Scavengers

This is a dark age, a bloody age, an age of daemons and of sorcery.

Scavengers

Postby LordLucan » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:02 am

One of my olded failed samples. I think it is ok. It used to be called Dragon Men, but I renamed it (as the story doesn't feature any lizardmen in it anymore!). :P Anyway, enjoy.

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Scavengers.



Mists rolled in across the slimy sea, and with them came a vessel. Its sails were tattered, and its wooden flanks were ravaged, yet still somehow it glided through the tumultuous waters of Lustria’s unforgiving coast. Even as it sailed on, it was disintegrating; huge chunks of timber were shed from its flanks in rotten clumps.

Martoi knew such vessels. As a child, long ago he had witnessed the top-heavy galleons drift out of the bustling Imperial dockyards with deceptive ease and grace. He smiled with rotten teeth as he observed the stricken ship’s plight through his spyglass. He only lowered it when the vessel finally crashed, spilling its oaken guts across the shale.

He was clad in rags and had the build of a ghoul, which emphasised his wild eyes. Eventually, three other bedraggled fiends appeared from the jungle behind him, and likewise peered into the bay below.

“Another ship of lost soul has found misfortune on the treacherous coast alas!” he exclaimed theatrically.

“Let us aid these poor stranded travellers my lord,” another grinned wolfishly, hefting a club in his gnarled hands.

“An excellent idea Greigo. I am sure we can lighten their burden. Come,” Martoi nodded, returning the grin.

He had forgotten how long ago the stagnant seas of Lustria had dashed his own vessel upon the rocks. Perhaps a decade, he pondered before dismissing the notion with a shake of his head. The past was little use now; only the promise of booty and food quickened his withered frame these days. Soon, he would once again feel the sweet sensation of being free of hunger, if only for a few days.

He could see even from a distance that the vessel was a finely wrought ship, covered in detailed carvings and expensive decoration. It would be sure to be filled with fine cloth and furnished extravagantly. Then there’d be the well-stocked holds full of food that a merchant ship of the Empire would surely contain only the best for a wealthy, if foolish, traveller. But Martoi and his band were not particularly concerned with the origin of their sustenance; if there were enough fresh bodies aboard, the starving castaways would still eat well.


Martoi used the handle of his short halberd to pry open loose boards in the flank of the ship’s hull, while his men clambered across the wooden carcase to gain access to the vessel via the splintered decks that jutted out to one side like the fangs of a deep-sea angler. Sea water ran from the wound he had wrought in its side like blood, as he deftly wriggled into the darkened hold.

It was dank and stank of rot inside, which did not bode well for his foraging hopes. He curled his lips in distaste as he fumbled around in the darkness. Occasionally he’d catch a loose nail or pin, shredding his rags ever further. Everything was up-ended and smashed around him, as far as he could see in the gloom, which was sporadically punctured by shafts of sunlight peering through the many holes that riddled the craft. There was blood too. A great deal of it, splashed across every surface. As he delved deeper into the bowels, the stench grew ever more pronounced.

“We found bodies, my lord! Draped all over the place,” one of his men bawled from elsewhere in the wreckage.

“Anything fresh?”

“Nay! They’re all chopped up and stinking. Blood’s gone black too!”

Martoi scowled with irritation, hacking at a fallen beam with his halberd, which made a satisfying thud as it carved a deep split into the wood. No easy flesh to harvest, but ships had other supplies; ship’s biscuits and salted meats, designed to keep for weeks. He just had to find the storeroom.

“Look for a closed door, or a strong room! There must be something worth lifting from this thing!”

Greigo found something first, as he kicked open a sagging door; old timber swung open with a weary creak, and he staggered inside blithely, pleased at his own cunning. He did not call out to his brethren, for he desired to sample the fruits of his labours before his greedy cousins. And the room was filled with supplies; whole barrels of biscuits, fish already filleted and salted in wooden boxes lined with oil. He could barely keep himself from salivating. For too long they had starved themselves; terrified of the poisonous fruits of the jungle at their backs. Now, he would eat until he’d burst.

It took him a few seconds to notice the hulking figure crouched at his side. He raised his club, but the heavy shield in the giant’s hand smashed him from his feet effortlessly. He yelped in pain as his jaw broke. He tried to scream, but was beheaded in that same instant.

Two more scavengers rushed at the sound of the struggle, and ran into the striding warrior as he left the room. The shield deflected a desperate spear thrust, while the axe took the second scavenger’s arms off at the elbows. Blood sprayed in all directions and the armless man squealed in agony as he died. The spearman recoiled as the axe swept around, hacking clean through a beam which could have easily been his own head mere moments before. He dropped his spear and ran, heedlessly stumbling through the wreckage in his haste. The warrior, drenched in gore, chuckled mirthlessly as he tossed his heavy weapon into the fleeing scavenger’s spinal column.

Martoi held his breath. He heard his minions die like mewling hogs mere feet from him, and now he clung to the shadows in terror. He heard the heavy footfalls of the giant man as he paced around the wreckage, causing the wood to creak and moan at his passing. He caught glimpses of the man between the fallen timbers; a bare-chested savage glistening with sweat and blood. Leather straps barely contained his musculature, and each bore loops for various blades and trophies. But why was he here? What in the name of Sigmar was the fiend doing on an Empire galleon?
“There were four of you. I know there were four, by the gods!” the beast of a man bellowed, his voice thick with the brutally distinctive accent of the Norscans; a fierce, almost bestial tongue.

“Weakling cowards; you pick over the dead like crows! You dare to desecrate the Skull-King’s tribute with your delving? Tell me-” The giant jumped down in front of Martoi. “Tell me why I should not break you now, Southern swine?”

Martoi bit back his fear, and thrust his halberd towards the enemy, cursing as he did so. The North-man sidestepped the blow, easily snatching the halberd from his grasp.

“That is a poor reason. Try again,” the warrior snarled, swiping his shield across Martoi’s jaw which sent him sprawling.

“Where is this place? Where are the men of Skeggi?”

Martoi quivered with fear, blood dribbling from his mouth.

“I-I do not know of such a realm! We crashed here just like you! We fear the jungle, and the dragon-men that stalk it. What is ‘Skeggi’?” he whimpered.

The man snorted, running his meaty fist through his tangled mane. “You are a withered shadow of a true man. Skeggi is a realm of my people. They will aid me, or they will be broken as you were. The Skull King commands it,” he growled, tossing aside the broken pole-arm with distaste.

“What do you want?”

“I want my prize. Only this land can satisfy that desire. I shall find Skeggi myself,” the giant shrugged, as he turned to leave.

Martoi found his backbone returning the further away the berserker stepped.

“Many men come to Lustria for advancement. Look upon me north man; look where it will get you in the end,” Martoi called after him spitefully, but the norseman seemed to ignore him. “Why are you sparing me now then? What did I say to warrant such mercy?” Martoi sneered.

“You are a gutless weakling. Your skull would be a paltry offering to the King of Blood. Rot here, like the refuse you are,” he replied bluntly, without so much as turning to regard the decrepit scavenger.
Check out my debut fantasy novel from Fox Spirit Books, The Hobgoblin's Herald (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobgoblins-Herald-R-Aston/dp/1910462047). If you've read it, please rate and review it on amazon; I'd be eternally grateful. The sequel, Eater of Names, is out in 2018, so watch this space.
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Re: Scavengers

Postby Ghurlag » Fri Jul 13, 2012 6:33 pm

Interesting. The device of the Norscan's quest certainly tickles the intrigue, and your setting aids you with that.

There are a couple of errors, however.

“Another ship of lost soul has found misfortune on the treacherous coast alas!” he exclaimed theatrically.

Should be 'souls' and I reckon a comma before that 'alas'.

“Let us aid these poor stranded travellers my lord,” another grinned wolfishly, hefting a club in his gnarled hands.
Comma required between poor and stranded.

Then there’d be

I'm not sure about this. Contractions should be kept out of narrative. In a sense, that line was inside Martoi's head, so it could be argued that it's permissable as dialogue, but I'm not sure if all editors would agree.

was the fiend doing on an Empire galleon?

Shouldn't that be Imperial?

Small things, but they can't have helped your case. I think the main problem for me is the hasty movement of the scene. I know you've got to get a lot in your wordlimit, but I would like to see Martoi and his gang for a bit longer, build up some backstory a bit slower. If you wanted to include the boat scene as the submission, skipping the introductory bits of the sample and just throwing it out there as a chapter (so reduce Martoi's reflectiveness) would help, and give you more room to build up tension moving around the boat before the Norscan is found.

Additionally, I found the Norse warrior's excuse for not killing Martoi a bit lacking. Surely all the other scavengers were also unfit offerings?

I like 'Dragon Men' better as a title for the story, it hints at plans for the rest of the novel much more interestingly.

As the misty veil of Albion is cast aside, we turn our gaze to the war-torn island of Albany, where the Red King vies with his former master for the control of a realm in dire threat.
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