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Avatar of Khaine8peopleFutility
A single oil lamp burned low on the desk, casting a dim orange light throughout the small room. It gave off a thick, sickly smell, that blocked the nose and made the eyes water. Papers were strewn across the desk, an old-fashioned quill pen lay among them. A simple short sword lay on the desk, inches from the chair’s right arm. The walls were an ugly shade of green, smoke-stained and windowless. On one hung a poorly painted picture of a smiling woman. The captain’s wife, Jenkinson guessed. A nail in one wall served as a poor man’s wardrobe. It wouldn’t be called Spartan. It was merely the cheapest way of living humanly possible.
“Come in.” wheezed the old man slumped in the chair. He was wearing his armour, helmet and all, even at this late hour. It was scratched, dull, and dented, even though Captain Mason rarely fought anymore. A strange contrast was corporal Jenkinson, alert even after his ten hour patrol shift, armour gleaming and polished despite regular frontline fighting.
“You sent for me sir?” Jenkinson asked. Mason waved a hand shakily at the chair in front of him, displaying nicotine-stained fingers, and rasped “You’re a good soldier, aren’t you? Reports tell me you saved a squad from some orcs. You might be a hero one day, corporal.”
“I do my best sir. And I learned from the best. You’re a true hero sir. There’s people saying this part of the empire wouldn’t be here at all without you sir.”
“I was a hero. Now I’m an old man well past retirement, who smokes too much. I’m not long for this world, I’m afraid.”
“Don’t say that sir! You’ll be fine! We can get help.”
“I’m not a rookie dying on the field of battle, corporal. I’m an old man, dying of something that far cleverer men have spent far longer trying to prevent. But I wanted to know, before I go... Why do you fight?”
“For the empire sir.”
“A good answer... but tell me, what help to the empire is our fight tomorrow?”
“Well, we will destroy the threat that is Count...”
Mason held up a weary hand “But that’s not true. I’ve seen a lot more of history than you have, and let me tell you. I’ve been sent to fight a lot of vampire armies, but only ever met one vampire. Why? Because they fight each other, constantly. They war, and when one becomes too powerful, the others kill him. He is no threat to the empire.”
“Well then, for my family.”
“And do you think you being a soldier can save them? One man among thousands? Wouldn’t you protect them better by building defences for your hometown? Or becoming a merchant and making the town more important? Or a politician? A doctor?”
“For Sigmar, then.”
“A life devoted to your god? That sounds more like a priest than a soldier. Or why not both? Become a witchunter? WHY DO YOU FIGHT?”
“Because – I was drafted sir.”
“Ah, I thought so. You fight because you are told to. Not unlike the zombies we will soon be facing.”
Jenkinson looked close to tears now. “Why do you fight then?” he choked.
Mason’s voice was barely a whisper now. “I can’t remember, boy. I just... I just don’t want to die now.” A single tear trickled down from the shadow of the helmet. “Here...” He passed a sheaf of papers to Jenkinson. “Scout reports. Just read them.”
Thousands of zombies... battalions of skeletons... undead knights... huge monsters in chains... The report went on and on, full of damning detail. Eventually Jenkinson looked up, a dead look in his eyes. “We’re doomed.” he whispered.
Mason nodded slowly, and took off the helmet that had been covering his eyes. They were bloodshot and watery, full of pain. He had obviously been crying. “Give me... one good reason to fight... one reason, and I will lead us to battle.”
Jenkinson stared into his eyes for a few seconds, then hung his head, mirroring Mason’s original pose.
“I thought so,” murmured Mason, his voice barely audible over the lamp’s dying hiss. “Tell the men. It’s only fair that they know.”
The door slammed, and Mason did not react. Then he limped over to the painting on the wall, lifted it up, and carried it back to the desk. He sat back down with the painting on his lap, facing him. Then he began stroking its painted hair, murmuring to himself “I’m so sorry, my love. I just... I don’t want to die...” The painting fell backwards onto the desk, and Mason continued staring blankly ahead. The lamp burned out, and Mason was left sitting in the dark, alone on the last night of his life.
The day of the battle dawned. Huge storm clouds covered the sky, blocking out all light from above. Mason got up from the desk where he sat, gave his armour one last clean, and walked down to the fortress gate. There were no guards on duty, so he had to open the gate himself. Then he stood to attention under the arch, and waited. Behind him, the fortress was silent and empty.
At long last, they arrived. The vast undead forces formed up, waiting. Then they parted ranks, and a lone, death-pale figure strode forwards to meet him. Mason knelt down before the vampire, and spoke: “I have done as you said, Lord. The fortress is empty.”
“Ah, yes. And what was your reward to be, child?”
“Ah, yes, I believe the exact words were ‘to be just like me.’” Captain Gebhard Mason, of the 41st detachment, nodded. “Well then, do you know what I am, child?” The vampire said kindly. Then in a swift movement, he seized the old man’s neck and hoisted him into the air by it. “I AM DEAD!” he roared, and thrust a sword through the old man’s gut.
All for nothing... I don’t want to die.Voting begins now, and will end next Thursday (Jan 20) at 4pm GMT. Remember to rate each contestant with a score between 1 and 5.The Touch of Metal.
Velkanith stood in the centre of his pavillion, the heavy drapes that formed its walls whispering as the chill wind pressed the material along icy stone. He had two attendants fastening his armour, their bare fingers crooked from torture and shaking from the cold. Yet he stood patient for now, the slaves could be punished later for tonight's' entertainment. Finally his cloak was draped over his shoulders and fastened, the slave barely stepped back before his master turned with a flourish and exited his personal quarters.
The air was electric with anticipation, guards spoke excitedly to one another watching slaves fumble with supplies and documents, scurrying along with trinkets of delicate arcane power and carefully blended potions to ensure the Cold Ones remained in their slumber as they travelled in one of the magnificent arks to battle in the morning.
Men and women bowed their heads as Velkanith strode past, an immeasurable sense of power and confidence emanating from the core of his being and spreading throughout the troops, the excitement was palpable yet Velkanith kept his grim expression locked firmly in place, for tonight there was a great feast planned and as general of the army it was his right to dine on the most exquisite fare and he had his pick of concubine for the night. It was all rather pointless. For he had not felt the touch of another being or tasted a single meal in twenty four years, tonight would be no different.
He sat down at the head of the grand, solid table, the warriors and specialists seated in lower stations stood as he approached and waited for his gesture to retake their places. The formality annoyed Velkanith slightly, though the discipline was necessary for the task ahead, in the morning they were leaving for the Northern shores of Ulthuan, their mission twofold, to raid as many slaves as possible and to disrupt a major training ground for the finest archers in the region. He truly hoped there would be much resistance.
Along the table from him he caught the eye of two of the sorceresses accompanying him on the mission, bundled with a trio of the blundering mares was almost more than he'd hope to tolerate on such a mission – he pulled in every commander at his disposal to make up for it and all the knights he could muster. Perhaps if he could simply ensure one of the Cold Ones was not dosed properly and point its snout in the right direction... Such risks are part of the job after all. It takes months to prepare yourself to ride a Cold One, first you need to ensure you do not smell like a meal, it means coating your skin with the slime a cold one produces, it numbs the skin and the fumes nullify the ability to smell and taste properly. The sorceresses probably smelt like a delicious snack, he mused.
Velkanith took a sip of wine, remembering the silky sensation of fragrant liquid caressing his tongue and throat, he then downed the goblet in a fit of bitter spite. He glanced around the throngs of men at arms gorging themselves on meats and vegetables, soups and brews as if nothing pleased them more, the two sorceresses sipped and dined and chattered at attentive commanders using their wiles to... Velkanith paused in his thoughts, there were meant to be three sorceresses after all. Where was the third? He grabbed the arm of a passing slave who nearly dropped a jug of wine as she was pulled sideways.
“You, where is the other Sorceress?” He indicated the other two who were laughing over some private matter
“S-sir, she is over by the pen. She wanted to eat separately from... from the rest.” Velkanith let her go, his brow furrowed as he stood from his half full plate and went to step away.
“General Velkanith! Leaving so soon after the festivities have begun?” a velvet voiced barb drifted over from the sorceresses, the overly vocal she-trolls that seemed content only to make him miserable. He rotated on the spot almost mechanically to face the pair who had their attention, and that of those around them directed right at his stern visage.
“I'm seeking out your counterpart who is absent, I am sure she would wish to be part of this... delightful... function.” They looked at one another briefly
“I am uncertain, my lord, that she will want to be a part of this – yet I believe you will find her most agreeable company.” she gave him a very pointed look and Velkanith turned on his heel before the conversation could be pursued further. The missing Sorceress was most likely some poorly talented mageling more designed as a personal gift than an asset to the mission.
He approached the Cold One pen and saw a womanly figure with long black hair and dark silks by the bars.
“You! Get away unless you wish to be their next meal.” the figure stood gracefully and turned to face him, she had many piercings weaving into her skin and held a long, slender metal staff. She smiled softly
“Manage your tongue, armoured one, you are the sort I like to play with.” Velkanith sneered
“And why are you not with your 'sisters' at the banquet?”
“The same reason you are not, my lord.” She reached through the bars of the pen and placed a hand on the snout of the nearest reptile
“I arrived here last year. I intend to ensure I retain the power my predecessor let slip through her fingers. It was then I started to prepare myself for one of these creatures.”
“Then can you still... feel?” She gave him a frankly predatory look
“I have found... certain methods.”
Velkanith allowed a small smile, perhaps on the eve of this battle he would have a companion after all.
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All right. Let's get to voting...
What I liked: I liked the title, it wraps around the entire story, in more ways than one. I also really liked where you were going with the description of the story, the mood you were trying to set with it. The dialogue worked between the two main characters. Overall you had a story to tell with a beginning, middle, and end, and you executed it in the number of words allowed.
What could be improved: Your descriptions were close, but rather than an ugly shade of green, consider descibing it more specificially. There are many shades of ugly green, different enough to make a different to the setting. I'd also like to know how the painting of the smiling woman was poor. The biggest thing that i think the sotry needs is more description and emotion at the end. I want to know what the undead hordes look like to a person face to face, not just from scouting reports. I also could not visualize the vampire. Lastly, Mason needed some more emotion at the end. The idiot was willing to make a pact with a dead thing and betray everything he's done to this point. I know it was for immortality, but the degree to which he was uncertain and/or insane was unclear.
8people's Touch of Metal
What I liked: Good concept. I always wondered myself about the whole Cold One's taking away your senses thing. Anything for power is the Druchii way, but so is taking pleasure any way they can. It was also interesting seeing Velkanith deal with the sorceresses, in both settings. Your descriptions were on point, and you captured a starkly different culture, where the Eve of Battle is a time for revelry and fine tastes (when possible). I foudn the atmosphere odd, and unnatural to me given the circumstances, which in this case was a good thing. I think too often we forget that dwarfs, elves, and undead are supposed to be alien and fey to people, and not just people with different personality quirks.
What could be improved: One typo. "Manage you tongue armoured one..." Velkanith sneered. I believe it was the sorceress, not Velkanith speaking (and sneering). I think the ending could have added a little bit more to it. I mean, at least let her arm snake around his neck, or nibble on the tip of his gauntlet. Let him violently puller her towards him. There was a chance to add passion (and violence) if onyl briefly! The only other thing I saw was that it seemed one of the other two sorceresses was very nervous, and the other one arrogant. Was this correct or was it the same Sorceress that both stuttered and then said the surly comment as he left?
Avatar: 4/5. Good story, but I think you needed to get more out of the ending.
8people: 5/5. There was a lot occ character in the story, and I think you captured the heart of the Dark Elves with this one, that being a not-so-delicate balance of love and hate.
I am heading off to the Peace Corps. It is bery likely I will not be back. Good luck to all of you endeavors.
Avatar of Khaine: 5/5
Amazing story, amazing characters and it was a nice twist at the end. Not much to say other than that really.
Great story, a little confusing in some parts, but overall very good. I especially liked Velkanith as a character, he is very well-written.
That means Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest-son-of-a-bitch in space!
Avatar of Khaine
Ouch. I thought the emotions were overdone at first, but when we hit the end I can see where they were coming from. That Vampire's a bit of a bastard.
I remember from the last fluff wars that you have a superb grasp on the Dark Elves, and you've shown that once again. I really like this one!
Hm, but I liked both, which again makes them hard to split. I think 8people just edges this one out for me.
Avatar of Khaine: 3/5
I my view the portrayal of both lead characters was good enough to really savour. However I'm a sucker for a flawed hero, and Mason smacks of it - his age advancing means he is easily ensnared by teh Vampire's schemes. The one suspension of disbelief I failed to grasp was the empty fortress. I have a serious doubt that the entire garrison would have deserted...
The Dark ELves story - some elements also ring slightly false. I don't doubt that Dark Elves have banquets but they are probably hedonistic affairs and fine wines, silvered jugs, sweet meats and delicacies are probably par for the course. The longing for the tatste of food is not strong enough in my view...
4/5 for Avatar 3/5 for 8 people
Last edited by kithre; January 17th, 2011 at 08:04. Reason: Forgot scores!!
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Avatar of Khaine - 16pts
8people - 16pts
Uh oh, we have a tie. I may have paired you two a little too closely this round! Well you two, I guess we'll have to figure out just what exactly should be done about this. I guess we'll hash that out in the main thread. I'm thinking a possible "sudden death" rematch, but I'll let the others weigh in as well. Perhaps I'll count it as if you both wrote against the drop-outs.
The stories were both excellent, and both were well-worth the high marks they received. I'm quite used to 8people's writing, as I had to face her in the last Fluffwar, Avatar really pulled out the stops on this one though, and I can't help but love it- so dark and the twist was awesome.