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Sir Proofreader
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4,251 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Just posting my story here so I can link it in to the main thread.

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Winter’s Grip

It was the darkest day of their latest Sigmar-forsaken quest thus far, and if Kinsley had to face another day in a storm like this he was damn near turning an abrupt about-face and leaving the master to their folly.

His contract had started off well enough; a nice fat upfront payment, enough to get a few trusted mercs along for the ride. The master had sent them after some scrolls, some books, a runestone – all lying forgotten and abandoned in long-neglected crypts. The greatest danger they had faced thus far was that one of those crumbly old burial mounds would fall on their head. And one irate goat who hadn’t taken a liking to them tramping through his paddock – they were still giving Nickols a ribbing after he’d copped a head-butt to his posterior that had sent him face-first into the mud. If only the jobs had stayed that easy!

This latest misadventure had them travelling North, far further North than even Kinsley had been, beyond the border of Kislev and into lands best left untraveled. Worse still, the Master had insisted on travelling with them, claiming it was essential as only they would know how to identify what they sought.

Kinsley wouldn’t have minded at first, but as the trip spanned from days to weeks the Master’s manner began to grate. They were insistent on moving onwards; Kinsley and his party would barely have finished a meal when the Master would be there, insisting they continue. Any hesitation was harshly scolded, and the authoritative tone as well as the threat of docked pay now had Kinsley and his little band acquiescing to every demand. They had protested at first, of course, all of them had, with Wallace being the most vocal. After Wallace had one too many heated exchanges with the Master across the campfire, they had found him dead the next morning when they went to rouse him.

Nickols had described it best when he suggested an icy claw with a dozen talons had crushed Wallace in his sleep, puncturing his body with deep wounds in which blood had pooled and frozen. The Master claimed it was a sign they needed to move faster and for once no-one had argued.

But the relentless pace over the next few days had taken their toll. Already dampened by Wallace’s death, the spirits of the party had frozen right through as the weather did the same. Now they were trudging through thigh-deep snow, an endless ocean of white that stung the eye and laced the air with a terrible biting chill. Only the Master seemed unaffected, forging the path for the rest of them to follow, never slowing even as howling gusts of vicious wind hammered squalling snow in their faces.

Try as he might, as the wind grew stronger and the snow heavier, Kinsley couldn’t keep pace with the Master, and in the dreadful conditions it only took a gap of a few paces to lose sight of them. It was at that point Kinsley decided enough was enough; he pulled the others up and after a brief discussion they decided to find shelter if they could. They would wait for conditions to improve before they went any further, be it after the Master or in the more likely direction of home.

The party had a tent with them, but the likelihood of it standing in this wind was non-existent. They settled instead for huddling together and covering themselves as best they could with the heavy canvas, hoping to ward off some of the snow and the cold.

It worked, for a time. Until the Master finally returned.

The crackle of rapidly forming ice and a further drop in the already frigid temperature were the first signs of something amiss. Kinsley threw off the tent covering and had his sword in hand in moments.

Despite the swirling snow, there was a corridor of clear air between himself and the Master, who seemed to have returned with their prize; a wicked blade of pure ice. Patches of frost and newly-formed stalactites clung to the Master’s clothes, but they seemed blissfully unaware. The only emotion visible in their otherwise empty eyes was one of pure joy.

It did not match the predatory grin than Kinsley found facing him.

He barely had time to shout a warning before the Master struck. A line of snow began crystalizing at the Master’s feet, racing outward with astonishing speed. It reached Nickols first, and the youth died with a whimper as a dozen spears of ice shot from the snap-frozen earth to impale him, lifting his lifeless body clear of the ground.

Ignatius was next. He was one of the fastest archers Kinsley knew and, true to his reputation, had an arrow nocked and loosed before Nickols had breathed his last. But the Master was swifter still; a blast of concentrated sleet and hail coalesced in front of their hand, knocking the arrow from its path and slamming Ignatius backwards with enough force to splinter bone.

Quentin and Oliver decided they wanted no part in a fight against such fearsome powers; they turned and bolted, racing blindly through the snow. Kinsley didn’t blame them as he wasn’t far from doing the same, but he decided a more orderly retreat might be a wiser choice.

Whatever entity had possessed the Master vindicated his choice. The rapidly moving targets of Quentin and Oliver proved far too tempting over Kinsley’s carefully chosen evasive path, and it was they the Master turned to hunt first.

Kinsley finally let out a breath he had been holding for some time as the Master moved away from him. He knew he was still far from safe, as the treacherous conditions could end him as swiftly as another encounter with that frozen blade. But at least he knew what he faced with the snow and cold.

He would make his way home, slowly and carefully and hopefully via a different path then that of the Master. Hopefully he would live to tell the tale.

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Just over 1000 words…

Might put my notes here as well instead of clogging up the main thread.

I'm not sure of the merits of this story. Very poor characterisation and description. I've not proof-read it at all so it probably has a few errors in it. I'm actually hoping it doesn't win because I don't think it's worth it, which then begs the question 'why am I even entering it?'

I guess I still want the other writers to earn their win rather then just waltzing through as the sole entry :E
At least this way it's actually a competition!
 
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Poet of the Deed
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4,004 Posts
I liked it actually.

It reminds me a bit of Steven Erikson's earlier Malazan book of the Fallen books, particularly the settings and the description of magic. I'm not normally a massive fan of powerful sorcery in fantasy since I think that sometimes it ends up being the "atom bomb" solution to all ills or an impossibly unrealistic adversary, but you've made it work well here.

A good piece, and although as you said I'm not quite convinced by some characterisation it's certainly a contender. I wouldn't worry too much about that tbh, my writing has been appalling lately as I have fallen out of practice.

Good luck!

-Corrigan
 

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Sir Proofreader
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4,251 Posts
Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Thanks for the kind words, Captain Corrigan - having recently (well, a couple of month's back) read one of the Malazan books, maybe some of Erikson's influence did unknowingly rub off on me. With only about four days to write this I didn't think too much about it!

I did read your entry as well; I'm never sure about commenting on competition stuff until everything is finalised, but I guess there's not much harm in it. Despite lacking a bit of polish I still thought it was a pretty decent piece, the battle particularly is brutal and the ending certainly grim-dark enough for 40K.

Makes me look forward to the next round, actually. I should try a 40K related piece next time!

EDIT: Oh, and thanks for the rep!
 
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