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Contest July-August 2015 Short Story Contest: and the winner is....

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, Aug 11, 2015.

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Which Story or Stories did you like best? (you may vote for up to two)

Poll closed Sep 10, 2015.
  1. Story One: The Lone Survivor

    3 vote(s)
    16.7%
  2. Story Two: Untitled Comic

    4 vote(s)
    22.2%
  3. Story Three: First Contact

    1 vote(s)
    5.6%
  4. Story Four: Untitled Seraphon Piece

    4 vote(s)
    22.2%
  5. Story Five: The Naturalist

    4 vote(s)
    22.2%
  6. Story Six: New Nature

    2 vote(s)
    11.1%
  7. Story Seven: Reborn

    4 vote(s)
    22.2%
  8. Story Eight: Monsoon Season

    6 vote(s)
    33.3%
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...I felt like it. If something is not right in general, reply to the main topic. If something is off with your piece you want me to fix or you want me to retcon in a title for one of the two untitled pieces, let me know with a PM.

    Polls open for 30 days. Might extend voting if we have a deadlock. Please do not submit a vote until you have read all eight pieces.

    The contest theme this time was "Man versus Nature."

    The Lone Survivor

    Fog began wreathing around Eifrayne as he bashed through the jungle. Wiping sweat and grit from his eyes, he checked the blood soaked bandage on his arm that was slowly sliding down. He pulled it up and looked around to see if he had escaped his unseen attackers.

    His question was answered as a javelin wedged itself into a tree, inches from his face. His blistered feet screamed at him as he broke back into an agonizing run. This time he turned downhill, reasoning the fog would be thicker below. After a while, the steamy fog obscured most things further than a few feet away and his pursuers had finally lost him. He kept running for another few minutes before he felt safe enough to sit down on a fallen log and rested his throbbing feet.

    He was an unlikely adventurer. Most of his life had spent staying up late at night with his nose in a book. All odds were against him lasting longer than his companions, just as they had been against him joining Captain Alton on the jungle expedition. It was his unrelenting inquisitiveness that had got him into reading about adventures and which led him to take the next obvious step. He had abandoned his studies and joined up, a decision he now regretted deeply. He also regretted leading the other members of the crew to the abandoned city. He wished he and his friends had never laid eyes it.


    Eifrayne pushed through the jungle, with his good friend Arden Tanner, one of the young men who had joined the crew for the journey. Nyell, the other scout was only a few feet ahead, yet completely hidden by the thick jungle. He gave a gleeful shout of surprise and Eifrayne and Arden quickly rushed to catch up.

    The three of them had come in hope of gaining fame and fortune when they had joined Captain Alton’s expedition, but so far, the promise of riches had not fulfilled. So far they had found only trees, pillaged stone ruins and more trees.

    This was different. Massive stone blocks, inlaid with gold and precious stones had been layered to build a massive doorway into the outer wall of an amazing city. Vines and creepers were growing up the brickwork that made the wall, with carvings of different symbols and characters Eifrayne didn't understand. Two statues of what looked to Eifrayne like half lizard half men were perched on either side of the entrance, each holding a broad shield and heavy looking halberd. Each one so life like. They must have been there for a while because moss and vines were beginning to grow over their feet. Inside the main wall, much was concealed from sight, but roughly central to the whole city, towering over the building tops that jutted out over the wall, was a giant pyramid.

    On top of the pyramid was a small building with more carvings displayed on it. Four more statues stood outside the building each as intricately designed as the ones outside. The city looked old. Very old.

    "It must have housed an ancient civilisation. They must have worshipped some kind of man-lizard god." Eifrayne said, "Although they must have died out ages ago. No one could survive in this jungle for long." He continued in a matter of fact sounding voice. “It’s a whole new language! A new culture! And we’re the ones who discovered it! Look at all those carvings, we could learn so much more about the southern civilisations.”

    “What do you want to learn stuff for?” Arden stated blankly, “After this, we’ll be so rich you could buy all the books you want! Why, you could even pay someone to read them for you!”

    “Let stop talking about it, and get to filling our pockets. We’ll be living like kings soon,” Nyell stated eagerly.

    “We should tell Alton first, he won’t be happy if we take the gold for ourselves.” Arden pointed out, “It’s not like we can smuggle arm loads of gold back to camp without drawing attention to ourselves. Anyway, we could go back and get the others to bring the wagons. We’ll still be rich.”

    The trio agreed to head back to the rest of the crew and tell of their discovery.


    Eifrayne unwound the bloodied cloth from his arm to inspect the wound. The blood hadn't quite stopped flowing from the deep cut in his upper arm, and Eifrayne accepted it was going to leave one heck of a scar. He fixed is bandage up tightly and planned his next move. Escaping enemies is one thing, but surviving in the wild is another.

    The first thing that he would need was fresh water. Standing up, he covered the blood that he had left on the log and the scuff marks on the ground with the leaves that covered the jungle floor, hoping that his pursuers would not know that he had come this way. From now on, he would have to be more careful about covering his tracks. After making sure he had left no trace, Eifrayne quietly continued downhill.

    After walking for an hour or so, Eifrayne heard the trickle of water. Hurrying on, he came to the edge of a small stream that cut a path through the jungle. He crouched in the undergrowth before going to the water’s edge, in case other creatures might also be looking for a drink. Confident that nothing else was nearby, he slowly moved out of the bushes to the water. Once he was there, his secretive ceased as he greedily gulped mouthfuls of water. Once again, he untied his bandage. He rinsed out the cloth and gingerly splashed water on his wound. He gritted his teeth and it took all he had not to yell out in pain. When he had cleaned his wound as much as he could, he again tied the cloth to his arm and drank some more water. He washed his face and took off his shoes.

    After dangling his feet in the cool running water for a while, he decided it would be safer and more refreshing if he walked in the stream, where he would leave no foot prints. Eifrayne continued upstream and searched for his next vital requirement: shelter. He wouldn’t last long without shelter from the elements and a good, defensible hiding place.

    As he followed the stream, it snaked through several rocky outcrops. After a while, Eifrayne came across a large overhang between two boulders.

    Not knowing what beast might be living in the cave, Eifrayne approached cautiously. He picked up a stone to throw into the cave. Either there was something in there waiting to kill him, or there was nothing and he could use the cave for shelter.

    He gritted his teeth and threw the stone. Nothing happened. Exhaling, he stuck his head inside and inspected his new home. He now had a roof over his head and a hiding spot. It was close to a fresh water source, but he still needed food.

    As he had been wading through the stream, Eifrayne had noticed some small shoals of silver fish. He decided one might do as a meal. The only problem was, he didn’t have means to catch one.

    Then he remembered the javelin that had been thrown at him. If he could make a similar one, he might be able to spear a fish. Outside, Eifrayne found scattered piles of drift wood along the shore, and after searching for a while, he came across a long pole like stick. It was comfortable in hand and well balanced. This would do as his spear.

    He had rubbed the end of his stick on a coarse rock until he had filed it to a sharp point. Then he found a calm, deep pool filled with well sized fish. After many attempts, he managed to skewer a few to take back to the cave. He sat down in his new home, and was about to start preparing his meal, when he realized he had no way to make a fire. Eifrayne picked up one of the fish. It felt slimy and cold in his hands and he was glad no one else was there as he took a bite of the slimy flesh. He gagged but forced himself to swallow the disgusting mouthful. It wasn't very appealing, but he was going to be there for a while. Maybe even the rest of his life, which might be quite short with those ferocious lizard people out there, so he needed to get used to it.

    After a while, Eifrayne returned to the shore in search of more possibly useful items. Eventually realising there was nothing else on the stream bed within a safe distance to the cave, he decided to enter the jungle.

    He didn't go too far in, as the mist, which he previously thought as an aid in his escape, now prevented his ability to see attackers from far off like he could on the shore. A little way in, Eifrayne came across a sizeable, but flexible sapling. Thinking it could be used as a weapon, he found a sharp looking rock and beat the sapling off at the end. He carried it back to the shore, along with several vines, the image of a bow hanging in his mind as he walked through the fog.

    He started to pull the stringy bark of the sapling, even though it was getting too dark to see clearly. He planned to keep busying himself with his survival to prevent his thoughts from straying back to the massacre of the crew in front of the city.


    At the description of the city, the Captain decided that the next day they would all go explore the city. Eifrayne noticed more than one were looking extra thoughtful at the mention of the gold and gemstones.

    After packing supplies early the next morning, the group set out for the city. They trekked through the jungle, following the young scouts until they came to the city. As soon as they arrived the rest of the crew ran in different directions to find their own share of treasure.

    Eifrayne, Arden and Nyell stood right where they were. Something wasn't right. None could put their finger on it for a while, but when they realised what was different, it made the three of them feel sick. The statues had gone.

    [​IMG]

    First Contact

    Silence in a world of noise. Not a sound or a sight of any living creatures. No animals, no birds, no chirping insects vying for dominance of their tiny world. Nothing, but the trees. The usual sounds that once brought fear would oddly seem a comfort at this time. The jungle was quiet, as if it seemed afraid.

    Alfredo’s ears perked at the slightest noise. The clang of knocking branches and the rustle of leaves as hulking giants of bark swayed in the breeze was observed by himself and the others. Gazing up at two opposing armies of flora that played out a battle above their heads, they had forgotten the situation they found themselves. Time seemed to slow to allow the drama of the green skirmish to unfold. The dead leaves falling to the ground below, resting beside their fallen cousins, sinking into the earth, ultimately rotting to feed other forms of jungle life.

    "It’s too quiet" said Alfredo in a soft yet assertive tone.

    The men braced themselves, as if ready for a collision. Their shields rose a little higher as they walked, gently stepping forward crunching leaves underfoot. The men now unrecognizable since their three year journey from Estalia. Their grizzly dark beards and scraggly hair would look out of place amongst the mustached and well-groomed countrymen back home. Many had lost their armour or else looked filthy. They hadn’t eaten or washed for a long time. Desperation had forced them to venture further from the coast and deeper into the jungles of Lustria.

    "We’re being watched," whispered De Rossi. Alfredo’s brother was a big man. Stronger than most and an excellent fighter, although not the brightest, he was intuitive.

    "This is different than before," said one of the group.
    "There is more in this jungle than the beasts we’ve encountered," claimed De Rossi.
    "You’re right there brother, but we’re not being watched," sighed Alfredo. "I fear we’re being hunted."

    The group etched forward, like a moss encasing a boulder during the first weeks of spring. They moved in sync, all well drilled with the proven skills needed for war. The dense, inter-twinning jungle trees made it difficult for all the men to see Alfredo’s hand commands, but it made no difference. These men had fought together many times before and developed a brotherly instinct within the group. The pikemen moved forward, followed by crossbowmen with the swordsmen at the flanks. An aura of confidence globed the group. De Rossi glimpsed at movement in the corner of his eye and turned to face it, but he couldn’t seem to move; his feet felt heavy.

    He reached to his throat and grasped at an object protruding outwards. He squeezed and pulled but his grip weakened. His energy sapped out from his body. He pulled harder letting out a scream. Slumping to his knees with watery, eyes he looked to his palm: a dart, slender with feathers at one end, cleverly arranged to allow a straight flight, the other end broken. His eyes widened with disbelief. He stiffened, his face tightened, and with his last breath he uttered "Daemons."

    The thud of the giant-man hitting the ground sent a shudder through the spines of the men. Panic rippled through the Estalians as many more began to fall around them. Silent missiles striking them with pinpoint accuracy and ferocious cruelty.

    "Estalians!" screamed Alfredo, "Shields on me!" In the chaos the men rushed to their captain, knelt down forming a circle and raised their shields. Unaware of his brother’s demise Alfredo continued to command and inspire.

    "Do not fear!" exclaimed the captain. His volume dropped "They are flesh and bone just like you and me, and they bleed; they bleed very well." Alfredo turned to his men "Trust in your sword and your shield. Trust in your brothers who stand beside you. And trust in yourself, to send these daemons back into the vile depths where they belong!"

    The group roared as their confidence began to flow. The sound of darts hitting metal played a chorus not too unfamiliar from that heard in the taverns of the Old World and even drew a smile from some of the men. The tune came to a stop; Alfredo peeked through a gap in the shield wall into the darkness surrounding his shell. Screeches, barks and clicks could be heard from within the thick tree line. Alfredo sensed an intelligence from his foe as they communicated. Within a heartbeat, they attacked.

    Sprinting from the depths the beasts pounced on their prey. A flurry of colours could be seen, darting amongst the browns and greys of the men, striking specific targets in the formation, clearly a measured attack. Half a dozen men had been killed before Alfredo had a clear sighting of the creatures. They stood no taller than to the shoulders of a small man, emerald green scales from head to toe with a bright red frill capping their heads. Their tails provided their balance and steering as they acrobatically floated around the jungle from the undergrowth to the canopy with ease. One creature stood taller than the others, barking and screeching, calculating the next movement of his kin. Alfredo had time to digest what he saw. This larger one had a full crimson head with piercing yellow eyes. A long snout with needle like teeth completed the menacing face. Its head moved with quick jerks as it surveyed the massacre until it locked eyes with the lone man in front of it. The head crest erected, opening up like a galleon’s sail. Alfredo stared back. A pain spread over his chest as his heart began to race. He tightened his grip on his rapier and dug his heels into the dirt. Visions flickered in his mind of how he thought the next few moments could play out but decades of experience: hundreds of battles and three wars seemed inconsequential now.

    The attack came from both sides. Parrying strikes from all angles, Alfredo stumbled over the bodies of his fallen comrades and fell onto his stomach. He felt the handle of a polearm, seizing it in one hand he rolled to his right and thrust his arm into the air. The blade impaled a scaled one and the beast let out a deafening shriek. It’s jaws snapped as it slid down the pole, aiming to inflict one more kill before it perished. Its claws sunk into Alfredo’s shoulders as it inched closer. Letting out a scream, the man tossed the speared beast to one side and scrambled to his feet. Before he could gain his senses, another had lunged at him. The beast slashed at Alfredo’s face forcing him to use his arm as a shield. The pain of his flesh tearing buckled his legs forcing him to one knee. The hair on his face became saturated with his own blood. Reaching down, he grasped for a dagger fastened to his thigh and drove it beyond his mangled arm and into the beast.

    Alfredo pushed himself up, standing on two feet. Exhausted, he wiped the blood from his eyes. Surrounded by at least two dozen of the scaled creatures he felt all was lost and came to terms with his fate, praying in his head to the gods and relinquishing his soul.

    ‘Keephh thisss one’ hissed the crimson faced one.

    Alfredo was struck to the back of the head and collapsed. As he lay there he wondered in amazement. Questions filled his mind. Who or what are these creatures? Why do they want him? Why did they kill all of his men? Amongst the dead he spotted his brother. Open eyed and pale faced he rested there right in front. Maddened that he did not protect his younger brother he tried to move but couldn’t. Alfredo wished and begged to the gods that they could switch places, but all he heard were the clicks and snarls of the scaled ones. Despair filled his motionless body. Blackness overcame him.

    Alfredo’s body was dragged from the scene. The beasts took their two deceased kin with them, leaving behind the pile of human bodies. As quick as they had come and killed, they had gone, vanishing back into the darkness.

    Out of hiding, animals began to rustle amongst the undergrowth, birds began to sing and insects began to chirp. The jungle found it’s voice again.

    ~It's so much like home~

    That was the first thing that had come through his mind after he had stepped through the leygate and materialized in the realm known to mortal men as the Jade Palace. He remembered how he had skittered up the branches of a nearby fruiting tree to see an endless canopy of leaves and rivers sprawled out as far as his reptilian eyes could see. The joy of the moment had made his crest flare from a cautious shade of green to an awestruck shade of livid pink, his posture relaxed slightly as he took in the sight.

    He also remembered how the moment had been ruined as another sizzling pop had caught his ears, and how the skink handler's crest had shifted immediately to black as he watched his charge slink through the leygate, groaning in displeasure, and with it, his mission.

    But that was almost a week ago. At the moment, Itzli was crouched down in the mud of a boggy creek, his sharp claws digging a rut into the partially submerged log he was hunkered behind. Itzli was rather large for his kind, his black serpentine flesh covered with hardened gray scales. His lean body was covered in scars and thickened plates that spoke of career experience earned through pain and cunning. A hammered Celestite breastplate was lashed to his chest with leather straps, the shimmering golden image of Sotek embossed proudly upon its surface, obscured only by the thick, sticky clay of the swamp. Peeking between reeds and creeper vines, his head half beneath the brackish waters, he watched as Sylvaneth Treekin traded hammering blows with the mortal slaves of Nurgle, silently assessing the unfolding battle before him and wishing desperately he could be back at the top of that tree, lost in wonder at the place that reminded him so much of his forever lost home.

    He watched, tongue flicking out to taste the air out of nervous habit, quietly clicking his teeth in frustration as he watched a particularly bloated champion cleave a shrieking Branch-Wraith in two with a filth-encrusted axe. It made his skin crawl to watch the filthy beasts poison this realm, but Metzlhuan had been clear: he was there not to turn the tide of battle but to wait until the right moment. A wet, throaty growl bubbled through the water next to the Handler as his charge, a 1500-pound bull Salamander, fixed a hungry glare on the Skink.

    Itzli didn't blink, starting back as he oscillated his Obsinite goadspear beneath the water. Dried nuts and shells slipped from one side of the hollow staff to the other, resonating with a twinkling sound that carried through the water and was synonymous with punishment to a trained Seraphon warbeast. It was a ritual of sorts, this mutual deathglare as a predator stared down it's keeper, a dance Itzli had done a thousand times. Both fanned their crests in intimidating displays of aggression hues, the Salamander debating if today was the day it would value his taste over the potential consequences of a reprisal.

    This was why Itzli was squatting in the swamp, sidelined in a battle he'd far and away rather participate in. This Salamander had killed many attendants, and even made moves to kill it's pack mates. It was rutting, and as such it would continue to remain troublesome until it was given a way to vent it's hormonal rages. So, Metzlhuan had decreed the beast should be blooded in battle, until it's temperament became manageable once more. So at the Mage-Priest's command, Itzli found himself out in the field again, staking his survival on his ability to command respect from a creature that clearly wasn't interested in the notion of submission. The Skink's crest retracted in relief as the Salamander snorted irritably and turned it's hateful gaze back on the skirmish unfolding in front of them, allowing the handler to relax his posture and slink back down into the mud.

    Itzli hadn't realized how long that dominance display had lasted until he turned his attentions back forward; the carnage was unbelievable, even by the standards of a Saurus Cohort. The Sylvaneth were destroyed to the last, twitching bodies cleaved to splinters and kindling, while the Nurglich warband was reduced to only a small group of nine survivors, most scrounging the battlefield for trinkets and trophies
    . Next to him, the warbeast rumbled impatiently, it's hunger straining the already tenuous control it's handler exerted over it as a marauder wandered towards their hiding spot, torching bodies and droning a buzzing prayer to the lord of flies beneath his putrid pig-iron helm. The skink warrior's nose twitched as a particularly offensive smell reached his snout, making him choke quietly. ~Perhaps the mortals? Nurgle's servants never cared much for hygiene... No, this isn't rot... The corpse fires?... No, this is so much more closer... much more like-~ Just as it struck him what it was, his eyes caught the Salamander drooling it's corrosive venom. The substance flickered and sprung to fiery life as it met the air, filling the surrounding bog with the stench of cordite and brimstone, sizzling as it kissed the swampy water.

    The veteran handler blanched, his crest draining of color as he started admonishing the creature with soft clicks and the drizzling threat-sound of his wargoad as the Marauder looked up from his torch duty. The slave of the ruinous powers tilted his head to the wind; meanwhile, Itzli watched with a growing sense of horror as the featureless mask of the warrior turned to face their hiding spot and began to walk towards them. Fear turned to fury as anger overwhelmed the Seraphon as he hissed at the cosmic injustice of the situation; he had hoped to let the marauders disperse further, until he could let the Salamander pick them off in relative safety: one straggler at a time. Now, as the armored figure worked it's way closer, all Itzli could think of was how, for the first time in his life, one of his charges had taken him by surprise.

    It was one thing to be killed by the beast you raised; it was the will of Sotek that such creatures were hungry and such incidents were not considered shameful for the victim. Usually those killed while rearing the monsters were venerated as the most reverent, death of this kind being viewed as one of the most noble sacrifices one could make in the service of the Old Ones. But to die because the creature he was tasked with rearing manipulated him? He shuddered with rage, glaring angrily at the Salamander, debating whether it was more shameful be outsmarted by a beast or to kill his charge himself as the beast looked back at him lazily, drooling it's vile poisons in open defiance of his orders.

    ”Av skroggi skjegg?...“

    Itzli turned his head in the murky water, and found himself glaring into an armored helm not more than an arm's length away. The smell of bile and festering wounds filled the skink's nose as the two warriors stood transfixed, each stunned by the presence of the other. Up close, the chaos servant was even more putrid than afar, his rotting cape of furs covered in hardened layers of pus and gore, maggots falling from his hair like twitching rain. Under his blank-faced helm, Itzli could see bloodshot eyes and a poorly trimmed beard covered with a film of grime, snot and still uneaten food. His breath reeked of rotten teeth and foully cooked food.

    It seemed like an eternity as the Seraphon and the Mortal glared at one another, reptilian eyes glaring uncertainly at the towering warmblood. Suddenly, the man broke from their shared stupor. With a grunt, he heaved the broad-bladed axe from his side and brought it up into a striking position. “Hva er dette?!“ Other marauders turned towards the scene, and seeing that any hope of evading detection had passed, Itzli rose from the muck and pointed his goad spear at the barbarian, rattling the rainstick loudly.

    ~Now or never, I suppose.~ “~CAH MIHCATZINTLI!!~” The norseman paused in midswing, stunned by the Skink's seemingly insane babble. The barbarian never realized the skink's intent as the bull salamander lunged from the brackish water and ended his life with a snap of it's jaws. Shouts and whoops issued from the few remaining marauders as they heaved weapons and started running towards the struggle, thirsting for another chance to prove themselves before their fell patron.

    Itzli stepped over the twitching body, rattling his goad to call the feasting Salamander to his side. As the howling warriors closed the gap the skink gently tapped the midnight-black edge of his goadspear on the warbeast's side. Itzli's crest flared an exhilarated shade of blood red as he felt the Salamander draw in a heavy breath, and with a wet throaty rattle, the field erupted into screams and fire.

    The Naturalist

    Captain Merrich’s left hand always strayed to the neck of his scabbard when he was nervous or upset. In fact, he had been furious a moment earlier, but had retained enough objectivity to realize that rage or bluster would not make his next conversation easier. In fact, nothing seemed to make any conversation with the academician easier. The best he could hope for was making it shorter.

    As he steadied his thoughts and relaxed his fingers, the mercenary captain examined the two bizarre creatures before him. The pair had a lot in common.

    Neither the warm blooded scientist nor the cold blooded reptile seemed to have any regard for humankind. Neither expressed emotion in any way that Merrich could read. And both seemed to be intent on bringing about the deaths of the captain and his men. The cold one was merely being more direct in its approach.

    The reptile alternated between crashing its slavering jaws against the bars of the cage and thrusting its taloned forelimbs through the gaps, as it had done since its capture on the previous afternoon. The scientist crouched just out of reach, occasionally making notes on the bundle of parchments he held. They ignored Merrich’s approach and continued their tasks with machinelike dedication.

    “Academician Mainz.” There was no acknowledgement. Merrick tried again in a louder voice. “Academician, you should know that Bertrand will lose his arm. I fear he will also lose his life if the rot sets in. Compensation will be required either way.”

    “You fear the rot?” The scientist turned away from the murderous lizard and peered at the soldier through a pair of gold rimmed lenses which were pinched onto his nose. Merrich had been under Mainz’s scrutiny many times, but the grotesquely magnified eyes still unnerved him.

    “Why should you fear the rot, Merrich? Do you not know that it is caused by tiny creatures which eat, breed and defecate in body tissue? One day we will subjugate the rot just as we have done with this caged specimen. All things shall be described, catalogued and subdued.”

    Merrich returned to the point of his statement. “Compensation, Academician. I remind you of our contract. Payment will occur whether you return to Altdorf or not, but all other losses are to be defrayed in the final payment. The losses are Muller, Uhlrich and Schmetterling since we left the ship, and, Manaan willing, just Bertrand’s arm today.”

    Mainz put his papers down on a crate of instruments and smoothed down his academic robes. To Merrich’s relief, he also removed his eye lenses and placed them on top of his notes.

    “Is compensation all that concerns you?” he sighed as he massaged the bridge of his nose. He lowered his hand and adopted the look he used on dim first year students. “You should not fear that the contract will be left unfulfilled, Merrich. The Academy’s purse is heavy.”

    The reptile interrupted with a particularly vehement attack on the cage. Its long canine teeth were undamaged by the iron bars, but its scaly lips were torn and bloodied from a night and a morning of repeated impacts.

    Merrich advanced his other concern before he lost the scientist’s attention again. “That is as well, Academician, but I must also protest that you are putting my men, and the academy’s purse at risk by insisting on collecting such creatures alive. Bertrand would be whole if we had put some arrows into this thing as soon as we stumbled upon it, and I see no reason to keep it alive longer than it takes to get it to the ship’s cook – it looks to have some decent flesh on it.”

    The academician also had a look he reserved for morons. He employed it now.


    “The Academy has a gallery filled with stuffed and mounted specimens from all corners of the earth. They do nothing but inflame the imagination of gawping students. We can learn next to nothing about a creature from its dead body.”

    “But the creatures of this land are scarcely unknown. Why not heed to the accounts of witnesses who have been here in the past?”

    “Which witnesses do you refer to? I know that you did the round of taverns in Marienburg to find out what you could from returned treasure seekers – and I am sure you did not find a solitary scientist among them. Tell me, what did your pirates tell you about these beasts?”

    “About this kind? These are known to some as ‘cold ones’. I was told they hunt in packs, like wolves. They kill until there are no more prey, even if they do not lack sufficient food. One fellow said that he was lucky to escape when his crew were attacked by a pack of them which carried other lizards - lizard warriors - on their backs.”

    “How credible do your superstitious pirates seem now? Tell me, what do you observe about this fine example of a cryosaurus mainzii?”

    “Why do you name all of these creatures after yourself, academician?”

    “Discovery gives right of taxonomy, Merrich. Now, what do you observe?”

    The cold one was giving its formidable jaws a rest and had resumed scything its talons through the gaps in the bars again.

    “It wants to kill all of us and it has the armaments required to achieve that end,” the mercenary snapped.

    “Merrich, you disappoint me. You see but you do not observe. I, myself, have already observed enough to refute every so-called 'fact' that has sprung from your pirates’ drunken imaginations. For a start, this cryosaurus is a solitary individual, not part of a pack.”

    “It was defending a clutch of eggs. Maybe it would have rejoined a pack when it was finished brooding.”

    “Did you observe a pack, Merrich? I think not. The only other tracks we saw on the sand were those of the leviraptor. What you have just stated is idle speculation based on rumour. I expect you to show more discipline with your thoughts!”

    Merrich’s hand was creeping towards his scabbard again. Mainz continued in his normal patronizing manner, oblivious to the fact that the soldier was quite capable of cutting the conversation short if he was pressed too far.

    “You did make an assessment, of sorts, as to the capability of the cryosaurus’ teeth and claws, but you worded it clumsily. Stated more precisely, the cryosaurus is well adapted to the capture of prey of man size and larger. But did you also observe that the animal is of bovine size but scarcely bovine intelligence?”

    The creature was back to gnawing on the bars with bloodied teeth again.

    “Ever since Bertrand cut it free of the net the specimen has thrown itself at the cage. Even a dog would have learned that it could not escape by now. I deduce, therefore, that its intelligence is so far below that of a horse that it could not be trained to accept a rider, even if there was such a preposterous thing as a lizard warrior to be found on this uncivilised continent.”

    Merrich detected a chink in the scientist’s bizarre logic. “Now you are the one speculating.”

    Mainz scoffed. “I do not speculate. I make inferences based on scientific observation, not the tavern tales of credulous brigands. I then propose hypotheses which I test on live specimens. Live specimens are what the contract describes and live specimens you will provide me, Captain Merrich.”

    The cold one’s claws were groping outside the cage again. Merrich had a happy imagining of them snagging the academician’s robes and drawing him into a fatal embrace. Alas, Mainz stood just out of reach.

    “You hold more love for your pet than my crew, academician, and it seems neither appreciate your scientific method.”

    “Did you say ‘pet’? You accuse me of sentimentality now. I have no affection for these animals. After I have observed them over a period of time in a controlled environment, they can go to the academy specimen gallery for all I care.”

    The academician stepped away from the cold one and inspected the other cages which were waiting for porters to convey them back to the ship. Within them were sullen apes, squawking parrots and reptiles of all kinds. The birds and mammalian beasts were similar to those that could be found in any menagerie of the Old World. It was the variety and deadliness of the cold blooded creatures, from the smallest viper to the turtle with jaws like axe blades, which revealed beyond doubt that the collection was from the Lustrian coastal hinterland. There were also several much larger, empty cages which Merrich fervently hoped would never be filled.

    Mainz resumed his favourite lecture. “I think you fail to comprehend that the darkness of ignorance will inevitably give way to enlightenment. We are just at the beginning of the Age of Man, Merrich. The Age of Nature draws to a close.

    “The cities of the Empire groan under the weight of their populations. The Old World is contested and it cannot sustain their number anyway. Therefore, man must find a new home, and where better than the empty continent? Explorers have barely penetrated the interior but we already know that Lustria is fertile and vast. These primitive indigenous creatures must be forced to bow their heads to the yoke of man, or be harvested, or exterminated. Whichever course we choose will be better guided by observation and deduction than by tavern tales and wild speculation.”

    Merrich mentally conceded defeat. He would just need to tolerate following this fool around the countryside for a little longer. If the exercise became tedious or if the scientist looked like he was leading the party in a more dangerous direction it would be simple enough to accidently nudge him into the reach of the cold one’s talons.

    As it happened, Mainz was not leading in any particular direction at all. He would chase after whatever novel creature he could spy - often with a butterfly net. It seemed to be pure chance that the camp had moved in the same direction for three days running.

    Merrich’s happy contemplation of fatal accidents was interrupted by a furtive rustling sound near the cryosaurus’ cage. The bipedal reptile was the size of a child, and it certainly seemed to have a child like curiosity. It had been a frequent visitor to the camp, and this time it was scrabbling at the academician’s parchment notes with its long, dextrous claws.

    The mercenary groaned and stamped a foot to shoo it away. “Academician, the thief is back again. At least let me put an arrow in that one. It has evaded every trap we can devise, and it spends more time in our camp than we do.”

    The academician had dubbed the animal, leviraptor mainzii – meaning ‘Mainz’s swift thief’. The creature had gone on to earn the name. Not only did it steal any shiny objects it could find in camp, but it seemed to be trying to steal the whole expedition as well. The scientist was obsessed with the small creature and he pursued it wherever it led him. Merrich and his crew were forced to tag along.

    It was actually the thief’s footprints that had led the party into the nesting ground of the brooding cryosaurus, and a half dozen other dangerous situations. It was almost as big a menace as Mainz himself.

    The small creature was not startled in the least by Merrich’s attention. The academician’s eye lenses and some of the parchment sheets were now clutched in its claws, and the crest of red skin attached to a spine on the back of head fluttered up and down rapidly. Merrich could only conclude the display was the lizard equivalent of triumphant laughter as it scampered away into the bushes.

    Mainz scratched the bridge of his nose. “Did you note that it always takes bright objects? Yesterday it took my telescope. Perhaps, like a magpie, it decorates its nest.”

    “Now it has your eye lenses as well. It is literally robbing you blind, academician. Let me use my archers before it steals your gold tooth as well.”

    “I agree that members of the leviraptor species are pests, but do not kill this individual.”

    “Has it also stolen your heart, academician?”

    “Don’t be ridiculous, Merrich. Its nest must surely be close and I still hold some hope of retrieving my instruments.”

    The mercenary rolled his eyes and whistled up six men to act as an escort. As they assembled their gear, Merrich fantasised about a reptilian pest and a pestiferous academician tragically falling to the same stray arrow.

    For all that the beast may have been bold and cunning, it could scarcely have left a clearer trail even if it wanted to be followed. The previous day, it had seemed to go out of its way to leave footprints on riverside mud and sand. On this day, scraps of torn or chewed parchment were strewn in the thief’s wake like confetti. Even without his lenses, Mainz could follow its path easily as it led away from the camp and up into some nearby hills.

    The captain trudged beside the academician as the trail led them out of the coastal heath and into a dry watercourse which became narrower and deeper as it bisected a rocky hill. At its head, the ravine was bridged by a huge slab of rock which was wedged between the walls like the lintel of a door.

    The men passed through the stone archway and came out onto the base of a large crater. There was no sign of the thief -nor its nest, for that matter - but the lenses, spyglass and other missing articles were neatly heaped thirty yards away in the centre of the crater.

    Merrich found his hand on his scabbard again. “I have a bad feeling about this, Academician.”

    Mainz snorted in derision and wandered over to reclaim the loot. “Are you making judgements based on feelings now, Merrich? I thought by now you would have learnt to be objective. Tell me what you observe about this place.”

    The mercenary reluctantly moved away from the archway and studied the inside of the crater as he went. The vertical walls were slick with moss. Perhaps the ancient crater had once held a lake, but the water had long drained away, cutting the ravine as it went. The crater floor was level and sparsely vegetated other than a clamp of scraggly bushes which huddled against the wall opposite to the watercourse.

    “I see a shear sided pit with only one avenue of escape,” Merrich muttered as he turned around on the spot, automatically scanning the tops of the crater walls.

    “An excellent trap, is it not?” Mainz collected his precious lenses, wiped them with the sleeve of his robe and wedged them onto the bridge of his nose. “If the exit can be barred it will be a perfect controlled environment for observing the behaviour-under-stress of the leviraptor specimen.”

    His unnerving magnified eyes blinked at Merrich and then turned towards the bushes. “Where has it got to, I wonder?”

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The leviraptor was no longer inside the crater. He had placed the lenses with the other articles and exited the ravine at least ten minutes before the warm bloods had entered it. Now he was quietly fuming as he crouched beside his leader on top of the crater rim.

    “I protest that you had me waste three days luring these sea monkeys here, Scholar Jaquinqi,” he hissed in the Saurian tongue. “I see no reason to keep them alive longer than it takes to get them to the Altar of Sotek. Unless you wish to keep them as pets.”

    The skink scholar had been peering down at the men below. He tore his eyes away and gave his subordinate a withering look. “I have no affection for these animals, Scout Qupac. After I have observed their behaviour-under-stress over a period of time in this controlled environment, they can join their kin at the pinnacle of sacrifice for all I care.”

    There was a sudden rumble from the crater below. The boulder which had formed the roof of the ravine rotated forwards and down along concealed grooves, sealing the exit and presenting the men with a surface devoid of even the smallest toehold. The humans milled about and shouted furiously at each other.

    The scholar continued, “These primitive creatures must be forced to bow their heads to the will of the Old Ones, or be harvested, or exterminated. By understanding their behaviors and weaknesses we will be better guided in achieving whichever course is the Old Ones’ will."

    “I think you fail to comprehend that we are at the beginning of the Age of Cold Blood, Scout Qupac. The Age of Man draws to a close."

    New Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “You again...”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Welcome.”

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

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

    He winced, stepping back from the Slaaneshi.

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

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

    The daemon began to pace a circle around him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Go. Leave.”

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

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

    Reborn

    The story of Rex began millennia ago deep in the jungles of Lustria on the Dragon Isles, in the Temple City of Alagaysya. Underground the city’s biggest pyramid, a single Saurus emerged, he was pale, his eyes and scales red as rubies and his dewclaws perfect for riding. As he emerged from the spawning pool, he was met by a gathering of Lizardmen, mostly Skinks, but a few Saurus where there too. Most notable however where the Slann Umaroth, who gave his blessings to the young Saurus.

    To the Lizardmen this was a bright day, a Saurus destined for greatness, was rare, there where only a few every century or so, and mostly, those spawnings would produce a few extraordinary individuals, not a single Saurus. Comparable to the spawning of the Great White Lizard Gor-Rok, this lone Saurus was predetermined to undertake great feats.

    Even though he was unique, he was still young and would need to find his way in Lustria, a harsh place to call home, with danger lurking everywhere, around every tree there could be a giant wasp, with a sting able to knock out a juvenile Stegadon, or seriously hurt a young careless Cold One. Even worse were the giant reptilian predators that make Lustria their home.

    For Rex, many years of hard fought battles, scars and training with the Cold Ones where ahead of him. Even though all Saurus know how to fight when they crawl out of the spawning pool, many years go by before they perfect their savage fighting styles.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Through the years Rex became one of the lieutenants of Alagaysya’s army; in rank he was second only to Tucuvu, a venerable Saurus Oldblood who had been around since the first warmbloods, known as Elves, came from the Black Way.

    More often than not, Tucuvu had been the one in charge of dispatching the invading Elves, making sure not a single one could get their filthy hands on any of the treasures of the Lizardmen. If they did, it was his duty to retrieve them, by any means necessary.

    Tucuvu would lead the army atop the mightiest of predators in Lustria, a giant reptile, known as a Carnosaur. Rex had always wanted such a mount for himself, but only the most fierce and strongest of Saurus could tame such a beast. Some had it easier if Skinks where able to salvage an egg from a nest, but sometimes this was not possible. then a brave, or foolish enough Saurus could seek out the mighty predator himself. This was what Tucuvu had done, and it was by far the hardest method of obtaining such a beast, but the bond between rider and mount would often be stronger.

    Tucuvu’s Carnosaur, a beautiful specimen with a hide like that of a yellow Topaz, had fought many battles just like it’s rider, Tucuvu had seized it even before Rex crawled out of the spawning pool. It was blind on one eye, and had lost its left hand, it had acquired the injuries in a battle against a big multi-headed reptile, the Elves had begun using for war.

    In wartime Rex rode his Cold One Lasoris, she was a red beast, playful when she was situated in the Temple city, but equally fierce when at war. She might not be the strongest nor the fastest of the Cold Ones he could have chosen as mount, but there was no denying her reptilian beauty compared to the males in the packs roaming the fields around the Temple city. Another aspect of her character was her royalty. Furthermore it seemed like there were more behind her playful eyes, than the other Cold Ones. She had saved him time and again, by stepping to the side, or dart away, when she sensed a danger Rex had not.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The last time the Elves came from the Black Way, it hadn’t ended as well as previous encounters.

    The Elves had come in large numbers, which they somehow had concealed from the Lizardmen scouts. Their leader: a cruel Elf riding atop a Dragon. Last time the elves set foot in Lustria he had been a captain, now he was the army’s commander. His dragon, a beast black as night, beautiful, but driven mad by the Elf. Rex felt sorry for the beast, but what could he do? Other than hopefully ending its pain.

    The Lizardmen force was outnumbered, but Tucuvu knew they could make it, the problem was the dragon. Tucuvu always knew what had to be done; he never hesitated, not even if he would end up putting his own life at risk. He knew what was at stake and would rather die than let the Elves pillage his home.

    Tucuvu gave the lead to Rex. He was to flank the Elves, while the Saurus and Bastiladons held the elves in check from the front; meanwhile he would deal with the Dragon, locking it down, so the Lizardmen could be victorious.

    Everything went according to plan, the Elves where driven to a halt by the Bastiladons, while the Cavalry flanked. They didn’t see it coming, as the dense undergrowth concealed the Lizardmen’s advancements. They had the element of surprise, and the Elves where crushed, stomped by Cold ones and Bastiladons alike. Those lucky enough not to get trampled were picked off by the surrounding Saurus. Those who fled were shot by Chameleon Skinks, who had taken up position behind the Elven army, to ensure no Elves would survive to get word back to their homeland.

    The only thing that didn’t go according to plan was Tucuvu. Although he was a veteran fighter he could not best the Elf general, mostly because of the magic that he used to slow Tucuvu down. Rex only saw the culmination of the fight. Tucuvu, had acquired some serious injuries, a slash across his front, starting at his left shoulder and going all the way to his midsection. His left arm hang loosely at his side. His Carnosaur bleeding heavily from a wound on its flank. They would not hold out for much longer.

    Rex rode to their aid, but it was already too late: Tucuvu was a dead man walking.

    Tucuvu saw what Rex was doing, and he knew he couldn’t continue to delay the inevitable. He summoned the last of strength and attacked. With a savage roar from Tucuvu and Carnosaur alike, they attacked his foe head on. The enemy general easily guided the dragon to the side, avoiding the attack, and separating Tucuvu’s head from his body, while his dragon delivered the final blow against the Carnosaur. What the Elf failed to evade revealed the true purpose of Tucuvu’s final attacks. From behind, Rex raced towards the seemingly triumphant elf. He was too late to save Tucuvu, but not to avenge him. Rex leapt from the saddle. Impaling the elf with on his spear. Rex drew his obsidian blade and beheaded the dragon before it had time to react on the sudden turn of events.

    -----------------------------

    Now that Tucuvu was dead, a new leader needed to be chosen to lead the army of Alagaysya. Rex knew that Tucuvu would want for him to be the new leader, but he didn’t know if he could live up to the responsibility like Tucuvu had. He was afraid he would fail his destiny, his fellow Lizardmen, and most of all himself. Sure he had been in many fights, and led many a unit, but always under the direction of Tucuvu.

    This wasn’t about Rex alone however, and fate has its ways of unfolding. Rex became the new unofficial leader of the army.

    Before he could fully claim his position, he would need a Carnosaur, and since no eggs, could be found, he was forced to do like Tucuvu before him: to seek out a Carosaur and tame it himself. That was easier said than done, but Rex had no choice, he would not let Tucuvu’s passing count for nothing.

    He decided that he would, after he had seized control of a Carnosaur, bring the fight to the Elves, and make sure they would think twice about attacking opposing the Lizardmen again.

    Apart from his trusty Cold One Lazoris, Rex travelled to the Forbidden Jungle alone. Such a task was to be completed alone to prove the strength of the Saurus.

    On his way he traversed many different landscapes. First he swam to Huahuan dessert, on his way he saw seemingly huge reptiles under the calm waves. In the stark dessert he encountered reptiles, that at first glance looked like regular Cold Ones, but they where more slender built and smaller than the Cold Ones from the jungle.

    He crossed the Mal’liente Swamp, with some difficulties; Lazoris almost got stuck in a pit of quicksand. They made it to the Sky watch peaks, to avoid the Cursed Jungle, where the taint of Chaos still flowed in the many foul creatures inhabiting this part of Lustria.

    On plateaus in the mountains herds of Stegadons grazed undisturbed by the many dangers from Lustria’s predators. He followed the Spine of Sotek were he saw creatures he had never seen before, nor heard of them; they covered in feathers, but they weren’t birds, they were something else.

    He passed the Caverns of the Great Bat, which most of all reminded him of the vile Skaven, he, as much as any other Lizardman, hated more than anything else.

    At last Rex and Lazoris arrived at the Forbidden Jungle. Usually no one was allowed to set foot in this place, but there were exceptions. If no suitable mount could be found for a General or captain, be it Skink or Saurus, he would travel to the Forbidden jungle to seek out a beast himself, for here the fauna was untouched.

    It would not be easy to capture a Carnosaur, but there was no way around it. First, he had to find one. Rex searched for days on end; he encountered many reptiles, but not a single Carnosaur. Here the undergrowth where even more dense than around his Temple City, it could easily hide a full grown Stegadon if need be.

    After two weeks he had still not seen even the shadow of what he was looking for, and began to lose hope, he would never be accepted as leader if he could not acquire a Carnosaur. Lost in his own thoughts, Lazoris led the way. They came to a small clearing in the undergrowth, where a bull Stegadon was grazing. Rex became instantly aware of the danger, it was mating season for the Stegadons, so a bull could be very unpredictable.

    Sure enough the Stegadon was not exactly pleased to see trespassers in his territory. The bull faced Rex and Lazoris, Stamping in the ground and roaring at them. Rex knew however, that if he were to turn around, the Stegadon would charge. He needed a distraction.

    It came, but not the way Rex had imagined; the undergrowth of one side in the clearing erupted with a primal roar and a pale Carnosaur lunged itself at the Stegadon, seemingly ignoring Rex and Lazoris. It completely caught the Stegadon by surprise and rammed it with such force that the Stegadon was toppled. The earth shook with at weight of the Stegadon crashing to the ground. The Carnosaur seized the opportunity and bit the neck of the Stegadon, crushing with a big crack, killing it in an instant.

    This was it, Rex had to try to take on this Carnosaur. Lazoris took a step forward.

    The Carnosaur turned its head, starring straight at Rex, with its eyes, that almost looked like they were on fire; deep red with fiery orange just around the iris.

    Rex heard a deep rumbling, he could almost feel the vibrations in the ground through Lazoris, this was an angry Carnosaur, angry because Rex and Lazoris had just interrupted its meal.

    Rex dismounted Lazoris, he couldn’t put her in danger, and she wouldn’t stand a chance against the Carnosaur anyway. He shooed her away; he would not need her anymore. She hesitated, not wanting to leave. They had been together a long time.

    If a Saurus could weep that is what he did when he slouched her. She darted and was gone. He would miss her dearly.

    The Carnosaur came forward, it began circling Rex. Both reptiles were sizing each other up, while all the time keeping eye contact. The Carnosaur made the first move; biting out for Rex. Rex quickly took a sidestep, while swinging his spear, cutting the Carnosaur’s cheek.

    The Carnosaur let out a roar, its fury building.

    For some time they circled each other while making feint attacks. Rex made the move, he leapt while drawing his blade, lunging it at the Carnosaur, landing with the spear ready, and stabbing towards the Carnosaur. He didn’t hit, the Carnosaur was too fast, and intercepted his leap, catching his left arm, swinging Rex around violently, ending up biting his arm off just below the elbow, and tossing Rex to the side, slamming into a tree and breaking it.

    He had failed, he couldn’t best this Carnosaur, maybe it was just not meant to be, maybe the Gods were just making a joke, when they gave him his pale skin. Not that it mattered much now; he wouldn’t be able to fight the Carnosaur in this state.

    The Carnosaur slowly approached the blood slicked Saurus, Stopping right in front of him. The Carnosaur stretched its neck, and let out a triumphant roar to the heavens.

    It was just about to take the next chunk off Rex, when suddenly a shadow appeared, lunging at the Carnosaur’s neck. Lazoris had come back; she had never been far actually, in the undergrowth nearby, she had been waiting for the right opportunity. Clever girl.

    The Carnosaur roared in fury trying to shake off the annoying little mite.

    Rex saw his change, now or never. He called upon his last strength, and ran towards the Carnosaur.

    Moments before Rex could reach them; The Carnosaur got hold of Lazoris’s hind leg, doing the same as it did to Rex, tossing her into a tree. She was dead in an instant.

    However the Carnosaur had lost its footing, and fell. Filled with rage, Rex pierced the Carnosaur’s crest, pinning its head to the ground. He climbed the beast.

    How do you calm a frenzied Carnosaur?

    Rex held on with his one arm, like it was the only thing in his existence that mattered. It reminded him of his first try at riding lazoris; she had been a tough one to control, but when he had placed his hand on her crest, she had calmed, and somehow an instant bond had been made between them.

    He might as well give it a shot. He had lost much blood already, and even though he could cope with more severe injuries than the warmbloods; a severed arm was more than a common injury, and it was quickly sapping his strength.

    With only one good arm, staying on the Carnosaur was not easy; he almost fell several times, and only inches separated him from the Carnosaur’s jaws, but he made it. As soon as he placed his palm on its crest, the Carnosaur calmed.

    If it Rex hadn’t made a bond with it now, he could as well just give up. He dismounted and looked the Carnosaur deep in the eye. This Carnosaur was now under his command.

    Like with Lazoris, he thought there was something more behind those eyes, and almost something familiar; No that couldn’t be, it was impossible.

    Rex retrieved his spear and bandaged his wound, stopping the bleeding. He mounted the Carnosaur again, and just as he was about to leave, he remembered Lazoris, but when he looked at the spot where she had been, there was nothing.

    Puzzled, he began his journey home. He could now return triumphant, and claim his right as leader of the army.

    Monsoon Season

    The wind had been picking up over the last hour. The sun shone a few last rays through the crags of the gnarled gray clouds as they drifted ever higher into the atmosphere. A few of the giant clouds reached that menacing height which drove them to take the shape of an anvil; this desert valley will experience heavy storms throughout the night.

    Ezhno (ej-no) woke to the soft sound of distant thunder. The monsoon season is welcomed in this desert valley, as they have their own terrible way of bringing life to it lasting the whole year. The skink lay where he woke, and watched the landscape turn red, orange, pink and purple before everything went gray for the night. The flashes of lightning became more evident and the smell of dust and rain took control of the air. Ezhno took in one more large sniff of the air before being interrupted by his spawning brother.

    “Get on your feet! Ahtunowhiho (ah-toon-oh-whee-ho) wants everyone to assemble!” the skink said hurriedly before dashing off to find all of their other brothers.

    Ezhno slowly gathered up his dart pouch and blowpipe before moving out of the rocky nook in the hill. He stared at the rumbling storm a few more moments before heading up to the top of the hill. At the top there was frantic movement indicative of a battle to come. Ahtunowhiho stood on a large boulder at the top of the hill watching all the skink brothers with stern eyes and caught the late comer Ezhno joining the party. Ezhno received a quick glare from Ahtunowhiho before he raised his hand and all the skinks fell silent and motionless.

    “Reports are still coming in, so the details aren’t clear yet, but there is a band of Apisi roaming to our North. I want everyone to get to the bottom of the hill and ready to move north.”

    The Apisi he spoke of were beastmen: half man, half coyote. They wander these deserts and the neighboring regions. The Apisi are a necessary evil to the desert skinks though. They are a constant threat, but also contribute to the reason why the city has remained a secret, hidden in this valley. Since the Apisi have no allies and no formal tongue to speak, their intelligence on the city and the inhabitants does not travel to the outside world where it could find organized invaders. The Apisi also take to battle before most opposition even realizes they are at battle to begin with. Ambushes and all out aggression keeps would-be wanderers from drawing a path through this largely unmapped valley.

    “Hang back if you need me for anything, otherwise…dismissed!” Ahtunowhiho always left himself open to his subordinates, which he thought promoted morale.

    Without missing a beat, the skinks moved together like a flock of birds down the hill. At the bottom, they all went prone, ready for an attack at that very moment. Silent minutes passed before Ahtunowhiho showed up.

    “Change of plans; the scouts say that the band is to our northwest now, and heading west. We’ll move west to intercept them. We’ve sent word to the other outposts nearby, but we need to buy them time. Move out!”

    The skinks kicked up several pebbles as they left their positions. Ezhno followed his brothers as they weaved around the low lying bushes and rocky outcroppings. Ezhno once again had the chance to gaze upon the storm clouds as they were lit up from within. As they got closer to the storm, the lightning pierced through the dense clouds above.

    Ahtunowhiho ordered a halt and all the skinks went prone again. With the sound of movement stopped, even Ezhno in the back of the loose formation could hear the distinct “yip” sound of the Apisi between the cracks of thunder. Ahtunowhiho had most of the skinks stay put while he and a few others advanced again.

    Every skink knew what was expected of them; they had all been trained for this. While Ahtunowhiho was gone, the skinks kept their heads below the bush line and shuffled the javelin wielders to the front and blowpipes to the back and flanks. They spread out and tried to hide as best they could. When Ezhno got settled in with a suitable ambush point, rain spots were showing up in the rocky sand around him and the wind seemed to stop moving entirely. Within a minute the rain became an all-out downpour and dominated the smell, sound and sights around the ambush party.

    A distant chirp alerted Ezhno. He kept his head still and eyes wide open. A second chirp was closer this time. Ahtunowhiho and the other vanguards rushed through the formation and began chirping frantically. The ambush was sprung and the skinks set loose a crossfire of javelins and darts at the rushing Apisi. As the Apisi charge got closer to the center, the skinks would fall back and the trap took its true form; the Apisi were surrounded. The surviving Apisi scattered to meet the skinks in individual melee. Some reached the outer edge through their speed alone, while others had the prowess to dodge the missiles and close in. The most the skinks could hope to do was resort to their basic training which would have them fall back and lead the Apisi on until someone else could strike.

    The skirmish ended with a handful of skinks dead or wounded. The skirmish would be measured as a success due to the amount of Apisi that dropped in the initial moments. Some Apisi had broken out of the trap and ran aimlessly into the dark storm.

    Ahtunowhiho only caught the attention of a fraction of the Apisi band. He wasted no time gathering the skinks and finding a safe place to safely leave the wounded so that the others could keep moving. The rain moved away as quickly as it had arrived. These types of storms move around in cells and eventually will touch every rock and bush in the valley. With Ahtunowhiho’s lead, they began moving again. It seemed to Ezhno that they were leading a charge on the very clouds themselves.

    The dark outline of a low hill up ahead was undoubtedly their destination. This hill marked the outpost nearest to where he and his spawning brothers were stationed. The hill was under assault by the torrential rain. Ezhno and his brothers ran through a curtain of rain which divided day and night on each side of the curtain. Even as the rain's noise grew, Ezhno could hear the battle being fought at the base of the hill. Ahtunowhiho began frantically chirping again, and all of the brothers joined in; they were trying to draw more Apisi out of the hectic melee. The Apisi had already broken through the loose formation of skinks and there was an area at the base of the hill that was a mix of Apisi and skink. Missiles and swinging weapons were everywhere. Ezhno and his brothers were pressing the Apisi rear effectively. The defenders of the hill were regaining morale and confidence as it seemed the situation was almost under control.

    Ezhno could hear the yips of more Apisi from beyond the hill. The last of the Apisi were broken and scattering, but that was hardly the end of it. Ezhno felt the weight of more yips getting heavier, and closer.

    The rain was moving on again and Ahtunowhiho had plans to use this cell of rain. “Everyone! Move with the rain!” he barked to anyone that could hear him, even the skinks on the hill followed. Ezhno stared at the black outline of the hill and witnessed the edges of the dark hill begin to vibrate and shake; Apisi were flooding over the hill like a waterfall and the source of the yips became clear. Their charge from the top of the hill would have been devastating if the defenders were not relieved moments earlier. With their momentum from the hill, the Apisi made chase for the dwindling skink numbers.

    The skinks were following Ahtunowhiho through the storm, however, the Apisi moved through the desert landscape faster. Skinks in the back of the pack were being picked off and offering little resistance to the Apisi. Ahtunowhiho had found what he was looking for with little time to spare. He jumped down into a wash and had his brother follow “upstream.” The sandy banks of the wash provided a moments worth of cover by breaking the line of sight in this mostly flat landscape. When the Apisi figured out where the rest of their prey were heading, they continued the chase blindly, unaware of the Skink Chief's intentions.

    Ahtunowhiho heard the kind of rumble he was searching for; not the rumble of thunder which still kept a presence in the chaos of these skirmishes, but the rumble of rushing water. Ahtunowhiho kept leading the pack towards the surge of water. When the water around the corner revealed itself to the chief, he turned and yelled “Up the left bank!” The skinks all scrambled back up the bank with the Apisi nipping at their heels as they ascended the hill.

    Ezhno had barely heard Ahtunowhiho from where he was towards the back of the pack and started up the bank a bit late. He felt some fingers wrap around his ankle before the water almost insantly slammed into his would-be killer and swept both of them downstream. Ezhno had thus far considered himself lucky. He had been surviving the Apisi as they ravaged the back by weaving through the bushes and making hard to follow turns. He was tired and barely fit to swim although he knew how to. While he now considered himself to be unlucky, he couldn’t be more wrong. Ahtunowhiho had intentionally led the Apisi here because of how notoriously bad they are at swimming, while the skinks swam regularly within the safety of their city. Ezhno struggled against both the unrelenting Apisi assailant and the churning muddy waves. The beastman's hold was fast, and the water made it difficult for Ezhno to do anything about it. He had the presence of mind to fight for oxygen and swam for the surface every time the churning water turned him over on top of his enemy before he was forced back underneath. This cycle happened for a good minute before the grip loosened on his ankle, and he wriggled free to swim for the bank.

    He pulled himself up half way and let his legs dangle in the water a moment longer as his lungs caught up with the rest of him. He felt the bank begin to crumble into the wash and scrambled away just before it added to the mud of this torrent. Ezhno watched as the last of this Apisi band were being taken by the current and witnessed the last one fade off downstream. Safety still didn’t feel real to him at the moment, so he headed back towards the rest of his brothers. The rain was moving on once again and left the air fresh and calm. Without the rains to dull his vision, he found the brothers all as drained as he was. The only one standing was Ahtunowhiho who was moving from one wounded warrior to the next. When he saw Ezhno approaching the group, he gave him a quick look up and down and hissed quietly to himself.

    All told, the skinks numbers were not crippled as badly as they could have been, all thanks to Ahtunowhiho’s quick thinking and bold strategy. The Apisi band had been dealt with successfully, but the skinks would need to send out hunting parties for next couple weeks to fully clean up the rest of the Apisi that had been separated from their band. To this day, no incursion has found its way into the city these Lizardmen spend their lives protecting.
    [/QUOTE]


    Polls are closed, the winner is Tlac'Natai the Observer who wrote "Monsoon Season".

    Lone Survivor: Infinity Turtle
    Untitled Seraphon Piece: Oldblood Itzahuan
    The Naturalist: Spawning of Bob
    First Contact: bora-boka424
    New Nature: Slanputin
    Reborn: ASSASSIN_NR_1
    Comic: Essmir
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
  2. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    That comic was an adorable surprise.
     
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  3. Oldblood Itzahuan
    Skink

    Oldblood Itzahuan Member

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    That was a pleasant surprise! Well done whomever did that! XD
     
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  4. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Well done?

    I hate that guy / girl / thing!

    He / she / it can do foregrounds and backgrounds, shading and show characters from different angles.

    They shall be forced to do a graphic novel tutorial as punishment!
     
  5. ASSASSIN_NR_1
    Carnasaur

    ASSASSIN_NR_1 Well-Known Member

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    Det ser ud som om der er sneget sig et velkendt sprog ind.
     
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  6. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Oh boy! It's time for Scalenex's literary critiques!

    One thing I liked is that all the pieces are fairly well polished (granted I proofread most of them but there wasn’t much to fix). Also, all of the pieces clove very close to the theme. None of the pieces were a barely-qualified-for-theme story.

    All these pieces were excellent, I tried to give suggestions for improvement. Often I really had to stretch to do it. While I am struggling to pick my all-around favorites. The recipient of the Scalenex Cup is obvious. I bestow the Scalenex Cup on First Contact. While the protagonist did not die all his friends and loved ones did and he ended the story facing uncertain doom and literally begging the gods for death.

    For reference, the Scalenex Cup goes to the piece with the most tragic and horribly suffering protagonist. On a related note, check out my Fluff Piece Index full of cheerful stories and happy endings.


    Story One, The Lone Survivor:
    While everyone took the Man versus Nature theme to heart, this one was the only one who took it literally. The sole conflict of the story centered on the actions of a single man trying to survive a harsh jungle. The happy flashbacks provided a nice counterpart to his present desperate situation the protagonist was in.

    I wouldn’t have minded if a bit a longer. He and his companions seemed to be friends, which could have been expanded upon a bit. I would have liked to know more about his relationship with the captain. I kind of wanted more details about the Lizardmen attack that drove him to flee into jungle, but including concrete rather than implied details of that fight would have broken the lovely dichotomy of his optimistic flashbacks and his pessimistic future.


    Story Two, the Comic: I liked it a lot. Well rendered. Well-paced, conclusive ending. Pretty much everything an action comic should be and it clove to theme very closely capturing the essence of a hunt.

    My main misgiving is that it really left me wanting more. I know drawing high quality comics is time consuming, but the hunt could have easily held my attention were the comic twice as long, or even four times as long. Also there were a couple spelling errors. Handwritten stuff doesn’t underline spelling errors in red. Maybe try typing your prose in MS word before transcribing your prose next time.


    Story Three, First Contact: I like the way the protagonist’s hopes and fears were very human and accessible to the reader. The human protagonists last stand was, so enthralling I found myself rooting against the Lizardmen. I like tragedies too. I also like the unique take on the theme. The way the jungle framed the beginning and ending but was quiet during the main fight, almost like an Ancient Greek chorus narrating before and after events (blame my one theatre elective in college for that simile).

    I was a little taken aback by the fact that you start with the Lizardmen chirping and clicking in Saurian and then you end with the Skink Chief speaking in slurred English. I kept asking myself why the Skink was speaking in Estalian (or why the human suddenly could understand Saurian). I like to think that the protagonist was hallucinating as he was passing out.


    Story Four, the Seraphon Piece:
    This was in my opinion the most creative take on “Man versus Nature.” Yes, there was a fight between Wood Elves and Chaos, but the main conflict in the story was between the Skink handler and his Salamander. The Salamander was simultaneously his greatest threat and his only hope for survival. An epic struggle every 7th and 8th edition Lizardmen payer is familiar with beyond all others (besides the conflict between a Slann and his miscast). I also liked the way it illuminated the current situation of the Seraphon well.

    It could have used a bit more exposition. I didn’t know why there was only handler for the Salamander. I didn’t know why the Seraphon would send an agent to watch a fight between Elves and Chaos in a faraway place. I didn’t understand why the protagonist didn’t try letting loose his over eager Salamander when the Nurgle survivors were tired, distracted, and clustered where one tight spot where a flame spout could hit them all. The imagery of the story was so good I didn’t think of these things until my second read, but the questions are there in my head regardless.


    Story Five, the Naturalist: The dialog between the academician and the mercenary captain was superb. It flowed naturally but at the same time covered pretty much the entire exposition for “Where did these humans come from? How did they get to this situation? What are they trying to do? What is likely to happen?” The author achieved the difficult balancing act of keeping the dialog realistic and engaging while still explaining the nuts and bolts of the story and setting. Also, without explicitly describing the characters, the two personalities came alive. I also liked the well described actions of the angry Cold One, I could visualize it perfectly. The Skink academician at the end was a great twist and funny reversal. In my opinion this is competing closely with Story Three for the most unique take on “Man versus Nature”.

    If I had one misgiving about this piece it’s with the Skink’s dialogue. The last line parallels the human academician perfectly which is the punchline of the story, but it seems somewhat forced that a Skink would use terms like the “Age of Cold Blood” and the “Age of Man.” I guess I figured they took their cold blood for granted and were too ethnocentric to ever consider a period of time to be an Age of Anything-not-Directly-Connected-to-Lizardmen. I know the exact wording was necessary for the story’s punchline but it was slightly off-putting that 90% of the dialog was so well-written and organic sounding that the piece had to end with something a little forced.


    Story Six, New Nature: When I first read this, I started thinking. “Wow, the description of this chase seems almost sensual, and that is disturbing.” Then as the story concluded I realized that “sensual” and “disturbing” was exactly what the author was going for. Congratulations, you squicked out Scalenex! I probably deserve it for killing so vicariously torturing my readers in my own pieces. Writing Slaanesh horror is difficult to do well. It is easy to portray it in an immature and crass way, but this piece avoided that trap. The author handled mature difficult themes in a well-reason, well-narrated, mature matter. I don’t think I ever read any official fluff that treats Slaanesh with this much respectful nuance. To continue admiration for this piece. The thrill of the hunt captured “Man versus Nature” well but the crowning jewel of this piece is the “Man versus Self.” Few times have the internal struggles of a normally simple Saurus have seemed this engaging, deep, and ultimately relatable to human audiences.

    The author took a huge risk having a drone-like Saurus falling for sensual temptation, but it worked. Maybe that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I liked it. The piece could have used a bit more exposition. I wasn’t sure if the protagonist was a Temple Guard, revered Guardian, Scar Veteran, Eternity Warden, Spawn Leader or whatever. I would have liked a little more detail on the battle that occurred beforehand and how it ended up with a single Saurus warrior chasing the last survivor of the Chaos army.


    Story Seven, Reborn: When I picked the theme “Man versus Nature” I had Jack London on the brain. This was the piece that seemed most London-esque. A classic friendship of man and beast, but you know, with reptiles. I like Jack London, so that is high praise indeed. It was evocative and character building the whole way through.

    A few minor misgivings. By calling the piece “Rebirth” the shocking twist at the end was easily predictable. That wasn’t the only predictable part. After he coldly sent his original beloved steed away, it was pretty obvious she’d come back in time to save his life. I also fully did not understand why a natural leader and skilled fighter required a Carnosaur to be general. Lots of us have used Cold One riding generals in our table top games. In a fluff sense, if anything a general is going to be able to relay commands a lot easier from a mount close to the ground then a Carnosaur. The best explanation I can think of is that his predecessor had a Carnosaur that he personally tamed and the protagonist wanted to keep up the tradition. I eventually came to understand that, but it could have been slightly more explicit.


    Story Eight, Monsoon Season: Every writer took the “Nature” aspect of the story and told it in their unique way. Of all eight pieces this had the most evocative background. The rains, the winds, the earth itself, all these things were well-described. This is also the only non-jungle piece. Most of us readers are not familiar with desert Lizardmen or coyote Beastmen (Apisi), but the writer skillfully developed this rarified setting without bogging down the action with dry exposition. The setting description comes alive naturally as the story progresses. The storm parallels the back and forth nature of the fight between the Skinks and the Apisi. The thunderstorm seems to make it a three-way battle since you never know which side of the fight the weather is going to take.

    The Lizardmen were well-developed, but I think the Apisi could have used a little more depth. The Skinks motivations were crystal clear, but I didn’t understand why the Apisi were acting as they were doing. It sounded like they attack a lot and always lose badly. Primitive yes, but they are still sapient beings. They need some kind of motivation to keep throwing themselves to bodily harm over and over again, unless they are led by Wile E. Coyote. There was a tiny plot hole. The Apisi are just as much desert creatures as the Skinks are, but the Skinks have nice buildings, and the Apisi live outside. The Apisi ought to be familiar with how seasonal storms work. At first they seemed to brilliantly use the storm to their advantage, then they seemed to be blind-sided by it. I suppose I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth praising the unpredictability of the weather than complaining about it. It’s a strong piece.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015
  7. Fhanados
    Terradon

    Fhanados Well-Known Member

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    I always regret not entering these! Some really nice pieces, well done everyone.
     
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  8. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    You always have the next contest ;)
     
  9. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Soooo late with my comments and votes - real life has been Chaos again.

    The level of polish on all the entries gets better and better each time - the Scalenex proofreading service deserves kudos. Having said that, a slightly garbled story is better than no story at all, so future authors shouldn't feel too threatened to enter, even if they think their English skillz aren't great.

    Comments:

    1. The lone survivor - I like the fact that the main character is a treasure hunter in Lustria and his worst problem isn't a dinosaur with a pointy stick. He seems to be a resourceful young fellow. I wonder how long he will last. Articulates the "vs nature" theme perfectly.

    2. The Tapir Hunt Cartoon - fressh, different and well done. I am serious that the artist should do a cartoon instructional for us all - I want to be able to do this kind of stuff, too.

    3. First Contact - conveys the "LM are alien" point of view beautifully. Lots of depth to the jungle setting, enough depth to the Estalians, a very exciting battle. I really liked this. From a reader's point of view I can only think of two possible enhancements: The skink chief didn't need to use human speech - he could have restrained his "men" in his own tongue and still had the "spare this one" intent come across clearly. The seconfd is that we don't know why Alfredo was spared - and neither does Alfredo. His head was full of questions in the third last paragraph - if the last question was why did they spare me? He could have speculated a few nasty possibilities which would have narrowed down to the reader whether he had just had a lucky escape or things were about to get a lot worse.

    4. Salamander training - What a well painted canvas. The mood, texture and smell of the swamp and inhabitants were all very well conveyed. We got lots of details about the relationship of a handler to his salamander and how keeping a wild beast in a temple city could be a problem at times. I liked the fact that some Dansk script appeared - proving for all time the relationship between Denmark and the Realm of Chaos. (Its obvious if you read some of the posts from our many Danish LO members) For those who don't speak Chaos (or Estalian) Google translate works fine, but you can usually figure it out from context, and the precise meaning usually isn't important (Danish or Estalian = expendable)

    5. The naturalist - A bit more like Nature vs Science, than Man vs Nature. Very dialogue heavy giving us a view of the personalities of the men. Funny how between them they bring knowledge and street smarts and in the end they benefit from neither. The twist was a counterpoint to the "LM are Alien" PoV - "Humans are alien to LM"

    6. New Nature - Blows away the "lizardmen can't be corrupted" belief. The ambiguity of whether the Herald was truly evil, and the subtlety of the nature of Slaanesh's effect (it wasn't lust) were conveyed in a very unsettling, yet satisfying way. I can't fault the structure or the delivery of this story.

    7. Reborn - A different style here. The other entries are happening in "real time" for the reader and the characters. This one reads like a bio or an enlivening of known history. I loved the geography lesson on the hero's quest - this world has history and meaning, and I find myself wanting the author to flesh out the history of those places. If I was going to suggest 2 enhancements to the story (which it doesn't really need) the first would be to spell out the need for the general to have a carnosaur mount in a more concrete way. The other would be to take a much more direct approach to the "its the cold one's spirit in the carnosaur" thing by using the eye colour. Like this: Cold one has a distinctive eye colour. The wild carnosaur has a different eye colour. The cold one body can't be found. Finish with a casual mention of the tame carnosaur having the cold one's eye colour. (I actually thought you were trying to do that because you did describe the eyes quite beautifully in a few places, but it didn't get tied up at the end)

    8. Monsoon Season - The chaos and uncertainty involved in being in the middle of a battle in the dark and the rain makes me feel like I am in the middle of it. This reminds me of "Under the Tempel" in the first LO story comp where the hero (and the reader) never really knew what was going on and were being swept along by events. The Apisi were a new (to me) enemy which I could instantly picture, and the landscape and the weather were very real. I could feel the mud and smell the rain heavy air. I loved it.

    Voting:

    Aaargh! I could enthusiastically vote for any of these if the competition was weak. My shortlist was 5, but Scalenex won't let me vote five times. Maybe Scolenex should run the next comp.

    I voted for

    New Nature - because the delivery of a difficult idea was flawless.

    Monsoon Season - because of the way it went straight to my emotions and bypassed my brain.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  10. Scolenex
    Razordon

    Scolenex Well-Known Member

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    I've narrowed it down to two themes: "Bamboo is delicious." and "Not being Scalenex."
     
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  11. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    I could run with either of those very happily.
     
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  12. Rednax
    Cold One

    Rednax Active Member

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    These are some amazing stories!!!, I hope to participate in the next comp but I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up :D
     
  13. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    You most definitely should! At the very least, from my own selfish perspective, new writing styles, ideas etc keep me on my toes :p
     
  14. ASSASSIN_NR_1
    Carnasaur

    ASSASSIN_NR_1 Well-Known Member

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    Have the voting stopped?
     
    Paradoxical Pacifism likes this.
  15. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    No.

    The last contest started 10 days late, so I pushed the entry deadline 10 days. Then TWO last minute writers asked me for a few hours extension so I granted that. Then opened the poll for 30 days. The poll will close itself on September 10th at 4:08 AM US Central Time.

    If you mean have people stopped voting? Not quite. Last time I checked "Monsoon Season" had five votes, now it has six. I mean I could call it now for "Monsoon Season." I doubt Monsoon Season will be toppled, but since the forum reorganization the Fluff forum has been getting increased traffic, so I figured I'd leave it open to give the latecomers a chance to read the entries and vote.

    If there is clamoring to close this now I can do it, but I don't see the point. It is probably best to have a writing break between contests, so the next one will be an October-November contest (and we'll actually try to start it at the beginning of October this time).

    If any forum member is interested in our short story contests but does not wish to write an entry for the October-November contest, let me know and we can let you name our next writing prompt theme. Otherwise I'll come up with a theme again.
     
  16. pendrake
    Skink Priest

    pendrake Well-Known Member

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    I have yet to vote.
     
  17. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    You are my best buddy, @pendrake. Do you want some help choosing which one to vote for?. Your second vote is kind of irrelevant.
     
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  18. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    I'd be happy to help in choosing.

    I'd honestly ignore what Bob said - he's already given up his long-held avatar for one of those new Panda ones all the kids have these days. Can you really trust someone so loose with their avatar-based convictions?
     
  19. Scolenex
    Razordon

    Scolenex Well-Known Member

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    Bob changed his policy as a show of contrition. He posted a specist cartoon he found depicting pandas and ill tempered and non-cuddly the same day a news story broke of a two day old baby panda dying in a zoo. A classy apology if there ever was one. I switched from an adult red panda to a baby panda bear as solidarity with the pandas affected by the recent tragedy myself.

    That said, you should still ignore what Bob said. Ignoring what Bob says is a good idea most of the time. Just don't attack his avatar, that's uncalled for.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 29, 2018
  20. Slanputin
    Carnasaur

    Slanputin Well-Known Member

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    I was neither attacking his avatar nor was I attacking pandas, but his avatar ideology.

    I shall distract the conversation by leaving this here

     

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