full. He moved in the vague direction of the song, but moved slowly. Eyes peels and nostrils flared. Food, find food. He found a tree with sweet smelling fruit. Deftly, he climbed the tree, finding it less difficult to climb than some rickety skaven scaffolding he was forced to work on while carrying full chains. He still was dragging about two feet of chain. He’d need to fix that. Timidly, he sniffed the fruit. It didn’t smell of poison, though not all poison announces itself with smell. Drekit would need to take some risks, for to do nothing was to die. The fresh fruit was the best food he tasted his whole short miserable life. He spent the next hour combing every branch for every piece he could find. Next he found a stream to slake his thirst. Water can rust-eat cheap metal. Cleanliness was never a skaven virtue but he bathed in the stream large to soak his manacles. Once they weakened enough and his fur was slick enough, he wriggled out of them. Maybe a short length of chain would be a useful but no. Chains gone forever now, not carry-wear them. Briefly he considered on the off-chance the Masters were searching for him above ground the chains would be a clue as to his whereabouts. He buried them in the stream hoping the water would destroy them and continued on his way towards the music which fueled him. Till night fell and he once again slept, happier and more peaceful than ever before. He awoke the next day and began once again looking for food. He found a few fruit bearing trees with some decent things he could eat but most of these were picked over by flying or climbing beasts first so it was a lot of work, for a small payoff. Need more than fruit to eat-live. Most of the beasts he saw fled from him. Drekit bathed in a stream and then mud to lose his scent then took pains to move more quietly. Eventually his efforts paid off and he was able to get close to a rabbit. He shadowed it for almost two hours noted what plants it ate and which plants it avoided. Then he got impatient and hit it with a rock. His prey emitted a brief high pitched scream before perishing. He was planning the best way to eat his kill when the skaven’s hackles perked up. A vague sense of danger that all his kind have. A second later he smelled it, a large reptile. Instinctively the skaven fled even before he could hear its heavy footsteps. Not a lizard man but a lizard beast, but was chasing scents not making plans. The cold one pursued him, she was quickly distracted by blood and went for the dead rabbit first. This gave Drekit a spare moment to climb a tree. The cold one paced around Drekit’s tree taking some futile leaps at the branches for an hour before losing interest and moving on. The skaven waited another hour then left his tree. He needed some weapons and tools. He used a flat rock to sharpen a few sticks. This would do for now. With even more carefulness, he proceeded through the jungle once more, a spring in his step. He escaped; he broke his chains; he discovered food; he bested a danger. Drekit would could continue to study the animals. He would learn how to evade or if necessary defeat the predators. He would watch the herbivores to learn how to hunt them, and by watching what they eat would figure out which plants he could eat. Even his eyes were gradually adjusting to the brighter light Life would be hard, but life would be his. He was free. Pfft! Pfft! The music stopped. Two skinks walked over to where the dead skaven lay, a large smile visible on his dead face. “Finally got one. All that time crafting the magic flute and a week of straight playing and we lured one skaven to its death. What a waste of time and effort” The trees rustled as more skinks moved closer to hear him talk. A few were chuckling. One chimed in. “We could kill one skaven every hour for a year, and they wouldn’t even notice!” The skink priest lowered his flute. The warrior mirrored him lowering his blowpipe. “I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of time, we know this flute works now. And when you see a lone skaven he is probably an elite assassin or poisoner. Who knows what this one skaven could have been planning?” The skinks assembled nodded grimly. “He did carry himself taller with more confidence than usual for his filthy kind. Look at his face. What ever could make as skaven so happy must be vile indeed.” “Indeed, well I get back to playing, maybe we'll get another one” Spoiler: ”Story Two: Drawn to the Beat” Drawn to the Beat Sken-Dar yanked on Rekdok’s reins and wheeled the disorientated cold-one around. From what he could see, and he couldn’t see much, his whole taskforce was in a rout. Saurus and skinks alike milled around, slashing at wisps of the thick smoke and jumping at shadows, with no semblance of their normal cohesion and discipline. The scar-veteran’s own cohort of riders had scattered out of his view, although he could hear their mounts bleat their confused agitation from various points in the murk. After a single moment of surprise, he and his troops were more of a shambles than the wretched slaves who had routed them. The only difference was that those ratmen were all dead, and the "Pride" of Chaqua, although disordered had barely suffered more than a scorched snout. "You, Patrol Leader!" Sken-Dar snarled, "report! Where is your platoon?" Zapwok battered his inner eyelids and peered into the haze. "The're gone." Sken-Dar grabbed him by his throat ornament and hoisted him off his claws and shook him. "GONE!? Call them back! We have a rathole to cleanse!" Zapwok dropped his javelin and spear and feebly tried to release his Commanding Officers grip. He gargled something that might have been a command to rally but it was lost in the general din and choking fume. Sken-Dar cast him away. "Farnarking Ratmen," he grunted. A cleansing was never easy, but this should have been simpler than most. This hole was barely a crack in the mountainside, and probably the smallest exit of the whole nest. Sken-Dar's force were to block it up or invade it while a dozen other forces did the same with others. Then Slann Lord Jen-Dobri would lead the main assault on the Skaven-nest's main entrance. No escape would be permitted. Extermination was the only objective. As Sken-Dar's force marched up the mountain foot, skaven resistance seemed to be light, almost laughable. First, a dozen mouldy casks bounced out of the hole and shattered in the ravine, spilling a sticky black goo that smelled like the Tar Pits of Mal’liente. The supposed trap was sprung too early, while the lizardmen were still 100 metres distant. After that, a foetid cohort of skaven slaves were driven out of the nest. They swarmed down the ravine to just outside javelin range and then there was a green flash from the tunnel. The black goo ignited in roiling red flames which raced along the trails left by each of the slaves and overtook them before barely one had reached the spears of the saurus. The flames leapt up the legs and then the rags that the rat men wore. Rags which had been daubed in the same black filth. Skaven slaves afire run scarcely slower than normal, and the mobile torches had filtered through the front lizardmen rank and scattered into the midst before Sken-Dar himself had recovered from his surprise. The slaves died, of course, by spear, blade and flame, but not before the their shrieks and choking black smoke had baffled and disorientated lizardmen. Now Sken-Dar found himself surrounded by smouldering carcassess, in nominal control of a disordered rabble and too scattered and too far from the nest's unseen exit to prevent a Skaven breakout enmasse. He pulled Rekdok's dripping muzzle around again and all but collided with Kithmuun, drummer of the Spears of Tsumac. The Cold One reared, threw her master and lurched away. But while he was raised above the fume for an instant, Sken-Dar saw the answer to his dilemma. The slaves had left snaking trails of fire behind them. Any one of them would lead to the ravine, and beyond to the killing bottle neck. "Beat the march, Saurus Kithmuun," the Scar Veteran grunted even as he lurched to his feet and regathered his blade. "Beat the march." "Beat the march?" Kithmuun gyrated his head like an idiot. "There is no march. No direction...." "Follow." Sken-Dar's first footfall crushed the smoking skull of the nearest rat-corpse and his second extinguished the first guttering flames of the trail from thence to his objective. Kithmuun didn't understand his leader's intent but he knew better than to disobey. With a rattle of skulls, he settled the strap of Tsumac's Thunder around his neck and then began beat the taut skins of the ancient war drum in time with his commander's inexorable strides. Drawn as if unto the Light of Chotec Himself, the nearest of the lizardmen turned to the sound of the beat and soon formed a narrow wedge of bone and scale which followed in Sken-Dar's steps and soon made a thunder of their own as hundreds more joined and stomped in time with their leader. Despite losing formation with their nearest kin, they were the Pride of Chaqua, the Gold Legion, and they advanced like an acute spearpoint towards the mountain's heart. ***** Warpgunner-Skerrit was used to managing without the use of his one glittering eye in his nefarious doings in the Under-Empire. He had other senses which served him well in the treacherous blackness, primarily his keen sense of smell. Currently it was as much use to him as his streaming eye because all he could smell was charred fur and the musk of fear, and most of the latter was his own. His Master, Warp-Engineer Trivett, had convinced Skerrit of the virtue of a plan to keep a dignified withdrawal-retreat tunnel open by the use of a sacrificial force of lesser rats. Trivett's own second favourite warp-lightning cannon, the Thirteenth Toll would be used to scatter and harass any surviving lizard things. Skerrit had some misgivings about the plan, considering his missing eye and the Thirteenth Toll's general inability to fire even one aimed shot during a battle and its specific propensity to whir loudly, spin around and spit shards of warpfire every which way. Skerrit's misgivings were first allayed by the Engineer encouraging him and his crew to the mouth of the tunnel with an oversized warp-blunderbus, and then restored and reinforced by his master's sudden absence when the slave-flambe gambit appeared to have failed to turn the lizard-things away from a tunnel which was now defended by a one eyed gunner, two witless loaders and a self-immolating warp-cannon. With no better than an 80% chance that the Thirteenth would toll at all, Skerrit supposed that he might as well make a brief effort for the Great Horned One's glory before he found a bolt hole of his own. He pounced on the aiming cogs and spun the incline wheel hard, with the intention of blasting out the tunnel's ceiling and then trusting his proven ability to dodge falling stalagmites. Then Skerrit heard a resonant sound, a rattle of skulls above the hubbub below. It was followed by a sonorous, rhythmic thudding which seemed to swell as it plodded closer. He closed his one eye, laid a scarred cheek on the Thirteenth Toll's humming irregulator and slowly adjusted the aim downwards and in line with the music which tugged on his dish-like ears like the pipes of the Great Horned Rat Himself. Spoiler: ”Story Three: A Time to Remember” A TIME TO REMEMBER “You sing sweetly, bard. I felt the romantic suffering of Alhana, while her beloved one rode into battle against the usurper. Were you singing about romance, or heroic deeds?” “My lady, that was sweet as a lemon. Real romance is very different and I can sing it, but I cannot do it in front of the noble warriors that gathered in this hall. Their ears are used to the sound of battles, and what truly lies in my heart is not for this place…” “Then, bard, I command you to follow me out of here, so I can hear it.” “As you wish, my lady…” ---------------------------------------------- In horror tales, the coming of undead was always preceded by the silence of the scared animal life. Here in Lustria, Hans learned that those tales were false. Birds, insects and monkeys were still going about their normal life, paying no attention to the horde of zombies and ghosts that just slaughtered Duke Jurgen’s expeditionary force; their cacophony was the funeral march. The zombies were now separating the dead from the wounded soldiers; many of the wounded ended their lives with suffocated screaming, but a few were taken prisoner, just like Hans. There was some bitter irony in all of this. The expedition was a well prepared one… every detail was planned, officials instructed the troop about the known tactics employed by the lizardmen, and there were antidotes for poisons. Their wizard had a vast array of spells specifically compiled to excel against cold-blooded reptiles and there was even a map with the locations of reported settlements, home to abundances of gold and gems. Despite the preparation, nature had other plans. The storm took them away from their intended route, ending their journey near a harsh coastline… constructions were visible far into the jungle, so they went for them, ready to fight lizards. They found none. At twilight they were making camp in a clearing. Suddenly, a mist rose from the jungle, enveloping the cannons… the crew fell silently to the ground, then supernatural screeches decimated the harquebusiers. Was it an ambush? Nobody had heard a lizard sound like that before. There was rustling in the dark thicket, and finally the slow zombies came, pushing their mass through bushes into the unsupported infantry. Hans heard the wizard scream something about a vampire coast, but then the mage was trampled down by a hellish steed, atop it, an undead dark commander. It had been a massacre. Mysteriously, Hans and some other soldiers were still alive, taken prisoners. A boy near Hans was sobbing, muttering prayers to Sigmar. “Shut up, you moron. We are still alive… would you prefer to be one of those dismembered corpses?” “They are going to eat us! they will devour us alive!” “If you shit yourself a little more, not even the most rotten zombie will touch you. Now shut up, let me see who’s coming…” A man in a black robe was examining the prisoners; his face was incredibly old, with wizened skin and yellow eyes, glossed over by cataracts… he seemed a frail old man, holding himself to a staff, but his movements were vigorous, and his speech firm. “Tonight, when Morrslieb is high, you will be given the gift of undeath. The proper rite, with living specimens, will let me create powerful Wights.” A faint cry broke the silence, maybe a plea of some sort… a green, malevolent light from the staff, stroke the supplicant, turning the prayers into screams of agony. “I need your bodies, not your babblings! I won’t hear pleas of mercy, or you will see that there are fates worse than undeath!” The necromancer went away, to oversee the work of the undead that were emptying the battlefield. “Sweet Sigmar! We’ll be turned into monsters! Did you want to see who was coming, Hans? It’s our death sentence.” “Maybe, or maybe not. He may be evil, but he’s still alive… and I do believe that man will be our way out”. -------------------------------------------------------- “You dishonored my daughter, bard. You are going to die for this, You know it, right? The guards had beaten him already. Blood was spilling from the broken lip and an eye was swollen shut, but the other one was still spirited, while he was sustaining the duke’s glance. “Can I speak in my defense, my Lord Jurgen?” There was a moment of silence. “Do you think some words can make me change my mind? I’m not a gullible girl, dead man. But please, feel free to speak…” ----------------------------------------------------------- As expected, the necromancer came back to them. Four undead minions took a sort of altar, and he started to decorate it with glyphs, candles and blood paintings. Some of the boys were praying to Sigmar, creating a fluctuating litany in the background. “Annoying scum… I’m going to rot your worthless tongues as soon as I’m finished with the carvings…” That was the sign Hans was waiting for. “My Lord, I’m not a religious man and those prayers are giving me a headache. Might I just sing something, to distract my companions in their last hour?” The necromancer did not take his eyes off his work “I hate the singing. But if you make them stop praying, I’ll rip out your tongue last.” Hans smiled, and started to sing. ------------------------------------------------------------- The Admiral looked at the swabbie with poorly hidden contempt. Hans wore ragged and dirty clothes, that didn’t hide the signs of the whip on his back. The fleet set sail one month ago. “I have been given instructions to make your life miserable, boy… but I am a practical man. My musician is ill and dying; I know you can entertain a tune. I think I will give you a chance to please me.” “If I’m going to please you, Admiral, I hope my stomach will see some real food, and there will be no more wiping, nor whipping….”. The eyes of the fleet’s commander turned hard as iron. “You’d better surprise me right now boy, or you will know the joy of keelhauling…” ------------------------------------------------------------- Hans sang, his crystal clear voice filling the open space surrounded by trees. He sang about his homeland, about friends, about freedom, remembrances, love, life and joy; about happiness, family, sharing and empathy; then he sang about melancholic feelings for missed opportunities… but there was still hope, redemption, and forgiveness. The song was a delicate flower that was slowly opening, letting them see the chance for a future, a destiny yet to be written, the promise of a… “Stop singing. Stop it…. please.” The necromancer had spoken. Hans had sung for what seemed like hours, and the necromancer had ceased working long ago, staring at the darkness, facing away from the prisoners, lost in thoughts while the bad moon was rising. He turned and looked toward the prisoners; his yellow eyes were glistening with tears. “I had forgotten it. So many years… so many decades, maybe centuries… the memories were lost to me. There are days when I wonder why I took this path, and I don’t know the answer. My companions are the undead, and I have power over what seems as nothing. Even the lizardmen, those cold-blooded abominations, share a companionship that to me is negated. I question myself, but there’s no past to help me.” A deep breath. “But now I remember. Me and my kind. The joy of the others, their happiness. The shunning, the cruel jokes, the insults, the false hopes and the derisive laughter. A chasm growing wider each day. The sadness and the bitterness, the anger and the hate. The desire for vengeance, the desire to be feared, the search for a frightening power.” The Necromancer looked again at Hans, with cold and dry eyes. The staff glowed green, matching the light casted by Morrslieb. “What of me, then?” Hans asked. The necromancer grinned, “You have restored my resolution, singer, and you will be rewarded for this. There will be a place of honor for you… in my personal regiment, from here to eternity”. Spoiler: ”Story Four: The Instrument” A thin trail of smoke spiralled faintly from the once blazing campfire, rising slowly into the pink predawn light. Around the dying coals there was a faint snoring; the newcomers splayed about on the leaf litter, closed off to the world wrapped in the calm of sleep. The light began to play on the ground around the camp, the bird filled canopy failing to block out every ray. Eerie birdsong began to fill the dense tropical forest, receiving replies from miles away. The creatures of the night returned to their homes, watching carefully for any signs of danger before tucking a head underwing or curling up in a nest of leaves. A slim clawed hand gripped the neck of the small, stringed instrument, hoisting it up and away from the quiet campsite. The Skink carefully picked its way back through the thick jungle, his feet barely touching the ground as he skilfully skipped through the greenery. Reaching what he believed to be a safe distance, the Skink scanned the smooth wood with a suspicious gaze before flipping the object over and shaking it vigorously. Placing it down atop a rotting log, he sat across from it and waited. Nothing. He continued to stare at it, unblinking and unfazed. Still nothing. The Skink hissed in annoyance narrowed his eyes at the instrument. He quietly approached and gently pulled at one of the strings with a scaled finger. *TWANG* He leapt back, letting out a surprised squeal. The string continued to vibrate for a while longer, the noise fading to a faint buzz and then to silence. Taking a step back towards it, he reached out again and plucked at a different string. It seemed somehow... 'higher' than the last and seemed to fade sooner. It didn't sound like it had when the warmblood easily ran his hands along the strings, pulling and plucking at different intervals. The strange song that filled the skinks head as he observed the small camp continued to play through his mind long after he had left. Surely only magic could occupy the mind in such a way? A sort of spell that would control your thoughts and actions, perhaps. No matter how evil it may be, the Skink knew he had to hear it again. >:-:< The man sang in a way that reminded the Skink of the bastilodons. Their bellowing cries would ring out through the night in a sorrowful beautiful sort of way. He wasn't entirely sure what the word 'beautiful' meant, but it seemed an appropriate context. The humans voice was higher and sweeter; it flitted easily through the words of the song with a sense of familiarity. His fingers plucking and strumming at the strings with a sense of rhythm and order. Order was good, it meant control and simplicity. Perhaps is wasn't the correct adjective to use, then, as it also seemed complex and free, like the colourful birds that patrolled the jungle's canopy. The Skink easily picked up the speed and regularity of the tune and found his tail unconsciously twitching at the music, his foot tapping the peaty earth. His focus solely on the sound bouncing around his skull, he only realised he had bumped the branch beside him when the sweet melody came to an abrupt halt. The small lizard men's eyes refocused and he silently slid back into the darkness of the jungle. >:-:< Turning his attention back to the object at hand, he picked it up and crouched on the log, grasping the instrument to his chest as the human had done. He strummed a hand over the hole in the wood, pulling at the strings. He recoiled in disgust at the untuned mess of noise that erupted from the thing in his hands, hissing and muttering quietly to himself. Again. He tried again holding the neck tightly. A short, blunt sound briefly occurred before again fading away into silence without a trace. Gently the Skink placed the instrument back on the log, again studying it. Where was the music coming from? Not the horrible twang of the strings, but the sweet quiet melody he had heard the previous night. Where did the magic come from? How could it be held in such a simple wooden object? Grabbing the neck of the instrument, the Skink smashed it onto the side of a tree, waiting for some... 'thing' to explode from the shards of wood and the tangled wires. He held his spear at the scraps and pieces, poking and jabbing at different splinters, waiting for anything to happen. After a moments consideration, He straightened up and scampered through the trees back to the temple, confused and frustrated at his futile venture. The birds continued to call through the trees, the greenery hiding them from sight. On the ground, a little Skink picking its way through the leaf litter, began to tap a rhythm, tucked safely away in his own head, a magic in its own right; making one act in the strangest of manners; with complexity and grace, purpose and freedom. Spoiler: ”Story Five: Dirge” Dirge They’re coming down the ridge. A thousand strong and we so few. Bestial cries from split tongues. Scaled hands with sickle blades. It’s the end. It boils up within me, the turmoil of countless woes. Crimes against our people, so vast and endless as to drown the world in sin and blood. I can no longer wash my hands of it. I feel the call of my brothers and raise my voice in song. How many slain? Not by the glorious hand of war, but the fevered touch thereafter. Streets aflame, hearts pounding, screams of children ringing in my ears. I remember first how it happened to me. Rushing home to our settlement only to find blank stares and bloodless hands. A ragged cry then, I knew no song, but the lamentations of my heart. How many cries have I heard since? How many voices protested my righteous compensation? Countless lives ruined to feed my hate. The beasts are here now, their impact staggering. All about me, man and beast unleash their rage against each other; ours against theirs. My arm rises and falls, each stroke another life, another victim in the never-ending cycle of vengeance. My voice carries on while my brothers fall. I sang for them once; those taken from me. My voice sure and strong. We all sang for them and our enemies trembled, but not for long. In the wake of our righteous anger, something changed. Caught up in our hate, we became the despoilers. I kill another, but more take his place. Bitter cold drives through me as one of many blades slides past my guard. I stagger and lash out. Another falls. Only a few voices carry the tune. They’re draining with their life’s blood. We hold close, but there’s no escape. No hope. What do I sing for now? My love is taken from me. My home, nothing but ash and broken dreams of a future that will never be. Passion filled my voice as I sought to right wrongs that never cease. Yet now, as I see the hateful gaze of those that would kill us, I see only a reflection of my own demise. The hatred festers and spreads, causing only more pain. Where are my brother’s voices now? Joseph, my neighbor, lay dead in a pool of his making. The baker’s son tries to put his stomach back together. A good boy at first, eventually absorbed by his cruelties. How many of the small ones had he slain in such a way? The scales he collected as they still drew breath... How long had he laughed at their suffering? A circle of bodies, a pile of dead. I am the last. My voice wavers as I fall to a knee. The song falters. I gather my last breath. I will die, and my song will die with me. A dark stain of the man I was, the man I should have been. Let them put me down like the dog I’ve become. No. I rise up. My song carries over the wails of the dying, sharp and clear. My enemy takes a step back as I remember what I was. I surge ahead, words cutting alongside my blade. They will hear my song, my story, my dirge. They will remember it and the sins that gave it life. They will hear my song and... Spoiler: ”Story Six: Splashing of Spawning” Splashing of Spawning With a gasp, a lizard clicks; Every lizard comes into this world with a splash. An arched back, a wide eye Every lizard yearns to live - see it thrash - A burning desire, smothered that instant, As the lizard heaves and bursts free with a crash. The first thing it knows is the great splashing of spawning. The first thing it dreads is the great world ahead, yawning. But... the next sensation it feels is a curious thing - The whole blazing universe has spilled into its head. It's known the splashing, the breathing, the roiling, the seething, The deafening thunder of a muted soft tread, The terrible brilliance of a dim, sunless chamber, After all this is known, and does not need to be said - What comes next is a kind hand (feel it drip, feel it glisten) And a soft, firm, knowing voice that says, Listen Every lizard is born simply knowing that song. It is the voice of good Lustria, the wet and the green. Like the lizard itself, it clicks and it lives. It splashes and shrieks, as our skink comes onto the scene, Hears the herds lumber and the predators roar, And it hears fellow lizards before they're smelled or they're seen. The ancient culture it's joined - it too lives and it thrums. The third thing a new-spawn knows is the call of the drums. Quiet at first, never close to the pools The beat grows with each careful step out. Until into the light of the great temple city The drums fill the air, set the pace, remove doubt. They are a struck by a team, of every size chosen, Their whole purpose vibrating from tail to snout. And everywhere is noise, energy, labour and life... But from the wide world beyond comes inevitable strife. Listen A small shift in the air; every lizard head turns. Beasts snort, work stops, skinks skitter and fret And the heads turn again, now away from the trees, Their gaze on the summit of the temple firmly set. Whence come the orders, a comfort to obey A comfort to know a pious power dwells there yet. And yea, the summit shines as the mage priest comes forth, Raises hands, belches. Translated: "Go north." The drumbeat redoubles, the host made ready for war. They empty the city; each member knows what to do. And every lizard heart sings and soars with the song; They know nothing so Great as a Plan to pursue. Clear orders, firm intentions, gods to honour and please - Eyes gleam at a world ordered all the way through. While their minds fill with phantoms of prophecies of old, There's a man in a boat who dreams of nothing but gold. Listen Our new-spawn is stationed with a far-advanced vanguard, And he hears a new music, an awful clarion call. At the treeline the sight hits them, arrayed on the shore The regiments of an empire, their ships mighty and tall. And the heralds come forward, proclaim glories intended, To their lips they raise up the greatest weapons of all. Trumpets, bright and bold. Speak to greed, a culture rotted - Alas, a second cry: the vanguard skinks have been spotted. Men stomp through the trees, come alive with their hate. Our skink takes its first life with an unthinking blowpipe. But steel pipes are stronger, with their powder and shot; Lizards fall from the trees where they hide and they snipe. The skink itself seized, dragged onto the sand. Not what it imagined for its first day of life. The herald draws a sword. It knows its fate comes. But the warmbloods stop and look up. Far off, there are drums. Listen They form ranks in a flash, and stare into the jungle, The beat louder and louder as the windless trees sway. Onwards, inevitable comes the living earthquake: A new music of war, hear it howl, hear it bray. As cannon and dinosaur boom on the beach Scaled legions relentless march into the fray. The chaos of conflict before order's bliss comes; The shore of green Lustria turns red in the sun. Amid the tumult and fury, our skink tries to escape, But it's grabbed by fat hands with a blotched, beardy leer. "You're mine!" cries the villain, "You'll make quite a specimen." It's dragged into the sea, to a boat anchored near. There is brine in its mouth and its eyes and its throat And a weight on its chest, the captor falls atop, speared. To the sea floor pinned, an underwater cage, Lost to the sight of priest, warrior or mage. Listen There's a great splashing of spawning, but also of death: Our hero's destiny fulfilled in less than a day. And the splashing is lost among the screams on the beach, Until it splashes no longer. A lizard sees now its way. It knows its own purpose, and the sweet taste of life. It knows hopes, aspirations and what it wishes to say. It knows what it is to have a gift, and to lose it. But most of all, it knows the sound of sweet Music. Spoiler: ”Version of Story Six with embedded video links” Splashing of Spawning With a gasp, a lizard clicks; Every lizard comes into this world with a splash. An arched back, a wide eye Every lizard yearns to live - see it thrash - A burning desire, smothered that instant, As the lizard heaves and bursts free with a crash. The first thing it knows is the great splashing of spawning. The first thing it dreads is the great world ahead, yawning. But... the next sensation it feels is a curious thing - The whole blazing universe has spilled into its head. It's known the splashing, the breathing, the roiling, the seething, The deafening thunder of a muted soft tread, The terrible brilliance of a dim, sunless chamber, After all this is known, and does not need to be said - What comes next is a kind hand (feel it drip, feel it glisten) And a soft, firm, knowing voice that says, Listen Every lizard is born simply knowing that song. It is the voice of good Lustria, the wet and the green. Like the lizard itself, it clicks and it lives. It splashes and shrieks, as our skink comes onto the scene, Hears the herds lumber and the predators roar, And it hears fellow lizards before they're smelled or they're seen. The ancient culture it's joined - it too lives and it thrums. The third thing a new-spawn knows is the call of the drums. Quiet at first, never close to the pools The beat grows with each careful step out. Until into the light of the great temple city The drums fill the air, set the pace, remove doubt. They are a struck by a team, of every size chosen, Their whole purpose vibrating from tail to snout. And everywhere is noise, energy, labour and life... But from the wide world beyond comes inevitable strife. Listen A small shift in the air; every lizard head turns. Beasts snort, work stops, skinks skitter and fret And the heads turn again, now away from the trees, Their gaze on the summit of the temple firmly set. Whence come the orders, a comfort to obey A comfort to know a pious power dwells there yet. And yea, the summit shines as the mage priest comes forth, Raises hands, belches. Translated: "Go north." The drumbeat redoubles, the host made ready for war. They empty the city; each member knows what to do. And every lizard heart sings and soars with the song; They know nothing so Great as a Plan to pursue. Clear orders, firm intentions, gods to honour and please - Eyes gleam at a world ordered all the way through. While their minds fill with phantoms of prophecies of old, There's a man in a boat who dreams of nothing but gold. Listen Our new-spawn is stationed with a far-advanced vanguard, And he hears a new music, an awful clarion call. At the treeline the sight hits them, arrayed on the shore The regiments of an empire, their ships mighty and tall. And the heralds come forward, proclaim glories intended, To their lips they raise up the greatest weapons of all. Trumpets, bright and bold. Speak to greed, a culture rotted - Alas, a second cry: the vanguard skinks have been spotted. Men stomp through the trees, come alive with their hate. Our skink takes its first life with an unthinking blowpipe. But steel pipes are stronger, with their powder and shot; Lizards fall from the trees where they hide and they snipe. The skink itself seized, dragged onto the sand. Not what it imagined for its first day of life. The herald draws a sword. It knows its fate comes. But the warmbloods stop and look up. Far off, there are drums. Listen They form ranks in a flash, and stare into the jungle, The beat louder and louder as the windless trees sway. Onwards, inevitable comes the living earthquake: A new music of war, hear it howl, hear it bray. As cannon and dinosaur boom on the beach Scaled legions relentless march into the fray. The chaos of conflict before order's bliss comes; The shore of green Lustria turns red in the sun. Amid the tumult and fury, our skink tries to escape, But it's grabbed by fat hands with a blotched, beardy leer. "You're mine!" cries the villain, "You'll make quite a specimen." It's dragged into the sea, to a boat anchored near. There is brine in its mouth and its eyes and its throat And a weight on its chest, the captor falls atop, speared. To the sea floor pinned, an underwater cage, Lost to the sight of priest, warrior or mage. Listen There's a great splashing of spawning, but also of death: Our hero's destiny fulfilled in less than a day. And the splashing is lost among the screams on the beach, Until it splashes no longer. A lizard sees now its way. It knows its own purpose, and the sweet taste of life. It knows hopes, aspirations and what it wishes to say. It knows what it is to have a gift, and to lose it. But most of all, it knows the sound of sweet Music. Spoiler: ”Story Seven: Here Comes the Sun” Here Comes the Sun “I don’t get why you gotta be so gloomy all the time, all this talk about death.” “Well you still got all your spawn mates.” “We’re only three.” “Well you have not lost the rest. “ “Yes, but you won’t lose anybody else now.” “That does not change it.” “The world that was is gone, be happy that you survived till the End Times so you can live forever here.” “What is a life alone?” “There that is what I am talking about. That gloom. Well you got me, and more, if you tried to make some friends. Not sneaking around the maintenance tunnels, where you should not be.” “Well there is no place in the sky for a hunter.” “hisssh” “No. You new spawn just don't get it. You never had a body.” “I do. What do you think this is?” “Well, it's not real.” Opochli drew his dagger and cut his finger causing a beam of light to stream out. “This is not a real body, look at it” “Well, we're here and Yuatec needed us for something.” Answered Tek’loq +++ The sword slipped, he could feel the hilt sliding, wet by blood. An Ungor swung at him and he raised his sword even though he shouldn't have. Now it was falling from his fingers. Glenn was left unarmed. The beastman’s club shattered the bones in his forearm, and the whole world exploded in pain. Glenn fell with the taste of copper in his mouth. But in the Ungor’s moment of triumph, another warrior stepped forward and slashed through its guts. Roaring, it fell like Glenn who drew his dagger. With a quick movement, Glenn slit the Ungor’s throat. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the warrior was still standing. The man was holding the Beastmen back and filling the gap in the humans’ line of defense. Seeing that he was safe he wrapped his damaged arm in his hood, trying to ignore the pain. As fast as he could, Glenn picked up his sword and retreated from the battle heading towards the houses. An old woman rushed to meet him and help him to the makeshift surgeon along the house wall. Without saying a word, the old woman slowly unwrapped his arm from the cloak. Glenn had to bite himself in the chin to not scream from the agony when the cloth that had stuck to his wound was pulled off. Glenn took a quick look at the wound and had to turn away with a sour burning in his mouth. The wound were massive, it were like a chunk of his arm had been bitten off or something. His skin was ripped and muscles and blood covered pulp beneath with splinters of white bone. The worst part was how his whole arm was bent. He knew it would never be able to use his arm like before. Here's hoping he wouldn't lose it. That would be a death sentence. He could never do farm work again with only one arm not properly, not worth to get paid for it. Glenn looked to the battle again, it was not going well. There were just too few humans the beasts where legion, a never ending swarm pouring down the valley. He thought they had been rooted out with the coming of Sigmar decades ago. Why wouldn't the Stormcast return and save them like the stories told. They were devoted of Sigmar, the chapel spire was rising behind him at the village centre. Why should they suffer? Then he saw a light like the sun coming up but it was already daytime and it raised from the wrong place from the end of the valley behind the beastmen. And the enemy burned in this light, a great beam cutting through the ranks of Gors and Ungors. Great Minotaur caught flame braying at the top of their lungs in pain. And just like that the majority of the herd was gone. The human defenders reinvigorated by this, pushed forward. Glenn looked to the source of the end of the light beam and saw a draconic beast charge across the ashen fields, cinders rising from its path. The great beast slammed into the Brayherds’ rear stamping the Gors down. Smaller lizard like creatures atop its scaled back hacked into the Beastmen with curved blades. The complete disarray of the enemy after the blast made them easy targets for the defenders who shortly had them all cut down. Glenn could just look on with astonishment as the last Gor was killed and the draconic beast disappeared in a light beam coming down from the sky. Damn his arm! He would become a bard telling this story across Ghur. Per usual, critiques, comparisons and friendly banter is encouraged. I'm not going to be too strict on this, but if you are aiming to do a comprehensive critique, I'd prefer you make a few large posts rather than a swarm of little ones. Mainly for the benefit of people who are reading this thread a year from now.