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Contest July-August 2016 Short Story Contest Voting Thread

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


Which Short Stories do you like best (you may vote for up to three)

Poll closed Sep 1, 2016.
  1. Story One: "The Great Game"

    6 vote(s)
  2. Story Two: "Food for Thought"

    10 vote(s)
  3. Story Three: "The Spawn"

    2 vote(s)
  4. Story Four: "The Rat and the Serpent"

    6 vote(s)
  5. Story Five: "The Project"

    7 vote(s)
  6. Story Six: “The Weight of Our Actions”

    5 vote(s)
  7. Story Seven: “Strength and Conviction”

    1 vote(s)
  8. Story Eight: “Hexoatl, the Induction Ceremony”

    5 vote(s)
  9. Story Nine: “A Story in the Stars”

    3 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Nine excellent pieces here. Please read all nine before submitting your votes. You may vote for up to three entries. I recommend figuring out your three votes before you start clicking selections. I can help you change votes after submission but it's a pain in the tail and I'd prefer not to.

    Feel free to comment on these great stories as well.

    Theme was "Conjunction and/or Choices"

    The Great Game

    "Why do they call you Tlax the Unworthy?"
    "Because that is now my name, Ixtza."

    (Ixtza was a yellow-crested Skink, busily smoothing a large patch of sand in front of the seated Tlax. The river beside them chuckled quietly.)

    "Why do you fuss so, with the ground?" Tlax the hulking Kroxigor asked.

    "It is the first step to playing the game Tlax, the ground must be prepared."

    (Tlax did not reply. But listened as Ixtza explained the game. Ixtza's snakes beat him soundly, but it was his first ever game of War in the Branches. By day Tlax and Ixtza quarried stone with many other teams of Krox and Skinks. Tlax swung heavy mallets and did the lifting, Ixtza placed the wedges and set the fulcrums. At night, once it became too dark to quarry, it became their habit to play one game before they rested.)

    During their tenth game Tlax suddenly said, "I am unworthy because I let Moonbreaker die."

    Ixtza tried to show no shock at receiving a reply nine days after the question was asked, but failed and said, "Wha-aa-t?"

    Trying again, he said, "Who is Moonbreaker?"

    "I was Moonbreaker's guardian. I wielded her in battle, she was ancient, she had fought a thousand battles before I was ever spawned. And, I let her die."

    (Then Tlax told the story of Moonbreaker's death. His cohort had attacked the flank of a Chaos Warrior horde. Their armor was chased with wyrd runes in blue and their helms bore a steel horn on only one side. Moonbreaker, an enormous maul, carved from moonstone set in ironwood fell again and again into the mass of warriors crushing their helms like coconuts. At last Tlax had waded through the morass to confront the leader and champion who sported a helm with two steel horns and a blade carved with many sigils. Killing that Chaos lordling had killed Moonbreaker.)

    "But, why is the destruction of Moonbreaker your fault? Surely the thing of chaos bears the blame?" Ixtza asked.

    "Because, I chose wrong! I chose to block his slash (so that I would not die) and then crush him. That evil runeblade cracked the stone. And when my counter-blow stove in his helmet and crushed it back into his body armor Moonbreaker shattered. But then his shieldbearer (who I had not seen) ran me through and severed my leg. I should have swept Moonbreaker sideways smashing them both, even though the runeblade would have killed me. Instead the shieldbearer did. The skinks of my cohort took down the shieldbearer as I lay dying and looking at the ruined pieces of Moonbreaker." Tlax then wavered into silence.

    After a long pause (where the snakes and birds on their game board lay forgotten) Ixtza spoke up, "And yet here you are alive, but now I need not ask why you have a slight limp. Severed? Fully?"

    "Yes." Tlax replied, "But I now live on because of the second bad choice that day. The Slann floated up before I could die and after he collected the rune blade his voice thundered quietly inside my head saying,"

    ****WOULD YOU LIVE ON?****

    "...and I could not stop myself from thinking, **Yes** And, then the magick of life flowed."

    Ixtza offered, "If you were worthy to live, how can you be unworthy? Wise are the ways of the Slann...[?]"

    (Tlax went silent afterward, did not reply, and they did not finish their game. Although, it was the first one where Tlax's birds had ever been ahead of Ixtza's snakes.)

    (They quarried stone together for six more weeks. Ixtza learned that very few skinks from Tlax's original cohort had survived that battle with Chaos. They also learned from other gangs of Krox that all of the stone they quarried was being buried in the river. Some of it in little piles, more of it forming a platform where a great sandbar divided the river. Tlax continued to improve at the game.)

    (In the weeks that followed they were moved to a mine where they toiled continuously to pull ore of some kind out of a hill near the river. And, then they were moved to the river itself.)

    "We have a new assignment tomorrow, Tlax." Ixtza said as he setup his birds. "They need quarry teams in the river."

    Tlax didn't comment but instead asked, "How many more snakes do I place?"

    (Tlax had finally played enough games to play as snakes. That next day they were surprised to learn that their new assignment was cutting away eel-reeds so that that they could quarry a pinkish limestone from a shelf on the river bed. It was on the shallow side of a bend, away from the deeper channel.)

    During their game that next night, Ixtza said,

    "I don't understand this, Tlax. Why, did we spend weeks taking stone from the hills to sink it in the river only to turn around and dig stone out of the river? What have you heard?"

    Tlax said, "I have heard that: 'Wise are the ways of the Slann.' Also, it is your move."

    (Tlax won his first game playing as snakes that evening. The next seven weeks involved chopping blocks out of the riverbed, floating them downstream on rafts to the sand bar, and finally stacking them in a zigzagging wall on the platform of grey granite they'd helped quarry out of the hills. The wall faced downstream, and it was built thicker than two Kroxigors were tall. There were signs of some structures behind the wall being laid out when Tlax and Ixtza were reassigned once again. This time to the South bank of the river not far from the ore mines.)

    (There was very heavy lifting to do. And, each lifter needed a trusted skink to direct the careful pouring of molten metal. The ore had been refined & smelted and now it had to be poured into enormous sand molds. The result of all the casting was a set of seven bronze tubes with fearsome dragon mouths at one end. Once finished, polished and engraved with glyphs they were brought to the sandbar. The wall was now taller than a Kroxigor and behind it stood three guardian towers of Sotek. The blocky snake structures stood facing downstream.)

    (Then things got strange.)

    Ixtza said, "...a half-step to the left." Tlax who had one end of a twelve foot bronze tube on his shoulder obliged. The other end, the dragon-end, rested on the top of the limestone wall.

    Tlax asked, "How high?"

    Ixtza answered, "Up three fingers...your fingers!", he added quickly. When Tlax made the adjustment Ixtza said, "...and hold."

    (At that point Ixtza gave a hand signal and a Skink Priest uttered an incantation which sent a spark from his staff into the back end of the tube. A moment later there was a rush of flame from each end of the tube, then a solid mass of burning [stone?] flew from the dragon mouth, zoomed low over the water and smashed a hastily built wooden target on a raft. This promptly caught fire and was allowed to drift down stream.)

    (They did this ritual two or three times daily until they were proficient at hitting the rafts. Then they were told to spend the rest of each day, resting behind the wall, in "readiness" as the Skink Priest put it. At some point during the days of waiting Tlax became Ixtza's equal at War in the Branches. Other teams of Krox, Skink, and Priest did the same ritual with their tubes.)

    (Gradually, the workforce thinned out and was replaced by a fighting force. There were rare regiments of skink archers, Saurus, fighting Kroxigor...but no orders ever came for Tlax or Ixtza. They waited patiently but ultimately had to accept that they were part of a garrison. Then one afternoon, in the middle of their fourth game of War in the Branches, things became more clear.)

    "SKKCCrrrrrrreeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeeerrrrrrrrrK !!" a lone Terradon screamed as it swooped low over the walls. Its rider hurled a javelin, with a bright red message streamer attached, into the ground behind the middle tower.

    "What is this then?" asked Ixtza, looking up from their game.

    "A war warning. Battle is upon us. Follow me," ordered Tlax.

    (They were already standing by their 'drake tube', which was what the things had been nicknamed, when the chiefs and priests gave the call to arms. All seven teams were told to load their tubes. Tlax already had his resting on the wall, the dragon chin resting in the socket that had been ground into the top of the wall to receive it. Units of skinks and fighting Krox moved to positions around the perimeter, behind the wall, or in the towers.)

    (It wasn't long to wait before a whole squadron of Terradon was seen swooping and swirling above some things in the river. Things that reeked and belched noxious smelling smoke; things with masts. Ships; no two of them exactly alike. They were moving upriver. Some had sail out and used the inland breeze to carry them upriver, preceded by their stench. Others had great clanking wheels churning paddle blades through the water, still others were propelled by countless tiny oars or long sweeps pulled by teams of ogre sized things. They were the most ungainly, unevenly built ships ever cobbled together from timber and odd scraps of metal. Tlax knew what was in them just by the stench.)

    "Ratmen, Ixtza. Today we exterminate ratmen!!" and Tlax snarled as he said it.

    Tlax! sight on the lead ship." ordered their Priest, "Ixtza, do not overshoot the hull. They. Must. Burn."

    (They did not miss the first ship, a clanking thing with two paddle wheels on each side, and it did burn. The ratmen were not unprepared. They replied with shooting of their own. Their projectiles belched forth in clouds of black smoke and trailed evil looking green vapors. They slammed into the great wall without much effect or went whizzing overhead to miss cleanly. Once, while Tlax crouched low as they were reloading his tube, he saw one of their stones smash into the nearest tower, also built of the pink limestone, like the zigzag wall. The projectile punched a round hole in the soft limestone, which did not shatter, instead it pulverized, crunching into a powder. It sat there harmlessly at the back of a round hole it had carved for itself. It would take months of such shooting to ever seriously harm the walls he'd helped build. The ratmen had only hours left before they roasted.)

    (That next round he launched had scored a direct hit on a low, mast-less contraption, with a turtle back, propelled by many oars. It looked like a gigantic, foul water beetle for a moment, before it exploded in a huge fireball. Tlax grinned as it set two other rat infested boats afire. It was all over in about four hours; all was now clear. The piles of stone at intervals across the river had been placed to block navigation past the sandbar. The great pink wall had been hit repeatedly, but had failed nowhere. The reason to build it from such an odd choice of stone was now abundantly clear. Tlax had caused two other rat hulks to explode after he'd hit them. It was a bad day to be a ratman.)

    (Tlax and Ixtza stood, watching the remains of the ratman squadron drift back downstream and burn, listening to the ratmen's projectiles hiss as they warped the verges of the stone they were embedded in.)

    "You see now why we dug stone OUT of the river...?" Tlax rumbled.

    "Yes." the skink said, as he looked around a bit thunderstruck. It had been his first battle.

    "...the ground must be prepared..." Tlax continued, "You told me that."

    "They play a much greater game." said Ixtza.

    Then they both spoke with one voice, "Wise are the ways of the Slann..."

    Food for Thought

    “Make your choice, Myol, and pick wisely.”

    The skink stared long into Myol’s eyes, her shrewd features furrowing along the lines of her scales, which were various degrees of grey. Myol flinched from her gaze, and attempted to focus once again on the matter at hand. Her mind raced. What was the best decision in this situation?

    She looked down at the ivory rectangles in her claws and gingerly placed one on the playing board.

    Skink chief Risolu chuckled. “It must be true what they say: no saurus can ever master Npoko. It truly is a game beyond your puny comprehension.” She yawned and played one of her own pieces in a winning position. Myol grunted and knocked the board to the ground, turning away from Risolu’s laughter. She found herself staring into a face of damp fur, which thoughtfully expelled a gob of viscous saliva onto her forehead. Then it began to rain again.

    “Don’t you think my life’s bad enough without you making fun of me?”

    “Many would say yours was a charmed life, Myol. You get to commune with the elements daily. The manual labour is minimal-”

    “I’d take a year on a construction team to get out of another week of llama herding. The second my application to join the warrior caste is accepted, I’m out of here.”

    “That’s a real shame, my saurian friend. You’re a gifted herder. But sometimes I feel you don’t appreciate the importance of what we do here,” said Risolu as the pair settled down beneath the crude shelter perched on the edge of their mountainside meadow. A few thin strips of wood were all that stood between them and the intensifying downpour.

    “There’s nothing important about sitting in perpetual rain staring at the only species in Lustria dumber than kroxigors,” replied Myol, grimly regarding the long-necked creatures as their pelts turned from moist to sodden. This process seemed to have no impact on their expressions of indifference.

    “You’re here for a reason, Myol. A vital reason. Our people were created to carry out the Great Plan. And for that we need food. We’re carnivores, and there’s only one sufficiently large non-reptile species in Lustria that doesn’t fight back when you try to kill it. These llamas feed the great armies that you’re so keen to join. Without them our enemies would overwhelm us and Lustria would be lost.”

    “I know,” grumbled Myol, turning away. “But I’m still leaving first chance I get.”

    They listened to the rain for a few minutes, gazing out at the landscape of improbable peaks and gaping chasms. Eventually the skink chief spoke again.

    “Do you know why llama herders play Npoko? It’s an ancient game - some say it comes from the Southlands originally. But today the herders of the Western Moutains are the only ones who continue to play.”

    “Because it’s a simple game that can be played by yourself,” said Myol.

    “Heh. Probably. But it’s also a game that teaches all the skills you need for dealing with llamas. Thoughtfullness. Patience. And when to risk it all to protect your pieces.”

    Myol declined to comment. Risolu continued:

    “The pieces are the llamas, Myol. A good herder will do anything to keep them safe, because she knows the herd is more important than the herder. You may not realise it yet, my young friend, but one day you will see how this job takes just as much bravery as going into battle.”


    It was days later, and the rain had not abated. Risolu had left on her perpetual rotation of the many herding grounds in this part of the mountains. The pasture had flooded, so Myol had been forced to lead, or frequently push, her flock up the steep path along the side of the gorge to the caves above. The soaking creatures seemed even grumpier than usual. And smellier.

    Myol stared morosely at the rain as it churned the mud outside the cave. The bubbling sludge seemed to rise and fall increasingly wildly. Soon it was clear shapes were appearing in the mud, rising up towards the cave. Myol’s heart began to race. She ran to retrieve her spear and edged slowly towards the oozing creatures. The rain was washing away the soil, revealing blue scales. Half a dozen small skinks pulled themselves free and trotted into the cave. They cocked their heads at Myol. Gradually they began to sniff at the nearest llama, which looked down at them apprehensively.

    My gods, this must be one of the forgotten highland spawning pools, thought Myol as she stared, transfixed by the tiny lizards. Now she noticed the crimson patterns in their hides, a sign of a blessed spawning. These pools had been thought extinct for millennia.

    Without warning, the skinks lept in unison at the unfortunate llama, which was swiftly incapacitated as its lifeblood gushed from awful bitemarks in its jugular. The teeth and scales of the skinks turned even brighter red as they began to rend and tear the carcass, swallowing more of its tattered flesh than Myol would have thought possible for such small creatures. As their feeding frenzy subsided, the skinks once again regarded the larger reptile, and then vanished into the rain, sprinting down the mountain in the direction of Itza.


    Thoreus Rex, champion of her regiment, slipped once more in the mud, chipping a horrible gnash in her leg where a shard of kapok trunk, severed by a recent lightning blast, protruded across the path. The pain made Thoreus gasp, but the extra adrenaline alleviated some of her great fatigue. All she wanted was to stop and catch her breath, but an enormous blast, out-thundering the thunder, and the simultaneous shattering of the kapok shard beside her served as reminder of the immediate peril at hand. Jezzail bullets.

    Blood mixed with the torrents of rainwater coursing down her grizzled face and 7-foot frame as she rose unsteadily and stumbled onwards. Her weapons were gone. Her unit was gone. Even her glyph of command had been shot off the horn where it was bolted at the back of her skull.

    Suddenly the trees gave way to a clearing. Thoreus thought she could make out dim shapes ahead, but the deluge had reduced visibility to nothing. The rain was a wall. There was another crack of jezzail fire, and the great saurus champion felt herself sink to her knees as pain like she had never imagined began to flower across where her knee had once been. She willed herself to get up again. She focused to ignore the pain, but found that her leg no longer responded. She attempted to drag herself forward through the rivers of mud with her claws, only to find herself sucked downwards, unable to even pull free of the quagmire. Above and behind she was aware of the dim green glow of warpstone weaponry as about a dozen large ratmen closed in around her. She braced for the end, finally permitting herself to sink into oblivion.


    Nothing to do with me.

    Myol forced herself to concentrate on that thought, as she crouched behind a boulder across the clearing. She told herself that the uncontrollable shivering was due to the cold rain, and not the sight of the heavily-armed skaven in her pasture. Their presence profaned what she now knew to be a sacred place. Her sacred place.

    The collapsed saurus they were prodding and jeering at could be anyone. She certainly wasn’t Myol’s responsibility. It would be senseless to risk certain death to protect her - that was only logical, and she knew Risolu would agree. Better to watch and hope the rats moved on. The rain prevented any chance of her being discovered - the perfect mask for sight, sound and smell.

    The skaven seemed to be deciding whether the body beneath them merited a final bullet or if it was already a corpse. A particularly nasty-looking brute with an eye-patch was loading his musket purposefully. But something was approaching him from behind. Myol’s heart froze. At the same moment, she felt something crunch under her feet. She looked down at the scattered ivory Npoko pieces. They were swilling in the water that flowed freely over the rocky ground, but for a moment, they formed a familiar pattern.


    “I’m in no mood for games,” growled Grimrok One-Eye as he shoved the deadly green pellet resentfully down the barrel, “I’m finishing this and we’re out of here.”

    “Uh, One-Eye?” squeaked a companion, pointing an uncertain claw, “there seem-appears to be some kind of goat-demon behind you. Maybe flee-retreat a little?”

    Grimrok swivelled in the mud and started at the apparition with a shrill cry. Rat and llama stared at each other, their equally drenched fur dripping just inches apart. Somehow, despite the hammer-like rain, a heavy wad of spittle managed to launch from between the llama’s teeth and plaster itself directly above the tattered black eyepatch of the stormvermin. For a second, nothing was heard except the all-consuming hiss of precipitation. Then the llama swallowed.

    “Kill-slay this wretched creature!” screeched Grimrok, flinging down his jezzail and hefting a notched cleaver. The rats fell upon the unfortunate animal, which in turn emitted a terrible bleating as it collapsed under several nasty blows, the rodents piling in on top of it. Suddenly a spear burst through the poor thing’s head, ending its suffering forever. The rats, too, were stupefied into silence. They looked up in the direction of the spear’s trajectory.

    A lizard loomed above them, silhouetted in the rain against the white glow of the moon. It was trembling from head to foot. They could just make out the eyes, widened in wrath.

    “These beasts are under my protection,” it said, although to the mud-soaked skaven the words were nothing but guttural cries, full of rage. “I will not allow you to harm another.”

    Grimrok was the first to recover, turning to the others with a leer. “It’s nothing but a single reptile-thing. And now it doesn’t have a weapon-threat!” He got to his feet, along with the others, although many seemed less confident. The lizard no longer looked so alone. There were lots of other shapes becoming visible through the rain behind it. Grimrok’s grin faltered.

    A few of the rats at the back began to edge away from the rapidly assembling herd. The rearmost froze in terror as it glanced behind and got a view of the precipice. Rain fell like an ocean into the abyss, as if it would never stop falling. The rat made a small deflating sound, and fainted. Then the llamas charged.


    Looking back, Myol couldn’t properly remember how it had worked. Normally she couldn’t get the dumb creatures to do anything she wanted. But in that moment, she had felt a connection to the herd she’d never experienced before. One llama is rarely a worrying thing, unless you get too close to its face when it’s chewing, but a herd of 40 working together? Myol thought they could have held out against a stegadon rampage.

    After several days, Thoreus was able to limp again on her shredded knee. She insisted on leaving as soon as possible - her news from the front was too vital, and must be brought to Itza without delay. As she prepared for the onward journey, she turned to Myol.

    “I don’t think I’ll ever work out how you defeated all those rats single-handed, but what I do know is that a lizard like you should be with other warriors. We’re losing soldiers too fast on the front. We could use you, if you’ll permit me to have you reassigned from herd duty.”

    Myol bowed her head. “I’m honoured, Rex. But my place is here. With no food, there can be no warriors.”

    Thoreus bowed in return, the great mountains rearing up behind her. “Wise as well as strong. I will remember you at every meal, llama herder Myol. Would that all the flocks of Lustria were as well protected as this one. Farewell.”

    The Spawn

    Blood stained the undergrowth along his tracks. Everywhere ever the droplets had hit the ground were the dark leaves mutated by fowl bubbles of corruption. He continued forward through the humid jungle. With every painful step he took, he felt how the flesh around his wounds were warping and mutating. He climbed over a log without any ease and fell down on the other side and continued to roll down a creek. Hitting the bottom of the creek he fell down into the water. The water slowly showered off the blood covering him. He drink deeply out of the stream, took a loud breath and once recovered, he immediately pushed his head down below the water to continue drinking. When he had finally slaked his thirst he heaved himself up onto the bank of the stream. Water discolored with blood dripped off of his soaked trousers.

    As he watched the red water flown down the stream he felt regret he shouldn’t have left Ostermark. Coming to think of it he shouldn’t ever have left the Moot. His childhood had been good in the fertile south. It had been later when he was in Ostermark to make a career in the military that he had caught the disease. At least then he thought it was a disease. All his money had he spent in a fruitless attempts to cure himself. He had started to drink heavily to spare him of the pain causing him to lose his officer post. Penniless, sick, and with a heavy alcohol addiction he left for Marienburg. In Marinenburg had he signed up for a treasure seeking expedition. He had nothing to lose and a potential fortune to gain, hopefully enough to pay a wizard to cure him.

    The man had not moved from the stream for the time the sun took to move a hand width. Ixi had tracked him from the battle place thru the jungle now had the man stopped and so had Ixi. While waiting for the Salamander party to catch up, he had continue to observe the man, one could not be careful enough with the foul spawn of Chaos.

    Mind drifting, he thought of this morning. It was not a happy memory, not like the Moot. This was the morning when the other members of the scouting party had found out about his progressed state of disease. They had seen it for a mark of Chaos.

    A week earlier he had been bitten by a great lizard. The bite had nearly broken his arm. And he had been forced to bandage it. And now on this morning had the surgeon taken off the bandage. The hand had been black covered by hard bony scales like his back but the wound had healed with pale white warped flesh tinged with highlights of purple. His fingers had grown together forming a three part claw. They had dragged him out of the medical tent, cut off his arm with an axe and then prepared to burn him. But in the last moment darts started to rain over them and the men had other concerns. He had been hit and it burned like fire in his veins. And as the other men started to fall he had picked up the axe they cut of his arm with. Fighting his way out he fled.

    The salamander had arrived it had burnt off the taint of Chaos from the trail throw the jungle. And Ixi stepped into action drawing fourth a dart dipped in poison hallowed by the old ones. He proceeded to step out of crouch and fire the dart at the man tainted by Chaos.

    He felt a sting at his trout that cut of his trail of thought looking up he saw a short man approach face like a lizard with long tail and blueish skin.

    “Why? Weren’t you saving me?” He cried out as his vision blurred. And he fell

    “We were ssaving their soulss from your corruption. Ssacrificing their morthal chalks.” The lizardman hissed back.

    “You are not saving me you.. you.. murder……me..”

    “Your ssoul have been losst since the time you chose Chaoss the fire will cleanse you from thiss world.”

    Fire engulfed him and his last thought went to sSgmar but it was the hollow laughter of the Blood God filled his mind. He screamed.

    "No choice!"

    "Death is always a choice"

    The Rat and the Serpent

    "Do you know how many hours of torture-pain I had to inflict-cause to get these plaques translated? It all makes sense now." The two tailed skaven shrieked with delight.
    "No-no Two On One. Please do tell-describe the torture." Stabby said with a big grin.
    "I knew-guessed my tails were special. I am the prophet of the god Ratek."
    "Wha's that mean?"
    "It means that when the twin tailed comet comes we will be the king-emperors. Ratek will take the throne of the great horned rat and the big hatted lizard. Get a Moulder thing and let's begin-start spreading the word."
    "The twin tailed comet cometh"
    "We must join our forces. The Skaven threat is high"
    "I had a vision. The war cometh to the realm of Ghyran."
    "I too have seen this vision, a city called Middenheim. It has thus been decided."
    The three slann blinked in agreement and parted ways to begin their preparations.
    "No-no, you not training hard enough. The Plaques say that the star lizards will foul our blessings."
    Two On One hissed and pointed at a unit.
    Stabby called them over. "Claw Leader, how many troop-things you have?"
    The Claw leader gave a cheeky salute and replied, "One hundred, maybe less, depends on who got trampled-stomped."
    Two On One pulled out his warplock pistols and shot ten of the troops. The other ninety scampered away to hide amongst other units. "Train harder. You need-have to be better. Harvest-take their tails, use the rest for field rations."

    "The months have passed far too quickly. I had become lost in my contemplations." Croaked Lord Tikai.
    "The ideas are abundant, however the time grows short. The comet shall ascend to our skies shortly." Lord Otta'goq said slowly.
    "The visions flash. The Decimator shalt destroy the Mortal realm of Ghyran should we not act swiftly." Lord Maztakai said gravely.
    "Then it hast been decided. We shall work in tandem to destroy the threat."
    "If I am reading the charts right your comet will come in two nights."
    "You had better be reading the chart-things right. This is perfect. Two tails. Two weeks. We split into two groups like my tails and take the realm for our own." Two On One the Decimator cackled.
    "We found-located the way in boss. You wanna leave now or decimate a unit first?" Stabby stood at attention.
    "We leave for Middenheim now. That will be our new base of operations. We are to be there by nightfall. Show-tell me the entrances to the portal. Ratek requires more sacrifices. Does everyone have their extra tail attached?"
    "Moulder-thing got all the tails on. He said he wanted pay and a nap. So I stabbed him. In the face, and the throat, and the belly." Stabby giggled.
    Lord Tikai arrived first. He was surrounded by temple guard, with an eternity warden to either side of him. In the distance a large blue skink with a bright red crest was chirping and clicking ferociously.

    "Sotek is coming. Sotek requires the blood of the foul skaven. Sacrifice them by the thousands. There will be a sea of blood for the serpent god. The god whose tear led the slann through the dark, to allow us to fight on in this form." Tehenhauin preached with fury. Snakes and serpents of all kinds came from the bushes to the feet of Tehenhauin.
    The skinks were rallied up and ready to rampage.
    "Like the forked tongue of a snake we will split off into two. There will be no mercy. There will be no prisoners and not one skaven shall be suffered to live." The red crested prophet shouted savagely.
    The troglodons with their oracles and the chameleon skinks darted out in front, followed by the bloodthirsty throngs of skink warriors.
    Lord Otta'goq entered much in the same way as Lord Tikai. Off in the distance a large purple skink with a bright red crest was ferociously shouting a fiery oratory. More serpents flocked to the feet of this Tehenhauin. The skinks called for blood, chirping of sacrifice, clicking about the glory of Sotek.
    Lord Maztakai entered. His version of Tehenhauin was a large black skink, with a bright red crest and two tails. He mounted a troglodon that was surrounded by serpents, snakes and other reptiles. Riding back and forth in front of the troops preaching the ways of Sotek. The cries for blood resounded from the little skinks.
    The slann began their march after the skinks.
    Ratek is coming. Ratek requires blood from all who stand in his way. Sacrifice them by the thousands. Let there be a sea-ocean of blood for the two tailed god. The god who shall be king of the gods. With his first true prophet, I, Two On One the Decimator." The Decimator preached with fury. Rats and rodents of all kinds came from the bushes to the feet of Two On One.
    The skaven were rallied up and ready to rampage.
    "Like the two tails of Ratek we will split-break off into two. There will be no mercy. There will be no prisoner-slaves. There will only be sacrifice to Ratek." The two tailed prophet shouted savagely.

    A skaven started screaming, its flesh was sizzling and melting off of the bones. A volley of poison tipped darts hailed down on the rats. Commands were squeaked. Somewhere in the woods a rotting wooden arm was creaking. A payload of filth covered the trees. Seemingly invisible creatures started to vomit and fall out of the trees. The creatures began changing colours before decaying into starlight.
    "More starlight. Ratek demands more sacrifices." Squeaked Stabby.
    A stream of blue skinks led by the blue Tehenhauin rushed forward. They were met by Skaven, each with two tails. Vicious and savage the battle raged. Starlight and blood bated the battlefield. A wave of purple skinks led by the purple prophet of Sotek flowed into the battle.
    More shrieks and squeaks followed by the sizzling of flesh. The black Tehenhauin rode in on his troglodon. "I am Tehenhauin of the sacred spawning of Sotek. Fill the ground with the filthy vermin blood."
    The blue Tehenhauin was outraged. "Imposter. I am Tehenhauin prophet of Sotek. I brought the plaques of Chaqua to light. I foretold the coming of the Serpent god Sotek and sacrificed the rats to appease him."
    The purple Tehenhauin twisted his face. "You may all claim to be Tehenhauin, but know that it was I who called down the forked tongue comet, it was I who sacrificed until mighty Sotek burst forth from the volcano to destroy the vermin plague. The three stared in disbelief at one another. The battle did not stop for them. The three withdrew to analyze the claims. They all had snakes at their feet. They all had the sacred plaques of Chaqua and the same sacrificial blade. They all had red crests. "We can't all be Tehenhauin. We don't even remember it the same. The only consistency with our memories is that we took the plaques and dagger from Chaqua, led the skinks against skaven, and Sotek came from the volcano because of our sacrifices." The blue Tehenhauin chittered.
    "We must seek council with the slann. They must tell us who the real Tehenhauin is." The purple Tehenhauin chirped.
    "Get on my troglodon, he will allow it." The three rode off towards the slann. The rest of the skinks puffed out their crests and fought harder.
    Two On One the Decimator was breaking through the lines of skinks. The skaven following him fought with a fervor. More sacrifices for Ratek. Jezzail teams and rattling guns mowed through scores of skinks. "More-more. Kill them all. Feed Ratek. He will make us ruler-kings of our own realm. Middenheim is close." The Decimator shrieked.
    The three Tehenhauin reached the outskirts of Middenheim. The masses of temple guard did not stir. The three slinks jumped down and called out to the slann. Wordlessly the armored saurus parted to allow the skinks through.

    The skinks could feel the power flowing from the mighty slann. The sheer power caused a shiver to run down the spine of each skink. Fearlessly the three approached. "Which one of us is the real Tehenhauin?" The blue one shouted out, immediately regretting the anger in his voice.
    The slann made no reply.
    "We must know. We all have similar but different memories. We can't all be the real Tehenhauin." The purple one said calmly but urgently.
    The slann did not stir.
    The black one looked at his brothers, then back at the slann, then back again to his brothers.
    "None of us." He said coldly. "The real Tehenhauin would not have left the battle for this." He said with a said tone. He fell down to his knees. "So who am I?" He shouted at the slann, his voice trembling. "Who are we? What are we? We're just bad copies of something great. Fragments of a long dead memory. Why.." The twin tailed black skink began to weep.
    The two others rushed to his side and knelt down beside him.
    "You are correct. Thou art not Tehenhauin. The last time I saw Tehenhauin it was also not the hero from the tales. Tehenhauin was a great hero. Great enough to know that his legend would be greater than he could ever be. Tehenhauin became a mask, an idea. Many great skinks wore it throughout the ages after his death. Whenever the threat was great a large red crested skink would emerge from our jungles, to encourage and lead our skinks to victory." Said Lord Tikai.
    "You are not the original Tehenhauin. You are you. A part of our great constellations. Now go forth and create your own legends." Said Lord Otta'goq.
    "The twin tailed comet cometh this evening. Make haste." Lord Maztakai blinked, a blue and a purple troglodon appeared.
    The three Tehenhauin mounted their beasts and rode back to the battle.
    Skink and skaven alike were being slaughtered en masse. The ferocity of the normally cowardly skaven and skittish skinks was impressive. The blue Tehenhauin called out. "Kill their leader. Cut off the head the rest will crumble."
    The troglodons spit their poison. Two On One was too fast. Other skaven were not so lucky. Skaven began swarming the troglodons. Biting, clawing and stabbing just to make the sizzling noises stop. The trio jumped down and cut their way towards Two On One. The Decimator planted his totem bearing the plaques of Chaqua.
    The battle seemed to stand still as the four of them engaged in combat. Two On One the Decimator was quite handy with his twin tails, fending off the attacks of two of the Tehenhauin while facing the other with his paw weapons. Metal clanged hard as they savagely smashed their weapons towards the hated enemy. "Do you see it? The twin tailed comet of Ratek is in the sky. Heralding the Great Two Tailed Rat. He will destroy you. He will eat your very essence." The Prophet of Ratek hissed.
    "You fool. That is the herald of Sotek, that is not two tails, that is the forked tongue of a serpent, come to destroy you and any other foul abomination on the realm." Bellowed the Purple Tehenhauin.
    "Where did you get the plaques? How dare you defile them with your filth?" Hissed the blue one.
    "More Sacrifices.” The four shouted in unison. The battlefield erupted once more.

    Lord Maztakai opened his eyes wide. A white light was emitting from his eyes. The other two felt it, in a sad realization they knew they must leave the realm. Their forces would fight on in their absence, but it would be for naught.
    The comet was directly above the battle, burning bright in the night sky. Underground geysers began erupting. Those caught in the geysers were tossed into the air, their bones breaking from the pressure, their flesh boiling from the heat. In other places the earth opened up and swallowed large groups of skaven and skink alike. The sky darkened, the winds rose, lightning struck down between the fighting skinks and skaven, electrocuting all in its path. Funnel clouds began to form, becoming tornadoes quickly. The tornadoes tore through the battle, ripping trees from the ground, destroying entire battalions. Trees and other debris flew around the battlefield. The realm was tearing itself apart around the four prophets locked in battle. Smoke in the form of a two tailed rat began to form. A long stream of steam, formed and moved in a serpent like manner toward the smoke. The ground exploded, lava and water burst forth. The once mighty city of Middenheim was forever preserved under magma. A rat battling three skinks was likewise preserved. A monument to the fight between the rat and the snake.

    In High Azyr the three Slann called their troops back to life.

    “We failed.” Said the twin tailed black Tehenhauin.

    “How could we lose? Sotek was on our side.” Hissed the purple one.

    “Send us back. We must finish this.” The blue one chirped.

    “There is nothing to go back to. Nobody won. Nobody lost. You did not however fail. You have succeeded in what we had planned.” Croaked Lord Tikai.

    “The fledgling god created by the abominable skaven was stopped before it could gain any more power. Your belief in Sotek, and the belief you bestowed upon your troops was strong enough to call forth the serpent to fight with the rat.” Lord Otta’goq said.

    “Sotek defeated the rat? We did win.” The purple skink interjected.

    “No. There was no winner. Middenheim was destroyed, and it will take centuries for life to bloom there again.”

    “If there is no winner does that mean they killed each other? Is Sotek dead?” The blue skink chirped.

    The three slann remained silent.

    The three skinks demanded to know what the slann knew. They knew that with a thought they could cease to exist, but what was the point of being the prophet of a dead god?

    “Can a god truly die? Do they rise from the ashes like a phoenix on belief alone? If the skaven can create a god, can you not recreate a god? The battle is over, the war rages on.” Lord Maztakai said as the seraphon turned back into starlight.

    The Project

    The Weight of Our Actions

    The golden artefact was in the Lord’s Treasury. The priests of the pyramid-temple were prepared to protect it for countless ages.

    The first part of the expedition went well, they entered enemy’s land without finding any real opposition, apart the excessive dryness of the heat in that sea of sand. The negligible defenses of the old city were easily crushed by lizardmen forces, and they took the temple near the strange, smooth sided pyramid.
    Then, things went wrong. Fragile skeleton warriors started to emerge from the sand itself, an easy prey for the seasoned saurus fighters, but there were more, and more, and more… numerous as skaven, except they didn’t break when burned by salamanders.
    They were annoying, but things were still manageable, until the huge decorative statues, revealed themselves as something different.
    In the chaos of the city combat, the frontline shattered. At a certain point, Qor-Tec heard the familiar roar of Loq-Loq’s carnosaur… but, almost at the other end of the battleline, he also saw for a brief moment Tepozi’s banner. Qor-Tec desire to join the fray at Loq-Loq’s side was almost a physical need, but surely the skink priest Tepozi would have been near his master, Lord Tlaxli… growling in frustration, Qor-Tec went toward the banner.

    So, their forces ended torned in two, and Qor-Tec found himself in the wrong part of the army; Lord Tlaxli was with the Oldblood Loq-Loq, and so their temporary commander was the skink priest Tepozi-Tzin. Qor-Tec was fine with Tepozi, but was worried by the absence of Loq-Loq; the Oldblood could keep in line Qor-Tec’s presumptuous rivals. And they were in open range… not a single tree, not a shade for the skink scouts to hide in, while the mounted vanguards of the enemy would have spotted the lizardmen from miles away. No, it wouldn’t have been an easy walk…

    Amon-Rha was standing near the royal sphinx, peering the two diverging clouds of dust.
    The High Priest Thutmek was bowing at his side. “The frog-god is in the western army, My King. But we don’t know where the stolen treasure is.”
    “No one steals my possessions. I’ll pursue the frog, probably the Plaque is there; but in case it’s a trap, you will take a part of the army, following the eastern fugitives”.
    “My King… there lies the Kinslayer. What should I do with him?”
    Amon-Rha pondered the choices. Thutmek would have needed some help? Can a traitor ever be trusted again?
    “Send him a message. His assistance will be rewarded”.
    "Wouldn't the traitor take the treasure for himself?"
    The king replied "It has no value to him, and I have other things he desires. Let him know that his outcast status could be softened."

    It began as a dusty cloud on the horizon, a rapidly approaching cloud. The sandstorm hit them faster than a Lustrian hurricane. Qor-Tec stood still against the raging sands, the nictitating membranes protecting the pupils. Not that it was of any help, they couldn’t see anything one yard away.
    Then, the storm calmed down, forced to kneel before Tepozi’s magic, revealing the approaching enemy units. The wardrums dictated the defensive formation, and the disciplined warriors moved into positions strategically optimized by millennia of warfare.
    Qor-Tec was confident; all the saurus near him were spawned from the pool that gave him birth centuries ago, they all shared the same genetic memory and the wisdom of the ancient Oldbloods, previously buried in that same pool. There wasn’t the same link of true spawned brothers, but the tie was strong and they would have followed him everywhere.
    The pressure on the lizardmen lines was constantly increasing. Tepozi’s lightning bolts were opening large holes through the attackers, but the bows of the dead were taking a heavy toll, and almost all the saurus warriors were stuck in combat with huge units of skeletons.
    The few chariots were trying to surround them, but the Cold One cavalry, leaded by Itza-Uax, was able to keep them away… Itza-Uax lured the chariots where he wanted, and then he acted: the Cold Ones crushed the first line of chariots, then the second one, leaving nothing between the Cold Ones and the screaming catapults… at that point, a dune of sand bursted, revealing some bizarre huge snakes, that charged Itza-Uax on the flank. Even at a distance, Qor-Tec saw the death of the Scarvet, decapitated by a masterful stroke, and his Cold One stabbed by the fangs of the snake-thing. The rest of the cavalry didn’t last much longer.
    Qor-Tec realized that things were going bad, when he saw also the unit of Tepozi was fighting. The kroxigors were dealing tremendous damage against their counterpart, some strange large beings with animal heads, but those cursed things were coming back from their apparent death, while the kroxigors didn’t…
    Qor-Tec’s unit doubled the efforts against the skeletons they were facing, finally wiping them away, but it was too late. To Qor-Tec’s horror, after the fall of the last kroxigor, Tepozi’s unit broke, with the few survivors running away.

    Tepozi was fleeing, and he knew he was short on options. There was another skink cohort ready to be joined, but with no hero, or kroxigors, and then there was a large group of warriors led by a Scarvet: a strong unit but made by saurus; the sense of impending doom was strong.
    And Tepozi moved alone, toward Qor-Tec.

    “No, it’s a mistake, he cannot find shelter within my unit…” Qor-Tec knew it was wrong, saurus are not fit to guard skink priests. So Qor-Tek stood immobile, without knowing what to do, while Tepozi came closer.
    But it wouldn’t have been necessary to take decisions. An arrow pierced Tepozi’s throat, and the priest fell to the ground, spurting blood. Qor-Tec went to his side, already knowing that the fate of his commander was sealed.
    Tepozi was holding an engraved gold tablet. Qor-Tec recognized the mark of the Old Ones, and he knew that the item should be brought to Lord Tlaxli, but it was also a sacred object, and he was not supposed to touch it. Tepozi’s last breath, exhaled “takeee…”, and so Qor-Tec took the tablet from the dead hands of the priest, hiding it within his armor.
    Then arrows fell like hail upon Qor-Tec’s unit.

    The watcher-in-the-sand, was lurking near Tepozi, ready to strike, but when the saurus took the shiny object from the dead skink, he drew back his arm. The big lizard had not gone to the smaller one's aid - he had gone to rob him and leave him to die. “Interesting… maybe almost interesting as Amon-Rha promises”, he thought. “There is no rush to recover the treasure. I will watch this one a little longer”.

    In the end, they made it. But losses were staggering… and, as if the loss of Tepozi and Itza-Uax wasn’t enough, Qor-Tec’s companion were all dead; only the champion Gorak survived the slaughter, and now he was silently following Qor-Tec with lifeless eyes. Qor-Tec knew that sensation of void and loss, but now there was a more urgent matter: the tablet was not a burden he could bring by himself.
    Tehechi was with his troops. His squadron suffered minimal losses and was one of the most reliable unit still remaining, and so, not surprisingly, Tetechi was acting as if he was the appointed general.
    Qor-Tec cursed his weakness. To ask for help, would have put ahead his direct rival for the Oldblood rank, and without the promotion, no chance for Qor-Tec to be buried in his old spawning pool. No inheritance of memories, his name would be forgotten.
    But Qor-Tec needed help, so he swallowed his pride, and approached the Scarvet. “Tehechi, I need to talk about an important thing…”

    Tetechi saw a defeated Qor-Tec approaching him. The chance to humiliate the rival was a strong temptation, but he also knew that the army was in danger, and that their forces were relying on the two survived veterans… When Qor-Tec talked, Tetechi opted to exploit his advantage.
    “I don’t need to talk. Your scars are the mark of defeats. You lead warriors to death, my warriors are still alive. I will be the next general, and my first order is: stay away from me”.
    And so Qor-Tec obeyed. There was only a thing he could do.
    “Gorak, I need your help…”
    Qor-Tec didn’t speak for long, but at the end, Gorak’s eyes were alive again.

    The skeletons didn’t even bother to hide their moves. There was only one way home for the lizardmen, and it was through the pass of rocky cliffs placed at the border of the desert sea.
    The undead army was there, waiting for them.
    Tetechi planned the assault, with his troops in the center, shielded by less reliable units; salamanders and all the remaining shooting on the wings, to protect the center from side attacks. If it worked, Tetechi and his troops would have probably been the only ones returning into the jungle.
    But Qor-Tec knew the enemy had different plans and so, when the charge begun, he and Gorak left the army, slipping between the skeleton horsemen, too occupied in pincushioning larger targets to lose time chasing a couple of fugitives.

    The watcher-in-the-sand was satisfied. “the commander escapes with his stolen prize, and the soldiers die. Such a beautiful, egoistic behavior…it recalls my youth. I think that Amon-Rha’s interests can wait a little”.

    Qor-Tec and Gorak were climbing the rocky slope. From their high point of view, it was easy to see that the army was dying, shredded by magical vortexes. A large group of skeletons halted Tetechi, and sallies were probably already dead, as the only visible flames were breathed by a large lionesque monster.
    The two last survivors of the lizardmen’s force, moved out of sight, and proceeded toward South.
    After a couple of hours, the breeze was carrying the first, weak jungle smells. Smells of life, and a sort of victory, ‘cause armies can be spawned again, but a Slann’s artefact cannot.
    “We are chased”.
    Qor-Tec turned. Two large scorpions were tracking their footprints on the sand, it was only a matter of minutes before they would have to fight.
    “We’ll wait for them. Set an ambush”.
    “No, commander. You go. Your duty is to bring back the tablet, mine is to fight”.
    Qor-Tec’s pond was murky. Strong emotions were running through him, something he’d never experienced before. “I don’t want to”.
    “You must obey Tepozi’s will. It’s the only way.”
    And so Qor-Tec ran away.

    The watcher-in-the-sand was excited. “You’re even leaving your friend to die for you. This is better than I could ever hope… I really fear that I shall disappoint the King’s expectations”.
    When the scorpions finished with Gorak, they started to follow the trace of the last saurus. But someone had deleted them.

    Qor-Tec was tired, but now the horizon was a green line… and much nearer, there was the Slann’s army, successfully escaped to the deadly sands. And a small group of temple guards was heading toward him!
    The Scarvet’s relief was immense.
    Then his foot sank into a soft hole. A swarm of scarabs emerged at blinding speed from the hole, enveloping the feet and the leg, starting to chew his flesh despite the scaly skin.
    Qor-Tec tried to wipe them off, but more scarabs came out, from all around; they were covering him almost entirely now, and the black mass was also building a strange heap just in front of Qor-Tec, forming a sort of man-sized silhouette, enclosing a skull-faced mask. Scarabs were devouring him alive, entering the ears, but leaving intact his eyes, so he can see that the black and blue mass was forming also a pseudopod, which was holding a sacrificial dagger…

    When the temple guards arrived, there were only dry bones, and a golden plaque.

    Qor-Tec woke up, feeling really strange.
    He was in a cave, a sort of darkened shrine with huge statues, very similar to the ones that fought with Tepozi’s unit. The only light was given by blue auras cast by evanescent spirits, some sort of will ‘o wisp, floating around the cave. Qor-Tec realized that he was a will ‘o wisp, too, attached with a thin silver cord to a chunk of bloodied flesh: his still beating heart, lying on a plate.
    A large being, with a black jackal’s head, was in front of a set of scales, listening to the figure standing in front of him; Qor-Tec recognized his killer, the skull-faced scarab-man.
    “Oh mighty Usirian, it must be him! I followed him closely, he betrayed his liege, his army and his friends, all for the lust of gold and magical power. His soul is black as mine, and it will free me from my torment!”.
    “So you say, Apophas, my little prince of Scarabs, so you say… but only the Weighing of the Heart will tell us the Truth”
    There was a hint of amusement in the jackals’ tone? Qor-Tec was not sure, he could not take away his senses from the God that was putting his heart on one plate, while on the other one there was a black, dessicated lump of flesh.
    The scales was probably broken, because his heart was clearly heavier than its counterpart, and yet his plate was standing high, while the dessicated heart dropped as much as it could.
    “You are still mine, Apophas.”
    Skull-face was shocked “it’s not possible! I was sure it was him!”
    “Apparently not, my poor prince of Scarabs. You have chosen… poorly. The actions of this soul were guided by something better than what you were thinking.”
    For the first time, the eyes of the jackal pointed on Qor-Tec, sending shivers into his mind.
    “And this soul is not for my Kingdom. Something else claims his spirit, and it’s time to let it go”.

    The honor ceremony was almost ended. Qor-Tec’s bones were ready to be dissolved in his old spawning pool, to transmit his memories and courage to the new generation of warriors. Lord Tlaxli was pleased.

    The golden artefact was in the Lord’s Treasury. The priests of the pyramid-temple were prepared to protect it for countless ages.

    Strength and Conviction

    I am a Saurus Warrior. Proud and fierce I have been imprisoned by the enemy. They are humanoid, but I cannot tell if they worship a dark god. I know that I am imprisoned here in this cell. I am allowed out at times, and I roam the grounds of this prison looking for any escape.

    So let me tell you how I got here. I used to be a Stegadon rider. I would roam the continent with fellow riders and keep Lustria safe from invaders. My fellow riders were everything to me. On those long campaigns we formed a kinship that nothing can replace. One warrior was like my brother, he came from the same spawning as I did. We spent our time discussing the vast armies of the old world and how we would run them. We recreated battles and this obsession with war fueled our bond. We knew the enemy and we knew our allies and we enjoyed what we did.

    The other two warriors that were part of our detachment outranked me. They came from spawnings earlier than mine, and they took their time to show us the ropes. Valuable allies and dear friends they were who we turned to when times looked bleakest. They were also there when you needed comfort, and if you think me weak for needing comfort, you do not understand what it was like to exist in a world that was constant danger. And yet now I am trapped here, I find myself longing for it.

    But I digress. One day, like many of them before, we rode our Stegadon proudly towards the battlegrounds, things took a sharp twist. Perhaps the mundane had made us careless. Yet this time we were flanked by a monstrous contraption of steel of steam. My brother and I recognised it as Franz's new Steam Tanks, super deadly and super strong. One crunched into the other and it was carnage. I do not know what came of the battle, all I know is that my fellow riders were killed and I was badly wounded.

    And then taken captive. Each day as they allow me out to exercise I try to escape this hellish prison. Some days it is subtle, some days I fight off hordes of the enemy, and yet I always fail. They subdue me with their warpstone capsules. My escape attempts are becoming more infrequent lately. Although I very much long for the calm of lustria, I can't help but contemplate what it would look like if I could return. I would never again feel the comfort or kinship of the three that were all I knew. Part of me wonders if I could adapt.

    But it is my sacred duty to escape and return to my land, so that is what I set out to do. This prison isn't just a prison, they are trying to change me. They experiment on me. They looked at my strong reptilian body and wanted to remove my very being, and replace me with a human brain. I am not sure how they could do such a thing, but this place is very confusing. They used their sorcery, their tricks, and those accursed warpstone capsules.

    But I have resisted and I will continue to resist. It is not my destiny to be a human, no matter what they insist. My mind will hold strong. I will escape this prison and return to Lustria. I will remain a Saurus. That is my choice.

    Hexoatl, the Induction Ceremony.

    Te'heh stood in the center of a loud, nervous crowd of Skinks. They were all waiting to discover whether they had passed the test or not. The clamour in the large pyramid died down instantly when a Starpriest walked to the front of the crowd of skinks. The ornate room shone with sunlight reflecting off the gold plates, filling the skinks with awe and religious fervor.
    "Skinks, today is the day we see if the Old Ones recognise you as needing a promotion. All of you have passed the oral exam, but the Old Ones have declared, in their infinite wisdom, that only three of you may become Skink Priests. Which three? Let us find out."
    He gestured, and a Holy Plaque floated off the wall into his hand.
    To the casual observer, it would seem magical - but on closer inspection, you could see the faint Chameleon Skink footprints on the sandy floor. Te'heh saw this, but he judged from the gasps around him that no-one else did.
    The Starpriest continued "And those Skinks are...... Te'heh, Kon'Juncty'Vitus and Orbel! Congratulations! You shall all join me after this for further instruction. Bad luck everyone else, the Old Ones wish you to remain a skink for another year."
    Te'heh walked through the quickly dispersing crowd to the Starpriest. Orbel and Kon'Juncty'vitus - presumably the pair of skinks slightly to his left - followed him.

    The Starpriest waited for the last dejected Skink to leave, and then spoke to them quietly and quickly.
    "Look, you are all now Skink Priests, but you cannot have the garb or the weapons until you sacrifice a Skaven in public. The next celebration is in two weeks’ time, and all three of you are expected to kill a Skaven in whatever way you wish." He dropped his voice even further, "and Huqal'tak the Slann will be there, so make it good, understand?"

    Kon'Juncty'Vitus nodded, and so did Orbel and after a short pause, so did Te'heh.
    "Good! See you in two weeks." And the Starpriest trotted away.

    Now all the excitement had died down, Te'heh got his first good look at his fellow Priests. Kon'Juncty'Vitus was huge - almost Saurus size. He had a permanent scowl on his face, and looked like he was constantly crossing his eyes.

    Orbel was the complete opposite. He was small, and happy, and his eyes were huge with wonder as he looked around the room, no doubt trying to remember every sacred symbol he could see.

    Te'heh was a normal Skink. His crest was maybe a bit too big for his liking, and his claws were naturally extremely sharp, but otherwise he was normal.

    Kon'Juncty'Vitus pushed past him, and headed for the door. Despite his rough manner, Te'heh would much rather be around him than be around Orbel, whose eyes had - impossibly - got even larger. He followed.

    After a threatening scene in which Kon'Juncty'Vitus offered to dunk him in blood and leave him by a Carnosaur nest - "That'll teach you to follow me!" - Te'heh decided it would be far safer to strike out on his own, and think about how to kill that Skaven. He wasn't an expert in killing, but he knew how to find someone who was.
    So he found a river, and swam downstream the warm, comfortable waters. There was nothing more relaxing than being gently carried through the warm murky waters. The underwater plants glowed softly, lighting his way like he was as important as an Old One, or at least a third-generation Slann, and the occasional salamander seemed to treat him with the kind of reverence a Slann would normally gain off skinks. He was enjoying himself, and he wished that he could stay down here forever. Sadly, he had to come up every couple of minutes, to orientate himself. Then it was back to the only kind of respect he ever seemed to get.

    Te'heh was loving the feeling of power that swimming gave him, until he got to the construction site of a new temple-city - the very one, in fact that his friend Molok was working in. Even from underwater, he could tell the Kroxigor were very busy. He could see fifteen (as they were spawned in triplets, that made at least five spawnings here) and they were all busy. Some were lugging trees out of the way, some were dragging rocks and more were carefully erecting a huge, rough depiction of a giant snake - Sotek.

    Te'heh scrambled out the water and dried himself with a few handy clumps of moss. He pulled himself fully up the riverbank using a helpful branch, and went to find Molok. The rare intelligent Snapping-Turtle variation of a kroxigor was ordering his kin to find some "munchies" and stop working for a bit. The simpler Kroxigor - the standard kind - followed his instructions without question and split to find something edible.

    Te'heh walked up and slapped Molok on the shell like he was greeting his spawn-kin. Molok looked up. "Oh. You. What do you want?"
    Te'heh wrung his claws awkwardly. Maybe they weren't as good friends as he had remembered.
    "I want to know how best to kill a Skaven."
    Molok looked at him like Te'heh was the Kroxigor here, not him. Clearly, it was obvious.
    "Do you want speed, results or some fearsome takedown?"
    Te'heh shrugged weakly.
    "I want to... uh... I want to show off to the Slann how good a, uh, priest I am. So I want a, um, fearsome takedown please."
    Molok shrugged. "Pull it in half. Any other silly questions?"
    Pull it in half? You fool. I don't have the strength to do it and you know that.
    "Umm, ok. How am I meant to do that? Being a Skink and everything...."
    Molok looked a bit guilty. For a moment, Te'heh could have sworn there was pity in his face, but a second later it was gone.
    "Skaven have extremely weak frontal ribcages. That’s why they hunch over - to protect it. Even a feeble skink should be able to rip it apart."
    Oh. That makes a bit more sense. But this sounds a bit rehearsed.
    Te'heh adopted his most threatening pose (although to Molok there was no difference) and boldly enquired if Molok had told any other skink this.
    Molok shrugged and looked away for a moment.
    Yeah, but just this one other guy, a few minutes ago. His name was Conjunction-something.
    Te'heh felt his heart sink.
    "Kon'Juncty'Vitus? Skink with crossed eyes?"
    Molok recognised the sadness in his tone. But, in true Kroxigor fashion, he ignored it and ploughed on.
    "Yep, thats the one. He was quite big for a skink. You should have swum faster, and maybe then this Conjunction'Iris would be the loser. "
    Ok, I give up. This was my only chance at doing something original. Maybe I'll just use a dagger.

    He thanked Molok for trying, and left, slipping back into the river. Killing a Skaven was surprisingly difficult to do in a new and original fashion. Why did they even have to do it? He would refuse. Say he didn't want to or something.

    The river was not as warm as he remembered, and a lot more murky. The plants tangled in his feet and seemed to draw in the light, making for an ominous journey back. Twice in half an hour he had to flee the river because of territorial Salamanders.
    After a while, Te'heh realised he was getting tired. A quick check showed he was by the ruined human tower - making him less than a third of the way back to Hexoatl. How was this possible? He felt like he had been swimming for hours, and his neck and arms were beginning to cramp from the effort
    It was hard work - made worse by the sudden panicked flights out the water caused by curious troglodons - and eventually Te'heh gave up and climbed a tree to rest.
    Why can't this ever happen when I'm in a good mood? Old Ones, I hate this.

    He drifted into a deep sleep, in which he dreamt of desperately running through a dark tunnel away from a strange, angry clicking noise and a large menacing shadow.

    When he woke, he took one look at the now-rushing, turbulent river and decided to walk alongside it. If he tried to swim against a current like that, he would end up back in the company of Molok. And he couldn't take that.

    At one point he found himself walking through a clearing with a huge collection of Carnosaur dung in it. It was about half an hour layer, and he had been forced to hide in a bush when a bunch of humans turned up in a white boat with a cage on it, and began rooting around in the piles of dung for something that kept buzzing. It was a yellow "Sattelyte Fone" - that then attracted a Carnosaur. What clever humans. The humans barely escaped, and about five minutes later Te'heh felt safe enough to get back into the river. It couldn't be as bad as on the land, could it?

    It could. The rest of his journey was fraught with danger and extremely bad luck. It took him days to get back to Hexoatl.

    When he finally managed it, he was battered and bruised, with a strange persecution complex. He believed that the Old Ones were trying to punish him. If they were, they were doing a thorough job. If anyone looked closely, they could clearly have seen tooth marks on his crest and left arm.

    He took a huge rest in a healing pool, and then went to sleep in his skink priest chamber. He was shaken awake what felt like only seconds later by Orbel, who told him excitedly that it was nearly his turn next.

    "What? You mean-?"
    "Yup. I managed to convince them to bring it forward by a week. You better go."

    With a bitter curse that caused Orbel to flinch backwards, Te'heh darted out of the chamber.

    Te'heh lurched out of the barracks and ran to the sacrificial pyramid, and - seeing the large crowd of Skinks and Saurus around it - decided to take the faster way up. There was an elevator made out of rope amd wood at the back of the pyramid, on the vertical part that faced out into the jungle. It was notorious for sometimes dropping people, but this was an emergency.
    It took a while, even using the elevator, but he had reached the top when Kon'Juncty'Vitus ripped his victim in half, to the jubilant roars of the Saurus. The Skinks gave a half-hearted cheer, but it was clear he was now an honorary Saurus. Then, the Slann blessed Kon'Juncty'Vitus by opening one thick eyelid and looking at him for a second.

    It was going to be a tough act to follow. But Te'heh would do his best. He stepped onto the pyramid.
    The two guard kroxigor kicked the two parts of Skaven down into the crowd, where they were devoured, and strapped a new Skaven down.
    Te'heh stepped forward onto the podium at the top of the pyramid, and decided to improvise a speech. It didn't have to be too elaborate, after all it was only addressing the bog-standard Skinks and Saurus.
    "Skinks and Saurus! This Skaven is the epitome of all we fight against! They are corruption, fear and vice! They betrayed the plan of the Old Ones! They are our most potent enemies! What should I do?"
    The crowd roared.
    "Kill the scum!"
    "What should I do?"
    In one awful moment, the different responses blended to sound eerily like Skaven-speak.
    Te'heh felt suddenly raw and betrayed.
    "Kill-kill the traitor-scum!"
    In a sudden lull, the rat screamed
    "Don't kill-kill the traitor-scum!"
    Te'heh walked forward with purpose, taking a dagger off one of the Kroxigor. He stepped forward, grasping the Skavens chin. Te'heh lifted the blade and rested it on the rats neck. He could smell its disgusting breath, and...
    ...suddenly he felt pity. The Rat was terrified. It was panting quickly and murmuring a prayer to its god. And Te'heh had been thinking of taking its life. The thing just wanted to live and breed. If anyone was to blame for its behaviour, it was the Old Ones for not saving a space in the Great Plan for them. Surely if the corrupted empires of humans deserved a place, then so did the rat-kin.
    The crowd was still screaming to kill it, and Te'heh was ashamed that he had been willing to go along with it. He slashed suddenly through the bindings that held it up. The Kroxigor moved to grab it - a sharp "No!" from Te'heh stopped it. The poor Kroxigor looked so confused.
    The Skaven looked at him like he was mad, then scampered off to the back of the pyramid, and slid down the ropes.

    As the crowd realised what had happened and boiled up the side of the pyramid, Te'heh considered making peace with his gods. At the last minute, he decided not to. If the Old Ones were as harsh and unforgiving as they had shown themselves to be, they didn't deserve his worship.

    At least he had nothing to regret.

    A Story of the Stars

    “The stars look very different today.”

    Tik’An’Meda (Tik for short), Starpriest of the Observatory-Temple S’Kril-Qah barely looked away from his gaze at the stars.

    “Why are you up here, K’ta?”

    The Chameleon Skink shrugged and moved to stand by the Starpriest who continued his study of the stars. The two were silent for a long while, Tik continuing to move his gaze from star cluster to star cluster through the sacred observing tube of the Old Ones, muttering under breath every now again and making notes on his scribing stone with a piece of chalk.

    “You know why I am here, revered Tik” K’ta finally answered.

    “Patrols have nothing to report as usual, there are no threats even conceivable to our lonely Observatory-Temple, and rather than organising the next patrols you felt bored. So you came to bother me, same as last time...and the time before that...and the ti—“

    “You’re only half right, revered Tik” K’ta interrupted, causing the more venerable Skink Starpriest to scowl. “I...was wondering what purpose our Observatory-Temple had. Surely our efforts would be better spent defending our key Temple Cities rather than continuing to be spread out and easy prey for the desecrators of the Old Ones?”

    Tik turned sharply with angry eyes. The Chameleon Skink instinctively felt his scales shift to match the temple roof. Despite the burning fire that seemed to sweep across Tik’s eyes, his response remained measured. “When have Skinks had any right to question the Plans of the Old Ones? We are birthed from the pools to serve the Plan without question.” He sighed. “Though I fear more and more spawnings are becoming divergent and belligerent to the Plan. As if the influence of our creators are slowly fading away. Too war-like, with thoughts of defence and attack. Far less contemplation of what we need to achieve.”

    “What are we trying to achieve?” asked K’ta nervously.

    Tik turned back to the stars. “What do you see, K’ta?” he asked, sweeping an arm in gesture to the stars above.

    K’ta looked up at the many dots of light that twinkled down at him. “Spots of light, same as always.”

    Tik sighed again. “Do you see this cluster over there?” K’ta followed the Starpriest’s outstretched claw and gave an affirmative. “What does it look like to you?” Tik continued.

    “Spots of light?” answered K’ta timidly.

    Tik snorted and copied the constellation onto his scribing stone and joining up the dots, forming a large serpent. He made sure not to include the feathers as the change of that being the constellation of Tepok to Sotek had caused great friction within the Observatory-Temples when it had been enforced many spawnings before. He turned to show K’ta the stone. “Perhaps a more recent addition to our starcharts, but that cluster forms the constellation of Sotek. Nearby you can make out the shape of the Cowardly Ratman, whom Sotek is forever chasing across the night sky. Sotek will catch it one day.”

    K’ta nodded, impressed.

    “It is the duty of this Observatory-Temple to record the many constellations and their movements. When certain stars cross, or certain constellations are in height, it may be a portent of things to come, or a message from the Old Ones” Tik continued, sweeping out his arms to the night sky.

    “The Old Ones?” asked K’ta.

    “On ancient plaques there are claims our creators came from the stars. I believe they still speak to us from them, helping us on the path to finishing the Plan and warning us of disasters that threaten its future.”

    K’ta didn’t reply and stared almost longingly at the vast blanket of darkness and the tiny lights that seemed to link up in such strange patterns. For a long moment the Chameleon Skink felt utterly small and insignificant in the grand scheme of gods, daemons, and the eternity of the stars. And yet a strange warmth grew within him as he considered the creators perhaps were looking upon him from the stars.

    “What pictures do those sky lights make?” he remarked suddenly, pointing to a cluster of stars that had grabbed his attention.

    Tik turned his gaze and observing tube to the cluster and gave a chirp of shock. He couldn’t believe he’d missed it until K’ta had pointed it out.

    “Is something wrong, revered Tik?” K’ta asked, hand instinctively reaching for the flint dagger at his side.

    “The blade of Quetzl passes the constellation of Huanchi...no...it passes through. This...this is not right.”

    “A warning from the creators?” voiced K’ta with mounting concern.

    “I...I am not sure” Tik replied with a quiver in his voice, “this must be carved onto a plaque and sent to Itza to then be sent with haste to Tlaxtlan. This may be an ill portent for coming struggles.” He quickly marked the scribing stone and gave it to K’ta to pass to the inscribers. K’ta for a moment hesitated, a question forming in his mind, but he turned and dashed away leaving Tik alone.

    The Starpriest stared up at the stars, wondering what this movement could mean.

    He felt cold.


    Another age.

    “My Lord Krri-Tikk?”

    The Slann’s eyelids slowly slid open to look at the memory constructs before him. He lamely gestured with a hand for them to continue. The lead Skink bobbed its head and began again.

    “My Lord Krri-Tikk, as per your instructions, we have explored the depths of the Temple Ship and have recovered several items that were created before we took to the stars and the world still lived.”

    Another memory created Skink scampered forwards laying a number of plaques covered in engravings of the stars. The Slann gestured with his hand and the plaques floated up so he could take a better look. A deep grumbling sound came from the Slann as his eyes moved from plaque to plaque, then with a sigh all but one plaque toppled back to the ground, splintering and cracking.

    “Mmrmmm” intoned the Slann, “This one looks the best. Have its pattern engraved on the ceiling.”

    The memory created Skinks bowed deeply, placed the ceremonial berets upon their heads, and took up the refrain “praise be to Aartzifartzi! Praise be to Aartzifartzi!”
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  2. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Congratulations to @thedarkfourth for sweeping the contest with his awesome piece "Food for Thought"

    A special thank you to all nine writers who contributed a story this contest. Excellent pieces, each and every one.

    Story One: “The Great Game” by Pendrake

    Story Two: “Food for Thought” by thedarkfourth

    Story Three: “The Spawn” by Essmir

    Story Four: “The Rat and the Serpent” by Bowser

    Story Five: “The Project” by Spawning of Bob

    Story Six: “The Weight of Our Actions” by Killer Angel

    Story Seven: “Strength and Conviction” by Discomute

    Story Eight: “Hexoatl, the Induction Ceremony” By Otz’mandias

    Story Nine: “A Story in the Stars” by Y’tarr Scaletail
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
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  3. Y'ttar Scaletail

    Y'ttar Scaletail Well-Known Member

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    Heheh, skimmed briefly through. Some interesting styles indeed!

    This'll make good reading. :)
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  4. pendrake
    Skink Priest

    pendrake Well-Known Member

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    Proofreader-ish Technical Comments

    (As and if I spot any...

    ...also this is a way to track which stories I've read since I am reading them in random order.)

    Story 9: Title, "...of the Stars" or "...in the Stars"? It differs.

    Story 2: "gnash" possibly meant to be "gash" ?

    Story 3: "were warping..." and "He drink..." (I think they should be 'was warping' and 'He drank' respectively.)
    Marineburg/Marienburg :: two different spellings right near each other, autocorrupt suspected.
    "trail throw" should be "trail through" I think.
    I think "...trout that cut of..." was meant to be "throat that cut off".

    Story 1: "War in the Branches..." really ought to be italicized, e.g: 'War in the Branches'.

    Story 8: paragraph breaks; some that were intended may have dissappeared?

    Story 7: "...of steel of steam..." Perhaps 'steel and steam' was intended.
    "...lustria..." Is all lowercase, one place.

    Story 4: paragraph breaks; some that were intended may have dissappeared? (much like Story 8.)

    Story 5: Ellipsis ( ... ) used in some instances, but missing in other places where it might have been used to indicate missing... On second and third readings readings this dissappeared. I think it was the same problem encountered and reported below by thedarkfourth.

    Story 6: "...torned..." "...peering the two..." "...leaded..." "...bursted..." "...saw also the unit of Tepozi was fighting..." "...counterpart..." "...companion..." "...unit still..." "...two survived..." "...charge begun..."
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2016
  5. spawning of Bob

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Whoa, the critiques have started early this time!

    My emotions were suitably manipulated by these stories. I had chuckles and misty eyes at different points. Mostly I am proud to be associated with The First and best faction in the multiverse.

    Thanks @Scalenex for pulling us all into line again.

    As expected, my first-readthrough short-list for voting is too long. Much contemplation is required.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
  6. discomute

    discomute Well-Known Member

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    A couple of stories in and it's great stuff

    Scalenex - perhaps a refresher of the theme should be in the OP?
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  7. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    just started reading the first ones.

    llama is the new panda! :D
  8. Rednax
    Cold One

    Rednax Active Member

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    that Jurassic park reference made my day. Glory to AartziFartzi!
    and well done on all your stories! :D
  9. thedarkfourth

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    I'll think you'll find ArtziFartzi has exclusive dominion over the visual media, whereas short stories are sacrificed to the great god Shoad N'tezl (or at least I'm trying to make this a thing)
  10. SlanntaClause

    SlanntaClause Well-Known Member

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    Ah with the golden serpent I completely forgot about this -.- i'll read these and vote soon
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  11. Bowser

    Bowser Third Spawning

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    Needed 8 votes, so many good ideas. Narrowing down to 3 was more difficult than I had ever thought it would be. After reading them all twice I still had troubles choosing.
  12. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    let's try to assemble a quick personal review of those 9 excellent pieces...
    the theme was: Conjunction and choices (i'll try to explain how i see them in the stories.. almost surely failing for some of them!).

    (note: i still have to vote, but to write this helps in re-ordering my thoughts and see things clearer)

    1 - The Great Game
    We have a conjunction (as "similarity") between the game and the Life.
    And an old choice, that marked the destiny of one of the protagonists.
    I find a little odd all those parts within parenthesis, but it's always nice to see some skaven burn.

    2 - Food for thought
    as the first story, also here we have a similarity between the game and the Life.
    The final choice that marked the destiny of Myol, was somehow called, but still perfect..
    And llama is the new panda!

    3 - the Spawn
    The choices of our unfortunate protagonists lead him to his final fate, and the closing sentense is a cool epitaph.
    I miss the conjunction part, maybe I'm blind but in any case it was not mandatory.
    Seriously, we should thank this poor human for having the grace to make our task simpler.

    4 - the Rat and the Serpent
    an AoS story!
    Again, skaven... but Ratek is glorious, and is really interesting the triple Tehenahuin.
    We have the choice made by the skink heroes, to investigate their true nature, an astral conjunction and also the conjunction between two certain gods... well done.

    5 - the Project
    the conjunction of all those separated messages, create the story.
    And choices... well, when god-like beings make choices in the run of a Great Project, something happen.
    A really creative take on lizardmen's mithology, maybe a little too much unorthodox for my tastes, but brilliant nonetheless.

    6 - the Weight of our Actions
    an unusual opponent for our lizzies...
    the story itself is basically the conjunction between the first phrase and the last one, which are identical, but the contests are totally different, and the story is made by different characters, that in different moments take different decisions for different reasons.

    7 - Strenght and Convinction
    Saurus as stegadon rider sounds a little odd... that said, the final choice that gives the sense to the story, here is pretty clear. But I don't know if it's based on a right premise, I would have liked to see a longer development of the story, we see to few details through the eyes of the protagonist. Some stories could have been a little shorter, but this is the case where i would have liked more words.

    8 - Hexoatl, the Induction Ceremony
    Oh, my... conjunction appears as the name of one of the protagonists.
    The choice is really interesting, and decisely goes against the usual schemes. We know through the whole story that Te'heh is not a typical priest, but i feel that his sentiments are a little "out of place?" for a wanna-be-priest of Sotek. But the character growth is nicely developed, and i feel smpathy for him.

    9 - a Story in the Stars
    another Astral Conjunction! And a fearful one...
    ...and in another time (and another game system), someone took a choice for decorating a room. With the passing of strange aeons, even fearful portents may vanish.
    A really bizarre ending, after a so serious introduction. I don't know how to consider it, but it was a nice reading.
  13. thedarkfourth

    thedarkfourth Well-Known Member

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    I'm having trouble reading story 5 - the end of each text box is cut off. Anyone else seeing this? Any chance of providing a version not in quote boxes?
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  14. Bowser

    Bowser Third Spawning

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    It cuts off on my mobile but there is a click to expand function somewhere there.
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  15. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Yeah, that's weird, ad I've noticed it too.
    On the site, I cannot read them, while on mobile, I can see all the boxes' content ("click here to expand")
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  16. Otzi'mandias

    Otzi'mandias Well-Known Member

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    I'm not coming last! Words cannot describe how chuffed I'm feeling! The bribes must have- that is, how lucky of me.
    *cackles madly*
  17. spawning of Bob

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Story 5 is weird for me too. If I navigate off the page and back again, or close the spoiler tab and reopen, the "expand" button reappears on both PC and on iPad. Eventually. It must be the Great Plan on the blink again.
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  18. Killer Angel

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Ah, that feeling of triumph, when you check the votings, and you see that someone choosed your story...
    Ah, that feeling of disappointment, when you see that someone didn't gave you its preference...
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  19. spawning of Bob

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Dang it. I'm not ready to vote... But I want to see the votes.

    Scalenex is a cruel master.
  20. Warden

    Warden Tenth Spawning

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    Amazing stories everyone! This is going to be another tough one to vote on.

    Also, would the real Tehenhauin please stand up?
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