Read in a Rush: Ordeal

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

Read in a Rush: Ordeal

Postby LordLucan » Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:53 pm

This is the official thread for posting stories for the September 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 Ordeal.

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 Sunday 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 ( 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: Ordeal

Postby Corrigan Phoenix » Wed Sep 04, 2013 4:03 pm

The Acolyte – 1,150 Words (Inc. title)

Beads of sweat covered his naked body in a glistening coat, giving the hardened musculature there a carved, statuesque look that would have been pleasing in different circumstances. The crude iron bands and toughened leather cuffs held even his gene-enhanced body in place on the slab, holding him at bay for his tormentors. Blisters erupted across his calves, thighs and back as heat surged up through the stone. Pain swiftly followed, quickly gaining strength and building to gather in his brain. The temperature continued to soar, oxygen deprivation constricting-

his lungs as he ran along the alley. The brooding towers of the hive loomed above him, crowding into every angle, ever-present, as if watching his progress through its roots. Mist clung to the streets, stifling and sentient, like it wanted to misdirect him and entrap him within its damp coils. Against his thigh the holstered laspistol slapped repeatedly, heavy and annoyingly innocuous; a constant reminder that it was empty. A twinge somewhere in his chest made him glance down a side-street as he flashed by it, catching a glimpse of scaffolding off to his right. With a barely-audible growl of exertion, he changed course, footsteps echoing-

off the chamber walls as some piece of machinery started up. Vivid blue light flickered somewhere behind him, illuminating the grubby tiles for an instant before the electricity reached his shackles. Painful spasms shot throughout his body as every muscle contracted simultaneously, current-induced rigor sealing his mouth shut and cutting off his agonising roar. Something cracked-

as he pulled himself higher; a wooden strut snapping under his grip. A moment’s weightlessness caught him before he reacted, a hand shooting out to grab a metal beam above his head. He dangled there for a few seconds before collecting his strength and continuing the climb. The alley he had emerged from was already just a thin line by now, a crack amongst thousands in a spider’s web that made up the lower depths of the hive roots. His greatcoat billowed behind him in the wind, flapping incessantly like the wings of a giant bat, though he didn’t mind. It was a constant reminder of the strength of the gusting force, and the ease at which he could be plucked from the face of the hive. Fatigue built in his limbs as he climbed; the leaden feeling slowly-

creeping into his arms, legs and finally chest. The acolyte could clearly see the servitor’s pale, bland features as it smoothly slid each blade into his flesh. Emotionless and methodical, the many spidery limbs of the lobotomised servant crossed and danced about each other with mechanical choreography, ensuring no area of his body was free from the reach of the cold steel. Long cuts, deep borings, savage gouges and stuttering grazes were all delivered with the same identical motion. Each administration was perfect, attuned to the shape and layout of his inner workings to flay but not sever his nerves in order to deliver the maximum pain without diminishing feeling. Once again his threshold was approached, reached, and swiftly bypassed, and darkness enfolded-

his body as he slipped from the ventilation duct. The winding tubes of metal had been horribly claustrophobic, and seemingly unending. Luckily the slight mutation of his genes that granted him a few rudimentary psychic powers gave him a preternatural sense of direction and the varying ability to blend into the shadows. It was this potential that he utilised now, walking in the spaces between light as he delved deeper into the network of halls, tunnels and rooms within the hive. His agonising climb had brought him to the hive tower proper now, and the silence in absence of the howling wind was deafening.

The acolyte passed across junctions and circled around heavily guarded doors, following the directional twinges that his unconsciousness provided. Armed men crossed his path occasionally, yet he waited. He would know when the time came for violence. Time ceased to have meaning as he negotiated the pathways, countless men entering and leaving his awareness until a single moment that he had been awaiting. Something surged within his mind, like-

a brand searing into his brain, raw and hot with its power. The energy writhed inside his head, so incandescent that he could see the green flickering of it behind his eyes. A bass voice intoned within his mind, the words so potent and laden with power that the meaning escaped him. He felt its intellect wrap about his mind, tendrils of intent squirming for purchase in his psychic defences. The acolyte fortified himself, conjuring up images of steel vaults and locked doors in an attempt to keep his captor from his mind. Almost as an afterthought, he flicked a tendril of ethereal energy out in retaliation, hoping it would distract his opponent long enough for him to gather-

himself before flying out of the shadows at his target. His quarterstaff was already out of its holster and in his hand before he registered it, the butt descending in a blur towards the man’s head. Sparks flew as the metal casing on the end was met by the edge of a wickedly curved sword. Their arms blurred as they twisted and danced about one another, each searching for an opening in the other’s stance as strike after strike was met by equal force from the other. After a particularly complex flourish from his opponent, the acolyte thrust forward with the length of his weapon, catching his target full in the stomach and breaking the skin. The man went down hard onto the metal-plated floor, gasping for breath and a sharp pain blossomed in the back of the acolyte’s head.

Darkness lifted slowly, and he sat up. It took a few minutes of staring at his own body before he realised his skin was entirely unblemished, and a while longer for him to notice the lack of restraints. The acolyte stood gingerly, unsure of his own body.

“Be you pure of spirit and heart?” He flinched at the volume of the voice, though stood his ground.

“I am.” His own voice was quiet, and raspy from his ordeal.

“Be you loyal to Him, the highest above us all?”

“I am the God-Emperor’s own – as I have always been.” There was a pause before the reply came.

“And what of your traitorous words earlier?”

“There were none – for I would never break His holy trust.”

A golden hammer slammed head-down onto the stone floor before him, a giant of a man stepping before him, resplendent in royal blue robes and black power armour.

“Then grasp His divine hammer, say the oath before us, and be reborn anew as his vessel”

He knelt, and as he spoke the oath a weight seemed to settle upon him – the weight of his divine duty and the future of mankind.

An acolyte knelt; an Inquisitor rose.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Ordeal

Postby Liliedhe » Tue Sep 10, 2013 6:56 pm

Ever since I read the supplement on Ezzie's backstory, something like this wanted out of my head. :mrgreen:

On Birth and Rebirth

Where does it all begin? In a temple under a poison moon? In a shabby hut under worthless skies? In laboratories, clean and sterile and devoid of mercy?

We begin at birth. A babe brought forth in blood and pain and stink. Any babe? Do we believe in destiny? In being chosen already in that moment when lungs inflate for the first time? In god or creation or the universe looking down on a bundle of tissue and bone and blood and saying “You will be great”?

Idle questions. The babe I talk about does not believe in destiny. “It is an excuse for those who do not have the guts to face up to their decisions.”

In birth, we are all like one another. Small, helpless, crying in pain and shock at the intrusion of a world of cold and noise. All physical. All hunger and despair. So do we really begin at birth?

Or is the defining moment, when we become, when we transcend sheer physicality? When blood and bone become a person, and discover the power of choice?

Like physical birth, this moment is more often than not marked by blood and pain. Some are individual. A child picking up a quill, to air the voices making its eyes bleed. Some are ritual, a society marking the moment of transcendence from animal to man in elaborate procedures. Initiation. Once again, this moment is blood and pain and stink. Once again, this moment is animal more than human.

To make your first kill. To hunt your first prey. To bed your first mate. It’s swathed in tradition, ornamented in song and prayer more often than not.

Under the full moon, it was as bloody as ever. To become a man, you did not have to kill. Nor did you have to hunt or swive. You had to bleed. To bleed, to face the burning of your own blood being shed without flinching.

The children would be gathered, and locked away. Starved for three days, and sent out to find and steal their weapons. Those would be held by the warriors, hidden away so it would be hard to find them and if they were caught, they would bleed already. In the eyes of men, few things hold the abhorrent sweetness of a child’s tears.

Weapon gained, they would be marched onto the silver dust and face each other in pairs. Everyone watching, they would hit with their weapons, and hit again and again. The task was not to kill, or even to prove the strength of one’s arm. The task was to weather the blows, without flinching. To bleed without crying out. Fail and you remain child. Fail, and you remain animal. Every living thing is capable of bleeding. Every living thing is capable of killing. But only humans can face pain without response. Only humans have the will to be more than the physical animal in agony.

Or so they reasoned. By this point, our babe no longer is a babe. He is a boy, tall and lanky and quiet. Stubborn. He does not face this ordeal unprepared. From the moment he was weaned, he has been taught to stand, to hit and not to flinch. He is confident, unafraid. He dreams of being a man, a warrior, and no longer subject to the whims of others. He can bear hunger. He knows where to find what he is sent to steal. He has been trained to wield the rod of supple metal that will be his weapon. He will be a man and he will make his own choices.

It should have gone like this as he walks out on the silver dust. Some of the children bleed already, as they were caught. They clutch their whips in trembling fingers, aware that maybe the warrior who hurt them has a stake beyond ritual in their mutilation. Weakened, they will not strike as hard, allowing their opponents to pass with ease and honour. All children are not equal as all men are not equal. This is the lesson they have learned in that moment under worthless skies.

And so the babe faces someone who is broken already. Someone whose strikes not even tear his skin. Someone who will not weather his blows at all.

Birth is not beautiful. It is blood and pain and stink. It is horror and guilt. It is one human being giving its own substance so another might transcend into light.

It happens then, there. In the silver dust. A child dies. A choice is made.

Ezekyle Abaddon looks up from the bleeding remains of one who was his friend, and he looks at the man who made him a murderer out of fear.

“Am I a man now, Father?” His voice is hoarse, rough with disuse. Or has it already cracked?

Stunned, the crowd acclaims him a man with hollow cheers. He was not supposed to kill, but neither was he forbidden. He was only forbidden to show mercy. He did not. Nor will he ever.

“Then, as it is my right as a man, I challenge you. Fight me. Or do you fear me as much as you distrust me?”

A birth is made in blood and pain. For all his short life, the blood and pain were Ezekyle’s. Now, that has changed.
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"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: Ordeal

Postby Corrigan Phoenix » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:24 am

Liliedhe- enjoyed your piece a lot. Didn't realise it was Abaddon; haven't read the new stuff yet so I didn't click when you said "Ezzie" lol. Very him, if you understand what I mean by that- you captured what I'd imagine his young persona to be very well. A couple of places that I had to reread to tease out the meaning, but that could be my preference of reading style :) Well done
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Re: Read in a Rush: Ordeal

Postby Pez_Yoda » Fri Sep 13, 2013 2:29 am

Well this one took some serious editing to get it down to the word limit, and I probably bastardised it in the process, but here it is.

(Awesome entries above, very entertaining)

1150 words, including title.

Ending lives

He remembered how, not so long ago, he had stood on this spot and gazed up at the night sky and saw that in one spreading stain on the universe, there were no stars. He looked up now but knew the stars were shrouded by clouds. This place was distorted by the memories of being taken from his family and thrust aboard the great black ship that had hung above the city like a forgotten promise. He remembered his little sister’s despair at his leaving. It was an image he couldn’t shake. He remembered, but now he had to focus on what his master was doing here, and he had to keep his wits about him.

‘You wonder why I have brought you here?’

He didn’t answer. Try as he might no thoughts were private around the old inquisitor. They walked side by side down the patchwork road. The rest of the team had been left behind. This was some one on one time. He sensed a test.

‘You think a test?’ Damn it. ‘Not quite a test. We need to quiet your mind.’

‘But you want me to-’

‘Yes.’ He never let the young man finish anything. ‘You are to find me the problem.’ The old inquisitor stopped walking and turned to the acolyte. He had aged poorly. The years and the constant vigil were etched around his eyes. ‘Come on. Chaos. Taint. Focus.’

And he did. He had been honing his skill ever since he had been plucked from the black ship’s hold. He felt the noise of the city, the psychic crash as waves of mental energy rolled over him, drowning him, a voice pierced the static, focus, and he strove to find sense in the storm, and then a jagged edge ripped through his concentration and he staggered back. A steady hand gripped his shoulder.

‘You have it?’ He blinked furiously, trying to find his bearings, but nodded. ‘What did it feel like?’ He shook his head and tried to steady his breathing. ‘Take us to it.’

Senses drew the two towards a ramshackle stack. He traced the sharp presence to a shabby front door that twisted from one hinge. The old man sent him in. He lay flat against the wall of the front hall and concentrated on his breathing, trying to focus his mind. He could hear the low ebb of private conversation coming from the derelict living room. He closed his eyes and let his mind feel its way forward.

Close now, he sensed three men and a woman, although drugs dulled their edges. Each was armed, and he could feel an explicit tension. He worked on each in turn. The two men who had been talking so fluently were easy targets. They were confident and relaxed and barely noticed their world shrinking, that sounds beyond their focus had dulled. A noise from the kitchen marked the fact that he had taken it too far with the young woman. She passed out on the tabletop and her knife clattered to the floor. That was new. But the other man, he was harder, on edge. Sitting on a chair opposite the two talking, his leg was pumping the floor like it meant to take off or break through, and the noise from the kitchen spooked him.

‘Leit?’ He called out. The others didn’t register it, but the acolyte did. Leit was his sister’s name. ‘Leit? What’s happening?’ The tense man’s words were tentative jabs. When he appeared in the hall the young man shrank back into the corner and focussed on blurring his visual cortex. This was making him sweat. The man braced himself in the door and shook his head clear before turning into the kitchen. He grabbed the shoulder of the woman and lifted her, ‘Leit?’ When she dropped back to the table with a thud the man shrieked.

The novice had to work quickly. His image of the room was yet dim, but he knew where he could find a knife. It took everything he had in reserve to lift the thing and send it spinning through the tendons behind the man’s ankles. He fell screaming just as his assailant burst around the corner and drove boot heel into the man’s face, caving cheek bone and breaking jaw.

‘What the fuck is happening in there?’ another voice called. The boy shrank back in the kitchen as loud footsteps came quick. The first two were still idly chatting and the girl was a puddle of bleached hair, face down on the table. Could it be his Leit?

Yet he had to focus. How did he miss someone? He reached around and realised just as the broad figure loomed in the doorway that this presence had been shielded. The acolyte’s mind pressed against a spongy psychic wall that had absorbed his first scan.

The figure grunted when he saw the thin man trying to meld into the fixtures and pulled an autopistol. The acolyte grabbed a handle and found himself flinging a draw full of utensils at the man, who flinched and started spraying blindly at the figure who darted away, putting a bench between himself and the man. His mind probed and landed on something wooden, a spoon handle, part of the debris of his assault. This he could work with.

He lifted the spoon with his mind and jammed it under the trigger of the man’s pistol as he tried to lever it once more. The psyker pulled his own and stood facing the man, muzzle levelled.

‘By order of the Inquis... ’ he had this part down before, ‘the authority of the holy Inquisition I... drop it!’

The man complied and opened his mouth as the acolyte felt a lazy psychic fizz sweep the room. The man dropped. In fact, there was now nobody alive here besides himself and the girl. And the presence.

The inquisitor stepped through the kitchen door with an odd look on his face. ‘You need to work on your lines.’

‘I don’t... there’s no taint here any more. These guys were just hoods.’ The inquisitor looked around the apartment and picked the auto pistol from the dead man’s open hand. He studied it a moment, before lobbing it across the room to the young man.

‘You interested in trophies?’ The younger man caught it without taking his eyes off the elder. He probed the girl’s mind, his sister’s drug addled mind. He tried to stir her but realised that the inquisitor was keeping her down.

‘Your life here has finished. I’ll make sure she gets back to where she should be.’

‘You knew about her? But what about the presence I felt?’

The inquisitor regarded him for moment. ‘Chaos is wherever I say it is.’ He turned and walked down the hall. ‘Are you coming, or do I have to blood another prospect?’
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Re: Read in a Rush: Ordeal

Postby Smackbeth » Fri Sep 20, 2013 3:47 pm

Well hello again everyone. As I've been locked up reacquainting myself with the hobby at large the Boltholes anthology release prompted me to get back into things. Namely some RIAR goodness.

I am the ever-literal soul as you can tell, this being 945 words and named:


He twitched in a pain-shook parody of sleep.
Oh, oh shi...
His head snapped to one side, the recollection wrenching him violently.

He’d fallen from the hiveface. With crystalline clarity he could remember the gaping space between the plates beside him, and the yawning core of the city spire.
Cold air had streamed past his young limbs. One hand had stretched back, pulled upwards by the rushing air as he’d plummeted down, down. The trailing fingers had parted the air between them.
His remaining fist was torn and mangled, blood streaming into the frigid air in gemmed droplets as he tumbled and rolled. The flank of the hive had flashed past.
Thoughts flickered in his half-sleep state like pic-shots strobing behind his eyes, fluttering from his fore brain like the slicing air before him.
He’d fallen past the cities thermic bastules, taller than titans. He could remember seeing fumes below him, obscuring the distant floor.

He twitched again, his arm shot with white-hot agony.
The white cloud had rushed at him, a wash of iron and chemical smells filling his nostrils. Icy cold had hit him again, breath from empty lungs forced into air filled with snowflakes. The chemical clouds hadn’t obscured the snow-draped grating below quite well enough. A dense tangle of canyon-side cabling had slowed him, but he’d seen the icy ground rush forwards.
Unlike the creeping pain of his hand, the violence of his landing was red-shot. The slamming, jarring recollection etched into the memory was almost strong enough to wake him from his deep, dark slumber.

Somehow, under chemical-tainted snow, he’d woken.
He knew it wouldn't be called waking. Waking implied sleep which implied rest. Broken and quickly freezing in the descending snow, he’d not rested. Blearily, he recalled his rending, rising scream that had broken from him. So violent and so vigorous that something more had torn deep within him. It served a purpose however. The cry of anguish had raised him immediately to consciousness, his own cry heard over the creaking scream of the wind and his deep, dark sleep.
Why then. Why had he woken? Was it because of pain?
Even now, staggering upright the memory pulsed agony to his fingertips.
Was that the only reason he had risen? Could it be fear, he thought. Fear of the pain? No, that wasn't it; pain was old. Pain was life. Pain meant he’d live again. What then? Fear of...what? It was a something, something intangible.
Moving through the ever-falling snow, chilled and bloody, he couldn’t focus. He dragged himself to the hive-flanks where a door could lock and keep him safe. He sought for an age before one hove into view. He fell inside. Within, rolling in and out of consciousness he tried to focus. Nausea flooded his ravaged body and a wave of repulsion overcame him.
Not yet, don’t focus on it yet!
He blacked out.

He rolled and writhed upon the grille.
He could remember back, back to before his fall. The memory was not pleasant. He had remembered his spine tingling in horrified anticipation. There was something chasing him, close and getting much closer. The nearness of the pursuit upon him had felt like a host of needles were being forced through his back making him arch forwards in pain. He’d been waiting for something to rip and burn into him, the sensation strong enough to be tangible.
But in his detached state he remembered the decision he’d made.
He’d jumped.
The pain he now writhed in wasn’t caused by a fall. At all. It was from a jump. His jump.
Sprinting at his fullest and most painful extent, he’d leapt fully into the empty space of the sky.

It was an escape, an escape from the terrible something behind him.
No, no not escaping. Fleeing, flight.
He’d missed the guard rail crusted with ice and had moved up, over, and down. Then; peace.

He propped himself up blearily, broken bones clicking beneath ice-frosted skin.
Only now, through dwindling snatches of sensation did he remember the fatalistic vein of thought in that moment, that he’d gladly accepted both realised outcomes of his wayward leap. If he survived, jumping would save him, but if he had died he would have been able to dictate his own death.
One question remained; what had he jumped from? He lay in the corridor, slowly freezing to the floor, trying to remember.
He lapsed into slumber.

The painful comedown from such intense shock was a slow process, but gradually he began to breathe more evenly, his eyelids flickering with sleep rather than agony. Tensed muscles relaxed, blood vessels resumed their regular ebb and colour returned to the few patches of unbruised skin. Softer still, his head twitched and the chest sagged low as his shallow breaths became deeper and deeper.

His shaking limbs fell to his sides, lolling arms crusted with clotted blood and melting water. Around him, the corridor was still. Benches nearby burnished from constant use, their surfaces brushed clean. Gothic columns of dense steel jutted from the walls, ready to resist the crushing weight of the ice outside.

Warm air wheezed from verdigrised vents in the low ceiling, the gentle sound louder than his low breaths. Aside from the spinning fan blades and his recumbent chest the corridor was still. To his left, a short set of steps lead to the outer hatchway and the swirling snow beyond. Heavy machinery and cogs sealed the doorway from all external factors but for a gentle white light through the heavy glass window.

A black face appeared through the snow, obscuring the light.

The fallen man’s eyes opened.
Last edited by Smackbeth on Sat Sep 21, 2013 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Ordeal

Postby Bloody Mary » Sat Sep 21, 2013 3:41 pm

Original story this month.


941 words without title

The air carried the scent of a fresh carcass: the coppery smell of blood was heavy, waking an ancient instinct that told him to growl and slink towards the source of it. But it was not the fallen animal that interested him. Raja was after the creature that had slain it.

Hidden in the high grass, his sandy fur made him blend in and hid him from sight, as he snuck through it. As he neared, he heard the noise of bones crunching in powerful jaws. The smells grew stronger—there was something unsettlingly familiar beneath the thick scent of blood. Raja’s fingers twitched, as he gripped his axe tighter.

A growl was building in his throat, but he fought it down. He had to stay hidden, he had to make sure the gbali did not notice him before it was too late.

He had to make sure it was a gbali.

Finally, he caught a glimpse of pale brown scaly skin, and moments later he could finally see the object of his hunt. The massive lizard did not seem to notice, its attention focused on its meal. It tore of a chunk of meat and swallowed it whole.

Raja swallowed.

It had been an arm. The mortal remains of another youth were the meal the gbali was feasting on. His belly was torn open, the remains of his internal organs spilling on the ground. His head was twisted at an odd angle, and his eyes opened wide. A part of his jaw was missing, but Raja recognized him anyway. There was a scar over his left eye, one that Raja had managed to give him a year ago.

Now, he would never measure his strength and skill against Abena. His childhood friend was dead, having failed his Rite. He died a child.

But Raja would not. He knew he should disdain Abena now, but instead, he felt something different. Now, killing the gbali was not just another way to prove himself—it was something private. Abena would never rise, never run, never make his engagement journey. But his killer would be dead, having never finished its last meal.

Raja bared his fangs, and roared. The lizard raised its elongated scaly muzzle, but it was too late for it to turn. The youth fell on it, bringing his axe downward at its back. The swing was powerful, and the beard of should have buried itself deeper in the animal’s back, had Raja aimed his strike better. Instead it clanged against the hard scales over the beasts spine, and it managed to whip around.

Raja jumped away, before the powerful jaws could snap at him. Unarmored, he was at a disadvantage—normally, one did not hunt gbali alone. Instead, hunters would gather and confuse it, stabbing with spears and screaming. But this was how the women hunted, and women did not have to prove that they were no longer children.

He swung his axe again, and this time managed to blood it. He cut through the beast’s muzzle, making it back off and lash out with its tail. The heavy muscular limb connected with Raja’s legs, and he fell. Almost immediately, he rolled away, but he lost grip on his axe. When he rose, he was unarmed, facing an angry predator that desired nothing more than to tear his belly out, and still his breath.

Raja snarled, though his breath was starting to come in short pained gulps. He was hot, and both the heat of the day and the exertion had weakened him. He wanted to sink to his hunches and pant, but that would mean death and so he circled the animal carefully instead. It was to close to his axe, and he wasn’t sure if he could draw it away.

Then, something caught his eye. Abena’s axe was lying just a few feet away from him. Its haft was broken, but the blade was still sharp. Quickly, he threw himself and grabbed the weapon. Splinters bit into his hands, but he held it tightly, as he rolled away.

The gbali lunged, landing where the youth had been just moments ago. If he’d been just a tiny bit slower, the beast would have gotten him. Instead, he was facing its flank. The realization that this was the moment to strike became motion fluidly, even before the thought passed. He swung the axe up, into the animal’s belly, where the scales were weaker.

It made an odd, pained noise as the steel bit into its organs. Blood gushed out, when he tore it out, and the gbali’s hind legs gave out. Raja did not wait for the shock to pass. He jumped up and kicked the animal over, forcing it to roll onto its back. His claws raked its side, leaving four bloody gauges in its flank.

Then, he brought his axe down on its throat.

The beast became still, and so did Raja. This had not been how he had imagined his triumph. Slowly, he turned around, for a moment hoping that he had made a mistake and that the dead youth was not Abena, but the corpse had not morphed into another. It still bore the telling scar over his eye.

Slowly, the youth approached his dead friend. He was panting, trying to force his body to grow cooler faster. His legs hurt where the gbali’s tail had connected with them, and the splinters itched and stung where they were digging into his hands. The coppery smell of blood was making him feel nauseous, but he forced the sensation away as he knelt down.

Carefully, he closed Abena’s eyes.
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Re: Read in a Rush: Ordeal

Postby Squiggle » Sat Sep 21, 2013 10:05 pm

1149 including titles...

The Long Night

It was freezing. In a dark sky, Morsleib at its most prominent cast its cyclopean gaze across the bleak landscape. The light gleamed on the plates of iron strapped to my chest and forearms, the chill metal doing nothing to warm me, and the cold cut through the sodden fur lining of my armour and into my aching flesh. It’s stopped raining, but the deluge that caught me outside the ragged village of Stumphaus had done its damage.

I daren’t move any quicker. I was fully laden as it is, and each careful step across the squelching marshland brought the clink of metal on metal and the creak of leather. That wasn’t the worst of it. Blood had soaked into my leather jerkin from the puncture wound in my right side. I felt it scrape my ribs when the man’s knife went in and every breath is a painful effort. I’d painstakingly memorised the route that Franz had scrawled on the parchment in his semi-legible hand - before I tossed the same sheet into the flames. And Franz isn’t going to be telling any other mercenaries about that near-forgotten crypt out in North Sylvania. Not with his bright red arterial blood describing an arc across the ceiling and down one badly-white-washed wall as his body toppled backwards after I’d neatly decapitated him with a wide swing of my axe.

I’d a nasty grin on my face at the memory of it, teeth bared back in a snarl and for a moment I’d forgotten the pain in my chest, the ache in my back and the thunder of my heartbeat in my ears. But I just wanted to stop, to rest a while. But even through the fuzz of pain and the nagging sense that my body is slowly shutting down I knew I didn’t have the time.

He is still after me.

I havent seen him, but I can hear his cries - sounding more wolf than man with every passing minute, with every fresh blossom of pain. He’s after me, he wants me to know it, wants me to know that even dwarf-forged steel won’t put a werebeast down - the gouges my axe had torn in his chest and arm had done nothing but enrage him further.

Morsleib stared down at me through a fresh gap in the ragged clouds, and I hauled myself up a muddy bank, boots sliding for purchase on the foetid earth. It stunk there, and as the temperature dropped, a dank mist started to form around my ankles. The ground leveled out and I finally found the rough track that Franz assured me was the quickest way to the Thrice Hung Man. It’s a battered inn that sat on the road to Stumphaus and I was counting on it for a mug of watered down ale, a fire and a measure of safety from the thing that pursued me. He howled again and it was louder and his cry sounded triumphant, like he knew I was weakening.

I tried to up my pace and my breath gained a wheeze to add to the rasp and the pain was enough to make me whimper but I let out a growl of my own, pushed the searing agony away and keep going.

My father was a wretched drunk failure of a farmer and I left him soon as I was old enough to swing a sword. I went back once - somehow a letter found its way to the Nuln and although it was far too late for me to attend the funeral, I went home. I was met by my father sat on the only unbroken chair in a tumbledown farmhouse with a leaking roof. My mother was buried in the field behind the house, a sad grave marked with a cracked stone. He is dead now, barely lasted two weeks after. I didn’t mourn his passing.

That night though, he told me the only thing he ever said that carried any weight. ‘Son,’ he slurred, drunk. ‘Son, I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I want you to listen to me. I was not always this hopeless. I was a strong man until one day.’

I didn’t care, but he had worked himself up sufficiently that I felt obliged to let him finish his tale.

‘The story goes that we all face one long night in our lives, one particular moment where our mettle is tested and that makes or breaks us.’

I shrugged.

He wasn’t finished.

‘When you were a babe your mother was with child again. She fell ill, and I sat with her all night as she moaned, tossed and turned. In the dark hours before dawn she started to bleed. And by sunrise she had lost our baby. She never fully recovered. The ordeal broke me. I just gave up after that.

‘If you choose to ignore the ramblings of an old, dying man then so be it. But when you face your night, you will know and if you let it break you, you will never regain what you have lost.’

And as I limped along the track, stolen loot heavy on my back, breath wheezing in my chest and the howls of pursuing wolfman ringing in my ears, I remembered my father then and realised that he had been right about this one thing. This was my long night. And I couldn’t run from it. I had to face it and come through, or…

Sheltered by the bole of a hefty oak tree, I adjusted my grip on the shaft of my axe and waited. A fresh howl sounded. It was close, a handful of yards from where I stood. I tried to quiet my breathing, tried to stay relaxed and ready.

The wolfman padded into the clearing. The moon chose that moment to come out of hiding and the shimmering light revealed, finally, my pursuer. He was huge, chest and arms bulging with pale muscle, visible under the tufts of thick black hair that grew sporadically across his body. His neck was massive and thick, leading to a nightmarish mouth, a twisted parody of humanity with a gaping wolf-muzzle and fangs that dripped saliva. He was panting, and his yellow eyes glowed in the semi-darkness. He let loose another howl, enough to drive a shiver through my body and then glared directly at me, unnatural eyesight penetrating the gloom under the tree like it was a bright summers day.

I stepped into the clearing, axe low and to the side, ready to face my ordeal, ready to die if it meant that I would never crumble into the broken memory of my father.

But now, as I roam the marshes North of Stumphaus, my flesh wracked by the change, I know that he was wrong about that too.

edited to remove typos and obvious grammar failures :?
If my mind's the weapon, my heart's the extra clip

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