Spoiler: Story 1 Story 1 "Hey bill!" "For the love of god Wilson, what now?" "You remember that time we were in the pit at the bottom of the ancient temple of Sht'gaught S'erius and you solved the symbol on the side of the pit that let us into the forgotton tomb of Sotek?" "Of course I remember, once I cracked the ancient code it released that bloody mutated rat ogre abomination that ate george and infected my left bloody knee with... ah I swear too much what did the doc call it PWNS?" "Yea well I wasn't really paying attention and just sorta clicked all the same hyroglyphs you did that time" "YOU DID I swear too much WHAT!!" A soft slow rumble can be heard as the doors ancient mechanism begin to stir. With a sigh of resignation Bill responds to the sound "This is because I slept on the sun rock at the oasis isn't it?" "Don't be like that Bill, we've been down here for 6 days now and I was in total auto spawn mode" Having a quick think about it Wilson adds "So we running like a gnoblar with a shiny? Or do you want me to give this quango egg a shot?" "You know what Wilson, I'm going to sit over by that moss stone and see how much of this bottle of Stones I can drink before we get dead dead" Softly Wilson adds as he draws his leather backpack infront of himself, reaching deep inside to draw out a small petrified looking orb about the size of a rippers egg "Come on quango, I wanna see another sunrise" The ancient door continues to rumble softly in the darkness lit only by the minature solar stones the two young saurus brought with them to search these ancient tombs when the stone drops out of sight..... "Wait, what the I swear too much happened to the stone slab" Wilson adds shocked out of his scales. Bill looks up from his bottle that's already half gone "If we live I'll bet 2days on the rock that it's a rock wurm nest" "Don't be stupid" Wilson mocks "They have been extinct since Clan Pestilence corrupted the west coast temples" Bill laughed "Your right I'll bet a week" "If your right both of us are dead anyway, Why not bet a year" "Done, a year on the rock" Out of the gloom a voice little old chalk rumbles "What year is it?" The brothers look at each other with confusion but Bill still responds with a snide"2523, what you been living under a rock?" "Ah the End times are near and you have come for the forgotten knowledge" "Welll... we are two saurus brothers looking for an artifact that Sotek said can help us break the tide of vermin infesting our home" Wilson could feel his confidence/arrogance kicking in as he replied "FOOLS!!!" the voice kroaks and both brothers flinch, but then they feel the familar comfort of a Slann's mental discipline settle on them. "That which you seek is not an artifact, It is one of the second generation that mastered Fire magic and used his mastery to purge the tunnels of the ratmen. You have released me and the Skaven will burn once more" Both brothers jumped into each others arms in joy doing a merry old jig that they'd learned from a few of the pirates they traded with from time to time. Then Bill stopped mid jig with a query, "Why would they locked a slann up?" Slightly somber the ancient slann responded "I may have been a little mesmerized by all the shiny flames and forgotten to keep it in the tunnels. I burnt 5000 hectares of forest before I was snapped out of it by a stegadon charging through the flames mounted by a priest screaming at me. After that a council thought it would be best if I spend a century or ten meditating on my zealous kindle flaming. I've learned my lesson and I swear I'll never drink and flame again" Spoiler: Story 2 Cold Commerce The trader came to the rail of the Estalian caravel and spat a wad of brown material towards the jungle which wreathed the adjacent coast. "What ails you, boy?" he asked of the richly dressed youth who leaned moodily beside him. "You are surely not seasick in coastal waters." "My father hired you to teach me, not take me to listen to fairy tales in every tavern in Skeggi." The elder scratched his graying stubble. "Your father apprenticed you to me so that I could teach you the art of trade." "The only commerce I have seen you engage in has been the purchase of large quantities of strong ale for your tavern rats and a firkin of dried tabacc for yourself. Father should have taught me himself." "He did not because I am the better trader." "Hah! Father has amassed far more wealth than you!" The trader rolled his eyes, then offered the youth a wad of his personal tabacc. "No? Suit yourself." He bit off a generous chunk and started chewing thoughtfully. "If your good father is paying me for your entertainment then I am a superior trader. Or I am not, but I have managed to convince him to part from his gold anyway. Either way..." "A risky investment, from my perspective." The trader grinned and showed his yellowed teeth. "Precept Nine: The risk and reward rise and fall in accord. It seems that you HAVE learnt something during your three months in the doldrums of the Great Ocean. And don't revile me, boy. I admit your father is an able merchant, but that is not the same thing as a trader. He sells tabacc in Marienberg for the same price, ounce for ounce, as silver. But that isn't trade. That is a monopoly." The trader gestured at the brooding jungle and spat over the rail again. "The tabacc plant grows throughout Lustria. One day, some dimwit will get it to grow in the Moot, or discover that it is a slow poison. What will your father do then? He will end up in the poor-house. A master trader, on the other hand, can sell anything to anyone, in any season." After a long pause the trader spoke again. "I am also sorry you didn't enjoy the fairy tales, but what can you now tell me about these lizardmen of Lustria?" The youth glared at him before answering. "There are different kinds. Some are stronger than a man, some faster. They all kill without mercy. They have an intelligence beyond that of beasts but they do not speak any tongue of men." "And most important of all, what are they worth?" "Worth? Your adventurers say that they possess rivers of gold." "Excellent, boy! You have unwittingly followed Precept Two." "Wait! You came to trade with monsters?" "They have rivers of gold, boy. Who else would I trade with? Now, back to your lessons, boy. Recite the Nine Precepts of Trade, in order, if you please." "Must I?," the youth groaned. "Precept One: A trade well done is a happy one. Precept Two: Know your customer, his ways, and the coin that he pays. Precept Three..." ***** The pair studied the gravel beach and the brooding jungle behind it from the safety of the caravel's deck. "Why are we here? Your tavern rats said that no treasure seeker has ever returned from the Cove of Shrunken Heads with anything of value." "My tavern rats said that no treasure seeker has ever returned from the Cove of Shrunken Heads. That is all they said. There is a difference." "Yet you sent two sailors ashore armed only with an incomplete impression of a tablet and a chip of stone from its corner." "Precept Five, boy: Show your wares to the world, let them come with their gold." ***** The following morning the strand was quiet as ever before, but now it was decorated with the neatly laid out and decapitated corpses of the two sailors. The old trader stood over the bodies in silence for a moment before allowing them to be dragged further ashore and buried. As the remaining crew wailed to their apparently deaf gods, the trader placed his hand on the shaken youth's shoulder. "Don't fret, boy." "But this loss was for nothing." "No! Not for nothing, and nor have we shown a loss. They returned with neither the impression nor stone fragment. "You monster! Are you saying their lives were an outlay?" "Not at all. Their lives were an expense. The item appears in a different column of the ledger. I suppose a military general would call it "acceptable losses." "Why do you consider this acceptable?" The trader shrugged. "Why do you think I hired an Estalian crew?" ***** The caravel stood off shore for eight more uneventful days. On the ninth morning the beach was no longer empty. A small army of lizardmen had formed a broad semi-circle above the high tide mark. "A great risk. What of the reward?" the youth breathed. "What is the tablet worth?" The trader screwed up his face and dredged his memory. "The outlay for the tablet was two silver coins..." "You came with a worthless trinket?" "Despite my earnest effort, I sometimes wonder if education is wasted on you, boy. Total expenses were a gold coin for the tale of an attack on the port of Skeggi which did not end until a certain ship sailed for Marienberg. Forty more for a quiet look at that ship's manifest which revealed one unique item: a worthless trinket, according to you. As I said, it was worth only two silver coins to its previous owner. After that, further expenses included hire of this fine ship and crew, the price of enough rough Skeggan ale to gain knowledge of our customers and locate one of their nests, and a firkin of dried tabacc." "And two men's lives." "Technically no. I've already accounted for those in the cost of their hire which now will go to their families. However all of this is irrelevant to your question, to which you already have an answer. Recite Precept Four." "A ware is worth what comes out of the purse. You don't know even know what it is worth." "Indeed I have no idea. But I know it is worth more to them than the cost of an extended military campaign against Skeggi, and that, as you have noted, those who wish its return possess gold aplenty." The trader turned to the ship's master. ¡"Edmundo! ¡El barco, por favor"! ***** Trader and youth took stock of the formations as a contingent of the crew reluctantly propelled the ship's boat toward the silent host. "You've the better eyes, boy. What do you see?" "There are three deep phalanxes of huge spear...men. Behind and between those are two groups of smaller ones. On each flank there are more of the small ones with shorter spears... no... javelins - they hold them with a reverse grip. In the deep shadows of the trees I see much larger shapes, but I cannot make them out." As the ship's boat crunched ashore, the trader's apprentice was dismayed to realize that a simple call of the Lustrian force disposition hardly gave credit to the peril which the landing party faced. The lizardmen on the flanks and between phalanxes were a fraction smaller than a man, but looked no less fierce on account of their stature. The larger spear-bearers were terrifying, with their impressive physiques and with their look of implacable hostility. The largest one of all stood five paces to the fore of the central phalanx. "Hold the stone over the side for a moment, will you boy." He did as he was told and examined the tablet again. The pattern of lines and pictograms meant nothing to him and the stone they were carved on was drab and unattractive. He doubted he would have asked even one coin for it. "Keep it still." The trader unstoppered a glass flask and splashed a little liquid on the very edge of the tablet. The liquid hissed and bubbled and that section of stone dissolved like a cake of salt. "Oil of vitriol." He explained loudly as he corked the flask again. He had to speak over the sudden sound of hissing from the shore. "You will be the death of us, you old goat!" "Old goat, am I? Precept Eight: Give incentive to buy, lest a chance pass you by. Boy." "An incentive is like a discount for a quick sale, or two for the price of one! Not an act of desecration in front of an army of cold blooded killers! " "There are other kinds of incentives. This one known as, 'deal squarely with us or your rock turns to dust'. ¡ Edmundo! ¡Desembarcar por favor"! ***** The ship's master reluctantly came ashore with trader and apprentice. The older man placed the stone on the gravel at the water's edge and jabbered a series of instructions to the Estalian. Soon enough, Edmundo grinned, accepted the fragile flask of vitriol and held it above the stone. He seemed pleased to be the safest man on Lustrian soil. "Where shall we begin, boy? The big brute?" The trader bit off a wad of tabacc and strode forward without awaiting a reply. As the youth caught up to him the trader asked, "What do you think it weighs?" "350, maybe 400 pounds." "Not the brute, boy! I mean its helmet. There must be fifteen pounds of gold in that." The trader walked all around the monster, cataloging each trinket and gem in its regalia. The youth stood back and instead noted its corded muscles, teeth and its massive obsidian bladed cleaver. When his eyes fell to the brute's waist he gasped. The trader followed his apprentice's eyes to a pair of shrunken human heads which hung from the lizardman's scarlet girdle. "Oh, it is Hernán and Vasco, and as pretty as ever they were. To think you said they died for nothing." He spat out the wad of tabaca he had been chewing, and a lazy string of brown saliva trailed across the giant lizardman's taloned foot. The monster did not move, but it made two sounds. One was a deep rumble which emanated from deep within its chest. The second was quieter but even more menacing. It was the creaking of the scales of its leathery claw as it tightened its grip on its weapon. The trader sighed. "We've wasted enough time. Precept Three: A broker is a curse, deal with he with the purse. We must bargain with the cock of this barnyard." "This is not the leader?" "I would be speaking to you from over there if it was. And over there, and possibly over there as well. Did you not observe the brute glance at the rooster seeking leave to dismember me?" "You took a stupid risk." "Precept Nine again? Surely there must be a stupid reward on its way!" the trader grinned as he led the youth between the Lustrian lines to confront the "rooster". The nickname was apt. The smaller lizardman had a crest of skin on his head, similar to its attendants, but that was almost obscured by a headdress of garish feathers. Completing the image was its cocky poise. The rooster radiated self assurance despite its bantam-like frame. The trader bowed to his potential customer without lowering his eyes. "Negotiations begin," he stated. Then, to the utter bafflement of his pupil, the old man turned his back on the rooster. "Come, boy! Stay out of the way!" he called as he weaved his way back toward the ship's boat. On his way past, the trader reached up and rapped his knuckles on the brute's helmet. When he arrived at the prow of the boat he pointed into the empty hull. The rooster hissed a command and the giant lizard stomped forward and deposited the helmet. The youth and the crew gaped at the trader as if he were a magician. After a few moments of silence the rooster hissed again and the brute stripped off each golden and jewelled article he wore and duly dumped them beside the helmet. Barely a dozen heartbeats later the rooster hissed louder and waved its ivory staff. Not all of the lizardmen on the beach possessed gold adornments, but those that did formed an orderly queue and placed what they had onto a slowly growing pile at the delighted oarsmen's feet. Last in line was the rooster, who contributed a pair of arm torques and a solid pendant which portrayed a ruby eyed serpent swallowing a moon. The trader cocked his head but said nothing. After another brief pause the rooster snapped another command to the brute. In response, the latter unhooked its brace of heads and dangled them over the boat. The trader held up his hands and pushed the gruesome items back. "No no, good brute. You keep them. "Precept Six," he said aside to the youth, "Good will from token gifts will repay you tenfold whatever they cost you in silver or gold." The trader picked up the stone to place into the rooster's grasping claws. "Wait! Surely it is of greater worth to them!" the youth intervened, "Precept Four A ware is worth what comes out of the purse! They have only parted with what they carry. If we wait they will surely go back for more!" "Now is not the time for greed, boy. Now is the time for good will. Precept Seven: A customer loyal gives rewards that are royal. Do you imagine that this is the only such stone to have found its way to the Old World? We will find another, no doubt being used as a doorstop, and return with a larger ship. With good will and loyalty, our repeat customers will show us the depth of their purses." ¡"Edmundo! ¿estás listo para ir"? The trader swung his legs into the boat. "Call me sentimental, but Precept One is still my favourite. A trade well done is a happy one!" As he helped Edmundo push the wallowing boat back into the water, the apprentice looked back at both brute and rooster. Neither had so much as blinked to betray any hint of emotion during the entire transaction. "Master," he asked respectfully, "how is it that you know they are happy?" Spoiler: Story 3 "Broken Oath" A hot, humid breeze came in from the west, like the heavy breathing of a titanic beast. The pale obelisk in the middle of the circular clearing was the only object unaffected by the wind. The hair on his neck bristled as he felt watchful eyes from the jungle. Everything moved here, Hagon thought, it was unnatural. Not for the first time his thoughts returned to his mountain home. The smell of the forge, the taste of mead on his tongue, and a lass on his knee. No, he told himself, that world was gone now. With grim resolve, he placed his last load of firewood on the funeral pyre. Scattered among the kindling were suits of armor, helms, chain mail, everything a warrior of his people valued, all of it prepared to burn. The dwarf wiped his hands on his breaches only to see the orange tint of dye yet remained. His fate was sealed in this foreign land. Around the pyre were his companions, the forty three dwarves that still remained. Each was stripped to the waste, everything but their weapons added to the tinder, as if an offering to their fallen prince. The previous night, the night in which they had failed their duty, each had dyed his hair orange. Some of the younger warriors had taken to the blue hued tattoos, placing symbols of death on their flesh. Hagon had donned the orange, but had no taste for the dramatic, though his failure exceeded that of his brethren. With a face of stone he lit the torch in his hand, eyes scanning those around the pyre and seeing the same cold expressions on each craggy face. With a heavy heart, Hagon dropped the torch on the fire and watched the flames build and dance around the young prince. Not much more than a beardling, Hagon had trained the lad since he could hold an axe. Accompanied him on many campaigns and served as faithful advisor, just as he had for his father before him. Hagon had never sired children, but had always thought of the prince as something akin to having a son. The old warrior’s chest tightened as the body burned and he turned away. When the wizard had requested the young prince’s aid in his journey to the uncharted lands, the lad had been mesmerized by the tales of riches that could be his. For the first time Hagon had seen the gold lust in the boy’s gaze, a trait found in the lad’s father that he had hoped he would never see reflected in those youthful eyes. Regardless of his council to remain, the prince had decided to embark on this journey. Hagon had no choice but to follow. His first failure. His second failure had come when he placed his trust in the humans to keep watch. With fifty hardened warriors, he could have spared some soldiers along the picket line. Dwarf eye were better than a mans at night and could have given more warning before the attack came. Never trust the assurances of the young, he should have known. When the lizard folk attacked the camp in the dead of night, Hagon had first made sure the prince was prepared. Seeing that the lad was among his warriors, Hagon had taken a small group to aid the manlings in their fight, leaving the others to protect the prince. His third failure. The warriors reported that a shaman from the attacking lizard folk had struck him down with a solid beam of crackling light as he charged. His axe hadn't even drawn blood. Down the small slope from where the pyre burned the manlings watched them. Several had removed their helmets and watched the procession respectfully, but most pointed or gawked. His anger toward them was muted only by his own failings. One manling, beardless with fat, rosy cheeks from the exertion of the short run up the hill, approached. “By Sigmar have you all lost your minds?” he sputtered once he’d gathered his breath. “The enemy has marshaled a massive host that could attack at any moment and not one of you is prepared for battle. Lord Albretchz demands that you join the picket line!” Hagon eyed the perspiring man for a moment before speaking, “Be wary what you demand of us manling, my patience is not limitless, especially when you intrude on matters you do not understand.” The soldier sneered, “What you don’t understand is…” Hagon’s backhand knocked the soldier from his feet, leaving him in a crumpled heap on the ground. He watched as the man slowly got back up, his broken nose bleeding freely down his breastplate, eyes wary as he watched the dwarf. “Tell your lord that we are no longer in his service. If he wants to live, he should leave this place before they come, we will hold the beasts at bay.” The arrogance gone from his eyes, the man gave a defeated shake of his head, “Lord Albretchz will not leave. He claims the secrets within the obelisk could change the Empire forever. We must stay.” Hagon grunted, “So be it laddy.” The arrogance of men was baffling, “Go back to your camp, we will be down shortly.” The soldier gave a short bow and ran back down the hill. Hagon didn't wait to see him go, but as he turned back to the pyre, the distance sound of horns drifted through the air. The time was nearly upon them. Hefting an axe in either hand, he called the others to him, “Come now lads, our time in this world is coming to an end.” Hagon waited until the orange haired group of warriors were assembled. “Each of us here has broken the most sacred of oaths. One given on the day of our induction into Lord Kraz A Karn’s Throng. To serve and protect his blood line with our lives, regardless of the horrors we face.” Pointing an axe at the pyre, “Look upon our failure and know that there can be no honor for oath breakers, save redemption in death.” The hard eyes of over forty dwarves watched their prince burn while the horns from the jungle grew louder. “From this day forward we forsake any hope of a life outside of war. Instead we will seek out our doom against whatever foe dare stands before us. On this day we cast aside our armour, our shields, anything that might stand in the way of a fitting end. From now on we are not warriors of Throng Kraz A Karn, we a slayers, and death awaits us!” The shouts of the slayers on the hill carried out across the clearing while the men of the Empire eyed them with a mixture baffled expressions. Even as the dwarven cries died down, the lizard folk burst from the undergrowth, charging the battle line. Lizardmen that stood a full head above even the largest of men, armed with crude weapons edged with sharp blackened stone. Some were small, like quick reptilian goblins darting around the outside of the horde, others much larger wielding massive hammer like weapons, and all descending upon the manlings. Crashing through the trees came three gargantuan beasts of war, on their backs were battle howdahs atop of which the small, skittery creatures rode. On the center beast rode a shaman wearing a cloak of red and orange feathers. It’s taloned hand pointing forward emitting forked lightning, dealing death among a group of halberdiers. Siggi, a young dwarf that had served with him over the last decade, his hair shaved into a mohawk, came alongside him, “That’s him. That is the creature that took the life of our prince.” Hagon hadn't realized he was moving until he was halfway toward the battle, his bare feet slapping the ground in rapid succession. He didn’t look to see, but he could hear the others behind him. Bullets and arrows flew from the manling line, accompanied by the blast of the single cannon they had brought with them. The howdah beast on the right staggered halfway across the clearing before lurching to the side, crushing those below and throwing those in the howdah into the charging mass. Standing in the middle of the battle line, the human wizard pointed his staff at the shaman and a ball of fire erupted from the tip. The fireball traveled the distance between the two with terrible speed, but the shaman raised it’s palm and the ball of fire slanted to the side, incinerating a cluster of the larger lizard folk. Just as the lizard host crashed into the lines of man, the shaman raised both hands into the air and a blinding bolt of lightning dropped from the heavens on the head of the human wizard, blinding all around. A massive thunderclap shook the earth and when Hagon’s vision returned, all he could see of the human wizard was a blackened corpse. Bellowing a war cry, Hagon and his slayers entered the fray, intent on cutting a bloodied path toward the shaman. For minutes, there was nothing but mindless slaughter. Men, lizards, and dwarf alike screaming and hacking. Hogan’s axes rose and fell again and again, taking lives with every swing. Without the protection of armour, his slayers died, but they did so with a scream on their lips and and axes bloodied. There was a brief moment of respite as the lizards fell back from the relentless onslaught of the orange crested warriors. Hogan took a brief count, noting that half his number had already meet their fate. His group had pushed far past the battle line and the manlings, unable to match their assault, were nowhere to be seen. They were surrounded. Good, he thought, almost there. Several of the hulking beasts with massive hammers moved to intercept them. Hogan danced aside as one of the massive hammers crashed down where he had once been. Weaving between the beast legs, he hammered an axe into the towering lizard’s knee, causing it to stagger, its head low enough where he could reach. His off hand axe opened up the beast’s throat, spraying sticky gore over him. Others of his group struggled against them, but he pushed on, his mind set on what he had to do. There were only a dozen of them now, but the shaman had taken notice of their assault. Shrieking, it wheeled the mighty lizard toward them and charged, it’s every foot step shook the earth. It’s roar reverberated in his chest. Hagon ran to face it. Just as he was about to make his move, Siggi pushed him aside and met the beast head on. Hagon rolled to the side and looked up to see the young slayer impaled on one of the lizard’s horns, but life still flowed in his veins. The mohawked dwarf began to pull himself further down the horn until he was close to the eye of the beast. Pulling a small knife from his belt, he rammed it home. The mighty lizard let out a shriek, shaking it’s head from side to side in an attempt to throw the slayer, but he was on too well and continued to drive the knife deeper into the eye socket. The rest of his slayers launched themselves onto the beast, hacking and slashing until the horned lizard went down. Throwing the shaman and dwarf alike from it. By the time the shaman was able to get to it’s feet, Hagon had covered the distance between them. There was only a brief moment of fear in the shaman’s over sized eyes before he burred an axe in it’s neck. Only a small scrap of muscle remained to connect the head to the lifeless body. A small space had been created around him as the enemy leader fell. The six surviving slayers made their way to stand beside him as the lizard folk gathered about them. Ripping the head from the rest of the body, Hagon stood before his kin. Tossing the remains of the shaman at the feet of the closest enemy warrior he spat, “Now which of you will bring me the most honor?” Spoiler: Story 4 "Redemption" Nok Ki urged his mount forward, guiding the predatory reptile with his thighs as he joined the rest of his spawn kin. Each gave a subtle inclination of their heads, exposing the neck in show of obedience, respect, and reverence as he took the lead. The reverence seen in their eyes was directed toward the holy blade secured over his shoulder. An ancient weapon from the time of the Old Ones, bestowed upon him by the great Lord Ixit in his infinite wisdom. A solid bar of flawless obsidian that took form once the wielder laid his hand upon it. A gift bestowed upon those whom the Slann deemed worthy. Immortals and gods alike feared it’s edge, for there was no rebirth when slain by such a blade. With it, he would banish the violator from his homeland. His tongue flicked, tasting the bitter taint of Chaos, almost tangible in the air. The Spawn Blight had returned once more to defile the spawning pools. Bent on finishing the task it had begun decades ago, it would stop at nothing to complete it’s insidious plan. It was with this in mind that he noticed a small ripple of chatter rise up from the defenders. From the east rode a solitary figure atop a red crested Carnosaur. Nok Ki’s eyes immediately recognized the figure and his hand itched to take hold of the sacred blade. Xholte, or as he was known throughout Lustria, the Exile. Before today, Nok Ki had only set eyes on the Exile once before, when he had been stripped of his title and caste out for allowing the Spawn Blight to taint so many of the pools before being driven back. Only a handful of spawning pools were left untouched. The rest had been destroyed, for the kin that were birthed from the tainted pools were grotesque and violent beyond reason. The fires of purification burned for days, and thousands of hatchlings were cleansed. On the final day of cleansing, Nok Ki had taken up the responsibility as Revered Guardian. Though many a saurus would be humbled by such a punishment, Xhotle had walked out of the temple city just as he had come in, hard eyes set on what lay before him, challenging in a way that defied anyone to accuse him of failure. Then, like now, Nok Ki found it difficult to dislike the ancient warrior, but his primal nature sensed a threat to his leadership, and so rode out to meet him. The Exile took notice and guided the mighty hunter to meet him. The massive carnosaur’s footfalls were surprisingly quiet for so large a beast, but Nok Ki knew it was part of what made the creature one of the most feared in all of Lustria. It was the perfect hunter. As they met, Nok Ki craned his neck to look up at the outcast. His body, a tapestry of battles scars accumulated over a millennia of war, seemed as much a part of him as the crimson hued scales that covered his body. How the ancient saurus had tamed the great hunter was beyond comprehension. Riders were bonded with stolen carnosaur eggs, training with them and dozens of skink attendants from birth into maturity in order to temper the terrifying beasts. When he had been forced into exile, Xholte had been stipped of all of his belongings and sent into the deepest of Lustria’s jungles. Cutting off his train of thought, the ancient warrior spoke, “I recognize you, Sacred Guardian, is this the host you will lead against the abomination?” Rising in his saddle, “It is, Exile.” There was no veiling the of challenge in his voice as he stood before the oldblood. The scarred saurus eyed him for what seemed an eternity while the red crested carnosaur emitted a deep growl. Those ancient eyes, having seen so much, drifted to the blade of obsidian on his back. Letting out an contented hiss, the Exile dismounted from the great hunter, patting its hind leg as he came to stand before Nok Ki. To his surprise, the saurus knelt before him, for the entirety of the assembled host to see, and exposed his neck in an act of submission. “Then I ask to serve under you, Sacred One. To obey your command in every way so that you might prove the victor this day and I might find salvation for past failings.” Of all the things he thought might happen when he rode out to meet the Exile, he had never imagined this. He felt the eyes of his war host upon him, “You will join the opposite flank. When I give the command, we will annihilate the beast so that he will never return to this realm again.” Meeting Nok Ki’s eyes in thanks, the Exile mounted his carnosaur and followed his orders. Turning, he rejoined his spawn kin. A great rustling from the forest and the sound of drums caused Nok Ki to snap his attention forward. The enemy had come. Striding from the the thick undergrowth came thousands of pale skinned men, many displaying the symbol of the enemy upon their very flesh. Then came the silent ones, killers adorned in iron and steel depicting abhorrent images that spoke louder than the battle cries of their pale kin. Then came the sound of great wings and snapping branches as an abomination arrived. A colossal beast with the heads of a drake, lion, and ram, each giving out its own cry until all six eyes settled on the temple before them. Bellowing out a triage of roars, the beast stopped in place, as if a hound on command. A Chimera had joined the battle line and its master was not long in coming. A hulking figure, a full head taller than even the largest kroxigar, came to stand at the front of the assembled host. Maggots and puss bubbled from ever moving flesh while it’s great horned head swayed back and forth as it surveyed the assembled resistance. The sword in it’s hand dripped with a black, icory substance that seemed to come from the blade itself. Bubbling with laughter that echoed above the battlefield, the Spawn Blight raised the blade above it’s head and let it drop. The Chaos horde was far more numerous than he had anticipated. Somehow they had concealed their number from his scouts. The enemy outnumbered them at least four to one. Nok Ki glanced down the battle line, seeing the ancient saurus sitting atop his red crested Carnosaur. Both stared down at the daemon below, two minds with a single purpose. The Exile’s hand absently stroked the massive bone handled axe that lay across his lap. As long as he followed orders, they could still break the enemy. In one inharmonious chorus of war cries, the minions of the Great Enemy surged forward to finished the task begun so long ago. A great heaving mass of flesh and steel determined to corrupt the very pools that sprang Nok Ki and his kin into this world. Raising his fist into the air, Nok Ki let it fall once the horde had reached the halfway mark. Javelins rained down on their foe as the saurus marched forward. Reaching over his shoulder, Nok Ki grasped onto the sacred weapon. The black obsidian altered its shape into a great scythed blade of perfect weight and balance. Clicking his heels to the cold one, he lead his spawn kin toward the left flank. If he could break it, he could hit the Spawn Blight before it had a chance to react. A gamble, but one that could bring a swift end to the confrontation. If nothing else, he would ensure the daemon fell this day, regardless of the death toll. Above the screams of men and kin, a primal roar erupted from the throats of old blood and Carnosaur alike. With complete disregard for order, the Exile charged his great beast directly toward the Spawn Blight. Nok Ki hissed his frustration, but had time for little else as his pack hammered into the warriors of the north. His sacred blade sang as it cleaved through flesh and armor alike and without the slightest resistance to show a difference. The servants of Chaos cried out for his blood, but paid with their own. All around, his warriors fought tooth and claw, without give or quarter. Even as the battle raged about him, he caught glimpses of the Exile’s charge. The Chimera had intercepted him and the two were interlocked in titanic combat. The carnosaur had buried it’s teeth into the neck of the lion, but it’s taloned legs lashed out, flaying the flesh of the mighty hunter. The Exile’s axe rose and fell in an arc of deceptive speed, splitting the skull of the goat. Realizing it had met it’s match, the abomination tried to pull away, leathery wings beating in panicked succession until it slowly gained altitude. With one sudden jerk, the carnosaur pulled the beast down with such power that the ground shook. The Exile removed the last head as if a forethought before locking his gaze on the Spawn Blight. Nok Ki leaned back in his saddle as a sword nearly disemboweled him. Looking about himself, he saw several of his pack being dragged from their mounts. The charged had slowed, but he would see it through. “To me!” He roared over the din of battle. Several of his kin heard and followed, but others had succumb to their primal nature. Without another thought, he formed the head of a wedge and slowly began to cut a bloody swath through the pale ones. Even with his kin at his side, progress was slow and the enemy building in strength. The saurus engaging the silent ones had crumbled, leaving the center weak. Nok Ki signaled for his bannerman to issue the reserves forward. Even as the rider waved the flag, an axe hammered into his chest, catapulting him from his mount. Hands grabbed at him from below and Nok Ki thrashed in his saddle, doing all in his power to keep himself up when suddenly he was airborne, his mount killed beneath him. There was just enough time to tuck and roll before he hit the ground. When he hit, he was back on his feet in an instant, moving toward the fallen bannerman. Cutting down the two nearest northmen, he gathered up the banner, waving it above his head in the vain hope that the signal would be seen. Small rings of saurus, bereft their mounts, fought on with desperation. Alone as he was among the enemy, the only course of action was to attack, to move until he could reach them. To stop was to die. A sword slid along his thigh and another stabbed into his shoulder. Dropping the banner, he killed both assailants and moved on, hacking and slashing with no thought for skill. He had failed. The pools would be corrupted and his people would curse his name. With that in mind, he allowed his primal nature to take hold. Letting out a roar of defiance, he committed himself to killing as many as he could before they took him. The sacred blade removed limbs and snuffed out lives without hesitation. Pain flared from several more injuries, but he was lost to the blood haze. It wasn't until he removed his teeth from the throat of one of the northmen that he realized there was nothing left to kill. Spitting out the foul tasting blood, he looked around to see that the reinforcements had arrived. Mighty kroxigar swinging unwieldy clubs that scattered the enemy before them. Around each of the towering builders were dozens of skink, finishing off those that had managed to survive the deadly beasts. The battle still raged all around him, but for now, there was a brief reprieve. As his diminished kin gathered themselves, his eyes sought out the Exile. The Oldblood had found his quarry. The carnosaur limped as it circled the Spawn Blight, pumping life blood onto the Lustrian ground. The Exile was missing an eye and bled from several wounds, each of which would have felled a lesser saurus. How he still remained upright baffled him. Yet the Spawn Blight was not without injury. Its left arm was gone and milky blood pumped from several long gashes in its torso. It’s laughter had subsided. Simultaneously the opponents came together. The Spawn Blight rammed it’s sickly blade into the chest of the carnosaur. Lurching to the side, the blade caught in the beast, ripping it from the daemon’s grasp. Seeing his opening, the Exile lept from the saddle, as his mount crashed to the ground, bringing his axe down in a two handed grip. The axe head sank deep into the collar of the daemon and drove its way into the abomination’s chest. Before the Exile could release, the Spawn Blight lashed out with taloned hands, opening up the old blood’s midsection and striking him down. The Spawn Blight staggered about for a moment, as if drunk, before falling to the ground. In that moment, Nok Ki watched the battle line waver as the men of the north saw their leader fall. Even the silent ones began to pull back. The battle was over. With leaden legs, Nok Ki walked to where the Exile had fallen only to find both the old blood and carnosaur had moved on to the realm of spirit. He hoped the Old Ones would receive him, not as a failure, but as one redeemed, for he had never witnessed another more deserving. The Spawn Blight, unable to move, shifted its eyes fixing on Nok Ki with venomous hate. “This is but a small delay servant. Grandfather Nurgle is kind to his pets. Rebirth awaits and soon I will drink of your soul.” The daemon cackled. Nok Ki lifted the ancient weapon where the daemon could see and it’s eyes grew wide, “Nothing awaits you but the abyss abomination.” The beast’s final shriek was filled with terror, quickly silenced as the blade pierced it’s heart. Spoiler: Story 5 "Cities of Gold" Gustave’s good mood was slowly turning sour as his men sacked the abandoned temple. So far, the pile of loot being gathered amounted to little more than a few trinkets. Valuable trinkets, but after the expense of the trip, the crew’s share, and the maintenance his ship would need when he returned home, his own take would amount to little more than if he had remained in the army. He spit on the ground. So much for cities of gold. Tales of glory and riches that had lured him away from a successful military career. Had he remained in Middenheim, he very well could have made a name for himself and his already growing reputation. Several minor lords had expressed interest in his skill with a blade, but it hadn’t been enough for him. No, he had decided to use what reputation he had to convince his men to desert for better prospects. The swordsman scratched furiously at his thigh, a fresh bite from some unknown insect, and cursed the gods for his bad fortune. Over the last week he and his crew of thirty had trudged through the dense undergrowth of this accursed land in search of the fabled cities of gold. Their guide, a man from Kislev, who had claimed to know the land, had fallen prey to sickness within the second day of their landing. By the third day, he was dead. Refusing to admit he had made a poor choice, he decided to seek his fortune without and brave this strange world. It was a decision he had quickly come to regret. So far a quarter of his men had fallen to sickness, snake bites, or had simply vanished in the night. If there was an after life, he must have died and gone straight to hell, for he could imagine no worse a place to spend eternity. Gustave had been as surprised as the rest of his followers when they discovered the temple. Just as well, as he’d suspected mutiny was becoming a very real idea to those he had lead into this godsforesaken place. With renewed vigor they assaulted the ancient ziggurat scattering the small, reptilian creatures stalking along the outskirts without conflict. Several hours had passed since their first arrival and it was becoming clear that there was little more to be found. Walking up the raised dais in the center of what he assumed to be some kind of main hall, he leaned against the stained altar placed there. There would be enough to keep the crew happy, as long as they made it back to the ship alive, but his expectations were left wanting. Expelling a low growl of frustration, he shifted his weight and felt a section of the altar depress, accompanied by the hushed sound of moving stone. Stepping away, he turned to find a small section of the massive stone slab had opened and from it, a dull pinkish light waxed and waned from within. Upon closer inspection, he found a stone, roughly the size of a newborn’s first, emanating the glow. A smile slid across his grizzled features. Perhaps all was not yet lost. As he reached to take the stone, heavy footfalls sounded off behind him. Quickly standing up so that the opening was covered by his body, he turned to see one of his scouts rushing in from the entrance. More a boy than a man, the too large breast plate he wore only emphasized his youth. Staggering to a stop, he almost dropped the rifle in his hands. “Sir! They’re here! The beasts have come back!” he cried, his voice on the verge of panic. All around the word was spreading and his men immediately stopped what they were doing to fasten armor and retrieve their weapons. “Then I suggest,” Gustave announced, his voice carrying above the clatter of moving men, “that you pick yourself up and show them how men of the Empire deal with godless savages.” The boy's eyes were wide with fear, “But Gustave, they have the temple surrounded. These are not the imps we drove out, but monsters of…” The swordsman casually slapped the lad, splitting the skin above his eye with the ring on his finger. Rushed movement ceased as the eyes of his men watched their leader. He’d be damned if he left his fortune here. “Steel your heart boy!” he snapped, “That goes for the rest of you! I don’t care if the hounds of Chaos are at our doorstep, we have rightful claim in this godless realm. We are men of the Empire and in our veins runs the blood of Sigmar, the blood of champions. We’ll send them running back to the hell they call home!” Broken cheers and determined faces greeted him. It was a good speech, he thought, feeling rather pleased with himself. One he’d heard during campaign along the Worlds Edge Mountains. “I want guns along the main entrance. Fall back only when they close within thirty paces. Halberds, hold back from the opening and wait for them to come inside before you engage. They’ll have to walk over their dead to get to get at us boys!” With renewed energy, his men jumped into action. When he was confident no one was looking, he quickly took the stone from the opening and slipped it into a elk hide pouch at his side. Walking toward the entrance, he prepared to see what they faced. Not wanting to make a target of himself, he peeked his head out from the corner of the main entrance and his stomach lurched. Standing a full head and shoulders above the average man was a hulking beast of dense hide and muscle. It’s reptilian maw held slightly open, a forked tongue flicked out, tasting the air. About its head was an assortment of colorful feathers, standing out against the grey and black scaled hide. Behind it were more creatures of similar build, crude weapons held in scaled hands as each watched from the base of the temple steps. The smaller, imp like beasts skittered around the large, silent group. The leader raised his obsidian speckled club, and let out a bestial roar. In one motion, the hulking beasts hurled themselves up the steps of the ancient temple. It was bad, but not the worst situation he’d been in. At least here they held the high ground. Glancing around to see that his men were in position, he pulled the pistol from his belt. “On my mark, show these beasts the steel and fire of men.” Without another word, he stepped out into the opening, took aim, and fired. His shot took one of the beasts between the eyes, dropping it to be trampled by its own kind. Jumping back behind cover, his riflemen took aim and fired a devastating volley into the charging mass. Just as the first group of gunmen went to take cover, javelins appeared in retaliation, taking the lives of several. One man, having taking a glancing hit, staggered and fell, his body convulsing until it went still. Those that survived began to reload as the next group fired. He couldn’t see the result as he made his way back to stand behind the halberdiers. It must have had as much of an effect. Rather than find cover and reload, the second group began to run. “To me!” Gustave cried, only to watch most of them sprint past him heading deep into the temple. “Cowards.” he hissed. As the first beasts entered, he shouted the advance. With battle cries of their own, his men threw themselves at the towering beasts. Heavy halberd blades came down with vicious efficiency. The first few died to the unexpected assault, but more and more began to fill the entrance, easily overpowering their futile resistance. One of the massive beasts, a halberd stuck in its shoulder, sank its teeth into the neck of the man to his right, ripping his throat out, spraying gore and viscera into the air. Seeing that their line was about to falter, Gustave threw himself into the fray. With unmatched skill he moved among the beasts, his blade severing tendons and opening arteries with precise skill. The beasts made lumbering attempts to end him, but to no avail. He was liquid death amongst giants, and they fell to his wraith. Time passed without coherence or order. How long he fought and killed he didn’t know, but it became evident that he was now alone, his back to alter. His breath came out in ragged gasps and the burn of numerous wounds cried for reprieve. As he dispatched one last beast, the others pulled back. A walled semi circle of scaled muscle enveloped him, but none moved in to finish the task. Standing erect, he took a deep breath, his lungs drinking deep from the humid air. When he could make enough spit to move his tongue, “Had enough, you ugly bastards?” he shouted at them. None moved, but their eyes fixed on him as if he were only thing in the room. They remained that way until one stepped back, allowing their leader through. The beast with the feathered head piece was even more formidable up close. Pale scars stood out over the grey and black tint of its scaled skin. One in the group growled and stepped toward Gustave, but the leader raised its blood soaked club, a sharp hiss escaping it’s mouth. The other beast stood down. The leader looked at the last remaining man and, in a very unbeastlike manner, pointed one taloned finger at him, then back to its own chest. The challenge was clear and Gustave smiled. Taking one last steadying breath, he stepped down from the altar. The other beasts moved back, allowing the two their space. Circling each other, each sized up his opponent. After a few paces, Gustave moved in, this one was faster than the others, and narrowly avoided the disemboweling cut aimed at its mid section. With surprising speed, the club came down, grazing his shoulder and leaving small bits of broken obsidian in the open flesh. Dancing to the side, he spent little time recovering and instead sent a flurry of blinding strikes high to pull the beast’s guard up, then one devastating blow to the creatures hamstring. The beast sagged to the side, as its severed tendon gave way to hulking weight. It lashed out once more, in futile effort, but the swordsman dance away before sending a riposte into the beast’s neck, severing the artery. When the monster finished its death throws, Gustave was filled with elation. “Who’s next?” he snarled at them as the lizard creatures looked on without reaction. As if to answer his challenge, one of the small, impish creatures pushed its way into the circle. Frail framed with massive slitted eyes, it cocked its head to the side as it watched him. Gustave laughed, “Is this all you have?” he mocked. In one motion the small creature raised the wooden pipe in its hands and blew. There was the brief sensation of pain as the dart entered his neck, quickly followed by a numbness that spread through his body. He tried to swing his blade at the creature, but found his sword had fallen from his grasp. His body, refusing to obey his commands, collapsed on the cold stone ground. He could feel tiny hands searching through his clothes until they fastened on the elk hide pouch at his belt. Though he couldn't move his neck, he could see the faint pinkish glow on the walls. His breathing began to slow and his vision darkened. The numbness in his body became all consuming and the world went black. His last thought, a curse to those who spoke of cities of gold. Spoiler: Story 6 Story 6 No Title The kroxigor watched the temple city of Tlanxla burn and its inhabitants scream defiance as daemons poured through her streets. Many of the stones used to create the wall around the city had been born upon his back, now rubble to be trampled upon by the Enemy. Most of the smaller temples had been taken, now resembling ant hills as the daemon host swarmed about them. The largest of the temples still stood, the slann atop them raining beams of light and crackling power down upon the untold multitudes, killing hundreds with each strike. Thousands of years to construct and only days to destroy. Everything he had been born to do, everything he had taken pride in, all that he loved was gone. Hold Fast. The words materialized in his mind again. The same message being sent out by the Old One’s favored servants since the battle first began. Never changing or altering. It gave them purpose to know the city had yet to be taken. His pale, scaled hands tightened on the massive hammer. Once a tool to set stakes, now a weapon of devastating power, covered in gore and bits of viscera. It dawned on him, that he and the hammer were one and the same. A tool of creation forced into a new role. He felt a tugging on his arm and looked down to see the red crested skink, Hixi, looking up at him expectantly. “My thanks for your aid Pale One, Hixi believed his spear would never again cut another life cord, but we must move from this place swiftly. To stay here is to die.” Glancing around, he found the expectant eyes of a dozen kroxigor upon him. His brow furrowed, his kind was not accustomed to making decisions. In fact, there had been little thought at all when he had taken up his hammer and joined the fray, but he had been the first and the others had followed his example. There had been so many more when the fighting began, he realized, he hadn’t had time until now to notice just how many had fallen. “All will die.” he rumbled, “We must defend our work, defend the city.” “The city is lost, builder,” The red crest snapped, “We should retreat into the jungle and fight as we can there. This is an order.” Hold Fast He shook head and growled, “Run then, little one. We will hold the city.” Hixi barked out a curse and left his side. He had never defied an skink before, but he had never been given two separate orders either. Seeing the city in such a state, he wasn’t sure he could leave even if he wanted. The Enemy had to answer for the destruction it had caused. As he turned to signal the others to follow him, he found Hixi and his assembled red crests behind him. “If I leave, you will not last long enough to make a difference,” the little skink said. “You direct the way and we will scout ahead.” Good, he thought to himself, “We go to the spawning pools.” Hixi chittered out several commands and his skink darted in that direction, “Our lives are in your hands, Pale One. Make them count.” ***** Hold Fast. The skies had darkened as, one by one, the slann atop the temples had been wiped out. Only a few lights remained, but the message continued. The fight continued. Hixi limped down the street, darting around the piles of dead leading toward the spawning pools. Despite his injuries, the little red crest continued to alert them of the Enemy’s movements. Twice, the skink’s reports had saved them from catastrophe. Once when a large group of crustacean clawed daemonettes attempted to scale the cliff overlooking the River Amaxon and again when flying abominations of erratic shape and motion attacked from the sky. Each assault was repulsed, but there was little respite to be had and the defenders were quickly dwindling. “The crimson skins are coming. Our time is short,” said Hixi. He nodded, “Speak with the saurus.” Hixi gave a chirp in acknowledgement and moved to speak with the leader of the warrior class. When they had reached the pools, only a handful of saurus remained, fighting a battle without hope of victory. The warrior class fought as they were born to do, with brutal efficiency and primal fury, but they were outnumbered. His group had been able to turn the tide, for a time. Now, however, it was looking grim. He felt the eyes of the scar veteran upon him. It should have been the saurus who received reports first, but like their entire world, things had changed. He was in charge and there was no time to dispute leadership when their race was on the verge of extinction. As Hixi finished his report, the scar veteran looked to him and gave a slight inclination of the head before addressing his warriors. The significance of the gesture was lost to the kroxigor. With only a few words passed amongst them, each took up arms and followed their leader deeper into the city. Leaving the spawning pools with the red crests and a few kroxigor to hold it. He did not understand the meaning of this and so waited until Hixi could explain it. “The saurus go to meet the Enemy before they can reach the pools. They will attempt to lead them away. They have chosen their fate, Pale One, they will die to buy us time” He did not like it, but nothing could be done. To join them was to leave the pools unguarded. Hold Fast. ***** Hixi lay in his hands, the little skink’s entire body fitting in the width of his palms. The red crest’s ribs were gravel and his breathing came in short, ragged gasps. The previous clash had lasted hours with no give on either side. The last of his kroxigor had fallen beneath the black blades of the crimson skinned daemons and now only a few skink remained. He had been in the thick of the fighting and lost his footing. Without hesitation, Hixi and his red crests had flocked around him, giving their lives so that he might survive, if only a short time longer. Hixi had stood on his shoulder as he got to his feet, viciously stabbing with his short spear until the flat end of a sword took him out of the fight. With a roar, the kroxigor surged upward, forcing the daemons back before his onslaught. With great, heaving swings he sent the daemons back to the realm in which they came. Unable to stand before him, the crimson skinned daemons retreated deeper into the city. Hixi’s voice pulled him back from the memory, “Perhaps, the jungle would have been… a better choice.’ The little skink coughed, spraying blood with every breath. “Perhaps.” he said, his eyes scanning the streets for the inevitable attack. “I would know your name… Pale One.” He hadn’t realized he had never given it until now, “Nakai.” “It was good… to sever cords with you this day… Nakai…” The pale skinned kroxigor lay the limp body of the red crest down. Hixi had moved on from this world. There was only one source of light emanating from the central temple now and the message in his mind had gone. The main road leading to the spawning pools was filled with enough blood that it covered his feet. In the skies above the war torn city, massive winged daemons assaulted the last bastion of light. His body ached from the many wounds taken over the last few days, but his resolve held true. “You may go.” He told the few remaining red crests as they stood around their fallen leader, but none moved. “We will stand by you Nakai,” Chittered one from the group, “It is you we follow now.” Without a word, he walked to the massive pillars on either side of the entrance. He had carried such pillars throughout the city during the early years of construction. Though not these in particular, many like it. He ran a hand over the inscribed surface. Nostalgia for a simpler time and a touch of sadness for what he was about to do. Standing back, he picked up his hammer and swung it into the pillar. The power of the blow shook the roof, sending bits of broken stone down upon them. “You will help me from within. I will close the entrance. You will defend it when I fall.” The skink hesitated long enough for Nakai to swing his hammer again, shifting the pillar forward with the swing. It was all the incentive they needed to move inside. Three more blows to the pillar and he moved on to the opposite one, hitting it until he gauged it would only need one more strike to bring the ceiling above the entrance down. Just in time, he thought, as the splash of feet in blood came to him. A sea of daemonic forms, some grotesque, others hulking or lithe, all assembled before him. Soon they would be upon him. With one mighty swing, he toppled the first pillar. Chunks of stone began to rain down on him as he strode to the next. With a bestial roar he brought the hammer crashing into the next and ran from the descending roof. As he ran, he watched the second pillar fall. Daemons screamed and tried to move back, but being tightly packed as they were, had nowhere to run. The pillars crushed dozens beneath. Such was the mass of the two pillars, they formed a stone wall on either flank with a single entrance. They would be funneled through the narrow opening three abreast. It was here that Nakai made his stand. For hours the mighty hammer rose and fell, killing indiscriminately. There was no reprieve, no withdraw, just an endless tide of daemonic rage against the lone albino. The carnage he wrought was so great that eventually the daemons were fighting atop their own dead. Slowly his pale scales became red with his own blood, but still he fought on. It wasn’t until the final light of Tlanxla went dark that the heavy beating of leathery wings came and the host pulled back. The greater daemon that landed before him was similar to the crimson skinned creatures, only larger, causing Nakai to crane his neck to see the beast’s face. Thick curling horns adorned it’s head and in it’s hand was a blackened axe covered in fiery runes. It’s voice boomed out, “You’ve fought well mortal, but your end has come. Your skull will make a fine addition to the Throne.” Using his hammer as a crutch, Nakai pulled a blackened blade from his shoulder and blew out as much of the clotting blood from his broken snout as he could. Breathing deep, he looked at his ruined city. From these very pools he had drawn his first breath. He had dedicated himself to creating, as the Old Ones dictated, and took pride in what he had made with his hands. Looking down at those same hands, he knew there was one more task they must complete. Hefting the great hammer, he let out a bellow of frustration and rage as the greater daemon charged. As it came upon him, Nakai narrowly ducked beneath a decapitating blow and hammered his weapon into the daemons ribs. The daemon took the hit and moved with it, grazing his axe along Nakai’s back. Fire erupted from the wound and a hiss escaped his mouth. Whirling the hammer, he aimed it the daemon’s knee, but creature was fast for it’s size and only landed a glancing hit. It used it’s speed to be the aggressor, pushing Naki back. Not wanting to be pinned against the rubble, Nakai guided the fight past the pools and began moving toward the cliff overlooking the Amaxon. The daemon landed a number of strikes, adding to the many injuries already covering his body, but none that could bring him down. After days of fighting, Nakai knew his strength was finally betraying him. Perhaps if he had been fresh, or even as little as a day ago, he may have stood a chance. Now he was just delaying the inevitable. Even so, he wasn’t prepared to leave this world quietly. Backing up to the edge of the cliff he waited for the daemon to come at him. As he did, Nakai side stepped and threw all his might into his hammer, aimed at the beasts axe arm. The swing hit true and the daemon dropped it’s weapon as it went over the cliff. Even as it unfurled its wings to take flight, Nakai launched himself from the cliff’s edge his teeth latching onto the creature’s left wing and snapping the bone between his jaws. The greater daemon bellowed out its rage and the two tumbled through the air, biting, clawing, and gouging until the Amaxon River swallowed them. ***** Days after the fall of Tlanxla, the small band of red crests moved along the river bank. They had seen the two combatants fall and watched as long as they could to see if one would surface. Neither had. In vain they searched for their protector, but the small hope they had was quickly fading. They would have to be gone soon, as the daemonic horde was already on the march. Just as they were about to leave, one of their number let out several excited chirps. The remaining red crests ran to see what he had found and discovered several large kroxigor prints leaving the river and entering the jungle. With renewed vigor, the small band followed the tracks into the undergrowth. Spoiler: Story 7 Story 7 Completely Anonymous Entry Two saurus warriors, a skink priest, and a kroxigor continued their trek through the human lands. Moe and Robert, the sauri were concluding their discussion. “Well that’s settled.” “Yes, we have finally settled the hand weapon versus spears debate once and for all. When we return to Lustria we will share our solution and the flawless reasoning behind it.” “No need to rehash it now.” “Of course not, the four of us know, so we won’t repeat it now.” “Quiet, I sense we are nearing our goal!” The third speaker was the skink. At his signal, the companions cautiously peered over the ridge. The Lizardmen saw a fortified tower surrounded by three dozen human guards wearing light armour and armed with halberds. “Too many for us to fight. We should contact the other Lizardmen for help,” Robert suggested Everyone looked at the skink. “How am I supposed to contact them?” “Weren’t you supposed to buy a carrier pigeon in the last town?” Moe asked “I tried, but the pet store was…difficult,” the skink replied. “Did they only serve human customers?” Moe asked. “—Did they try to sell you as a pet skink? That would have been a hilarious bit!” Robert said excitedly. “No, I had a brilliant human disguise. They had quality control issues…” “’ello!” “Do you remember me?” “The talking lizard wearing the fake mustache, yes.” “I’d like to register a complaint about this carrier pigeon.” “Oh yes, the, uh, the Norseland Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?” “I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!” “No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.” “He’s not resting, ‘es stone cold dead!” “He’s just pining, pining for the fjords!” “Pinin’ for the fjords?!? What kind of talk is that! The fjords are controlled by Chaos and infested with ‘orrible monsters. ‘oo would pine for them?” “Pigeons are na’ that bright and there must be some nice things up north.” “That’s beside the point. This pigeon is dead! Not pining for the fjords.” “Well, ‘es pining for somethin’…” “No he is not! This pigeon has ceased to be! This is an ex-pigeon!” “Too bad, the pet store could have led to a hilarious encounter,” Robert mused sadly. “I know!” said the skink. The human soldiers snapped to alertness and began marching to the party’s position. “Oh, Marhlect! They spotted us.” Robert said. “We need some magic to solve this! W’yss’ans W’il’dfo’rm, this is on you.” All eyes, both reptilian and human turned towards the skink. The humans all tensed. “Careful men, the lizards are about to get much stronger and tougher!” “Sir, where is that wind coming from?” “Is that toilet humor, private?” “No, sir! I meant the question literally sir!” The wind picked up and carried the four Lizardmen were buffeted over the bewildered human soldiers who were then carried away by a new set of winds. “Those humans look confused,” Robert noticed. “I guess the humans don’t speak Saurian, so they don’t know that ‘W’yss’ans W’il’dfo’rm’ means ‘He who is unsurpassed with Heavens magic’.” “Stop it, you are embarrassing me! I’m not nearly as famous as the mighty Beast skink, F’ireb’all!” Once they landed, the two sauri bashed in the door to the tower with their hand weapons then barred it shut with their spears. Their kroxigor companion barricaded the door with heavy furniture. The human soldiers caught up to them and pounded on the door in vain. Unfortunately the cost was high. Moe articulated the problem. “Our hand weapons were broken breaking the locks, and we can’t retrieve our spears without undoing the barricade!” W’yss’ans W’il’dfo’rm looked around the room. “There’s a small armory here. Lots of two handed weapons to choose from here.” The two saurus replied simultaneously. “I’ll take a great weapon!” “I’ll take a halberd!” “Great Weapon!” “Halberd!” “Great Weapon!” “Halberd!” “Great Weapon!” “Halberd!” “Excuse me! What is going on in here!” asked a human sounding voice from across the room. “Quick! Everyone put on your fake mustaches!” W’yss’ans W’il’dfo’rm said in a carrying whisper. The elderly human man raised a hand calmly. “No need, for that,” said the human. “I care not about your race.” “You don’t?” Robert asked incredulously. “My name is Obi S. Pun. I allow for all merit based entry. To progress further in the tower, you must first beat me at the Game of Kings.” The saurus looked at each other confused. “Monopoly?” Moe asked. “No”, said Obi. “That is the Game of Thimbles and Tiny Cars. I mean chess. If you defeat me, you may pass. If not you will all die.” A set up board on a table appeared in the middle of the room with a chair on either side. “You are an unarmed elderly unarmed human and we are powerful warriors. Why should we go along with your ‘Game of Thrones’ when we can kill you easily?” Moe asked. “He said ‘Game of Kings’, whoever heard of a ‘Game of Thrones’ where characters are killed off early?” W’yss’ans asked. “How would I know? It’s not like I can afford to watch the premium channels on a saurus warrior’s salary!” Moe said. “I still don’t see why we can’t just beat him up and walk into the next room?” Robert said. Lightning and fire flashed around the room. “Magic!” exclaimed the human. “I’ll give this ‘chess’ a shot. I never met a game I can’t win!” Robert said. “You can’t do anything right!” Moe countered The saurus warriors fell silent as their kroxigor companion raised a gigantic hand. He lumbered to the table, sat down in a tiny chair, which promptly splintered into tiny pieces. The kroxigor grunted and repositioned into cross-legged position directly on the floor. The massive reptile nodded for the human to take white and proceed. They began rapidly moving pieces. A few turns in, Obi scoffed loudly and grinned “You are trying the Latvian gambit. You foolish blue coloured Beast!” As more moves were made and the game progressed, the grin on Obi S. Pun’s face gradually began to fade then turn to a look of distress. “Checkmate,” the kroxigor grunted. The room flashed lightning and the wall behind them disappeared revealing a spiral staircase. The two saurus warriors and the skinks all applauded their friend. “Good job Hen’ry Mc’Coy!” “I didn’t follow a move of what you did, but I’m glad you won!” “You are the blue Beast of chess!” “But…How?” stammered Obi. Hen’ry Mc’Coy, the kroxigor, sighed patiently. “Your Réti Opening and early accompanying moves were all strictly by the book, both elementary and predictable.” “but…” “You tried to emulate the styles of the famous chess greats of old, but you combined them in a contradictory and a haphazard matter that was ultimately self-defeating. You attempted to combine the brash offensive strategies of Anderssen with the reactionary defensive techniques of Steinitz." “But I had more pieces than you!” “Yet I had better control of the board. By mid-game, I came to realize that you are averse to loss and were reluctant to make sacrifices. I could sense inner turmoil even when you lost a pawn. I suspect this is a result of losses early in your life subliminally causing you to insulate yourself from risk of further loss later in life.” The human was clearly fighting back tears. “I am sensing that you lost someone close to you when you were a young man. Perhaps a mentor?” The human broke down completely. “Why did Master Timothy had to take that stupid bar bet to eat that pickled egg! It was in that jar in the dirty saloon for at least ten years! It was for five coppers! I would have given him five coppers to NOT do it! Why take the bet! Why! Why!” The Lizardmen proceeded up the stairs while the old human curled into a fetal position and sobbed in the corner. W’yss’ans was the last to ascend the stairs, pausing briefly to wrap a blanket around Obi and gently pat him on the head. The Lizardmen walked up the spiral stair case and opened a thick oaken door. The hinge creaked as if it hasn’t been opened in a very long time. A small hunchbacked human did a double-take, then shouted out in a nasal raspy voice. “Master, we have visitors…Bipedal lizards wearing fake mustaches” “Sound like respectable folk. Let them in, Forgor.” The room smelled musty and filthy as if the occupants had no human contact in years. Dozens, if not hundreds of monkey were mashing buttons on strange contraptions. A well-groomed man in a white lab coat wearing a large monocle turned towards the party. He spoke with a deep authoritarian voice. “Greetings Lizardmen! Welcome to my workshop of games!” The kroxigor spoke first. “Greetings to you, fine sir. Might I inquire as to what type of devices those primates are manipulating?” “They are called ‘typewriters’. Only the best tools will do for our staff. Unfortunately despite the great skill of our staff, it will take quite a while to create a coherent FAQ document. Still, we must be patient, we must make products to defeat our vile competitors. Especially those terrible wizards,” replied the doctor. “Terrible wizards? What wizards?” said Robert. “The ones who live on the Coast,” wheezed Forgor. “I think we met them on our travels,” said W’yss’ans “Yeah, in that dungeon,” said Moe. “No they were the wizards with the dragon,” replied Robert “Dungeon!” “Dragon!” “Dungeon!” “Dragon!” “Stop this infantile behavior,” Hen’ry Mc’Coy ordered, “We seek to recover a sacred artifact taken from our people. May we pass?” At this question, the monkeys all stopped their button mashing. Some drew impractically large, but kewl, swords and axes. Some inexplicable materialized with futuristic tacky-looking overpowered skull cannons. The monkeys resumed typing when the lizards backed away. The doctor sighed audibly. “I would love to help you, but the monkeys insist on impossibly steep costs to for new people to enter the hobby—I mean the lobby. The lobby where we keep our artifacts.” “Perhaps we can wait till the monkeys leave.” Moe suggested. “Sadly no, the monkeys will never leave till they finish their FAQs, and that won’t happen until sometimes after the end times,” replied the doctor “How can you write something after the end times?” Robert asked. “It’s physically impossible! We have to fight them!” Moe declared. ‘Their numbers are too great for us to overcome. Alas, I fear their Chaotic assortment of weapons is poorly balanced in a matchup against Lizardmen.” said Hen’ry Mc’Coy. “We need to distract them—I have an idea,” said W’yss’ans. The skink pulled a sheet of parchment from his pack. “Monkeeeys! Look! Its announcement of across the board price increases!” The monkeys all stopped working and looked at the skink expectantly. The skink used his origami skills to form the parchment into a banana shape and tossed it down the stairs. The monkeys sprinted down after it. “That won’t hold them for long! They’ll want another one soon,” warned the doctor. “Forgor, bring me the key to the door! The monk’s key!” “The monkeys have it!” replied the hunchback. “Didn’t see that coming…” remarked W’yss’ans. “What are we going to do now?” Robert despaired. After a few seconds of awkward silence, Hen’ry Mc’Coy spoke up. “Fear not my compatriots. I believe I have a solution to our delicate conundrum—KROXIGOR SMASH PUNY DOOR!” The Lizardmen ran in as fast as they could. Ffortunately they found a second door that was unlocked that they could barricade behind them to keep out the vengeful monkeys that were racing towards them. The primates were furious that the supposed announcement of price increases was actually a list of consumer recommendations to aid their competitiveness. The Lizardmen sensed they were near their goal. Reverently W’yss’ans opened a wooden chest and carefully removed the grand artifact stolen from Lustria. “At last! We have recovered the Sacred Eggshell Helmet of Invulnerability!” Spoiler: Story 8 Story 8 The Return Prahnek was woken from slumber by the brassy crash of the warning gong. By the time the echoes had faded away he was fully wakened and was bounding up the Tower of Vigil stairs three at a time. At the top he found a quivering skink peering east into the twilight gloom of the towering forsest. The lookout still held the gong beater in shaking hands. "Dresla! Report!" The lookout jumped at his leader's voice. "Scar Prahnek!" Dresla licked his lips nervously, " Wing Rider Doleth made a sighting...came back to warn us! He ..." the pink tongue flickered again. This is not good, thought Prahnek, Skinks are often twitchy, but they can usually string a complete sentence together. As the lookout licked his lips once more the Scar Leader eyed the terradon perch. It was empty of all but caked guano. "Where is your precious rider now?" Prahnek held little regard for wing riders. They held themselves to be above the reach of his discipline, and to the extent that they could escape his claws, they were correct. "Doleth made his warning then abandoned us!" Dresla shivered. "Doleth said... He has returned!" "He? He is back?" Prahnek felt his own lips and mouth suddenly dry up as if he had inhaled a Khemrian sand storm. "Was Doleth sure? Dresla gestured at the empty perch. "We should flee also before it is too late." Prahnek went to cuff the frightened skink about the head. "Where was He seen? How far away?" The cowering lookout shook his head. "Doleth didn't say, but he was flying the inner wing patrol today. No more than two miles out." "Two miles?" Prahnek growled. "It is already too late. Stay at your post and give warning if He approaches." At the foot of the Tower of Vigil Prahnek found his platoon of Saurus warriors and Muquela's skink cohort, formed up at the barred gate and ready for anything. Almost anything. Skink Priest Muquela had always seen himself as a rival to Prahnek's authority. Prahnek usually saw the weakling mage as a trivial irritation. On this day the Scar Leader saw him as no better than a traitor. He poked the priest roughly in the chest with his obsidian mace. "What were the words of your far-telling, Oh great astrologer?" he snarled, "Were they not thus? 'Tool of fate, cast in the void, behind the broken moon'? Might I not have expected Him to be more distant than two miles?" The perennial smug look on Muquela's face slipped, "He is coming?" There was a chorus of hisses and other wordless expressions of dismay from the troops. "As you assured us all he would not. Are all of your prophecies false?" "The words of the far-telling are sure! I have checked them over and over," the agitated priest shook his head vigorously, "perhaps another interpretation..." "The words of a priest are chiseled in smoke." Prahnek shoved him again with the mace. "You have trapped us by your complacency and now we must face Him." A third voice quietly intervened. "There is another choice." Prahnek did not bother trying to look for the speaker, concealed as he was in the shadowy arches of the outpost. For all that the scar leader frowned on priest Muquela's indirect way of battle, it was far preferable Dressk's venomous and sneaky approach. "Put away your fangs, Stalker. We cannot kill him." "He cannot be killed? Such a pity for you." Dressk's voice mocked from an entirely different corner of the tiny fort. "But I did not counsel death." Suddenly, there was a clatter of claws on the tower of vigil stair. "I have seen Him! I have seen his gleaming skull!" panted Dresla as he skittered onto the guard room flags . The pink tongue flashed across his dry lips again, "And The Other is with him." The Saurus warriors and skinks hissed and groaned again. "Master yourselves!" growled Prahnek to his troop. "Dressk! If not death, what is your counsel?" "Need I make myself obvious?" the chameleon's play on words was devoid of humour. "We must hide." "We cannot all hide, worm!" "Indeed not. But some may be spared torment. I, for one..." Dressk's voice tailed away entirely. The barred gates of the outpost creaked inwards a little, as if a chill hand was testing their integrity. As if at a prearranged signal the skinks broke formation and scattered, followed seconds later by Prahnek's brave Saurus warriors. In twos and threes they sought refuge behind racks of weapons, among the supplies, and even down the well. Many fled up the tower stair, possibly considering throwing themselves from the heights if they were cornered there. "What is this?" hissed the Scar Leader, "A mutiny?" "Call it what you will, Scar Prahnek." Priest Muquela waggled his feathered staff under his leader's snout. "You cannot keep the Spawn of Discord out forever. May you fare well with Them." Prahnek's attention was captured as the creaking of the gates was replaced by a rhythmless pounding. By the time he turned back with a caustic reply on his dry lips, the priest had disappeared into his own hiding place. The pounding ceased. Soon after, a thin blade squeezed between the leaves of the gate. It slid upwards until it encountered the timber bar which held the doors closed. The blade twisted until its edge bit into one side of the gap. It levered upwards and raised the bar a fraction of an inch from its cradle. Then it twisted the other way and levered upwards again. Prahnek licked his parched lips and conceded that he was trapped. He could not intervene without betraying his presence and he did not have enough time left to take Dressk's choice. Rather than prolong the agony of anticipation, Prahnek clenched his jaws, lifted the heavy bar and cast it to one side. The doors swung ponderously outwards and the tormentors were revealed. "I told you there would be someone here at the outpost," stated one. "No you didn't." declared the other. "Yes I did. Hello Scar Prahnek." "No you didn't!" "I did too! By the way, did you notice we have returned!" "You most surely did not. Yes, Scar, What was it like while we were away?" "Hello Bob. Hello Joe." Prahnek grated through his firmly gritted teeth. "It was quiet." Spoiler: Story 9 Story 9 The Spine of Sotek In the distant past, in the reign of the beings only known as the Old Ones, a device was built. The device was to become deeply entwined with the race known today as Lizardmen. The device was hidden deep in the mountains that would become known as the Spine of Sotek, a name given to them by the Lizardmen. For a long time, it was kept a secret; only the most venerated of the Lizardmen´s Magepriests were allowed to know its location. With the coming of Chaos, and the death of all the wisest Slann, and especially the ruination of the city Xothl, the city tasked to defend this sacred place, the location and existence of this great device, was lost to the Lizardmen. At least until it would be needed to turn the tide of war, and aid the Lizardmen, back to the glory days of old. Recently Lustria had enjoyed a time of peace, the many wars that had taken its toll on the land, was not strikingly noticeable, and the days ran peacefully by, in the hot and humid land of the Lizardmen. In the city of Xlansec the city’s general, The Olblood Xiuhcoatl, is practising his skill with the blade, an unusual weapon for a Saurus, especially one of his age, but he likes the more precise slaughtering such a weapon is capable of. It is not a weak sword like the filthy Warmbloods use, Xiuhcoatl´s sword is made of strong obsidian, to make it able to withstand the somewhat brutal way of fighting the Saurus typically have. Xiuhcoatl was around during the great catastrophe, and killed many Daemons. He is not as mighty as the legendary Kroq-Gar, but he is one of highest ranking of Saurus alive. His always trusty lieutenant, the skink chief Tutecani, is overseeing the training of Ripperdactyles at the moment. He thinks them more suited for war, than those fragile Teradons. Tutecani, probably best known among the Skinks, as a successful general in the Skaven wars. He fought bravely, but ended up with a bad injury in his left side, making him unable to do as much fighting as he would like to. Instead he uses his skills of leadership, to lead the army, mostly the Skinks, when Xiuhcoatl is too busy cracking skulls. In times of peace Tutecani usually is the leader of the teams that hunt Ripperdactyl eggs, for incubation and later training, to make the skinks as fierce as possible on the battlefield. Tutecani loves the fury of the Ripperdactyles, over the more gentle Teradons. Ripperdactyles reminds him, of his god, Sotek, to which he has made many offerings, of the vile Skaven. If he could become a young skink again, he would certainly like to learn to fly the Ripperdactyles, but with his injury and his age, it is unlikely to happen, so he takes the joy he can, from training hatchling riders. Meanwhile in the city of the Sun, Hexoatl. The Great Slann Mazdamundi, have been absent for a long time, no one has been able to wake him from his meditations. The Skink priests of the city have been chattering about, that it might be one of his great contemplations, which often lead to great discoveries. Like the time when he had been slumbering for almost a century. When he awoke, he knew of a site lost to the Lizardmen, containing lost treasures, like the Egg of Quango for instance. This time it was different. Mazdamundi was not able to shrug off his slumber, and more importantly, was not willing to, as he was receiving a strange message, and he did not know from where it came, all he knew was that it had something to do, with Sotek. He telepathically sent word to the City of the Moon, also known as Tlaxtlan. He specifically contacted a Skink Priest known as Tsixoatl, priest of Sotek, the most adept at the beastly magic that he performs. Tsixoatl was ordered to gather a force of Lizardmen, and march for the city of Xlansec, where he were to join forces with the Oldblood Xiuhcoatl and the Skink chief Tutecani. From there, their mission was to travel to the Spine of Sotek, as something unknown, buried deep in the caverns of the mountains, was beginning to materialize. Mazdamundi did not know what it was for certain, but his gut told him, that the fate of the Lizardmen might very well be determined by this one mission. Tsixoatl began his preparations immediately, and summoned the majority of the city´s Skinks and Kroxigor, along with a good deal of Saurus and some War Beasts. For himself, he chose his old companion, a stegadon ancient enough to have been around as Chaos first entered the world. Its name Chimetsi, representing its red crest, which it had had since it hatched, just as a lunar eclipse occurred. Together they had travelled Lustria, along the way Tsixoatl had learned many things about magic, as they had visited the sacred places of Sotek. In Xlanzec word had been received from Mazdamundi, and the city began preparing the arriving army from the City of the Moon. In the weeks up to the arrival of the army, many Saurus and especially War Beast of many kinds where readied. Tsixoatl´s fondness of War Beasts, had come in handy on many occasions, as he had convinced Xiuhcoatl, that War Beasts were the best offence against most enemies. The enemies were either crushed beneath the mighty beasts, overrun or sent running away screaming and pissing their pants. All of which Xiuhcoatl found very satisfying, especially the crushing. As soon as Tsixoatl´s army arrived at the city of Xlanzec, the two armies joined forces, and immediately began their journey to the Spine of Sotek. There were many dangers along the way, but nothing the steel hardy Lizardmen could not handle. Their biggest problems became the army’s Bastiladons, who had a hard time, with some of the swampy areas of the Lustrian jungle. Their sheer weight, made them susceptible to the soft mud, But through effort from the Kroxigors, the occasional stuck Bastiladon was freed, from the else deadly trap. As the army of Xlanzec and Tlaxtlan progressed, they were joined by another army, send from the First and greatest city of the Lizardmen: Itza. Along with the army was the Mage priest Yemanja, a Slann, skilled in the arts of bending the earth to his will. Even a Skink oracle, known as Na-Ga, had joined the army, oddly though the oracle was not riding a Troglodon, unusual for an oracle. The army, was now the largest seen in Lustria, since the fall of the Polar Gates. As the army came closer to the mountains, the jungle looked more and more grey and animal life became scarce as the army approached their destination. As they arrived at the mountains, no sounds from the surrounding jungle could be heard, and it was as if all colours had faded from the world. Yemanja sensed some kind of ill and forbidden magic, shrouding the jungle. Yemanja was not able to put his finger on what exactly it was. It was not his area of expertise, and another Slann might have been better at deciphering these omens. What he did know however, was where this foul magic was coming from. Yemanja could feel the raw power of magic surging through the mountains deep within. He ordered the army to set up camp for the night. It was beginning to get dark, and everyone, excluding the Saurus, needed the rest, to make sure everyone would be ready to fight, if the need arose, before they headed into the caverns, situated all around the mountain bases. At the rise, of the big shiny thing in the sky, as the Skinks like to call it, the armies began making their way inside the mountains. Lead by Yemanja, they soon found themselves in an enormous hall, built inside the mountains. Symbols the Lizardmen did not fully understand, not even Yemanja, decorated the hall. Yemanja first instinct, was to begin deciphering these symbols, but convinced himself, that this was not the time. At the far side of the hall, a gate could be seen, adorned with a huge serpent, along with many smaller serpents near the biggest. The Skink Priest Tsixoatl quickly tried to make his way to the gate, but was interrupted by a mighty roar. In no time, the caverns leading to this enormous hall were swarming with Daemons, accompanied by a greater Daemon, which the Lizardmen had hoped they would never meet again, his name, Thanatus, bringing back memories of the apocalyptic days of The Fall. Xiuhcoatl answering with an evenly mighty roar, challenging Thanatus. The two armies clashed and the hall erupted in a cacophony of noises, ranging from the screams of the daemons to the roars of the titanic reptiles of the Lizardmen. Thanatus did not take up the challenge from Xiuhcoatl, taking his time, and waiting for the Saurus to be exhausted. Instead focusing on the Slann, as he believed, without him, the Daemons would easily win. At the moment however, too many Temple Guards were protecting the Slann for Thanatus to get near. As the battle raged massive spells were cast, and the air vibrated with the vast amounts of arcane energy coursing through the hall and caverns. The massive scale of both armies, made this a lengthy battle, a week passed, and the slaughtering was still as plentiful as the first day. At the 9th day of battle, it seemed that the Lizardmen would win the fight, but just as they thought victory was within their grasp, Thanatus, making a great incantation, from rage of sensing defeat, shook the mountains. The mountains were shaken by their foundations, and before long, the Lizardmen would be mashed, by the collapsing mountains. Yemanja knowing this, using all his might, and great proficiency with earth magic, calmed the mountains and thwarted Thanatus´s incantation. The Lizardmen were saved, but it came with a high price. As Yemanja focused on calming the mountains, Thanatus made his way to the Mage priest. Luckily he was too late to stop Yemanja, but was able to kill him, leaving the Lizardmen without much magic support. Now the victory of the Lizardmen depended on, if they would be able to take down Thanatus, but with the two armies now more even, given the Lizardmen´s big loss, it was unclear which side would end up being the victor. At the battles conclusion only a handful of Lizardmen remained, among these were, Xiuhcoatl, Tutecani, Tsixoatl atop his Stegadon Chimetsi. The other Lizardmen survivors being a Carnosaur, without a rider, and a small group of Temple Guard, along with a Saurus Veteran. The only Daemon left was Thanatus, and unlike the Lizardmen, was not as exhausted, as he had mostly held back during the fighting, waiting for the right moments. The remaining Lizardmen, although fatigued, fuelled by their rage towards the Daemon who killed their Mage priest, attacked, but Thanatus easily slew the Carnosaur with one mighty blow, and killed the temple guards and Saurus Veteran as easily as a Saurus would kill a newborn human. Seeing this Xiuhcoatl, Tutecani and Tsixoatl performed a combined attack, all three charging the Daemon. Even though they did their best, they realised, that defeat was sealed, as none of them were able to penetrate the Daemon´s Shielding barriers. Just as everything seemed lost, Na-Ga arrived, and charged Thanatus, riding on the back of a huge Troglodon. Somehow, he got away, in the tumult of fighting, reaching a cavern deep in the mountain, where he found this magnificent reddish specimen, along with something else. As the Troglodon attacked Thanatus, Na-Ga tossed a weapon to Xiuhcoatl, an ancient blade, shimmering with the power of the Old Ones. The attack from Na-Ga and his Troglodon, gave a brief moment of opportunity, where Thanatus, were taken by surprise, left his guard down. Promptly, Xiuhcoatl attacked with the ancient powerful blade, piercing the magical barriers protecting the vile Daemon, and impaling Thanatus, who screamed unworldly from pain, the blade having impaled him in all planes of reality, ultimately exterminating him. Suddenly all colour returned, and the hall became quiet. The Lizardmen had won at last, but not without heavy losses. As the dust settled, the remaining Lizardmen detected, that the gate, adorned with the huge Serpent had opened. The survivors, drawn to what lied beyond the gate, walked inside that holy chamber. Inside they found a great wall of pure transparent Obsidian. Carved into the obsidian, was a map of Lustria, detailing every temple city and spawn pool, some of which were lit with a blue light, while others emanated red. On pillars in the chamber Different markings, describing the nature and origin of this device, could be seen. It seemed as if this were the control centre of all spawning pools in Lustria, keeping the spawning pools active and sustaining the Lizardmen with Saurus, Skinks and Kroxigor. There were even symbols, which the Lizardmen could not decipher, but they had a striking resemblance to frogs. Suddenly a blinding light surrounded the Lizardmen. The God of these mountains, The serpent God Sotek, appeared before the remaining Lizardmen and healed and blessed each one of the survivors, essentially making them reborn. Sotek infused them with his power, and set each of them on a mission. To recover lost artefacts to aid the Lizardmen in the war against Chaos. Before the Lizardmen took their leave, somehow, out of displaced instinct, activated the device, and gave the spawning pools new life throughout Lustria. The device would be the main force, behind making the Lizardmen achieve the great plan of the Old Ones. In the years to come, the spawning pools would spew forth vast numbers of Lizardmen, maybe even spawnings thought to have been going extinct. As the Lizardmen headed out the great halls, which from then on, would be known, as the halls of Sotek, their ways separated, each with their own task. Xiuhcoatl would travel to the Southlands, where he were to retrieve immensely powerful armaments, and find a long lost beast, going by the name Sutah, roaming the lands, and last but not least, to annihilate Chaos in the land, making the Lizardmen of the Southlands, able to communicate with the Lustrian Lizardmen once again. Tutecani, staying in Lustria was to search the Spine of Sotek, for artefacts and now, with his old wound gone due to his “resurrection”, was to find a great winged beast known as Quezoal. Tsixoatl along with his Stegadon Chimetsi would travel to Naggaroth, to reclaim arcane relics, stolen from the Lizardmen, by the dark Elves. Na-Ga and his large redish Troglodon, apparently named Nigizida, would make their way to Ulthuan, to reacquire relics, once given to the Elves who had proven themselves unworthy of these possessions, and therefore, should be reclaimed. In time they will all come back to Lustria, to completely remove Chaos from Lustria. Until then, In the absence of these Avatars of Sotek, The Great Serpent, now free from the taint of Chaos, will be watching over Lustria, and repel all outsiders who dare threaten the Lizardmen. Spoiler: Story 10 Story 10 Under the Tempel Te'to was showered by gravel as when the stone crust on the floor Te'to had just managed to doge it. He didn't now what had caused the stone to fall but he new it had something to do with the skaven, these filthy rat creatures had been assaulting the temple city since the dawn. They hadn't breached the saurus defence line yet but their infernal engines of war had shot lightning onto the pyramids. Tecazo'to or Te'to as he was nicknamed had been watching the battle begin from the greatest of the pyramid in the city but when the war engines had begun to shoot had he returned to the deeps of the pyramid to see if the city's last slann had orders to give but the slann were still gone for the world and now were he on his way upwards to see how the battle had evolved. As a high priest did he had to now what was going on if he had to make any decisions. And now were he running through the corridors as the temple were rumbling like an earthquake had hit. The chatter of weary skinks could be heard from the rooms and the corridor became more and more crowded the higher up Te'to run now he had to zigzag between the scribes and lower priests. A scribe stepped in to his way and shouted to Te'to “What by Sotek is going on High one?” “Marchlekt, I don't now. Step aside! I'm in a hurry!” did Te'to shout back and the scribe thrown himself aside when Te'to continued his rush forward. A constant rain of gravel were now falling from the ceiling down on the lizardmen. Te'to was just a single room away from the door to the roof step of the pyramid when another boulder fell from the ceiling and crushed the skinks just before him and was splattered by blood. Te'to stopped in chock before he tried to help the wounded but when he reached down to the nearest skink and grabbed him to draw it free from the bolder did the skink coughed blood over Te'to and he died in his arms. Te'to closed the dead skinks eyes and looked around. The other skinks hit by the bolder were either taken care of or dead. He then looked to the boulder but it sealed of the corridor so Te'to rose up and started to run back along the corridor to find another way. Fist sized stones were falling from the ceiling now and Te'to could see bigger boulders that had injured or killed more skinks along his path. The blood her pulsing in his head and every breath hi took hurt in his lungs by the long hard run to the temple top but he had finally reached it. He saw a small chasm had opened in the middle of the temple city but the chasm was widening longer away in the jungle towards the sea. Deep in the darkness of the chasm could Te'to see a weak green light from the skavens warpstone. The rumblings had stopped now Te'to fought it had to do with the opening of the chasm. He then looked to the battle and it was still going on like before in the outskirts of the skinkbarriors the saurus lines had not fallen when Te'to was inside. The skavens green projectiles were still bombarding the city but it had not done much damage. He looked back to the chasm and saw stormwermins and rat ogres climb up from the chasm and begun to advance. But Te'to had not been the only one watching the skaven coming up from the chasm and he saw a group of terradon riders swoop down on the vermin but the rat ogres held up their great guns that spewed out green lightning and the terradons were falling from the sky more groups of terradons and ripperdactuls were on their way but after more flashes of green light were their charge broken. But skinks with javelins and blow pipes were appearing all around on the pyramids bombarding the rats with poison to many and to fast for the skaven guns to take out but more and more skaven were just swarming up from the chasm and the darts and javelins didn't managed to penetrate the rat ogres armour. Te'to prepared to draw down lightning on the skaven with his magic when another rumble came, deeper this time. Avalanches of stone were falling down from the pyramids when the ground shook and hundreds of skaven were falling back into the chasm. The rumble continued and Te'to could see how the jungle at the see seventeen miles away were falling down in big heaps, the ground itself were falling into the ocean. The chasm were dramatically widening towards the city. Now were the skaven swarming up from the chasm even faster but they were not attacking but fleeing throwing away their weapons to be able to run faster. The skaven outside the city had also retreated and the sauruses could turn and cut down the fleeing skaven. Most of the cites skinks were also running towards the relative safety of the barrios more of the city were falling down in to the chasm now and the see were washing in over the pyramids. Te'to begun to run into the pyramid and just after he had passed through the doorway did it collapse and a dust cloud swept in Te'to. He now he had to reached the slann if it would need him for whatever reason. Te'to was a humble servant of the old ones and determined to do his part in the great plan. Suddenly did the floor disappeared and Te'to was hurled at the wall he did understand that the great pyramid had fell down in to the chasm. He did get to his feet quickly and continued to run along the corridor as the temple fell apart around him. A big chunk of the floor break loose and crash down throe the floors beneath Te'to found himself falling together with a hole stone avalanche. He used wind magic wind pushes to avoid getting crushed between the boulders. With a final push did he propel himself into a little hole in the side of the avalanche. Te'to's hole body was shaking and he could not even stand up he just lied on the floor breathing heavy. The temple must had hit the bottom of the chasm now because the rumbling had come to a stop. Te'to look around in the room he didn’t recognise it, it was dominated by some kind of old one device. A rumble of stones got him to look back to the hole in the wall and Te'to saw how his only way out did get blocked. And he was sealed in. The scratching noise had come closer Te'to could clearly recognise the sound of obsidian picaxes tunnelling throe the rock. A final hit and the pick break throe the stones and light slip in to the camber and a skink came in to the camber for fifty years had Te'to not talked to another lizardman. He had lived on insects and rats the hole time. The only thing to do was to study the forgotten plaques and the glyphs that was engraved on the artefact of the old ones he had stumbled in to. Now burdened by old age cold he not stand by himself but he had mastered the magic’s of heaven a long time ago in the darkness had he used his inner eye to watch the skies and look to the future. The opening was enlarged and a kroxigor came in to the chamber together with a skink carrying a torch. The light fell on Te'to and the skinks saw him “High one are you alive?” said the first skink “Yes, it seams like the old ones is not done with me yet.” Replied Te'to “Kroxigor catch me my limbs are not strong enough to bear me.” he continued and then lift himself up with a wind burst. And the kroxigor carried Tecazo'to out from the darkness in to the rays of Chotec.