Read in a Rush: Haunting

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

Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby LordLucan » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:35 pm

This is the official thread for posting stories for the October 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 Haunting.

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 Tuesday 22nd September. 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: Haunting

Postby Gaius Marius » Mon Oct 07, 2013 12:06 am

Not sure if I meet the minimum length, I'm on tablet and can't do word count.
Cycle

Smoke, fire, pain.

My body burned, my Machine mind bubbled and my spirit twisted on Ethilmars flat surface.

I died on those plains, sides split by a hundred guns.

'Heus Puer, they tell me, 'you will be repaired.'

And so they brought me back.

A thousand years of rumbling machines, burning forges and screaming drills. A millennium of pain before I awoke.

'Heus Puer', they said, 'awake, the forge is in danger.'

My reactor grumbles to life, 'WAR.'

They shove a half trained child into my controls and it howls as our spirits merge. I lurch from my cradle, cables and cooling lines snapping. Crewmen annoy me as they desperately tap into their consoles, writhing as I flood the compartment with sarin. Buildings crumble as I pass, drawn to the smell of battle.

The war zone is a hurricane of toxic smoke and silica particles that swallows my giant form seamlessly. Auto senses reach out feeling a thousand tanks and a dozen god engines plowing through the smoke. Theyre blind, moving ignorantly in the murk. their skull banners are useless, the half real meat things that crew them irrelevant.

Stepping from the smoke of a burning hive, I light the first one up with nuclear fire, boiling away its hide and ripping out its spine. I strew its guts across half a kilometer, using its swollen skull to cave in the chest of my second kill. A column of tanks are crushed to splinters and a horde of infantry scream as I turn the desert they march into gass.

Missiles slam against my shields as two scout titans jump in ambush, but I collapse a giant hab tower onto them. I leave them to drown in a sea of burning metal.

A pack of Reavers try to cover a retreat, aiming for where they think I am. I kill the first with missiles to the skull and feel my shields pop away as tear the other in half. The last one dies hard, it's guns leaving me limping as I perforate it.

They are running now, fleeing from the forge in terror of the slaughter I have wrought. The Forge calls me back, box ad noosperics tugging at the consciousness of the half dead thing inside me. I resist, ignoring them as I continue the hunt.

There are other things in the whirlwind now, their cog banners useless and machine bodies useless. I hunt them, whirling out of the smoke to red and burn.

After a while they hunt me, drowning the desert in atomically to fuse the sands. Six off world warlords gun me down in the glass forest, ripping open my skin with burning beams.

'Heus Puer' they tell me as I die, 'you will be repaired.'
Space Cowboy, Spartan II, Specter, Reclusiarch

'I see the fear you have inside.'
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Re: Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby Pez_Yoda » Fri Oct 11, 2013 1:34 am

1150 Words

The truth of it.

The truth now. They crowded around me with soft hands, soft faces in the soft flame light. They wanted to know, and for a minute I thought of telling them true, but it was something I held so tight that to let it go would unravel me, or if not me the knot that fastened me to this place. I floated above the room for a minute, in truth a minute longer than a lie should take to muster.

Would I catch her they had asked.

They had always asked. Me. The warden. And me the father. Their little faces burning with a desire to stand close to their own blazing fear, so long as I was there to pull them back from it, to stand in the way. They had always asked this. All of them.

And now the Rother children had disappeared in the woods the whole town danced around the fears they stoked in one another. It had been fifteen years. I had to fix it now as I had then.

Yet I do not know what I had fixed.

I remember sitting ahorse in a cold morning fog. The supple leather of my new gloves, new reins new saddle, a newly made warden. We both blew steam like some twisted wurm. The soft fur on my fingers gave me comfort and distraction. For the others would not come.

You are the warden they said. It is yours to keep the peace. As the warden before me had done.

When the stranger came to town they had called me. Old Ghent had noticed the ring and slipped one of his boys out the back to fetch me. My own supper left to chill in the winter, I unfurled my limbs and was at the tavern before he’d finished his first, and he’d almost dashed himself on the flagstones with fright when I clapped a glove on his shoulder. The ring, I said. Nothing more.

Well he tumbled over himself when he finally understood. He gave it to me straight. I could have it he said. He found it he said. Nailed to a tree. The ring? No. The hand he said. The tavern hushed and I knew what would be made of it. I couldn’t be seen to accept a story, so I locked him away for the night.

Yet they all still talked.

The witch, they said.

Who was to be next, if even a warden is not safe? They stewed themselves in worry. He’d ridden out to show them there was nothing to be afraid of. Children get lost in the woods. There are wolves at night. You hear them. Sometimes closer than one would hope for. Yet they still made straw daemons of shadows and whispers to parade in front of each other. Another fear to huddle around.

To prove the point I took his head. And some other parts. There is no witch, I told them. The ring now on my own finger, I pushed it with a thumb, a continuous loop. He is guilty, I said, under the King’s law. The punishment was his head, but the head man would not come. Under her protection they all told me. So I took his head myself.

It was not easy.

Mistakes were made.

I should have taken off the new gloves but the morning was cold and the fur gave me comfort even as he knelt before me, shivering, from fear or cold I do not know, extending his own neck for the quick death I was unable to give him. The shaft slipped in my grasp at the last and bounced through a shoulder blade. The screaming.

It still lives with me.

A second hit was true but he was writhing in pain and moved at the last. The cut was glancing and I had to go again. And a forth time. All the while the people drifted away, like embers receding into the unknown, until all that was left in the square was me, sheathed in sweat and gore, and a bloody mess that was once a man.

The town was silent, at least in my presence. For a week and a day I was avoided. Eyes averted. Courses changed mid stride and I knew it couldn’t last.

And each night he visited. A bloody mess. A bloody mess. A mess of blood.

So on the ninth morning I rode out. None would come with me. I rode hard. I rode to the spot where he said the hand had found a home. A clearing off the road. A small fire pit. Travellers caught out might use it, or those wanting to avoid town and the likes of me. I moved from tree to tree to find the hand, the hole, some blood, some evidence of his truth but it was not there. So I moved into the forest, looking for a sign.

I don’t know why.

I think I wanted to prove it to myself. That she wasn’t really there. But is absence enough?

In the forest the mist hung like a veil, like curtains, I had to push them aside with my hands to make progress. My own breath pushed and mingled with it, sending ripples out through the trees, and I was known.

I heard the flames before I saw them. They cast shadows in the pool of mist that reached out. Long fingered shadows, twisting, leaping, end over end, in unnatural forms that should have stopped me yet did not. The mist hemmed me into the enveloping heat and when I came to the clearing the shadows were gone, and there was only her.

To this day, I do not know exactly what took place in that clearing. Or at least the order of things. I remember her flesh, young and smooth, she smelt like the forest floor as I tumbled into her, pressing forward, my ringed hand held against breast. I do not remember losing my clothes. I remember renewal. I remember wanting.

At any rate the evening found me asleep under my own cloak in some dark glade. I found my horse hours after, grazing on the road side half way to home.

The hearth burned low. There was food left for me in hope and I had a fitful night next to my young bride. I could not tell her, or anyone. But there were no more disappearances, and she was soon swollen with child, and the town didn’t ask how such blessings arrived, they just took them.

But now, these fifteen years later, the Rother children gone. The town would talk. Breathlessly, my own children tell me the tales they hear from others, and their expectant eyes glint in the soft light, willing me to ride out and make good. And I push the ring around with my thumb.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby Mossy Toes » Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:57 pm

Gaius: your story appears to be 460 words long, so... no, not quite up to the minimum wordcount.
What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator!
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Re: Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby Pez_Yoda » Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:29 am

Mossy Toes wrote:Gaius: your story appears to be 460 words long, so... no, not quite up to the minimum wordcount.


Does that mean I'm winning? Woohoo!

Default! Default! De-

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Re: Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby Rob P » Wed Oct 16, 2013 8:25 pm

This is the most random thing I've written so far.

My starting point for this story was an alternative 30/40k. The Emperor had found a way to lock the demonic components of the warp in his physical self in order to prevent the gods from influencing the Imperium at large. The Emperor would quickly lose his grip and power over the gods and it would therefore be necessary for his to be shackled to a (golden throne) and then locked away from the world. This is not where the story necessarily went!

An Old Man Does His Duty

The Caretaker sweeps and mops. His sector is 4XY. It is small; it covers an area of no more than a square miles. Yet, it is significant. At its centre lies the cube and therein, locked away for millennia, lies the shackled man.

The Caretaker cares not for he knows not, perhaps. His duty is to clean, to keep tidy. He is satisfied in his duty, nearly.

His hands are withered by time and hard labour and his legs barely fulfil their need. His body embarrasses him; he knows it will one day fail and his duty will come to an end. The thought disappoints him. But for now daily stimulants invigorate his muscles and flavoured mints distract him from the inevitable.

The Caretaker does not leave 4XY and no one else will enter his domain until he has passed. On that day a new young candidate will be carefully chosen, chosen to keep 4XY.

The cube rises to such a height that it is always visible within the sector. Its obsidian surface draws the eye as it draws the light. The Caretaker jokes to himself that it’s always watching him work; this thought keeps him on task but sometimes it unsettles him.

Like the other cleaners on Terra, the Caretaker’s sleeping pattern is calibrated by the chronometer. One-fifth standard rotation is the ration.

Of late the Caretaker has taken to dreaming of the cube and its contents. In such circumstances one-fifth standard can be too long. The Caretaker does not remember the dreams, but something lingers.

Thoughts come to the Caretaker as he works; haunting thoughts. The thoughts turn to colours and the colours turn to stories.

Red.

In the early days of man there was a warrior called Jor, the leader of the Setts, who made a pact with a malign sprit. The spirit thirsted for blood and Jor promised that he would spend his days spilling blood to quench the spirits thirst. In return the spirit promised it would protect his people. The Setts become a brutal and powerful tribe and the spirit became bloated with their offerings. But all was not well. Jor and his tribe became comfortable and the pact was soon disregarded.

The spirit was furious. It ripped open a hole from the ethereal to the corporeal to exact its revenge on the Setts. The spirit was filled with blood and so it became flesh and blood. In one solitary night of violence it wiped the Setts from the face of the earth and within four generations their very existence had been forgotten.

In time the spirit was forgotten and lessons were not remembered.

A man called Abram, the leader of his tribe, made a pact with a malign spirit.

Green with a hint of Purple.

There was an old sailor who fell foul of a sea captain because of their mutual lust for a woman. The sailor’s throat was slit and he was dumped into the shallow waters. His last thought in his living had been of his lover, Jennie, and his will to see her one last time was what brought him back from death.

He awoke at midnight seven days after his first death. He pulled himself out of the water and crawled to Jennie’s waterside cabin. He thumped on the door and when Jennie opened the door and looked down to him she screamed in terror. He wanted to tell her that he loved her and that he had survived death to see her again. His swollen throat allowed him to let out nothing more than a gurgling noise.

Jennie’s screams brought help to her door in form of the very sea captain that had killed him a week earlier. The sea captain made light work of the monstrosity that had accosted Jennie and took his reward in Jennie and all that she had to offer.

What was left of the sailor still lived, but no one is sure how it ends.

Blue

There was once a thin man who sold cats, broken mirrors and, occasionally, broken cats. He also had other expertise and it was the other which brought him to the village of Hamelin.

Hamelin was a town that had thrived when others had not. But as the number of residents grew so did the number of rats. The inhabitants of Hamelin would not tolerate the infestation and the thin man was called for.

The thin man took to the task without little instruction. He did not use his kittens, not even the broken ones. To rid the town of this pest required the mirrors.

The thin man careful placed his blue-tinted mirrors throughout the town. Of course, the mirrors were not normal mirrors. They were tinted as they were tainted.

To view oneself in the mirrors was to cause the need to reflect and re-form. And the men of the village became rats and the rats of the village became men. The labours of their loins became rat-men.

Yet everyone was happier and there was no need for the thin man to return.

Black.

There was a powerful man who revealed many faces to many people and he saw that wickedness pervaded the undercurrents of the physical world. He had a great friend who was a keeper of artefacts and a thinker. The great friend initiated a hypothetical discussion of a box so large and strong that it could contain the evil of the world. It was agreed that such a container could only be made secure if there was an observer within and an observer without. It was further agreed that the observer within would need to be secured in some sort of throne to prevent any misjudgement that might give him cause to release the evil from the box. The powerful man grew tired of the conversation and directed matters towards conquest. The great friend made plans.


The Caretaker has some stories and some truths. He touches the solid heavy pendant that rest upon his chest. It is the shape of the warding eye. It comforts him.

The Caretaker sweeps and mops.

1023 Words
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Re: Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby Mossy Toes » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:55 am

+

'Aunted

Wordcount: 1149

+

Image

+

“I tell yer, Zoggob,” Warboss Groblok grumbled, “sumfin's wrong wid me zoggin' armor, an I wants yer ter fix it. It don't walk right, and I'm startin' to fink my trusty mekboy can't fix what he broke fer me.”

Zoggob scratched his scalp with a screwdriver, picking at the scarification around the crude skull plate he'd bolted there. “I gots ter say, boss, I'z already looked at it more'n a few times. But if you fink it's still an issue...”

“It's definitely still an issue, ya git!” the warboss roared, and Zoggob had to duck out of the way of a backhanded slap from a power klaw in mega-armor that would have pulverized him. Well, perhaps not, but he certainly would have had to replace more body parts with metal gubbins. A mekboy's life had its hazards, and an irate warboss was certainly high on the list.

At least this wasn't as bad as what had happened to the last warboss. Old Grubblegok had been in a right murderous mood after the explosion. Groblok's challenge had come at just the right time to save Zoggob's sorry hide. He'd managed to spin the accident as a deliberate sabotage to prove his loyalty to the new warboss, but he'd been in hot water since keeping the small clan's single suit of mega-armor functional.

The truth was that Zoggob was a piss-poor mekboy, and he knew it. He didn't have the feel, the touch, the insane fever-dream that drove true meks—he was just a boy too weedy to fit into any of the mobs who happened to be slightly better at cobbling together woznits and doo-das than the rest.

"Well den," Groblok, grunted, "look in dere and poke around. Do yer mek wotnitz. Make it zoggin' work!"

"Yes, boss. Of course, boss," he mumbled, dreading the coming minutes. Just for show, he threw his screwdriver to clatter in the back, calling, "Oi, Kennik! Get yer lazy hide over 'ere, ya stinkin' greasedrinka!"

Zoggob scurried around behind the warboss and looked with dismay into the bewildering, blackened mess that was the armor's array of inputs and outputs. It never had recovered from the explosion that had crippled Grubblegok's locomotion. The tonnes of armor dead-weight had slowed him enough that Groblok could knock his head in, but when Groblok had insisted on taking the previous warboss's armor for himself... well, that was when Zoggob's limited creativity and repertoire of instinctive head-schematics had run out, and he had found himself in his current predicament. He'd managed one terror-filled stroke of genius to keep himself alive so far, and that was the only reason Groblok could walk around right now, but further inspiration had been desperately lacking.

He picked up a wrench and poked a few rods in a desultory manner, then glared daggers at Kennik, who sneered back at him with as much spite as the grot could get away with. Sure, Kennik was essential to keeping this suit moving, but Zoggob might have to take him down a few pegs soon.

There was nothing to it. He had to make his gamble.

"Er, boss, I'z been finkin'. Ya know how part of yer mega-armor is from one of dem beaky boy 'eavy nobs—Termee-naters?"

"Wot about it?" grunted Groblok.

"Well, dem beaky boyz is always talkin' 'bout dey 'gubbin ghosts' and watnot, finkin' dat dere guns and trukks is alive an' all."

"Well we all know dat beaky boyz is cracked in dere noggins," Groblok said, "alluz shoutin' 'bout honor and crap. Dat don't mean nuffin."

"Well, boss..." Zoggob said, cringing at the stupidity of what he was saying, "I fink one of dem ghosts is in yer mega-armor."

The warboss went utterly still. Whether he was simply trying to get his head around the notion—most likely—or about to lash out and take Zoggob's head from his shoulders for his idiocy—a rebuke Zoggob couldn't discount—was in the hands of Gork and Mork. Eventually, Groblok shifted, blinked, and spoke again in a very low voice.

"Zoggob," he hissed. "Do ya mean ter tell me dat my armor is... 'aunted?" For the last word, his voice rose high and squeaky as a grot's.

"Well, er, yah, boss. Kinda. Maybe."

Groblok took a couple short breaths. "Oh Mork," he moaned. "Ohhh Mork. No wonda I could do in Old Grubblegok—'e 'ad a curse on 'im. And I got dat curse too, an' can't give up dis armor or else all da uvva nobz will be after me right quick." Zoggob just stared. His plan had... worked? Mean Groblok, the toughest ork in the camp, was quaking in his mega-armored boots.

"Ohhhh Gork. You gotta 'elp me, Zoggob, yer da brilliant one 'oo done sussed it out. Is dere anyfing I can do ter fix it? You gotta 'elp me!"

Wheels turned in Zoggob's tiny excuse for a brain, calculating madly. This was better than he could have hoped—and he'd probably even come out ahead after giving Loopy Lobgit the cut they'd agreed on.

"Well," he eventually said, feigning hesitation, "I fink I know a way, but it'll take a lot of teef..."

+

In the end, Loopy Lobgit rattled his wierdboy staff over Groblok for a while, chanting and moaning. Eventually, a series of sharp, concussive shocks rattled the shack, and Lobgit stepped back.

"You clean now, boss-mon. Dere some powaful spirit dere, but it ain't had nuffin on da powa of da Waaagh, an' I could drive it away. But beware, mon. Dat ghost is verra attached to its armor, and will be back soona den later. When it does come back, well... I'z gonna need to put da fear o' Gork and Mork back inta it."

Groblok grunted assent, trying to seem big and tough after his earlier show. "Dat will be all, mekboy, wierdboy. You dun good today. Jus'... don't go talking to noork 'bout dis, less you want me to be claimin' all yer teef. Wid my fist."

"Course not, boss. Yer da boss, boss."

"Nah, boss-mon, dis strictly tween us tree. Don't fret yer brawny 'ide."

Groblok wheeled with several ponderous steps, and as soon as his back was turned, Zoggob handed Lobgit a small bag of teef—more than Lobgit had initially asked, but it wouldn't hurt to stay in the good graces of the craziest boy on this side of Orkimedes. Besides, Groblok had been decidedly more generous than Zoggob had expected—he could afford the generoity, and would be drinking the finest shroom beer and squig wine for the foreseeable future besides.

"Now dat's a sight," he said of the warboss's vanishing backside. Lobgit giggled in agreement.

In the blackened control cavity of Groblok's armored backpack, Kennik the grot worked frantically, mirroring the warboss's movements to keep the locomotion inputs live. For every step Groblok took, Kennik took one as well, and soon, both of them vanished among the tents.

+

(image credit goes to revelation, for inspiring this story)
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Re: Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby TunnelRat68 » Sat Oct 19, 2013 11:46 pm

Spirit within...........1115 words

The helmet clamped into place on his gorget, locking with a solid clunk and hiss, sealing him into the atmospherically exclusive space that was his for the foreseeable future.

“ALCAEUS, can you hear me?”

“Yes......YES, 5 by 5” The voice was strong and clear, though he thought he could here a different whisper in the background.

Isocrates the Master of the Armoury walked round the statue like figure of the Marine resplendent in the pristine Armour as new. The ceramite plates and multi-faceted joints gleamed and lent effect to the event; a newly advanced noviate taking charge and control of his armour for the first time.

“ALCAEUS, initiate Training Sequence DELTA”

“Affirmative, MASTER, initiating Training Sequence DELTA”

Within the confines of the Armoury, even with Cherubs and Techsavants chanting quietly all around, the sound of the ‘new suit’ powering up, servos charging, preparing to respond to the movements of the Marine within were clear to hear.

“Arms” Alcaeus announced as he flexed his fingers and then rotated his wrists and bent his elbows before swinging his arms around the shoulder joints. He felt empowered as the suit followed his every move, enhancing the movement whilst adding smooth power on demand. Though even as he did so he felt a hesitation in some moves and a boost in others, novice nerves he surmised.

“Torso”, here it was the same with the easiest of movement somehow sluggish, almost working against him and yet the more complex his demands of the suit the better he felt and reacted.

Isocrates constantly guided the novitiate,coaxing him on but also questioning him on every detail. Sometimes updating the armours control processor, turning up gain and filters or amplifying Acaeus’s own inputs through the Armour’s interface.

“Legs”, the final testing, finally bringing the package together. Alcaeus staggered at first, not expecting the suit to mimic his movements so perfectly. Within minutes he was bounding round the chamber like a veteran, striking poses and holding simulated weapon engagements. But still he faltered here and there no matter how hard he pushed the suit, it seemed to fight back until he acquiesced and went with it.

“Master” Alcaeus cautiously voxed.

“Speak freely Marine, any question must be answered here and not in Battle”

Alcaeus paused, considering how best to frame his concerns, fearful of either appearing immature or unprepared for his armour; or worse still that it proves to be faulty and hence removed from, delaying his ascension. “I mean no disrespect my Lord, but is there something not quite right with this armour as it does not appear to ‘want’ me, almost fighting me when I want it to do my bidding. I feel as if someone else is deflecting the suits movements to their way not mine.”

“Fear not Alcaeus, the Machine Spirit of your armour is getting used to you. You are ready.”

ALCAEUS settles into the the skilled exercises and battle routines that he will use as a fully fledged battle brother.

At each turn and stage he is confronted by ‘resistance’, some he can overcome, others he has to ‘go with the flow’ or grind to a stiff halt. With each exertion he swears he hears the voice of a different Battle Brother sometimes talking at him other times grunting, swearing or crying out when overcome. No matter the questions the MoA assures him there is no other Marines on the vox net.

After a process lasting months within the heart of the Chapter Battle Fortress Home, he kneels before the Master of the Armoury and the Chapter Master himself; arrayed around them Company Captains and Veteran Sergeants all facing the aspirant.

“Begin ALCAEUS” the gravely voice of the Chapter Master resonated across the chamber.

Alcaeus rose and strode forward to take up his en guarde stance, chainsword raised to his front, a slight twitch of his sword barely visible. He began his sword drill, sweeping the blade to and fro around his body, revving the chain just as the killing strikes were delivered and following through with a flourish beyond his seniority. The culmination of the display was a devastating series of slashes and thrusts that brought discrete nods and grunts of acknowledgement from the audience. Alcaeus dropped to his knee, driving the chainsword tip into the ferrocrete and bowing his head, “My Lord”.

The Chapter Master and Master of the Armoury turned to each other and discussed Alcaeus’s performance in short, clipped bursts of private vox; with selected inputs from the Chapters experts. He turned to face the kneeling marine and spoke directly to him. “Alcaeus, rise and face me”

“My Lord”, Alcaeus replied as he stood and sheathed his chainsword.

“You have performed every move with the precision and effort expected of a novitiate.” The pause that followed, but a second, stretched for eons in Alcaeus’s mind. “However, some of the moves and flourishes you added could not have come from your training”

“I am reminded in your stance of Brother Azekos, always resolute but ready; and your defensive pares are robust whilst quick, much reminiscent of the great Brother Sergeant Aiexemon; but what seals my decision is the final killing series that are clearly identical to those of the Chapter’s Champion Veteran Sergeant Aakexion.”

“Answer me one question Alcaeus, was it you making those moves?”

Alcaeus, struggled at first to understand the question posed by the Chapter Master, before he realised what he was being asked. “Yes my Lord. My training has been thorough and dedicated studying all the archives to witness the very best of the master swordsman within the Chapter. At first I felt slow and cumbersome, as if I was fighting against some unseen force preventing me from conducting some moves or techniques. Then as I combined different styles I found that I could attempt more complex moves and they were smoother and more effective. How I do not know.”

The Chapter Master looked upon each present in the room, pausing to lock eyes and listen to their vox decision, finally facing the Master of the Armoury. Moments later he stepped down from his dais and approached Alcaeus. The Marine dropped to his knee and bowed his head as the Chapter Master towered over him.

“Alcaeus, you have passed the final test. Understand this though, today you were tested, not by us, but by the spirits of those that have passed onwards to the Emperor, they have granted you use of THEIR armour. Today you have shown that you can meld The Man, The Machine and The Spirit. Now go forward Astartes in the service of the Emperor and add your spirit to the shield that is YOUR armour.”
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Re: Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby ninja101 » Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:23 pm

Haunting


“Come up to us, our children, for we are the dead.

When the final ringing of the last explosions had faded, the echoes of the last orders had ceased to reverberate, and the last of them had gone, had climbed into their screaming shuttles, had airlifted out the last of their soldiers, burned the last of the bodies, we, the survivors, came back.

We came out from the bunkers and the shelters and the hidden places we had been evacuated to while they unleashed a fire across the length and breadth of our world, while they ploughed up the farmlands, the streets, and the graves.

Come up to us, our children, for we are the dead.

We came out from our hiding places to find the ash falling from the sky. We came out to find the ash which would fall upon the living, and would fall upon the dead.

We came out to find the ash which would choke our lungs, and which covered the old roads we had used to find our way, and filled the rivers we had once sailed upon. The ash which blotted out the sun like an endless and dreary snowfall, and which tasted bitter even through the masks and rebreathers we had found. The ash which had fallen upon the ash, which had fallen upon the ash, which had fallen upon the ash, which had fallen upon the ash.

Come up to us, our children, for we are the dead.

Through the groves of blasted and skeletal and ancient trees we came at last to the plains upon which they had unleashed their fury. There we saw the crisscrossed network of trenches, tracing out battle lines we could not understand, a new and unfamiliar map of roads overlaid onto the ones our ancestors had laid.

It was there on the plains that we saw the great pyres they had made of the dead. There we saw the blackened and twisted remains of those who had fought in that place. And there we saw the charred bodies slowly turning to ash, a swirling grey silt to be blown around that cold and silent and indifferent plane.

Come up to us, our children, for we are the dead.

As we crossed the plains, following no paths and no roads save those left in our dimming and distant memories of journeys taken in a time which seemed so distant as to belong to another people, native to another place.

Finally, our boots sighing through the small clouds of ash they threw up, our supplies all but exhausted and our old and our infirm almost at their end, we reached our cities. Here we found the great buildings fallen, leaning on each other like exhausted combatants . The elevated roads and rail lines lay broken and twisted, the steel skeletons of the felled skyscrapers crazed and rusting in the caustic and freezing winds. We scavenged what we could, and moved onward.

Come up to us, our children, for we are the dead.

We left the cities, the formerly gleaming windows of the gargantuan buildings of that other time encrusted with ash seeming to watch us like old and blinded and spiteful eyes. We left the city, and there we left our wounded, and our infirm.

We, the few who remained, left the city and pressed on, Eastward, toward the seas. Following nothing, save for the faintest taste of salt in the air, following not even the pale rising of the sun which seemed to fade, day by day. We moved on, grey phantoms moving in that grey and greying world of ash blizzards and silence.

Finally, we came to the sea. We beheld at last the grey and frothing expanse which stretched before us endlessly, out into the grey howling of the spiralling ash. We made a fire, there, on the filthy beach, and we watched the dimmed tide come in as the pale sun set behind us. We looked, but we saw no other fires glinting back at us across that endless and undulating morass.

Come up to us, our children, for we are the dead.

We turned back then, those of us who were left. We turned in a kind of terror from the grey leviathan stretching before us. We turned back toward the heart of the continent, into the wind which drove the drifting ash into out faces, clotting in our hair and filling our shoes. The ash of a thousand thousand funereal fires. The ash of dead.

We passed back through the city, stopping only to perform the necessary rites for our dead, their ascending ashes mingling with the burned remains of our world. We passed across the flattened and scarred wastelands of the plains, even the pyre-hills now flattened by the ceaseless howling of the driving gales. We could not, though, return to our bunkers and our hiding places. There was nothing left to hide from.

Instead, we climbed. We climbed the ancient paths worn into the cliff-sides of the southern mesas. We climbed higher and higher up rock which had once been red and where the warrior-people of ages past had rode down to fight their enemies with spear and bow and axe. We climbed until we came at last to the ancient stone villages of our first ancestors. The dwellings cut into the very living rock of the world. Rock which had endured time beyond the knowledge of men, and which would endure that time again before it was finally and utterly claimed by the insistent and screaming winds which drive endlessly around the world.

We climbed there, and found the places where they had told their stories, where we found their stories cut also into the rocks themselves. The rocks which now came to speak to us, to tell us the stories carved there before, before, before. In those places, with the stories of our ancestors, we sat, and we waited, there. We waited while the sun set and the wind howled, driving the endless and enduring ash forever and forever and forever.

Come up to us, our children, for we are the dead. And we shall wait for you.”

- Last testimony (or “vision”) of the rogue pysker known as the “Oracle of Phocis”, sole survivor of the recolonizing mission on Pythos IV (Cross ref file: PythosCleansing995.M41) before her execution for heresy. A full investigation was undertaken, and the world was declared Perdita Extremis in 998.M41 when the explorator team failed to return.

Thought for the Day: A curious mind is an unbarred gate before the hordes of heresy.

1,105 words.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby YeOldeGrandma » Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:13 pm

A haunted night - 1048 words excluding title

Kantar held on for dear life. The gloved hand of the Arbitrator pulled him through the darkness with insistence and he did his best to keep up. Around him was pitch blackness, impenetrable but for the barest hints of objects; abandoned groundcars, rubble and – on either side – the tall facades of buildings stretching upwards into the night. He walked where the Arbitrator walked, taking care not to stumble, slip or bump against anything. Don’t touch anything, she’d said. Follow me and keep quiet.

Behind him trailed the child, his tiny fingers clutching Kantar’s hand hard. His mother would be right behind, lost in the darkness but for the occasional sniffle which was far too loud. The child was quiet though, as quiet as only frightened children can be.

The Arbitrator, seeing the dark in ways Kantar didn't know, led the way between the groundcars. Kantar remembered the traffic. Every day he’d passed across the gigantic Emperor’s Walkway and looked down to see snaking lines of blue, bronze and silver make their way through the hive, glittering as they caught the sunlight. Now they were all black, as was everything else. Black and cold, so very cold.

The Arbitrator stopped, squeezing his hand hard. The night air, normally burnt and ashen, carried a new smell.

“What is it?” came the mother’s whisper. The Arbitrator began to move again. Kantar felt something brush against him as he followed, something limp and wet. Don’t touch anything. He shivered. The air was cold, but what he’d touched had been warm. Behind him the mother let out a whimper. Keep quiet.

Kantar held onto the hand of the Arbitrator. He thought he could make out a sound, as of droplets repeatedly striking the roadway. Cold prickles raced along his back as he forced himself to keep walking, slowly and quietly. Not a sound. He felt his body go weak, raw fear rising to the surface as he waited for the other sound. And though he wanted to run, he knew that he wouldn’t get far.

They walked, and the dripping faded behind them. Kantar listened, hearing gravel crunch beneath their boots, hearing the mother sniffle. After a while he realised that they were still with him, and that he was crushing the child’s fingers in his grip. He opened his eyes.

Before him yawned an immense black gulf, the line of groundcars stretching on until they were swallowed up in the night. The buildings were gone, their ghostly facades looming in the darkness behind them. It was one of the hive’s many plazas, thousands of metres of open, paved ground, now a void of unending blackness. The Arbitrator led them off to the left, skirting along the edge.

There was movement in the air, tiny grey specks that danced around them. Kantar felt something small and soft touch against his face. Walking got harder as his boots plunged deeper and deeper into droves of soft, ashen matter, gathered against the sides of the buildings.

He looked up. The night sky was overcast, a dark blanket smothering the world. A rain of ash was coming down, thousands and thousands of flakes materializing out of the darkness. The cold air reeked with brimstone.

He felt the Arbitrator tug on his hand. Follow me. Follow me and keep quie-

A cough rang out. The child jerked against his grip as its frail body was wracked with gasps and coughs. The mother started whimpering – “Oh no, oh no no no…” – and he looked to the sky, heart pounding. Nothing could be seen but the ash, coming down all around them. Not a sound, he thought, trying desperately to hear anything beyond the little boy’s coughing. Not a sound, please! A flake caught in his mouth.

“Silence him!” hissed the Arbitrator. The child wheezed and coughed, still clutching Kantar’s hand with shaking fingers. The mother wailed. He shut his eyes and waited for the other sound.

The child was torn from his grip. He heard a scuffle and opened his eyes to see frantic movement in the dark. The coughs were muffled and a new noise rose from somewhere on the ground, a smothered mewling accompanied by someone thrashing in the dust. Kantar turned his head away as a cloud of ash swept up in his face.

And then there was silence. He peered through the haze, seeing the mother on her knees, breathing heavily. He could just about make out a prone, motionless shape lying in the dust. She slowly released her grip on it.

He held out his hand, but sobs were his only answer. As they grew in volume, the Arbitrator began to pull him away. The last glimpse he got of the mother before the night swallowed her up was of her sitting in the dust, shoulders quivering. Then he turned and ran with the Arbitrator, fleeing from her loud wails of anguish.

Hand in hand they sprinted, off the plaza and down the streets beyond. Kantar ran blind, dragged through the darkness by the Arbitrator’s iron grip, floundering and making noise. Ghostly objects flashed by in the night. He waited for the other sound, and fled from it.

She jerked him to the side, dragging him off the street. Massive steps emerged out of the darkness and they ascended. Blood and fear pounded through his veins.

A large set of doors stood broken open, adorned with the clenched fist and scales of the Arbites. He was pulled inside, into a compact darkness where he could see nothing. The Arbitrator barely slowed and he winced as he felt himself knock something astray and heard the clatter echo through unseen halls.

A door creaked and she left his grip. Kantar froze.

“Where are you?” he screamed. A green glow lit up, showing him a cramped chamber filled with consoles. The Arbitrator stood a few paces away, bent over one of them. A small screen, the source of the green light, flashed with runes.

“Vox”, Kantar heard her mutter, over and over. There was a squeal and a rustle, then a tinny voice spoke in High Gothic:

+Ave Dominus Nox+

Kantar sighed with relief.

“This is Arbitrator Officer Nadia Licurnia”, she responded,” sector three-one-one…”

+We have come for you+

Then came the other sound. The screaming.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Haunting

Postby LordLucan » Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:05 am

Thread is now closed for new entries. Voting thread will be going up 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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