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Vendraciese - Dwarves
Dawning of a Dark Age
There was no work greater or more majestic then the grand hall of the dwarven High King. In the time before the War of Vengeance it had been an opulent chamber, constantly lit by great stone braziers and the twinkling of countless gems. The stern, stone faces of the royal ancestry had seemed to have a life of their own in the glow of the fires and they gazed impassively upon a court filled with dwarven thanes and elven ambassadors. Both races had mingled freely, sharing stories and reveling in the wealth of trade.
Over 400 years later the hall of the High King was an altogether different place. Fewer fires were lit and although the gems remained their colors were muted by darkness. The ancestors no longer seemed alive, their eyes closed in reverence by the flickering shadows. The hall itself was no longer lively. Instead, dwarven messengers stood quietly amidst the stone pillars, waiting to tell their tales of sorrow to the king.
Only one elf stood in the hall. The dwarves that passed him did not talk to him. If they made eye contact at all, it was only with looks of smoldering hatred. The elf himself was well dressed, for he wore a white robe embroidered with golden runes. His face was pointed, but still fair, and his blond hair was pulled back into a tidy braid. Anyone looking into his eyes could see that he was by no means well-off, though. His eyes held a weariness the likes of which had not been seen in the high elves since the beginning of the world.
The elf had been waiting to speak to the king for a long time, but he remained patient. King Caradryel had counseled patience in dealing with the stubborn dwarves, and it was important not to offend them further. The dwarven king could not ignore the elven ambassador forever, and was eventually forced to call him forward near the closing of the day
“Ambassador Elletharn of Ulthuan, come forward,” Boomed King Gotrek Starbreaker. “Come forward and account for yourself. Why do the elves dare set foot in our halls? Do you come seeking that trinket you call a crown? Speak!”
The elf, already light-skinned, paled at the insult to the Phoenix Crown, but answered respectfully.
“No, your majesty. Indeed, King Caradryel has ordered that a new crown be forged. We can no longer afford to fight the dwarves. In fact,” and here the elf bowed his head, “I come to beg for the dwarves to come to our aid.”
King Gotrek remained silent, so the elf raised his head and continued, “The dark elves sweep across the northern reaches of Ulthuan, and we are unable to fight back. Our garrisons keep them from invading the inner kingdoms, but we cannot hold forever.”
Still King Gotrek remained silent, his brow wrinkled in an angry scowl.
"Your Majesty, it was these same dark elves that began the war through their treachery. Surely you cannot let them go unpunished?
King Gotrek at last responded, and when he did so his voice was low, his tone carefully reigned in.
“These dark elves may have murdered a caravan, but your people have slain thousands of good dwarves. You expect me to send more dwarves to their death fighting to defend a centuries-old enemy? I think not.”
“Please, Your Majesty, we will offer any amount of wealth, any amount of knowledge. Our people are dying!”
“My people are dying!” the king roared, rising to his feet. “Entire clans disappear in the nights. Fire comes from the bowels of the earth and engulfs entire strongholds. How do we know that this isn’t some elven treachery?”
“How dare you accuse us of treachery?” Elletharn’s face flushed crimson as his temper flared. “It was not the elves that crept into windows and slew nobles! It was not the elves that burned virgin forests to the ground just for the pleasure of the flame!”
“Your mind is muddled, fool elf, and your accusations are baseless. Answer me this: If your trickster mages do not wreak this cataclysm upon us, then what is its cause?”
Elletharn opened his mouth, but closed it without speaking. Once again he lowered his head and the color drained from his face. “I… I do not know. But I can think of no Archmage that would do such things. You have our word that it is not the High Elves that are bringing these disasters.”
“Your word? Bah! What use do I have for the word of kinslayers? Be gone from my halls, elf, and take your foul magic with you.”
For a while the dwarf king and the elf ambassador glared at each other, but the king’s hammerers, standing on either side of the throne, began to finger their weapons and Elletharn turned towards the door and stalked off without a word.
King Gotrek slumped back into his chair and covered his brow with his hand. After a moment he gestured for his advisors to clear the court, but before they could move to disperse the messengers a cry came from the door.
“An urgent message for the king! A message to the king from Karak Ungor!”
“Come forward, messenger. What is so urgent?” King Gotrek sat up straight and placed his hands on the arms of his chair as a harried looking dwarf hurried to kneel at the bottom of the throne.
“Your Majesty! Karak Ungor has fallen to greenskins and ratmen and earthquakes prevent us from retaking it! Clan Ungor is dead, your majesty. Karak Ungor is taken."
The king stared hard at the messenger, and then dismissed him with a wave of his hand. He and all the other messengers obediently filed away. The advisors also left, casting furtive glances back at the silent king.
When the hall was empty the king put his head in his hands and wept softly into his beard.
Truly, this was a Time of Troubles.
Deadstar_MRC - Dark Elves
Completing the kill
The slivers of moons in the empty sky did little light the crags and cracks upon which the shadowy figure moved, but nor did that deter them. They moved with patience and grace born of decades of practice; when the breeze shifted, so did they. When the clamour of battle preparations ahead of them rose, they darted closer. Any sound they made, which was precious little, would have been swallowed by the ambient noise that dictated their approach.
Pausing for a moment, the figure tugged back their concealing hood and tipped a pointed ear towards the Dwarven defences. Keen eyes scanned the darkness, sighting their target ahead. Their course set, the assassin drew the hood back over their face and leapt onto the cliff face above them, slithering upwards without pause and disappearing into the shadows.
Darwi deposited yet another sack of cannon shot along the edge of their firing emplacement, hurrying back to gather another. Somewhere out there, an army was approaching them; Dark Elves, from what their scouts had seen. Why Dark Elves would be approaching a heavily fortified mountain hold Darwi couldn't fathom, but then again he'd never picked the elves as the sensible types. And if they insisted on dying under a hail of cannons and handguns then that was fine by him.
Making his way back to the cannon store, Darwi grabbed another sack of shot and a barrel of powder, lugging these up the narrow stairs towards the emplacement. He stepped from the staircase just in time to see a cloaked figure watching the last of the cannon crew fall to the flagstones into a growing pool of blood.
The unhooded elf was already looking in his direction, raising their daggers to add another kill to their tally.
Before they could move, Darwi dropped his sack of cannon shot, grabbing a nearby lantern and holding it threateningly close to the barrel of powder tucked under his arm. The elf paused, watching for a long moment before a sharp hiss snapped from beneath his mask, “And what do you suppose that will achieve, Beardling?”
Despite the mixture of anger, outrage and sorrow in his breast at the sight of the invading elf and the slain warriors before him, Darwi felt a grin come to his face, “Well, it's already done what it had to. It's stopped you in yer tracks.”
“And what then?” the Elf growled. “You would pit your speed against mine? I can kill you whenever I wish, Dwarf!”
“Then why haven't you already, Elf?” Darwi ventured. “Go on. See if you can kill me before I set this off.”
There was a long moment of silence before the elf rose slightly from his fighting crouch, his grip shifting subtly on the daggers in his hands. Darwi noticed the movement, and felt a triumphant smile come to him. “Ha! Yer gutless, Elf. You...”
A vicious snarl cut him off, “What do you want, Dwarf?”
“Eh?” Darwi was momentarily taken aback.
The elf punctuated his words with the point of his dagger, “I asked you what it is that you want from me! Are you foolish as well as deaf?”
“There's no need to be like that,” Darwi gestured to his powder barrel with the lantern, reminding the Elf to keep his anger in check, “Besisdes, I don't want nothing from you, because I've got you right where I want you. You kill me, I'll set this off and you'll go down as well. Plus the entire hold will go on alert and you won't be able to come near us. And if you flee, I get to raise the alarm anyway, so we'll be on the lookout for you coming back.”
The elf seemed to take some amusement from that, “Your scouts were already on the lookout for my kind. They fared no better than your cannon crew.”
Darwi shrugged off the accusation with the stoicism typical of his race, “Likely they had other things on their mind. Like getting ready for the rest of you pointy-ears to show. You won't breach our hold, Elf, not now that we know you're coming.”
“Your confidence is unwarranted, Dwarf.” The assassin shook his head, taking a tentative step back, “Regardless, you shall have your way. I shall leave, if that is what you desire.”
As he was about to respond, Darwi felt a sharp pain at his wrist. The light shifted, the lantern drifting away from him, but still he managed to glimpse the stump where until moments ago his hand had been.
Darwi stumbled backwards, dropping the powder barrel and clutching instead at his bleeding wrist. He glanced to his side, momentarily unable to comprehend the appearance of a second assassin.
By the light of the lantern that his dead hand still clutched, Darwi could see the smile in her eyes. The cruelty within her gaze was clear, despite the soft crooning of her voice, “Oh, I'm sorry, I missed most of your discussion. Did you want me to leave as well?”
Darwi took a breath, preparing to shout a warning that would alert the rest of the hold, but it never left his lips. Flicking the lantern away into the darkness, the two assassins pounced, completing their kill, and moving in to the shadows once more.
Voting ends in 98 hours
Wow, that's a tough one, right here.
In Vendraciese's story I feel the conversation flows a it more naturally, and there is strenght in the voice of high king starbreaker. You also payed attention to the historical background. I didn't really feel any grandeur of Karaz-a-Karak though, the hall felt small to me, dark and empty. A bit more detail might have been nice on that. Deadstar has the suspense for me, although I did anticipate a second assassin coming in. I think you missed an oppertunity at the end. A dwarf is stoic and determined, and I could imagine Drawi setting off the gunpowder after his hand had been cut off, to settle the grudge and blow the assassins up out of spite.
Nevertheless I thought both were really good ( and that's why you made it to the semifinals ) , outstanding work. Vendraciese's story was slightly better in my opinion, but the difference is very small indeed. The conversation felt very strong.
Both stories were good, although I feel that (as the bearded one already stated) Vendraciese's flowed a bit better, and seemed to have more life to it. There was certainly nothing wrong with Deadstar_MRC's story, but Vendraciese's just seemed to have a bit more 'meat on its bones'. In fact, Vendraciese's story is probably the strongest of this round. Great job from both competitors!
"Any job worth doing, is worth doing with a powerklaw."
Match has ended. Vendraciese qualifies for the finals.
Thanks for the match, Vendraciese! I had a feeling I was going out this round...
I did mean to answer you, Bearded One, and your thinking that Darwi should have set the powder off anyway, but I felt I'd stay out of this until voting was over. I think I had some horrible pun about him not having the situation 'in hand' but I've forgotten how I was going to set it up.
But yeah, essentially the Elf had taken his lantern away along with his hand, so he wasn't really in a position to be setting the powder off. And I didn't think the Elves would let him get to it - I've always thought of Assassins as lightning-quick, and wanted that to come across.
Thank you for the match! I did enjoy your story, and I'm glad that we were able to participate in such a cool event.