Read in a Rush: Marooned

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

Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby LordLucan » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:20 pm

This is the official thread for posting stories for the August 2013 'Read In a Rush' Competition.


To enter the competition, you must write a story, set within 40K/Whf/Bloodbowl or a setting of your own devising, 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 is Marooned.

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 Thursday 22nd August. 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.

All the best,

Grand Overlord, the one true RiaR Monarch, Lordlucan.
Check out my debut fantasy novel from Fox Spirit Books, The Hobgoblin's Herald (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobgoblins-Herald-R-Aston/dp/1910462047). If you've read it, please rate and review it on amazon; I'd be eternally grateful. The sequel, Eater of Names, is out in 2018, so watch this space.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby YeOldeGrandma » Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:15 pm

Marooned - 1150 words including title

He stood in darkness, resting his forehead against the window pane. The glass was cold and he smiled, despite himself, as the chill crept soothingly through his skin. His breath, smoky in the air, soon fogged up the window before him.

After a while, he stepped back. The view-bay lay dark; through the wall before him, comprised entirely of glass, he could see clearly into the void. It was pitch blackness, endless and nothing more. He turned slowly, following the curving of the glass wall as it stretched around the circular chamber, until a small cluster of stars came into view, pinpricks of cold light in the dark. They were all the illumination there was; the view-bay was so dark he couldn’t fully tell where the chamber ended and space began. Only by straining his eyes could he make out a small amount of hoarfrost on the windows, glittering in the starlight.

He looked at the stars for a long time, as he always did. Before, he’d calculated the distance, but that had been before and the number was forgotten now. Below him, he knew, were other lights; blinking electro-torches affixed to the hull of the space station. If he stepped right up to the window and gazed down he’d see some of them, shining crimson if they were still working, but he hadn’t checked on that for years.

He felt the need to move again, so he pulled open the hatch and clambered back down the way he’d come. Downstairs there was light, weak and flickering, which he was grateful for now that his vision had begun to cloud. Were he to trip and fall, he wasn’t sure he’d get up again.

The chamber he entered was a windowless, gunmetal box, not much larger than the view-bay above. Cogitators and various controller banks lined the walls, grey with dust. As he made to cross the room he suddenly stumbled, hobbling unsteadily towards a large, square screen-bank in order to find support. His trembling fingers slipped and he crashed down against the shelf of its rune-pad. Dust swirled everywhere, assaulting his eyes, nostrils and mouth. Sprawled over the rune-pad there was nothing he could do but surrender himself to the wracking fit of coughing.

The dust eventually settled, leaving him wheezing with a burning chest and eyes that ran with itching, stinging tears. His head was pounding, white-hot. This was one of those moments, he knew, when he didn’t want to anymore; when he wished to do nothing else but close his eyes and sleep.

Yet experience had taught him that sleep wouldn’t come, that it was better to do other things; to move. He gripped the edge of the rune-pad and pushed himself upright. The runes were slick with blood-tinged spittle, and though several of them had been depressed, the screens all remained dark. Broken.

Long ago he’d filled his days by tending to the space station, walking its lengths and breadths, inspecting, repairing and, if nothing else, keeping it clean. But this was a monitoring post in deep space, designed for maintenance perhaps once every century. There had been little to do, and as his strength had deserted him he’d found that he no longer cared to venture very far. He’d made his living quarters here, in the communications spire below the view-bay, and for the last decade he’d never left it. The hatch at the far end of the room, leading to the rest of the station, remained sealed.

He took a few tentative steps, feeling his abdomen ache where it’d been brutally jammed against the metal during his fit. Slowly, he moved away from the walls, alert for any further weakness of his limbs. Here and there lay scattered remnants of ration packs, left behind during those days when bending down to pick them up had been too much of an ordeal. He made sure not to step on them, as the slick plastek could easily make him slip.

He made his way towards the vox-station; a conglomerate of snaking cables and blinking machinery, one of the few, non-life support stations that he’d left running. Someone was seated before it, back turned to him. At least it had been someone, before, and that had to count for something.

He reached the vox-station and gently laid a hand on the figure’s shoulder. The servitor remained immobile, but its voice pierced the silence.

“Directive?”

He was still, hand trembling. Screens blinked with a steady rhythm in front of him, a faded green light that pulsed against the servitor’s skull.

“Directive?” it asked once more. He could answer it; he could. He could speak, and there was really no reason not to. He could make and unmake orders in a row, talking for hours to the closest thing to a companion that he had.

“Directive?” it asked for the third and final time, and he sighed and turned away. With no answer, the servitor would continue on its set course, broadcasting his distress call into the aether and processing the nothingness that came in return.

He was tired now, he felt. Though the station’s internal chronometron was still functioning, he’d long ago given up following its rhythm. He rested when he felt the need, for as long as he could without succumbing to apathy. He knew it was a fine line he walked, and futile in the end as he felt his body and mind weakening with the years, his discipline weakening with them. Though the past had blurred, scrambling fixed memories until he barely knew anything, a few events still stood out. The sudden spike on the vox-readout, which had had him glued to the screen for what must have been days; the shooting star that had seen him weeping and praying for yet another sign; and the sad miracle, not so long ago, that had nearly crushed the last remnants of his spirit.

For reasons lost to his feverish thoughts he’d never gotten rid of it. It still lurked in the shadows behind the surveyor unit, undisturbed as he’d never since laid eyes upon it. But he remembered, he remembered well the joy of that day, which could not have been so long ago.

He’d found a spider’s web, nestled in the shadows. He’d found this small, frail thing and his heart had leapt, for there was life with him once more, something else that moved and breathed within his prison. The following hours had been spent in painstaking search as he’d sought for the creature itself.

As he’d bent down, back aching, to sweep the beam of his torch beneath the leftmost vox-banks he’d seen the shriveled little thing in the dust, legs curled up against the heavens. As he’d reached for it, it had fallen apart in his hands.

He’d curled up on the ground too, and remained there for a very long time.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby Liliedhe » Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:18 pm

Well, that isn't what I set out to write initially. It is just what happened. It is an original story, not set in any of the WH universes. *shrug* If something else comes up, I might withdraw it.

Hour of the Wolf

What am I doing here? What does it look like? Hm… This is a bar. At an airport. They serve drinks here, that leave holes in the veneer of this table. It’s three o’clock in the morning, there is a blizzard outside so all the planes are grounded. Hm, what could I be doing here?

Yes, exactly. I am waiting for my plane to be dug out and I am getting drunk. I would use a much less… sober word, but there are children present.

Why? Since when has anybody needed a reason, to get drunk when stuck at an airport? Being stuck here, under the artificial light, with the fumes of stale smokes clogging up the climate control which is still on summer settings, isn’t that enough reason to gaze into a glass of much too expensive rotgut?

It’s not? You have a happy personality my friend. So, I guess you have not been awake for 48 hours, with your bones feeling like they are wrapped in barbed wire and your eyeballs like they have been sandblasted? And neither does your mouth taste like something crawled in there and died, around the turn of the last century?

Don’t you logic at me. Yes, something dead that long would probably be dust and taste of nothing. So, turn of this century, happy now?

No, this paint stripper doesn’t drive out that taste. Yes, I could go and buy a bottle of water and clean my teeth instead. You are like my sister. So logical and constructive. I hope you get hit by a meteor when you step outside.

Self pity? Of course. Abso-fragging-lutely. That’s the only thing you have left at three AM in the morning. Self pity, and the slowly rekindling embers of murderous rage somewhere in your small toe. But you are much too tired to allow them to rise. Killing someone is tiring. Bothersome. And then you have to deal with the body… And law enforcement. And relatives hiring a contract killer…

Yes, of course I’m speaking from experience. Be glad I do. Otherwise…

No, no I was joking. I never killed anybody. I dreamed of it occasionally. That’s all. I’m too tired and too sore and already much too drunk for rage. At some point, in the next few minutes, I’m going to drop on this table and pass out. I will probably break my nose in the process and wake up in a few hours in a sticky puddle of slurry and blood. And vomit, if fate is especially kind. It always is.

I will likely have missed my plane then, and the blizzard will have rekindled and there won’t be another for about a week. And then I’ll probably lie in an even more craptastic local hospital and die of alcohol poisoning.

Why am I doing this then? If I know it is going to be unpleasant, humiliating and self destructive? Because I enjoy it. Yes, really. I live for being humiliated and destroying myself. It’s all I can do. There’s nothing else left for me.

The usual story. Wife left me. Hates me. Siblings consider me a loser, parents a failure. Job lost, house lost, even my dog bites me. And the cat shits on me. Why do I even try to get home? Probably because someone paid my ticket.

Who? My sister, probably. She tends to worry so much. Which is very nice and very infuriating. She’s my twin, you know. She thinks she knows me. She doesn’t. She never did. She and my wife, they both only saw things I never was… Only, for her it’s all good things, while for … Stella it was all bad things.

I wasn’t always that bad. Not really. I certainly would never have drunken anything like this. See, how it erodes the table? It will eat through the floor, too. I used to have taste. Style. Money. Confidence. I was so smooth, like butter without hairs. Ah, no, there’s no butter with hairs theses days. It has never seen a cow, after all. Everything’s artificial and I’m just too old to remember.

Yes, it hurts. It burns. Why did I dip my finger in it, then? Because I could. That’s the best reason for doing things, after all. Because you can. That’s why you are sitting here and listen to me rant, even though I’m drunk and ugly and I stink. You could wait somewhere else. You could talk to that girl over there, who is much prettier than me and might not even turn you away. And yet you are here. Out of interest, or maybe pity? But ultimately, because you can.

Free will is a funny thing, isn’t it? And common sense is such a burden. Who needs it? Certainly, with common sense, I’d never have flown here in this season. I’d never have picked this rotten airport or this backwater airline. Only, I did it anyway. And now I’m here. And you are listening to me.

After all, is there anything better to do at 3 AM while stuck at an airport in the middle of a blizzard?

Words: 858
Last edited by Liliedhe on Sat Aug 24, 2013 10:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"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: Marooned

Postby LordLucan » Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:15 am

Lil: Excellent story. Very nice character driven vignette I thought. The RiaR rules were expanded recently to include original settings, so this should be fine.

YeOldGrandma: Bleak, very bleak. I like it. It is also very 40K, with the sense of stasis and things never being repaired or improved, and people being forgotten in the dark spaces between inhabited systems.

Great stories both of you. Hopefully you'll get some more competition soon.
Check out my debut fantasy novel from Fox Spirit Books, The Hobgoblin's Herald (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobgoblins-Herald-R-Aston/dp/1910462047). If you've read it, please rate and review it on amazon; I'd be eternally grateful. The sequel, Eater of Names, is out in 2018, so watch this space.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby Liliedhe » Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:02 pm

LordLucan wrote:Lil: Excellent story. Very nice character driven vignette I thought. The RiaR rules were expanded recently to include original settings, so this should be fine.

Thank you :). I know original stories are fine now, it's just that... I don't know, it was so easy to write this, so I kinda felt it can't be any good^^.
"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: Marooned

Postby YeOldeGrandma » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:09 pm

Liliedhe: Your writing is excellent. Partly, it must be, because I've now gotten used to your stories being good, so it may be a tiny bit placebo... but if it is, then it's a very small percentage. Your pacing is great, your choice of words excellent for setting the scene. Plus everything that LordLucan said.

In order to keep my comments from essentially being a rehash from last month, I'll point out the one little thing I can think of:
Abso-fragging-lutely.

In a piece which seems to be set in our reality, the use of the word "fragging" instead of... well yeah, I see the problem with using the real word on this forum (though I do think it is allowed, correct me if I'm wrong), but still... it sounds silly, because no one talks that way.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby Liliedhe » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:18 pm

Well, technically they do (frag is a real curseword in military environments). Its just not very common, and the real word is definitely forbidden here.

And thank you for the kind words.
"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: Marooned

Postby Rusk » Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:17 pm

First piece in a very long time, I've been absent from here for a while (computer packed in and deleted everything. EVERYTHING), but hopefully I'll be back and a bit more active from now on. Prize if you can pick out the dubious references to a moderately-well received movie released in the late nineties.

Marooned - 1127 words

The plan was simple. Superior numbers. Overwhelm their defences... kill their queen.

Martijn glanced up and down the filthy, crumbling, bombarded trench in the dawn half-light, taking in the men and women of 19th platoon. Sergeant Barbatus, the wrinkled, bearded, thick-set commander of Martijn's unit, his huge form crouched over a periscope on the fire step. Corporal Weaver's lumbering silhouette waited beside the sergeant, fondling the heavy stubber grasped in his meaty palms. Further down the parapet, Private Lopez wiped green-grey mud from her voxcaster with an old rag, ignoring the muck plastered across her own body. Mahoney and Mazursky slapped hands together, testing one another's reflexes. Grebs stared longingly at the cigars tucked into Curtin's chest pocket.

Raising his head up beyond his unit, Martijn could see the rest of his regiment squatting down in the zigzagging trench network of the Imperial lines, the trenches that had been home to the three thousand men and women of the Degus Hex 5th Infantry for the last six weeks. Beyond them, past the veil of smog on the horizon, Martijn knew a dozen more regiments of the Emperor's Imperial Guard, fifty thousand men all told, waited. All of them waited for the call.

Lopez didn't have to relay the order from her vox when it came. The harsh whistles echoed over the battlefield, carried by the biting wind, accompanied by the primal howl of fifty thousand guardsmen clambering over the parapet and hurtling towards the enemy hive, screaming war cries and bellowing prayers to the Emperor. Weaver rose from his crouch, lifting his stubber from the tip of the trench and hauling it along with him. Lopez stood and hefted the heavy voxcaster onto her back, tucking a cloth back into her thigh pocket. Mahoney and Mazursky stopped slapping hands and unshouldered their lasrifles, slamming fresh clips into their slots. Grebs tore his eyes away from Curtin's cigar collection. Barbatus looked up from his periscope and grinned.

“Showtime, my merry men,” he yelled, lifting himself over the lip of the trench. “Up, up and away.”

Termitus Hive towered above them, looming out out the smoke of no-man's land, its peaking spire disappearing into the bloated, rain-blackened clouds floating miles above. The guardsmen slithered and slipped as they charged over the slick grey ooze of no-man's land, skirting around spiked, blood-stained tank traps, rusted barbed wire and knocked out tanks, the skeletal remnants of their crews often hanging from open hatches.

The noise of the charge was tremendous. This was a full on assault on the enemy emplacements, not a mere skirmish, and Martijn felt bombarded by the sonic onslaught that surrounded him. Rifles fired. Artillery sounded in the distance. There was the grumble of tank treads as the regiment's armoured companies thundered forward in support of the infantry. And above it all, men screamed and roared as they ran, many of them running towards their deaths.

There were pinpricks of light flashing through the smog ahead. Enemy fire. Martijn stumbled as a solid round impacted with his shoulder plating, spinning him round and knocking him to his knees. Martijn took a second to feel his shoulder. It stung like hell, and a crater the size of his fist had been blown in the side of the carapace, but he'd manage to weather the worst of the blow unscathed.

A heavy hand grasped Martijn around the back of the neck and hauled him off the ground. “On your feet, Zebrovski,” Sergeant Barbatus bellowed in his ear, barely audible over the roar of battle. “Don't want to miss the party!”

Martijn and the sergeant sloshed their way through a crater filled up to their waists with dirty, scum-covered water, a crater which was occupied by two very dead members of the local militia in their smeared green anoraks. They had been dead for a while; what little skin they had left was rotted and mauled, pockmarked by fat white maggots which feasted on their flesh. Martijn shook his head and clambered out of the water.

Martijn was surrounded by his squadmates as the enemy bombardment began. He'd heard the whistling, they all had, but they'd assumed it was more fire from the artillery units dug in behind the Imperial lines, not the enemy defence network kicking in. It was only when plumes of mud and vaporised rock began to kick up around them when he realised they were in trouble.

Mahoney was catapulted over by the shockwaves of the enemy shells, flipping head over heels and disappearing into the smog out of Martijn's sight. Corporal Weaver squealed and toppled to the floor, hands holding his face. Curtin crumbled to the ground, his insides liquidised by the pressure of the bombardment, his slack corpse slithering across the surface. Lopez simply disappeared in a flash of light as one of the shells landed right on top of her position.

Before he could react and seek cover, Martijn was flung backwards, hit by a wall of air lifted up by the raining artillery fire. He slammed down hard, on his side, and felt something in his arm crack as he smashed into the ground. His legs sloshed down into something cool and wet. Water, he presumed. Or at least he hoped.

Martijn stared up at the cloudy, smoke-stained sky, watching as the first drops of rain began to fall on the battlefield. Shells continued to rain around him, but they made no sound. Not to him. Martijn allowed his head to fall back and rest in the mud, as his battered body slipped slowly downwards. As far as he knew, the rest of his unit, the rest of his regiment, was all dead, obliterated and vaporised. Barbatus, Weaver, Mazursky, Grebs, the lot of them. He was broken and alone, marooned in the maelstrom of battle.

Something splashed by Martijn's feet, sending ripples through the liquid that sloshed around the trooper's legs. He rose his head wearily. He was back in the crater he had crossed mere moments earlier. He recognised the two crippled militia soldiers on the far shore. There was something bobbing in the water, nodding up and down in the waves created by the pressure of falling shells. Martijn reached for it with his good arm, ignoring the pain that slashed across his ribs and chest.

His fingertips managed to brush the object, spinning it around. Martijn shuddered and recoiled. It was Barbatus' head. The sergeant's wide, lifeless eyes stared back at him. Blood trickled from his gaping mouth and severed stump of a neck.

Martijn let his arm drop and his head sink back into the muck. Alone, abandoned, cut off from his comrades, Martijn closed his eyes and waited for a shell to release him from his exile.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby Pez_Yoda » Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:14 am

Hello all. First post.

I just came across this forum and I think you've got a great community here!

This idea probably only deserved three hundred words, but I tried to create and atmosphere and play with some colour and sound. I hope you enjoy, and I look forward to any feedback.

Word count: 953


Forsake

The grey sea pulled at the edges of the cobbled shore, and stones and boulders, worn round through the fullness of time, cracked and clicked against each other without relent.

On a bluff rising high above the sea the morbid midden heap, mounted by countless generations, now stood a few head higher. Carrion crow had first emptied the eye sockets of the their morsels before removing skin and flesh and exposing the bone beneath. The crimson corrosion of freshly dried blood crowned skulls of those who had been defeated. Without sight they stared at an empty horizon. Nameless, homeless, shamed. Their families, if they had them, would not look for their return. Oblivion was their prize. The blood god had forsaken them.

The warrior sat still and resolute before his prizes. The salt spray blazed open wound and unflinching eye. A tangle of fur and coal black hair whipped around an impassive face, still caked in the grime of victory. The sun had sunk twice since he had taken his position. Yet he waited.

He thought on his path to this dark isle.

His helmet and shield had already begun to decay in the corrosion projected by the ocean. Father Nurgle was never far away. But the edge of his axe still spoke its red thirst to him as it lay across his folded legs.

It told him of the young man who had drawn the gaze of the gods leaping from the prow of a longship without fear or mercy. It spoke of enemies' innards opened to the elements. In its heft it reminded him of the flesh of horse and man torn asunder. In the curve of its bevelled surface he saw the red glow of southern towns ablaze at night. It sang of a champion chosen, and a champion made, and the promise of greatness ahead. And who was he to doubt it?

Cracked lips broke into a mirthless smile.

Khorne’s gifts would soon be upon him, and he would return to his ancestor’s home a transformed man. He would sweep the southern lands at the head of a great host that would flock to his banner like maggots to a rotting corpse, a writhing mass with a fathomless hunger.

Hunger.

He had to dismiss it.

On the morning of the first day he and his fellow chosen had pulled the longship high onto the rocky shore and unloaded their final provisions, before setting alight their only means of salvation. Only one could leave. How was unknown. Others had returned to their lands without ship or wing, and if anyone had the courage to ask how they never got the reply they desired.

They had cooked their final meal on the embers of their keel and drank their final toasts. They had boasted of great victories wrought upon each other and the feeble southerners, and of great foes vanquished. They told stories of dark cruel things faced in the crags and wastelands of the frozen north. And as they talked they ate and drank and sat cross legged, as he did now, and whetted the edges of their blades.

And he had watched them.

He had played his part, but he had watched them closely.

Of those he did not already know he made note of who amongst them was left handed, who amongst them nursed wounds, and where. He noted who amongst them was feeling the bite of this exposed coast, and who amongst them nursed some doubt. He looked into their eyes as he told his stories and they told theirs, and knew who would seek who in the morning. He marked his targets.

And the fire's final glow marked their spot beneath the bleached bones of all those who had failed before them.

He felt had not slept that night, yet he dreamt.

He dreamt of a boiling sea that pounded the cliffs to dust and sent the skulls and their shame to the bottom of the grey sea and a great bloody maw that gnashed needle teeth and gulped endlessly, greedily, from a torrent of blood, and he flew across oceans on the wings of a daemon and smote the great walls of the southern kingdoms and tore the small lords from their holes in the mountains.

When the sun awoke his axe had sung with the truth of his place in Khorne’s favour, and when the day was won he collected the heads of the fallen and let the sea claim what remained of them.

He was alone with the gods. He waited to hear their voice.

But all he heard was the voices of the crows as they scoured and cleaned. And when the crows left he sat and listened to the wind.

And when the first night had passed he thought: I am tested.

Had he not done well?

Yet when the sun sank for a second time he still sat before his victory.

Had the blood god not seen the competition fall before his might?

And then sun began to drop into the far sea for a third time.

Was he not the greatest?

Was he not invincible?

He stood and shouted to the gods, but the wind took his voice out over the sea before even he could hear it.

He felt despair's withered fingers tighten around his throat, and with a shattering cry he heaved his axe into the mound of skulls and sent his own additions skittering from their precarious place, a few cascading down the bluff and into the rolling water below.

And still the ocean grappled with the coastline.

An everlasting war of attrition.

The blood god was not here.

He studied his helmet and shield.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby YeOldeGrandma » Wed Aug 21, 2013 7:55 pm

Rusk:Very good Guard-tale with some excellent imagery (" harsh whistles echoed over the battlefield, carried by the biting wind, accompanied by the primal howl of fifty thousand guardsmen"). Great characterisation as well; after reading just one paragraph I already sense I've gotten the feel of the soldiers. And you named them well, with names that work for sci-fi without sounding ridiculous - well, actually Lopez doesn't really work for me, but that's the only one.

Martijn is kind of the silent observer here - I don't learn anything about him, but in that way he becomes me, and thusly easy to relate to. I said silent observer, and his feelings aren't readily conveyed. This implies to me that, when he gets hit, his lack of reflection on that fact - apart from what's happening right now (as in "I hope that's water lapping against my legs") - means that he's surprised and... well, he doesn't reflect any further upon it, because it's taken him by surprise. And then I just find it jarring to have him immediately decide that he's alone and marooned. It doesn't fit quite as well as I'd have liked it.


Pez_Yoda: This is warhammer. Like, 100 % living, breathing warhammer. You brought the nameless warrior to life, with excellently interspersed keywords that let the reader in on his culture, beliefs and personality; just the use of the one word "longship" tells me almost everything I need to know to deduce who he is (admittedly because I'm familiar enough with WHFB lore, but on this forum I think everyone is on that level at the least).

Continuing on that trend, you made great use of interspersed little details all along the story to give us key facts and set the scene with just a few, well-chosen words ("Hunger. He had to dismiss it." is perhaps the most obvious one).

Bleak ending, well conveyed with those short, choppy sentences that tell just as much with what they don't say as what they do say, makes me feel a part of the horror which it is to be marooned like that; made worse also because l pity the warrior for not getting the glory he sought.

I don't think this story deserved only three hundred words; it's excellent just like it is (the dream sequence was perhaps superfluous, but only that then).
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby VictorK » Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:10 am

So this is my second attempt at a story this month, the first having ended up much too long. It can now be found in the main 40k forum as Baptism, following up on an earlier 40k RiaR.

I've had this particular story kicking around for a very, very long time, so it's good to finally get it out. Being that it's a pretty tired cliche it's not worth much more than a RiaR entry, but I hope that you enjoy all the same.

Stranger-1150 Words

The fire warrior hid beneath the stinking carcass of some alien beast and so survived the barrage that wiped out what remained of his cadre. In subsequent reports and other tellings he would emphasize the creature’s panic and the weight of the corpse pinning him down, but in his dreams he relived the fear and awoke with shame. The greenskins moved on, claiming only a few trophies from among the fallen Tau. The last that Shas’la from Vior’la saw was a large ork taking the ta’lissera knife that had bound the cadre together. He wanted to cry out, but his throat seized.

As the fire warrior pulled himself free the Kroot who had scattered when the first enemy shells burst over their formation emerged from the jungle. A savage strain of the species, each wore a unique tattoo on the side of his face. They regarded Shas’la with vacant, dim eyes. The fire warrior could appreciate their low sort of cunning, but he dared not draw closer to his erstwhile allies. Their shapers, some of their limbs hacked off to be consumed by Orks later in a bizarre reversal of the Kroot ritual, lay dead among the Tau. Shas’la resolved to ignore the aliens. He slung his plasma rifle, searched the bodies for ammunition, and started the hike back to the command post.

The Kroot followed.

Shas’la crested the last hill in time to see the last transport leave. He didn’t reach the base itself; swarms of greenskinned brutes blocked the way. The fire warrior could feel the cold hand of panic reaching up to tickle his heart. He was being left behind. Worse, the Tau didn’t know he was alive. Shas’la allowed himself to retch in the bushes. One of the Kroot concealed behind him edged forward, as if inquiring about his distress. Shas’la said nothing; he didn’t know the language and there was no shaper to translate. He was the last Tau on the planet.

The fire warrior retreated into the foothills to escape the marauding Orks. The rains and the Kroot followed him, and he spent many nights huddled beneath an alien tree, the eyes of the Kroot surrounding him. They will eat me, Shas’la thought. He had long gone through his own rations and could keep down little of the local flora. They will eat me and try and steal my language, and my culture. They will make themselves Tau and eat us all…Shas’la’s hand sought for the hilt of the knife that wasn’t there, and finally succumbed to sleep.

When he awoke, he was being carried. Malnourishment and the cold had sapped his strength, and now he found himself bound to a litter carried between the Kroot. Shas’la thrashed and cried out until a scaly claw clamped down over his mouth. Quiet, the Kroot silently demanded. Shas’la heard the rumble of ramshackle vehicles nearby. He complied, and soon fell asleep again.

There were more Kroot when Shas’la awoke. Others who had been left behind. They laid the tough bits from their hunt before him and he devoured the meat until he felt like retching again. Shas’la’s body would not let him die. The Kroot formed a circle around him and sat together around the firelight. They chatted amongst themselves in their clicking, guttural tongue. But they all stole their glances at the Tau. Still hoping that he might fade away and join his ta’lissera, Shas’la finally studied the Kroots’ faces. They were young; the ones who broke and ran lived. Cowards all, he thought. How long had they lived among the Tau? Couldn’t they tell a shas’la from a shas’o? Shas’la sought the knife again. He could not die until he held it again.

At first, Shas’la tried to teach the Kroot the way of the fire warrior. In the absence of the Tau, the Orks soon fell into fighting each other. Shas’la struck. The results were not to his satisfaction. Each Kroot seemed to be a Greater Good unto himself and would not support the others as was required by Fire Caste doctrine. Shas’la returned to sketching in the mud to plan his raids, but to no avail.

Kroot started dying. Shas’la could not deliver the unity and victory that the Tau promised. Once again, he feared that he would be eaten. The rains came again and he retreated with his new cadre to wait for a better fighting season. Shas’la accompanied the Kroot on their hunts for the first time, sacrificing the aloof posture he believed command required to try and form a bond with the aliens. What he observed opened his eyes. The Kroot feasted on their kill and howled to each other through bloody maws. Shas’la saw them as one, and followed every hunt thereafter.

Kroot could not become Tau, but Shas’la could bend them to the Greater Good. His raids became hunts, and he led from the front and ate from his kills. Orks from miles around sought him out, hoping for battle. Shas’la disappointed them and then struck when their war-lust had dissipated. He recovered his knife and drove it through the skull of the warboss who had severed his ta’lissera. He sheathed the knife, but did not yet feel complete. Shas’la ate the greenskin’s heart.

That night the fire warrior awoke to a roaring blaze and blank stares from his Kroot. They seized him, bound his legs, and threw him down before the fire where the young Kroot held him down. Shas’la screamed and cursed them as traitors, fearing that now he had become mighty the Kroot would at long last make him their meal. The strongest among them took his knife, and Shas’la cursed even louder.

The knife cut him along his right temple, shallow. The blood was allowed to flow over that side of his face, and the Kroot studied its path. He cleared some rivulets away, and let others stand. When he was satisfied, he wiped the Tau’s face clean. A fire-heated quill was drawn to the fire warrior, who regarded its cooling point with a promise to kill all of the savages. The strongest got to work, pricking Shas’la along the same course as his blood. The fire warrior fell silent. Shas’la regarded the tattooed faces of his cadre and let himself weep.

Another fighting season passed before Shas’la, his armor long broken and his rifle replaced by a crude Ork construct, stood in the wash of a descending Tau dropship. Reinforcements at long last. The Shas’o, in pristine armor with a drone over his shoulder, stepped down to the planet so many of his people had bled for. He regarded the lone Tau and his Kroot, The Shas’o’s gaze lingered on Shas’la’s tattoo.

“Berras.”

The Tau word for ‘stranger.’ Shas’la Vior’la Berras felt something turn in his stomach. He returned the greeting with a crisp salutation and reported his hunter cadre for duty.
"The gods are not all powerful, they cannot erase the past." -Agathon
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby Corrigan Phoenix » Thu Aug 22, 2013 5:24 pm

Okay so here we go - be honest, but kind - it's my first piece in a loooong while. Also it's experimental.

1,150 words, not including the title.

Marooned

It was so very cold – though its brain didn’t register it as a conscious thought. Currents of electrical impulses shot through its nervous system to and from the thick outer layers that coated its body, the large fleshy mass of its cerebral organ registering the signals as intense pain.

It was so very lonely.

It didn’t think of how it was on its own; it wasn’t capable of that branch of advanced thought. Instead it merely felt an emptiness of itself, like a wound somewhere inside itself that gave no pain, just made itself known.

A hunger also gnawed inside its belly – a need for nourishment that it yearned to fill. It tried to bite at whatever surrounded it, but as it opened its mouth a torrent of mucus and embryotic fluid flooded past its pointed fangs and down its throat. The slime was nourishing, but unwholesome and insubstantial.

It tried to cry out from its tightly-curled position– to beckon to others of its kind in an attempt to fill the void within, to be part of something greater.

Darkness usually held no bother for it, yet it could see nothing beyond the semi-transparent walls of its prison. The creature struggled, flexing its powerful muscles but feeling no give in the material swaddling it. Its claws tore into the soft layers immediately about it, and using these grips it turned itself about within the liquid.

Something caught its eye.

Light, amongst the dark.

It was small and faint, despite its superior eyes, but it was definitely there. The hunger was gone, for the moment; the loneliness forgotten.

All its focus shifted to this speck of difference amongst the walls of its cage – an instinct took over, primal and strong, and it knew it had found prey. A pressure it had not noticed somewhere in its lower back released, a faint tang embittering the liquid in which it lay.

Hunger returned, and with a slime-deadened growl of the throat it tried to tear towards its target.

The speck grew larger, maddeningly slowly, and it thrashed and raged against its bondage, yearning to lunge and spring and tackle and feast.

Its limbs grew heavy, and the change accelerated its bodily functions. Fluids pulsed faster around its frame, tubes underneath its skin dilating as it detected subtle shifts in the envelope around it.

After an indeterminate amount of time, the object had grown to a disc, and it could no longer see the whole of it from one position. Something passed by close to the outer wall of its prison, and it snarled silently as it momentarily blocked the view of the disc.

The shadow was gone in an instant, and it paid it no further mind as it focused its attention back on its target.

Its hyper sensitive senses picked up vibrations about its body, growing stronger with every growing moment. A brief flash of panic gave way to another attempt at calling out, but it was once again muffled by the viscous liquid surrounding it.

Something jerked violently, instinct making it tighten its muscles in preparation for struggle. Light was building rapidly in front of the disc-target now, and the vibrations were a constant companion in the cell.

It was able to make out hues now – various shades on the disc that had now expanded to look like a bowl. The light began to get too bright, and with a small muscle contraction membranes slid down over its lids.

Sounds penetrated the prison – vibrations of such intensity that its animal instincts could discern some meaning from. High-pitched and whistling combined with a dull roar.

Another bout of fear rose in its mind, and was doused by a flood of chemicals that maddened it. It tore once more towards the expanded target, briefly flicking its membranous eye covers up to get a better view at the thing that was coming towards it.

Through the orange- yellow flickering it could discern a line of blue meeting green. Once more its feeling of nearby prey returned, and with it the volatile hunger that now slashed and savaged at its stomach.

Something suddenly gave way in front of it, a rush of noise, light, heat and force bursting towards it. Rearing away, it closed all the membranes its eyes possessed, and screamed.

It stopped in shock as it realised it could scream – the slimy fluid that had encased it was gone, as was a portion of the wall in front of it. It wailed plaintively in the cacophony of sensations, an over-bearing sense of weight and motion tugging at it with continually rising force rising to cover them all.

A third noise cut through the mixture of its own screams and the noise of the in-rushing wind – a grating alternation between high and low pitches. With a sudden feeling of danger, it opened its eyes fully and wailed once more in distress and loneliness as the ground rushed up to meet it.

*

“I’m telling you I saw it land in the surf!”

Ranger Garbel was pacing along the beach as fast as his limp would take him, urging his companion on in search for
the thing from the heavens. He stopped so suddenly that Boyce bumped into him, and the old ranger pointed with morbid fascination at the object in the water.

Amongst the breakers lay a crumpled heap of sagging pink flesh, blackened and scorched as if by fire.

“Go see what it is then,” Boyce urged. Garbel blanched, tugging his beard nervously.

“You go see what it is – why me?”

Boyce cleared his throat before replying.

“Well, you’re the vet’ - the superior.” Garbel didn’t reply, but slid a hand into his pocket and fished something out. He held it towards Boyce without ever taking his eyes off the thing in the water.

“Flip for it? Emperor I go, Crest you.” Boyce nodded , sealing the wager as Garbel flicked the coin into the air. They never saw the coin land.

A blur of motion tore into the pair, toppling them both and sending Garbel rolling up the sandy slope. The old ranger rubbed his eyes vigorously to remove the grit from them, feeling the waves break over him as he did.

The monster stood on backwards-jointed legs of pale pink armoured with purple, a full three metres tall, with beady, intelligent eyes and tentacles where its mouth should have been. The facial appendages were busy writhing about the arm of the old man, slurping and gulping feverishly.

A distant noise caught its sharp attention, and the lictor stood at full height to see the mass of grey objects off in-land.

It sniffed the corpse of the mycetic-spawning pod and gnashed its tentacles.

A pressure released somewhere around its lower spine, spilling scent into the wind; it keened noiselessly, powerfully, with its mind.

It was marooned, alone.

But not for long.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby TunnelRat68 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:08 pm

From the rear....... 1147 inc title

The mist and smoke that obscured his optics cleared and he was able verify the auspex and see the hordes of greenskins charging over the carnage of ‘no mans land’ and swarming the leading trenches. It was a fearfull sight that put many of the Guardsmen to flight, though this in itself would only reprieve them for minutes few as the way back was already barred by redoubt and razor wire, no escape in any direction. “Better to stand and fight, meet your end with honour and journey on to the Emperor, head held high than shot in the back”. Without waiting for acknowledgement Brother Nu’aliktha unleashed a torrent of Heavy Bolter shells towards the Ork masses that were slaughtering human defenders with wanton ease. Rather than simply spraying the green wave, although guaranteed to hit something, Nu’aliktha targeted the larger Orks, leaders if that was possible, or those with heavy weapons that might pose a threat to him or his Brothers further forward. The effect was quite marked, with the lesser Greenskins pausing mid kill, if only for a second, to wonder why the biggest and toughest of their kind had fallen amidst a spray of foul body tissue as their heads had exploded.

“Clear to engage the xenos scum” The statement was weighted with influence and an equal measure of bitterness. The Brothers of squad Viper forward of Nu’aliktha, sprinted forward leaping over the trench and ploughed straight into the stalled front ranks of the Orks. The suddenness of assault at such close quarters would have been enough to cause them to falter still but when matched to the ferocity of a full tactical squad, their blood lust raging and weapons free, the Greenskins flailed and broke their charge, turning and fighting each other to get away from the pulverising blow of the Marines. With chainsword and bolt pistol the elimination of the Orks was artistic in its efficiency of movement, decapitating, eviscorating or simply obliterating as the squad surged forwards cutting deep into the Greenskin masses. Overhead and to the side, single rounds and discreet bursts cut through the air to surgically remove individual and group Ork threats to the squad, delivered by the the veteran Space Marine from the trenches. “Smite the Emperor’s foe with bolter and blade, push on Brothers, push on” his voice boomed out over the battlefield, vox amplified with the metallic twang that he so hated.

Nu’aliktha strode forward to aid his Brother Marines as they carved further into the Orks that were by now in full retreat, the larger Nobs bellowing at the lesser foot soldiers, trying to use them as some form or shield or defence to slow the onslaught. The Guardsmen that had moments before been fleeing were now rallying and chasing after the Marines, dispatching any wounded greenskins that were in their path, and there were many as the Marines did not bother themselves with the finer points of annihilation, merely seeking to disable and advance, sweeping aside those that no longer posed them a threat. But the Guardsmen were also very aware of the giant Space Marine that was closing on them from the rear, its footsteps shaking even this sodden terrain and its weapons crashing overhead and to their flanks; “He is soulless and kills for the thrill and doesn’t mind who that is”, “There is nothing human inside that armour”, so the rumours went among the trenches! Regardless of whether they believed them or not, most heeded them. “I am Astartes and the will of the Emperor! Obstruct me and face HIS wrath. I am his weapon and his truth, and so shall the xenos be taught today”.

Before him, Nu’aliktha saw his Brothers swallowed up by the Greenskins; be they running, falling or as now, realising the immediate Space Marine threat had passed them by, turning to engage the lesser Guardsmen that were following the spearhead assault. The ensuing clash was carnage on both sides, with emboldened infantry suddenly facing a fleeing enemy face to face again. The coming together was bloodier than ever as the weight of fire from the Guardsmen took a heavy toll until the Orks got within close combat range, genetic bloodlust elevating them into the vicious and efficient killing hulks of legend. “Stand fast, repel the Xenos! Follow in the footsteps of the Emperors chosen and thou shalt be honoured in the everlife.” Nu’aliktha towered over the imperial foot soldiers and Orks alike, but he was in the Battle for real at last.

“Stand aside Humans that I might smite our Foe!” Nu’aliktha launched himself forward caring not for the remaining Guardsmen that blocked his way. His first blow to make contact smashed through six Orks and the returning swing caught two more and then he unleashed his flamer to coat the next layer of Greenskins with immolating promethium. “Feel the force of the Emperor in my blows and suffer his everlasting fire upon your foul bodies”, his voice steady and loud showing no sign of his exertions, Nu’aliktha pressed forward into the sea of enemies. The Guardsmen stood stock still as the giant Marine forged into the Orks that had moments before been slaughtering them, before they came to their senses and were roused by their Commissar into action once more. “Follow the Emperors Angel and let us rid this planet of this scum!”. As they pressed forwards they once more came up against the Orks that had escaped direct contact with the Marine and were rolling round to face the easier Guardsmen, blocking their path to the mighty warrior.

Nu’aliktha knew his legs were struggling to power through the Greenskins that lay all around him and realised that he was slowing in his progress to support his Brothers who he knew were nearing the Ork Warboss some 196 metres forward of his current position. However, he had not been so happy for many, many years; every blow he swung and connected decimated the enemy and he had plenty of more targets surrounding him. More importantly he knew he had the power and stamina to keep up the slaughter for hours on end, and in reality probably run out of opponents before he tired. The simplest of pleasure was to be in close combat with any enemy and here it was a crude but strong foe that he dispatched with satisfaction. If only he had been able to feel the impacts and was more agile in his movements he could have taken so many more from this world. But as was his penance for taking the fight to the enemy once too often, he was forever preserved in this life supporting medi-sarcophagus, encased in admantium, and armed with weapons of massive destruction, and on his own he would fight on, isolated amongst his many Brothers, but fighting still.

Apologies for the last minute submission!

Regards

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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby Pez_Yoda » Fri Aug 23, 2013 1:24 am

Thank you for your kind words YeOldeGrandma.

There have been lots of great ideas about isolation amongst these stories; each one unique.

Good luck all!
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Re: Read in a Rush: Marooned

Postby LordLucan » Sun Aug 25, 2013 12:26 am

This threa dis now closed for new entries. I'll have the voting thread up momentarily.
Check out my debut fantasy novel from Fox Spirit Books, The Hobgoblin's Herald (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobgoblins-Herald-R-Aston/dp/1910462047). If you've read it, please rate and review it on amazon; I'd be eternally grateful. The sequel, Eater of Names, is out in 2018, so watch this space.
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