Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

An area for literary challenges and ongoing competitive events of all kinds.

Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby He2etic » Fri Dec 02, 2011 4:35 pm

Heads up: We've decided to extend the deadline until January 1st. We're doing this because Christmas in general is a busy time of year and we want to see just a few more entries before we judge. If there are no other submissions, then those who submitted will be deemed the automatic winners and prized according to our judgments. So get writing already.

Twas the night before Christmas and somewhere in the hab
A warrior roared, clad in a red stained rag
Behind him were the bodies of an Imperial Guard squad
And he screamed at his victims, "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!"


Merry Christmas and happy holidays folks! This month, we're hosting another competition with prizes. First place winner will receive a free normally priced novel from the Black Library (or any other novel from Amazon if nothing else interests them). Second place winner gets a copy of Hammer & Bolter magazine. The winner will be announce just before New Years.

We have a unique theme, however! You see, many cultures have holidays around this season. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza. So rather than trying to fit a Warhammer story around Christmas (which makes no sense), YOU are going to invent a holiday for us! Try to imagine a Dwarven style winter holiday, or devise an Eldar style holiday for example. Be creative, interesting or funny as you want. And don't worry about canon, just have fun!

A few rules:
1) The deadline will be January 1st, no longer December 25th.
2) The word limit is around 2,000 words. We'll make some allowances for going over this limit but please only go crazy with the quality of the words and not the quantity.
3) One entry per person.
4) Warhammer, Warhammer 40k and all fictional stories are welcome.
5) All other regular Bolthole rules apply.
6) To enter, just paste your story in a reply below. If you posted some story elsewhere, just copy and paste it here to make it easier for us to keep track there of.
7) Once the entries are in, LordLucan, He2etic and a mystery judge will figure out which stories are the winners. We hope to announce the winner right before New Years.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas! And good luck writers!
Last edited by He2etic on Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:38 pm

Just want to clear it up.

Are you offering a single issue of H&B for the second-place winner or H&B: Year One?

:)
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby He2etic » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:35 pm

Just a single issue of the winner's choice. A prize the size of H&B Year one is pretty large for this competition...

(Eyes the fact that the prize list has grown since the last challenge.) ... for now.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby He2etic » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:47 pm

So who is writing for this right now?
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby Midgard » Thu Dec 08, 2011 6:55 pm

Just saw it - I might give this a shot if I manage to get a second away from my other projects :)
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby Ballistichimp » Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:43 pm

I have ideas simmering ... they are on a slow boil at the moment.

:mrgreen:
It's a brilliant plan with no obvious flaws. You should do it immediately.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby Raziel4707 » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:18 am

I have an idea for this one and am simmering it for a bit, but it may well be up today if I divert some precious procrastinatin' time in its direction.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby He2etic » Thu Dec 15, 2011 3:41 pm

10 days left!
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby LordLucan » Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:52 pm

Shall I sticky this thread?
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:11 pm

LordLucan wrote:Shall I sticky this thread?


Sticky wouldn't really make a difference since this is a low traffic forum and there is no danger of this passing down the page.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby Mauthos » Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:06 am

Thought I would give this a go, so here is my offering, unfortunately ran over a bit as this is 2191 words long.

Hope people like it, all crit, as usual, is more than welcome :)

Snow filtered through thick branches of huge evergreen trees, dusting the already heavily covered ground in a further layer of cold white flakes.

A small crump echoed dimly as a pile of snow slid from the thatched roof of a ramshackle tavern, The Traveller’s Respite, sat comfortably in the center of a huddle of densely packed trees. Copious amounts of dirty grey smoke twirled upward, absorbed into the leaden overcast sky, issuing from a single crumbling, crooked chimney stack.

The sounds of laughter, merriment and loud fast music sharply broke the quiet of the chill night as a door swung briefly open to disgorge a stumbling inebriated dwarf, half full tankard sloshing ale as he staggered on his way. A wide smile was plastered across his whiskered face, froth of the abundant alcohol he had consumed bubbling from moist lips, mingling with his salt and pepper beard, plats loosened and unkempt.

In a land normally rife with war it was a time of relaxation, albeit for a short few days, it was the time of the winter solstice and the festivities were well and truly under way shared by dwarf and human alike, both forgetting their differences for a time.

Crammed into every corner of the tavern were the heaving and swaying bodies of man and dwarf, signing raucous drinking songs whilst stuffing their faces with roasted and spiced food stuffs distributed over rickety tables spread throughout the drinking hole.

A small band hammered and plucked at their instruments, smiles bright and wide as they filled the tavern with festive music.

Smoke billowed from many pipes, the sharp and slightly cloying tobacco smell mixing with the warm odour of food, creating that unmistakable spicy tang reminiscent of the festival season. Cheap decorations glittered and twinkled in the candle light. Red, yellow, green and blue baubles of every shape and size hung from rafters, dangled from the bar itself and adorned the skinny poor excuse for a decorative tree stood in the corner, that leaned alarmingly to one side.

The sinewy shape of a sensuous and seductive barmaid weaved through the throng of bodies, smiling and winking at the leering man folk whilst expertly slapping away over friendly hands even as she kept a tray of foaming beer level and balanced, not spilling a single drop of the precious liquid.

It was a time of excess, over abundance and extremes and they were all going to make the most of it before they were called back to defend their borders, stoke up old feuds and ultimately, spill more blood than ale. Tonight, the amber fluid of delectable beer and ale would be the only thing spilt.

<->


Rushed footfalls hammered through the forest, bare feet headless of any pain they felt, slapped angrily and desperately at the snow covered ground. Harsh pants of ragged breath rasped as the icy air was sucked painfully into a set of heaving lungs, it felt like shards of glass piercing his skin and muscle.

Behind him he could hear the wail of their horns, the screech of their voices and the rancid stench of them seemed to fill his nostrils, overwhelming and putrid. It all spurred him on, desperate to get free from them, to be clear and safe.

<->


The warm inviting aroma of freshly cooked pheasant wafted out from behind the cracked door to the kitchen of The Traveller’s Respite, food was not in short supply and as the cackle and wail of more laughter increased in volume and pitch, the door swung open. Battered metallic plates, burdened with steaming bird; boar and glistening vegetables emerged, held in the thick sausage like fingers of the tavern’s cook and his staff. The plates were dumped unceremoniously onto tables that creaked ominously, protesting under the added weight. The patrons cheered with delight and greasy hands plunged in, grasping huge handfuls of the slick food and ramming it into grinning mouths.

The food continued to surface in an apparent never ending wave and ale continued to pour into tankards and drunken mouths alike, the floor almost swimming in the dregs of the spilt liquor.

<->


He stumbled once as the shrieks of his pursuers echoed all around him, gaining ground every second. An arrow appeared from the darkness, splitting snowflakes asunder as it sailed toward him, fletching whistling like that of a wailing banshee.

A single drop of crimson blood splattered onto the snow, staining the ground as he grasped at his ear, its tip torn, the arrow only missing his head by a mere hair’s breadth.

Cursing under his breath he darted to and fro, trying to keep the tough tree trunks between him and the threat that hounded his very footsteps. The whistle and whip of arrows appeared as loud screeches in his ears as more and more of the thin dark wooden shafts hammered into the trees and ground about him.

With spittle flecking his chin, he gritted his teeth and pressed on, forcing his burning protesting limbs onward, pushing himself further, his survival paramount.

They would not have their fun this night.

<->


As the patrons of The Traveller’s Respite slowly settled in for the evening, collapsing and folding into comfortable leather chairs, the barmaids slid around them gracefully, depositing small glasses filled with a clear liquid into eager out-stretched hands.

Each man downed the contents in one large gulp, some wincing as the burning liquid wound its way down their throats to warm their full and bloated stomachs.

Gaudily wrapped boxes emerged from within the confines of heavy clothing and between the folds of thick woollen cloaks. Men’s cheeks, already rosy from the affects of alcohol, deepened to a darker shade, as they hesitantly proffered their gifts to those people they considered close friends, comrades or brothers in arms. Each man accepted the gifts with equal embarrassment and quiet gratitude.

A peaceful lull fell over them as the rustling and tearing of paper and the snaps and cracks emanating from the roaring fire breathing warmth into large drinking space, washed over them. And the band played on, now playing the softer music of the season, reflecting the change of mood

<->


His mouth was dry, lips tacky, the back of his throat sticking uncomfortably together as he tried to suck in more air. His face was flushed, hot and damp from the continued exertion and his thighs burned, pain lanced through him, white hot and blinding. He staggered, stumbling again as yet more arrows whipped past him.

He could not maintain this pace for much longer, his chest was wracked with painful shuddering breath after painful shuddering breath and the hunters that shadowed him were closing.

He could smell them as clearly as he could taste the coppery tang of blood that flooded his mouth as blood spurted from a gouge in his tongue. The bite had been accidental; he had tripped and jarred his whole body, clashing his teeth together, his tongue trapped between them. The pain was unpleasant, sharp and stinging, but welcome. He swallowed the harsh scarlet liquid, forcing it down and fighting the urge to gag, but it brought him a moment’s respite, the desperate desire for water momentarily quelled.

<->


The tavern had settled into a comfortable hum of gentle activity, friends with heads bowed, deep in easy conversation, others with their heads drooped casually over their own hands or against the hard backs of the chairs. The constantly flowing ale had dulled their senses and was gradually forcing their eyelids to close and the majority succumbed to the warm embrace of sleep quickly, snoring gently as they rested. More food and drink would flow unabated tomorrow, there was no rush to return home just yet, no need to exit into the cold chill of winter which was being held at bay behind the heavy oak door and grime encrusted windows.

<->


He burst into the clearing, sprawling face first into the frigid snow, spluttering as the slush forced its way into his hot and stinging mouth. Scrambling to his feet he span, sword rasping free from its sheath, glimmering as it caught the flickering light of the candle flames sat in the grunge covered windows. His blue cloaked flared as he whirled about, legs still burning, shoulders slumped, an air of defeat apparent, strength rapidly ebbing from his exhausted frame.

His feet were blistered and sore, almost as red as the damp leggings he wore, cramping painfully as he tottered about. He may die here tonight, but by the God’s he would take some of them with him.

<->


The barmaids busied themselves with cleaning, scrapping plates piled high with bones, mopping the floor with sopping wet mops and wiping glasses and tankards clean. Preparations for the next day were already underway, as well as the preparations to kick the men out into the cold and force them stumbling homeward.

<->


The first one emerged from the tree line, corners of his reptilian mouth turned upwards into a mockery of a grin. Blackened forked tongue flicking out from between sharp and jagged teeth, licking at its rough snout, as a thin rope of drool trailed from one corner of its massive maw.

A second stepped free of the trees, long thick tail swaying rhythmically, carving a rut into the snow behind it, eyes glinting as it focused on its prey. Its green scales appearing wet and smooth like those of a simple snake.

Soon a handful of the lizard men had made their way into the clearing. Their red, green and blue scales glittering in the dim candle light, their smaller skink brethren scurrying around their legs, their scales of similar colours but of brighter hue.

He had had enough, he could never defeat so many of the creatures, and so, he made the simple decision to attack and at least to die with honour.

He charged at the first lizard man, the one closest to him, breath rapidly pumping, forced in and out between tightly clenched teeth.

Sword raised, feet stumbling, tongue on fire. He swung his blade downward. A clang and screech of metal. The jarring pain ricocheting through his arm, elbow creaking and shoulder cracking. Warm blood splashed across his shocked face. No pain, not his. His arm felt leaden, heavy and numb, but he forced it to continue to twirl his blade wildly.

No technique in his attack, then pain, blooming in his right side. No matter, he watched his sword disappear into a red lizard man’s mouth. Twisting it viciously, fragments of bone and splintered teeth sprayed at him, spiking his face with pin-pricks of pain. Another gout of crimson and a severed limb hit the snow, twitching, dribbling blood onto the white ground.

One more step, blossoming agony in his left shoulder. Black soulless eyes leering at him. Blood spraying. Sting of pain in his right thigh. Sword stuck, blade cleaving something. He stumbled, jarring pain in his cheek. Two fingers gone, the blood leaking from them stark as it splashed against the white snow. He stood still, surrounded. Body throbbing and raised his blade again.

More pain, stabbing, lancing through him. Knees weak. He felt himself collapsing, knees cold as they pressed into the snow. He could no longer sense his left arm. His right kept swinging, desperately swinging. Blood covered him, showering the snow as his keen edge found more targets.

Everything was grey now, white hot pain spasmed throughout his whole body; he could no longer feel anything other than the sharp ragged pain that seemed to even throb in his head. Vision blurring, his heart pounding deep within his chest, thundering in his ears. Then he could see the tree tops, strangely spinning, whirling around in dizzying circles as his sight faded to nothingness.

The lizard men stood around their fallen comrades, chests heaving in excitement, strange grins affixed to their massive jaws. Blood leaking from small gashes and cuts. This year’s chase had been a fun one. Whooping and shrieking they melted back into the shadows cast by the massive evergreen trees.

<->


The band played its last song and the oak door was pulled open by a raven haired barmaid, smiling as she politely pushed the men out into the freezing night, ignoring their grinning offers of a warm bed to share.

Outside a dwarf prodded his companion in the ribs, pointing to a ring of carnage. A decapitated and one arm body was slumped on its side inside an almost perfect circle of scarlet blood, the flecks flaring outward indication of the various arcs and sprays that had occurred during a recent battle. A bright green and a deep red carcass of lizard men lay beside him, steaming peacefully as their bodies cooled.

‘Well, at least it seems we’re not the only ones keeping to our festive traditions in these times,’ the grey bearded dwarf slurred. ‘Sort of nice to see age old traditions upheld. Even if theirs is a little more barbaric than ours.’

‘Very festive,’ replied his companion, ‘colourful and pretty.’

‘Well,’ chuckled the dwarf, ‘tis the season.’
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby Raziel4707 » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:32 am

Placeholder: Just so you know, I will be entering. Have been busy but can't turn down a 9so far) guaranteed second place!
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby Raziel4707 » Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:33 pm

I was sorely tempted to attempt something funny here but decided against it and went for a bleak but, hopefully, hopeful 40K Christmassy story. Hope you enjoy it!

Coburnacht.


A light slowly blinked in the catacombs, lacing the darkness with dim shadows. Over many minutes the light blinked more quickly and began to glow with greater urgency, eventually building to a stroboscopic pulse that illuminated the alcoves both vacant and occupied to either side, where other ancients slumbered. Those few that remained, three of the seven others that it was the Gallack Bear’s mixed fortune to possess, remained utterly still as more lights joined the firs. A low, mechanical whine began to build as long-disused electrical circuits began to flicker with life once more and the ancient one began to wake.

There were no tech-priests to ease his journey from meditation to awareness for he had long ago forbidden them to come near him, having utterly refused to accept that his body was so far passed salvation that only this alternative was available to them. He was not to be alone, however, for the wire-loom that connected him to the arcane monitoring systems set into his alcove also kept the fortress itself abreast of his condition and vice versa, alerting and waking him immediately if the fortress monastery were ever to come under attack. As the ancient incumbent of the Dreadnought sarcophagus finally rose into consciousness his visual sensors locked immediately onto a slender, drawn face that hovered before them; a skin-veiled servo-skull belonging to Forgemaster Samuelsson that had been monitoring him for the last hour to ensure that Rasmusson was not alone when he awoke.

+IS THAT YOU, SAMUELSSON?+

The skull tilted forward slightly by way of an answer, then rose back to its original position and awaited the ancient’s instructions.

+GOOD. CALL THEM IN, OLD FRIEND. I WOULD SPEAK WITH THEM THIS NIGHT. TELL ME, HAVE I WOKEN AT THE CORRECT TIME? I HAVE BECOME SO OLD… EVERY AWAKENING TAKES LONGER THAN THE LAST AND I FEAR THAT ONE DAY, THE CALL OF DUTY WILL GO UNANSWERED+

The skull turned this time to one side and a thin beam of light shone out from one augmetic eye, forming a numerical pattern on the smooth stonework that the Dreadnought could easily read.

+THEN THERE PERHAPS IS LIFE IN WHAT REMAINS OF ME YET, SAMUELSSON. CALL THEM TO ME WHEN IT GETS DARK, THE BETTER THAT MY WORDS WILL BE HEARD. GIVE THEM TIME TO EXCHANGE THEIR GIFTS AND FILL THEIR STOMACHS; LET THEM BE HAPPY AND FULL BEFORE I SPEAK WITH THEM, THAT THEY MIGHT KNOW WHY IT IS THAT WE BOTH CELEBRATE AND MOURN+

The Dreadnought fell silent for a moment while the skull patiently waited and when it spoke again the harsh, grating tones of the vox-ponder unit were quieter, softer, as though the speaker was contemplating them himself.

+LET THEM KNOW THE TRUE MEANING OF COBURNACHT+


The village children sat in rows before the blank face of Rasmusson’s sarcophagus, shivering a little in the cold air that pervaded that place of rest and contemplation. There was fear in each of them; fear of being so close to one so powerful and fear of why they had been selected when so many had been left behind. They were not to know that every child heard this story but once from Ancient Rasmusson and was instructed to keep it to themselves, that its meaning would not be watered down in the retelling. Their day until now had been spent feasting and playing, exchanging gifts with their loved ones and playing with new toys. Many of them would have received their first practice swords that day, a tradition on the Coburnacht after one’s third birthday when it was considered high time that they began their journey towards the service of the Emperor, possibly one day entering the ranks of the Gallack Bears themselves if they had both strength and talent enough for it.

After several minutes of cold and uncomfortable silence a few began to grumble, pulling their clothes tighter and huddling together more closely to share their warmth. It was only once they had been doing this for several minutes that Ancient Rasmusson raised both of his fists above his head and spoke, as softly as his crude voice box would allow.

+HE WAS ONCE LIKE YOU. THEY ALL WERE+

The suddenness of his voice made several of them jump in surprise.

+IT IS NOT FOR US TO KNOW HOW OR WHY THE EMPEROR SELECTS HIS TRUEST SERVANTS, BUT KNOW THIS+

With a shriek of released power he ignited his twin power-fists, bathing the room in bright, white light and chasing away the cold in an instant, lowering the power that arced between his mechanical fingers until the glow was not so bright that it hurt the eyes. All could see his dented, beaten surface and begin to guess the many trials and battles he had witnessed since his internment.

+THE SERVANTS OF THE EMPEROR COME IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES, WHETHER THEY WISH TO SERVE HIM OR NOT+


The crowds parted as the Astartes advanced, walking solemnly down the boarding ramps of their Thunderhawk Gunships with their heads bowed. Rumours had spread throughout the towns and villages of Gallack as they awaited the return of their protectors; rumours that not one man or woman wished to be true. It had been said that Galder Vheilan himself had transmitted the message from distant Thaarnath and had wept as he had done so, the thought of so cold and powerful a man reduced to tears anathema to all who heard the rumour, though the possibility that this was true added a terrible weight to the news that simply could not be ignored. Surely no-one would be so stupid as to invent such a rumour? Surely none who had witnessed the heroism of the Astartes, the Inquisition and their operatives would wish death upon the greatest of them?

Three great heroes had risen, called by the Emperor of Man himself, to halt the advance of the Silent Blade and the vast armies of daemons they had brought with them. With the combined might of the Ursus Gallack, both human and Astartes, and the Inquisition at their backs they had cut a swathe through the forces of Chaos and struck for its heart, losing contact with the Astronomicon for months as the insanity of the violent warp storms that surrounded the enemy forces closed over behind them, swallowing them like the jaws of a vast predator. For the longest time they had been thought lost, the scale of the task at hand too vast for even three such heroes, but when hope had flickered like the dying wick of a wind-blown candle the storms had ceased, collapsing in on themselves and disappearing. In their wake were dozens of planets where the winds blew ashes through empty streets, hundreds of ships floating aimlessly in the void, twisted and corrupted and crumbling to dust and billions of lost souls, only now released to find their way to the Emperor’s side. There was no life remaining in the entire sub-sector save one ship, whose master cried out in victory and in anguish, or so the rumour went. It was said that every Astropath that heard the call immediately burst into tears, spreading the effect from Astropath to Astropath until an entire sector was weeping in transmitted grief that was felt far beyond the limits of the message itself.

But the most gifted of psykers had felt it differently, detecting three entirely separate emotions in that burst of anguish that had originated on Thaarnath itself, transmitted as an ancient power was unleashed in the dying moments of the final battle. There was grief of course, grief for the loss of those dear to the Saint, but there was also acceptance. Wrapped around those, encasing them like an iron fist that gave him the will to wield such a power, was unadulterated rage and a fierce sense of loathing for the powers of Chaos. That had been the last that was heard as the Greater Daemon itself, that bloated fiend that represented the four great patrons of darkness, was vanquished, whatever foul organ that passed for its heart torn out and cast into the dust. With that the Chaos force had collapsed and was sent screaming back into the warp to face the wrath of those they had failed, and the victory of the Black Saint was assured.

To the horror of those that waited on the landing strip at the Fortress of Gallack, the rumours were true.

Three figures wrapped tightly in sheets emerged from the Thunderhawk, held aloft by the cowled form of Inquisitor Vheilan who supported them with the remaining power of his mind, seeing off any attempts to help him with a psionic push that, while not painful, made his wishes perfectly clear. From there he marched deep into the woods to a clearing where a small house sat, its owners returning from war together in silence, their home to become their final resting place in eternity. At the slightest nod from the Inquisitor a trio of arco-flagellants emerged from the trees and set to work immediately, their flails arcing and popping as they dug a single grave big enough for the three. The pit was far too deep for the great forest bears to be able to detect the presence of the bodies and was long and wide, mainly due to the size of the body being laid at the very centre between the two who had given him life so many years before. When they were finished they leaped clear and waited, standing guard over the grave while the three were laid to rest and the hole was filled back in by those that had known them best. One figure was forced to watch, held up between two of his battle brothers, his legs and arms missing and their stumps sealed temporarily with surgical clamps. Though surrounded by those that knew him he was utterly alone, for only he and Vheilan had been there at the end when no others had been able to advance through the boiling madness at the centre of the storm.

Eventually a statue was placed over the grave to ensure that they would never be forgotten, that the significance of that place could never truly fall into insignificance. It had been decreed that life would go on as before and that the resting place of the three should be respected but not off limits; that it should be a place of remembrance but not some soulless place of pilgrimage like so many shrine worlds throughout the Imperium.

None could tell if that was what they would have wanted, but it was far too late to ask.

+IN LIVING DO WE HONOUR THEM, AND IN BATTLE DO WE PROTECT ALL THAT THEY MADE POSSIBLE. BUT WHILE WE FEAST AND MAKE MERRY WE MUST NEVER ALLOW THEM TO BE FORGOTTEN AND SO LOSE SIGHT OF THE COST. THEY LIVE ON IN OUR HEARTS AND IN OUR MEMORIES WHILE WE ANCIENTS SURVIVE, AND ON COBURNACHT WE REMEMBER THEM+

The power fists grew dull and lowered as Rasmusson returned to his slumber, his silence dismissing the children back to their homes and their loved ones. That night they would look differently upon their families and upon the verdant world that they called their home and would know that it was not free, that all that was good had been paid for in blood. Many would turn their life’s path towards such a life of sacrifice that day and in doing so would ensure the safety of Gallack for another generation, and when their children were of age they too would journey to the catacombs on Coburnacht and they too would learn.

As long as the story was told, no force for evil would ever be permitted to go unchallenged. As long as that continued, the Black Saint would remain at peace.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby He2etic » Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:17 pm

Deadline extended by a short period of time. See above.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby MalkyDel » Sat Dec 24, 2011 8:48 pm

Grandfather’s Day

T’was the night of the Grandfather,
And all through the Hive,
Something wicked was stirring,
Neither dead nor alive.


It was in the darker months of the long solar year, when the chill winds howled down from the north and the snows fell deep upon the spires of the old Hive, that they celebrated Grandfather’s Day. It was their oldest tradition, so the more senior members of the community would tell the youngest- wrapped in their swaddling rags- and it was their most important. Each house would raise a small shrine, adorned with gifts and offerings- the correct obeisance being so important in these darkest of nights- left to moulder in the run-up to the feast. They knew his eyes were upon them, for he rested not; watching and listening to the whispered prayers and requests of his adherents. The children would compile lists of all they wished to gain this coming year, burning them in the stinking incense fires that blazed cheerfully away beneath the air-vents of the hab units.

Young Tomas Richter coughed, sniffled and raised one dirty hand to wipe at his constantly running nose. In preparation for the day of feasting, the authorities had declared that the main reactors would be reduced in their intensity, lessening the squalid heat of the hive’s interior to a more festive level; encouraging the spread of bountiful infection, the weakening of the immune system and other seasonal undertakings. He stood in one of the many aisles of the local Templum, listening to the litanies of the Priests and occasionally glancing at his sallow skinned relatives, as they lethargically intoned another verse of ‘As Manna Do His Gifts Now Fall’.
Tomas was a tall youth, made gangly by malnutrition and a spate of childhood diseases. His skin was pale, yellowed from a life away from natural light, pock-marked here and there with old scabs or new rashes; as befit a child of the benighted world he dwelt upon. He shifted uncomfortable alongside his droning family, his own voice catching in his throat, stymied by the persistent cough and his own petty unwillingness.

The boy knew his prayers and cants, had learned them all by rote- yet he could not bring himself to join in the singing. It was not that he was not a religious youth, for none were given the option of atheism upon Fystia III, but he resented being forced to attend the late masses on Grandfather’s Eve. It drew out the night, made time elastic and stopped him from curling up in bed and awaiting the arrival of presents. It came but once a year, did Grandfather’s Day- for while there were many gifts to be had at other times, it was only now that they were so concentrated, so plentiful and so joyous.

Eventually he knew they would leave, filing in silent ranks back to their habs. His mother would tuck him into bed beneath the sour-smelling blankets, and tell him a story. It was the same story as was told every year, and he was certain that her mother had told it to her. Regardless, he listened raptly, fingers tight about the fabric, clenching and unclenching with childish eagerness.

“Once, long ago, there was a great King and he ruled all that he beheld. He lived in a mighty palace, that shone like the sun of old, and he had many fine sons- generals and warriors bold- who attended to his sprawling grounds.” She paused, smiling at the boy, who nodded eagerly, awaiting her words- mouthing them even as she hesitated.

“Yet one day the King no longer walked amongst his subjects and ignored the pleas of his sons. His children cried out for him, but they were ignored. Half of them contented themselves that their father knew best, and half worried- worried until they decided that something must be done, lest the kingdom fall. Some trusted in signs and omens, portents and visions; but there was only one of them who voiced another plan.” Her voice shifted and the child cooed with glee, clapping his hands in excitement. He loved when she did the voices.
“ 'I shall go to visit our Grandfather' he said, 'who is Grandfather to all living things'. And so he travelled far into his Grandfather's garden to seek him out. The garden was vast, filled with horrors and wonders- the child was not afraid. 'Grandfather!' he called out, 'Grandfather, our father has lost his way.'

'Fear not, young Mort!'” She changed her tone again; now a booming and jovial voice, the voice of the Grandfather himself. “ 'You have sought me out, boy and I shall help you, for I am your Grandfather as surely as I am the Grandfather of all things.'
He sent the boy out into the Garden, in which the Grandfather lived- urging him to gather the most ripe of fruits, the darkest of seeds. The boy, whose name was Mortarion, took them and spread them across the galaxy- to every beloved world beneath the Grandfather's gaze.”
She paused, smiling her sallow smile at the boy, tousling his sweat-slicked hair with one lethargic hand. “That is why each year we celebrate this day; we celebrate the gifts sown by Mortarion and his beloved Death Guard across the worlds of the Imperium- the Imperium that forsook us, the Imperium that rejects love. Every year, while they murder their way across the stars, we wait for the agents of the Grandfather to come; his helpers, who wish only to share with us his gifts.” The smile again, set almost rictus-like in her ravaged face. With trembling, arthritic fingers she closed the book and set it to one side, drawing the mucus-streaked covers to the boys chin. “Now sleep, my little love. In the morning, the presents will be here and you will have your Grandfather's Day wishes come true; is that not what you want?” He nodded, energy bubbling up from within him. His head bobbed back and forth, till he had to stop, coughs wracking his youthful frame.

“Off to sleep then, Tomas. Grandfather's Helpers won't bring you anything if you stay awake.”

*


The deep dark night of Grandfather’s Day was upon them and nothing stirred throughout the confines of the Hive. No vermin scuttled or chittered in the vents and duct systems, no children stirred from their beds in the habs; each clung to sleep, awaiting the inevitable arrival.
None could say for certain where the thing began its rounds. It had been argued by some that the High Spires would obviously be his first stop; did he not sail the fetid currents of the worlds atmosphere on gossamer wings of rot and rag? Others insisted that he scuttled and crawled, creeping through the cavernous depths of the Underhive, to deliver his tribulations to the masses. Whatever the truth, as it was every year, he came that night to the winding corridors of Hive Primarius.
He was clothed all in dirty red, stained here and there with green and brown. The stench of decay wafted from his leprous skin, seeping from his infected pores and open wounds; yet he raised no complaint. An immense burlap sack was slung over one shoulder, twitching and writhing as though crawling with insidious, unnatural life. This was the one day of the year when he had to work. Real work, out amidst the oppressive materium; out amongst the squabbling, squirming human flesh-things; walking petri-dishes each and everyone of them. Lips pulled back in a strychnine grin from rotted, broken teeth. It gurgled and spluttered with plague-induced agony, spitting to one side. It watched the rotting mass of phlegm and flesh crawl away, scuttling on a living tide of maggots.

Heat blossomed from the vent before him, rising in wafts of decay-scented air. Far below, he knew the excited humans would be waiting; eager for the yearly gifts which he was obliged to deliver, the will of the Grandfather animating the decrepit form he now inhabited. He smiled, slinging his sack over his shoulder and squatting; ready to slip into the dark...

*


Tomas waited. He waited and waited, waking occasionally when no sign had presented itself. This was Grandfather's Day and nothing seemed to be happening. It didn't seem fair. Didn't feel right. Others had enunciated the long lists of their preferred infections, the plagues they wished to contract in glorious service of the Grandfather, but his request had been less selfish, more- benevolent. He had wanted to see...

“...The Garden.” The voice croaked from the vent-cover, dry and dead as old leaves. Tomas sniffled once, raising his dirty hand to rub at his nose, coughing as the grate slid loose. The scarlet clad figure looked at him with a single gleaming eye, coated with rheum and clouded with cataracts. “You're the little boy who wanted to see the Garden, aren't you? Ho ho ho..Ho..” The figure hunched at the waist, the harsh barks of his coughing echoing about the little room.

“I...I want to see the Garden, the Garden of the Grandfather of all things.”

“Of course you do, boy.” The plague-thing grinned its cracked smile. “Who wouldn't wish that? Tell me; what did your parents get?” The grotesque giant plopped himself down on the edge of the childs bed, rubbing at his head with an almost paternal affection.

“Bleeding fever, blossom lice, muscular lichen and the lungrots.”

“Mmhmm, any siblings?”

“No sir. None.”

“How many medicine resistant mutations in bleeding fever?”

The boy paused, scrunching his face up as he pondered. Somewhere within him he felt the knowledge, blooming like tumours, spreading like contagion. “Seventy six...”

“And how many cillia on your average instance of bacterial gum-melts?”

“One thousand, three hundred and ten.” Pain spiralled through his skull. He felt the fingers still digging into his scalp, no longer kneading; no longer comforting. He tried to speak again, before the bile rushed up from his throat. His eyes rolled, slamming back into his head as he slumped forward into the bloody gruel he had just brought up. “What. I don't- why am?”

“Shhh.” The tallyman smiled at him again. “It comes but once a year, this day; and the Grandfather always needs new little helpers. You wanted the garden. You prayed for it with all your heart- faith's good. Makes a man strong, makes a man more than a man.” He glanced down at the rapidly bruising skin, the subcutaneous vessels bursting and giving rise to insane swirls of purpura- the work of a mad artist, greater than worlds. The boy sniffled, coughed, wheezed and- with one final heave- breathed no more.

The rotted thing turned from the child, gurgling merrily to itself in some insane seasonal ditty. It mounted the vent-opening and looked upwards, clambering into the darkness- all the while recounting its merry tune.

There were other habs to visit, other helpers to recruit and joy to spread. This was, after all, the season. Soon it would return to the Garden, it would share the stories with the Grandfather and feel the warm infective embrace of absolute love.

And when he got there, there would be a new friend waiting; one he could teach the ways of the Tallyman at Grandfather's Day. One who knew all the old songs and tales. Who would face the coming dawn, on any one of the blessed worlds, with a smile and a “ho, ho, ho.”
MalkavianDelirium

<3 Fan of Erebus <3

Then one day at Istvaan III,
Horus came to say.
"Fulgrim with your clothes so bright,
won't you help me slay tonight?"
Then all the rebels loved him
And they shouted out with glee.
"Fulgrim the Traitor Primarch,
you'll go down in history!"
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby He2etic » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:19 pm

Alright guys, the competition is closed for new submission. Lucan, the mystery judge and I will be reading and coming up with reviews and the winners. Stay tuned.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby Raziel4707 » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:11 pm

Hooray!
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby He2etic » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:08 am

And the second place winner is....
Coburnacht by Raziel4707.

And the first place winner is....
Grandfather's Day by MalkyDel.

MalkyDel will receive a novel from the BL of his choice. Raziel4707 will receive a copy of Hammer & Bolter of his choice.

Let me know what your picks are guys. Check back tomorrow for a full review.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby Raziel4707 » Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:21 am

Congrats, Malkydel!

Wow, a chance to catch up with H&B! Thanks very much, He2etic! H&B 7 is next on my "to read" list so i would like that one, please.
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Re: Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Postby Mauthos » Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:03 am

YES!! 3rd out of a massive, oh wait, 3, so last place then. :( Oh well, must try harder :)

Congrats to Malkydel, well done, great short!!
Simplicity is the key to brilliance.
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