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Contest October-November Short Story Contest Voting Thread

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, Nov 9, 2023.

?

Which story or stories did you like best (You may choose up to TWO)

Poll closed Dec 1, 2023.
  1. Story One: "Flight of the Star Amulet"

    1 vote(s)
    12.5%
  2. Story Two: "Up Unto God"

    4 vote(s)
    50.0%
  3. Story Three: "Of Wood and Whispers"

    4 vote(s)
    50.0%
  4. Story Four: "Strife in Argent Pass"

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Story Five: "An Unlikely Father"

    3 vote(s)
    37.5%
  6. Story Six: "A Different Place and Time"

    4 vote(s)
    50.0%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    The theme for our 36th seasonal short story contest, provided by Y'ttar Scaletail, was "Stranger in a Strange Land"

    Please read all six stories carefully before voting. You may vote for only TWO stories.

    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 two or three errant sentences.

    Happy reading everyone! Let the commentary, critiques and gushing praise begin.

    Flight of the Star Amulet


    Twelve terradons glided silently above the long abandoned star road. Five blue with green markings, six green with darker green stripes, and Chothan, green with blue markings passably mimicking the first five. It was remarkable that Chothan could now morph his colours. He had somehow learned things from his chameleon rider Tzlatoc. Tzlatoc matched the spawning colours of the other riders. No such thing as being too careful.


    They had one more gate to go.


    The gates along the star roads activated when someone bearing the amulet approached them. Sometimes they were marked with a plaza on the ground or with a pair of pillars. There was always some monument marking their general location. All his wingmen needed to do was tighten up formation as Chothan led them through. They’d lost one terradon rider already, but Tzlatoc thought he’d just been left behind for being too wide on the flank. The leagues had flashed away and they had nearly reached the Western Mountains.


    One last gate . . .


    And then the were through. And they were still twelve. The star road carried on up to a city lodged in the mountains. That last league they flew by wing and not by magic. They spread out a little once over its precincts. It was crumbling, it was overgrown, there was some snow cover, and it was abandoned. The City of Mists. The flight made its way to what was left of the tallest pyramid temple.


    From here Tzlatoc would go on alone.


    His escorts set up camp, while their flight leader got his instructions: Wait a fortnight, then they were to make their way back to their home city if Tzlatoc failed to return by then. Hold this position until then, and deal with any threats that cropped up.


    Now it was time to brave the portal.


    There was a giant hoop of stone atop this pyramid. Tzlatoc’s mission was to fly through it, alone. Again the amulet would activate it, and he and Chothan should vanish. When they were ready they launched out away from the pyramid and circled it a few times. His riders had made their camp on a platform near the top. Tzlatoc noted the city did have a few inhabitants —shaggy mountain goats— which ought to provide his riders sustenance while they waited. At a signal, Chothan turned more sharply to line up with the hoop. They flew right into it, and at the last second . . .


    Chothan snapped his wings shut to clear the sides.


    They exited over a mountain of odd purple-mauve rock. It looked much like the mountain The City of Mists was built against. Tzlatoc looked behind them and beheld an identical hoop of rock set on a ridge below the summit. He had Chothan circle so he could fix this spot in his mind. He’d need to navigate back to here. Then they set off toward what felt like the North. Past six peaks were the instructions. There was cloud streaming through these mountains; he was flying above the cloud deck; the peaks that were his waypoints pierced the clouds like the vast claws of some impossibly big scaly beast, dividing it into separate streams that flowed East. Out to the West, where the clouds must be forming, he could see a deep purple sea.


    This was a strange land.


    It felt new, the mountains looked new. They were sharp and rugged, not so worn by time, and bright in colour unlike he grey-ish ones he’d left behind. The sky above had a lavender tinge to it, instead of blue. Below, out to the East, he could see the lands below and they were not the expected greens of the jungle. There was green, in places, but the vegetation far below contained an absolute riot of colours.


    He was almost at his destination now.


    He paused the journey, commanding Chothan to alight on the shoulder of the sixth peak. Number seven was very different. On its Eastern shoulder there was a tower, a stupendous, impossible tower. Its footings were wreathed in the cloud deck. Its highest pinnacle exceeded the height of the summit of the peak it was built on. It gleamed like marble or alabaster in the sunlight.


    And it had a guardian.


    There was a great winged beast circling the structure. Orbiting slowly but endlessly. It resembled a Dread Saurian with wings. Tzlatoc decided he needed to time a few orbits. Also, Chothan needed some coaching. He had begun to shift back to his natural coloration, green with red splotches and veining. Tzlatoc began thinking about what his steed would look like if the red was grey and all that green could fade away to white. He stroked Chothan’s shoulder, fed him the last of their Harkleberries, and only looked at his wings occasionally. Tzlatoc went entirely cloud white, to set an example. He waited patiently, for this last leg of flying would be down in those clouds. After berry number eight, last one in the bag, it was done—and very well too. A pale terradon, speckled grey, and his white rider set off—gently swooping into the top fringes of the clouds. Two strangers in a strange land.


    Chothan and Tzlatoc to the Bright Tower came.

    Up Unto God

    The stranger came among us at first light, the morning after the silver ship was seen in the northern skies. He came slowly over the hills leaning on a stick, for he was injured, and greatly wearied. We had not seen his like before, and he could not understand our tongue. We made him welcome and gave him warm broth. For many days he rested, and slowly regained his strength. Great was his curiosity about our people, and he attended to all we did and said. Soon he was able to speak to us, and we asked his name, and whereof he came. "Far from this place," said he, but would say no more.

    Many were his questions - he asked of the heavens, and the seasons and the spirits of the land, like one not of this world. Most particularly he asked about our people, and our nature. "Is yours the only proto-mammalian sapient species on this planet?" he asked, and we could not understand his words. We told him of the urkommites, who dwelt in the western mountains, the siljarons of the swamp, and the kymnobies who come south with winter. His interest was greatly aroused, and he scratched at a strange device, leaving marks that only he could understand.

    When we could answer no more of his questions, the stranger thanked us, and departed. The following year, he came again, once more weary from travel, his clothing ragged, his body scarred and dirty. But his eyes gleamed bright, and when he had taken food and drink, he told us of his travels across the world. "This planet is full of wonders," he said. "Can you credit it? I have been all across the land, and nowhere have I suffered violence or endured any form of assault. It is all most extraordinary."

    He bade us help him with a work he described as being of great importance. He took some of our able-bodied people to the coast, where we found the silver ship we had seen one year before, lying in a state of ruin. Under his direction, we laboured to repair a vital portion of this machine, so that the stranger could communicate with his people.

    When it was done, we asked if he would leave our world when his people came for him. He laughed at our question and said that he would not, for it was our world he loved, and he purposed to stay here for many years. Why then were his people coming, we asked. And he told us of a great project, a great enemy he called Chaos, and how our world represented the perfect weapon against this tremendous threat. We were much afraid, but he soothed us, saying:

    "Fear not, for we will shape your world into a shield that alone among the vasty cosmos can stand against the Great Corruption. It will take much labour, but here only can it be done. A few changes may be necessary, but any hardship will be worth the cost. First we will need portal gates. For that we must shift a few continents towards the poles, a work that I surmise can be undertaken by a sufficiently magic-attuned slann caste, much like those we have bioengineered on other planets. They require a tropical climate that does not yet pertain here, so we must first reduce the planet's orbital distance. That work will soon commence."

    We marveled at his words and asked each other what they portended. His countenance showed only joy, so his proposal was surely one that would bring happiness and prosperity. We asked what part we might have in his project, and his gladness increased yet further.

    "Your role shall be greatest of all. From you we shall shape the strong and noble species we have long sought to create: those capable of resisting Chaos itself. Of course there are other peoples on this world who are less desirable, but that is easily dealt with. We will give you a new tool with which to remedy the situation, one which you will surely need for many millennia to come."

    And so we asked what tool he would give us with so mighty a purpose.

    And the stranger told us, "War".

    Of Wood and Whispers

    “Be careful out there,” Hilya implored her twin brother, her hands firmly gripping his wrists, “don’t get yourself into trouble like you always do.”

    “I won’t. I promise! I’ll be back before you know it,” Yestril replied. “Sir Liadon said it’ll only be a day’s journey. A quick scout if you will. Besides, we will be having Quaru’uul and Yax’keldan with us.”

    Hilya let go of Yestril’s arms to turn and look at the two lizardmen sitting on a few crates behind her while they were sharpening their great axes. She put a lock of hair behind her pointed ear and let out a worrisome sigh.

    “They know their way around woodlands like these,” Yestril added. “I’ve heard Quaru say Yax has slain owlbears before.”

    Hilya chuckled as a loud voice suddenly interrupted their conversation.

    “All who agreed upon joining me on today’s journey gather your necessary equipment. I want to be leaving at a moment’s notice!” Sir Liadon's voice echoed through the campsite as he tugged on the straps of his knee-high leather boots.

    Both lizardmen stood up and made their way to the waiting elven man. A stout and muscular human in his late forties joined the group shortly after, as he secured the last piece of equipment to his backpack. Yestril sharply inhaled and started striding through the still-dewy grass toward the scouting party. He stopped halfway to look back at Hilya, who smiled at him.

    “Don’t go around bothering owlbears, Yestril! I want you back in one piece preferably!” she exclaimed.

    “No promises!” He replied with a smirk.

    Yestril swiftly joined the group as it had already begun walking towards the tree line of the imposing forest.

    “You ready, kid?” The human asked with a grin on his face.

    “Ready as can be, Ralm.”


    _____________________________________________________________________


    For the first moments of their trek, the group walked in a straight line through the woods. Yestril happily took advantage of the fact that he could still see their campsite as he took turns looking at his boots and back over his shoulder every couple of steps, causing him to trip over several tree roots. After losing his balance for the seventh time in ten minutes the group halted and looked back at Yestril. Liadon sighed as he turned around and continued walking. Ralm got to one knee and helped Yestril to his feet.

    “You ought to be more careful, kid. These woods can be dangerous. We don’t want ya trippin’ over the edge of some cliffside and breaking y’ neck.”

    “Yeah… I’m sorry Ralm.” Yestril groaned as he dusted the dirt off his trousers. He stood upright and looked back one more time before he continued following alongside the group. He frowned. He took another glance to his left and right. He could not see the campsite anymore nor did he recognize any sign of a beaten path in his vicinity.

    “I could have sworn we had been walking in a straight line all this time…” he whispered to himself. “I… I must have missed a turn or two,” he added, shaking his head and waving away his thoughts, before joining the rest of the group once again.

    The further inwards the group travelled the more grandiose the scenery around them became. Where at first the lizardmen had to regularly duck to evade low-hanging branches, the canopy now raised several tens of metres above their heads. Their path through the dense ferns and low-growing foliage was accompanied by sporadic and faint rays of sunlight peeking through the canopy. Yestril tried estimating their time spent walking since they had left their campsite by trying to observe the altitude of the sun. However, he couldn’t see the sun through the abundant branches and leaves. What’s more, every part of the sky above him that met his gaze never seemed blue like he would expect it to be. Its colours varied from orange hues to deep set indigo as if the forest was encompassed in an everlasting twilight.

    “Gods, Hilya, I wish you were here to see this,” He thought to himself.

    Yestril looked ahead at the two lizardmen walking side by side, talking amongst themselves, occasionally pointing at a piece of flora. He smiled and continued his journey in silent awe for all the spectacles around him.


    _____________________________________________________________________


    It was not long before the densely-covered forest floor made way for what looked to be an open field. The grassland went on for at least hundreds of metres before finally meeting the treeline again on the other side of the hilly field. The group drew up to the border of this opening in the canopy and seemingly awaited some sort of verdict from Sir Liadon.

    “This scenery here is called a glade, gentlemen,” He explained, leading the group onto the grass field. “Perhaps this is a fitting place to take a halt and rest a bit.”

    Yestril followed Liadon onto the glade looking down at the ground covered in mesmerising white flowers. As he kneeled to take a closer look, a cold sensation hit his neck. He shuddered and wiped the wetness from his neck while looking at the sky. As if mirroring the glade below his feet, the sky above his head was filled with thousands upon thousands of snowflakes.

    “Is that… is that snow..?” He caught himself saying it out loud.

    “This is rarer than a lizard in a library..!” Ralm blurted out. “Isn’t it supposed to be another five full moons before this shite comes falling from the skies again?” He muttered, rubbing his hands across his arms.

    Quaru’uul and Yax’keldan gave each other a silent look before deciding it was best to stay silent and make it back to camp without unnecessary casualties.

    “I suppose we could rest underneath the surrounding trees instead of here on the open glade,” Sir Liadon stated, also looking caught off guard by the sudden snowfall during this time of year.

    They all gathered underneath the trees again and sought out a rock formation that allowed them to take a seat comfortably for just long enough to finish a short meal. Ralm set down his backpack and opened it. He was about elbow-deep in his bag before rapidly pulling his hand out again, letting out a shout and walking two steps backward before falling on his backside. The rest of the group looked at Ralm and slowly traced his glance back to the bag, which was lying on its side now. It was the stench that hit Yestril’s senses before anything else. The strong odour of spoiled meats mixed with a fume that could only be described as malignant penetrated his nostrils as he saw mouldy bread and rotten fruits roll out of the bag, covered in what looked to be maggots and grubs. Yestril gagged.

    “Leave the sack here. It is of no use to us now. We’ll hunt something down along the way,” Liadon commanded, already having stood up and walked away from the mess.

    Ralm looked at Quaru'uul and Yax’keldan in confusion before standing up, quickly dusting off his hands and following the elf.


    _____________________________________________________________________


    In the following hours, the peaceful woodlands gradually made way for more treacherous swamplands. Unlike in the glade - which seemed to be in a permanent state of cold - the air surrounding the travellers in these swamplands was hot and dense and filled with an ever-present mist dancing around their boots, seemingly knowing every next footfall. Soon after the group found themselves wading through murky water reaching Yestril’s and Ralm’s waistline. With every step they made, the muddy floor seemed to grasp at their ankles trying to drag them under the water’s surface.

    “Ow! Daggers! I think something bit me..!” Ralm shouted.

    “Are you alright?” Yestril asked, trying to turn around to face him but unable due to the muddy swamp floor.

    “I’m fine. I’m fine. Just keep walkin’. The sooner we’re out of this shitehole the better.”

    It wasn’t very long after they had left the murky waters behind them before Ralm suddenly sat down against a tree.

    “Are you alright Ralmavir?” Liadon asked.

    “Barkin’ spiders man, my legs are crampin’. Feels like whatever stung me down there is makin’ my joints lock up or somethin’,” he groaned.

    The group looked at him with concern.

    “Well don’t just stand there! Help me get my boots off! I can’t bend my knees!” he shouted.

    Quaru’uul handed his axe to Yax’keldan and rushed over to release Ralm from his footwear revealing his foot underneath. To everyone’s shock, his entire leg was covered in bark and fungi as if it had been part of the surrounding forest for years. Silence filled the air for what felt like an eternity.

    “Go on without me,” Ralm whispered with his eyes closed, breaking the silence. “In hopes you find your damned acorns!” He shouted, slamming his fist to the ground. Sir Liadon sighed.

    “Stay with him Quaru’uul. Tend to his wounds as best you can. We’ll foregather on our return to camp.”

    The lizardmen shared a glance before Quaru’uul nodded and started lifting the legs of Ralm’s trousers.

    “Will you be okay, Ralm?” Yestril quietly asked.

    “Just make sure it's not all for nil, kid. Maybe those dumb artefacts Liadon wants to find in this forsaken forest can save whatever the hell this is.” He grunted, pointing at his legs.


    _____________________________________________________________________


    The following part of the journey was quiet. Not the comfortable kind. Since Ralm’s incident, Yestril had become extremely suspicious of every thorny branch he encountered. The remaining three travellers stopped for a second as Sir Liadon gestured to do so. He frowned at his compass - which had been spinning in circles for a while now - trying to discern where to go next. Yestril heard the rustling of leaves in front of him and skittishly looked up. He stayed perfectly still with his eyes darting around from the canopy to the forest floor. Nothing. No movement among the trees. No beast nor man in sight. However, the winds had picked up. Making the whole forest seem to dance and sway.

    “It must’ve been the wind then, right?” he tried explaining to himself.

    He turned around to check the surroundings behind him. He looked at the ground as he saw that the swamp’s mist had caught up with them, crawling ever so slowly over the dirt below their feet. He kneeled to try and feel the dampness of the swamp in the mist. It was cold to the touch. He watched as the mist slowly trailed up his arms. The winds picked up again, stronger this time. Yestril kept his gaze to the branches above trying to ascertain whether the howling came from the trees or a creature in the distance. The mist had wrapped itself around his arm, all the way up to his shoulder as Yestril heard a whisper.

    “Yesss… stril…”

    Yestril shot straight up to his feet and looked at Yax’keldan in fear. The lizardman looked back seemingly not having heard the same thing Yestril had. Yax’keldan carried a stern look on his face Yestril has always known him to have. A chill went down Yestril’s spine.

    “Gods, Hilya, I wish you were here,” he whispered.

    After Liadon had given up on his compass and had chosen a direction out of pure desperation, the three walked in silence through the howling winds. The forest around grew denser with every step they set forth.

    “Yax, would you mind clearing the way for us? I do not want us getting caught up in venomous vines or constricting roots.” Liandon pointed at the flora in front of them.

    Yax’keldan tightened his grip around his axe and started slashing away at the greenery. Until he suddenly stopped. He stood upright with his scaly nostrils in the air.

    “Is there a creature nearby? Yax?! What did you s-”

    Yax'keldan abruptly put his hand up gesturing to Liandon to stop talking. Yax'keldan then slowly made his way through the greenery to his right until he was no longer in Yestril’s sight.

    “Should we-”

    “Stay here,” Liandon quietly interrupted Yestril.

    Moments passed. A few twigs snapped in the distance. Then silence. Yestril had never really heard Yax’keldan speak before, which made the following that much more terrifying.

    “RUN!”

    Yax’keldan’s voice echoed through the woods followed by the sound of bones breaking and a painful roar. Yestril looked fearfully at Liadon in hopes of hearing the next logical steps to pursue. Liandon stood up, looking as distraught as Yestril, frantically looking for a way to escape the green maze, as an arrow dug itself perfectly into his left eye socket. Liandon hit the ground with a dull thud before Yestril’s eyes. He had to cover his mouth to not let out a yelp of horror. Yestril started crawling as fast as he could, back the way they came. Only to discover that the ground he was crawling on was littered with skulls and bones.

    After crawling for what must have been an hour he found the courage to get on his feet and ran for what felt like another hour. He stopped to lean against a tree and looked back at the forest behind him. The trees were swaying more than he remembered. The winds howled.

    “Gods… Hilya…” he muttered, right before passing out.


    _____________________________________________________________________


    Woken up by the warmth of sunlight hitting his face, Yestril sat himself straight up against the tree. He rubbed his eyes and the back of his head. He looked at his surroundings. This was not the tree he passed out next to.

    “This… this is where Ralm helped me on my feet. This very morning!” he thought to himself.

    He hastily hoisted himself up on two feet as quickly as he could while not passing out again. He quickly glanced around looking for any other surrounding details his memory could cling to. And there it was. In a straight line through the leaves and branches. Within eyeshot. The campsite.

    There she sat. Close to the tree line. Almost exactly in the same place, Yestril had seen her last.

    “Hilya!” he shouted, running straight out of the woods. She looked up with a confused expression on her face.

    “Yestril? Did you forget s-?”

    “Gods, Hilya, I’m happy to see you. I thought I’d never see you again.” A tear rolled down Yestril’s cheek.

    “Yestril…






    You’ve been gone for 5 minutes.”

    Strife at Argent Pass



    The skinks Yuqal’cho-ax and Kai’ax exited the gunsmith’s shop

    “The gunsmith tried to bilk us on our ammo just because we are Rangos. said we were strangers and couldn’t be trusted.” Kai’ax grumbled


    “Everyone’s a stranger here, this whole damn town didn’t at all before the big silver strike.” Yuqal’cho-ax said.

    “We were here first, the milk drinkers are the strangers here—”


    The skinks stopped talking and turned their head at the sound of breaking glass down the street.

    They ran to see the source of the noise and found they were not the only one. Many humans of varied garb, some goblins, and an elf were all gawking at the bruised and bleeding orc defenestrated from the local saloon surrounded by glass shards.

    An mustached human wearing a clean brown vest and holding a razor exited the barber’s shop across the dusty street.

    “See, that’s why I said buying them glass windows was a plum bad idea.”

    He tapped his own wooden shutters, chuckling and went back inside to finish shaving his customer.

    The orc was dazed and confused for a bit at all the people staring at him.

    “AAARRRRGGGH, I ain’t no cheat!” the orc roared before balling up his fists and rushing back into the saloon.

    “Still want a drink?” Yuqal’cho-ax asked.


    “We bought got all our supplies. What else is there to do in town? Let’s go bend an elbow.” Kai’ax replied.


    As they neared the saloon the dwarf barkeep was herding out a trio of orcs by brandishing a rifle at them.


    As the orcs reluctantly made their way out, the aproned dwarf turned towards the skinks and raised his eyebrows suspiciously.


    Kai’ax returned the stare and jingled his coins.


    “You’ll need money to replace the window after that little fuss, and we are thirsty. We hear you got the boss whiskey here.”


    The dwarf nodded curtly, not wanting to deny the quality of his whisky. The skinks occupied the card strewn table the orcs vacated from.


    “The tension in here is thicker than dough.” Yuqal’cho-ax said softly in the Saurian tongue.


    The saloon was quite crowded, but every drinking group was positioned to maximize distance from each other. Everyone eyed the other tables suspiciously. The feathered lizards got the dragon’s share of the hostile stares. By this point in their lives, the skinks were too used to this reception to care.


    The bought a bottle of whiskey, and Kai’ax downed a glass and licked his lipped, satisfied.


    “This is boss. Smooth fire.”


    While no one other than staff talked to them, the two Skinks were good eaves droppers and over the next few hours, learned that Argent Pass had become a powder keg.


    Estalians and Kislevite settlers were accusing each other of poaching livestock, the mining foremen and quartermasters were having ongoing arguments on who was embezzling whom, and the greenskins were getting in more fights with each other and the other races than usual. Lots of accusations of theft and denials of theft.


    “We better high tail it before someone accuses us of nicking something.” Yuqal’cho-ax said.


    The two skinks got up to leave. As if on a cue, a large ugly human pushed the saloon doors open angrily and shouted. “Those Rangos just stole my bronco!”


    “We were here for almost three hours! We didn’t take nothing you mush-head.” Kai’ax said.

    “Lying lizards, I’ll gut you and tan your hides inta boots!” the human replied.


    Kai’ax had a hand on his pistol. Yuqal’cho began calling up the energy for a spell. Then a thin human black seemed to come from no where and interjected himself between the accusing human and the lizards.


    “No, this is pointless Strife,” said the stranger.

    “These two haven’t been near a horse since they stabled their mounts. They have just been buying wares and such.” He continued.


    “He’s been watching us?” Kai’ax muttered softly in Saurian.


    “Besides, even the most broken horses won’t accept a Rango on their back, that’s why they ride those giant prairie chickens,” said the dark clad human.

    “Maybe the lizards wanted were hungry and wanted meat,” the ugly human accused.


    The dark stranger flashed something shiny from his pocket and the big human flinched and he made the sign of Sigmar and then nodded fearfully. The dark clad human spoke again.


    “Something is up, you are going to take me where your horse disappeared from,”

    “Yes, inquisitor sir.”


    The dark stranger turned to the skinks and pointed at them. They vaguely recognized his badge for the Order of the Silver Hammer.


    “You. You will help me track.” The human said.

    “Just because we’re Rangos doesn’t mean we know how to track.” Yuqal’cho-ax said.

    “Do you know how to track?” the inquisitor asked.

    I can” Kai’ax said.


    The dark man whistled and fur clad elf, a stocky human miner who could have passed for a dwarf if he wasn’t shaved came towards them, and a middle aged man with a faded Confederate insignia on his jack all got up from a table and haded towards the inquisitor. All three were armed and looking expectantly at the inquisitor.


    “These three need to clear their names. Together we will end Strife in this town.”


    The four disparate humans, the elf and the two Rangos departed together, eying each other suspiciously the whole way.


    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    The ground was hard, but Kai’ax had very sharp eyes. The odd makeshift party followed Kai’ax as he the light trail hoofprints from the ugly human’s barn.


    An hour and a half later, they saw in the moonlight what looked like the silhouette of a skink in a trench coat scuttling about a dead horse killing it.


    “I knew it!” said the ugly human who the skinks had since learned was named Brendan.


    “I thought we were a hundred miles from the nearest settlement of our kind,” Kai’ax said.


    “Something’s wrong.”


    The humans opened fire with their irons, followed a moment later by the elf. At this range most of the shots hit air but two or three hit their mark and the figure dropped.


    The party closed in. They saw three bullet holes in his trench coat. The elf spoke first.


    “I don’t see any blood…”


    The bullet ridden skink stood up and grinned in a way Lizardmen do not normally grin. The strange skink’s eyes glowed with a sinister red light. He fired a pistol into the chest of the inquisitor and the stocky miner.


    A metallic sound rang when the inquisitor’s chest plate was shot. He was not seriously hurt but still knocked on his back. The miner just bled, he would die soon and it couldn’t be helped.


    The rest of the party pulled their guns and opened fire. At this range it was hard to miss, but the evil figure shrugged off the bullets like mosquitos as his Rango features melted off like wax revealing the red skin and wiry frame of a vaguely humanoid daemon.


    It discarded the tattered remains of his trench coat, the bullet holes were already closing on their own accord. The creature leapt high into the air, landing over twenty feet away from its attackers.


    “You cannot stop me with your pitiful weapons!” the daemon hissed.


    “It is Strife” the inquisitor whispered.


    Yuqal’cho-ax tried to call on his magic but the daemon seemed to be hindering his ability to tap into the winds of magic. “I have silver bullets,” the inquisitor said while standing up and drawing a second pistol. He fired twice. He hit the daemon once in the ankle and the daemon and it bled oily black blood in a wound that didn’t close. Then the inquisitor pulled the trigger a third time with a clicking sound.

    Despite being wounded, the daemon still moved surprisingly fast disappearing over the crest of a hill.


    The skink priest turned to the inquisitor sharply.


    “We are three damn silver mines and you only have TWO silver bullets!” he asked incredulously.

    “How many silver bullets did you see at the local general store. By the by, the local gunsmith is a swindler and a cheat. I can’t count on him to make me silver bullets,” the human said.

    “Ain’t that the truth? At least he is leaving an easy trail.” Kai’ax said pointing to the thick droplets of oily blood.


    “How we are going to bring him down with lead belchers?” asked the elf.

    “He fed on the conflict of the town, but it’s not a bottomless well. He’s not invincible, we just need to hit him several times to wear out his healing power.” the inquisitor explained.

    “We need to all put a bullet in him at the same time.” Yuqal’cho-ax said.

    “Why?” asked Brendan.

    “Because we would be overcoming our strife.”


    It was hours before they caught up again to the daemons, but they managed to catch up to him. The daemon fired as they neared by he missed and apparently for all his unnatural power and cunning, he was using an ordinary gun and only carried six rounds on him. His fingers extended into claws and the daemon snarled.


    The inquisitor took command.


    “On three!”
    “THREE!”


    The party all fired.


    As the bullets struck home, the daemon shuddered violently and melted into the midnight shadows on the ground leaving nothing but some tattered cloth, an empty pistol, and a sack of pilfered items.


    I’ll be baaaaacck…” hissed a voice from the shadows.

    An Unlikely Father


    Billowing smoke clouded the skies as fires smoldered on in the ruined village below. Not a single house nor structure remained unscathed from the horrific damage; all of them were reduced to mere rubble that gave middling hints to their former glory.

    It was here that Gor-Rok, the Great White Lizard stood as still as a statue, where the stench of death overwhelmed the burnt ash that lingered in the air.

    He was sent by the Slann, in all their wisdom, to the empire of man-spawn whereupon his objectives were to deter the ever-growing beastmen attacks and raids into human territory. He was successful most of the time, as their rampaging herds fled from the field in his wake, and their countless monsters laid defeated at his feet. He soon garnered a terrifying reputation, one that the hooved beasts trembled from.

    But given the scenery, it seemed Gor-Rok failed this time.

    He was about to leave, until he heard a barely audible whining cry out near him. It seemed the source of that noise was beneath the rubble, muffled but nevertheless desperate in its cry.

    Gor-Rok effortlessly lifted chunks of wood and stone, until his bestial eyes met the scared and frightened eyes of a human child. Their soft face was blemished from many bruises and scrapes as blood ran freely from their wounds.

    Gor-Rok stood there remaining silent as did the human child, completely unsure of himself. He was a creature entirely bred for war and ripping his enemies mercilessly apart, not for what had now confronted him.

    Regardless, Gor-Rok scooped the wounded human child into his large arms without a word, and as if he acted on instinct alone, he rushed off to where he originally came from — where help could be.

    As he went, the child quietly said something that only added to Gor-Rok’s confusion. “Father,” the frail child said to him before closing their eyes out of sheer exhaustion.

    And as Gor-Rok hurriedly left behind his Shield of Aeons and Mace of Ulumak to carry the weak little thing, he didn’t know what to think about this new title given to him he never heard before.


    ***


    In the imperial city of Norden, Gor-Rok was told by the humans that the child he rescued was nursed back to full health, but became so traumatized from the ordeal that they’ve forgotten most of their past, except their murdered family. Gor-Rok could never relate with this young child, and yet, he still felt a sense of responsibility to stay by their side. Whether it was because of an instinctual need to protect the vulnerable, Gor-Rok wasn’t sure.

    Walking through the crowded streets of a city of humans proved to be a strange experience. He heard sounds he’d never witnessed until now, and sniffed many scents alien to his snout. But what he found familiar, above all else, was a pervading sense of fear in his presence. To Gor-Rok, this was good. He was a warrior; fear was like an additional layer of armor to him.

    And yet, as the townsmen shivered in his wake and distanced themselves away from him out of frightful unease, this young child never ran away from his fearsome appearance. This tiny, almost soft ball of warmblooded vulnerability never shook a tiny bit in the presence of a mammoth-sized lizard that defeated entire armies, and slaughtered the nightmares of men.

    No, instead this young child cheerfully rode piggyback on top of Gor-Rok, like saurus riders on Cold Ones.

    It was a fate Gor-Rok never could’ve imagined happening to him, but it did, and it nevertheless gave him a new sense of purpose. Back in his homeland, he was regarded as an undefeatable champion; an immovable stone upon which Lustria’s enemies bashed their heads repeatedly on to no avail.

    He was now also a father. And as Gor-Rok traveled back to what was once his child’s spawning home to retrieve his left behind equipment, he felt immense resolve in living up to this new title given to him.

    A different place and time

    Aetheric void, Temple ship Oyxl, Before the ages
    Darkness, without end.
    Nothingness all around. No light, no life. Only what was, and has been, between these walls. Yuq'al-takuil searched the surroundings with his mind. Nothing penetrated the thick dark void around the Temple city turned Temple ship, not even his magical perceptive abilities.
    Within the ship magic was roaming freely. The best example of it was the stasis that all Sauri and the non magic wielding Skinks were being kept in. Yuq'al-takuil, together with the other Priests, was taking turns keeping the stasis going in order to preserve the troops and keep the impact on the provisions to a very minimum.

    Beside the Skink Priests only the Slann Lord Xruzi’o-Ila was left out of stasis. He was in control of the ship, keeping it afloat in the void, with his mental powers. Simultaneously he scanned the horizons to pick up a glimpse of something, just a single thing that was not dark nothingness.

    Since they had escaped the catastrophic events in Lustria, and the world it was a part of, there hadn’t been contact with any other Lizardmen refugees. Neither had there been signs of other Temple ships even making the escape.
    Yuq'al-takuil stared in the distance as the chaotic events played out in front of him again.

    Footfall behind him pulled him back to the present. “Yuq'al-takuil, your presence is required.” It was Skink Priest Tak’ek Muntoc, he was of the same spawning as him. Although slightly smaller they both saw and treated each other as equals. “I would better not leave him waiting.” he resumed hastily with a smirk.
    Yuq’al-takuil turned around with a clearly fake worryful expression on his face before he started laughing: “You are always the punctual lizard, aren’t you? However, I will honor his request.” Both amusingly went their way.

    Yuq’al-takuil headed to the Eternity Chamber, the quarters of Lord Xruzi’o-Ila. He walked through the entrance with a little hesitation. Back in Lustria the doors to these quarters were sealed for years on end and heavily guarded from the inside as well. Nowadays the doors stood open and no guards were to be found. Like all other Sauri the Guards were dismissed from their posts and put in stasis, because there was not the slightest disturbance in the years of their voyage.

    The inside of the chamber was dark; the only light was a dim blue-ish green hue emanating from the palanquin in the middle of the far wall. On top of the palanquin sat Slann Lord Xruzi’o-Ila, cross-legged, his arms up, elbows out, with his fingertips spread touching either side of his face and eyes closed.
    “Please enter, no need to hesitate.” The words sounded without any movement of the lips, like they appeared out of thin air or they welled up in the skinks head itself.
    No matter how often the priest experienced this it still felt like an invasion of privacy.

    Yuq’al-takuil walked calmly forward with a bowing gesture: “You sent for me, my Lord?”

    "Do you feel it?"

    "I am not sure what you mean, my Lord."

    "I know you feel it too. You can smell it in the air, you can taste it in the water.
    The absence of magic on the other side of these walls. The nothingness that surrounds us. It exhausts me, all attempts to reach beyond it are fruitless.
    The Geomantic web is no more, no web means no nodes, no nodes mean no connection, no connection means no information, no inform...."

    The smashing of rock against stone interrupted the conversation loudly paired with heavy trembling of the whole chamber.
    In an instant the Slann Lord moved his hands from his head in front of his mouth, fingertips touching each other. A bright orange radiant orb grew in between his hands as he moved them apart and now his lips did move: "Warning to all priests! Collision in progress. Be prepared to repair hull damage!"

    Another slam shocked the Temple ship with an even louder grinding of stone and rock. Yuq'al-takuil looked above him in the chamber as a crack formed and widened across the ceiling. Glimmering black shards of rock shot through the cracks raining down upon Yuq'al-takuil and Xruzi’o-Ila. In a reflex the skink priest stepped aside and casted Mystic Shield above them, but the shards broke through like there was no shield at all. One of the shards struck the shoulder of the Slann. With a cry of pain the blue-ish green hue dimmed, leaving the room completely darkened.
    “Lord Xruzi’o-Ila!” No imediate response: “Lord Xruzi’o-Ila! Are you okay?"
    A soft pain filled moaning was all that he heard. “My Lord, how badly are you hurt?”
    “Hhhrrrmm… my shoulder…. ugh… pierced, but no … hhhmm… internal organs are damaged.”
    “Please hold still while I cast a mending spell.” Yuq’al-takuil raised his arm and turned his wrist whilst soft green energy dispatched from his fingers in a swirl. The light showed the Slann Lord fallen from his palanquin with a torn shoulder, the black shard glimmering at his feet. Yuq’al-takuil directed the spell towards the wound, but all of a sudden the energy was swept away from its path and absorbed by the black shard.
    “Excuse me lord, I will try it again.” The priest repeated the motions, but with a similar result.
    “What kind of rock is this?”
    “Anti magic matter,” mumbled the Slann, “I have heard of its existence… hhhgg… before, but hadn't yet encountered it… ugh”.
    “Anti magic?” pondered the priest “do you mean that it negates all magic it comes across? But how is that possible? And how do we get rid of it? And…”
    “Calm down Yuq’al-takuil, one step at the time.”

    Frantic steps sounded down the hallway growing louder and louder. In a hurry Tak'ek Muntoc ran around the corner into the darkened chamber. "What happened here!?"
    "Lord Xruzi’o-Ila has been struck by a shard of anti magic matter." Answered Yuq'al-takuil. "Struck by what?"
    "I know, I can't get my head around it either, but let us help him and mend his wounds."
    "Yes, of course, healing…" “No, that will not help at all!” Yuq’al-takuil responded “I tried it, but the rock absorbed the healing spell. We need to get him out of the chamber or see to his wounds in the traditional style”
    Since the light in the chamber had died the palanquin had collapsed onto the floor as well. The Slann Lord lay in between the rumble on the floor. Both Skink Priests stumbled towards him only guided by their touch and hearing. After a while they flanked him, each on one side, and tried to lift him up with no success. After a couple of attempts they settled on dragging him instead.
    Once outside of the chamber the Priests saw the wound clearly. Now, further away from the Anti magic rocks, the healing spells did take hold and mended the wounds of the Slann Lord nicely.

    "Thank you both for your help" Lord Xruzi’o-Ila replied, still visibly in pain: "what is our status Tak’ek Muntoc?"
    "The hull damage and breach seems to be limited to the Eternity Chamber, all the stasis Chambers are still operational and no other citizens were wounded." Tak’ek hesitated a little before continuing: "... there is one thing though, that is why I came up to the Eternity Chamber to see you, your highness. The ship has lost its course. We are no longer floating."
    Yuq'al-takuil and Lord Xruzi’o-Ila looked at eachother and only now noticed the small shift in angle that the ship had made.
    "The impact must have redirected us and your ability, your highness, to stabilize the ship must have been taken by the shard that struck you"
    "So we are no longer floating hmmm?" Pondered the Slann staring straight ahead. He closed his eyes and tried to raise his hands to the sides of his face. He immediately regretted it as a shockwave of pain swelled from his left shoulder.
    "My powers have been drained. I can't take control of this ship again." He sighed in disbelief, but spoke again: "if we are no longer floating it means we are either sinking or falling."
    While he spoke a third Skink came running down the hallway. It was a Starseer, appointed to scan the horizon for visible changes. "Your highness, your highness. There is a speck of light at the horizon. It has a green hue and is approaching fast. What should we do?"
    Both the Priests looked at each other before looking at their Slann Lord. They head his words as if they were not right there beside him.

    "We will need to brace for impact. Tell all priests to move to the lowest chambers and prepare a levitating spell. With all the power that we can muster, we might be able to slow down enough to minimize damage. Leave the posts at the stasis chambers as well. Get all of them and stay at the ready!"
    The three skinks ran through the hallway where the Starseer came from to inform all priests and get ready for what was about to happen.

    Ghur, Thondia, Thunderscorn Peaks, Age of Myth
    Sounds of battle and roaring of Draconiths and Thunderscorns alike echoing through the mountain range. The shear volume of raw power sends shockwaves through the rock hard ground, loosening stones, causing avalanches left and right. Dark clouds gathered, drifting in from every side as the air got cooler. Suddenly in the middle of it a small circular breach appeared and a flash of blue light struck from the sky down in between the mountains. Leaving an earthquake in its wake.
    Since this incident a different roaring was heard between the mountains.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2024
  2. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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  3. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    Time to read :bookworm:

    Grrr, !mrahil
     
  4. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    It was me, not @Y'ttar Scaletail :p

    Given that this round i missed the contest, at least let me keep this small merit ;)
     
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  5. pendrake
    Skink Priest

    pendrake Well-Known Member

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    I wondered about that.

    I caught Scalenex speeding when he had a four instead of a six, but I shoulda followed up in the theme. I slept too many times since then.
     
  6. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    I copy and paste the last contest and modify it, and sometimes I make mistakes. I'm glad we got a good varied crop, I plan to put up reviews before this over, but this current week is pretty busy for me.
     
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  7. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    I have read over half of the entries and writing reviews as I go. These are some good stories!

    Grrr, !mrahil
     
  8. Llinyn Tathrenlir
    Jungle Swarm

    Llinyn Tathrenlir New Member

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    Greetings all! :joyful:

    How exciting... I can't wait to dive into all of these fantastic stories!
    I'm dying to know what all of you have to say about my first story... :nailbiting:


    With his mind already submerged in wonderous tales, yours sincerely,

    Llinyn Tathrenlir
     
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  9. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Welcome aboard!
     
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  10. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    Welcome along!
    Always nice to have new members, especially when they join the story contest ;)

    Grrr, !mrahil
     
  11. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    Time for reviews :)

    A quick pace story. The writing style made me read it as fast as the Terradons soared through the sky. The story left me with some confusion, a chameleon riding a Terradon can be seen as a Stranger (to fit with the theme) or had a chameleon turned into a Terradon that it was able to change colors or did the abilities of the chameleon rider transfer to the mount as well?

    In the end I could not ascertain what the goal of the expedition was and it felt a bit anticlimactic.

    Beside some of the grammatical errors it was a good read and it certainly had good scenic descriptions.

    Intriguing story. This made me think of how the Old Ones could have worked at the start of the world of Warhammer. It also showed me the cruelness that is in humankind: taking our problems and forcing them on to somebody else because we benefit from it, not taking into account the toll it takes on others. Some very good writing, the start of the story gave me a happy feeling and the end made me feel quite down.

    A curious formed group of adventurers embark on an unknown quest. The scenic description and interaction between the characters makes for a great ambiance. Great read and characterization. In the end the question remains Did the protagonist go on the adventure and time got disturbed or was it all an illusion from knocking his head against a tree. Great story.

    Our Westhammer story of the contest this time around. The setting is nice and really feels wild west. Nice to see a ‘collaboration’ of different races, of course all for their own reasons. The shoot-outs were a refreshing way of battle to see lizards indulge in. The writing had some grammatical errors which gave away that it was hastily written.

    What a wholesome story, good emotionally written. No unnecessary information or background was given and what was to happen next was left for the reader to fill in. The length of the story was no problem at all. The theme was incorporated in different ways. The child as stranger to the Lizard, the Lizard as stranger in the human city and the Lizard having feelings that are strange to him.

    The only misgiving I had was the use of ‘their’ when talking about the child. It made reading a bit stiff. I don’t know if this was done because of the unknown gender of the child or the style of thinking from the protagonist.

    Nonetheless a very good read.

    Interesting story. Giving shape to the transition between WHFB and AoS. I liked the interaction between the characters. Also the fact that almost all of the Lizardmen are held in stasis chambers portraits that they were ready for this journey. They knew?! I loved the build up in the story, but felt the end was quick and I would have liked a bit more context to it.


    Grrr, !mrahil
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2023
  12. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    THe positive thing is that's i've just finished my reading, so i can also enjoy the reviews! :)
     
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  13. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    Up to now there have been 4 voters... we should at least have as much voters as authors in my opinion.

    But I hope we can get reasonably more than that.

    Grrr, !mrahil
     
  14. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    My vote atm is still missing. I was hoping to write some reviews before doing it but idk if i will be able to
     
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  15. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    Last day of voting.

    I am a bit dissapointed in the amiunt of voters and the reviews... the stories do deserve much more.

    Grrr, !mrahil
     
  16. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Scalenex Reviews

    Story One, Flight of the Star Amulet:
    This is piece had evocative detailed descriptions and settings and characters and was clearly well polished and free of typos.


    This piece read like the introduction to a much longer story. While I would be very interested in reading such a longer story, I prefer short stories to be self-contained. Short stories have introduction, conflict, and resolution and this story really doesn’t have much conflict or resolution that I can see.


    Story Two, Up Unto God: In my opinion, it is highly risky to build a short story around a shocking twist at the end, as a rule of thumb. It is also somewhat risky to have vague characters and vague introductions. In my opinion, I believe the risks paid off. This was a well-executed twist. The piece was well polished and well edited. This is not the first time a short story has taken on a different interpretation of the Old Ones setting up shop on the Warhammer world but I don’t recall having a story like that in a good long while.

    The vagueness of things like “the stranger” and “the silver ship” initially made me hard to get personally invested into the story and the characters as I kept looking for a 40K crossover or something else out of left field and the characters were hard to relate to on a personal level.


    Story Three, “Of Wood and Whispers”: Very good evocative scene descriptions and compelling characters. I especially liked the Lizardmen’s reaction to snow (it certainly fit the theme well). The piece was well polished with regards to proofreading. The piece was one of the longer pieces in terms of word count, but it didn’t drag on, so I got to say the pacing was pretty good. The ending was funny and heart warming.

    I got a bit overly fixated on owlbears and this threw me for a loop. I don’t believe owlbears exist in WHF or AoS lore (though they could). My D&D lore is not as good as my Warhammer lore, but I don’t believe D&D Lizardmen act in that matter but I could easily be wrong. This piece could have used a little bit more exposition. Why were a human and an elf traveling with two Lizardmen and what were they questing for? A bit of exposition could have established the setting too. Are in we in Forgotten Realms, the Warhammer World or one of the Age of Sigmar realms?


    Story Four, “Strife at Argent Pass”: Westhammer fit the theme with a stranger coming into town and mining boom towns do make everyone a stranger. It had good characterization and a good ol’ Western shoot out.

    This piece was written in a hurry and shows the marks of that being not well well-polished.


    Story Five, “An Unlikely Father”: This is a very interesting take on the contest theme. The story is also efficient getting a lot of story in a small amount of words. Short and punchy. Because it uses such a well-known character, we don’t need a lot of characterization and exposition. This piece mixed the human and lizard parts of the character masterfully well. This seemed pretty well polished and typo free.

    This piece could have maybe bit a little bit longer. He had to do more than bring the kid to the human town right. Some kind of scene where Go-Rok had to provide some sort of care would have been good. A scene of trying to feed him and realizing that humans need their meat cooked might have been fun.


    Story Six, “A Different Place and Time”: This many years after the introduction of Age of Sigmar we still have stories covering the transition from Lizardmen to Seraphon and I still enjoy reading them. It was well paced and the characters were well fleshed out and found the perfect middle ground between human-like and spirit-like beings.

    Maybe this could have been edited a bit cleaner. Some more attention to spacing would have helped. I know this story was mostly about The Journey and The Destination, but I would have liked a little bit more detail about the planet they landed on and what they did in the immediate aftermath of their landing.
     
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  17. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    eh, 8 voters.
    At least the multiple tie is a sign of good overall quality of the stories.

    A pity for the stories that fell behind, but this is a hard competition.
     
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  18. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    A lot happened since that post, and I am happy with the extra voters showing up.
    Two votes make for more equal vote stats overall, interested to see how a possible tiebreaker poll will look like.

    Definitely agree on the quality of the stories.

    Grrr, !mrahil
     
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  19. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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  20. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Thirtheenth Spawning

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    We are still missing 4 voters from this contest on the tie breaker ;)

    Come and chose a winner!

    Grrr, !mrahil
     

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