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Fiction Scalenex's Old L-O Story Contest Entries

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, May 10, 2016.

  1. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    A Long Journey (April-May 2019. Theme was "Doom and/or Destruction")

    So a long time ago I really went all out making this thread about Lizardmen religious practices. That thread is one of my favorite things I've created on Lustria-Online and when @Sreeves broke the long comment hiatus on that thread around the time the new contest was started I vowed to use one of the rituals in here for a short...again, I write short stories centered around religious festivals pretty often.

    When "Doom" was named the topic for this contest, making a story around the Rite of the Last Journey clicked pretty fast. It just took me a few days to refine the concept into the idea of simulataneously celebrating and mouring the life of hero.

    Then it was just a manner of showcasing different stories. I wanted a mix of high and low stakes stories. A mix of serious and funny stories, and differing storytellers. This piece flowed pretty fast from my point of inspiration to Microsoft Word. The other contest where I won (well tied for first place), "Watching Things Burn" was also based on loss. Apparently if I want to wrack up votes for my short story contests I need to write a piece while thinking about my late father a lot. Tear jerkers for the win.

    If this my lot in life, so be it. I shall drown Lustria in tears!

    Several large planks were brought out and balanced on some logs in a jungle clearing to make a simple table. This table was brimming with carefully prepared meats of at least five different slain beasts. There were twice as many varieties of fruits. There was breads and pies. There were gourds filled with the finest nectars and a large pitcher of the purest water from the most well filtered springs.

    Fourteen saurus warriors, six skinks, and a kroxigor sat, stood or knelt around this sumptuous feast.

    “This is one the finest filets of tallosaurus flesh I ever had in a century! Have you tried this Zlakar?” the Scar Veteran asked his elder.

    Zlakar motioned for the meat. A skink moved it towards him and the Old Blood ripped off a small chunk of meat and ate it.

    “Very good, yes”
    “Do you remember that tallosaurus hunt we went on that one time, with the log?”

    Zlakar nodded and smiled.

    “It’s not that big a deal, Xoatkrok” he replied.
    “Not that big a deal?!?” Xoatkrok said incredulously.

    He turned towards the others at the table and gesticulated enthusiastically.

    “That was a hunt for the ages! The skink spotters found an old lone bull tallosaurus. Large and strong, but also old and sick. Seemed like good hunting. Anyway, it still had some fight in it. He barreled through the snares the skinks said like they weren’t even there.

    We were hitting it but the beast but he couldn’t feel it. He knocked out two saurus, others even bolted liked skinks—”

    He looked awkwardly at the skink chief.

    “That is to say a lot of the First were not holding steady, but Zlakar wasn’t going to give up even though his axe snapped in half with the blade was stuck in the tallosaurus thigh. The beast moved his big neck to bite at him, and Zlakar just picks up a log and then bashed his brains out. Probably saved some hunters’ lives, and we certainly ate well.”
    “To eating well!” said Zlakar.

    The table cheered and everyone took a bite of whatever food they had though Zlakar abstained.

    “To Zlakar!” said Xoatkrok.
    “To Zlakar!” the table resounded.

    Zlakar opened his mouth to speak and then closed it without saying anything.

    One other saurus besides Zlakar was fairly quiet. Another saurus turned to him.

    “Tlakori, you are allowed to enjoy yourself. You won’t get stripped of your eternity warden status for having a little fun.”
    “How often do you get a day off of guard duty anyway?” A skink asked.

    Tlakori paused then spoke.

    “We typically get a day off every century or two...if we can be spared from our duties.”

    A few of the other lizards laughed. Then the skink started.

    “Wait, you are serious aren’t you?”

    The Eternity Warden nodded.

    “I am usually quite serious. I rarely ask for or receive time off duty, but I had to be here for my last spawning brother. There were fifty-three of us once. Now we are two. I remember a battle, many years before we took on our respective callings. There were twelve of our spawning left then, we were no longer wet warriors, we all had many scars…but many scars still to come. Zlakar had become our new spawn leader, a promotion well deserved.

    “We didn’t know just how well deserved until this battle. We were fighting Daemons under the command of Oldblood Ikachoa.”

    He paused turned towards the crowd.

    “Ikachoa was before most of your times. He was a fine leader. We were on the south flank attached to work with a stegadon crew and a small skink and kroxigor regiment. Ikachoa was battling the enemy general atop his carnosaur and our center was holding. It looked like our flank was quiet. A few demon skirimishers were shot down by our skilled skink compatriots, but no major threats were apparent.

    “Zlakar had great instinct, worthy of mighty Itzl. Somehow the daemons’ scent and sight was hidden from the stegadon’s mighty nose and the skinks’ sharp eyes. Zlakar intuition found where three score daemons had buried themselves under the ground. They had rigged trap doors with foliage for cover. Zlakar stopped us all from marching into the ambush. We ambushed our ambushers.

    “Once Zlakar identified where our foes were, the skink chief with us positioned the stegadon for a pre-aimed shot then had his soldiers set fire to the foliage above the demons’ hiding place. I never seen a giant bow fired so accurately. Between the fire, bow, and javelins barely any demons survived long enough to even reach us. Our brothers were ready and made short work of the Old Foes. Naturally, I was the only one of our spawning that was seriously injured.”

    Tlakori paused, removed the piece of armor over his chest and revealed a deep and old scar. The others politely admired the scar’s impressiveness before Tlakori continued.

    “While I was barely conscious and staining the forest floor purple with my blood, Zlakar defended me with the ferocity of a carnosaur. If he didn’t save me that day, I would never have survived long enough to be an eternity warden. Everyone and everything I defend is ultimately due to Zlakar.”

    The table looked at Zlakr with even greater respect. Zlakar took a shaky sip from a gourd of juice to cover his embarrassment and then he spoke.

    “I cannot take their credit for your accomplishments. You saved my life plenty, brother. That is just what brothers do. You saved my life at least seven times”
    “I count nine times, but that’s nine against your saving me nineteen. There is no contest—”
    “—Speaking of contests!”

    The Skink Chief, Tlayta paused awkwardly.

    “Forgive me for the interruption, honored one.”

    The Eternity Warden just nodded and waved on him to continue. The Skink had been clearly aching to tell his story. Tlayta showed obvious relief at the permission then continued.

    “When I was newly spawned I had a very portentous spawning. I was a spawning of one and this gave me a huge ego. Lots of skink instructors taught me tactics, combat, history and many other things, but only a saurus could teach me what I really needed which was humility.

    “The first time I met Zlakr was in the training fields. I was doing target practice with javelins. Nearby Zlakr was working with the city’s youngest spawning of saurus warriors. He was drilling them in basic marching formations and maneuvers. I stopped what I was doing and marched over.

    “I thought the saurus warriors looked clumsy. I made some loud disparaging remarks about how much faster, smarter and more agile Skinks were then lowly saurus….comments unworthy of my pretentious spawning.

    “Zlakar halted his company and he turns to me said. “Great Skink who is wise and agile, I challenge you to a contest of ranged attacks.’ I could barely hold in my laughter. A saurus beating a skink at ranged attacks? Absurd. So I said ‘I accept your challenge.’

    “Zlakar picked up a javelin off the ground, pointed at a wooden practice target and said ‘I can strike this target more than you can.’ I said ‘show me.’

    “So Zlakar walks up to the firing line, mimes throwing a javelin, pauses a long time then he puts the javelin down and walks away. I can’t figure out what he’s doing. Is he forfeiting? He picks up this huge rock and takes it to the line. He kind of half-throws half-rolls it towards the target and it’s reduced to kindling. He turns to me and says. ‘Now you try to strike the target'.

    “My jaw just about hit the muddy ground in disbelief. ‘I cannot hit the target, it is impossible for anyone to hit it now.’….. So Zlakar says ‘I guess I win then.’”

    Everyone at the table erupted in laughter.

    “I want to tell a story now!” the lone Kroxigor bellowed.

    “I was with small patrol. Bad elves beat us. Captured me and my big and little spawning brothers. Bound us in chains. Not chains to keep weapons and tools in hand. Bad chains. I was shameful. Bad elves plan to do bad things. Tried to take us away. Zlakar ride in on Cold One. Run at the elves. He killed them and made them run away. Zlakar broke bad chains.”

    A few continued looking at the ancient kroxigor awkwardly as if there was more details to this story, but he seemed to be done talking. Tlayta broke the silence.

    “You have no reason to feel shame at anything Xalt. We all lose sometimes. It is good that Zlakar saved you because you went on to lead many kroxigor regiments to victory against many worthy foes.”

    Xalt beamed with pride. Zlakar took a shaky sip of juice to hide his smile. Tlayta did learn humility and proper respect for the other races of the First afterall. Zlakar’s stomach rumbled. He hoped he wouldn’t vomit all over the table and ruin the good feelings. The companions ate and drank and told stories of Zlakar. Stories of glory, stories of humor, stories of friendship, stories of leadership, all positive. One story remained unspoken but wore on Zlakar’s mind.

    Zlakar was second in command of the army below only the slann. He rode his faithful cold one of over two centuries, Groq. He was joined by twelve of the city’s bravest cold one cavalry. The southern flank was faltering. The Skaven’s missile troops had defeated the skink skirmishing units. They had slain two razordons and who knows how many skinks. The rest were fleeing being pursued by filthy rats while Tlayta the skink chief tried in vain to get them to the rally and fight back.

    Zlakar turned his soldiers towards around the fleeing skinks and hit the flank of their singled minded pursuers. The hunters became the hunted and the saurus knights butchered them without mercy. Seeing this, the skinks and their beasts took courage and rallied. The line held.

    Zlakar ordered his troops to hold position rather than advance. They didn’t need to advance much because the northern flank had decisively defeated the rat men and were turning towards the Skaven’s center. Zlakar positioned his troops to cut off any clear line of retreat.

    Once properly positioned, the two halves of the army of the First closed in on the Skaven from both sides like the jaws of a carnosaur snapping shut. Zlakar rode at the front. His sword arm already stained red with the warm blood of his enemies. He sensed a weakness in the enemy lines and rode towards the heart of the enemy army. As his comrades butchered their way through the skavens’ supposedly elite infantry, Zlakar looked for the alpha. A large rat almost a full head taller than his fellows and wearing thicker shinier armor.

    He locked eyes with the enemy general and a challenge was clear. The warlord showed fear but also determination. He knew he almost certainly dead and his only slim chance of survival lay in defeating this new challenger.

    The rat feinted a strike with his spear towards Zlakar then stabbed downward piercing Groq through his eye into his brain. The cold one thrashed and Zlakar instinctively rolled and got to his feet in a fury he had seldom been in. Groq’s death throws wrenched the spear away. With the rat temporarily unarmed, Zlakar took the opening and struck at the rat’s shoulder, piercing his armor but only slightly. His foe was still standing.

    The rat unsheathed a sword and squeaked something in its own foul tongue that was clearly some kind of taunt. He pressed forward with almost impossible speed with precision feints, parries and strikes but Zlakar had his foe’s measure now. He knew what to block and what to ignore. The skaven was fast but he was wasting a lot of energy on superfluous motions. So duplicitous he couldn’t stop useless feints even in the face of death death. The warlord was tiring out. Zlakar was not.

    Most of the ratmen were killed at this point, some of the survivors were already being bound, so they could be rendered unto Sotek later. More and more golden eyes turned to watch Zlakar’s duel. The warlord was almost completely on the defensive now. Despite his fatigue, he clung to life with the tenacity only a desperate Skaven could muster. Finally Zlakar knocked away the rat’s serrated sword then kicked him into the ground, flat on his back. Zlakar put all his weight into the sword to pierce the rat’s armored chest plate. The rat gurgled on his own blood as the onlookers cheered.

    After his victory Zlakar let his guard down for a split second. With a daemon’s will, the dying Skaven pulled a dagger out of his sleeve and stabbed the Saurus in the thigh, the highest part he could reach. As he died, the skaven mouthed words Zlakar couldn’t translate, but the context was clear “you die too.”

    Zlakar had recovered from far worse wounds than this. He would have gladly taken three or four such wounds if he could have Groq alive again, but Zlakar didn’t yet know the dagger was coated in an especially virulent poison. The skaven never intended to use the dagger this battle. The dagger and the poison were both intended for the warlord’s superior officer later. The ministrations of the Skink healers were completely ineffectual. Even the magic of the Slann could only slow the poison, not cure it. His strength was slowly but inevitably fading day by day.

    He couldn’t let the others seem him die like that. He had to undergo the Rite of the Last Journey.

    Once most of the food was eaten, the laughter and stories died down. Zlakar held up a hand and everyone fell silent respectfully. “It is time.”

    The assembled lizards respectfully got up and formed two lines while in salute towards the deep jungle. Zlakar’s legs wanted to buckle, but he willed himself to stand up straight and maintain a steady marching pace.

    After Zlakar crossed the short line. Tlakori shouted.

    “To Zlakar, the greatest oldblood Xlanhuapec has ever known.”
    “TO ZLAKAR!”

    Once out of sight of the others, Zlakar allowed the weakness in his body to show as he hobbled deeper into the jungle. His final journey had begun.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
  2. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Canterbury Tales, that is high praise indeed! The comedy portion was a Skink Chief, not a Skink Priest. Sorry I didn't make that completely clear. I actually thought about having a Skink priest tell a story but that was cut out. There was a Skink priest present to supervise the funeral but that's an off camera thing.

    I'm all about sad realizations. As I mentioned before, my father was the inspiration for this piece.

    I wasn't being disingenous. These remain my self reflection on this piece. Okay the second part was a little disingenous because my pieces are not eligible to win the Scalenex Cup.

    Thank you, wise one.

    But the dog traveled so far to get back home...:beaver:

    Grzzzk, not everyone has has many warpstone tokens as you. Not everyone can afford a back up assassination ultimate weapon. High quality poison like that doesn't just grow on trees! Okay, maybe it does, but trees are a scarce resource in the Under-Empire.

    Thank you, that's exactly what I was going for.

    If I didn't make the Lizardmen human I wouldn't be able to utterly ruin your day and drink your delicous tears.

    Thank you!
    :D:happy:
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
  3. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    The Wendigo, October-November 2019. Theme was "Alternate Settings"

    As soon as I knew what the theme would be, I knew I wanted to use the extensive Warhammer Western setting we developed earlier on this subforum. It was just a question of what narrow subset of the story I would use.

    Two things pushed me towards writing a piece about the Wendigo. One, I had recently ran across a great Youtube Channel called Mythology & Fiction explained and I ran across this video. I heard of the Wendigo before. First, from the RPG Werewolf: The Apocalypse. I also saw it as a Monster of the Week on the CW show Charmed. Also, the place where I live was experiencing one of the coldest Octobers I remembered.

    Thanks to this video, I found out Wendigo had an episode of My Little Pony.

    Anyway, there are lots of variations of the Wendigo myth (as well as lots of variations for how to spell "Wendigo"). There are two basic versions of the Wendigo myth. Sometimes they are mindless bestial personifications of hunger and sometimes they are cunning Hannibal Lector type monsters with schemes. I ran across this video and considered using the excellent story here as a baseline for my story. But I didn't because 1) when I made an outline for this story I realized I was basically just plagerizing this. and 2) It was really hard to justify putting a Lizardmen in this story. I thought about just giving the human hero a reptilian mentor but that seemed weak.

    I was running out of time as the deadline neared. I realized a mindless savage Wendigo would be easier to fit in a short story than a cunning monster of human intelligence. Going back to Westhammer as a whole. The setting is big enough to have both kinds of Wendigo. Dumb Animalistic Wendigo and cunning Wendigo capable of masquerading as normal humans, but for the purpose of this story, I wouldn't go into the wider world of Wendigo. A solitary bestial monster was sufficient.

    There are a wide variety of art styles for aesthetics for Wendigo. Wolf-like, bear-like, reptile-like, stag-like. Giant, buff, emaciated. I opted for an emaciated sasquatch because that was the first version of the Wendigo I ever saw. Then while I did some Google based research on the Wendigo for this piece, I saw that a lot of the older Wendigo legends linked Wendigo to owls in many respects so I thought I'd give my Wendigo owl-like talons and eyes. That seemed cool.

    I figured the Wendigo would terrorize some human farmers and ranchers. Some Lizardmen (Rangos) would offer their help to the humans and a mixed team of lizards and humans would take down the Wendigo together. And I decided on my twist ending early on. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (who replaced the four Chaos gods) cannot be destroyed, only held at bay. Wendigo are clearly minions of Famine, who rides a black horse.

    I wanted to have a big town meeting. I wanted to showcase a gossipy housewife, stern and no-nonsense sheriff, hoighty toighty rich guy from out east, superstituous miner, and a close minded preacher. I wanted to sneak in some Easter Eggs from Blazing Saddles by having at least two Johnsons in the town meeting. I did a rough draft for my intro which introduced both the Wendigo and the two Lizardmen characters, and I realized there was no way I could include everything I wanted in the town meeting with a 2400 word count. All things considered, the town meeting was not very important to the main plot. Ergo I made it as bare bones as I could, but elements of the wider cast I wanted to include clung on tenanciously.

    To save word count I made the team of humans that joined the two Lizardmen stereotypical Western characters. A grizzled Civil war veteran, an eager youth with everything to prove, and a loyal justice-minded sheriff's deputy. I thought about including a witch hunter or priest from the Order of the Silver Hammer instead of the sheriff's deputy, and I figured such a person would chafe at working with heretical Lizard-people. I would have needed at least 200 word to showcase their intial rocky relationship gradually turning into grudging mutual respect. I couldn't afford that, so I included a batch of humans that were all pragmatic enough not to complain about following a Lizard shaman.

    As OCD as I was, I was able to indulge myself by including a bit of humor with the Skink chafing at the nickname "Rango."

    I knew I wanted one of the "heroes" to actually be a closet cannibal and thus the next Wendigo. My intiial thought was to make the new Wendigo a Skink or a Saurus and end up creating a new version of the Wendigo, but I couldn't find a reasonable way to fit in both the backstory and the reptilian body horror and stay within my word count limit. So I made it the Civil War veteran, Dimitri. Note Dimitri didn't eat his kin during the war. He ate his fellow veterans a few weeks before the town meeting. He and some men he served with went out West looking for cold and most of Dimitri's adopted brothers died of hunger and exposure. Then a desperate Dimitri ate them. I tried to hint at this during the town meeting. He complained visciously about selfish families hording food and mentioned his brothers in arms dying due to the cold in vague terms. Despite the fact that Dimitri's brothers starved, Dimitri was fairly well fed and at his full strength... I guess my hints were too subtle.

    The feathered Lizardmen part was never discussed in our original Westhammer thread, but I needed a simple way to explain "How do Lizardmen cope with the cold" that didn't require 100+ words of exposition. Also, I had watched a lot of Youtube videos on prehistoric reptitles that happened to have feathers.

    Nothing says "Alternate Settings" like feathered Skinks.

    So I had a basic outline. I finished my rough draft. I was about eighty words over the limit, so I very methodically gave the piece a haircut. Then I threw the piece to @Paradoxical Pacifism and @Killer Angel for a last minute proof read which barely was finished before the contest deadline. In fact, my piece was the last finished piece I received. :)

    If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change much. But I would relocate the setting from a snowy version of the Hammerican Southwest to Brettonian Quebec or maybe a Hammerican Yukon.

    EDIT: For one last hyperlink. This is the website I used to get western slang for this story and the Westhammer discussion thread.

    The two Skinks rode their culchans through the snow with a string of rabbits they caught. Their tribe would eat well.

    The smaller Skink paused and scratched his feathered chin.

    “Look over there, Kai’ax”
    “Through those trees is a farmhouse. A family of humans live there. We should give them a wide berth, lest they start hollering ‘the Liz’uns are attacking’”
    “Do they live there?”
    “Are you speaking riddles, priest.”
    “This close, we should be able to smell and see smoke from their hearth. No smoke means no fire. No fire means no humans.”
    “So?”
    “I aims to find out why they are gone.”

    The farmhouse was dark and quiet. The door was in splinters, but the rest of the house was intact; snow billowing in. When the two Saurios entered the house, they were shielded from the wind, but the inside somehow felt much colder than the outside. They found disheveled bones and tatters of clothing scattered about the entry way. There was very little flesh on the bones. Judging by the more intact clothes fragments, it was an adult male human. Not far from the heap of bones was a rifle. The larger Skink checked the firearm.

    “This is still loaded. Whatever took him out killed him before he could take a shot.”

    The priest looked around the cabin. There were cans, jars, and barrels of assorted food, enough for a good sized family to last the rest of the winter. After only a few minutes of searching, he found silver coins, ammunition, spirits, and medicine. He spoke out loud.

    “Nothing was stolen. This wasn’t a robbery.”

    They found the bedroom door was knocked off its hinges. Behind it were far more tattered bones and tattered clothing. Four new skulls with rotting eyes and bits of skin hanging on them.

    “The father guarded the door, the mother took the children here,” the priest said.

    The larger Skink picked up a revolver and opened it.

    “Four shots in a six shooter. No bullet holes in the walls. The attacker kept going after eating two bullets. No way these bodies could rot to the bone that fast.”

    He picked up a femur and examined it.

    “The bones were gnawed on. The blood stains are pretty small for five deaths. The blood was lapped up,” he said.
    “Skaven and greenskins will eat the flesh of the people they bushwack…” the priest replied, almost hopefully.

    The larger Skink picked up a full can of beans and waved it at the rest of the food stores.

    “Whatever did this ate the people and left the food and shinies. What kind of cross-grained varmit does that?”
    “A wendigo does that,” said the priest.

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

    About twenty men and a half a dozen women crowded in Hammer Gulch’s town hall building, standing closer together than normal due to the cold.

    “I think everyone who is willing to come out here is already here,” said the general store owner.
    “Just get started!” said Widow Ivanov shivering.
    “Alright then,” said the sheriff in a slow drawl.

    The grey haired man stepped away from the crowd and the fire so he could be seen and heard better. Despite being cold as everyone else, he didn’t shiver or show any signs of discomfort.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a situation. The Millers are dead….”
    “Serves them right for hording all the food from everyone else in our harshest winter…lost two brothers in arms from exposure, not enough food.” Private Dimitri muttered getting some dirty looks from those nearest him.

    The sheriff continued as if he didn’t hear him.

    “So are the Turgenevs and the Lopezes. They were killed in their homes. Men, women and children.”

    The crowd erupted in inarticulate expressions of grief, anger and fear. Followed by recriminations.

    “The Estalians did it!”
    “Why would they kill the Lopezes?”
    “Shriznak’s Boys did it.”
    “Yeah, the goblins did it! String up their green necks.”

    As more people called for the goblins’ heads, the sheriff glared.

    “Quiet!”

    The crowd continued to shout, their anger finally making them all warm.

    “QUIET!”

    “Ain’t no goblins done this. Whoever did this treated the corpses as their chuck.”

    Most of the expressions of horror were silent.

    “I heard Goblins will eat man flesh!” Shouted Private Dimitri.

    The sheriff was quiet and stern, milking a pregnant pause.

    “Whoever killed those families, ate them folks up down to the bone and left the foodstores. They left the money, they left the whiskey, they left the irons. Ain’t no goblin passes up that kind of unguarded treasure.”

    The crowd erupted in confusion and fear. Reverend Jonas stepped away from the crowd and all eyes turned toward him. He tried and failed to repress a shiver.

    “The Four Horsemen of Chaos rode forth and sent a monster to plague us!” he exclaimed dramatically.

    “Sigmar save us!” shouted a woman in the crowd.
    “Kill the monster!” shouted another man.

    The sheriff held up a hand for silence.

    “I cotton to kill the monster, sir. We don’t know what we are dealing with. Reverend?”
    “Winter like this, Famine is strong. Whatever it is has a great hunger, a hunger not satisfied by ordinary vittles.”
    “Oh dear!” shouted a woman in the crowd.

    The lone dwarf stepped away from the crowd to be better seen. The stout mining foreman preened his threads pompously before speaking.

    “Now we all cannot have no business with a monster knocking around. A thousand dollars gold, split up evenly to any man who brings this creature’s head.”

    Private Dimitri perked up.

    “But how do we find this monster? We don’t even know what we’re looking for.”

    The door swung open dramatically. A feathered lizard in a Stetson hat strode in.

    “I’m your huckleberry.”

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

    Three horses and two culchans rode out of Hammer Gulch.

    Private Dimitri proudly wore his faded Union army winter jacket. Deputy Schneider, who insisted the sheriff defend the town, was bundled up like a mummy against the cold. Next to him was the headstrong Becker boy who shivered; eager to get two hundred dollars and make a name for himself. None of the men dared take their eyes off the two Saurios riding ahead.

    Eventually Dimitri got bored and rode alongside the Skink priest.

    “So Rango, I have a question.”
    “Don’t call him Rango,” admonished the deputy. “He has a real name. It's Yukelshow.”
    “It’s actually Yuqal'Cho-ax” replied the priest, “But that’s hard for your kind to pronounce so ‘Rango’ is fine.”

    The larger Skink snorted in derision.

    “What’s your name then, big feller?” Dimitri asked.
    “Rango,” he said.

    Becker broke into nervous laughter.

    Dimitri turned back towards the smaller Skink.

    “So Rango, why do you ride them giant prairie chickens? Even greenskins learnt to ride horses. Horses are faster.”
    “Culchans handle the winter cold and summer heat better than horses.” He replied calmly.
    “Bah, we don’t ride chickens, we eat them. I can’t believe the sheriff and the reverend condones working with Liz’uns on this.” Dimitri retorted.
    I cannot believe Yuqal'Cho-ax convinced me to take on a wendigo to help a bunch of lukewarm bloods.” The Skink replied.
    “Four hundred dollars buys a lot of irons and bullets.” The priest replied.

    Dimitri seemed like he was struck silent by the Skink’s retort, his face was briefly contorted with rage as if in a trance.

    “There!” the Skink priest pointed to some fresh tracks in the snow. A cross between a naked human foot and the talons of an owl.

    “Damn! Those tracks are heading away from the Johnsons’ homestead,” said the deputy.
    “Too late for them, let’s get the damn windy-go!” said Dimitri.
    “Agreed,” said the smaller of the two Rangos.

    All five unlikely riding companions turned and rode as one.

    Hours passed as the five riders rode deeper into the woods. As the terrain got rougher, the culchans fared a lot better than the horses, but neither of the Skinks paused to gloat. The sun was setting rapidly and the temperature was dropping even faster. The horses whinnied nervously. Even the culchans seemed rattled.

    “It’s near…” whispered the Skink priest.

    The riders looked in the dusk in all directions.

    “It’s too dark to see nuthin’.” Becker muttered.

    Yuqal'Cho-ax began muttering a prayer in ancient Saurian.

    Those creatures with hair felt it stand up straight as a wave of static washed over them. The nearby forest was bathed in soft light, as if from lightning but not dissipating. The riders looked nervously in all directions. All directions except above them.

    A dark figure swooped down from a tree and slashed Becker’s throat. He didn’t even have time to scream.

    “Mahrlect!” Kai’ax pulled his rifle and fired, but was too slow.

    The skink pulled some torches off his belt and magically lit the first one with a small burst of electricity, then used the first torch to light the others. He handed them out to his colleagues as quickly as he could.

    “Wendigos hate fire.”

    The deputy was the last to get the torch. As he was reaching for one, a dark shape descended and slashed its talons at his horse’s front legs. The bleeding mare cried out in pain and bent forward, spilling the deputy onto the snow. Dimitri's horse bucked him off, though the army veteran somehow landed on his feet. The two Skinks opted to dismount voluntarily.

    Schneider got up unhurt, though a little staggered, for the snow cushioned his fall. He shook the snow off his torch before the flame was extinguished.

    “Circle up!” he ordered. They formed a loose circle around the culchans and the one uninjured horse which hadn’t bolted.

    In the flickering torch light the wendigo was finally able to be seen clearly. Over six feet tall, it was emaciated thin with arms longer than a human would have. Its eyes were red, full of malice and greed. The creature’s fingers were even longer and thinner, ending in owl-like talons. It wasn’t a true skeleton, but the creature’s coal black skin was stretched grotesquely over a very thin frame and skin that was nearly translucent. Its gums were rotted, giving it the appearance of a corpse's grin. It sucked in a deep breath through its teeth, making a noise that was a cross between a death rattle and the winter wind trying to sneak below a doorframe.

    It approached Dimitri who froze, staring at the monster in silent awe. The wendigo went around him and rounded on the deputy. The deputy fired his six shooter into the monster but the bullet only created a very small mark of glowing blue blood, the wound sealing up rapidly. The wendigo swiped his talons at the man’s chest and sent him sprawling to the ground. The wendigo licked its withered lips as if savoring the meal it was about to enjoy.

    “RAAAAARR!” bellowed the larger Skink as he rushed forward, thrusting his torch into the monster’s chest. The beast burst into flames so fast it was as if the wendigo was soaked in kerosene, but the flare up was brief. The fire was out but the wendigo was staggering as if winded.

    “Shoot now!” the skink priest shouted.

    Dimitri and the two lizards pulled their long arms and fired. The shots that hit the burned wendigo struck true and caused much bleeding. The wendigo did not rise again. They shot it some more just to be sure.

    Yuqal'Cho-ax cleaned up the deputy’s chest wound.

    “It’s not deep. Your three coats took most of the talons. It will hurt like hell for a few weeks, but you’ll live.”

    He turned to the others who had just finished gathering up the stray horses.

    “We need to build a big bonfire to burn it. We cannot stop until the wendigo’s icy heart melts. The horse and Becker too, we need to burn them lest they bear the mark of the wendigo.”
    “Poor kid. He was just between hay and grass,” the deputy said.

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

    Becker didn’t do anything but die. It seemed unfair that his family got a full share of the thousand bucks. Still, it’s not every day that Dimitri had two hundred dollars in his pocket. A month or so later when winter was finally turning to spring, Dimitri was riding to the nearest real town to spend his reward when he saw there was a cloaked rider on a midnight black horse in his path up ahead.

    “Dimitri….” the rider's voice was little more than a harsh whisper but it carried on the wind across an almost impossible distance.

    “What? Who are you?”

    The rider came closer.

    “You have betrayed your brothers in arms, “came the dry hissing voice.
    "No, I didn’t, they died on their own!”

    “You have tasted your brothers' flesh," the voice hissed; the words seeming to coalesce in Dimitri’s body.

    The rider approached closer again.

    “I had to survive. They were already dead, and I didn’t want to join them!” Dimitri exclaimed.

    The Cold washed over him as the veteran clutched his chest in pain. Dimitri screamed as he felt his heart turn to ice. The rider was almost within touching distance now.

    “Your heart belongs to me. All of you belongs to me.”
    “No, I…I won’t…I…I hunger.”
    “Indeed, but now is not the time to sate your hunger. Spring is here.”

    The rider touched his brow and Dimitri dismounted his horse and lay on the ground comatose. The ghastly rider smiled.

    “Sleep well, my wendigo. Your time will come.”
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  4. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    One vote. How pathetic! Hate to be you. I'll be over here wth my TWO votes. In your face!

    I was actually mildly bummed that I only got two votes. I wasn't epecting to win, but I thought I should have done better. I think Paradoxical Pacificism nailed my shortcomings best.

    Let's get my ace in the hole, throw on some Brandon Flechter and cover my reviews. I hope ya'll have a hog killin' time reading this.



    I'm all about the betterments of this new frontier setting. Everytime I write something for Westhammer I got to play Flechter or something similar.

    I need to look up these movies... I usually like Tarantino's movies.

    I was on the fence on whether to call this piece something spot on like "The Wendigo" or something vague "The Harsh Winter" or something flowery "In the Grim Frontier of the West there is only War." But to @Paradoxical Pacifism, repliled back to me before you did and he recommend I go the simple literal route.

    Even for people who heard of the Wendigo before, it's not something hardwired into their brains as much as say, Scooby Doo is.

    As mentioned in the thought process blurb above, I wanted to protray characters as completely as I could with as low a word count as I could get away with. I'm glad it worked.

    That was certainly what I was going for. This is something common to both westerns and Warhammer fantasy.

    If I had more time, I would trimmed the introduction and the town meeting down and used the freed up words to add some more tension.


    This is more of a horror trope than a western trope, but that is what I was going for.

    That was my main misgiving is that I tried to do too many things. I wouldn't go back and change this, but my next short story I'mma fixin to be more focused on one or two things rather than go for the whole chuck wagon.

    I'm fair to middlin' this worked out. I've been working on my pacing a lot this last year or two, and I'm pleased to say I'm getting better at this element of writing.

    Very glad this worked. Even though interest petered out on the Westhammer thread, I have never given up on the idea and would like to see it keep going.

    You already said this earlier. Quit beating a dead horse! I done up with too many literary themes.

    Well I'm licked.

    Maybe it's a lack of confidence but when I try for a humorous piece I usually go for quantity over quality with jokes. If I ride the entire story one giant gag like @Killer Angel did with "In the Grim Darkness", I am terrified my joke won't land.

    Since PP was my editor, he was plumb aware of how rushed my piece. This piece would have been better if I had more time, less sloth.

    Four people wrote detailed reviews of my piece. One of them was me. Two of them came from people who helped me proofread. Lord Agragax was the only person who wasn't a collaberator and he done smelled me out!

    That's probably a good thing. I don't begrudge him this because I happy to see someone still remembers our Western collaberation fondly.

    That is my hope to kick off a collection of fluff sagas in this universe. Unlikely to do this soon because I have to finish The Golden Mountain, Strange Blood, and Verrick the Witch Hunter. I also have a rough outline for a sequel to New Alliances but that is just an idea, not a WIP.

    Spot on summary.

    This was not spot on.

    Dimitri didn't commit cannibalism during the Civil War. He ate his brothers' corpses in the previous winter. My fault for not communicating this clearly.

    The Black Rider is not Tzeentch but Famine. Per our discussion, Famine might be a reincarnation of Slaanesh or he/she/it might be something entirely new. Your fault for not remembering this minor detail from a giant thread in perfect clarity!

    Slaanesh = Famine
    Khorne = War/Strife
    Nurgle = Pestilence (duh)
    Tzeentch/Nagash = Death

    It was ultimately decided that Slaanesh represented famine because Slaaneshi minions are always hungry and never satisfied. That was also preferable to having Slaaneshi demons running hookshops for ladies of the line.

    Aw shucks!

    Nothing substantive here. I just tried to hit the basics because if I didn't critique my own piece it would be even more obvious I wrote it.

    The first part was me spreading myself on my pacing and characterization. Which was solid but was not the best pacing and characterization in this contest.

    It's less fun to make jokes about apostrophes in name without @spawning of Bob as a regular. But I will cover the concept in seriousness. Few people are 100% on how an apostrophe in a foreign name should be pronounced. Is it a pause? A click? A glottal stop? A chirp? Foreign languages are only foreign to foreigners. I am a strong proponent, when writing Lizardmen characters from the Lizardmen's point of view to keep names fairly simple and easy to pronounce.

    In this case, the Skinks are strangers in a strange land. Under these circumstances, exotic unprouncible names enhance the characterization rather than detract from it.

    I'm not a hypocrite I swear! Well I'm not a hypocrite about this specific thing at least.


    That's about all I got. I could done switch in more western lingo into my responses but then it might be unreadable.

    Incoporating period slang into a fiction piece is something that I'm a tenderfoot at. I need more practice.

    Obviously I need to write a piece with a Rango bartender at some point...
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2021
  5. Paradoxical Pacifism
    Skink Chief

    Paradoxical Pacifism Well-Known Member

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    Never knew "licked" is apart of western slang. Then again, i'm just an ignorant masshole :smuggrin:

    My Jamaican family uses that pretty often in your context. Just slang from that part of the world, I guess.

    You can use humor to define characters. One of bob's novels does this very well. Jokes and gags are used to characterize, whilst the setting and plot are serious. You don't have to hinge an entire story on the quality of being humorous to be funny.
     
    Warden and Scalenex like this.
  6. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    I could say that you went ahead only by one vote. ONE. that was very close.
    Or I could say you doubled me. Nah, i like more the first sentence. :D

    Me too. No votes from our ungrateful lustrian fellows. :p
     
  7. Warden
    Slann

    Warden Tenth Spawning

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    I did enjoy this story :cool:

    Interesting approach to the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

    In AOS it is a little bit harder to place them now there there are 4.5 chaos gods?

    War- Khorne
    Famine- Nurgle
    Pestilence- Horned Rat
    Death- Tzeentch but then again these is Nagash?
    And Slaneesh came back now?

    This would be a lot more difficult with the Conquest/War/Famine/Death version of the four horsemen too.
     
  8. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    You need to brush up on the Westhammer thread. You even posted on that thread.

    Though by the time we got to the Chaos gods, the thread was nearly over. Page 4 btw.

    So the backstory for Westhammer is that the history of the Old World diverged from Warhammer canon around the time of Karl Franz.

    The Empire by pen or by sword, absorbs Kislev, the Dwarf homelands, the Border Princes, Bretonnia, Estalia, Norseland, and Tilea. Not necessarily in that order.

    Nurgle, Slaanesh, Tzeentch, and Khorne made a desperate alliance to break the Empire once and for all and they failed. Effectively, these four Chaos gods "died" or as came as close to death as these beings can go. The avatars of Slaanesh, Khorne, and Nurgle were slain by heroic mortals. Elves and humans, dwarves and humans, humans and greenskins respectively. The avatar of Tzeentch was slain by Nagash or visa versa. Unlike the other three, no one present at Tzeentch's last stand was alive to tell the story.

    By the time of Westhammer, new evil powers filled the void of the dead Chaos gods: Famine, Pestilence, War, and Death. They may or may not have an direct relationship to the four original Chaos gods.


    The Chaos gods instituted a bunch of natural disasters on their way out. This and a bunch of internal divisions caused the Empire of Man to break up into smaller pieces.

    Among other things, either the Great Horned Rat died or the Great Horned Rat was proven to not exist at all. A common theory is that the Great Horned Rat was a convenient fiction to let Nurgle direct the Skaven as unwitting puppets.

    In 6th edition WHF lore, there was a weird dichotomy. 1) Most of the civilized world believed that Skaven didn't exist. 2) the Skaven outnumbered all the other races combined. WTM Games Workshop!

    Any events, when Khorne's Final Curse hit the Old World, magic began to weaken. This caused Ulthuan to sink into the sea and unicorns to go extinct among many horrible things. Among a beneficial side effect of this is that the Skaven began to sicken and were largely afflicted by sterility. The Skaven population had a roughly 99% drop in their population. At that point, the survivors decided to go back to their sneaky roots. Most people believe the Skaven are extinct or never existed in the first place. The Skaven are eager to maintain this facade.

    So the Age of Sigmar roster doesn't matter. The Great Horned Rat certainly doesn't matter. Gork and Mork, Khaine and the Elven pantheon, Hashut and Nagash are also gone.


    Not that this is super important for my short story. I just knew I wanted Westhammer to include wendigo in it. After running my alternate ideas for "Which entity or entities should fulfill the role of the Bigger Bad(s) of Westhammer?" The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by far was the best received, so that's "canon" now. Since wendigo are cannibal spirits associated with harsh winters, they would obviously be minions of Famine.
     
  9. Warden
    Slann

    Warden Tenth Spawning

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    Quite true :facepalm: I need to go back over this gold mine
     
  10. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    "Brothers to Remember" January-February 2020, Theme was "New Beginnings or Rebirths"

    I frequently like to incorporate Lizardmen rituals into my stories. I even created a very detailed thread on Lizardmen religious practices and I've been pulling from it for my fluff pieces often. Since I created the thread I felt compelled to put as many of these practices into fluff pieces as I can. Otherwise, what is the point of me composing lengthy non-fiction style threads about this kind of stuff?

    I am pleased that other people have done similar. @Paradoxical Pacifism involved a Solstice festival in his latest contest entry.

    "Chameleons in the City of Mists" had a Fimir pretending to be a Skink priest trying to not look bored during a praise ritual.

    "Watching Things Burn" used a Chotec veneration ritual to set the scene and provide a metaphor for my story.

    "Excitement" involved the Festival of Tlanxla indirectly, but in this case the story was about getting to the ritual, not the ritual itself.

    "The Holy Snake" was a farcical take on Lizardmen rituals poking fun at modern televangelists.

    "The Long Journey" was pulled directly from my religious festivals thread. So was this one.

    As soon as I saw the contest theme I knew I would want to involve the Rite of the Adopted Brother or the Ritual of New Spawning. After some pondering I figure the Rite of the Adopted Brother would make it easier to focus on a single protagonist and that would make it easier to write a short story.

    I had the concept at least two weeks before the deadline but I got stuck debating minor details with myself, what to include and what not to include. How sad to make it, how optimistic to make it. Apparently I needed a looming deadline and lots of coffee to break out of my writer's block.

    I do not know if emotionally poignant deaths is the key to getting short story contest votes, but it is the key for me getting short story contest vote. The three pieces where I won or tied for first place used a noble death as the focal point of the story.

    "Song of Freedom" and "In Pursuit of Freedom" had nihilistic futile deaths. I had positive critical reviews but not a lot of votes.

    I don't plan to write a piece with a bittersweet noble death every time. Among other reasons, I want to learn to write other styles well. I also want to give someone else a chance to kill some beloved mentors or comrades in arms.

    My main misgiving is that I tried to cram too much into this. I wanted to give Yuqtal a best friend who died near the end. I wanted to show wounded Sauri recovering, I wanted to have some events were lots of Sauri died and some events where a single Saurus died. And of course I wanted to cover their original spawning and their spawning.

    This piece was barely under the maximum word count but apparently that didn't bother too many people because I won the most votes. Huzzah and hurrah.

    Brothers to Remember


    Forty years ago


    The newborn Saurus crawled on to land on all fours. Instinctively he stood up to his full height and looked around. He looked around as his brothers emerged behind him and beside him. He began to gain his bearings blinking in the sunlight of this new dry world he emerged into.

    He looked at the sky and clouds in wonder. Then looked down. A smaller scaled creature vaguely like himself was examining him closely. This new figure was dryer, bedecked with feathers, somewhat shorter and much less muscled. The Saurus only half-understood what the smaller creature said.

    “The first to emerge is also the tallest and the strongest. Clearly this one is destined to lead the others of his spawning. We shall name him Yuqtal.”

    I am Yuqtal. These are my brothers. I shall lead them to glories and keep them safe.
    I have thirty-six brothers to protect.


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

    38 years ago

    The spawning had been tested by its first battle. A small skirmish all things considered. About a hundred Saurus Warriors, two hundred Skinks, and six Salamanders had killed or captured nearly every enemy in a force of warm bloods numbering four hundred soldiers and a hundred of their four-legged maned warmblood beasts that they used in place of Cold Ones. These enemies were called Huemons, but the details didn’t matter, these Huemons had sought to steal sacred relics, so they had to die.

    It was a great victory, but not without cost. Yuqtal would get his first scar. A gash across his shoulder. Many of his brothers received their first scar. The most impressive scar belonged to Kroqekar. He was impaled by a lance. The Skink healer assured Yuqtal that he would fully recover within two months, but he needed to be kept out of the field until then. Choaquel and Takyu were not so lucky. They had been hit multiple times by the metal explosive blowguns the Huemon sorcerers crafted. Yuqtal lost track of time how long he stood over Choaquel's and Takyu’s bodies.

    Kroqekar limped over, being half-carried by two of his brothers.

    “Do not despair Yuqtal. I heard you defended my limp useless body and Zecxla’s body too. You killed seven Huemons. You are a good. spawn leader. You led us to victory.”

    Their other brothers roared in agreement.

    I am Yuqtal. These are my brothers. I shall lead them to glories and keep them safe.
    I have thirty-four brothers to protect, two to remember.



    24 years ago

    If I have to stare at the ceiling of the hospital tent one more day, I will lose my mind.

    The campaign was over, the latest Skaven offensive was broken. Chameleon Skinks and Terradon Riders were guiding the other Skinks in tracking down and eliminating the dregs and stragglers that remained. The Saurus warriors’ work was done…for now. Yuqtal’s abdomen still ached, but the physical pain wasn’t half as bad as the boredom. The boredom wasn’t half as bad as the vomiting.

    I wonder if this is what Salamander’s feel like every day.

    The wound in his gut was shallow but poisoned. The anti-toxins were doing their job….slowly. At least he stopped vomiting, freeing up more of Yuqtal’s attention to focus on his boredom.

    Yuqtal stood up out of his cot. Spots danced before his eyes, but Yuqtal refused to lay back down. Yuqtal’s second, Kroqekar entered the tent.

    “You are on your feet, brother. Good, it is time. ”

    Yuqtal walked forward and stumbled.

    “You can lean on me.”
    “I’m perfectly capable of walking by myself!”
    “Of course you are, brother. But you helped me so many times when I was injured that you are going to let me help you just to even things out slightly. You are generous to indulge me, brother”

    Yuqtal grinned.

    “Okay. I think I’m done vomiting, but If I start retching. Try to angle me towards Healer Aquite.”
    “I heard he wanted you to stay in bed another two weeks? Try not to vomit until after the ceremony though.”
    “Of course. Thank you for leading the unit while I was out cold.”
    “It was not difficult. I watched you lead long enough. Every brother was out to avenge you. The rats didn’t stand a chance.”

    Over a thousand of the First Children of the Old Ones gathered along the banks of the river that the Skink priests had consecrated for the memorial service. Hundreds of Skinks and Sauri had perished, very few bodies were recovered to be placed into the river. Yuqtal’s dizziness had passed, but he barely listened to a word of the various Skink priests’ flowery eulogies. Yuqtal focused his lost brothers.

    Before the spawning’s first real campaign, Yuqtal and his brothers only fought small unconnected battles. In fourteen years, they had lost seven brothers. They lost eight brothers in the last two months.

    Qualesh’s body was laid to rest in the river. After the Skinks were done talking, the Sauri of various spawning approached with their memory stones. Yuqtal’s living brothers, many still recovering from poisons themselves, tossed their stones into the river one-by one to mark the brothers whose corpses were lost.

    SPLASH

    “Aquilta.”

    SPLASH

    “Tehata.”

    SPLASH

    “Noqyu.”

    SPLASH

    “Gaxill.”

    SPLASH

    “Pylirah.”

    SPLASH

    “Karjah.”

    Yuqtal threw the last stone

    SPLASH

    “Faltuk.”

    I am Yuqtal, these are my brothers. I shall lead them to glories and keep them safe.
    I have twenty-one brothers to protect, fifteen to remember.


    Five years ago

    The last remnants of the Daemon army’s corpses had faded away, having returned fully to the foul realm that spawned them. Yuqtal spawning had not suffered a fatality in almost a decade, now they suffered their greatest single day loss.

    All the bodies were recovered cleansed, and returned to the pool that spawned them. Yuqtal barely listened to a word of the Skink priest’s eulogy.

    In his heart, Yuqtal wanted to be with his living brothers, but he had to put some distance between them. He marched out in the jungle outside the city.

    Kroqekar caught up with him a few hours later.

    “Why did you leave us?”
    “How did you track me down?”
    “You always walk the same path near the city when you are troubled. Why did you leave us?”
    “I am a bad Spawning leader.”
    “You are a good spawning leader. The losses we suffered were not as bad as the other spawnings. Our brothers did not die in vain. Why did you leave us?”
    “I am a bad spawning leader. If the men see me cry that shows weakness. Perhaps I am weak. Today I have more brothers to remember than I have to protect.”

    Kroqekar took a long time before replying. He rubbed his old scars gently.

    “The wounds that caused these scars should have killed have me several times, but you kept me safe while I was weak. You did this because you are a good spawning leader.”
    “You survived because you are strong, not because of me, Kroqekar. I am a bad spawning leader”
    “You cry because you are sad. You are sad because you are a good spawning leader. I would follow you anywhere against any foe. So would the others. You have led us to glories before and will do so again. You have twelve brothers to protect you.”

    One year ago

    Yuqtal barely had time to give the order to lock shields before the hydra barreled into the contingent of Saurus warriors. Many Saurus were knocked down as the creature’s clawed feet and many snake heads lashed out at the Sauri. Tekhat was dead, no doubt about it. He’d seen his brothers recover from severe injuries before, but a Saurus body could not bounce back from being crushed under the full weight of a monster that size.

    The shield wall held up more or less. A lot of his brothers were knocked into the mud, but their shields have taken the brunt of the damage. Most got up again. Kaxilli and Zecxla did not. They could pull through if they got the attention of a Skink healer soon. For his brothers to live, the monster had to die quickly.

    A warrior Skink might have pondered how this snake headed creature Anathema was a personal insult to Great Sotek. Yuqtal didn’t focus on the spiritual implications of the creature’s existence. He sought only to assess the monster’s weaknesses and slay it.

    The creature seemed to lack weaknesses. Its body was tough, and its scales were thick. The foul snake heads were somewhat less imperious to attacks but they moved with great agility. A head that was crushed or severed grew back quickly. The creature’s body turned aside all but the truest strikes. The relatively small wounds his brothers inflicted on the monster’s body disappeared even faster than the heads.

    About half his brothers were nursing a variety of cuts and bruises, and these minor wounds not disappearing. This mattered little in a short term. To a Saurus, such minor injuries are trivial. They would not even leave visible scars. Still, Yuqtal knew in the long term, a warrior nursing many minor injuries would become fatigued faster as his strength literally bled out. As his brothers became more tired, more serious injuries would follow.

    One of the heads bit deep into Kroqekar’s chest. The best Skink healer would not be able to stitch him back together. A Slann’s magic might be able to save Kroqekar.

    Without thinking Yuqtal roared in anger and plunged his axe into the snake creature’s forehead. The snake neck writhed as its head head hissed in anger and pain. Yuqtal was spattered in drops of putrid black ichor. Yuqtal struck again severing the head. Three or four more of his brothers were lying in the mud, bleeding, unconscious or worse.

    The few times one of his brothers was able to strike the hydra’s body, the scales deflected the strike. Not far away his brothers Taheki and Zlaot had destroyed another head. Yuktal saw that new heads were already beginning to regrow but he sensed the foul creature slowing down.

    This healing power takes a lot out of the monster.

    “Smash the heads! Ignore the rest!”

    Tired and battered, the brothers roared defiantly pressing their seemingly futile attack.

    A warmth fell over the spawning brothers as Yuqtal sensed the hand of a Slann as a gash across his forehead that he barely registered sealed itself. Kaxilli and Zecxla were back on their feet attacking as ferociously as anyone. Most his brothers were renewed with great vigor, but Kroqekar and several others did not stir, nor would they ever stir again.

    Yuqtal wanted to yell “For Kroqekar!” but all that came out was an inarticulate roar of pain and fury. That was enough though. The roar was echoed by his brothers as they surged forward. The Sauri were striking down heads faster than they could regrow. The creature began to step back reluctantly, the ugly heads’ assorted hisses sounded more frightened than frightening.

    Yuqtal and his brothers were winning, but the beast was not going to die quickly or quietly. Zecxla was knocked down again by a snake head. Zecxla was only stunned, but the Anathema followed up the head’s strike with a clawed foot, rending Zecxla into pieces. Zecxla was beyond even a Slann’s healing, and the Temple Guard had carried the Slann to far away to help regardless.

    The beast was slowing down, but Yuqtal feared he would be the only Saurus left standing.

    “For Sotek!” came the shrill battle cry of a small group of Skinks.

    The wounded and staggered Hydra was impaled by three horns as an ancient Stegadon charged its exposed flank. The Hydra collapsed. Its body was too broken for its unholy healing power to repair.

    The battle had largely moved elsewhere. Most of their friends and foes alike were some distance away.

    Yuqtal rallied and regrouped the survivors of his spawning. His brother, Uxua picked up the unit’s discarded drum set out of the mud. There would be time to mourn later, now was the time for action. A few Sauri had lost shields or weapons and they scavenged replacements from their fallen brothers. Uxua awkwardly beat out the rhythm, for regrouping. He turned towards Yuqtal for orders. Yuqtal had eight brothers to protect and lead to glories.

    Nearest to them, another spawning of Saurus, the Third Jade Spawning of the Pool of Tlaxcotl, was fighting another Hydra. A young spawning, almost fifty warriors strong. This was their first real battle. The spawning was wet. They were slowly losing. Their spawning leader was dead or unconscious. There was no Slann nearby to cast a spell on their behalf. There was no ancient Stegadon to provide a supporting charge.

    If the Jade Spawning was to have any salvation, it would be from nine very tired and battered Saurus Warriors…

    Yuqtal pointed at the second Hydra.

    “Brothers! Attack!”


    This afternoon

    Yuqtal stood with his five brothers facing Third Jade Spawning of the Pool of Tlaxcotl. Other spawnings watched from a distance. A Skink priest walked in front of him speaking of honor, brotherhood and valor.

    Yuqtal hung on the priest’s every word. The priest addressed his five brothers with a battery of questions before finally turning to Yuqtal.

    “Do you accept these Sauri as your brothers?”
    “Yes!”
    “Do you promise serve the Old Ones beside them?”
    “Yes!”
    “Do you promise to stand beside them in battle?”
    “Yes!”
    “Are their friends your friends?”
    “Yes!”
    “Are their enemies your enemies?”
    “Our enemies will die!”

    Several among the assembled laughed at the nonstandard answer. His unorthodox answer was certainly acceptable.

    The Skink priest waved his hand over Yuqtal and his five brothers then addressed the larger Saurus group.

    “Do you accept these Sauri as your brothers?”
    YES!” came the thunderous reply.

    The various onlookers erupted in cheers as Skink attendants splashed the Sauri with ceremonial spawning pool water. The priest’s final blessing was mostly drowned out, but Yuqtal was close enough to hear.

    “Let all here witness these are brothers are bound by the Old Ones. What the Old Ones bring together, none can sever!”

    I am Yuqtal, these are my brothers. I shall lead them to glories and keep them safe.
    I have forty-eight brothers to protect, thirty-one to remember.
     
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  11. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    As for coming up with names, observant followers of the fluff forum may have noticed I stickied @Dan32234234234324 's name generator. I didn't use many of the names verbatim. In most cases I shortened them but it's a lot easier to adapt one of those generated names to meet my needs than to create a dozen names whole cloth.

    Also, I hope @spawning of Bob reads and enjoys this. Son of Bob too.

    Without being modest, this is what I was going for. I'm glad it worked.

    His point is valid. All the time skips made the story a bit choppy and broke up the narrative flow. I was actually trying to make sudden drop offs in emotions. Maybe that wasn't the best idea. If I could write this again I'm not sure what I'd do differently.

    I am a fan of Star Trek Deep Space Nine and I especially like the Ferengi centered episodes. Ferengi pronounce "human" funny.

    I was aiming for sudden emotional transitions. Also, I wanted to show Sauri having slow recovery. This would explain how the Sauri could go through so many battles and have so many survivors. In many cases the casualties were able to recover enventually.

    Thank you for the high praise.

    This was me trying to hide my authorship. I didn't do very well at this, but with Bob gone, few people try to guess authorship these days.
     
  12. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    I have not written anything before this contest but I had the basic idea for a Dark Elf and and Lizardmen praying for vengeance against each other back for the October-November 2016 but I tossed out the idea. I didn't think I could do it within a reasonable word count, and I wasn't sure if writing about two very obscure Warhammer deities would fly.

    Also, I am rarely kissed by a muse where an entire story flows out of me easily, but this happened for October-November 2016 for the story I did enter, "In Pursuit of Freedom". I daydreamed at work and came up with a mental outline for the entire basic story in a hour or two. This allowed me to toss out my original idea, this one, without a second thought.

    This contest, I also tossed aside other ideas before writing this one. I combed through this thread for a ritual to write a story around. I wanted to write a light-hearted piece set around Kroxigor Day but I didn't come up with any compelling conflict. I thought about having a Tzunki Festival interrupted by Skaven trying to poison the water supply, but that seemed a little cliche. I ultimately settled on dusting off my original idea from October 2016.

    It was barely under the 2400 maximum word count but my original thought in 2016 was I couldn't do this in under 3000 words. I've better at word economy in the last four years. I also was watching a lot of medieval history videos for research on Scarterra and I heard about how a lot of large battles started as small skirmishes that grew as each side drew in reinforcements.

    I thought that would add realism and verisimilitude and it would let me create a narrow focus on the original skirmishing combatants and use the "fog of war" to plausibly not have to describe large segments of the battle.

    I paid very close attention to pacing. When I wrote each subsection where the Skink provides his point of view and the Dark Elf provides his point of view. I did a word count for each section to make sure neither of the two narrators outpaced the other in word count and this kept the overall word count of the piece slim.

    I enjoy writing pieces from competing antagonists points of view. My stories New Alliances and Legacies are built on this. I am reasonably pleased with how this turned out.

    Prayers for Vengeance


    Tekakor (Tek-ah-core) thought about going to the shrine of Xapati weeks earlier but he decided to wait for Vengeance Day.

    The Skink chief walked along the mulch path towards the shrine. The insects were getting noisy in the dusk gloom, but the Skink tuned it out. He thought only of his hatred. The Skink half-expected to see a small queue, but he was the only one from at the kahoun’s shrine this evening. The Old Ones may be beings of duty not beings of vengeance, but Takakur knew that sometimes vengeance and duty overlapped. That’s what the Old One Xapati represents.

    Takakur had never visited the shrine before. The shrine was modest, a small gazebo over a stone altar surrounded by a small statuette of Xapati in all four cardinal directions. Beyond the four statuettes were sixteen wooden poles carved with glyphs forming a loose circle around the altar. The skink lit of stick of incense and waved it around the shrine. Then he bit into the soft part of his left hand. After daubing his own blood in a rough circle around the altar, he knelt.

    “Great Xapati, I beseech you. Grant me holy vengeance against the foes of the Great Plan…”


    Iliphar (ill-a-far) finally made it to Drakira’s temple. The disgraced corsair commander had trouble obtaining enough leave to make the pilgrimage to the Drakira temple in Karand Kar, but his commander granted him a leave for vengeance sake.

    Apart from the ceremonial guard at the entrance, the temple was completely empty. Iliphar thought it was odd that he was the only elf in Karand Kar not seeking vengeance that evening. Too many Druichi worshipped Khaine alone. Khaine may be Naggaroth’s greatest patron, but the Druichi should claim the heritage of all the elven god. Khaine was a supported general destruction of one’s enemies, but Illiphar sought a personal touch.

    The walls of the hallway to the main altar were lined with ceremonial weapons along with murals depicting famous scenes of wrongs done to the Druichi people and acts of retribution against them. A stylistic statue of a stern elven woman stood over a bronze brazier. Drakira had drained the blood of a sacrificial human earlier and carried it in a large ceramic jar. He unsealed the jar then took a knife and cut his palm to mix his blood with that of the dead slave before pouring the mixture into the brazier.

    “Lady Drakira, Queen of Vengeance. Accept my offering. Grant me vengeance against those who wronged a loyal servant of the true gods.”



    Tekakor

    “The Slann, in their wisdom, have determined that a permanent settlement resettlement of the City of Echoes is not feasible. It is ill fated for any the group to stay there too long, but the Slann decreed that the ruins of Xahutec must be defended at all times. I don’t know if the ruins have that warmbloods want, but that doesn’t stop them from looking. Different contingents from throughout Lustria have been guarding the city in three-month shifts. Our kahoun just finished one such shift.

    “We didn’t have any Chameleons and we had very few Terradons, so we’ve had to do our scouting work. I was a sub-commander in charge of long range patrols.”



    Iliphar

    “My Black Ark opted to stage a raid on some ruins near Lustria’s northeast coast. The odds of finding any treasure were fairly low, but it has been some time since the armies of Naggaroth have engaged in a true war, but we cannot allow our blades to go too long without tasting blood. Illiyarus, Our Black Ark Commander thought this was a worthy test of our skills. Also, I’m pretty sure supreme sorceress, Seldanna, thought there was something of value here she could find. Illiyarus seeks to get in Seldanna’s “good graces’ so to speak.

    “It was more trouble than it was worth to take harpies on a long sea journey. Most of our horses had to haul supplies, so had to do our scouting work on foot. I was the captain in charge of our point group.”


    Tekakor

    “My army group had thirty-seven Sotek Caste Skinks armed with javelins. We had two cohorts of with a combined total of seventy-eight worker caste Skinks and eight Kroxigor. We had thirteen beast caste brethren with two Razordons and a Salamander.

    “We spotted the Fallen before they could see us, but we only had a split second advantage. A single spawning of skirmishers threw a volley of javelins before all the elves were alert and and firing their strange bows upon us. Most of their bolts missed but they such a high volume of fire some of these shots struck true and downed a warrior.

    “The dark elves bowmen had superior range. Some of the soldiers wearing the stolen scaly cloaks from who knows what kind of creature and these cloaks seemed to be very javelin resistant. I knew a shooting contest was a bad idea, so I ordered the cohorts to charge immediately.

    “The Fallen of the Second Race held firm. The cohorts were doing a respectable job but the elves were dealing out worse than they got. I wanted to help them, but I was holding back with the Sotek caste because I knew the elves had to have some kind of flanking force.

    “Their flanking force was warmblooded cavalry and unarmored dual wielding elves screaming like howler monkeys. Unarmored elven infantry are very vulnerable to our javelins but I had to cover the horses. I split the fire between the two threats and caused many infantry to die, but unfortunately I underestimated the cavalry. They obliterated half of a spawning of Sotek Skinks and only lost two of their own in the process.

    “I was vaguely aware of an elf in shinier false scales directing the other elves, but he was too far away for me to do anything about it. I could get him later.

    “I wondered what the beast caste skinks were doing but I didn’t have time to rein them in. While the cavalry was regrouping after running the west flank down, I led the rest of the Sotek skinks to counter charge them. At this point I lost track of the rest of the battle temporarily. The cavalry had to die.”


    Iliphar

    “The advanced group I was commanding had ten dark riders, thirty corsairs, thirty crossbowmen and twenty-seven witch elves. I didn’t want the witch elves at all, they don’t follow orders well, but Seldanna insisted the witch elves be in every army group and Illyarus unsurprisingly agreed.

    “We spotted the lizards before they could see us, but we only had a split second advantage. We got a rushed volley of bolts off before the javelins began to rain down on us. Their infantry quickly came in to support their skirmishers. Most of the javelins rebounded harmlessly against our armor, but every point that struck skin caused death to the lizard’s poison.

    “I knew the Dark Riders would be butchered by the skirmishers if we tried to keep our distance, so I ordered our lines to converge as quickly as possible.

    “All of us had been brief on the enemy’s capabilities. When the little skinks and the crocodile ogres fought in combined units, we knew the crocodile ogres were the real threat, but they are unaccountably fond of the little warriors. If you kill enough little ones, the big ones will lose heart and flee.

    “I saw the lizards had some of the medium sized beasts with ranged attacks but they were holding back for some reason.

    “The witch elves did not join the main offensive as ordered and tried for their own flank attack. They got a bunch of poisoned javelins perforating their pretty bodies. Hah! The flank attack I ordered did better. The dark riders lost one of their members to a javelins but managed to slash or trample over a dozen skirmishers.”

    “I saw the skirmishers had a leader rallying them to resist the cavalry but I was too far away to do anything about it. He would die later.

    “At that point the Fog of War enveloped me. There was a crocodile ogre trying to kill me personally so I couldn’t pay attention to the battle at large. I wanted to set a good example for the men and I didn’t get squashed to jelly, so I took it upon myself to slay the beast.”


    Tekakor

    “When I finished off the enemy cavalry and regrouped the remaining Sotek caste, I surveyed the battle. It looked like the warbeasts got overly excited and several beast handlers were slain by their own charges. Nothing I can do about that.

    “The enemy archers had put so many arrows in into the Salamander it looked like a Razordon. The Salamander had at least managed to char some elves to death before it fell. One Razordon was exchanging shots with the elven archers while the other one engaged the remnants of the berserker infantry.

    “Despite having more numbers initially the elves against the cohort were doing relatively well. There were twice as many dead skinks as elves littering the ground. The elf commander fought like a Scar Veteran. The threat to the Razordons was more immediate.

    “I yelled ’Quit throwing spines and charge them!’ I yelled to the unengaged Razordon than I led the Sotek Skinks against the flank of the elves fighting the other Razordon.”


    Iliphar

    “I was the first to bring down a crocodile ogre. I hobbled it by slicing its shins and ankles and then slit its throat. I could stem the actions of the others. The big lizards were slow and clumsy but my men were tiring and every time a crocodile ogre struck true, an elf was turned into entrails. The sounds of dying horses told me the dark riders were finished. Nothing I could do about that.

    “We were winning against the mixed cohorts but we were winning slowly, but it looked liked the Witch Elves were being overwhelmed on our opposite flank. I didn’t like them, but I could afford to let any troops in my command die needlessly.

    “The crossbowmen seem to have neutralized the lizard’s support beasts, so I ordered the crossbowmen to try to back up the witch elves but the spikey reptile charged them. Tying them down.”


    Tekakor

    “Great Xapati, I am not afraid to admit II sorely underestimated the fury of the berserkers. The Razordon was slain quickly and they were cutting down Sotek Skinks with ease despite our numbers. The berserkers seemed to have no fear. It was all I could do to stay alive."


    Iliphar

    “I admit, Dark Lady, it was unwise to seek melee battle with that a force that large. Most of the smaller lizards were dead or routed but the lizard ogres persisted. They killed many corsairs, our armor useless against them. They were determined to hold their ground. It was all I could do to stay alive."


    Tekakor

    “Most of my Sotek brethren were dead. I would have died too were it not for the Terradons. They had arrived ahead of the rest of the army. Their dive took out many beserkers and finally broke their spirit routing the survivors of the unit.

    “The Kroxigor had finally turned the tide against their foes but that was small comfort. Perhaps they would manage to kill the enemy commander. The archers had destroyed the second Razordon and were turning towards me. Twelve of them against me and five others.

    “To my shame, I don’t remember the name of the Skink who knocked me down and took the arrow meant for me. Whatever his name, I wanted to avenge him, but I could not, I was alone. The Terradon riders destroyed the archers before they could kill me.

    “At this point the rest of the army had arrived. I was too exhausted to do much. My senses were weakened by fatigue. I barely realized that the Fallen elves had their reinforcements too. I joined a new unit of javelin Skinks and fought as best as I could the rest of the battle."


    Iliphar

    “Sixty elves had stood their ground against a hundred lizards, but it was not enough. I slain two more crocodile ogres that were already slightly wounded. It was not enough. There were three crocodile ogres still standing and me, no one else. We were surrounded by scores of dead lizards and elves lying in the mud. The dim beasts’ eyes homed in on me. I could sense their rage.

    The crossbowmen had defeated their opponents, though they failed to kill the lizard commander. I was too focused on the immediate danger before me to rectify this. My remaining men were too few, too far away to help me. I fled.

    I slain enough lizards that I feel no shame in fleeing.

    I heard the horns blowing announcing the imminent arrival of Cold One knights. I heard he roar of our Hydras. The rest of the Black Ark’s forces were near. I fled towards them then joined a new unit of corsairs.

    I saw the Cold One Cavalry kill the Kroxigor ogres that tried to killed me, but I saw the lizard commander escape and meld into his own reinforcements."


    Tekakor

    We won the battle, but at a cost. The Fallen Elves were driven back to the sea, but the losses were heavy. I was the sole survivor from our advanced unit. I believe the elven commander of their advanced unit also escape. His face haunts my dreams. He killed my brethren and must pay."


    Iliphar

    "We won the battle, but at a cost. We inflicted more damage than we received. We had trophies of slain, a small number of ceremonial captives, and we had plundered a great many gold trinkets some of the enemy soldiers were wearing. I was the sole survivor of my army group. The humiliation must not stand. My instincts tell me the skirmisher leader escaped."


    Tekakor

    "Great Xapati, most focused and driven of the Old Ones, grant me the boon I seek. Let me find my hated enemy, so that I may slay him in your name."


    Iliphar

    "Lady Drakira, Queen of Vengeance, grant me the opportunity to avenge my humiliation. Let me find my hated enemy, so that I may slay him in your name."
     
  13. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    [​IMG]

    I kept the review superficial to not give myself away.

    Thank you for the praise. Also, some of my grammar is ALWAYS incorrect. That's my biggest weakness as writer.

    Thank you. I was aiming for an endless cycle of revenge. Of course with The Last of US 2 blowing up my Youtube feed, I'm less prone to view revenge stories in a positive light, but I'm glad my story turned out fairly well.
     
  14. Paradoxical Pacifism
    Skink Chief

    Paradoxical Pacifism Well-Known Member

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    I liked the concept, but the story felt too uniform imo.
     
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  15. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    You managed to strike a very difficult balance.
    This was probably my fav. story of this comp.
     
  16. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    yUninhP.png
     
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  17. Scalenex
    Slann

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    2/3 comments said unambiguous positive things!

    @Paradoxical Pacifism, you have hit on something I have been pondering. I brought up this video on my Scarterra thread. I don't think hard world building is better than soft world building or visa versa, but I know I am better at hard world building than soft world building.

    Maybe world building and structuring a short story are not the same thing, but I need to have an outline or a structure to write a story. (I believe I maybe need an artificial deadline too, but that's another thing).

    Correct me if I am wrong, PP, but I believe you have a different writing style than I. I believe you are more free form than I am and that when you started your opus Psyche of War you were not 100% sure where you going with it and you let the character's evolving personalities dictate the story for you at least somewhat.

    You also have a natural knack for creating poignant emotional scenes though sometimes I wish your pieces were a bit more structured. :angelic:

    I bet if I let someone else handle the behind the scenes work for a short story contest I could pick out which piece you wrote. You have the soul of a poet, as evidence by the work you put into your current poem. Bob used to have fun guessing authorship and he was right a fair bit, but new people joined faster than he could keep up with.

    I do not have the soul of a poet, but I appreciate poetry. I'm coming up with the outline for my next story right now. It probably won't be as uniform as the previous but it's certainly not going to be free form.
     
  18. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    I hope you weren't referring to my post as the odd one out.

    If you review it carefully, you will see that there is nothing ambiguous about what was communicated, it was positive and paid an unofficial homage to your purported favourite movie.

    The prosecution rests, m'lud.

    ;)
     
  19. Paradoxical Pacifism
    Skink Chief

    Paradoxical Pacifism Well-Known Member

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    Oh, sry. I wanted to be a bit vague on that comment since I knew what I didn't like from the story was clearly what you were going for. Just a difference of opinion and I didn't want to force mine onto what you wanted from your story. Anyway, I didn't like that the characters felt too much the same imo. It's great that two different, opposing characters had the same conflicts, and at the end, swore vengeance against each other. At the same time, I think it would've helped if the two characters possessed something that differentiated them - something that focused on their inherent differences as individuals in a narrative settling their lives to converge, imo.

    No two writing styles are the same after all :D . And tbh, I love that aspect when participating in the contests. All these differences and preferences from people can give you new insights you've never thought of before.

    You're 100% right. I never knew what the ending was or what it should be when I first started that story. Just drifted wherever the characters' thoughts, actions, and situations took me. I probably wouldn't have done that again had I traveled back before starting it. Though the entire story in its infancy was still guided by some principles and themes I pondered and wrote up before committing to writing the piece.

    Oh... thx i guess :D :D :D. I won't say much on it since I would like to maintain the poem's anonymity, but it is inspired by some real life stuff.
     
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  20. Lizards of Renown
    Slann

    Lizards of Renown Herald of Creation

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    It's funny as I quite enjoyed the fact that even though they were different species and people, they still had the same troubles, problems and upsets. I guess that's how opinions go really!

    +1

    47900w.jpg

    but with the addition that viewing other peoples styles and (as I discovered when @Killer Angel called my bluff on doing reviews of stories) you can actually grow as a writer from analyzing another's story. In my opinion this is not on the creation, as every writer needs to have their own ideas and concept otherwise whats the marhlecting point, but on the delivery and how you get your idea to come across best to your readers.

    (I would like Scalenex to note ANOTHER appropo Hot Fuzz reference through Meme)
     

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