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Contest October-November Short Story Contest reading thread

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Killer Angel, Nov 1, 2021.

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

Poll closed Dec 1, 2021.
  1. Story One: "The Truth"

    3 vote(s)
    23.1%
  2. Story two: "Call for the Old Ones"

    3 vote(s)
    23.1%
  3. Story three: "The Future"

    4 vote(s)
    30.8%
  4. Story four: "Join the Army"

    5 vote(s)
    38.5%
  5. Story five: "The Sleeping Giant"

    3 vote(s)
    23.1%
  6. Story six: "A Better World"

    2 vote(s)
    15.4%
  7. Story seven: "Light and Darkness"

    5 vote(s)
    38.5%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The theme for our 28th seasonal short story contest, provided by @Lizards of Renown, was "Parallel Dimensions."

    Please read all seven stories before voting. You may vote for up to two 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.

    The Truth

    (inspired by The Ninth Age Background)

    Night time in the barracks of Itza. Finite Order moved swiftly through the shadows of the low mud buildings until she found the small back door she'd been told about.

    She was greeted by a single waiting guard. Once again, Finite Order marvelled at the similarity of this saurus warrior to herself: they were both tall, muscled reptilians with salivating jaws and thick tails. But she knew they could not be more different. This obedient lackey had been raised to be a thoughtless brute, designed only to obey orders. It didn't even have a gender, having been spontaneously created in a magical pool, an extraordinary but most unnatural form of genesis. It was an uncanny approximation of a saurian, but it was wrong - utterly wrong.

    It led her to a secluded chamber within the compound. The room was spartan and military - Finite Order approved of its orderly furnishings - but it was decorated with sacred glyphs and icons of the Old Ones. Another saurus warrior was standing before a desk. This one was larger and marked with gleaming metals welded to its scales and spine: more superstitious glyphs. She knew it was an "Oldblood", an important commander of the armies of this city. She bowed in recognition of its status. It snarled at her.

    "I am Lutlan," it said. "You wanted to see me, and I admit I was curious to meet you. The lizardman who does not follow the Great Plan..."

    Finite Order felt queasy, trying to intuit its emotions. Unlike her own species, she could sense no natural link between them. She could not tell what it felt. She forced herself to stay calm and clear her thoughts.

    "As you know, I am no lizardman," she said.

    "You call yourself 'saurian', they say," said Lutlan. "You came here from another world. I would have doubted this story if there were any other explanation."

    "I came here by accident," Finite Order agreed. "My portal must have malfunctioned, crossing dimensions. But I believe my coming represents a great opportunity, for both our worlds."

    "Some say you were sent by the Old Ones. That you were foreseen in the oldest plaques."

    Finite Order sighed. "That is what I wanted to discuss with you. My people do not believe in destiny. I know you find this strange. But we see no reason to follow gods or masters, for we have a higher purpose." She paused. "You are a leader here - but you are not a priest, like the others. You are a warrior. You have the lives of your soldiers depending on you. Of all the leaders of this land, I thought you might understand."

    "Perhaps the Old Ones never came to your world," replied the Oldblood, carefully. "But they are our creators. They built Lustria. They made the slaan to direct us towards the fulfilment of their Plan."

    "Indeed. I respect your commitment to your beliefs. But you must see - there is no reason for you to trust the plan of beings you have never met. Not when you have your own logic and reason to see the truth for yourself, to find the best and undisputable moral path. The best way to improve the universe and fight against the one true evil: entropy."

    Again, she felt lost without access to the feelings of the lizardman. But she sensed its breathing deepening, so she continued. It was time to risk everything.

    "In my world, we saurians created the first great empire, much like you. And like you it collapsed. But unlike you, we have not remained attached to ancient religions. We have used the millennia to understand our flaws, the terrible error of tyranny and murder. We have discovered the truth that all living beings must recognise. The truth is that all things in the universe decay and die. This is the only enemy. We must prevent this to the full extent of our abilities. We must support life, we must encourage all intelligent beings to work together. Where I come from, we saurians call ourselves the Collaboration. We have no rulers, for we are united in purpose. Imagine how much more effective we could be if our two worlds worked together. Imagine the good your 'Lustria' could do if it threw off ancient religious beliefs and superstition, and embraced the truth of reason."

    It was very quiet in the Oldblood's chambers. Finite Order stared at the lizardman, her eyes pleading.

    "Why are you telling me these things?" it muttered, finally.

    "Because you are a leader here. With your forces, you could take command of Itza; you could show the rest of your people the way. The true way. We could begin a new age for your world!"

    Lutlan shook its head, slowly. Finite Order thought it looked sad.

    "I understand," said the Oldblood, simply. And it gestured to the guards at the door.

    "Wait...what are you doing?" cried Finite Order, as they seized her, binding her arms with thick cords.

    There was no answer. She was dragged from the barracks and hauled up the stairs of a giant pyramid. If only this temple hadn't been built to honour pointless gods and a mistaken plan, Finite Order thought helplessly. It could have been such a bastion of Vitalism.

    In the Inner Sanctum, she was brought before the anurarch ruler - or what the Lustrians called a slaan. They all treated it like it was a god itself. After lengthy rituals and oblations in its presence, the toady creature deigned to speak.

    "We permitted you freedom here," it croaked. "And you answered with treason and heresy."

    "I spoke only the truth," Finite Order replied, and she heard gasps from onlookers, shocked at her lack of fear before this wizard-king.

    "You spoke of disobedience. I have seen your thoughts. You come from a place where the first children of the Old Ones, we who know the winds of magic like you know the very air you breathe... a place where we have been reduced to equals, to prisoners. Where the Plan has been lost, neglected. Where the proper authorities are forgotten. Now that we know of this great error, it must be corrected."

    Now it was Finite Order's turn to gasp. "Surely you do not mean-"

    "I have studied the magics which brought you here, outworlder," continued the slaan. "With the power of the Mage Priests, the process can be reversed. We will summon the legions of Lustria. We will go to your world, and we will ...correct it."

    "You will be stopped! The saurians will not permit bloodshed and madness!"

    "And the lizardmen will not permit the Great Plan to fail, nor chaos to reign. Order will be established there as it is here. The Mage Priests have spoken!"

    It turned bulging, baleful eyes on the saurian, while the assembled lizardmen chanted, bellowed and chirruped.

    "By the will of the Old Ones, you shall obey or you shall die!"

    Call for the Old Ones


    Krkrkr ggg We can’t find west… gggkg Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Krggkr Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”

    The radio went silent again. A couple of seconds past, Alfred hit the button to button.
    “Can you tell us where you are? Do you have any reference points?”

    Alfred released the button and waited for an answer. No response.
    He looked up at his superior, Captain Wiley.
    Wiley nodded to him, giving him a silent command to try to make contact again.

    “Control tower for FT-28, do you copy? FT-28, do you copy?”
    Again nothing.

    This time captain Wiley breached the silence: “Keep trying to contact them, I need to make the necessary precautions.”
    Alfred understood and turned back to the transmitter: “Control tower for FT-28, do you copy?”
    No response. Time after time there is no reaction coming in.
    After twenty attempts the captain walked back into the control room. His face clouded with a worried expression: “Any change? Did they make contact again?”

    “No sir, still nothing.”

    *****

    “Boom, bom, boom… boom, bom, boom.”

    Drums sounding deep in the jungle on the Islands of Sacrifice. Torches are lit along a path towards one of the central mountains. On the side of it a little temple is carved in the rocks. In front of the temple a Skink Priest is standing nervously staring into the jungle before him. On either side of the entrance platform a Saurus is sat whit a drum taking it in turns to sound them in a repeating rhythm:

    “Boom, bom, boom… boom, bom, boom.”

    Between the trees a small shadow appears and it follows the path towards the temple. At first it appeared to walk, but when getting closer it is revealed to be a Skink gatherer approaching with great speed. Still accompanied by the sound of drums.
    Over his shoulder a small leather pouch is swaying from side to side as he runs closer. Once arrived at the foot of the temple he climbed the stairs up to the platform where the Priest is still waiting even more impatiently. He stretched his hand out to receive the pouch and immediately turned around and walked in to the temple, towards the altar.
    Suddenly the drums stopped and another sound was heard coming from inside the temple:

    “Ieeek, squik, squiieeek!”

    On top of the altar a figure was struggling to get out of the ropes that were bounding it to the cold block of stone. Dark brown, uneven patches of fur, claws whit hideous long and tainted nails, a couple of big teeth sticking out underneath a pointy nose and a long flesh-colored tail. This was unmistakably one of the Rat-people that had infested and plagued the Lustrian lands in the last months more than once.
    Bound to the altar it had no change of escaping. Nonetheless it tried viciously while loudly screaming and shrieking.

    The Skink Priest ignored the sounds and struggles of the inferior creature and walked over to one side of the room. There stood a sort of desk, more like a workbench. The light of torches reflected on the golden tools and objects on the desk, they laid in a clean and orderly fashion. The Priest picked up a small mortar and pestle, took the pouch and pulled dried leaves out of it. After crumbling the leaves to a powder he walked over to the altar.
    The Skaven noticed the Priest closing in and started shrieking even louder.

    The Priest held the mortar in one hand and reached with the other underneath his feathered cloak. With a swing he pulled out a sacrificial dagger with a curved blade. The torchlight flashed in it as he lifted it and brought it back down.
    Whilst carving into the Rat’s flesh he held the mortar in front of his face and inhaled deeply. Immediately his eyes widened and the vanes in his face thickened. His hand with the dagger started to move quicker and quicker, the Skaven’s shrieking build up to a climax and suddenly stopped.
    Both the dagger and the bowl fell on the ground as the Priest reached into the now cracked open chest, blood pouring over both sides of the altar.
    The eyes of the Priest started to glow and he raised his hands, covered in blood, holding the heart of the Skaven. He opened his mouth and spoke with a low voice that seemed to come out of the temple itself rather than the Priest:

    “Great beings from times past! Creators of all that is and was! Wisdom eternal! I call upon you, givers of life and rulers of the heavens! Come to us today and lead us on the righteous path to complete your Great Plan once and for all! And cleanse the world of this chaos and filth! ’

    Dark clouds started gathering high above the mountain peaks.

    *****

    An hour had past, Alfred already had stopped counting the attempts to get contact after half that time. Still no result. Not long before an attempt at rescue would be launched. His captain had gathered a crew to take flight any minute.

    He tried once again:
    “Fort Lauderdale for FT-28, do you copy? FT-28, do you copy?”

    A few seconds past and suddenly the radio sprang to life:

    “Kgg krg… We can’t make out anything. We think we may be about 225 miles northeast of base… kkgggr… It looks like we are entering white water. We’re completely lost. Gk ”

    Struck by surprise Alfred turned to the door and shouted on top of his longs: “CAPTAIN!!!”

    *****

    As the clouds grew thicker and thicker the complete sky darkened and the atmosphere felt heavier than before.
    Down below the winds moved the jungle canopies. It almost looked like the trees were dancing to the music that no longer was played.

    With thunderous rumble the clouds rolled over each other and suddenly a crack of light ran through the center of it all. But instead of disappearing the crack of light was imprinted in the clouds and widened further. A downfall of fresh wind poured out of the opening and five Avenger Torpedo Bombers came forth through the rift.
    The Sauri and Skink in front of the temple stared at the sky. The Skink turned towards the Temple:

    “They have arrived! The Old Ones have heard our call!”

    The Future


    A single drop of water slowly ran down the azure scales of a motionless figure.

    Practically invisible in the dense darkness of this part of the jungle and seemingly unaffected by the sweltering heat, the figure stood still. No motion disturbed the almost serene vines and leaves that surrounded it, but a deep expectation and need emanated from the figure like heat from a furnace.

    The figures gaze was directed towards a cave set into the the mountainside before it. A cave of some fame in what passed for the underworld of Lustria. Infamy, if one was to name it rightly. For within it’s depths, an apparent prodigy of the Heavens worked to show those worthy what they needed.

    The future.

    The figure blinked. If someone had been watching, they would have seen the glowing amber orbs flicker for a moment. Just a moment, but it would have drawn the eye in the deep darkness where everything in the surrounds seemed frozen as if afraid to move itself.

    -

    Ta’Phaun blinked again. His thoughts boiled furiously, in contrast to his outward calm. Was this really the right thing to do? His teachers in the Lore of Heavens had always called him hasty. No patience to let the stars show their true course before deciding upon a course of action.

    Gaagh, what did they know! He didn’t need to continue to study the paths of the stars. It was OBVIOUS! A dire fate lay before the children of the Old Ones. His teachers had counselled waiting, extra evidence to be certain, but from everything Ta’Phaun had seen the disaster was right there in front of them.

    And the only hope was that this maverick Priest could help him.

    Ta’Phaun moved forwards. Like all skinks he moved swiftly, darting rapidly from cover to cover approaching the mouth of the cave. He stopped a short length away from the opening. He smiled to himself, as one of his spawn-brother’s favourite sayings came back to him: If you don’t want a fire-leech in your face, don’t go sticking it where they spawn.

    He took another couple of minutes in motionless vigil to confirm that no traps were waiting for him. Nervously, his clawed hand played with a small gold amulet which was the peace offering for the reportedly overly paranoid Skink Priest who lived here. If the stories were true, he wore a piece of cracked Stegadon eggshell on his head at all times to prevent Heralds of Nurgle on Rotfiles from reading his mind as they flew overhead. Ta’Phaun shook his head as another saying sprang to mind: A rabid Cold One might kill you, but if you can ride it, it’s still best in the fight.

    He sighed deeply. There was nothing else for it. Holding the offering out in front of him, he slowly strode forwards into the gloom.

    -

    He lost track of how long he walked. The cave was very dim and filled with perpetual fog. He could feel the skeins of the winds of magic permanently flowing through the cave and wondered at the skill it would have taken to channel such at this exactly course.

    From nowhere, there was light. Blinking, it took his eyes a couple of seconds to adjust and he found himself staring down the barrel of a very strange blowpipe with four separate tubes. Swallowing he raised his arms up to the sides slowly as he regarded the beady eyes staring at him down the barrel.

    “What are you wanting, spawnling?” The speaker was old. His crest feebly twitched on top of his head under a grimy, jagged piece of eggshell. One of his eyes stared sideways, constantly blinking. His mottled scales were shades of grey, as if the colour had gradually washed out of them over the years. His hand was steady on the barrel though. If all of the stories were true, Ka’Reif had battled with Tehenhauin in the first wars against the Skaven. This did make him an unlikely age, given that Skinks were not long lived, but when Ta’Phaun looked at him somehow it had the ring of truth to it.

    “Eldest Priest,” Ta’Phaun began, deciding to ignore the heavy insult that he had just been greeted with, which in any other circumstance would have resulted in bared blades. “Most respected elder, prophet of the skies, teller of the-“

    “Save the licking for the Slann’s arse, little one,” broke in Ka’Reif, “I’ve no time for grovellers. What are you wanting?”

    Ta’Phaun swallowed. The barrels of the blowpipe hadn’t moved an inch. He hadn’t believed them when they said be blunt with him. Finally, he threw caution to the wind and looked him straight in the eyes. “I believe a calamity awaits us. I need to know the future.”

    Ka’Reif’s blowpipe flew over his shoulder as he suddenly grinned a maniacal grin. “Well why didn’t you say so! Come.” He swirled, the piece of eggshell on his head wobbling as it barely stayed on his head. The priest led him deeper into the cave, the tunnel angling down as they headed deeper into the earth. They passed stone arches leading off from the main tunnels, lit by the strange gems that provided the light around him. Each looked identical to Ta’Phaun, but the gnarled skink walked past them without a glance.

    “The future you say?”, muttering to himself, Ka’Reif looked at inscriptions on the next door, shook his head and moved on. “Not as simple as that, spawnling.”

    As they passed next door, a piercing scream caused Ta’Phaun to jump very nearly out of his scales. He shot a glance at Ka’Reif, who merely looked for a moment down the stone arch and shook his head, muttering “Not THAT future” and pressed on.

    “Many think the future a flowing stream, endlessly meandering forwards to be joined at any point they like.” Foam began to form on the older Skink’s lips as he began to ramble. “But it’s not. Oh no. No, no. Think of the jungle rainfall. Uncountable millions of raindrops, falling and hitting the foilage, then combining, moving, joining and separating until their end on the forest floor. Who can say which drop went where? Who can say which combined in the end and which never reached their final destination? It is almost impossible. Unless you stay the course, stay with that droplet until you see what happens. Where it goes”

    Ta’Phaun realized they had stopped beside one of the tunnels, seemingly identical to every tunnel they had passed and every tunnel going forwards. His mind quailed suddenly at the concept that this hallway had not turned once, but could not have been a straight line in the small hill… How had it been tunneled? By who? He forced himself back to the present and saw the elder priest staring at him levelly.

    “This is the one, spawnling.”

    Ta’Phaun felt a moments panic. ‘’Greatest elder… Whenever I have read the future, my tutors have had me prepare for days beforehand. I hardly think that-“

    The rasping voice cut him off, with none of the dispersal evident in his tone or manner that he had observed so far.

    “This is the one, spawnling. If you follow the path and do not stray, you will see what you need to see. If you stray… Well, you won’t be doing that will you?”

    Ta’Phaun swallowed. Steeling himself, he walked forwards into the tunnel, the light fading as he moved forwards.

    -

    He walked for some time. How long, he could not judge. The light faded as he moved forwards and so did his view of the walls. He was no longer certain that he walked a tunnel, but some basic survival instinct told him not to stray from the path or reach out to see if the walls still remained.

    Up ahead, orange and yellow light flickered. How far, he could not tell. How big it was he could not tell, for their was no frame of reference. As he moved closer, the lights resolved themselves to fires and gradually grew as he approached until the black horizon was filled with them.

    Still the black path stretched onwards between them.

    As he entered the walls of flame, he noted figures on black islands in the sea of fire. Looking closer, the blood in his veins turned to ice as he saw on one island Skinks cavorting with feminine figures whose huge claws both caressed and cut their bodies as they cried out in ecstasy.

    He eyes were drawn against his will to the next island, where Saurus warriors, covered in some kind of red dye, clashed with each other. Limbs and blood flew as battle was joined, Saurus ripping each other limb from limb in a blood-frenzy to rival that of a Carnosaur. Then there was only one, snarling loudly as it collected the heads of the fallen, stripped the last remaining flesh from their bones and stacked the skulls in a macabre pyramid. Bowing at the last, the Saurus let out a blood-curdling roar and raised its hands to the flaming sky.

    He felt his mind reel and shiver as the next island came into view. Salamanders, pocked and diseased, emptied not flames but gouts of green pus over Skinks who carried Nurglings in their hands. Next, an island where Skink Priests with varying features of three eyes, four limbs or two mouths followed rituals guided by a Lord of Change.

    Ta’Phaun no longer registered emotion. His mind could not fathom the calamity that would bring the children of the Old Ones to the worship of Chaos. His body shook in the throes of terror as the path lead him close by a large island.

    Slann stood before him. It took him a moment to realize they were standing on their own feet on the island floor. They seemed arrayed waiting for him. A red coloured Slann bellowed a guttural challenge at him as limbs swollen with muscle bunched and clenched, while a burning sigil on it’s forehead proclaimed him a follower of Khorne. Next to him, a Slann crouched smiling at him but covered in disease and rot in greens and browns with a gaping hole in it’s abdomen which shifted as a Nurgling poked it’s head out and pus spilled out to collect at it’s feet. Next, Daemonettes cavorted around a Slann lounging on a palanquin and surrounded by riches and foods, while a large mirror stood to reflect it’s image back to itself. Finally, the last Slann stood with both it’s heads regarding him with a small, evil smile. As he watched large wings like that of a Terradon spread from it’s back as the figure launched itself into the air, cackling to itself as it swooped overhead.

    Ta’Phaun staggered on. It was too much. He could feel his very concept of reality shaking as his mind struggled to comprehend somehow what this all meant.

    I have to keep going, he told himself. Must find the answer… The calamity must be huge and I must persevere if I am to stop it.

    Ta’Phaun lurched forwards down the path, as laughter crashed around him like a stormy sea.

    -

    Ka’Reif watched the body of the Priest twitch inside the small cave. Drawing the winds of magic to him, he reconstructed the illusion of a tunnel and set it in place just inside the door. He padded back to the other cave where the wards against sound had failed and reset this also.

    He padded back the way that he had come. That was the twelfth. The first had been here for over a year now. It was strange that they, desiring the future so much, would resist the knowledge that Tzeentch provided. Embracing this would save the Lizardmen and sometimes it seemed like he was the only one who could see this. No matter, he had nothing but time.

    Absentmindedly, he scratched the head of a Blue Horror that bounded out of a nearby cavern as he continued forwards. His work would continue. He would achieve the purpose of the Old Ones where all others had failed before. It just required more lateral thinking.

    Join the Army

    Hoy! Hoy! Hoy! Hoy! Hoy! YEAAHHHH!!!!
    James swallowed the whole pint of Bugman’s xxxxxxx, while his friends were inciting him.
    It was the fourth one, and on the table there where empty tankards, just waiting for the waitress to take them out to bring in another round.
    “TO VICTORY!!!”
    It had been a blast, the London Grand Tournament AoS Championship.
    James’ Seraphon ruled the day. Many believed the list was too crazy to work, but “Storm of Magic” proved otherwise. Victory after victory, paving the road to the first place.
    At a certain point, James became unaware of the surrounding, barely acknowledging that some helping hands were taking him to the hotel room.
    In his mind there were still the images of the match against Soulblights.
    First turn, moving ahead a Starseer with Lauchon the Soulseeker and using it as vessel to pump the full power of Kroak and a Slann… Comet’s call, triple celestial deliverance, Purple sun, Stellar tempest and Unforging. And then the bastiladon, running and shooting.
    At the end of the first turn, two key heroes and the Lord on zombie dragon were dead, and the undead troops were badly damaged.
    The victory. The Championship.

    **********

    In the dream, James was floating in the void. A constellation slowly made its appearance, and then a light emerged out of nothing, and from the light, a Slann.
    That Bugman’s was really strong.
    “You did well, James. Do you wanna know more about our secrets? Do you wanna win again? You only need to make the right choice, James.”
    The Slann showed his hands. They were holding a blue pill and a red one.
    Yeah, this is a really weird dream… Who knows, maybe I’ll get some new ideas.

    James slowly opened his eyes. A pleasantly soft light was surrounding the Slann, floating in his palanquin before him. At the Slann’s side, an Eternity Warden was standing.
    “Welcome to my temple city, Mighty Leader of Seraphon armies”.
    “Hi Slann. You did well today. We won. Have you liked how I exploited your magic? people nowadays don’t know how to pump some good blasting…”
    Weird dream indeed. How is it possible that the Warden has a sarcastic expression?
    The Slann’s voice boomed in James’ head.
    “If I have to be honest, that trick was kinda crude. But sometime you just need a hammer rather than a scalpel, to drive the point home”.
    Great, now also the Slann is using sarcasm.
    “This dream is unpleasant. Froggy, give me some new idea, or let me sleep some more.”
    The Slann sighed.
    “…I think I too will need some hammerin’...”
    The Slann gestured.
    The world exploded, as if a gallon of icy water was poured on someone that was watching some swimming on TV.

    James’ senses woke up at once. The room was warm and it was certainly vast, judging by the echoes of chanting voices behind him. James’ back was against a solid surface and his nails scratched it, feeling the hardness of stone.
    He instinctively tried to raise, but he slipped on one side, falling on the floor. Scent of… blood? a forked tongue darted out of James’ mouth. Particles of blood, musk and dirty fur. The buzzing of flies over the corpses of freshly dead skaven.
    James screamed, trying to catch midair the tongue as if it was unreal… so he saw his hands, clawed and scaled.
    He looked around stunned, in complete disbelief.
    He could distinguish the different noises of at least 25 flies, buzzing over the remnants of the skaven… and being uncertain about the other insects. From the floor he could perceive the vibrations of the clawed feet of the priests that were disposing of the bodies… he could also feel the heat of a unseen furnace, behind a granite wall.
    The chanting was made by a circle of skink starpriests, sitting around a shimmering blue portal. James could see and smell the ozone. How do I know it’s ozone? The humidity in the air was slightly heavy. How do I know that outside it’s a gloomy day and within a couple of hours it will rain?
    James started to hyperventilate, wishing to faint and erase all of that.
    He did not passed out. He sensed that his hearth was reacting somehow to the hyperventilation, slowing its pace and forcing him to acknowledge again the full specter of sensations that were assaulting him.
    No way this can be a dream.
    James closed his eyes and curled up in a fetal position.

    He heard and smelled and sensed everything, the whole disposal of the skavens, the closing of the portal, the priests that went away. Until it came the rain.
    At this point, James opened his eyes again, and there were the Slann and the Warden.
    “This is not a dream”.
    “Of course not, my friend.”
    “What’s this? What’s happening?”
    “You are now in our universe. The place you have a vague idea of, that you were used to call Warhammer Fantasy, and now you know as Age of Sigmar.”
    “You are unreal. it must be a drug of some kind…”
    “There’s no drug. Millions of years ago, just some decades in your world, the Old Ones knew that we would have to face almost insurmountable odds, so they gave us many tools. Among them, the possibility to reach other universes. We took a bunch of humans, people as Bryan Hansell, Rick Pristley and obviously Nigel Stillman, and we inspired them with dreams and subtle mental manipulations. That was a chisel work, just so you know. We made them recreate a… passable simulation of our world, which each edition of the game evolving as we evolve. As our war changes and as new enemies appear. Come with me.”

    James could not do anything but follow the Slann toward the exit of the temple.
    “But… but… let’s admit this is true. Why? I don’t see any sense in this”
    “Shouldn’t it be obvious? your so called game is a tactical simulation. It’s the theory course of a military academy, to select brilliant tactical minds, future commanders to lead the Seraphon into battle and give us the edge by thinking out of the box. And you, my friend, you just qualified for the advanced course.”
    James looked again at his body.
    “So I’m actually…”
    “A skink starpriest. You will be able to take command traits and, for once, cast real spells. Your mind has been transferred into a new body, suited for you”.
    “No, listen, I am sleeping in a hotel room, I like playing Warhammer and be smart, but that’s it. I get you have problems, but my real life is not here. Just send me back home.”
    The Slann sighed again, bowing his head as to apologize.
    “ I fear your dead body has already been found by the hotel’s staff. Chocked on your own vomit. I deeply regret it, but it’s a sacrifice I was willing to make. The Great Plan requires it”.

    Finally they were out of the temple. From the terrace a vast, coloured city was visible, swarming with reptilian life; in the sky there were flocks of terradons flying around a huge pyramid that was floating midair; from the pyramid, an azure beam stroke the parade ground, teleporting a saurus regiment.
    “We are the Starborne, and you are now a child of the Old Ones”.
    “This is crazy…”
    A big clawed hand rested on James’ shoulder. It was the Eternity Warden and he was laughing.
    “Crazy? man, you have no idea. I won two events of the U.S. open series, back in sixth edition, and let me tell you: when Kroak blew up the moon in the End Times, that was crazy. But this… this is just tuesday”.

    The Sleeping Giant


    Three months ago


    “So why do you want to hire us? Do you think there are ancient Lizardmen artifacts there?” Yuqal'Cho-ax asked.

    “If there was, would I invite you? I don’t want to get atwixt a Rango and some handle-less obsidian dagger or some other worthless relic. I know your kind get as mad as hornets and treacherous as goblins when your ancient 'treasures',” said the Hetrek the dwarf.

    The larger skink bristled at the insult, his had hand instinctively reached for his empty holster before remembering they agreed to disarm for this meeting deciding to just hiss and scowl. The skink priest gave his friend an admonishing look and Kai'ax softened his expression, but not by much.

    “You rangos aren’t the only folk with ancient ancestors. My employer believes this might have some elven or human artifacts from the World that Was.”

    Kai’ax failed attempt to give a polite smile gave away to a look of genuine confusion.

    “So why hire two Rangos?” he asked the suspiciously well-dressed human.

    The dwarf shrugged the shoulders rippling his silk suit, the fanciness of which didn’t match his haggard facial features and scarred callous hands suggesting a far more humble origin. Hetrek took a sip of coffee. His eyes had an intensity that suggested he was off-kilter or perhaps he had too much coffee. The skink was politely sipping the coffee offered to him, but decided he might be better off without it.

    “It’s mainly for theater. The area has a bad reputation, the workers believe the site is haunted. You two Rangos have a reputation for taking character of weird critters. It will make the superstitious men feel safer if you cut a figure there, but you can stay in the backseats”

    “And how much are you willing to pay for our backseats performance” Ka’ax asked.


    ***********

    Two weeks ago.

    Kai’ax sat under a shady tree on a hill over-looking the excavation site. He was sipping water and cleaning his rifle for the second time today while his Culchan hid her head in a burrow trying to catch a rabbit. Not too far away from the excavation site were the three small tent cities. The dwarves refused to camp next to the goblin workers or maybe the goblins refused to be near the dwarves. Either way, the humans were in between. He flicked a fly off his feathers and noticed his friend approaching.


    Yuqal'Cho-ax walked up the hill.


    “We shouldn’t have taken the job. I think that dwarf is cross-grained,” Kai’ax said.

    “Maybe he is, but we are essentially being paid to do nothing,” his friend replied.


    “The crew found more artifacts today.” The priest told his friend.

    “Broken spears, rusty shields, or rusty swords?” the larger skink asked indifferently.

    “Helmets and axes. Relatively intact. Randolph, the human from back East thinks this might have been a site where elves and dwarves fought in ancient time. Something about ‘the War of the Beard’.” The priest replied.

    “War of the Beard?” I know dwarves are proud of their facial hair, but they ancient dwarves and elves fought a war over beards?” the warrior asked

    “Milk drinkers have fought over stupider things,” the priest replied.

    “True, why bother digging this up?” Ka’ax asked

    “Some collectors will pay good coin for ancient relics of the World that Was.”

    “It better be real good coin. That dwarf is paying us, his own bulldozers, and half a hundred workers. He ain’t no Lordroid Goldman. His pockets have got to be nearing empty.” Yuqal'Cho-ax

    “We he hasn’t stopped paying us yet, so we can stick around.” Yuqal'Cho-ax

    “If we don’t die of boredom.


    One Week ago

    ***********


    The workers had really hit the motherlode of ancient artifacts, they seemed to be getting more dwarfy and less elfy the further the men dug. They amassed piles of assorted weapons. Meticulously sorted into specific piles by type. He was especially interested in the old muskets. Primitive rifles with very large bayonets on them. Almost impractically large.


    Ka’ax picked one up and examined it.


    Randolph seemed scandalized responding with his ridiculous Old World accent.


    “Mister Saurio, please don’t touch that! You might damage it!”


    The skink just scoffed.


    “This was sitting in a hole for thousands of years and pulled out of a rocky pit by goblins and you are worried that my feathery digits are going to break it.”


    One of the dwarf funders of the expedition just laughed.


    “Oh my ancestors built things to last and take a beating. I wouldn’t worry, Randolph. The skink is not going to harm it. One ol’ fire glaive is not going to matter much anyway.” The dwarf said.


    Kai’ax kept handling the odd weapon. He tried to mime firing it.

    “Definitely an old musket, but it couldn’t have had much accuracy, probably did most of their fighting with the blade part.”



    “I didn’t think the dwarves had any black powder weapons during the War of the Beard, accurate or otherwise.” Randolph exclaimed.

    “Who said it is the War of the Beard? Just because we got dead elfiedears and dwarves in the same place don’t mean it’s the big war. They had small grudge wars all the time in ancient days.”


    A goblin found a metal sheet with some runes on it. He sheepishly presented it Randolph and scampered away. The Easterner examined it for several minutes.


    “I don’t recognize these runes.” He finally said.

    “That kind of looks like a cow.” Ka’ax blurted out.


    A smile flashed across the dwarf’s face, but we quickly hid it.


    “Yeah, I think it is a cow. The dialect is ancient but I think is an old quarter master’s report. That worn out rune was probably a number saying how many head of cattle they had.”


    Another goblin scurried over.


    “Sirs, We’s found a big metal hand.”


    The dwarf smiled big at this.

    “Show me,” he said grinning with delight.



    Today

    ***********

    The workers had dug around the hand and eventually unearthed a giant metal man. Though sideways, the metal giant measured twenty-three and a half feet from head to toe. The bottom third of its body was still in the dirt. The metal man was exquisitely detailed, wearing ornate ancient dwarf style armor, but his face was a featureless plane.


    About half the workers were digging through the rocky, clay rich soil. The others were on break, but most were sticking around to gawk at it. Randolph had his nose buried in a book. He put it down suddenly and ran towards where Hetrek was standing supervising the digging.


    “Hetrek, sir! We must stop the excavation at once! I translated the rune!”


    Everyone stopped what they were doing to look at the commotion. Hetrek’s eyes flared briefly but he replaced it with a mask of polite curiosity.


    “Oh?”

    “It’s the symbol of Hashut, god of the Chaos Dwarves?”

    “Bosh! There is no such thing as Chaos dwarves, they never existed. The ancient dwarves distrusted magic so much that they forced those with a talent for it into exile and falsely labeled them followers of Chaos. The ancient dwarf wizards fused magic and metal to make wonders the world has never seen. Blades that never dull, trains that required no tracks and no coal.”


    The dwarf gestured at the partially submerged metal man.


    “Magnificent metal men to serve as their laborers.”


    Randolph sputtered incoherently and pulled out a pendant of Sigmar’s hammer.


    I didn’t think that human was religious. The skink priest mused to himself.

    “You speak blasphemy, sir! We must stop this excavation at once.”


    The haggard dwarf sighed.


    “I didn’t really think you would buy my explanation.”


    He blew three staccato blasts on a whistle around his neck. The human bulldozers as well as about a quarter of the workers (who seemed to be in cahoots) descended on the mass of people and they started clubbing dwarves, goblins, and men with the butts of their rifles or firing warning shots to herd them into one place while the two skinks just gawked. The mad dwarf turned towards them.


    “You were supposed to kill the Rangos first! You were only supposed to take the other alive.” Hetrek shouted as his minions but the skinks reacted faster.


    Kai’ax regretted not packing his heaviest irons on his person, but he pulled his six shooter and began firing at the thugs. Yuqal'Cho conjured a lightning bolt and threw it at Hetrek but it rolled off of him like water off a duck’s back. The haggard dwarf revealed a hidden charm around his neck and smirked

    Kai’ax downed two of mad dwarf’s bulls but missed with four of his shots. A few bullets came his way, but no one was especially accurate in the panicked confusion. He wondered if it was a coincidence the worshiper of the bull god’s hired men were nicknamed “bulls” but he didn’t have time to ponder this. He was out of bullets and their enemies were regrouping.

    Yuqal'Cho summoned a magical fog and the skinks fled towards their Culchans in the confusion.


    Most of the workers were near the metal man in the ground, but not all of them, the two skinks warned as few humans and dwarves on the outskirts and told them to find a horse and hightail it while the skinks mounted their Culchans.


    They heard a distant shout of Hetrek. “These are not fueled by coal but by blood!” followed by the death screams of goblins, dwarves, and men alike.


    Kai’ax tried to rally the fleeing men.


    “I know we all want to get gaited, but as much as I want to put distance between us and those madmen, we need to grab some food and water first. No sense escaping with our lives only to starve in the desert.”

    Two skinks, three humans, and two dwarves had hastily gathered as many provisions as they can loading up a donkey cart anxiously, when they saw the partially submerged man glow red like an iron on a smith’s forge and push itself up. A fiery evil face appeared on what was once a featureless surface.

    Yuqal'Cho’s sharp ears heard the distant shout.

    “Mighty K’daii, I have brought you back to life, now you must serve me!”

    The sound coming from the metal monster was heard by all.


    DWAAARF!

    YOU SEEK MY POWER FOR YOUR OWN PETTY GREED, BUT YOU DO NOT SERVE MIGHTY HASHUT. NONBELIEVERS MUST BURN.


    More death screams filled the desert air. Hetrek’s loudest of all.


    Now is the time to escape with our lives.” Yuqal'Cho said.

    They rode as fast as they could.


    Within a few hours, they lost sight of the glow of the thing that Hetrek called a K’daii, they didn’t stop riding till the horses were so lathered they were on the verge of collapsing.


    A week later the skinks rode back alongside a hundred cavalry men. The men rode into a veritable bone Hetrek and his followers made a blood sacrifice of all of the goblins and most of the dwarves and humans to awaken the monsters. Vultures and flies feasted on their corpses. Not far where the fire charred corpses of Hetrek and his followers.


    A blind man could have followed the deep tracks the K’daii left in his wake. They followed the tracks for about three miles before they found the metal monster silent, non-moving and bereft of its fire. Once again it was lying on its side.


    A few of the men fired their carbines at it, but they didn’t even dent the sleeping giant.


    “Cease fire!” the captain ordered.


    He looked about nervously as if the shots would make it come alive, but it remained unmoving.


    “So what do we do now,” the captain turned to the Rangos.

    “That’s a stumper” Kai’ax said.

    “I reckon we should bury it again and hope no one digs it up again.” Yuqal'Cho suggested.

    A Better World

    Doom descended upon the jungles of Lustria. Fractured chunks of the once green moon tore through the sky even as the Slann sought to halt them. Tides of ratmen poured through burning jungles and dragged down the children of the Old Ones. Cehtzo ran. Through the stone paths of the city he had called home, the Skink Priest tried to ignore the chittering cries of Skaven and the roars of the Saurus as one by one they were torn down. He scrambled up into the great pyramid temple, the sliver of hope that the city’s master could prevent its destruction beat furiously in Cehtzo’s chest. Hope that was swiftly extinguished as he entered the Slann’s chambers.

    Mitzcizqetl hung lifeless upon his fallen palanquin the strain of maintaining the geomantic web had been too much for the Mage Priest. Around the corpse lay the withered forms of the leading city priests, their lives given so Mitzcizqetl could hold just a little longer. But it was all in vain. As Cehtzo slumped to the temple floor in despair his eyes noticed that even as death claimed him, Mitzcizqetl had tried to reach something judging by his limp outstretched arm. Cehtzo’s gaze followed the arm and saw a small golden cube covered in glyphs of the Old Ones. Unsure quite why, he felt drawn to it even as the city fell around him.

    He looked up at the dead Slann. “Lord Mitzcizqetl?” he spoke, “did you intend for me to use this treasure of the Old Ones?” The dead Slann gave no reply and carefully Cehtzo picked the cube up. Was it a weapon? It was said Mitzcizqetl had kept many arcane devices of the Old Ones within the temple. Cehtzo’s claws felt around it and founds parts of the cube moved like dials and other glyphs were like activation studs seen on other treasures of the Old Ones. Cehtzo pointed the cube at the chamber wall and bracing himself pressed one of the studs.

    There was a flash of brilliant light and Cehtzo and the cube vanished.

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

    Elsewhere.

    Walls of flesh curled and screamed with twisting maws as Cehtzo ran, tendrils lashed out as other gibbering fanged mouths hissed praise for a being called Mutae. The stench of stitched flesh and the foul reek of Warpstone hung nauseously in the air even as Cehtzo dodged aside the reach of the walls. And then he was free of the mouldered walls and in the darkness of earthen tunnels.

    He panted for a moment and peered into the darkness before him. Perhaps the Old One device had sent him to a Skaven warren? He glanced back the way he had come where the screams and hissed words faded into the gloom. He turned back towards the darkness of the tunnel to find a curved blade pointed at his throat.

    Stooped before him was not a Skaven but a white bird creature. It tilted its head and spoke something that seemed more chirps and whistles. When Cehtzo's answer was only to stare and blink the bird creature seemed to consider something for a moment before reaching into a belted pouch with a taloned hand and withdrawing a small device that it then mimicked placing into an ear.

    Cehtzo did so hesitantly and found he could understand the creature.

    “You do not seem to be of New Lustria” the bird creature said, “you are not from this reality either, are you?”

    “No...at least I do not think so,” Cehtzo replied, “my home was dying, I found myself here.”

    “You are in Hell-Pit, from what I know this was once a realm of the Rakken that separated from its world during its ending, it now floats like an island or ship through realities. The Rakken and other peoples stitch and mutate beasts to fight for sport, even those like you do the same.”

    “And you?”

    “I ended here at the moment of what should have been my death. I work for a Rakken in the hope I may one day return or find a better world.” The bird creature seemed to smile sadly, “if you are able, leave this place. Find a better home.”

    Cehtzo nodded, appalled at the thought of living in a place ruled by what was likely Skaven. He reached to his ear to remove the device but the bird creature shook its head.

    “No, keep it. It may help you,” the bird creature wistfully gazed around into the gloom, “I was once known as the song of Forar, perhaps you may find your own song of hope elsewhere.”

    Cehtzo dipped his head in thanks and twisted a dial on the Old One device. He pressed a glyph stud and once more was enveloped in a bright light and was gone.

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

    Elsewhere.

    “Frak! He’s getting away! Emperor’s teeth, Jak! Can’t you run any faster?”

    The juve ganger replied with several jibes aimed at Kal’s parentage and something vaguely to do with removing parts of him via Ash Clams and maybe a pack of Sumpkrocs.

    Kal merely laughed and fired more las bolts at the scurrying lizard mutant that had appeared in their gambling den in a bright flash of light. The lizard mutant had hissed at them and gestured with its claws, until Mad Eric had declared that it was probably some kind of mutant Crotalid of legend and if they caught it, they’d be swimming in Thrones for years. Curiously the lizard mutant had seemingly understood what they had said and had taken off running.

    “I...almost...wish I was back at...that Hell-Pit...” Cehtzo panted to himself as he fled through tunnels of scrap metal and hissing pipes. Another bolt of red energy scorched a pipe above him as the humans chasing him fired again.

    “Animals...” Cehtzo hissed, “almost...as bad...as Skaven...”

    A jutting out piece of pipe caused the Skink Priest to trip. As he lurched forwards, his talons pressed several glyph studs.

    The two underhive gangers cried out in pain as they were blinded by a brilliant flash of light and found their prey had gone.

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

    Elsewhere.

    “Pass me another bottle of Snakepoison, Doc.”

    A skeletal figure wearing a large hat, mouldering shirt and trousers, and a gold etched six shooter covered in Khemrian glyphs sighed through bony teeth and passed the be-hatted Skink beside him another bottle of hard liquid.

    “Thanks Doc,” Eli-Nesz said and gave the slumbering bright furred Skaven to his other side a prod. He made to say something when there was a flash of brilliant light and a Skink Priest crashed across the saloon table, upsetting drinks and shattering bottles.

    Cehtzo rose from the wreckage to find several metal cylinders pointed at his head.

    “Think he’s one of the Underwriter’s other siblings?” growled a Dwarf, a red stick of dynamite in a meaty paw.

    “What-whatever he is, he woke-woke me up. I’ve gut-gutted fool-meat varmints for less,” the Skaven hissed, clicking the safety from the six and a half shooter in their paw. “Besides y’see that cube-thing? Scent-looks like something the Underwriter’s spawn-mates would have-have.”

    “Now, now” spoke Eli-Nesz, “I’m sure there’s a logical expla-”

    The Skink bounty hunter’s words were cut off by the timely crash of a piano through the ceiling above, throwing up a pall of dust.

    Amongst the dust cloud, Cehtzo ran even as the Skaven put several holes in wall where he had been.

    “Not again, Ti’Rakz!” came the cry of Eli-Nesz.

    “No...this place will not do at all,” Cehtzo whispered to himself as he took cover behind a barrel outside the saloon. He turned a dial on the Old One device and pressed the activation glyph once more, and vanished in a flash of bright light.

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

    Elsewhere

    The human city was old and broken. Stone walls had collapsed and sickly looking vegetation clawed at their remains. A broken statue of a human wielding a great warhammer lay in the street, his pitted and blank eyes glaring up at the skies above.

    Cehtzo wandered the dead city finding no sign of life. Eventually the sun began to set and the shadows lengthened and twisted. Twin moons rose into the sky, one a luminous white, the other a sickly green.

    “I...I am home,” Cehtzo spoke and yet something nagged at him, there was barely any taste of magic in the air, as if someone or something had cut off the winds of magic altogether.

    He was about to leave the dead city to wander into the cool darkness of the night when he suddenly felt a blade at his throat.

    “Ahhh...a child of Lustria...I thought-thought you all dead-dead when the ascension came...” the voice was old and very tired, and yet there was strength to the shadow’s whispered words.

    “No-no...you scent-smell different. Snee’s device act-actually worked then. There is magic about you, you are not-not from this world are you?”

    “No...” Cehtzo hissed back.

    “Ah,” spoke the shadow, “we can both squeak-understand each other. This is good.”

    The blade at Cehtzo’s throat was removed and he spun around to see the speaker. It was a Skaven cloaked in shadows, a trio of blades hung at his side, and he seemed astonishingly ancient for a ratman. Cehtzo was about to lift the cube device when he noticed in shock that his claw was empty. The Skaven studied the Old One device with ancient red eyes, before secreting it away within his cloak.

    “I’ll make-make you a deal-thing lizard-thing. My final mission is not-not yet complete. We Skaven...we ruined this surface-world. Cut-cut off magic, kill-slew everything, until so little remains. Af-after the ascension...we became nothing. The Horned Rat betrayed us and sought-sought the ruination of everything including us. The Seer Order and I shattered him, but the pieces are returning together once more. Help-aid me stop the final end-thing of this world...and you get your device-thing back.”

    “Your word means nothing, Skaven,” Cehtzo snarled.

    “Maybe, maybe not. You have-have little choice, lizard-thing. You can try-try to kill-slay me if you can. It will not-not work,” The shadow shrugged and beckoned Cehtzo to follow, “Scent-tell me of your world. The night-night is long and these old bones like-like a good tale.”

    Cehtzo ground his fangs and followed the Skaven into the darkness.

    Light and Darkness


    Something was moving. Diforek's Carnosaur swung its head around and the Scar-Veteran thrust his spear into the direction where he had seen the Gors, behind the ruins to the left. A unit of Saurus Knights charged around the remains of the old city wall and toward the Gors that had tried to flank them.
    The dark sky of Ulgu provided no source of light, but the Starpriests had enchanted the weapons carried by the warriors of the First, so they were all shining like torches in the darkness. Diforek was not always happy about it, since it allowed their enemies to spot them from a further distance but they needed to see what they were fighting, and where their allies were. He snorted. The Gors knew where they were anyway.



    Nothing was moving. Skink-Oracle Acanti wondered why the Slaaneshi troops did not use their mundane weapons to fight back. Instead they retreated more and more, while their wizards tried to counter the Slann's magic and cast their own spells. Except a few skirmishes there had not been much fighting, and the Seraphon force closed in on them from different sides.
    Acanti nodded with satisfaction and patted his Troglodon, the First had marched for three days but they were still fresh and ready to fight. It had paid off to live in the omnipresent glare of this part of Hysh for many human lifespans, the Seraphon had adjusted to the light and were not longer blinded by it. Most creatures of Chaos seemed to avoid it, so the First had been able to build significant fortifications here. But now they had come. An army of twisted abominations and the foolish mortals who were following in their footsteps, corrupted by their dark desires. They did not know what they were up against, and despite their dangerously large army they had come to a stop.



    A bolt of light passed him. The solar engines were firing at the next hill. They had been doing that for hours now, whenever the members of the Warherd launched another attack from there.
    The Scar-Veteran felt uneasy. There were too many enemies. The flying scouts had reported that the army on the other side of the hill was way larger than anticipated, and the enemy's main force was preparing to engage.
    Diforek looked over his shoulder to check on the Slann and his Saurus Guards. Lord Zelhua was still in the same position as hours before. It was risky, but his orders were clear: Stay in the old ruins and defend them. They had come to search for something, and obviously the Slann had found it. The Warherd had been driven back initially, surprised by the sudden arrival of the Seraphon. But the incursion into these lands, lands that the Beastmen called their own, had prompted a quick response, and soon the area was crawling with Gors of all sizes that tried to take back the herdstone in the middle of the ruined city.
    When the enemy forces eventually pushed forward the Saurus were ordered to retreat. Diforek himself managed to kill a few more enemies, but the seemingly endless hordes of Gors that flowed down the hill required the Saurus to retreat further back and concentrate their forces.
    While the next two units to their sides covered their retreat, Diforek had the chance to take another look at Lord Zelhua. The Slann was casting a spell now, moving his hands in complex patterns. The gemstones on his palanquin glowed brightly in the darkness of Ulgu.



    A shadow passed him. A cloud of dark magical energy, but Lord Quatzitoec had already began unbinding it, so the cloud never reached the unmoving lines of Saurus Warriors that secured the crystal plains and prevented the Chaos troops from escaping. It just vanished as if it had never existed.
    Acanti did not need to look around. He felt the Slann, who was still sitting on his palanquin and concentrating on the enemy. The bond was especially strong right now, because moments ago Lord Quatzitoec had cast a spell through Acanti. The amount of magical energy that a Slann could wield was unbelievable, even after all those years it felt like a torrent of magic would sweep Acanti away whenever the Slann channeled a spell through the Oracle.
    When the enemy forces were almost surrounded, they tried to push outward. The fighting picked up in intensity, but the Saurus and Skinks in the front line held their ground. Acanti once more felt the Slann cast a spell through him, it made him slump in his saddle, while a raging storm of fire and ice shook him. When it finally ebbed away he opened his eyes and looked at the enemy army again.



    A solid sphere of darkness appeared over the army of the First, right over the spot where the Herdstone had been. It was perfectly round, several paces in diameter, and it was of an even deeper darkness than the Ulgu sky already was. Swallowing all light, discomforting to look at, even to eyes used to Ulgu's darkness.
    The members of the Warherd did not care what it was, they charged at the Saurus' lines and soon Diforek had to turn around and face them. The real part of the battle had started.
    The Scar-Veteran looked back a few times, but nothing seemed to happen with the dark sphere.
    The Slann seemed to continue concentrating on it, but it did neither move, nor provide any noticeable effect on either the First or their enemies.

    Minutes passed.



    A solid sphere of light had appeared over the enemy army. It was perfectly round, several paces in diameter, and it was even brighter than the Hysh sky already was. Blinding, even to eyes used to Hysh's light.
    Acanti could see and feel the daemon casters frantically trying to dispell it, but the Slann maintained control through his Oracle.
    Otherwise nothing happened. Both the First and the enemy seemed to expect an explosion or some other kind of effect, but there was none.

    Minutes passed.



    Diforek's Carnosaur was as covered in gore as his spear, and while he was retreating back into his own lines to regroup once more, he again caught a glimpse of his lord.
    The Slann's Skink advisor started to look concerned as the Saurus moved back further and further. Lord Zelhua did not move, he stared at the sphere of darkness, his hands stretched out toward it, and otherwise did nothing.



    Acanti looked at the Saurus in the front lines. They were slowly driven back by the maniacally laughing daemons, and they were losing ground.
    The Slann's Skink advisor started to look concerned as the Saurus moved back further and further. Lord Quatzitoec did not move, he stared at the sphere of light, his hands stretched out toward it, and otherwise did nothing.



    Suddenly another sphere appeared next to the first one.
    It was of such an intense brightness that it seemed to fight the darkness of Ulgu itself in the environment, and the area around the two fighting armies took on a greyish tone.



    Suddenly another sphere appeared next to the first one.
    It was of such an intense darkness that it seemed to swallow up the light of Hysh itself, and the area around the two fighting armies took on a greyish tone.



    The two spheres started to swirl around each other, faster and faster, mixing into grey streaks and spiraling outwards from the Slann's position.
    They did not hurt the army of the First, but when they reached the enemy army, they cut down the Beastmen where they stood, grey lightning burning them and waves of thunder ripping them apart.



    The two spheres started to swirl around each other, faster and faster, mixing into grey streaks and spiraling outwards from their position over the enemy army. Immediately they tore into both daemons and mortals, and where they struck they cut down the Slaanesh troops where they stood, grey lightning burning them and waves of thunder ripping them apart.
    But when they reached the army of the First, they did not hurt the Saurus or Skinks.



    When the swirling spheres winked out of existence eventually, the enemy army was gone. Only a few stragglers were left, and the Saurus disposed of them.


    When the swirling spheres winked out of existence eventually, the enemy army was gone. Only a few stragglers were left, and the Saurus disposed of them.


    "Scar-Veteran?" one of Diforek's warriors asked him, "What was that?"
    "I don't know" Diforek replied.
    "It was some kind of ritual," their Starpriest interjected. But he looked puzzled as he continued. "I am pretty sure that Lord Zelhua only conjured the dark sphere, I don't know where the other one came from" he explained.
    Diforek shrugged. "We will never know I guess."



    "Oracle?" one of Acanti's Skinks asked him. "What was that?"
    "Lord Quatzitoec conjured the bright sphere, I could feel it. Then he just waited. I don't know where the other one came from" he explained.
    The Skink looked puzzled. "How did he know that the other would appear?"
    Acanti shrugged. "We will never know I guess."
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 1, 2021
    Noxolotl, Imrahil, Aginor and 4 others like this.
  2. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

    Messages:
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    We have a tie!
    since this time it was not a tie between three pieces, and given that in the past we already assigned double gold medal in case of a tie between two pieces, we will stick to it.
    The winners are: Killer Angel and Aginor!
    Thank you to everyone who entered and voted in this contest.

    Story One: "The Truth" by @thedarkfourth

    Story Two: "Call for the Old Ones" by @Imrahil

    Story Three: "The Future" by @Lizards of Renown

    Story Four: "Join the Army" by @Killer Angel

    Story Five: "The Sleeping Giant" by @Scalenex

    Story Six: "A Better World" by @Y'ttar Scaletail

    Story Seven: "Light and Darkness" by @Aginor
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2021
  3. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The story n. seven was presented to me with a certain formatting, that (in the moment ot this thread's creation) i wasn't able to mimic in a proper way.
    To bypass the problem, i've opted for colours... hope it will works the same and the author will be fine with my decision.


    That said, we have a rich crop of stories, with interactions between different lizardmen universes, between our universe and Lustria, and even with alternate / future dimensions.
    I'm certain you all will enjoy these as much as i did. :)
     
  4. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    Woohoo lets read :bookworm::bookworm:

    Grrr, Imrahil
     
  5. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Thank you for taking over @Killer Angel (give the guy some likes people). I am finishing up with my unusual circumstance this week, so I can resume hosting these things in the future.

    In a couple weeks, we'll start the Winter poetry contest, so don't get complacent writers!
     
  6. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    Kudos to the mighty @Killer Angel for stepping up to the plate and hosting the contest this time! :)

    Grazie mille!
     
  7. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Note, if you format something in a Word Document (or any other document) and send it as an attached file to the moderator facilitating a contest, you might lose the formatting (or you might not, I'm not sure what the rules are).

    But if you format in the private message rather than an attach a document. The formatting will not be lost.
     
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  8. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    The bonus is that, for once, this time you will be able to enjoy all the stories without knowing who wrote what. ;)
     
  9. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    This is true, I can have fun making some guesses. Some of the regulars have very distinctive fingerprints.

    I will write guesses down and reveal my guesses after the author identities are revealed.

    Just out of curiosity, do we have any first time entrants? I'm guessing no, because except for Tlacnatal the Observer, new authors usually ask a few questions or make some chatter before throwing their hat in the ring.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2021
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  10. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

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    Yay!
    Reading now!
     
  11. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    You've guessed right.
     
  12. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    Did my first scan through and I'm pleased to see that my theme has come out with some very interesting takes.

    Great work guys.
     
  13. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

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    Me too. I just finished reading through all of them. Some fun (and weird) stuff in there, as it should be.

    The main problem with the crossover stories is when you don't know the thing the story crosses over with, so I am kinda glad not everyone took that route.
     
  14. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

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    I've written a few short sentences about each story but I'll wait a bit with posting them.
     
  15. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

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    Ok a few days have passed so here are a few thoughts about each story so far:

    1: The Truth
    This is a 9th age / WHFB crossover.
    I know nothing about 9th age so I probably have missed some nuances.
    It fits the theme nicely and I like the conflict between the two Saurus, both on the personal and philosophical level. Sad that it ends a bit abruptly, I would have liked to explore that a bit more.

    2: Call for the Old Ones
    Interesting! This is real life and Warhammer. The planes that get lost and wind up in the Warhammer world are a real flight that got lost in the Bermuda Triangle in December 1945
    https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_19
    There is a bit of grammatical weirdness now and then, but the mood in the Lizardmen scenes more than makes up for it. Cool story!

    3: The Future
    This one is kinda grimdark. But also funny. I laughed out loud when the tinfoil, ugh, I mean: eggshell hat Skink was described.
    A Skink that is a Tzeentch follower. Weird. But I like the twist ending.
    It interprets the theme in another way. We have parallel timelines (even though all of them are fake I guess?). The language looks very nice on this one, the text flows smoothly. I like it a lot.


    4: Join the Army.
    This is another slightly silly one, as crossovers with the real world tend to be.
    The red/blue pill thing is a bit overused, but it fits the tone. I just wondered... James didn't take one, did he?
    Some minor hiccups on some words but otherwise the language is fine. The end is hilarious.
    A fun story.



    5: The Sleeping Giant
    I fear I am lacking a bit of knowledge to understand this one. There is a lot going on there, though!
    There are Dwarfs and Goblins and Lizardmen who dig out old stuff.
    They eventually find some golem and activate it, it seems. But it attacks them.
    Sadly I don't see how it fits the theme, possibly because I am missing something.
    Minor errors in the language, nothing severe. I really like the term "Milk-drinker" as an insult for mammals.


    6: A Better World
    This one starts dramatic! The Slann dead, the pyramid overrun by Skaven. It looks dire.
    Then we have the Skink finding the remote control and a fantastical yet somewhat confusing journey through parallel universes follows.
    The universal translator thing was a bit goofy IMO but the rest was pretty cool. We have Necromunda(?) and 40k and Dwarves and a friendly rat?
    I admit that I am a bit lost, like the poor Skink.
    I dig the descriptions of the scenes in this one though.

    7: Light and Darkness
    This one takes the theme of parallels _very_ literally.
    We have two parallel stories (you can read each one without the other) in Ulgu and Hysh and things happen in both. They are the same and yet they aren't. In fact some things are reversed, you might call them anti-parallel.
    Hysh and Ulgu, Light and darkness, nothing moves and something moves, the Seraphon attack and defend, a Skink and a Saurus, one looks back, one doesn't, a shadow passes the Skink and a light passes the Saurus. Each paragraph mirrors the one from the other realm.
    In the end they merge into one, and the Slann saves the day. The end is a bit generic but that's how the Slann often roll.
    An interesting concept.
     
  16. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    I am done reading and my votes are in. I loved reading all of them. Interesting to see how everybody took the theme :)

    Here are my words of review:

    The start of the story was a little unclear for me, the similarity between the stone cold ‘Lizardmen’ and Finite Order. I liked how the Lizardmen never lost the control of the situation and turn it all around in a climax to dominate the main character.
    The Slann rules the world and not only his own.

    In the beginning I struggled to understand the events happening in the parallel dimension. The scenes happening in Lustria are described nicely. The gist of the story seems to be either of two things. The humans are ‘called’ by accident to Lustria or the humans are the real Old Ones the Lizardmen worship?
    Interesting take, but the story could do with a little bit more context.

    This story intrigued me. Following our protagonist to figure out what the future holds for him and his kin. It does not become clear what it is that he is afraid of to take this step.
    I loved the characterization and scenic description in this story. I had a good chuckle from the funny looking Skink Priest. The turn was very unexpected and set the whole scene in a different light. Great story.

    Another crossover between the current world and Warhammer. A very interesting and fun take on the theme. Really good to incorporate the hobby aspect in the story, I like that. At first I thought it was a vision to show what really happens in the Warhammer world when tourneys are played. The turn of the protagonist actually passed away and crossed over to a Skinks body was surprising, but genius!
    Lovely story, well written.

    Ah, our Westhammer story entry for this competition.
    The style of the story is great, it read very well. The addition of a little Chaos Dwarf sauce made it even more interesting. I liked the build up of the story and the scenic setting.
    The only problem I have with the story is the take on the theme. I find it hard to read a parallel dimension in to the story (unless the writer claims Westhammer is the parallel dimension, but that would be cheap)

    This story ticks the theme with spades. Parallel dimension after parallel dimension. I like how the surroundings of all of them are set up. Very well described, I almost felt what the main character was touching and undergoing. The ending of the story seemed abrupt and open ended. I would love to know how this story continued.

    This is an interesting take on the theme and one I really like. The opposites and alikeness of both battles. I like how the story turned to a cooperation of both the Slanns to a total victory of Seraphon across Realms. Somewhat of a surprise feelgood story.


    Grrr, Imrahil
     
  17. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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  18. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

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    Yes we need more reviews!
     
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  19. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    @Killer Angel can you provide us with your thoughts on the pieces?

    Grrr, Imrahil
     
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  20. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    I'm very busy but i'll do it. ;)
     
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