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Contest October-November 2020 Reading Thread

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, Nov 1, 2020.

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Which story or stories do you like best? (choose up to three)

Poll closed Nov 29, 2020.
  1. Story One: "A Place to Call Home: The Official Trailer"

    3 vote(s)
    21.4%
  2. Story Two: "A Scary Day"

    4 vote(s)
    28.6%
  3. Story Three: "Buried Memories"

    3 vote(s)
    21.4%
  4. Story Four: "Message Begins"

    3 vote(s)
    21.4%
  5. Story Five: "The Path to Salvation"

    10 vote(s)
    71.4%
  6. Story Six: "Letters of the Sea"

    6 vote(s)
    42.9%
  7. Story Seven: "We All Belong Somewhere"

    1 vote(s)
    7.1%
  8. Story Eight: "The Mind of a Huagerdon"

    2 vote(s)
    14.3%
  9. Story Nine: "The Savage Beast"

    6 vote(s)
    42.9%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    The theme for our 24th seasonal short story contest provided by the wise @Infinity Turtle , "A place to call home"

    Please read all nine stories before voting. You may vote for up to three pieces.

    The order of the stories was determined completely randomly. The order has no bearing on which pieces were submitted in what order.

    If someone wants me to fix a typo or formatting error that slipped through the cracks. Please let me know by private message AND please post the entire story with all changes made. It's lot easier for me to copy and paste a new story rather than for me to dig through the text to find the three or four errant sentences.

    A Place to Call Home: The Official Trailer

    Fade up on major studio label: the words "Alternate Universal" orbiting in giant letters around the Old World. This is followed by the indie studio label: Lustrian Pictures, with a stylized bronze sculpture of a skink with a blowpipe.

    Gentle yet foreboding music suggests that an idyllic state of affairs may be threatened.

    FADE UP

    EXT. RURAL LANDSCAPE. DAY.

    We see sweeping images of beautiful BRETONNIAN COUNTRYSIDE. A FAIR MAIDEN gallops over the hills and fields on a great black STALLION; she is young and striking, clearly a free spirit and a master rider. Cresting a hill, she looks into the distance and sees a great PLUME OF SMOKE. The landscape beyond is scarred and ravaged by WAR.

    CLOSE on the woman's face - she looks on in dismay.

    WOMAN (VOICE OVER)
    The Old World is dying.

    CUT TO

    The woman returning to the STABLES, leading her HORSE by the reins.

    WOMAN (VOICE OVER) (CONT.)
    We fight each other over scraps.

    CUT TO

    INT. STABLES. DAY.

    Among the hay bales, the woman glimpses A PROSTRATE FIGURE. Moving closer, she sees he is a REIKLANDER, a soldier of the EMPIRE, and he is injured. They stare at each other.

    WOMAN (VOICE OVER) (CONT.)
    I don't want to live like this, Father.

    CUT TO

    INT. CASTLE, NIGHT.

    The woman confronts her FATHER, a proud BRETONNIAN DUKE, in his wealthy, tapestry-furnished ROOMS. He has an arrogant face with a vain MUSTACHE.

    WOMAN (CONTINUOUS)
    I deserve to write my own destiny! To find my own place in the world!

    FATHER
    As long as you are my daughter, you will do as I say!

    CUT TO

    INT. STABLES. NIGHT.

    The main musical theme is introduced, but still gentle.

    The WOMAN shyly brings a bowl of water and some FOOD to the REIKLANDER, and washes his wounds - first removing his SHIRT. They stare into each other's eyes.

    FATHER (VOICE OVER) (CONT.)
    You will marry who I tell you to marry!

    CLOSE on the REIKLANDER as he looks seriously at her.

    REIKLANDER
    Together, we can do anything. We can find somewhere we belong.

    CUT TO

    The woman is practicing ARCHERY. An OLD LADY watches her, lovingly.

    CUT TO

    EXT. WOODS. DAY.

    The OLD LADY and the WOMAN walk side by side through the trees. The lady takes her hand.

    OLD LADY
    I always knew you were meant for more than this, my dear girl.

    WOMAN
    But what, grand-mere? What was I meant for?

    We cut CLOSE on the lady, her eyes twinkling. The music stops -

    OLD LADY
    That is for you to discover.

    The music returns at a faster, more adventurous tempo.

    EXT. HILL. SUNSET

    The REIKLANDER and the WOMAN stand together on a hill overlooking a HARBOR with great ships, silhouetted against the sun.

    REIKLANDER
    We will always be together. But it cannot be here.

    EXT. SHIP. DAWN.

    The woman walks up the prow of a GINORMOUS BOAT with HUGE SAILS. She's on the sea - the COAST is distant behind her. She is staring out to the horizon, face full of wonder.

    TITLE ON BLACK: "THIS OCTOBER-NOVEMBER"

    A series of action shots, as the music goes full tilt:

    - The ship riding giant WAVES in a huge STORM.
    - The ship surrounded by PIRATE ships.
    - The REIKLANDER and the WOMAN fighting pirates back to back on the deck.
    - Terrifying HARPIES swooping out of the sky and joining the fight.

    TITLE ON BLACK: "FROM VISIONARY DIRECTOR XILIQUNCANI"

    EXT. SHIP'S DECK. DAY

    As the crew attempts to keep its balance mid-storm, the eccentric, bearded CAPTAIN leers down at the WOMAN from the rigging.

    CAPTAIN (GRINNING, SAILOR ACCENT)
    You didn't think a trip across the Great Ocean would be easy now, did ya?

    The music shifts to quiet tension.

    CUT TO

    INT. PIRATE BRIG. NIGHT

    The WOMAN is chained to heavy irons in her cell, while the REIKLANDER coughs weakly in her lap, badly beaten.

    WOMAN (MOROSE)
    Maybe the world just isn't made for people like you and me. Maybe this was all a stupid girl's fantasy.

    CUT TO

    EXT. PIRATE SHIP. DAY.

    The WOMAN stands on a PLANK over the water, still chained. The REIKLANDER watches from the DECK, also chained, as the pirate CREW shout and prod the woman down the plank.

    The WOMAN turns back and makes eye contact with the REIKLANDER.

    REIKLANDER (VOICE OVER FROM PREVIOUS SCENE)
    It was never a fantasy. You were always the one.

    The music quickly rises into a climactic huge bass note, with rising strings as we CUT TO

    EXT. OCEAN. DAY

    A TRULY MASSIVE SEA MONSTER lunges out of the water and rears above the SHIP. We hold on the terrifying vision... Finally the music goes all-out into the most epic section yet as we get a series of quick shots:

    - The SHIP splintering to pieces under the MONSTER's attack, PIRATES flying everywhere.
    - The WOMAN and the REIKLANDER kissing on the hillside.
    - TITLE ON BLACK: "WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE"
    - CLOSE UPS of the WOMAN and the REIKLANDER looking determined, battle-stained and heroic.
    - The REIKLANDER sprinting along the Monster's back and trying to reach the WOMAN before she falls-
    - Ranks of armored Bretonnian knights, the Woman's FATHER leading at the front.
    - TITLE ON BLACK: "TO FIND WHERE YOU BELONG"

    EXT. OCEAN. NIGHT

    A lull in the music as we see the WOMAN and the REIKLANDER standing on a MAKESHIFT RAFT, as a dark LANDMASS rises before them.

    FATHER (VOICE OVER)
    There is nowhere in this Realm I will not find you!

    FADE THROUGH BLACK

    EXT. MONSTER FIGHT. DAY.

    The music climaxes again and then holds on an extended note as we see:

    The ECCENTRIC CAPTAIN leaping off the back of a TERRADON towards the MONSTER'S eye, screaming and brandishing a HARPOON.

    CUT TO:

    The WOMAN AND THE REIKLANDER trekking through steep jungle, emerging onto a mountainside and gazing out at something in wonder.

    The music fades away.

    FADE THROUGH BLACK

    INT. CASTLE. NIGHT

    CLOSE on the WOMAN; we recognize the scene where she's arguing with her father.

    WOMAN (CLOSE UP)
    I will escape you. And I will find it.

    FADE THROUGH BLACK

    A final epic bass note as we see the view from behind the WOMAN and the REIKLANDER: they are looking out at a majestic JUNGLE, and in the mid-distance, a HUGE TEMPLE CITY rising out of the trees, terradons flocking around the pyramids.

    FINAL TITLE: "A PLACE TO CALL HOME"

    FINAL CREDITS ON BLACK, FOR JUST AN INSTANT

    A Scary Day


    The alarm wailed, its peals reverberated throughout the chamber wherein rank upon rank of Saurus Warriors ran drills with expert precision. A few individuals paused briefly in reaction to the wall of sound, but they were in the minority. It was not a call to war, and so Saurus did not concern themselves with it. This had been the way of things for millennia, since the days when such technology was hidden deep within the temples of Lustria.

    Xix on the other hand was a Skink, and he was very concerned. He had been idly observing the sparring Saurus. Xix never really knew what to do with his days off, and today had found himself lounging on a crossbeam above his sparring brothers. He found peace in their fluid movements and regimented order. It was almost meditative. As an attendant to Lord Tuntochtotlil, Xix considered himself an expert on meditation. He had spent many an hour by the Starmaster’s side as the Slann sat in contemplation. Today though, his trance evaporated completely when the siren met his ears.

    The ship had many such alarms with different cadences and frequencies. Most denizens of the temple were unaware of such subtleties, but not Xix. He knew practically all the codes and signals and the appropriate response to each, but his ears had never experienced this one in practice before. This could mean only one thing. Something was very wrong.

    He sprang off his perch and hit the deck running as the fear welled within him. Talons clacking against stone he bounded through the adjacent corridor. Unfortunately his destination was on the opposite side of the ship, and Xix was no athlete. All Skinks were quick though, so he’d be at the throne room soon enough.

    Hallway after hallway raced by, and Xix decided to cut through one of the scribe halls. The atmosphere was tense but the Skinks still scratched away nervously at their scrolls. After all, what could they do to help with the current crisis? Xix allowed himself a moment of self-conscious respite as he took care not to knock over anyone’s workstation, but quickened his pace once more at the other end of the hall.

    As Xix exited his whole world lurched. The sound of air rushing past his ears replaced the siren and all other noise as he felt himself pulled back towards the scribe hall. His tail reacted without thought and wrapped itself around a light-sconce in the hallway as he turned to survey the scene. The doorway was closing automatically behind him. Beyond the door scrolls and Skinks alike flew noiselessly into the dark void laid bare by the explosion, their screams drowned out by the rushing air. The fear bubbled up in his gut and sprouted into full blown panic, breaking him away from his lost brothers with only one thought; Xix had to get to his Lord’s chambers no matter the cost.

    Distant crashes reverberating through the ship punctuated the rest of his journey. Each boom bringing on thoughts of his helpless brothers being pulled into the vacuum. Each boom felt in the floor beneath his feet, further destabilizing his path. Each boom chipping away at whatever small amount of hope remained buried beneath the panic. Soon enough he found himself rounding the final corner to Lord Tuntochtotlil’s chamber. Breathless and panting he stumbled into the sanctum.

    He was too late. The air tasted of death. Debris littered the room. The ceiling of the meditation chamber had collapsed from the explosions that rocked the ship. His eyes were drawn to the center of the room, despair overwhelming the panic that had been all consuming in the frenetic dash to get here. Xix tripped as he made his way forward, absently noting that his foot had caught on the corpse of another attendant he shared duties with. Xix had no capacity to mourn his fallen colleague. All he could attend to now was the splayed three fingered hand protruding from the bloodied pile of rubble in the middle of the room.

    The sirens and displays in the room made it more and more clear that the temple ship had been hit and was on a crash course. All Xix could feel was profound sadness. He struggled to make the last few steps to his fallen sovereign as the ship continued to break apart. He felt a growing heat as the explosions grew closer and more frequent. Xix fell to his knees, reaching out to the beckoning hand of his dead master, as the light consumed him.

    <><> ---- <><> ---- <><>​

    Fribbet peered between the branches of her tree, staring at the smoking mountain that had recently careened into the valley. The noise had it made on impact interrupted her lunch. She had been nibbling on the tastiest leaves that her home provided. It had been a happy day. Now it was a scary day. Fribbet had retreated to the depths of her tree’s hollows, but it hadn’t taken long for her curiosity to overcome her fears. So here she was, surveying the wreckage.

    It took some time for her to notice the movement, but eventually the fae creature spotted several two-legs emerging from the vessel. They were larger than any scaled creature Fribbet had seen before. This perhaps made them a little scary, but they mostly seemed...sad. Fribbet decided then and there that she liked her new neighbors. She watched them for many hours as they mourned and salvaged what they could from their old home. She hoped that their sadness would go away once the new two-legs got used to their new home in this realm. Fribbet was a simple creature, and this vision of the future made her happy. Perhaps today was not such a scary day after all.

    Buried Memories


    Two skinks sat, one young and one old. The hours flew by as they talked, for it was like a meeting between two worlds. Like a monumental collision of memories and experiences that do make the color of a lizard. And yet there wasn’t much of a disturbance. At least not what time alone could rectify.

    “What are you doing way out here in the wilds alone? No one can possibly maintain contact with you reliably. It’s like you want no one to notice you so you can disappear into nothingness.”

    “I always walked and breathed these here roots and trees for years I can’t wrap around. I always do bellow out loud like them birds to keep the sun up just an hour more. No one simply looked hard enough.”

    ***

    Traveling amidst the Southland jungles, Mogin recalled his conversation with a solitary skink named Tallulah. It was a strange and uncanny occurrence to meet a lizard living so far away from civilization, but interesting nonetheless. She said she resided in an ancient temple city long left to the abyss of history, despite the fact there were no ruins nor any other signs of settlement. She spoke with lizards who’ve never responded back, but Mogin didn’t know if they were real, or if she was seeing ghosts, or if she had simply gone insane.

    Mogin was tasked with delivering a set of plaques to an old skink priest named Sukisu in Pawcatuck. It seemed a job very much degrading of his own priestly status, as if his significance was only as large as a messenger’s message. It frustrated him that his ‘mentor’ would be so careless so as to send a lone skink priest with treasured plaques into the wilderness undefended. His competence is the same as a fly’s authority over stegadon dung, as far as he’s concerned. After he delivers these plaques, he’ll show him his true power and all he has achieved. The whole world will be his stage.

    Despite his fears, Mogin encountered no further incidents on his journey. He reached the temple city of Pawcatuck. He walked the halls of Sukisu’s revered residence until he arrived at a darkened room wherein the old priest’s form was meditating. A few seconds more, the old priest’s eyes unfurled, and so did the rest of himself.

    “Aye, fledgling! Your mentor said you’d come, but not hours so late. What say you?”

    “Sorry, I–”

    “Careful you beastly kroxigor buffoon! Them plaques are carefully preserved recipes for Zlatlan dishes passed down hundreds of years!”

    It unnerved Mogin that he thought he was carrying urgent, irreplaceable plaques detailing the Old Ones’ wills were instead food recipes. He couldn’t decipher ancient saurian symbols yet.

    “Ahah, my bad,” Mogin said, placing the plaques onto a table gently and slowly. “Didn’t know it was by ordain that skink priests must work as essential messengers – not by the revered slanns’ wisdom – but by my mentor.”

    “This mentor of yours is a funny lizard. Sending fledglings like you into the wilderness with invaluable plaques.” Sukisu coughed and laughed. “Tell him that, will you?”

    “Yes…” The reply rolled off from Mogin’s tongue begrudgingly. He prepared leaving, but a thought stopped him in his tracks.

    “Do you know of any lizards living like beasts in the wilderness?” Mogin asked.

    “Sounds inherently heretical. Why speak?”

    “I met a skink just as old as you living off the land not far from here. Her name’s Tallulah.”

    Sukisu’s lazy eyes widened, his presence seemingly exploding with life. “Ah… I have not heard that name in years.”

    “You know who she is?”

    “She was a colleague of mine back when I was in my prime. So many years ago.”

    Mogin’s heart shot up as he heard that. Tallulah always said she came from a temple city no one knew but her. He suspected she was from here ever since Sukisu opened his snout. They didn’t sound different from each other.

    “Then you must want to meet her, yes? I’m not sure why she’s living so far away from civilization–”

    “Because she’s banished from Pawcatuck.”

    Mogin slightly jolted at that. “Ah. Didn’t know that.”

    “Of course you don’t know. Why should I expect a fledgling like you to know?”

    The young skink priest could sense a shift of tone from Sukisu – a temper sharper than a dagger.

    “No matter. I will tell you so you can know better. Simply put, she practiced heresy and gained quite the following for it. So the slann decided to banish her.”

    “Really? I doubt it was that simple,” Mogin retorted.

    “Oh yes it was, and so was her demise. I don’t know why you came here and said she’s alive. They searched every nook and cranny of the jungles – even the clouds and the seas to some extent – and did not find her and the rest of the foolish lizards who decided to follow her example.”

    “Doesn’t change anything I saw.”

    “Don’t belittle death, fledgling. She is dead, I’m sure of it,” Sukisu asserted. “Though… if by some impossible chance she is alive, Pawcatuck would take it upon itself to kill her. Her ideals are too dangerous.”

    It made Mogin’s blood boil that Sukisu could think of killing another of his own, especially one so defenseless. So he walked away. But before he left, the croaky voice filled the air once more.

    “The Old Ones’ will is incomprehensible. Only following in their wake can we truly understand our purpose.”

    Mogin looked back at the old priest staring into the darkness surrounding him. He could perceive a certain deep sadness coming off, one which grows with a lizard’s age. What happened between Sukisu and Tallulah is a mystery except for what the former told him. But it all made finding more about the two more alluring. His mentor always valued learning from other lizards, even considerably more so than following in the wake of the Old Ones. He couldn’t help but agree. Even with the mentor as hard as it was.

    So Mogin journeyed to the place he met Tallulah instead of his home temple city, Abnaki. It was a spot in the jungles not many lizards would’ve considered special. Though to him, it contained a peculiar atmosphere he couldn’t describe well. He found Tallulah resting against a tree. She was looking up at stars amongst the night sky.

    “Greetings, prodigy,” she said.

    “What are you doing now?”

    “Counting stars. It was one of Lapu’s most favorite past times.”

    Mogin knew Tallulah often describes the lives of the lizards she talks about, all while doing their favorite things. It was strange but somehow endearing.

    “He was a kroxigor. A innocent one. Maybe too innocent, but I can’t blame him. Innocence is sometimes a wretched thing in this world,” Tallulah continued.

    “Innocent and kind but exceedingly dumb, I’d say.”

    “Nope! Kroxigors have one thing other lizards don’t have and it’s that they listen. They listen better than anything else. It makes them smarter in ways I cannot fully understand.”

    Both Mogin and Tallulah sat in silence, staring towards the starry night skies. With a few gusts of wind later, however, the young skink priest realized the main reason he came here.

    “I met Sukisu and learnt quite some more about you,” Mogin said.

    “Is that so?”

    “Yes. Though as a character he is incredibly insufferable and narcissistic.”

    Tallulah laughed. “He never changed then… all these years. Don’t mind him then. He just tries to do whatever is right as righteous as possible.”

    “Would that include entertaining the idea of killing you?”

    “If it ever came to that, even after everything we been through, then so be it. Death is already calling me anyways.”

    Mogin could tell she really meant it, even if he couldn’t understand how a lizard could take such a stance on another wanting their life.

    “But why is the hatred so fervent from Sukisu?”

    “It’s not just him, but Pawcatuck. I was banished from there for disavowing the Old Ones.”

    Mogin expected to be uncontrollably angry. But those feelings never came, perhaps because he already suspected she would be like that through the way she lived out here and the way she talked.

    “That’s almost incomprehensible, to me at least. I was taught, as any other lizard, the Old Ones were the center of everything in this world.”

    “I was taught that way too. But those teachings never stuck. I simply observed the way us lizards behaved and saw just how exceptionally unique we can be. I couldn’t reconcile how the Old Ones created us when our very hearts begged for things far greater than them. Many lizards agreed with me when I was in Pawcatuck.”

    “So where are they? Why is there no other lizards with you?”

    For all this time, Tallulah was gleeful. Now her expression was blank, as though she didn’t fully understand Mogin was asking about.

    “They are here.”

    “Where?”

    The old skink priest placed her claws upon her chest. “Right here with me. It is me who keeps their memories alive.”

    “Sounds like they are dead from what you’re saying.”

    Tallulah briskly stood from where she sat and opened her snout in ferocious anger, but no words came. She lowered her head and dug her claws into the scaly skin of her arms. She thought for some time in what was an ocean of memories.

    “If you’re insinuating I killed all of them, then that’s blatant fantasy! They followed me. They followed the example I set for them in their pursuit for inner-peace. In exile, I sought for them a new society that wasn’t just improved nor better, but a perfect one.”

    Tallulah dug her claws deeper, drawing lines of blood. Her mind was submerged in a perpetual state of anger, sadness, and regret as she continued.

    “And somehow… we created something far worse than any of us could have known. Strife overcame every lizard I knew, and soon enough, I was the only sane one left. I lead them all to their deaths.”

    Mogin now understood why there wasn’t ruins or any other evidence of past settlement she claimed to be a part of. Tallulah’s attempt at building a new society failed before she could even start.

    The old skink priest trembled and was on the precipice of crying. He placed a claw on her shoulder and supported her. “It’s okay, Tallulah. What’s done is done and in the past. There’s no going back.”

    “What would you do? In my position?”

    “Me? I would have lived with it as you did for years. You’re strong as any other lizard. Maybe even stronger. You’ll manage.”

    “I see.”

    Mogin noticed Tallulah calming down. But beyond those gentle words of hers, he sensed increasing disappointment in her eyes. As though he said something so thoughtless, he was no longer deserving of his priestly status.

    Whatever it was, he disregarded the feeling, for he was immensely tired. Before sleeping on a hammock she made, Tallulah allowed Mogin to sleep within the general area she regarded as home.

    ***

    The next morning, Mogin couldn’t find Tallulah. It was only after getting up from his slumber, that he found Tallulah walking with a wooden stick in claw as support.

    “Where are you going?”

    “I’m returning to Pawcatuck.”

    “But they’ll kill you!”

    “Maybe they will, maybe not. Regardless what they think, I’ve ought to give my fellow lizards peace.”

    “By dying?”

    Tallulah smiled. “You’ve still so much to learn, prodigy. How can I say I cherished them as their memories writhe in my head? I’ve benefitted from them so much as befits my old age. It is time to give back.”

    And so the old skink priest kept on walking. Her pace was steady like her swerving tail, for fear completely abandoned her. It was her only hope, then, that she’ll return to the good times, the funny ones and glad ones. That she’ll return to those she looked up to and those who looked up to her. A return to an ages’ worth effort to build something better – a return to home.

    ...Message Begins...


    Transmitted: Port Wander

    Received: Fortress of Judgement, Phrenn

    Recipient: Lord Inquisitor Varius

    Date: 7.549.932.M41

    Astropathic Duct: Zina

    Title: Interview Record Six on the Fate of House Mojaro

    Code Level: Vermillion

    Thought for the Day: Not Even the Dead Know the End of War


    My Lord, as requested this is the sixth transcript record of our interviewing of the subject. I must ask you for forgiveness for parts were lost due to the capricious nature of the Machine Spirits. Rest assured the main part of the interview still exists. You may find some parts very interesting in our ongoing investigation.


    +++ Extract Begins +++

    Martinez Dalvaro: ‘A place to call home’, that’s what Zak said after we arrived. Of course, a deathworlder like him would have said that. Show them a jungle or forest and they’d never want to leave. (Subject pauses and coughs)

    Inquisitor Falvern: Continue.

    (Sound of subject tapping on the table with a fingernail)

    MD: So erm, as you probably know we were surveying the planet...

    IF: Designated X-45.L6-R by the Administratum.

    MD: Yes. I served with the trading House Mojaro. My lord Trader Horatio Mojaro had bartered the rights to settle a colony on the planet provided it was habitable and bountiful. Initial scans by Magos Xi-Frist were promising, stable atmosphere, temperate climate, lush ecosytems...

    IF: I have read the Magos’ reports, I’m surprised none of you were more suspicious. As far as the Magos’ report went, the planet seemed perfect, too perfect.

    MD: I queried Horatio, at least I think I did...my memories sometime splinter after it...it...

    IF: Mr Dalvaro?

    MD: Mmm?

    IF: You are shaking again.

    MD: Oh...i’m sorry, where was I?

    IF: What you found on the planet, tell me of that.

    MD: Yes, yes of course.

    (Sound of subject sipping water before continuing)

    MD: The planet had several varied biomes that intial scans indicated would be perfectly habitable and likely rich in organic potential resources. Estimations from the Magos pointed to there being a rich source of mineral wealth within the planet. However, we were unable to scan a large region of jungle around the planet’s equator, despite the Magos’ attempts to appease the Machine Spirits.

    IF: What about using a Chiropteren scout craft? Your ship contained two according to the records.

    MD: The Lord Trader wished a more hands on approach.

    IF: Yes, very typical of their kind. Please continue.

    MD: A dozen armsmen, the Magos, Zak, our Astropath Luci, myself, and the Lord Trader descended onto the planet and entered the jungle. The place was swarming with varied base lifeforms, Zak as I’ve said felt very much at home. Luci seemed on edge, complaining of ancient warp echoes, I wish we had listened to her more than we did. (Sound of subject tapping a fingernail upon the table) It was on the third hour we found the ruins.

    IF: Aeldari perhaps? Like these?

    (Hum of a holoslate being activated)

    MD: No no, nothing like those. Many seemed to be made of stone, either as obelisks or as we later discovered pyramid structures.

    IF: Like these?

    (Hum as the holoslate cycles to new images)

    MD: No, there were no lines of green light. I...please turn off that image. I...please...

    IF: As you wish. (Hum cuts out)

    MD: I...I... (coughs) It was as we approached the first pyramid structure that we were attacked. Darts flew from the trees and struck several armsmen, who collapsed frothing as toxins entered their blood. Jak was quick to reply and shredded the nearest trees with a spray of heavy stub rounds. The rain of darts had barely halted when a band of large lizard xenos lifeforms charged from undergrowth.

    IF: For the record, Mr Delvaro, did they look like this? (Hum as the holoslate is activated and cycles to several images) These are known as the Loxatl, most commonly reported in the Sabbat Worlds but some have been sighted even as far as the Screaming Vortex. Their presence can often be detected by a distinctive smell of rancid milk and crushed mint. They exclusively use a xenos weapon called a Flechette Blaster, like this.

    MD: No, these creatures walked liked men, they carried spears and clubs and were adorned with trinkets of gold. Most were taller than a man and heavily built, others were tiny in comparison and darted around with spears and blowpipes. Our lasfire took down several of them as we retreated back, but they just kept on coming. It was only when Xi-Frist activated his flamer mechadendrite that the lizard xenos withdrew. The Magos scoffed at our attackers, ‘primitives with primitive tools’ he intoned, one of the few times he truly seemed to ever show emotion. Until one of the smaller lizard xenos wearing a cloak of strange coloured feathers raised a stave of shimmering gold on which tiny gold rings spun and rotated. A beam of light shot from this stave through the Magos’ force field and through the Magos himself. It was like a las weapon with the power of a melta or plasma cannon and yet from such a thin and small stave.

    (Hum of the holoslate cuts out)

    IF: Possibly a warp based weapon, though clearly some sign of xenos technology in its application. Tell me, Mr Dalvaro...what was your astropath doing during this?

    MD: I...I think she...oh Imperator...

    IF: Speak. Go on.

    MD: She was screaming, clawing at the sockets where her eyes once were. Something...something about ‘the gaze of the ancient lords’ and the ‘priest comes’.

    IF: And then?

    MD: ...We ran...we left her and ran...blindly and in fear...Only a few of us made it to the shuttle. Just as we were about to take of...it appeared above the treelines...

    IF: It?

    MD: It...it looked like an amphibian of sorts, sat cross-legged upon a throne of stone that soared above the ground. It seemed to stare with ancient eyes into our very souls even as our shuttle roared away back to the ship.

    IF: Curious. Do you think it was a leader of the xenos?

    MD: It...it felt...I don’t know...it scared me...

    IF: Take another drink.

    MD: Yes... (Sound of subject taking a drink) I do not know...something seemed so vast about it that it made us feel so very small. As if this was a being that walked the stars before mankind even looked up at the night sky. Any...anyway...we made it back to the ship, Horatio was barking orders as he strode onto the bridge. But it was too late. From where we had found the jungle pyramid our energy sensors suddenly went off the charts, a beam of light more potent than any lance weapon I had ever seen flew from the planet and struck the ship. I...I cannot remember much else...

    IF: Your vessel was found hulked by our patrol ship, you were the only survivor whose mind was left relatively intact.

    MD: Th...there's something else. In the darkness, I think that ancient xenos spoke into my mind. I saw things. I saw stars roar into being and die within moments, I saw the great plan of something, no...there were more than one...but I think I saw their plan, their ideal. I screamed. It was too much, colours and sounds and senses and thoughts...beyond anything. Beyond...anything... It all made sense but it hurt...God Emperor...it burned like an inferno it gnawed like a blizzard...Creation was theirs’ to command. I beheld the dreams of ancients and emptiness when they were lost. Of a war that made all wars seem...so insignificant.

    (Sound of Inquisitor Falvern tapping on the table, a pause and then more tapping)

    IF: An intriguing account which doubtless raises more questions than it likely answers. Before we finish, for my colleague observing informs me we are close to your mind becoming unresponsive, there is something that you need to know. There was no Martinez Dalvaro. There is not even any record of such a person serving on a House Mojaro ship in this sector.

    MD: But...I...

    IF: You are shaking again. Look at me...Look at me!

    (Sound of Inquisitor Falvern rising)

    IF: You have been interviewed by two other Interrogators as well as myself on five other previous occasions. Not one of which you seem capable of remembering. No, do not speak. Listen...Good. Parts of your story...change with each telling and yet to you every time it has been the unequivocal truth, even when we have had sanctioned telepaths as unseen witnesses, not one of them could detect the hint of a lie. Keep seated. Yes, I know this is hard for you to hear. Your mind has been altered by something of at least Alpha Grade Psyker potential.

    MD: Can...can I be fixed?

    IF: X-45.L6-R was given the designation of a forbidden world by the Ordo Xenos. We have lost good people trying to plumb its secrets and its guardians. And yet, here you are a survivor with some fragments of the truth. Even if it is but a tiny grain, what you truly experienced on that world is valuable to our efforts.

    MD: But can I be fixed?

    (Sound of subject rising)

    IF: No, that is beyond any of our abilities. Horatio Mojaro, your very identity has been removed. Your crimes against the God Emperor of Man are many, but you have some measure of redemption through what you can give to our Ordo.

    MD: No! I can’t live like this! Fix me...please...

    IF: Guards, detain ‘Mr Dalvaro.’

    (Sounds of struggle and subject’s cries)


    +++ Transcript ends +++


    This was the first interview that revealed the description of the possible spiritual leader of these lizard xenos, likely the being that rewrote the subject’s mind. Given the subject’s genuine horror (though what man would not be turned to disgust and fear by such xenos?) by the images of the Necrontyr structures captured by the Iron Hands during the Battle of Shemnoch in 900.M41, this having occurred on all previous interviews, I wonder if there is a connection between them and the xenos the subject encountered on X-45.L6-R.

    I have ordered another sanctioned light cruiser take up vigil nearby to X-45.L6-R to make sure no other treasure seekers or would be colonists descend upon the planet. The current sentry ship in the system is also under investigation for their lapse in duty. It concerns me that there are those perhaps in the Administratum that unaware of the sanctions upon the planet are all too willing to help finance the establishment of a colony, we may need to consider more strongly dissuading the Ordo from continuing such plans.

    As for X-45.L6-R, we shall continue to try and ascertain the true nature of these xenos through further interview, interrogation, and auto-séance. I am yet unwilling to request aid from the Deathwatch unless we can deem this world a threat to the wider Imperium.

    Your servant in the God Emperor’s name,

    Falvern.

    ≡][≡

    THE PATH TO SALVATION


    Once it should have been a city filled with life, gloriously standing within the jungle and embraced by the luxuriant vegetation, with stone-paved roads moving away in a radial pattern, just a few tens of miles away from the coast.
    Now it was only a large area of scattered, moss-covered ruins, slowly strangled by the growing trees… except for one spot, defiantly standing.
    The Kroxigor once named Kadai was working hard, alone under the blazing sun. A building was already repaired and fortified and it would have served as shelter, waiting for the city walls to be raised again.
    Now it was the time for the temple. It was a lesser one but still it was a large construction, a mighty task for a lone kroxigor… and yet every day it was growing a little higher.
    There was no rest for the kroxigor as he polished the scattered blocks and moved them with no regards for himself. An injury would have been almost welcome. A different kind of pain, something to keep away the constant void that burned and frozen inside. Anything to make it go away.
    The kroxigor moved another block through the square, passing nearby a small clearing with no grass inside it, only scorched soil.
    The place where Kadai killed his friends.


    The red daemons came upon the city with fury, overcoming the outer defenses and putting to fire even the stone walls. Kadai and his brothers were fighting a desperate battle but none of them was retreating, as their combat prowess was pushed by the presence of their precious friends, the little ones. So cute and frail yet so courageous for just being there. No harm should come to them.
    The war drums nearby the main temple were drumming a song of hope, but here there was only blood and killing and the need to protect the little ones.
    Kadai was cut off from the main group, facing a huge winged daemon wreathed in living flames. Parry, feint, smash… the pungent smell of boiled blood filled Kadai’s nostrils, his own blood flowing through the deep cuts in the hardened scales and instantly evaporating on the hot armor.
    The big daemons was laughing. Kadai was the leader of his spawning, yet he wasn’t able to land a single blow.
    He could hear the roars of his brothers and the incitements of the little ones. So few cries, dwindling away in number.
    Must protect the little ones. Need my brothers’ help.
    Kadai launched his attacks with no regard for his safety, forcing the daemon to just defend itself and gradually pushing it toward the main battle.
    When his rage was fading away and the smile was returning on the daemon’s face, Kadai saw what was happening to the rest of his spawning.
    Many lesser daemons were dead, one of them strangled by the last of his brothers.
    The little ones… sweet Old Ones. Only four of them were standing and they were running toward him, chirping their will to help.
    Kadai knew it was wrong and tried to warn them “NO! run away, little ones! RUN!”.
    He must gave them the time to flee, before the daemon could finish him off.
    But the brave little ones didn’t care, and they threw their javelins… one of them took the daemon in the neck.
    What Kadai was not able to do, the javelin did. Just a puncture, but it hurt the daemon, which growled toward that annoying enemy. Lowering its guard for a single moment.
    Kadai took that second, and landed a blow with his weapon in the daemon’s chest. Pushed by the full force of desperation, the jade beak pierced the flesh and broke the ribs, reaching the heart.
    The daemon for a moment looked surprised, then it exploded freeing its inner fire in a blast of fiery shrapnels.
    The explosion knocked over Kadai and before fading out he saw the little ones, burning and screaming. Looking at him and crying for help.
    I’ve killed them”.


    When Kadai woke up, he hid. It was easy, as the battle was won but the losses were too many.
    Kadai remained hidden and spied the burial rite for the skinks and his brothers, as the shame was too great and he could simply not show up.
    The last thing he saw was the remnants of the saurus regiments that were marching away from the city, toward a strongest settlement. The last thing he heard was the sweet chirping of the little ones, fading away. He stood hidden, alone. The pain inside was something new and terrifying, it clinged on his heart, squeezing with cruel claws and no rest was able to sooth it.
    Cannot go. I’ve killed them. Will forgive me? Want to hear the laugh of little ones. It will cure me. Can do nothing with no little ones. I wanna them.”.
    He stood there for days, until an idea came to his mind. It was so beautiful and shiny, and there was so much hope wrapped to it. A new purpose. The Idea.
    I will rebuild the city. The little ones on the flying lizards will see it. The little ones will come back. The pain will go away. And this will be home again”.


    So it began.
    First some cleaning, then a small house, then a bigger building and now the lesser temple. Each day a little more higher. Every day a pain. Every day a dream of home. The Idea, so warm and tender.
    This day was no different from the previous ones… then a distant rustle took Kadai’s attention.
    Not animals. Not snakes. Not little ones. Not brothers. Intruders.”
    Kadai took the armor which was resting under the sun. The bronze plate, emblazoned with the symbols of the Old One Xokha, was pleasantly warm. The head of the maul recalled a bird: a golden globe adorned with feathers, rubies for the eyes and a jade beak.
    He moved toward the voices until he found a place to hide, behind a ruined wall.
    Dumb warmbloods. Too much noise. Just wait. Almost here… almost… here!
    Kadai emerged from his cover and struck the first enemy, laying him dead.
    It was a small group of warmbloods, all of them covered with colored clothes and feathers, as if they were mimicking some parrots. Eyes opened wide, they started screaming and turned on their back, fleeing as fast as they could and even dropping some of their useless tools. One of them pointed a sort of staff toward Kadai and there was a small thunder with a blast of smoke. When the smoke cleared, also this last warmblood was running away.


    Kadai was satisfied. No time to spare in pursuing, there was much work to do.
    He turned back to the buildings and passed through the burned clearing, looking with sadness at the big pile of stones that buried the little ones and his brothers.
    Then, on the side, he saw the smaller pile.
    And on the top of it, a piece of bronze armor carved with a half-melted symbol of Xokha, and a broken maul with a chipped jade beak.
    Kadai remembered.
    He remembered the daemons fleeing after the killing of one of their leaders, the acolytes of the temple that aided the wounded, and finally the funeral… his body buried with the full homages due to the slayer of a Greater Daemon, before the leaving of the survivors from the city.
    Kadai looked at his ghostly hands and then to the city: a mass of crumbled debris with no buildings, only scattered stones, bushes and growing trees.
    But it lasted only a moment.
    It’s a trick of the sun”.
    Kadai closed his eyes.
    That’s not true. I’ve killed the little ones”.
    And when Kadai opened his eyes, all was normal again.
    There was the clearing, the big pile of stones, the buildings and the growing temple. Such a beautiful view. So full of hope.
    The little ones will come back. And this will be home again”.


    Letters of the Sea


    Dearest Adeline,

    How I am torn between my want for adventure and discovery and my desire to be home and within your embrace! Truly I feel so much excitement as my voyage continues pressing onwards towards the mysterious Southern Continent of Lustria. My company is far less enjoyable than your own, as I am surrounded by sailors and veterans, some drunkards, but despite their despair and their sorry existences, there is a feeling that I recognise amongst them; a determination in our common goal.

    My love, it has been many weeks since I have seen your face, but the memory of it sustains me on my quest. The gold I shall find and the wealth I shall receive will mean we will never be parted again and we shall not be forced to live in desperation and poverty. I promise to you that I will return to you and we can be happy together.

    Even though you may not see these letters until we are reunited in person, I hope that you know in your heart what I wish to say to you. I will keep these and cherish them until I see you again.

    - Terric

    ***

    The lizard crossed the breach between the jungle and the beach.

    The sun was beginning to reveal itself from beneath the horizon. He cautiously placed a scaled foot onto the sand, then another and another. Something had happened that night.

    Something that had turned the serene beach into a field of debri and rubbish. Faint whispers of commotion had barely pierced through the jungle in the darkness, but now it was evident the cause of the chaos.

    The lizard picked his way through the shattered wood and torn cloth of the shipwreck. Shattered glass looked like fine gemstones to the lizard, but these did not draw his attention. The air was filled with the cries of gulls and other sea birds. Somewhere up high an eagle and other winged reptiles had begun circling.

    No doubt the wreck had caused an uproar beneath the surface of the ocean that night and scavengers had moved in to feast on the passengers of the ship. The small, sneaky opportunists would have only drawn in the big predators of the deep. There would have been no survivors.

    But as the lizard stepped from one broken barrel to the next, he did not ponder the fates of foolish warmbloods, nor did he wonder what purpose such a ship and such a crew may have served travelling this far south through dangerous waters. Instead his attention was drawn to the little bits and bobs scattered around on the usually pristine beach.

    The sky was crimson and the waters of the ocean seemed red with blood. Perhaps they were.

    A candlestick, a cracked but whole lantern, a spoon and a small wooden chest found their way into the lizard's arms as he began to hobble back to the jungle edge.

    A few steps from the edges of the wreck, the lizard stumbled and dropped the chest, the lock giving way as it hit the ground. The lizard lurched back as a flurry of papers fell around him like autumn leaves.

    The candlestick, the spoon and the lantern fell in a heap as the lizard began to gather the loose papers. There was writing scrawled over the papers, some maps, diagrams, the intermittent sketch. Amongst the parchment was a bundle wrapped in leather and bound with string. With great care, the lizard unwound the string and opened the bundle.

    “Dearest Adeline…”

    The letters were still dry, thanks to the chest or the leather. Each was written carefully and neatly in black ink. Lifting out the first, his eyes traced the letters and characters on the page.

    I may not fit in entirely with my companions on this voyage. One thing that sets me apart, I know, is the greed that is apparent in these ‘explorers’. I know this mysterious continent has always attracted the curious, the adventure seeking, but most commonly the greedy. Many of these men have nothing back home to go back to aside from their drink and their gambling. Forgive me for writing such things to you, my dear, but it is the thought of these things that encourages me to work hard for a real reason.

    I know it may not be wise to consider all the things we may accomplish and acquire through this gold before we have it in our possesion, but you must understand my excitement. Oh the things we could do! Most of all, I so desire to have for us a house of our own. A place by a stream, with a forest; a place where good things can grow and good people may flourish.

    ***

    The lizard had returned to a leaning structure in the jungle. Broad jungle leaves stretched over the roof of the hut, keeping out the majority of jungle rains and little nooks and crevices had been worn into the trees that supported the main structure. On each shelf and inside every niche little found things stood gazing down from their vantage points.

    A silver locket lay next to a looking glass. A metal helmet with wings reaching from either side cast a shadow over a small pen knife. Pieces of coloured cloth, pens and quills, armour and weaponry, were all strewn about the space. The lizard placed the spoon, candlestick lantern upon different shelves where room could be found.

    He leafed through the letters from the chest, studying the patterns left behind by someone he’d never know.

    Adeline my love,

    We are only a week or so away from reaching our destination. I’ve decided to dedicate some more time to thinking about our house. Just imagine a garden, a fireplace, a proper kitchen, room to raise a family. The things we could decorate our house with, the wild flowers and the jewels I’ll bring back for you. Think of the clothes we could buy! The tailored cloaks and expensive dresses!

    ***

    The lizard returned to the wreck and continued scanning the debri for items of note. A wooden case full of glass bottles had been dashed upon the rocks and was beyond use or repair. Sea birds cawed and fluttered as he skittered from one mass of splintered wood to another. The food that hadn’t been taken in the water or destroyed by it were a feast for the gulls on the sand. Getting closer and closer to the tide, now dropping further out and leaving more flotsam stranded on the beach, the lizard dodged the lapping waves and snorted to himself as he startled the birds and scavenging feral creatures on the sand.

    Dragged back and forth with each wave was a large piece of cloth. The sails on ships that look so majestic and proud from the safety of sure, the lizard always thought they looked like clouds as they floated past on far away winds.

    He gathered the sail to himself, wrapping it around himself as he continued his search.

    I hope you have been well and staying in good health. The ocean is crystal turquoise, reminding me of your eyes. It’s ever changing surface contains every shade of blue. This morning we caught the first glimpse of the coast, a thin strip on the horizon. If all I can have to remind me of you is the beauty of nature that surrounds me then so be it. I will strive onwards, my love, in search of whatever lies on that distant shore.

    The sail made an interesting addition to the hovel. The lizard draped the immense thing over the roof, catching on tendrils of jungle vines and trees. It looks wispy and ghost-like through the thick jungle of the evening. There were still a few hours of daylight left, so he returned to the wreck again.

    The nights on the boat are treacherous. I find keeping watch easier than trying to sleep with the swaying and the snoring. We are but a few days from when we intend to land, but a foul storm is approaching us. We’ve weathered such things in the past, so aside from missing a good night’s sleep, I have no fear we should arrive on schedule. I cannot wait to write to you what I see, hear and smell on these foriegn lands.

    The birds had cleared off by now. Whatever foodstuff or bodies remained were beyond even their consideration. Feeling something beneath the sand, the lizard stooped to uncover it and dust it off. A small box, and within it metal contraption and a piece of flint. The lizard sniffed it suspiciously. He had seen such things before when warmbloods had successfully navigated the coast and come to shore. They never made it far of course, but often he would see them in possession of such things.

    Abandoning the wreck, he walked beneath the rising moon towards the jungle.

    ***

    Back in the hovel the lizard sat on the ground, growling in frustration. He tapped the two pieces together and waited for something to occur. Taking the metal in his scaled hand, he struck the flint and hissed with success as sparks flew about the hovel. The brief flash of light rekindled his determination. Trying again, more sparks flew about him, reflecting off polished metal and broken glass. Eerie shadows were cast. Striking again, glowing flecks spread over the papers scattered over the floor and the smell of smoke began to fill the lizards nose.

    In a panic, the lizard began patting at the embers as they burned through the delicate parchment. Tiny flames began sprouting from the letters and drawings that had been laid out around the hut. Hissing and shrieking the lizard battled in vain as the fire crept up through the vines and branches of his home, licking against the helmet, burning up carvings and maps, tarnishing steel and melting wax.

    Scrambling wildly he gathered the remaining letters to himself and stumbled out of the hovel. In the darkness, the fire was bright and wicked as it destroyed the lizard’s home. The sail was steaming and smoking upon the structure before it’s edges were consumed and the hovel was engulfed in flames.

    ***

    Clutching the charred letters to his chest, the lizard sat at the edge of the jungle. The scent of smoke still stung his nostrils. He could hear the sea as the tide crept in again. By tomorrow, much of the debri would be carried away. Within two days there would be hardly a trace.

    The lizard crossed the breach between the jungle and the beach.

    Holding the papers up in his hand, he let them go. The wind carried them up and out towards the swirling black waters of the ocean. To him it looked simply like water.

    My sweet Adeline,

    The next time I write to you I’ll be on the shores of a new world. I’ve written of all these things that I believe will make us happy, but truly, I realise now, all that would make me happy is seeing you again. Once we have our fortune, once I return to you, even if I return empty handed, we can do whatever we want, we can live wherever we want. What matters is that we will be together and wherever we may find ourselves will be a place we can call home.

    - Terric

    We all belong somewhere


    The sound of footsteps resonated between the dark and moist walls of the hallways below the citadel. Torches casted their flickering light on the stones around them like little domes of hope in the lifeless void of black.

    As the footsteps drew closer Tak’ek Muntoc sharpened his senses. The light, or rather the lack of it, was not what bothered him down here. It was the smell that he could not get accustomed to. His nostrils did not seem to rest. All the different smells confused him. There where the ‘normal’ smells of wet hay, rusting iron and molds, beyond that there was the evidently smell of elves, of course. Furthermore a hint of Dwarf and the unmistaken wafts of Orc and Skaven scum.

    There had to be more cells down here, even for him out of sight. Once in a while he could hear the rat hissing and biting to anybody passing by. The Orc made his presence known by now and then ramming into the cell’s bars with everything he could lay his hands on, hoping every time that they would give in. The only audial proof of existence from the Dwarf was a low growling noise of approval, or disapproval for that matter, with what the guards said to him.

    The footsteps neared Tak’ek’s cell. ‘Had this month already passed? It couldn’t have been a month already.’ Time is hard to tell when you’re deprived of daylight. From time to time he was pulled out of his cell to be brought to the laboratory. There he is tied up for the masters to study him. From his previous trips he had determined that there had to be an interval of roughly a month between them.

    When the silence fell he stared through the bars upon three elves. All wearing their metal skins. Two of them had brighter, shinier skins with golden lines across them.

    ‘This is something new,’ Tak’ek thought, ‘these haven’t been down here before.’

    ‘Get up amphibian! Aislinn summons you to his chambers.’

    One of them opens the cell and takes post by the open door, the other walks in grabs the Skink by his collar. With a loud ‘clang’ a chain is attached to it and Tak’ek is lead away.

    Stairs after stairs they bring him higher and higher up in the citadel. Aislinn’s chambers are roughly two-third up the main tower. They stretch out over multiple floors. Tak’ek is brought onto the guest floor in the audience room, this room takes up almost half the guest floor and is decorated with the finest of silver, gold, marble and jade items you could ever imagine. Tak’ek had seen gold in spades back in his days of freedom, approximately two years ago, but even this room impressed him. He was able to study quite a lot of it in the hour that he was waiting there.

    Finally Aislinn appeared through the floor high doors at the other end of the room. He walked over to the dresser and chair at the left hand side of the room. Out of the dresser he pulled a bottle of whiskey and a single glass. After pouring himself a glass he sad down on the chair. Only now laying eyes upon his company in the room.

    “So,” he turned to Tak’ek, “a couple of weeks ago an expedition team rushed into the jungle beyond these walls.” Aislinn paused to take a sip of whiskey. “Just as you, we thought that it was the last we would see of them. But three days ago they surprisingly appeared again. All rattling on about comets and the end being neigh.” Afteer finishing his drink he continued: “When they finally calmed down they told us about a big froglike guy that can speak without moving his lips, about visions that he planted in their brains and about the truth that lays in those visions.”

    Tak’ek smiled as he imagined the puny Elven brains being overwhelmed with this information, almost unable to comprehend.

    “So, you know what I am talking about?”
    “Yes.”
    “You have seen these visions too?”
    “Part of it I know.”
    “Do you fear what is about to happen?”
    “I know what I am tasked to do.”
    “Duty is the death of fear.” Acknowledged Aislinn, “But what are you set out to do then? Sitting in a Cell?” he follows scampering.
    To his surprise the Skink’s answer was: “yes”

    Baffled by this answer he put his glass on the dresser and gazed out of the window for a while.
    “Well this was a very productive chat…” he muttered, then in a more clear voice he said: “bring our amphibian friend to his chambers, we are done here.” He stood up and walked away through the doors that he had come in through.

    Once back in his cell the door flung shut behind him. Tak’ek sad down on his improvised bed of hay and closed his eyes. With a deep breath he took in all the smells that confused him earlier and realized this is where he did belong, for now…

    The Mind of a Huagerdon


    The pads on Lata’s feet were getting sore, but the huagerdon had to continue through the jungle, his instincts carrying him forward.

    SNIFF

    Sweet smell ahead. Too sweet. Could be carnivorous plants or benign plants attracting wasp. Go around.

    Lata continued through the jungle.

    SNIFF

    Air getting moist very fast. Hint of ozone. Rain coming soon. Lots of rain. High winds. Need shelter.

    SNIFF

    Swamp to the west. Not good during storm.

    SNIFF

    Stale blood and rotting flesh to the north. Carcass attracting scavengers. Not safe.

    SNIFF

    Nothing unusual to the south. Terrain gets steeper. Maybe safety here.

    Rain starts to fall. Earthy smell permeating air with water. Need to use ears and eyes more than nose. Thick shrubs, better than open ground. No sounds other than rain and insects.

    SNIFF

    Do not smell poison, carcass, or animals. Wait for storm here. Sleep long as can. Need rest



    The storm stopped in the morning. The shrubs provided little shelter, the huagerdon got very little rest.

    Lost time. Feet feel better. Stomach growls, must keep going.

    The huagerdon marched from dawn to dusk before collapsing in exhaustion.



    Birds chirp, not chirp I want. Must wake up must continue. Stomach growls. Must feed.

    SNIFF

    Smell of blood. Food. Danger. Food. Danger. Food.

    Lata cautiously approached the carcass of an antok. Growling and barking to scare off the vulture. The antok was somewhat decayed but the haugerdon hadn’t eaten in days. The meat and marrow was needed.

    Stomach full. Cannot rest. Must keep going. Feet sore. Keep going



    The next day, the rotted meal he had yesterday caused Lata to vomit.

    Dizzy, stomach empty. Must keep going.


    The next day when his hunger was too much to tolerate Lata had to stop his journey to catch a squirrel.

    Fresh meat good. Want more. Must keep going. Feet sore, must keep going.



    Two more days and a squirrel later, Lata’s hunger was getting unbearable.

    SNIFF

    Carcass. Fresh. Danger. Food. Danger. Food. Food.

    A hawk had taken down an especially large rabbit. The Huagerdon roared and snarled.

    Food. Mine. Food. MINE!

    The two creatures fought. The hawk fled after Lata bit its neck. The bite barely drew blood but it was more resistance than the hawk wanted. After the adrenaline of the fight and the enjoyment of the meat passed, Lata realized his hind leg was badly clawed. The huagerdon licked his wound clean as well as he could.

    Stomach full. Legs hurts. Keep going



    The huagerdon got slower over the next two days.

    Leg hurts. Stomach empty. Leg hurts. Keep going. Leg hurts. Feet sore. Leg hurts.

    Lata’s leg was not too injured for the huagerdon to travel but catching squirrels and rabbits was out of the question now.

    Leg hurts. Stomach empty. Leg hurts. Stomach empty. Leg hurts. Keep going.



    Another day and a half and the huagerdon could barely stand.


    Must continue. Cannot continue. Must continue. At least I die seeking home.

    A gentle breeze wafted over the huagerdon, carrying a familiar scent.

    SNIFF

    The huagerdon perked up.

    “YIFF!”

    “Lata is that you?”

    “YIFF!”

    The skink rose over the crest of a hill and Lata hobbled towards. Immediately noticing the huagerdon’s hurt leg, he gently scooped Lata into his arms.


    “I was looking everywhere for Lata. I found you now.”

    The huagerdon licked the skink’s face.

    I found you.

    “Let’s go home.”

    I am home.

    The Savage Beast


    Broken and bleeding Orcs littered the chamber. Charred lines led to fires still burning on the floor and walls while a solitary Orc floated in the middle of the room. Swirling lightning held it, constricting slowly and sickeningly until it’s spine shattered and it dropped to the floor.

    With nowhere else to run, the Orc Warboss cowered in the corner. It stood, weapon held in shaking hands, facing a shadowed figure advancing from the shadows from which pulsated raw, unfettered arcane energies.

    “Who are you?” It whispered. “How do you possess such power?”

    The lizard laughed. A cold, chilling sound that echoed in strange counterpart to the soft spluttering of flames around him.“I? I am death. I am your deepest fears. I am the madness within your soul. I am-“

    “It’chit”

    The Orc’s voice was strangely high-pitched, hadn’t it just been gutturally growling?

    “IT’CHIT!!!”

    It’chit blinked. The Orc Warboss looked awfully like Oracle Kno’Itawl…

    It’Chit recoiled as he came fully aware of the Oracle standing over him. As the last of the dream left him, assisted by the glare of his superior, he recognised the familiar walls of Outpost Chil’lax.

    Scrambling out of his berth, he hurriedly dressed as the Oracle railed at him. “It’Chit! You are needed at the assignment station! RUN!”

    It’chit hurriedly slipped the last gold headband and rushed out the door. Speeding through the streets of the outpost, coming at last to the central parade ground, he heaved a sigh of relief that the sorting had not started. He scurried over to the other priests, walking around orderly lines of Saurus, fluid units of Skink Skirmishers and ducking under the belly of a waiting Stegadon.

    The strike force had been hastily summoned due to reports from their scouts at The High Sentinel, who had sighted Black Arks far out to sea heading south towards them at the Temple of Kara. Their force was a mere formality as the Slann predicted that they would land much further south, giving a shorter run on land to one of the temple cities.

    As It’Chit stood breathing heavily and starting to calm down, he became aware of his fellow Skinks sniggering. Glimpsing one pointing at his head, he realised his headband, with the tiny golden plaques identifying his lore and origin-city, was upside down.

    Mortified, It’Chit turned it the right way round and wished the earth would swallow him whole.

    It had always been like this. Ever since he had started in the Arcane Academy, his clumsiness had been the brunt of cruel jokes and jibes. Worse, when his magical aptitude had been determined, the spell he had been assigned always seemed beyond him. While other Skink Priests were permanently assigned to Talons, he remained Third Class, struggling with simple spells and the one assigned battle spell.

    It’Chit watched as the troops were divided into battle formations, each Talon assigned a Skink Priest for both communication and magic. He prayed to the Old Ones that he would not be needed and watched with growing hope as the Talons were assigned under waiting Scar Veterans and sent to their assigned locations along the coastline. Kno’Itawl relayed orders from the Slann, his eyes glowing with a slight golden-hue which marked a Priest being utilised as a vassal.

    After an hour, all of the Lizardmen had been assigned. It’Chit tried not to look hopeful as he realised that each Claw had a Priest already…

    Just at that moment, a Scar-Veteran barrelled into the square. Realising that comedy was all good timing, he applauded the gods giving him false hope and laughing as they dashed it before him.

    -

    Scar-Veteran Qar’Vup ran to the Old Blood, saluted and came to attention. It was a note of pride that he was always chosen for tough, almost suicidal, assignments and he expected no less from this current summons. He had marched day and night to get to the meeting point on time. He was entirely blind to his arrogant streak and believed himself an Old One reborn. Puffing himself up, he addressed the Old-Blood.

    “I came as soon as I got the summons, Talon-Leader, I am-“

    “Late.” The Old Blood cut him off. “Set up near the ruins. You can keep watch for any enemy movements.”

    Qar’Vup deflated slightly. “Great Leader, I would be better utilised at the forefront of the attack. I have proven myself-“

    The Old Blood cut him off again. “It is interesting, spawnling, that you should speak of time when you have so obviously wasted it. Go to your assigned station.”

    Qar’Vup could see it was futile. Smothering his anger, he saluted. “Old Blood, how will I alert you if I spot anything?”

    “Use the priest,” Old Blood shouted over it’s shoulder as it strode away.

    Qar’Vup frowned, there was no Priest here. Looking around again he heard a small, quavering voice from below, “Ahem…. Sc-Scar Veteran?” Qar’Vup looked down to see possibly the smallest Skink Priest that he had ever seen.

    -

    It’Chit had been furious and embarrassed in equal measure. The Scar-Veteran had laughed in his face! And then asked if he was sure that he hadn’t stolen the marks of office he now wore! Surely the gods were laughing now as the punchline to their joke was revealed.

    But this was all forgotten after two hours of climbing and he now laboured to draw breath as they reached the hilltop of the Temple of Kara. He was not built for this and had fallen further and further behind, much to the annoyance of the Scar-Veteran.

    -

    Qar’Vup surveyed the land from the vantage point on the hill. Standing at the edge of the ruins on the cliff, the sea was a stone’s throw away and the verdant jungle spread out as far as the eye could see to his left and right.

    He ground his teeth. This was a pointless gesture. A petty way of punishing his lateness by placing him in an irrelevant part of the battle. Turning, he accidentally knocked the diminutive Priest flying which only served to increase Qar’Vup’s irritation. “Go find something useful to do!” he bellowed and the Skink scampered off around the side of the ruins.

    Snorting, Qar’Vup started the mind-numbing exercise of watching the sea and surrounds for the enemy.

    -

    Qar’Vup stopped. What was that smell? Nostrils flaring and tongue flicking out to taste the air, he tried to identify it. Suddenly, hissing black flashed across his vision and pain blossomed in his shoulder. From out of nowhere, dozens of figures in black poured out of the trees. Cursing his own complacency, he snapped the bolt’s shaft, set his shield and roared his defiance as they formed a large circle around him.

    -

    The sudden roar startled It’Chit.

    Scurrying back round the side of the ruins, he beheld a surreal nightmare as dozens of Dark Elves surrounded the Scar-Veteran.

    Fear stunned him into inaction. He was so caught up he didn’t see the new arrivals until they were close. Startled, he stumbled backwards. Two Witch Elves lithely stalked towards him with another female behind them, which even It’Chit could perceive was a sorceress.

    As if they could smell his fear the two Witch Elves came on slowly. Licking lips and twirling serrated blades, they drew out the moment to enjoy their quarry’s last moments of terror-fuelled panic. It’Chit scrabbled backwards in the dirt, seeing before him his own death in the utmost pain and agony possible.

    Unless…

    He stopped trying to retreat, hunched over his holy relics and for the first time in his life threw all of his very being into his spellcasting.

    In the last seconds before the Elves reached him, he muttered his only battle spell’s incantation, “Er’lactra cambia fuonoa kadon…”

    Suddenly a surge came through him like a tidal wave catching a ship and carrying it into the very heavens. Surrounded by power, for the first time ever he felt the flows fall into an exact geometric pattern.

    -

    Qar’Vup just managed to turn the blade aimed for his side with his shield as he parried another, taking a wound to his leg from another attacker. The faces surrounding him were filled with a malicious glee as they indulged their natural cruelty, dragging out the kill.

    A concussion rippled through the air behind him. Grinning faces became open-mouthed shock. Seizing the moment, Qar’Vup smashed through the Elves on his left. Spinning round, he had a moment of shock himself.

    Towering above all of the melee was a Great Fire Dragon.

    -

    The world spun. It’Chit seemed to rocket into the sky and suddenly was looking out over the tree tops. Confused, he looked down and staggered with a wave of vertigo. He was forty feet above the ground! It was then that he noticed his arms like tree trunks stretching out before him. Struck by a sense of childlike wonder, he flexed them marvelling at the sense of power.

    A movement below. It’Chit glanced down and panicked. The Witch Elves! A small scream escaped his lips, as he stamped down upon them repeatedly as he if he was squashing a small bug. His shrill cry came out as a deep guttural roar.

    As they were reduced to a small reddish paste on his clawed foot, the realisation of what had happened swept through his mind clearing all thought and fear.

    Eyes widening, he turned towards the Elves near the Scar-Veteran. A euphoric sense of power exploded within him. He was a terrifying monster! Raising his hands in what he was sure was a fearsome stance he charged towards them, unable to stop hysterical laughter from bubbling up within him.

    -

    Qar’Vup and the Dark Elf Shades both watched spellbound as the Dragon reduced the two Witch Elves to red smears while the Hag dived into cover. The beast turned and tottered towards them on it’s hind legs waving it’s arms overhead, like an infant Cold One learning to walk. Combined with odd burbling sounds, it would have been ridiculous, except there was nothing funny about 12 tons of Dragon bearing down on you.

    The dragon crashed into the Shades, stomping and slamming it’s arms down, obliterating the Elves in groups of two and three.

    Qar’Vup jumped to the side as a great gout of flame flashed out from it’s muzzle, obliterating a swathe of jungle behind him. “NOT THIS WAY, YOU IDIOT, GET THEM!!!,” he screamed, pointing towards the elves rallying nearby.

    The dragon drew its arms up near its snout, in a curiously vulnerable pose and a… well, as close to embarrassed as a Fire Dragon could look as it issued a short series of low-pitched whines and snarls.

    “RAARG! RA-RU-RUARGH-RA-“

    -

    “-and then I sneezed! I’m really sorry!”

    It’Chit realised his apologies was falling on deaf ears as the Scar-Veteran just kept screaming at him and pointing towards the rest of the Elves. Well, at least he knew how to breathe fire now.

    Turning, (Qar’Vup had to throw himself down to avoid being smashed by it’s huge tail) he sent a huge cone of flame into a group of Elves that had rallied and then bounded over (note to self: walking on all fours is better for moving fast).

    Within seconds there were none left standing and It’Chit realised that the battle was over.

    He saw the Sorceress standing on the other side of the clearing and smiled. Drawing himself up to his full forty-foot height, he stalked towards the Elf, growling menacingly, “I am you doom, pitiful mite. You are nothing before me. For I am an emissary of the Old Ones, come to exact-“

    -

    “-RURRRARG GRAUGH.”

    The Sorceress was unintimidated by the odd snarls or the Dragon advancing. The idiot creature had given her all the time she needed. Pulling deeply on the winds of magic, she reached out to sever the spell.

    Despite the loss of her Shades, she could still open the portal using the power of the ruined temple. Then she would have all the reinforcements she would ever need. She would have her whole army…

    -

    It’Chit’s world lurched. Suddenly, he seemed to be at the center of a whirlpool that pulled him down, down, down until, blinking, he stood looking up at the tall Hag. A cold terror froze him in place.

    Without even looking, the Hag gestured and the Scar-Veteran, running across he clearing to engage, crumpled to the floor.

    Her face was a mask of anger, her hands wove tendrils of power. His own magical ability exhausted, It’Chit could not even think of a thing to do as he watched the spell form.

    “I am here, little one.”

    A huge presence entered It’Chit’s mind. Golden hues fell over everything, as for the first time he became a Vassal. Instead of being flung into the heavens by the power of his spell, he felt he suddenly floated between the stars watching as entire universes were born and died. Somehow both a thousand miles away and right before him, he watched his hands weave a complicated counter-spell, snuffing out the power from the Dark Elf.

    While her shocked face still gaped as a pathetic Skink casually dismissedher best efforts, It’Chit watched as energy surged throughhis distant arm blossoming into a large, glowing spear. It’Chit watched the arm heft it once and then cast it forwards, tearing the Hag in two.

    “You have done well.”

    The golden hues disappeared as It’Chitflashed from the heavens back to his own body. Exhausted beyond all imagination, he fell to his knees amongst the carnage.

    A huge hand fellon his shoulder. The Scar-Veteran crouched before him, levelly meeting his gaze. “Blood of my blood, scale of my scale.” As he sounds faded, It’Chit stared up stunned. The ritual of brotherhood was absolute and binding, no one took this lightly.

    Overcome with emotion, many words came to It’Chit, but the only ones his traitorous mouth relayed were “Plarchgh” and then the earth rushed up towards him.

    -

    It’Chit stood by Qar’Vup as the apportioning of troops finished. As they moved out to their destination, he kept up with the towering Scar-Veteran through a combination of jogging and skipping. Qar’Vup noticed his trouble and stuck him into a rucksack he’d made just for this purpose. It’Chit didn’t mind. He had a brother now.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
  2. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    The winning entry is "The Path to Salvation" by Killer Angel, thank you to everyone who entered!

    Story One: "A Place to Call Home: The Official Trailer" by @thedarkfourth

    Story Two: "A Scary Day" by @King Dust

    Story Three: "Buried Memories" by @Paradoxical Pacifism

    Story Four: "Message Begins" by @Y'ttar Scaletail

    Story Five: "The Path to Salvation" by @Killer Angel

    Story Six: "Letters of the Sea" by @Infinity Turtle

    Story Seven: "We All Belong Somewhere" by @Imrahil

    Story Eight: "The Mind of a Huagerdon" by Scalenex

    Story Nine: "The Savage Beast" by @Lizards of Renown
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2020
  3. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    HERE WE GO!!!!

    As always, kudos to @Scalenex for doing the mind-numbing editing and posting of all of the stories for the contest so that us lazy people just need to read them.
     
  4. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Horray! Here we go! :)

    I'll echo the earned kudos to @Scalenex
     
  5. Y'ttar Scaletail
    Troglodon

    Y'ttar Scaletail Well-Known Member

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    Initial scan through and by the Big Hatted Old-thing...the breadth of styles...this is going to be good! :D
     
  6. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Indeed. This contest may be the most diverse contest we ever had in terms of style. Lots of unique takes on the theme.

    Should be something for everyone.
     
  7. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The first reading has been done. and WOW!
    ...a wild ride through a collection of intense emotions, of a various kind. Kudos to everyone!
     
  8. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    Well, lets make reading and voting another monthly goal ;)
    I'm going to enjoy reading these for a while.

    Grrr, Imrahil
     
  9. NIGHTBRINGER
    Slann

    NIGHTBRINGER Second Spawning

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  10. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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  11. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    I genuinely laughed out loud on this one!

    I didn't think that I was being tardy on my reviews of the fights! Plus I've now read all stories and voted so your regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly. :D
     
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  12. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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  13. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    Imrahil and NIGHTBRINGER like this.
  14. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    I have a feeling that, due to the eclectic selection of styles and stories, this will be the closest story competition we have had so far...
     
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  15. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Started to write the reviews. It always help for voting. :D
     
  16. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    The same for me... hopefully I'll be able to review my own piece properly. That way I can post it before the voting is over and attract more people to read and vote ;)

    Grrr, Imrahil
     
  17. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    I am a control freak, otherwise I would turn over the management of the contest to someone else just so I could guess the authors. @spawning of Bob used to do that a lot. It's pretty hard to guess the authors because we have many authors that enter the contests often but not always. But I think if I had a list of all the authors and a bunch of stories.

    LofR, your writing style is pretty distinct. I bet I'd be able to sniff it out pretty easily. Maybe not this contest. A lot of people wrote out of their comfort zone this contest.

    I'm not going to be able to vote till I've drafted some reviews. The only way I can compare apples to oranges is to put my thoughts in writing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2020
  18. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    Ha! Maybe so.

    Interesting. Yes, my story was different this time.

    "Well pardner, [spits to the side] I feel like you done called me out... Next contest, I'll be gunning with a totally new style. [TIps hat] Y'all just wait for that. [Sound of spurs jangling]" ;)

    Because honestly, who wants to get stuck in one style!?
     
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  19. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    OK, this is the first batch of the reviews.

    A PLACE TO CALL HOME: OFFICIAL TRAILER.

    if we wanna talk about unusual ideas, this comp starts with its strongest piece. This is just the script for a movie trailer set in a alternate universe of the warhammer setting.
    It’s hard to judge this piece. There’s no progagonist(s) to root for, there’s no real story, there’s… nothing usual you’d expect from a short story.
    Except the brilliant idea behind it, and a series of flashing visual images that pleasantly bombard the reader, which imo amply compensate for the lack of a classical structure. The more i read it, the more i like it. I would pay to see such a trailer.
    I don’t know how many votes this will win, as in the end we tend to give votes to more classic stories… but i believe this will be remembered nonetheless, at least by me.
    Memorable phrase: “from visionary director Xilinquncani”. Details like this are delicious.


    A SCARY DAY.

    Short story is short. We have a flying pyiramid spaceship, all is going as per normal routine, then chaos ensues. Our temporary protagonist senses that something is going to go terribly wrong and he’s totally right. Explosions, deaths, doom… we follow the skink in his brief struggle to reach his master, the Slann, the only being which will be able to save the ship. Except the Slann is dead, and we can only look at our desperate skink that is just able to hold his master’s arm, following him into a sad death.
    Weird development, until you read the final lines, which are what really make up for this story (imo).
    We just witnessed one of the many tragedies during the catastrophe that hit the ship: the broken pyramid crushes on a luxuriant word, scarying a low-level intelligence observer, which looks at the few seraphon survivors that come out of the wreckage in desperation. This will be their new home, so we basically foresee the birth of a new seraphons’ colony, probably led by a skink priest.. From death a new hope, a new beginning.
    I will go out of my league by saying that this could be a good candidate for the Scalanex cup
    Memorable phrase: “He was too late. The air tasted of death”. You know they are doomed.


    BURIED MEMORIES.

    This is a story that takes its time to tell a tale of exile, religious dogmas, betrayed friendship and unspoken deaths. A soft tragedy, not the stuff that makes legends but personal dramas of entire lifes.
    To be fair, it takes maybe too much in doing it. The skink Mogin is merely the “trait d’union” between our real protagonists (the two priests), and we spend too much time with things that in the end are not functional to the story (we really don’t care about the apparently little importance of his task as messenger and carrier of a “mundane” plaque).
    The real story rotates around two very different points of view regarding the whole approach of lizardmen to life and their place in the universe. It’s a story about the clash of two incompatible worlds and of an old being that ultimately has been defeated. The last survivors of a cult (?), that led to death his followers. Was she wrong? we know too little about the “heresy” that took this skink in forced exile into the jungle, too little of the philosophical (and obviously extremist) idea that forged the entire life of a priest and marked the story of a city. At the same time, the traditionalist antagonist is too rigid in his view and too bitter in his memories to be totally in the right. So many unspoken things, all that’s left is a lone, old skink that just wants to return home, even if this will mean death.
    I feel the story could have been developed in a better way, but the feelings it gives are powerful nonetheless. And the hints of the horrible fate that awaited the “cultists” that followed a mad idea are perfect, even if they remain unspoken.
    Memorable phrase: “If you’re insinuating I killed all of them, then that’s blatant fantasy! They followed me.” We now see how deep does the hole go.


    MESSAGE BEGINS.

    I think i have guessed the author of this one, but i will keep my secret.
    Another unusual story… but let us be frank: this is a 40K story. I fear this will be the doom of this piece, as i guess it will take few votes for that, but it’s a PERFECT 40k story nonetheless.
    It’s interrogation time, introduced by the usual bureaucratic language and approach of our favorite grimdark universe, perfectly detailed. Inquisition tries to understand what happened on a certain feral world, “a place to call home” by certain kind of people (catachian comes to mind). A fragment at a time, we understand that the humans stumbled upon a world dominated by lizardmen, and if the lizards are still vulnerable to high tech weaponry, basic humans can be killed by simple darts, characters can be killed by magical artefacts and, of course, a Slann can be compared to the most powerful psykers around.
    From a writing pov, the structure of the story is pefect; the transcription of the interrogation is greatly paced and not only gives us glimpses of the combat action that happened on the world, but manages to give life to the interrogation scene (with details of the inquisitor tapping on the table and so on)
    And the ending is very “in character” too. 40K is a immense universe and every problem is taken back to that scale. This is just a possible threat on a lone world. Just quarantine it, keep an eye open and apply the usual procedure, be it wrong or right.
    Memorable phrase: “Can...can I be fixed?”. No, you cannot, this is grimdark.


    THE PATH TO SALVATION.

    Oh my… this is a great, emotional piece, no doubt about it.
    A destroyed city, a kroxigor that tries to complete a crazy feat by rebuilding at least a part of it. Why? Something terrible happened here…
    flashback to daemonic invasion, a desperate battle and the kroxigor managed to kill a greater daemon, but at what price? the explosion kills the friendly skinks of his unit, and the kroxigor feels guilty to the point that doesn’t go with the rest of the lizardmen that leave the destroyed city.
    The kroxigor is a simple minded being, so we see that his thought-process is very linear and simple (i appreciate it), i’ve also liked how it has been depicted the relationship between kroxigors and skinks, with the imprinted notion that the little ones that must be protected.
    Our lone kroxigor is fatally incomplete, so it makes a sort of mental connection that is probably the pinnacle of his thinking, and rebuilds the destroyed buildings to lure back the skinks and have his home again.
    Then we have a nice intermission with humans intruders from the Empire, that introduces us to the heart-shattering revelation of the story. If i can ever empathically relate to a undead, this is it. A endless hope that won’t ever be satisfied, a kind of pain and emptiness that will last forever.
    There are some hints that make me guess that this is set in a certain specific place in old Lustria, but also in this case, i’ll keep my secret.
    Memorable phrase: “The place where Kadai killed his friends”. Well, you had my interest now you have my attention.
     
  20. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    and now...

    LETTERS OF THE SEA.

    My first reaction to the first paragraph: A letter, wow, how original... we’ll follow through a diary the doom of the writer, yadda yadda.
    My first reaction to the second paragraph: no, wait… this is turning toward an unexpected direction.
    My reaction when i finally get the direction the story is going: WOW!
    This story is very emotional. from one side, we have the written hopes of a poor, dead guy. Not all adventurers go around the world in search of mere gold…. some of them just want to afford a dream. So many lifes wasted on the sea, so many good people dead while they were searching for a better and peaceful life. This is the unforgiving world of warhammer. You already know the fate of the guy, but to read the letters is like to read the ones left by soliders on the battlefield. So many broken souls.
    On the other side, we have this skink - this… hermit? that loses himself in search of relics and mundane artefacts from other civilizations. A really weird skink, i would have liked to learn more about him and his obsession for different cultures, for the mystery and charme that cloak all those collected, unintelligible (in the case of the letters) objects.
    But the will to know the unknown is dangerous, and by mistake the poor skink accidentaly burns to the ground his home and his precious collection.
    Just one letter remains, and now it won’t matter no more. it will fly away, as the will to go on. Wasted lives, broken hopes, unsung destinies.
    I think this story is the quintessential of melancholy. It’s not perfect but it’s powerful.
    Memorable phrase: “The sky was crimson and the waters of the ocean seemed red with blood. Perhaps they were.”. there, this is how you depict a strong visual image.



    WE ALL BELONG SOMEWHERE.

    We readers are immediately immersed in a prison, with many different beings being held in it. It seems the kind of prison you are not able to escape from. Our skink protagonist is a captive and suddenly the tone becomes dark tnx to the hint of a laboratory, which summons so many horrible implications….
    But the gaolers are high elves, and so maybe they’re not so cruel as their darker cousins,
    A elf lord (probably a wizard) just wants to speak with the skink. We apprehend the End Times are near, but the puny warmbloods still don’t know that chaos is going to hit the fan and they want to puzzle out what’s happening.
    This is where the story becomes interesting and where its power lies. Our skink just tells nothing useful and she’s perfectly fine in staying imprisoned, as if she already knew the fate of the world is sealed, no matter what. At first i thought it was a sort on nihilistic behavior, but then i moved toward another interpretation: it reminds me more of that kind of buddhist philosophy approach if something has gone very wrong “if you can fix it, why worry? if you cannot, why worry?”.
    This skink is at home wherever she finds it, in total acceptance of what fate determines. As if the Great Plan doesn’t require our active actions to proceed (well, this could almost be a heretic pov). If the author wanted to effectively represent this, it’s a very thoughtful content for such a brief story.
    Memorable phrase: “Well this was a very productive chat…”. Oh my, and so many people still think that those prideful pointy-eared aristocrats don’t know irony.


    THE MIND OF A HUAGERDON.

    Talking about unusual approaches, here we have a whole story based upon the pov of a Huagerdon, clearly a pet that has lost herself into the jungle. Many questions are unanswered. Why was she lost so far from home? Has she escaped during a expedition and her “owner” didn’t noticed?
    A pity we don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter. This story is all about emotions, with a simple but pretty effective structure to deliver them and from that point is a great story.
    We walk side by side with this poor beast, we join her struggle to find shelter, find food, staying alive while doing the only thing that matters. Coming home.
    I don’t know Huagerdons, but this one apparently (judging by another story in this comp and by other stories in previous comps) got a thought process which is similar to Kroxigors’. Don’t know if it’s a compliment to huagerdons’ IQ, or diminutive toward kroxigors.
    Anyway, the story succeeds in its scope. We identify ourselves in poor Lata’s efforts and suffering, her growing struggling, the waning hope, the impending doom.
    But when it seemed all over, there it is! the reunion, everything is wiped away and we feel Lata’s heart filled with joy. There’s no thing as home as a pet that lives with the beloved owner (at least, if you’re a huagerdon, or a dog).
    Memorable phrase: “Smell of blood. Food. Danger. Food. Danger. Food.” i so love this binary reasoning, with the emphasis on the the “food”, that wins over. This seems exactly a real animal way to elaborate.


    THE SAVAGE BEAST.

    Well, i cannot hide myself as this is one of my favorite pieces. I even believe i know the author, but who am i to shout it out?
    It’s brilliant, it conveys comedy and a heart-warming moment and depicts perfectly the feelings of this inept low-level skink priest that feels out of place and feels he’s not able to reach the expected standard.
    It’s kinda like when you’re at school and the captains of the 2 teams pick one at the time the players, and you are always left as last choice.
    Of course, until a certain point you already know what’s going to happen before reading it. The modest and weak skink will be paired with the strong and overconfident warrior, despite the general convinction the Dark Elves will attack and they will attack exactly the rear position where our protagonist stands, and finally something will happen. But when that something happens… for the Old Ones, this is EPIC (and fun at the same time). The whole battle is so unusual and memorable and epic (yeah, it’s epic twice, because when you think you have seen the best part with the Transformation of Kadon, then you have the wonderful depiction of what should be the experience of being used as arcane vassal from a Slann)
    … and that sets the path to the ending, when our snooty scar-vet becomes the active co-protagonist, and changes forever the life of the skink.
    WOW, whan an ending for this competition!
    Memorable phrases (yeah, sorry but i’ve got 2)
    I am here, little one”… OHOHOH, i know who’s coming! really exciting!
    Blood of my blood, scale of my scale”. Powerful line, so simple and yet so effective. Home is family, in the end.


    FINAL THOUGHTS.


    all 9 of them are interesting stories, with a great variety in stiles, approaches, tones and ways to develope the theme. And, as predicted by me (and other forumeers) this was definitely a high level quality turn. Again, kudos to @Infinity Turtle for the inspirational theme.

    on a more statistical note, we have 9 stories: 5 of them have skinks as protagonists, 1 contains a pet and a skink as the lizardmen / seraphon presence, 1 includes a kroxigor, 1 is kinda neutral, 1 got a skink as protagonist AND a saurus scar-vet as co-protagonist (sort of). This is probably the first time no saurus was included as main protagonist in the batch and probably marks a record in the story of the competition.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 17, 2020

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