Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

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

Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby J D Dunsany » Wed Apr 03, 2013 11:44 pm

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

We've not had a song prompt for a while. Schafe put this song forward as a possibility in the suggestions thread (more of which in a moment). It's by The Mountain Goats and is a nice little song with a wide range of imagery that you might find useful for inspiration. As with the last song entry, you can be prompted by as much or as little of it as you like. As long as you address the song prompt in some way, you'll be fine.

The lyrics are as follows:

Like a spent gladiator,
Crawling in the Colosseum dust,
Who can count on his remaining limbs,
All the people he can trust.
Like the one who stands behind him,
Cheering him on.
Ecstatic when he stands defiant,
Wild with abandon when he's gone.

Just stay alive.
Keep your eyes on the palum.

Like a village on the steppe,
About to get collectivized.
When the men emerge with rifles from the haystack,
Everybody looks surprised.
Like the mice in the forgotten grain,
Way up on the top shelf.
Like someone who's found a small town to escape to,
Keeps one eye on his abandoned, former self.

Stay in the game.
Just try to play through the pain.
Like a fighter who's been told it's finally time for him to quit.
Show up in shining colors,
And then stand there and get hit.

Like the clock that ticks in Dresden,
When the whole town's been destroyed.
Like the nagging flash of insight,
You're always desperate to avoid.
Like the bloody-knuckled gunman,
Still stationed at the breach.
Like that board game with the sliders,
And the children on the beach.

Stay alive.
Maybe spit some blood at the camera.
Just stay alive.
Stay forever alive.


The rules are the same as always. You should write between 850 and 1150 words that addresses the prompt in some way. 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 2200GMT on Monday 22nd April. 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.

Regards,

JDD
JDD story of the moment: Glory
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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby Mossy Toes » Thu Apr 04, 2013 1:19 am

I'm going to try something a bit daring here--while sticking to the "Just Stay Alive" theme, I'm going to try to tie in another song by The Mountain Goats as well: Heretic Pride.
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: Just Stay Alive

Postby schaferwhat‽ » Thu Apr 04, 2013 2:07 am

Mossy Toes wrote:I'm going to try something a bit daring here--while sticking to the "Just Stay Alive" theme, I'm going to try to tie in another song by The Mountain Goats as well: Heretic Pride.


See whilst that song is very appropriate for both settings I thought it was a bit on the point for the type of stories it would inspire. That said if you're doing more than one Mountain Goats song why not apply the rule of three and add this one to the list as well.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby VictorK » Sat Apr 06, 2013 2:01 am

My apologies for missing last month. RL kind of sucked and all my creative juices were drained. I don't know if this entry is all that good or how well it fits the prompt, but it was inspired by it, so I guess that's close enough.

What's this?!?! 40k?!?!

One Life: 1133 words

The last transport crashed and burned somewhere amidst the hive’s metal roots. Luria didn’t see it fall; she heard only the panicked whine of its engines as something inside of it broke. It screamed all the way down, gave a final gasp, and was silent. That she was now marooned didn’t bother the Hospitaller as much as she expected. Her attention was focused elsewhere.

It was not as if the rest of the hive was silent. Its dull, rusted brown branches were alive with a terrific struggle. Slowly but surely Luria and all the Emperor’s men were being expelled. But even that didn’t bother her. Somewhere in the back of her mind despair was forming, but she could silence it. Her work was in front of her. For the Hospitaller, the vast struggle had been reduced to a single life.

A tenuous thread held the Guardsman to the world of the living. Luria grasped it with two bloodstained hands while trying to repair the damage wrought by a traitor’s grenade. Her armor had protected her. The others had not been so lucky. They had all gathered for the same reason, the hope that they might escape the desert world that had never quite welcomed them. Standing on the edge of the hive’s towering branches Luria could see that what the native humans had said was true: this place was alive, and it hungered for imperial blood. For a moment, that despair seemed to well up against her.

“Sister!” A seraphim alighted behind Luria and placed an armored hand on her shoulder. The gesture was almost gentle. “Will he live?” Red optics glowed behind a white mask. Luria didn’t know the Battle Sister’s name. She was alone. The Hospitaller dared not ask the fate of her squad.

“If I have time.” Luria answered. It was the truth. She could save this man. It was the one thing within her power.

The Battle Sister nodded. “Then we will die for something.” She strode forward and drew one of the wicked fire pistols from her hip. The Seraphim detached her jump jets, the promethium having been spent. She was short for a Battle Sister as Luria was tall for a Hospitaller. She seemed light on her feet, practically dancing as she drew her second pistol and mounted a high wall with a single fluid leap. Soon she was pouring fire into unseen foes. They had to pass her to clear out the hive. For the moment, Luria would be spared.

The outer weather control grid had failed less than eighteen hours ago and already Luria could feel hot grains of sand brushing past her cheeks. She was hundreds of feet above the desert floor and it was reaching for her. Her Hospitaller’s instincts translated the drift into a concern for her patient: contamination, infection, annihilation. There was nothing she could do but shield his body with her own.

Luria didn’t know his name, or his rank, or what distant world he called home. Pain made him babble in a dialect she barely understood. The Sister eschewed words of comfort for now. He couldn’t hear them, and they would distract her to recite. The work was now delicate. Fortunately, Luria could call upon the machine spirit in her armor to aid her. A lance of heat from her gauntlets seared a ruptured vessel closed; the clamp that had staunched the flow of blood released. Both retreated into her armor, waiting to be used again. There was ruined tissued to remove, so she summoned a knife.

The entire hive shook and for a moment the cacophony of a thousand skirmishes was drowned out by the sonic boom of something fast and massive descending at impossible speed. By the time Luria heard and felt it the ordinance had struck the hive’s trunk and made all the branches shudder. But hers held. Blood gushed into the nameless Guardsman’s exposed body cavity. Her blade had nicked something important in him. Now the Hospitaller panicked. Suction, clamp. The blood continued to flow. Repeat. Cauterize. More suction, more blood.

Just live, Luria pleaded silently while she cursed the Inquisitors above. While their men and the Sisters they called to their aid died they had let the plant destroy them. Its promise had corrupted them, exposed their principles for bare, self-aggrandizing greed, and now their ancient and powerful battleships danced against one another upon the orbital plane. Someone had fired on the hive. Luria didn’t care who, or why. The man below her was dying. The corpses of his comrades welcomed him with rictus smiles and open hearts.

The bleeding stopped. The moment’s pause from the errant strike collapsed and the bleeding all around the Hospitaller resumed. The hive was lost but there was nowhere to go. The desert would devour them if the traitors didn’t kill them. Luria might get farther than others, given her Sister’s armor, but she would leave something more valuable than her life behind. The Guardsman’s, first of all. If she was going to die she would do it practicing her craft.

Luria took heart from the Seraphim standing watch. The rising desert winds whipped at an incarnadine mantle that shrouded her black armor. A fabric that did not burn, just as Luria wore white that did not stain. How many traitors she had slain was impossible to know; it was enough that she stood. But not forever.

The natives knew the hive and found their way around the Battle Sister. They had a strong cord and a hook, and they pulled her down from behind. Even if Luria had shouting a warning she knew it would not have been heard. Others swarmed over the wall. Few had firearms, but they had clubs enough to beat the Seraphim until she stopped moving. Whether she was dead or the actuators in her armor were broken Luria couldn’t tell.

Luria left her bolt pistol on her hip as the natives advanced. Men, women, and even some children with a reddish skin and eyes the color of blood mixed with sand began to form a circle around her. For months Luria had seen these eyes in villages across the desert. First they were wary when she approached, then thankful as she healed them, and finally they smiled when caution faded away. She had come to love these people.

The man underneath her was dead. Exit wound, she now surmised. Even when facing the closing throng of traitorous natives her Hospitaller’s mind rendered a final diagnosis. Luria rose to her full height and looked into the faces of the people now surrounding her. There was nothing there anymore. Just a singular will now exercising a might that had lain dormant throughout the occupation.

Luria didn’t say anything. She waited to live or die.
"The gods are not all powerful, they cannot erase the past." -Agathon
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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby Ghurlag » Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:44 pm

A response to the refrain.

Just Alive

993 Words

The howling outside was getting worse. Bristam could heard the screech of metal follow on the heels of each crash against the blast door's weakening steel structure, and he knew he should be thinking of fallback positions, secondary defences for when the crazed attackers broke through, but all he could think about was the howling. It was a sound without any of the beauty you found in the call of a natural predator - low, gurgling and crude, the repetition speaking of fevered minds. The sound was so close , so undeniably human. That was the terrifying bit. The things outside were people.

He glanced around the room at the men who had chanced to join him in this forlorn little hellhole, a last ditch in a dying city. They were an unsightly bunch, dregs salvaged from a sudden and unexpected retreat.

Two of the armed figures were of the Kalstrum City Guard, the Planetary Defence Force which had so utterly failed to fulfil its title. They looked shellshocked, no doubt haunted by scenes much worse than the carnage Bristam had seen in his flight from the munitions floor. One of the men was checking his lasgun, muttering to himself with a mania which indicated he was close to the edge. The other was already over it, clutching a blood-drenched autopistol with the trigger already fully pressed. There would be little help from that quarter when the time came.

The third armed man looked to be some sort of security bruiser, though Bristam wasn't sure where from. He wasn't from the munitions floor - the uniform was all wrong - but the shock-prod at his belt was as much proof as you needed that he was one of the Emperor's most local brand of petty enforcers. He was ugly, this man, a naturally twisted face made even more repulsive by the sheen of sweat which covered it. Whatever that meant, he at least held his autogun steady as he stared at the shuddering, screeching door.

A sudden crash from behind made everyone jump. Bristam's head snapped around to fix his eyes on the dishevelled-looking clerical woman he'd nearly trampled in the crush at the door. She had tipped over a desk and sent the metal cage which it held dashing to the floor, and was now digging through the wreckage looking for something. Bristam wasn't sure that she even knew what she wanted; perhaps she found any kind of activity more tolerable than waiting for de- than waiting for the door to open.

The crash prompted a new sound, a rising, wailing cry whose harmonics were honed by generations of evolution to grate along the nerves of all present.

"Shut that baby up!" the bruiser snapped at the girl holding it. She flinched from him, then stared helplessly at the bundle in her arms.

"I don't know how," she answered quietly. Bristam noticed there was a bloodstain across her temple, but she didn't appear to be bleeding herself. How close had she been to the mania out there? She looked young, maybe only twelve cycles old.

She stood up as the rasping wail grew louder, holding the infant at arm's length now. It was wrapped in some sort of sack-cloth; Bristam could see the mark of a lho-merchant underneath the grime.

"Can someone..?" she attempted. Nobody answered her, even the fuming bruiser remaining silent.

"Please?" she asked, glancing at Bristam hopefully. "Please, it's... it's not mine."

With a deafening scream of rending steel, the first sharp point made its way through the blast doors. The lasgun-wielder twitched, bringing his weapon up with a trembling arm. His companion merely cowered, recoiling from the door as if there was somewhere to go. The howling outside turned to cheers, the pounding taking on a new frenzy.

Bristam looked down at the wrench in his hand. It was his own, he'd worked with it for so long that it almost defined him. When the alarms had sounded, he'd picked it up by unconscious reflex. Yet here, now, it looked so strange. The bright silver of a new scratch, the hue of red blood. Familiar, yet wrong.

The girl still stood, looking pleadingly at him. The babe had fallen silent again, but a cry for help was still writ across her face. As if there was anything he could do to make all this undone.

He looked up at the depression in the wall. A duct, but barred by a thick mesh none of them could remove. It didn't matter - this lifeless tomb was likely the last haven in all Kalstrum.

"Come here," he said, beckoning her. For the first time, he realised how dry his mouth was, how sore his throat.

She approached, a flash of something in her eyes. Those not watching the door turned to observe them. Bristam saw the bruiser glance at his wrench, and knew the thought going through the man's mind. Maybe that would be cleaner, kinder. But no, he didn't have that in him.

He picked up the girl, lifting her to the duct. She scrambled up, pressing herself into the ledge, holding the infant close to her. He could see that she was crying, silent tears dripping down her cheeks.

"We tried that," the clerical woman said. "She can't get through."

Bristam saw that she was standing close, a gilded letter-opener clutched desperately in her hands.

"The ledge," he answered her, almost choking on a sudden, inexplicable surge of emotion. "Maybe she can hide up- away from it."

The woman trembled at the thought.

"And then?" she asked. Her eye caught his, all the anger and terror and hope in her flitting across the short distance between them.

Bristam shrugged, looked away from the ledge, looked away from her. It was beyond him, to think of a world after now, of Kalstrum in the wake of this madness.

"She'll be alive," he answered. He did not envy her that.

As the misty veil of Albion is cast aside, we turn our gaze to the war-torn island of Albany, where the Red King vies with his former master for the control of a realm in dire threat.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby Ghurlag » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:06 am

This is quite probably against the rules of the competition, so I shan't be entering it for voting, but it's a response to both the recurring imagery of the lyrics and the song format. I'd be interested to hear what others thought of it.

The Tirade of the Gladiator
875 words

You, who found me surrounded by the dead. You drive me by driving nails into my head.

These hands, these fists still stained with blood. Never given a chance to issue any good.This is your curse, your damnation of me.

I carried a beauty that you'll never see but now I am anger, violence incarnate. The death I bring is marks upon your slate, treasure for your treasure-rooms, favour from the people.

I swelter in the sand as you climb your gilded steeple. I breathe the dust of death, carry barbs of steel. The scars upon my skin are the only wounds I make that heal. Yet what favour do I have? What life is left to me?

I keep on fighting, keep on killing because your nails leave me no choice. The chants of crowds mean nothing to a man without a mind, a man who brings butchery to those of his own kind. For, yes, the only brotherhood I have ever felt is with the men upon the sand whose very death I dealt.

In every dance that you design I am slaying my scant few friends, and at the slaver's sign I'm to bring them to their ends.

Well, the hell with all of that, and down as well with you; soon you'll be getting what you're due, for today we'll be dancing a new tune!

Hark, listen now to the rumbles of the pits, will you hear the hammerfall before it hits?

The chains we wear are even now being snapped and bent askew. The warrens beneath the sand are alive with something new. The crowds that gather here today to slake their thirst for blood start to see what lies beneath the hood. Listen to their murmurs, will you? You claim to know them like your own. Can you hear distantly the beginnings of a moan? Listen even closer and that moan becomes a wail.

Hah! Bring on your guards and your gaolers, today they'll not avail. These brutes cannot restrain us, you've trained us all too well. Yes, us who for your amusement have laboured close to hell and coughed life upon the sand. Us who have too often met death at a signal from your hand.

You bade us fight and so we fight! What confusion does this bring? You did not think that your tune of death was the only one to sing?

The clash of arms grows closer. The guards are falling back. The mood of the fickle masses is slowly turning black. They hear the chants we're singing, they can sense the rising tide. The gates of the gaol are broken, and now there's no place to hide.

See how they are fleeing, how now they try to stray. How sweet the crush of bodies on the marbled way. And look, dishevelled gaolers fleeing from the pit, close upon their heels comes the sentence you have writ for all these people moving shocked upon the stands and for all those others who live in your rich lands, living lives of comfort bought from a slaver's hands.

Yes look now as always at me on the sands, look as the men who serve you meet your champion's axe, and defeated like all others are cast down on their backs. Look as those you thought broken, mere meat once on parade are joined in purpose now, backing my sharp blade.

Can you hear the roar of angry men? Men who will be chained never again? Does your well-adorned box afford you this? Can you hear my companions hiss?

I wonder, is that your heart I hear beating with such a terrified tattoo?

Do you know yet what monster it is you grew from an orphan, lost and lonely, cast from the stars in space into a world that surely once knew heaven's grace?

You found me naked, hurt and bleeding, and yes anger was my sin. Yet all you ever thought was to have them drive it in. Do you wish now I was murdered, rather than wrapped in chains? Did you never even think that I would snap your reins?

Yes, I think you hear our chanting, over the slaughter you hear my ranting. You barricade your balcony, seek some quick retreat. For all your power, I am a force you cannot meet.

Listen as the ground trembles beneath my feet, watch as the air blisters with the heat of my anger, as weak men are tossed aside.There is nothing you can throw up to break my stride. There is no fortress here in which you can hide. Not now I have these world devourers by my side.

You can hear your doom is coming, you can hear the warriors' drumming, you can hear my voice thrumming.

Will you screech and squeal? Will you beg and plead? It matters not, for in the end you'll bleed. When your last defence is fallen. When your tricks are no avail. Then I'll stand before you, and before me you shall quail.

I am the champion of anger, the axe that ever screams, the brother of the slaves you kept, the best your world could see.

I am the lord of vengeance, and you have injured me.
Last edited by Ghurlag on Mon Apr 08, 2013 6:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

As the misty veil of Albion is cast aside, we turn our gaze to the war-torn island of Albany, where the Red King vies with his former master for the control of a realm in dire threat.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby J D Dunsany » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:46 pm

It breaks the rules only in the sense that it's a poem set out like a piece of prose (you sneaky chap... :D ), but actually I rather like it. The rhyming is a bit odd at first, but you soon get into the flow of it, and the piece as a whole is very memorable and quite dramatic in places. In any event, it certainly answers my concerns about allowing poetic entries, but, after causing controversy over allowing an audio entry without due consultation last time, I'd be silly to allow it now without giving the community a chance to comment on the idea. As an example of what the poetic form can do, though, it's very impressive. You've made your case most eloquently. ;)

What I'm going to do is continue the discussion about poetry entries on the suggestion thread and point to your piece as a successful attempt at the form. We'll see what happens. :)

All the best!

JDD
JDD story of the moment: Glory
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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby Liliedhe » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:35 pm

Faith of the Hunter

Where the beast passed, the light of the flames died. The fires, burning everywhere in the twisting corridors, continued to give off heat, but their light turned inward, represented now only by the shadows they cast. Even the fiery plains outside the windows seemed to lose their insidious glow. The daemons cowered behind pillars of burnt bone and broken skulls.

The ground shook where it tread. Darkness, thick and physical, covered the ground, congealing into pools along the walls and in the depressions left by the cloven hooves of the beast. The empty dying screams that floated on wings of gossamer and last regrets, became scorched and withered, burned by its rage. Embers, long burned, smoldered again.

The beast stopped, raising its great, horned head. Leathery wings, stretched over glowing bone, twitched. Stillness overcame its form, as it waited, sniffing the air. It had felt the hunter. A moment of intent, nothing more. Glowing red eyes scanned the shadows. There was nothing to see. Darkness held no meaning for the beast, just like light did not. It saw because it wanted to see, but it didn't.

It turned, taking in the air. Under its hooves, stones, smoothed by the tread of slaves and killers, cracked. Still nothing. Burnt and empty, the air. No scent of the hunter, no shadow cast. The beast felt for his rage, and was thwarted again. It roared, toppling columns, scattering black bones. Lashing out with wings and tail, it bestowed destruction on the walls and the floors, the high, arched, empty windows and the forlorn remains of the dead.

The beast shook its head, and became still again. It had been hunted before. It had always killed its hunters. Nothing could stand before its might. Sniffing, it smelt fire and rage, decay and the empty comforts of death. It smelled the ghost voices drifting through its mind and pushed them away. Where was the hunter? He had no scent.

Listening, the beast allowed the voices to reach its ears, but they were only the same as always, pleading, cursing, lying. Promising. It ignored them, looking for the voice of the hunter, for his sounds. Nothing. The only sounds the beast heard were its own, scales and skin, hooves. A heartbeat. And always the voices, pleading, cursing, lying. They were a caress on its skin, like the rake of a whip.

Sight, sound and smell were no help, so the beast dug deeper. Looked with its unique senses, for the rage in all living things, and all things dead. For the will to fight and kill, or to avenge, to stay alive against the odds. A bestial howl tore from the beast's throat like a volcano explodes from a glacier, shattering the walls.

It shuddered, crouching down. Somewhere in its mind, there was war. The hunter… He would strike, when it stopped being watchful. But it could not be weak. It wanted to find the hunter and tear him limb from limb, not play his game of stalking and tactics and cunning. It roared again, desperate to lunge, to strike. A dying shadow, last remnant of a scattered fire, twitched.

The beast pounced, wings allowing it to glide the distance easily despite its bulk. Claws rent, teeth tore. Gore coated the beast's face, dripping down from monstrous fangs. There! Once again a glimmer.

Intent. The hunter poised to spring. But he did not. The beast pounded against the wall, reducing it to rubble. Frustration at being thwarted formed itself to a desperate measure, to acknowledge something of it that had been dead.

"SHOW YOURSELF!" The scream tore itself from the beast's throat, no longer wordless. "COWARD! FIGHT ME!"

The beast tore through the corridors, crushing everything that moved. Leaving behind the hunter, but not the scream. Not the words. Not the voices. In acknowledging the existence of words, it had acknowledged them. The voices. The past. It crushed them to the floor, and ripped at them with its claws. It tore at them with its teeth. Blood spattered, painting the halls afresh in gore. It stomped them with its hooves, crushing them underfoot. But they would not be silenced. Pleading, cursing, lying. And promising.

And then, there was its own voice again. "I PROMISE!" At this, the hunter leapt. No intent. No wish to kill. No rage. Just a more insidious poison, the most insidious of all. A poison mortal to the beast, as it drifted on the smoking tendrils from the plains, the dark flames of the fires belching from its wounds. Hope… It trembled.

Claws outstretched, shadowwings behind, the hunter tore from the darkness of the beast's making. Lightning crackled. Metal screamed. Talons sunk into the shattered flesh of the beast, ripping through scales and skin, and white hot bones. Wounds. Blood. This was nectar to the beast, even if they were its own.

And so it laughed and lashed out, taking the hunter in the side with a massive arm. He fell, wings shattered, claws broken. The beast towered over him, impossibly tall. It raised a cloven hoof to stomp on him, to break him into pieces for his insolence. There was pain in its back, where the claws had ripped it, but this was nothing. The hunter had not struck to kill, only to wound.

And at this understanding, the beast's rage flared again. It smelled the poisonous odour of the hunter, the utter lack of fear as his existence was about to end. The beast would have torn apart the hunter, gladly. But it had spoken. It had understood. The voices were still around. So was the hunter, looking up, his eyes blacker than the beast's shadows, and so cold. In this cold, the rage slowed. It was driven back. And the beast set down the hoof again, and not on the hunter's body.

A hiss tore out of the beast's throat. The pressure of the voices increased. Pleading, cursing, lying. Promising. Hope. It shrank back. The hunter's voice joined the choir. Pleading, cursing.

Finally, the beast understood. It would have to speak, once again. It lowered its horned head to the hunter, baring its throat, offering its own death, to one who should want to live. The hunter lay utterly still. He did not even try…

"Not good enough."

The poison disappeared. The hunter's eyes closed, and something sparkled on his cheeks. No longer checked, the beast's rage tore through the dam of the hunter's coldness. A mighty swipe of a taloned hand threw the hunter through the hall, rending metal, shattering his body on the impact of a wall made of the dying curses of his kin. He crumpled, blood spreading over cracked stones. Once more, he looked at the beast, and now his eyes were full of hate as he spit blood into its face.

The beast began to laugh.

Words: 1150
"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: Just Stay Alive

Postby Bloody Mary » Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:07 pm

Crawling in the Dust

919 word without title

There is no thought, no reflection as Angron fights. He does not need to consider how to move, where to strike; it's all pure instinct. Other things may be unclear to him (where did he come from? What is he?), but he knows he was bred and born for combat.

Despite his size, he is too fast and too agile for his opponents to hit. They, on the other hand, are never quick enough to dodge. When he fights, it's never even, never fair. It's slaughter. Blood stains the sands, blood stains him. Bones break, limbs are torn and skulls crushed.

The audience roars, as another gladiator falls. They crave death, but are too weak to fight. They long for blood, but are too hypocritical to spill it. And so they resort to proxies: gladiators that live only to still the paper-skins thirst for blood.

Angron lives for combat and wishes to fight forever, but not for those pathetic weaklings in stands. A choice. That is what he wants; the freedom to say "It's my fight." A worthy opponent, one that will challenge him. No servitude, no master.

He grabs the next gladiator and throws him like a ragdoll, right into the remaining two. They fall and the audience chants his name.

“Angron! Angron! Angron!” over and over, and over, until it’s a meaningless buzz in his ears.

They want more blood.

He wants to kill, but he cannot kill those he truly hates. In the end, he slays the fallen: his brothers and sisters, because he has no choice. The call of blood is too strong, the anger overpowering, the song of the Nails to loud.

He needs to kill.

He wants a choice.

***

The last thing Alyn Griece sees before she dies is an angel. She knows the invaders call the armoured giants angels of death, but she can tell they are not real messengers of Heaven. They are terrifying in their armour that looks like some grotesque parody of the human form. The shoulders are too broad compared to the rest of the body. Some have a hand that is far too large. They all look wrong.

She has seen some without a helmet. Their faces were all wrong too. Some may have called them handsome, but only after one got used to the shape. They are not angels and neither are they human.

On that day, she has been hiding in a half-collapsed building, trying to shoot one of the "angels" with her rifle. It was as effective as hurling peas at them. She has seen one of them take a shot to his head without the protection of a helmet. He paused momentarily, but shook his head as if it had been a mere snowball and resumed firing his loud weapon.

And then the building collapsed. By some wonder, she has not lost consciousness, but it is of little comfort to her. Her rifle is useless to her now, lying under her. She cannot feel her body down from her neck and it worries her.

It is then that she sees the angel.

He is armoured, like the invaders, but instead of blood red, his armour is gold. It’s sculpted to mirror the muscles beneath it and decorated with precious gems. Enormous white wings rise over his head.

He looks down upon her with amber eyes, as cold as those of a hunting cat. She marvels at the details she notices: there's a smudge of blood on his cheek and some of it stains his long golden hair. But even so he looks serene and distant, like a true out-worldly being.

She cannot move, but she knows that even if she could, she would not have flinched. The angel poises his spear and thrusts down. Then there is no Alyn Griece any more.

***

It is a miracle they are still holding. The wall has been breached, and the only way to keep the howling grey giants out of the city is to throw soldiers at them. It’s a hopeless struggle, one doomed to failure, but they keep on trying. If they fail, if they give up, the last bastion of their culture will die.

Kiran Tor isn’t certain if the giants keep on howling constantly, or if it’s some kind of a ghost sound that rings in his ears all the time. He has been shooting at them for hours, and has yet to see even on of them fall. One thought is not leaving his mind: why have they not stormed the breach yet?

Then, as one, the giants raise their heads towards the sky and howl. It has just been ringing in his ears before—the sounds makes chills run down his spine. A primal part of his mind recognizes it’s time to flee and hide deep in a cave, and pray. Wolves are coming for him.

He does not run. Instead, he stands frozen and watches a titan emerge from the grey crowd. His head is bare, crowned with fiery hair. For a brief moment, Kiran meets his golden gaze and sees his end in the beast-like eyes. He sees the end of all he loves.

The fear becomes overpowering, but he manages to raise his gun with trembling hands. He shoots.

The leader of the giants does not notice the bullet that was meant to pierce his head. He grins, and leads the charge.

Kiran Tor dies bisected by his blade, the howling still ringing in his ears.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby Liliedhe » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:05 pm

When does voting start?

2200GMT on Sunday 22nd April - Sunday is the 21st. 22nd would be Monday.
"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: Just Stay Alive

Postby J D Dunsany » Sun Apr 21, 2013 8:25 am

Liliedhe wrote:When does voting start?

2200GMT on Sunday 22nd April - Sunday is the 21st. 22nd would be Monday.


Ah, my apologies. Voting starts on Monday. I've altered the opening post accordingly.

Sorry about the confusion.

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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby J D Dunsany » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:10 pm

Tonight's the night!

Tralalalalalalalala!

Or something.

2200BST (not GMT - forgot about the clock going forward thing)

All the best!

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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby mstevns » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:55 pm

This one is called "Illumination" (1148 words)

On the rare occasions that the energized magno-clouds covering the Pesunatru horizon cleared, the Illuminator was sure to be there. Battered and blasted by the abrasive winds, he would place his beacon on the uneven scaffold and pray that the charge would hold as long as the hole in the skies. Once the ochre thickness smothered the last azure glimpse, he would hurry to the township at the foot of the hill again, full of renewed hope. Rothun Hjalmesven had always been taught that the Emperor protects, but he was not above lending Him a helping hand.

He had made his home a shrine-hut, the centre of his duties to the God-Emperor. When a quiet moment came, usually when the scouring winds subsided at evening time, Rothun would often think on Deacon Orluzk and their last words. A habit he detested, but was unable to break.

The Deacon had been in charge of the Pietates Illuminatio Logistica, the administrative arm of sending the Emperor's servants into frontier space. In the final stages of preparing his Illumination Run, the Mission had been a hive of activity, of anticipation. Cardinal Patenira's rousing sermons bolstered their resolve every day; "You will be His living instruments, His Illuminators," the Cardinal had said, "ensuring that His will is made flesh, embodied in those who must rejoin our glorious Imperium". Yet, the young Illuminator had realised that lost souls was not the only currency of their mission. He had seen the Deacon receive representatives of privateer families, scions of Freygaard nobility, and even a Mechanicum Magos. The visits had been very discreet, but he had noticed. The Deacon was selling the Mission sites - Rothun just knew it; offering anything of secular worth to be exploited once the Illuminators had pried open promising new worlds. It made him furious. In his piousness, Rothun confronted the Deacon, trusting in his sincere fervour to make things right.

That was the last time they spoke.

Rothun would think of the depature day, his deployment wafer brief: "Poszehoi Beta system, Illuminator mission Pesunatru". Below the desolate name of his destination, the familiar red stamp of authority; it was a last word, hammered home. After months of travelling, carried on the Righteous Halo, Rothun's Illuminator capsule was catapulted towards a small, ignorant moon. He had stumbled out of the wind-wracked Ministorum deployment shell and begun spreading the Emperor's Light. Before long, the Pesunatru tribes accepted him; later, curiosity drove them to seek his knowledge; in the end, he exacted the price for salvation - worship.

His standing with the tribes as a harbinger of a golden age had gone on for ten standard years, at least. He dutifully kept the rituals of the God-Emperor and preached every day. When the clouds allowed, the beacon pleaded into the void for the Mission to arrive. He had memorized the schedules for the second wave of Ministorum vessels to arrive and recited them often. This was despite the fact that the second wave should have arrived long ago.

Through all of it, he attended to the tribal congregation in the township every evening and kept their faith.

One windswept morning, something did arrive. Heralded by a distant rumbling utterly alien to the townsfolk, but not to Rothun, the sound of off-worlders washed over the dust-tundra. Rothun felt a pulsating sensation; finally, the call had been answered. When the newcomers arrived, however, it was not what he expected. Standing outside the thin walls of the township, the Illuminator saw three scrappy vehicles approach. He could see no markings that he recognized and a nauseating uncertainty gripped him as he was circled by the newcomers.

A trio of armed men emerged, two brutes clearly bodyguards for the third man between them, exuding that martial confidence Rothun had experienced before. In heavy, scarred carapace, the leader of the group stopped right in front of Rothun, dark eyes holding him in place.
'A priest, eh', he rasped in low Gothic, 'you speak for them?' The leader nodded towards the township as he spoke.
Rothun licked his lips, 'The tribal elders rule here, but they trust me', he answered in a level voice.
'Is that so', the man said, baring his teeth slightly, 'I wager the beacon is yours, then'. He spat casually to the side and gave a vicious smile, 'Your God-Emperor is busy sitting on his bony arse on Terra, so we heard you. We heard you loud and clear.'

In the next few hours, Rothun agonized over the fact that he had left his lascarbine in the shrine-hut, the only weapon on the moon that would have been useful against the intruders. As he was dragged around at gunpoint, forced to translate the raider captain's harsh orders for the tribesfolk, he thought of ways to counter, and repel, the threat that had landed in their midst. Some of the bravest men tried to resist, and Rothun watched in horror as the inevitable point-blank gunfire commenced, the raiders making short and bloody work of the resistance.

Amidst the screams of agonized families and meaty thuds of people being beat into submission, the Illuminator was dragged to the side and the dark-eyed man held the priest's throat in an iron grip, making his lungs burn. The raider's unkempt, craggy features came very close to Rothun's and he spoke slowly, 'Listen, prayer-cretin, if you don't get these wretches to come along, not many of them will be able to work the furnaces on my ship - I enjoy spilling blood, and I will soak you in it. All of it.' There was a pause. Then he continued, teeth clenched; 'Make it happen - or I'll leave you here, with their carcasses to keep you company.'

Rothun laboured for breath and squirmed as he tried to formulate a prayer. Thoughts came in rapid flashes. The Deacon and their last words; the years on a forgotten rock on the frontier; every hope-filled ignition of the beacon. Abruptly, something in his mind gave, like the cracking explosion of a burst dam. With a thundering build-up, an avalanche swept away convictions in simmering hate; it was like thick, pulsating magma, running over his mind, scorching and burning. His rage-scream came out, despite the vice he was in, and the surprised raider let him go, quickly drawing his pistol; however, Rothun had already bowed his head, one hand stretched up in flat-palmed submission, the other one clenched, quivering.

Later, entering the dark ship, the subdued tribesfolk in tow, Rothun knew only one thing; the will to survive was forged in fire, not light.
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Re: Read In A Rush: Just Stay Alive

Postby J D Dunsany » Mon Apr 22, 2013 10:00 pm

And we're done.

The voting thread will be up shortly.

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