Read In A Rush: Burden

The Bolthole's monthly 1,000 word story competition.

Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby J D Dunsany » Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:08 pm

Good evening, good people. This is the thread for posting stories for the June 2013 'Read In a Rush' Competition.

To enter the competition, you must write a story of between 850 and 1150 words in length addressing in some way the prompt word or phrase announced at the start of the competition. In this case, it's Burden.

Audio scripts and their accompanying audio files are admissible. The format for presenting those scripts, however, is strict. Include the audio script, properly formatted (no spoiler tags, please), first. A link to the audio file should then be provided after the script.

Whether you're writing a prose entry or a script entry, you must provide a word count alongside the title of your work.

At the moment poetry entries are not admissible.

You should post your entries on or before the deadline of 2200BST on Saturday 22nd June. There is no limit to the amount of entries you can post, but only one may be submitted for voting. If you've only posted one entry in the posting period, then you don't need to do anything. Your entry will be automatically submitted for voting. If you've written more than one entry, you will need to PM me with the title of your chosen entry. You will be given a full week to make your decision about which story to put forward. If you do not manage to PM me before that time, then I will put your first story into the voting thread.

Any questions, please feel free to PM me.

We also have a suggestion thread here. Feel free to peruse it and post your thoughts on any and all things RiaR.

PLEASE NOTE. If you submit a story you are also committing to vote (and the custom here is that you vote for stories other than your own). Stories whose writers have not voted will be disqualified from the competition and their votes will not be counted.

Regards,

JDD
JDD story of the moment: Glory
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby Bloody Mary » Tue Jun 18, 2013 9:05 pm

1035 words without title

What a heavy burden is fame


While I run into the risk of sounding trite, I have to admit that being famous can be quite a burden at times. (1) Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s usually very pleasant, what with the noble-born ladies throwing themselves into my arms, and important people offering free drinks and free food, just so that they can say they spoke to me, but there are moments where one wonders if it’s really worth it.

Had I known what would happen during the diner, I would have eaten Jurgen’s socks instead of accepting the invitation. But it was too late for regrets, so I threw my wineglass at the nearest cultist and ducked for cover. Once I was shielded by a sturdy overthrown table, I surveyed my surroundings.

The Governor’s guards were shooting, but missing most of the time. The cultists were apparently much better trained, since the hits they made did not appear to reach their targets by pure chance some of the time. Then something tugged on my greatcoat, and I found out that some complete and utter moron let a child out.

“Lady Imelda,” gasped one of the guards, and with a sinking feeling I realized this was the Governor’s daughter. Lady Imelda gave me a wide-eyed look of terror, and glued herself to my leg.

“’m scared,” she said, which wasn’t helping anyone much, and only meant that I would have to make sure she stayed safe, instead of shoving her into the hands of the nearest guard. So, I did the only reasonable thing I could and picked the girl up. She glued herself to my neck, and kicked me in the stomach.

Unfortunately for me, I neglected to take my carapace armour with me. By now, I ought to have learned that no place in the galaxy is safe, but there I was cowering behind a table and with a child attached to me. I was acutely aware that I could not remain in my hiding place much longer: las-fire and stubber bullets were chewing away at my cover, and soon enough the cultists would storm it.

I braved a quick scan and fired a few shots, taking down three cultists, but no way out presented itself to me. I was trapped.

And then there was a bright flash that left after images dancing in my eyes, and a familiar aroma of unwashed socks mixed with halitosis reached my nose. My happiness at the sudden presence of my aide was short-lived, as Lady Imelda promptly threw up down my collar.

“I thought you could use my help, sir,” Jurgen said placidly. As usually, I had left him to keep an eye on our ride, since polite company rarely is ready for my aide’s charm (2). Fortunately for me, (3) cultist do not qualify as such and so, Jurgen's appearance was a much welcome sight.

I made another quick scan of my surroundings, and realized that Jurgen had given me the perfect opportunity to make myself scarce. Given that I’d be also bringing the Lady Imelda to safety, it seemed like this would be one of those tactical retreats that would turn out to boost my underserved reputation for heroics.

“Come on, Jurgen,” I barked, and my aide turned to cover my retreat without any comment. We rushed past the corpses left by his entry, and out into the luxurious corridor. Or at least what was left of it. Now the walls were pock-marked by las-shots, and the floor covered with blood and dirt carried on the shoes of the aggressors. Fortunately, they all seemed to have rushed into the reception hall, and so our escape was going mostly unhampered. Mostly, being the keyword here.

As it turns out, a four-years-old weighs quite a lot and one simply cannot run as quickly as if one were unencumbered. I had to slow down. Naturally, just as I came to this conclusion, and my speed became closer to a lethargic trot, something that perhaps once had been human burst out from one of the rooms. Reflexively, I dove for cover, which turned out to be an ornamental table. The creature threw itself at me, only for Jurgen to fire his melta.

Afterimages danced across my retinas, and my passenger began to whimper softly. Clearly, it was becoming too much for a child to bear, but we didn’t have any options but to run towards the door and hope that our Chimera was still standing. With the Lady Imelda clinging to my chest like a limpet, I could not exactly use my chainsword—I had to rely on Jurgen, my las-gun and my legs. So I stumbled out of hiding and managed another few meters of a brisk jog, until I reached another ornamental piece of furniture – a sofa – to duck behind.

“I want Lila,” the Lady Imelda announced. It wasn't helpful in any way, and to be honest left me rather stumped for an answer.

In the end, I settled for a “She's not here” and dove behind a pillar. The door was only a few steps away, but my small burden was proving to be ever more difficult to bear. The girl clearly did not take no for an answer and demanded that Lila, whoever that was, were produced now, right away or else. Else apparently being waling and kicking me where she could. As harsh as it sounds, carrying the girl when she was scared out of her mind was much easier.

And then, because even the smallest problem is a gate to disaster, the door burst open and a Space Marine in the livery of the traitorous Thousand Sons entered the hall. I really ought to have had learned that nothing was ever easy, and if anything seems like it's going to be an easy way to boost my reputation, it will leave me frantically wishing I had never left my bed.

(1) At this point, I have started considering editing out all mentions of the woes of fame, as they were getting rather repetitive, but in the end I've decided Cain's memoirs wouldn't be the same without them.

(2) As the Lady Imelda demonstrated.

(3) Though not Cain's shirt.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby Liliedhe » Wed Jun 19, 2013 9:33 pm

Ratione Peccati

Thranis, Battle Brother of the Blood Ravens on secondment to the Deathwatch, was moving through the rite of safe maintenance, carefully taking apart his bolt pistol, polishing each component, greasing where necessary and putting it back together. His lips moved as he called up all the ritual entreaties and blessings while his hands followed the movement pattern he had committed to memory back when he had still been a Scout. Neither took up enough of his attention to screen out the argument happening in the corridor in front of his cell.

He knew the voices, he knew the pattern of the altercation and he knew the outcome. Unless somebody decided to vary the litany for the 6th repetition, which he did not consider likely.

“Get out of my way, xenos lover.” That was Skrallan, the Space Wolf. Fenrisian accent, cultivated to be more obvious instead of being ground down by exposure to all the other intonations used by the Battle Brothers from other Chapters, a slightly petulant note to his voice and, as always, an intuitive leap for the next insult he considered fitting.

“There is a lot of room in the corridor, cousin.” The bored drawl of the Flesh Eater, Johash. Thranis had never heard this sort of accent and couldn’t place it, but the manner of speech was easy enough to interpret. The calm did not grow from a phlegmatic temper. Instead, it was a thin layer of self assured superiority covering a bottomless well of violence… And it would be removed the instance Johash found a nuisance to be sufficient to take notice of it.

“So step aside.”

Unfortunately, Johash and Skrallan where on two different training rotations, and their cells lay to either side of Thranis’s, who was on yet a third shift and had his rest cycle when those two started respectively finished their schedules, causing them to meet directly in front of his door. And this was rather thin, so he had a front row seat for this rather pedestrian melodrama.

‘Spirit of Foeseeker, travel gladly through this barrel…’ His rite continued, as he inserted the bore brush into the barrel and moved it back and forth, cleaning out residue.

Outside, there was silence. Thranis imagined both of them were staring at each other now, amber eyes on black ones. Or maybe the Space Wolf was twitching impatiently, while the Flesh Eater would merely look bored. He had never actually seen those altercations play out, just heard them. It was enough to make him sigh.

‘Remove all impurities, so righteous punishment can be inflicted…’

The sharp smell of the cleaning solution made his nose twitch. Sense memories flooded his brain, of all the times when he had followed this rite in less contemplative situations. Deft fingers discarded a soiled cloth and picked up a clean one to be soaked. He wiped the barrel down again.

“What does ork taste like? Like fire mushrooms? Is it true your holy book is a cook book with recipes for preparing them and all the other xenos you like?”

That was a new one. And actually rather… pointed, given the supposed proclivities of Johash’s chapter. Thranis’s hand, about to stopper the solvent bottle, froze. He heard something he didn’t want to hear. A step. Slow, deliberate, ponderous. Nothing like the quick, graceful movements of the Space Wolf.

A second one followed.

Thranis got up. Every time it got so far, he wondered about himself. It wasn’t like he was responsible what his temporary brothers did, right?

Three long steps took him to the door, while the slow footfalls became overlaid by a low, menacing growl, the kind a really big cat would make deep in its throat. On his approach, the door’s machine spirit reacted and opened it, revealing a familiar tableau:

Skrallan, fists raised, reddish mane bristling like the hairs on Thranis’s cleaning brush, eyes almost solid gold and fangs bared, and Johash slowly closing, black eyes blank and his aristocratic, ebon features covered by a sheen of sweat.

The Blood Raven stepped outside, causing both heads to snap into his direction, and held up the hand that still held the oil-soaked cloth he had intended to apply next. “Don’t stop on my account. I can continue the Rites of Maintenance later, when they’ve carted you off to the infirmary.”

It was irrelevant what he said, he knew. His appearance, his calm voice was enough. Some of the tension went out of the Flesh Eater and he shook his head to clear it, before shoving past them both and disappearing into his quarters, his shoulders hunched in shame. At least, that was how the Blood Raven interpreted it.

The Space Wolf, on the other hand, shot Thranis a venomous glance. “This is getting old, Witchkin. I fight my own battles. I don’t need you to protect my hide. Do you think I’m a weakling like you?”

“Protect you?” Thranis scoffed. It wasn’t for show. Even though his interference might be considered to benefit the aggressive Space Wolf, sparing him a possible beating and certain punishment, by now the Blood Raven would have gladly beaten the tar out of Skrallan with his own hands. That he did not was in deference to the oath he had sworn on his induction to the Deathwatch as well as his general dislike of waste. Like, waste of time, waste of energy, waste of resources to patch up Battle Brothers who had not been injured in the line of duty.

“I’m merely protecting my door. It’s so fragile; if one of you falls against it, it will dent so it will be impossible to open. And I don’t want to be late to my own training cycle.”

The Space Wolf made a rude gesture – at least Thranis assumed it was rude, his research had been inconclusive – and stalked off, too.

The Blood Raven took a couple of deep breaths before he went back inside as well. Despite his apparent calm, adrenalin surged through his body, because it had been prepared to counter the violence in the air if necessary. It wouldn’t do to continue the rite like this, so he focussed his emotions and slowly filtered them out, one after the other. This new focus enabled him to pick up again where he had stopped. He applied the cloth to Foeseeker’s barrel and gave it thin coating of oil.

‘Protect from inimical surroundings, so no tarnish may come to you…’

Words: 1078
"You were a warleader, a fighter, when did you gain such illuminating insight into the minds of others?"
"I learned such things as you and your brothers applied brand to my flesh and parted skin with rasp and knife," snarled Astelan. "When your witches tried to prise open my mind they opened me for an instant and I stared back."
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby J D Dunsany » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:04 pm

Wow. We're leaving it a bit late this time round, aren't we?

:D

The feeling of relief when I saw you two had posted was quite intense, I can tell you!

Will comment properly in a day or so.

Regards,

JDD
JDD story of the moment: Glory
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby Kentigern » Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:32 pm

Howdy folks. Haven't written or posted in a long time, so thought I'd give this a shot.

1078 words

“It is a time when one's spirit is subdued and sad, one knows not why; when the past seems a storm-swept desolation, life a vanity and a burden, and the future but a way to death.”
Fragment of text from Ancient Terra
Author Unknown

Lasfire danced across the sky, fragmenting the darkness into a kaleidoscope of riotous colour. Like some stereotypical cineflick from his barely remembered childhood, both sides in this particular war were using different types of ammo, leading to the slightly comical situation where allies and enemies could be determined by the colour of their laser beams.

Which at least meant you knew which one was trying to kill you at any particular time.

Job couldn’t find anything comical just now though. Exhaustion covered him like a heavy net, weighing down his limbs as he struggled through the clinging mud. His mind was as congealed as the churned up group beneath his feet, its one consistent thought, pulsing like a heartbeat, to lay down his burden and close his eyes.

He still resisted the urge, although he didn’t know why. The Commissars and the Chaplains had told them it was sorcery, that it was the machinations of the Enemy, and that only the weak of heart, the faithless, could be affected. Those who had succumbed in the early days of the war had been shot as they lay on the ground, executed in cold blood as a warning to their peers. But Job suspected that whatever the origin of the malaise, his current exhaustion was rooted in the constant drain of trudging through the mud of this Emperor-forsaken planet, overpowering drudgery punctuated by brief moments of terrifying confrontations with death.

That, and the fact that he was carrying the regiment’s fething banner.

In his time in the regiment, Job had quickly realised that everything was hellish, but honoured jobs were the worst of all. Each was dressed up as a great step forward in the ranks of the Guard, yet in reality were merely different ways to die in a horrible manner. Assistant to the Regimental Surgeon meant catching whichever disease was doing the rounds. A place in the logistical unit meant a stabbing if you didn’t steal items for the black market, and an execution if you did. Batman to the commissioned officers was a nice way of saying bullet magnet.

And Regimental Banner Bearer meant being the first into each hopeless encounter, even though you couldn’t actually swing a weapon.

He was the fourth holder of the post so far in this campaign, and had now set a new regimental record of longevity in the role – 8 days alive on campaign. Admittedly they had not yet encountered any enemy during that time, so he guessed his run might not last much longer.

He forced his head upwards to stare towards their objective, the supposed heart of the enemy’s resistance. Rumours varied as to its significance – the more zealous bought into Ecclesiarchy stories of daemonic sacrifices and orgiastic rituals; the more cynical suspected that it probably lacked any real tactical opportunity. Job had lost any interest in the strategy of the campaign – he doubted that any of the senior officers really had one, and if they did they certainly wouldn’t tell him. So instead he marched through the mud, bearing his burden, each footstep seeming to erase another memory of his past, and to bring him one step closer to oblivion.

The next step took him to the crest of the hill and confronted him with a sight which forced him to stop. Ahead were a mass of the enemy, their tattered royal blue uniforms stained with mud and gore. Ironically the enemy wore blue uniforms and fired red lasbeams, while Job’s regiment wore red uniforms and fired blue lasbeams. It was like the game of some insane god. Job stood upright, holding his banner, realising that this was it; he was finally going to die.

He supposed it should feel differently. He could dimly remember that he had once dreamed of a heroic end, in the way that young boys indoctrinated by the mythology of cineflicks do. He had imagined himself falling before a horde of enemies, taking a fearsome swathe of them with him as a tribute for when he stood at the Emperor’s side, a hero of the Imperium. In his more realistic moments during basic training he had imagined that he would be terrified by death, and his only prayer was that it would be something instantaneous, that he would be vaporised by a weapon of awesome power so that he didn’t even realise he was dying.

But now, he found he simply didn’t care. He watched detachedly as the enemy troops shouted out warnings, raising their weapons in shocked response. He realised disinterestedly that he must look quite a sight, silhouetted at the top of the hill by the flashes of distant gunfire, the brave first face of an Imperial assault. Of course the reality was that he simply the unfortunate vanguard of a line of brain dead troops, but he wondered whether they might paint up a picture of him which seemed more glorious.

Of course, he knew that no one would actually remember that he had ever existed.

Suddenly the enemy troops exploded in a ball of scarlet fire, limbs and gore arcing through the air in a macabre parody of fireworks. Job stood, stunned, as the shockwave of destruction passed over him, the tattered banner of the regiment streaming through the sudden wind. Where once his death had confronted him, now there was simply a bloody, smoking crater, pieces of the enemies lining the floor.

“But red is their colour.” He repeated the words to himself over and over, his body rigid in shock.

“What are you muttering about soldier,” barked the harsh voice of the Commissar in his ear, startling Job. The black coated man surveyed the ruined mess of the enemy beneath them. “The Emperor protects the faithful,” he intoned, “and brings down ruin upon His enemies. Now stop standing there like you’ve got nothing to do and lead the men forward again, or I might reconsider the honour that you have been gifted with.”

Job started to walk again, one foot in front of the other, carrying his burden across the cloying mud towards the distant objective. Each step brought him closer to the sweet rest of annihilation, and finally he managed to smile.
Good guys go to heaven.

Bad guys send them there.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby YeOldeGrandma » Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:04 pm

Patience - 1148 words excluding title.

The captain of the 5th company Steel Confessors filled the room from floor to ceiling. Clad in full Astartes armour, its dark silver polished to a dull sheen, he utterly dwarfed every mortal around him. Janx was considered one of the tallest soldiers in his regiment, yet even he found himself staring straight into the giant’s breastplate as he stood to attention beside his lord.

His lord, Lord Marshal Militant Alexandro Juvas, commander of the Varandeese “Cleanse and purge” battle group, remained seated behind a large Strategium console table, cluttered with hololithic display units and data-feed cables which connected the inner sanctum of the Varandeese High Command to the regiments in the field. His staff officers had, for the moment, retired to the shadowy edges of the room, waiting to be summoned.

“In conclusion, lord, I would estimate the advance to be resumed in two days, once these last pockets of resistance have been wiped out”, Juvas said. “We push for Adriantes when it’s done.”

“Your men are still fighting”, the Astartes boomed. He’d come, as always, wearing his helmet, and the speaker grille amplified his speech into a tinny growl.

“There has been continued resistance in a number of sectors, yes. Though I assure you the heretics will be quashed in short order.”

The captain’s helmet lenses glowed as they regarded the Lord Marshal. “Lord, I once more renew my request to send battle-brothers to aid in the cleansing.”

“And once again I deny it. As much as I appreciate your offer, the war effort demands otherwise.“

The question had been posed every day for the past two months, ever since the Imperial advance had crashed headlong into the heart of the enemy lines, and the war had truly begun. Janx had stood Honour Guard on several of those occasions. The answer had always been no.

“Then I take my leave”, the Astartes said. Dismissing him with a nod, Juvas motioned for his staff officers to rejoin him as the giant left the room.

***

“What do you make of it then?”

Janx squinted against the sunlight. Marble, sunbaked and glaring, spread out all around him. “Honestly,” he said, “I don’t feel anything.”

Doron gave him a quizzical grin amidst the beads of sweat trickling down his face.

“I’ve never been here before”, Janx went on. “I was born in Hive Teinx, and I never went anywhere until the raising. Still, I thought there would be something, some feeling of coming home; if not to the same hive then to the same world at least.”

Doron shrugged as he looked away. The marble plaza was a gigantic clearing in the city-scape, hundreds of metres across, bedecked with scores of statues and monuments commemorating the glory of Varandes. The sun, high up and fiercely bright, mercilessly burned away any shadow. All around them, other pairs of Honour Guard, similarly clad in the lilac dress uniforms of Varandeese High Command, stood posted, standing watch with ornate lasguns on their shoulders. At the far end rose the monolithic form of the Basilica Administratum, pressed into service as the Lord Marshal Militant’s forward head quarters.

But for the men guarding it, the square was empty. The various officers, adepts and menials were inside this time of day, orchestrating the war. Of the local population, those not deemed useful in this task had been temporarily cleared away, past the barricade of barbed wire and gun nests which had risen to secure the entire Hive block.

“This is Varandes, of that I’m sure”, Doron said. “I grew up not far from here.” He smiled. “And there’s no mistaking that sun.”

In Teinx, well on the other side of the globe, the sun was never this warm. “Welcome home”, Janx offered, and Doron’s smile widened.

“And to you”, he said.

Something moved at the far end of the plaza and both men turned to see a huge figure striding forward in the distance. The silver of its armour glittered where the sunlight caught it, shining brightly amidst the whiteness of the marble. Doron squinted.

“Astartes”, he said.

Janx observed quietly, doing his best not to stare, while at the same time not daring to take his eyes off it completely. The figure advanced rapidly, striding forwards with long, powerful steps, the lenses of its helmet fixed directly on them. Its heavy footfalls barely made a sound.

As the Astartes passed them, Janx and Doron both bowed their heads and saluted. The warrior didn’t spare them a glance.

***

Janx finished his quiet prayer and climbed into his simple bed. The surrounding darkness filled with the breathing of fellow soldiers as those not on duty settled in for the night.

There had been talk in the soldier’s mess, as was not uncommon. Several more Astartes had been sighted during the day, though their purpose remained unclear. Of more import were the reports that enemy forces, despite Juvas’s assurances, still had the Imperials stalled, delaying the advance for another two days.

It mattered little, Janx decided as he closed his eyes. They would be crushed, be it sooner or later. Varandeese had returned to cleanse their own home, to wash away its sins in the blood of treacherous kin, and they would not be denied. The Lord Marshal Militant had made it clear early on that this was first and foremost a Varandeese matter, their chance for redemption. The Astartes would see the reason in that, eventually.

Rumors abounded of their displeasure at the pace of the advance. One of the soldiers even claimed that, during a meeting some weeks ago , one of the Steel Confessors had raged, bellowing of the” weakness of mortals”. Were it true, it had been the only such incident. Still, there were whispers.

Janx rose abruptly, realizing his need to piss. Stepping gingerly, he made his way out into the dark hallway, his thought s suddenly on the Astartes from earlier that day. Had Janx had the skill to move with such stealth, he imagined he could have slipped through the corridors virtually undetected. As it was now, the soldier on watch heard him coming, acknowledging him with a nod.

He entered the lavatories, finding them empty and swathed in shadow. Trained eyes swept the dark corners on reflex as he walked over to a stall, unzipping his briefs. The air was chill, prickling his skin. He realized that he should have worn a shirt.

The blade severed his jugular in one swift motion, reducing his cry to a wet gurgle. Strong arms caressed his body as it collapsed, and he hit the floor in a soft whisper. Coughing blood, he looked up, catching the outline of a massive shape behind him, glowing eye lenses regarding him from high above. He stared at them.

As bolters started banging in the hallway outside, Janx realized that the Astartes had lost patience.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby Commander Shadow » Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:27 am

The Hill
Word Count: 1,150

The guardsmen in the cramped troop bay have long since given up shouting over the roar of the PDF light-lifter’s rotary blades. Silent, they wait for dawn, for the weight in their gut when the lifter begins its decent. They await the Hill.

Their company will be part of the third wave.

Past the door gunner Lieutenant Hyperion can only see the dimmed lights of the other lifters swarming like glow-flies through the early morning’s dark. Pioterhive is an hour’s flight behind them. The river, the sea, the landing fields and aid stations, secure bunks, hot food, the safe zones, all behind. Before them is death. It hides in the hinterlands, waiting, a beast with insatiable hunger.

It greeted them at Pioter, among the body bags and mass graves. It smiled gently from the banks of the river and in the shallows where corpses bobbed and rotted. Ahead is the Hill, where it will meet them teeth bared and snarling. Till then, Lieutenant Hyperion and his soldiers are still strangers.

It is another hour before the lifters descend and in the still dark morning the guardsmen hurry out into a landing zone smoky with early morning fog and dimmed glow-lamps. Hyperion can smell the stench of burnt ozone and stinking promethium fires. Wherever he walks his boots sink into the ashy earth, broken with craters. Artillery and air support has turned the landscape into a charred, barren, wasteland. Vegetation stripped away by fuel-air munitions and flamers. What trees still stand are blackened dead things, barley clinging on to the slope. A first taste of the Guard way of war.

Ahead, far up the slope, lost at the summit, comes the sounds of lasfire, shells bursting, and hard munitions. This new wave milling about like flesh-ants in the dark is at the very base of the Hill, brought in low, lifters skimming the countryside to evade the anti-air munitions and rockets. They are too far away to hear the screams of dying men or the terrible, alien roars, but can feel it waiting, hungry. They will have to climb to meet the beast. It will wait for them.

The third wave of the 901st Olympian Rifles assembles in the pre-dawn darkness and begins its slow climb. Rain has followed them in on their descent, a light, warm downpour that soaks their blue-gray uniforms and slowly turns the ash and earth to soupy mud. With each step Lieutenant Hyperion can feel himself sink a little deeper into the Hill.

Each step is a struggle. As the guardsmen trudge up the narrow trails the downpour increases, heavier and heavier till, when the first glimpses of dawn arrives, they can barely see through the deluge. It is a monotonous struggle, nothing but the back of the man in front of them and the fight to free their feet from the mud. One foot in front of the other. Onwards and upwards.

The sounds of combat grow. The farther they climb the more they can see. Corpses, litter the slope. Men from the previous waves who died before their brothers pushed on. The Hill is taking them, embracing them as the heavy rain presses them deeper and deeper into the wet earth. One foot in front of the other. Onwards. Upwards. The longer they climb the more bodies litter the slopes, and the hulking carcasses of other things that he cannot discern through the rain and the mud.
He can hear the sounds of battle.


What is left of the first and second waves fight from behind shattered trees, shallow fox-holes, and shell craters overflowing with rain. The flickering light of lasblasts, tracers, and bright flashes of tube-rockets is terrifyingly beautiful in the downpour. They can hear the yells, shouted orders, screams of the wounded, whimpers of the dying, overlapping and intermingling. It is horror. It is hell. It’s what they missed by a month at Pioterhive, what they were so anxious to find during their time in warp-transit. War. Glory. The Beast.

They wait, huddled in the rain as the firefight unfolds before them, and the captains deploy them into order. Minutes pass. Hyperion sinks a little deeper into the mud. His men are anxious, checking weapons, talking in hushed voices as if this were a holy place and not a muddy hell. They are ready, he has checked them, reassured them.

Fighters streak in, low altitude, small, stubby PDF ground-attack craft, slow, bulky things, like fat little birds. Their gun mounts light up, rocket-pods unleash in a hail of arcing, hissing death. The Hill before receives the onslaught, soil is hurled into the air, skeleton trees shredded. By the time the fighters come in for a second pass the company is on its feet advancing, running over broken ground. Hyperion does not know why he yells, but he does, a war cry.
He will not remember what he screams.

The men of the third wave charge into gunfire, invisible solid rounds that cut through the rain and men. The avalanche of noise is deafening, laserguns, bullets, the storm raging overhead. Hyperion’s ears ring with the cracks and overlapping chatter of the alien guns. Men are hit, crumple and fall, scream as bullets bite into them.The attack presses on, past the fox holes of the previous waves, over the mud and pools of rain and munitions craters and shells of trees scorched black and charred.

Through the sheets of rain he can see the blue-gray hints that are his advancing men and the star-burst of muzzle flashes. The rain tastes like ash. He grips his officer’s carbine and then they are upon the enemy and there is fighting and dying and yelling and screaming and something big looms at him out of the rain and he fires and fires and it falls and he is moving on and yelling.


And it is over. And the rain is letting up and he can see the battlefield before him and the crumpled corpses of heroes and the massive hulks of dead monsters. Some of those are his men, missing faces he cannot help but notice as he calls his platoon to order. He cannot help but feel responsible.
When the rain clears and the earth dries the men will continue up the Hill towards death, and glory, and the beast.

But now, as his men rest, joke and laugh like men who believed themselves dead, Lieutenant Hyperion moves across the killing field, finding the faces he knows are missing, removing their tags and adding them to his own.

For now they are but a handful of metal disks and names he barely knew, but in time they will grow heavy. Very heavy.
Last edited by Commander Shadow on Sun Jun 23, 2013 6:48 pm, edited 3 times in total.
- And there arose from the abyss a terrible beast and the armies of man were laid low by the walls of the ancient city. The ground shook and the skies trembled and all knew as the beast had come forth and that the end of time was upon them.

"Shadow is always right, except when he tries to save his men from charging orks" - Ang
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby J D Dunsany » Sat Jun 22, 2013 9:30 am

Today's the final day for entries!

Woo-hooh!

:D

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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby YeOldeGrandma » Sat Jun 22, 2013 5:44 pm

What a heavy burden is fame, by Bloody Mary
I have read the first Ciaphas Cain Omnibus, and it seems that the stories follow the same template every time:
1. Cain tries to do something, preferably safe and enjoyable.
2. Fecal matter hits the fan.
3. Cain inadvertently saves the day, which involves a lot of ducking behind cover and Jurgen shooting a meltagun.

Your story follows this pattern as well. And it’s well executed on the whole, apart from some minor quibbles, such as the reuse of the wordings “afterimages dancing in my eyes/danced across my retinas” and “wasn’t helping anyone much/ wasn't helpful in any way”.

All in all, it is a proper Cain-story, with the same feel and atmosphere as the real novels. The open ending was good, and perhaps the best way of translating Ciaphas Cain into RiaR-format.

Ratione Peccati, by Liliedhe
…means “Because of sins”. But I still don’t get it.

Your story is a great little drama that does a good job of presenting distinct characteristics of different Chapters (a nice balance to the rather common vanilla Space Marine) in a suitably gothic atmosphere. It’s well structured and paced, and it also manages to put a bit of comedy in the 40k-verse without reducing the characters or the setting to some ridiculous parody. It’s a moment that feels well at home in the grimdarkness, but the funny side of it is also there, subtly; though only to the reader.

I remember it being a little jarring to suddenly read “the kind a really big cat would make deep in its throat” – the wording felt clumsy for such a sophisticated mind as that of the main character. I suspect especially the inclusion of “really big” as giving off this vibe.

And I still don’t get the title.

Untitled (Burden?), by Kentigern
I don’t really like being confronted with some well-thought out quote with complex phrases right at the beginning of a story, much as I don’t like being hit in the face with a big block of text describing things in an overly complex manner. It hurts my head, forces me to re-read and so on. You (and Mark Twain) did both these things to me. But I realize it’s a choice of style, and that it all comes down to one’s personal preferences. I’m just stating my personal thoughts.

As is usually the case, I warmed more to your entry as I continued reading (and even more upon re-reading it a second time). It’s basically some nice, classic, forlorn Imperial Guard drama (the last few sentences especially, as they so often are in these short stories), and I am a sucker for that. You do it rather well, too. The “But red is their colour”-bit was brilliant.

Some things I am a little torn over. First of all: the cynical soldier thing has been done so many times, and feels more at home in a Vietnam war movie than in the gothic darkness of 40k. Then again, that may be one of the key aspects of the humanity that is so apparent in the Imperial Guard, and as such it would fit in.
Secondly: your officers are stereotypical zealous executing types. Again; it’s been done, and it’s rather one-dimensional. Then again, it does put your story more firmly in a grimdark setting.

On both accounts I ultimately decided that I think it works. Though the Commissar’s line at the end is not that good, being very stereotypical and, because of that, dull.

A few minor spelling mistakes as well; nothing jarring though.

The Hill, by Commander Shadow
Like the above; lots of words in the beginning, forcing me to re-read, but it’s not necessarily bad, just not my style. The use of the word “troop bay” had me picturing some form of hangar bay on a starship, and it took me a while (and a re-read) to realize that they were travelling by… well, by some sort of aircraft, which I pictured as some form of helicopter (“over the roar of the PDF light-lifter’s rotary blades”). Just like that I was picturing the trees as jungle, the air as humid – basically, it was Vietnam. This image was reinforced by your (well-written) description of the rain later on. Was it intentional? Or was I the only one picturing jungle warfare in my head? Whatever the case, it worked fine, not jarring with any of the description later on.

The use of present tense was nice, and added to the overall poetical feel of the piece. Like the above, it’s classic Guard drama, but with a more profound spin towards the poetical and romanticism. Well-written description made it easy for me to picture, and - together with shorter, broken up sentences (“Onwards and upwards.”) and use of personification (“…can feel it waiting, hungry. They will have to climb to meet the beast. It will wait for them.”) – set the mood splendidly.

The end felt a bit strange though. Hyperion came across as just an example of one of the Guardsmen, someone you occasionally went back to in order to add a more direct point of view. Then suddenly he is your strongest link to the theme “burden”, through a conflict which hasn’t been mentioned before (the feel of loss at his soldiers’ deaths). That just appeared, out of the blue, with no previous links or hints in the story. I realize that it makes perfect sense for him to feel that way, but it introduces something completely new when I just want closure to everything I just read.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby VictorK » Sat Jun 22, 2013 8:09 pm

*Huff huff* take /that/, deadlines! A bit of continuity returns, back to fantasy.

Rabid Dog

Somewhere along the way Johannes left the dark and the woman he thought was his wife for the Blue Fang tavern. Lucidity found him deep in his third or fourth drink; he had lost track, but the barkeep was certainly keeping his tab somewhere. Enough of him returned that he could scheme of a way to skip out on the bill when the opportunity presented itself.

Death in a snowbank seemed preferable to another night where his mind wandered elsewhere and left him behind. The tavern was dank with the smell of the lower kinds of people but all he could smell was the incredible stench that assaulted Karl Franz’s army when it arrived before the Ulricsberg. Johannes was not ashamed to say that he had been among the soldiers who wretched their rations onto their boots.

The door to the tavern crashed open. Johannes could almost feel the harsh clap reverberate in his chest, but the reaction was so delayed that he could have just been shivering from the cold. Winter had taken hold of Middenheim. The Count was away, chasing daemons back north, and the true ruler of the city was exercising her sovereignty with an icy kiss that could take a careless man’s life away.

The former soldier was convinced to look up from his drink when the cold persisted and was answered by a few shouts, quickly muffled. Men in dark clothing came on the wind, and they decided that the night was finished for the tavern and its patrons. The barkeep tried to protest, but was roughly pushed away. Johannes could muster nothing within himself to be concerned with the man’s fate. A watchman on leave rose to try and protest, but he was quickly subdued and a blindfold drawn over his eyes before he was ushered back onto the street. He would survive to see the morning, that was the deal between these rats and the watch that prevented the war ravaged city from spiraling into a new conflict.

No one came for Johannes. The black cloaks were lining up at different points in the tavern, and when they were settled the door was closed and the cold kept at bay. The largest woman that Johannes had ever seen blocked the only way out. Though one of her eyes was covered by a heavy patch he could feel something staring into him. For the first time, Johannes managed to feel afraid.

“Do you mind if I sit?”

Johannes had missed the smaller man amidst the crowd of Imperials. A quick glance revealed that he did not belong; his skin was a darker tone and he was clean shaven, short and stout with bright brown eyes that managed not to smile though his grin was genuine. Arabyan, Johannes thought. He had never seen one, but the man’s Reikspiel was tainted by an accent and he fit the description from the old stories of the crusades.

The Arabyan settled down across from Johannes without waiting for an answer. “Meister, there should be hot water on the kettle there, could you pour me something?” A tall blonde man nodded in reply. “Forgive me, I am used to warmer climates and I find that some fragrances from home, served hot, can set me right. I am called Kingfisher, it’s not my real name but it will do. You are Johannes.”

Johannes’ fingers tightened around his chair but he was too drunk to do more than recoil as if struck by his own name. “Yes.” He slurred, not knowing what else to say.

“We are all brothers here, Johannes.” The meister, a man with an exquisitely maintained beard and moustache, placed a cup in front of Kingfisher. “This is Meister Theodor, he served in Valten’s army, part of an illustrious Averland household. You have nothing to fear from us poor rats.” Theodor seized Johannes’ wrists and tied them to his chair with a length of cloth. The man’s hands were too strong for the withered soldier to struggle against. “But we have much to fear from you.”

When Theodor stepped back Johannes could struggle, but the combination of drink, lack of sleep, and the general wasting he had suffered in the months after the war left him unable to break out. “Please.” He gasped, even his voice was deserting him.

“Where are you from, Johannes? Tell me about your home. If I wanted to kill you, I would have done it.” Kingfisher lifted his cup, inviting Johannes to speak before he sipped.

Johannes could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and the peril brought him some clarity. “I am from a village, not far from Nuln. I served the Count of Stirland, I held a halberd in his army.”

“Does that army exist anymore?”

Johannes sat up straight, almost pulling his arms free. The Kingfisher’s naturally darker skin became the bald pate of a sun-scorched northman with murder in his eyes and blood on his ax. The tavern became strewn with the corpses of men in the green and gold, men he had shared a meal with not an hour ago. The northman was not a beast but he roared like one. Even then Johannes knew that the sound would never leave him. He saw a knife on the table and tried to take it, but could only lurch in its direction.

The answer to the Kingfisher’s question was no.

Johannes tried to cry out, to protest his bondage so that he could strike down the imagined monster that now loomed in front of him. The Kingfisher gently sipped from his drink while the rats around him looked at the floor. They had all seen the same madness that now consumed the former soldier, they had all almost been claimed by it themselves.

“Where is your wife, Johannes?”

The Stirlander saw a shock of blonde hair, and the place where he had been gently settled back into his memory. But like a coiled snake it promised to strike again when he lowered his guard. “My wife…” He swallowed, trying to speak. “I don’t…she is here…”

“The woman that you killed last night was bought and paid for, Johannes. Your wife, if you have one, is very far away.” Kingfisher leaned forward. He wasn’t smiling anymore. “I have been very busy these past months finding men like you before the watch does. Will you come with me?”

Johannes felt only a northman’s hot, putrid breath on his face. He lunged for the knife again. The legs of the chair almost tipped. Kingfisher sighed. “Meister.” The Arabyan rose from his chair. “Relieve this man of his burdens.”

Johannes heard the ring of steel being drawn from its scabbard. He sat upright, and tried to look over his shoulder. He caught a glimpse of the two-handed sword being raised, and then saw nothing as it separated his head from his neck.
"The gods are not all powerful, they cannot erase the past." -Agathon
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby J D Dunsany » Sat Jun 22, 2013 10:05 pm

And we're done. The voting thread will be up in about half an hour or so.

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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby YeOldeGrandma » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:06 pm

Rabid dog, by VictorK

I don't have much to comment on with this one, except that dark Warhammer stories are always welcome. The effect of warfare and horror I find is often overlooked in the Warhammer-verse, so it's a nice thing to bring up now and then.

Are you hinting at some established background with these "rats" and the Kingfisher?
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby Kentigern » Tue Jun 25, 2013 9:44 am

Hi Grandma (now there is a grimdark start to a post if ever I've heard one... :lol: )

Thanks for the feedback, it's a big help. As I briefly mentioned at the start of my entry it's been a rather long time since I've written anything, so it is good to have a few areas to work on straightaway.

I completely agree with the fact that the premise is a rather well trodden one - I had tried to move it to a new direction slightly by changing the burden from a burden of duty to a specific physical burden of the banner, however in going back over it I don't think I followed this motif through clearly enough. A reflection of writing the story in one sitting I suppose!

Long sentences and paragraphs are an affliction that I suffer from - years of work to change it doesn't seem to have made much difference! :oops:

Overall, I think what I would take from it is that planning is key - due to work and family commitments I have slipped out of the way of writing, but a bit of outlining the plot, key themes, dialogue etc might have improved the flow of the story, instead of simply throwing it down in one go.

Onwards and upwards! :)
Good guys go to heaven.

Bad guys send them there.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Burden

Postby YeOldeGrandma » Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:32 am

Kentigern wrote:I completely agree with the fact that the premise is a rather well trodden one - I had tried to move it to a new direction slightly by changing the burden from a burden of duty to a specific physical burden of the banner, however in going back over it I don't think I followed this motif through clearly enough.


In my experience, it works to have several small details touching upon the theme word without them being the recurring motif. As long as there's also a main theme (in your case that would be burden of duty and, well, tough soldier life) those extra details are nice additions that will hopefully make the reader go "Ah. I spotted that. It ties with the theme. Nice". Sort of like an easter egg, almost.

Bottom line: nothing wrong with mentioning the banner once. You already have another, recurring, main theme.
Kentigern wrote:Long sentences and paragraphs are an affliction that I suffer from - years of work to change it doesn't seem to have made much difference! :oops:

Long sentences are, I believe, extra hard to pull off. More specifically; imagery in longer sentences - note that I have no problem with using long sentences to describe events etc, like here for example:

"The Commissars and the Chaplains had told them it was sorcery, that it was the machinations of the Enemy, and that only the weak of heart, the faithless, could be affected. Those who had succumbed in the early days of the war had been shot as they lay on the ground, executed in cold blood as a warning to their peers."

Imagery however, is trickier. If you do it well, it can be fantastic, but that requires a skill to choose the "right" words in order to describe colours, feelings etc in a way that doesn't feel clunky. By contrast, shorter sentences make more emphasis on pacing to convey feeling and mood, and also, if you have less actual description, lets the reader imagine more in his head without being "restricted to" what's actually written. Show, don't tell, essentially. This make them easier to use.

Long sentences can be rewarding, so if you find that that's the style you like, then keep writing the way you want. I should mention that I find even an accomplished writer like Graham McNeill harder to read because of his habit of painting imagery in long sentences. By contrast, I find Dan Abnett's more sparse style fantastic (just re-read Horus Rising and then Fulgrim - they are very different).

Please remember that this is mainly what I think, and that I can't truly explain why some longer sentences work for me and some don't. Comparing your story with Commander Shadows, they have much in common. However, I liked Shadow's imagery better, even though it's also, at least partly, conveyed through longer sentences. And, sadly, I can't fully explain why, except that it "worked better for me". Your writing isn't bad; but his is better.

As for being overwhelmed by big blocks of text in the beginning; don't think too much of what I said there. For me, it always takes a while to become fully immersed in a new book, movie etc. I always feel overwhelmed at the beginning, no matter the quality of the writing. Even at the start of reading Legion - by Dan Abnett.
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