Heresy-Online's Expeditious Stories 12-11: Innocence
Welcome to the year's eleventh Heresy-Online's Expeditious Stories (HOES) Challenge!
For those of you that are unfamiliar with HOES, here's how it works:
Each month, there will be a thread posted in the Original Works forum for that month's HOES competition. For those of you interested in entering, read the entry requirements, write a story that fits the chosen theme and post it as a reply to the competition thread by the deadline given. Each and every member of Heresy Online is more than welcome to compete, whether your entry is your first post or your thousandth. We welcome everyone to join the family of the Fan Fiction Forum.
Once the deadline has passed, a separate voting thread will be posted, where the readers and writers can post their votes for the top three stories. Points will be awarded (3 points for 1st, 2 for 2nd, and 1 for 3rd) for each vote cast, totalled at the closure of the voting window, and a winner will be announced. The winner will have his/her story added to the Winning HOES thread.
The idea with the theme is that it should serve as the inspiration for your stories rather than a constraint. While creative thinking is most certainly encouraged, the theme should still be relevant to your finished story. The chosen theme can be applied within the WH40K, WHF, HH, and even your own completely original works (though keep in mind, this IS a Warhammer forum) but there will be no bias as to which setting is used for your story.
As far as the theme goes, please feel free with future competitions to contact me with your ideas/proposals, especially given that my creative juices may flow a bit differently than yours. All I ask is that you PM me your ideas rather than posting them into the official competition entry/voting threads to keep posts there relevant to the current competition.
The official word count for this competition will be 1,000 words. There will be a 10% allowance in this limit, essentially giving you a 900-1,100 word range with which to tell your tale. This is non-negotiable. This is an Expeditious Story competition, not an Epic Story nor an Infinitesimal Story competition. If you are going to go over or under the 900-1,100 word limit, you need to rework your story. It is not fair to the other entrants if one does not abide by the rules. If you cannot, feel free to PM me with what you have and I'll give suggestions or ideas as to how to broaden or shorten your story.
Each entry must have a word count posted with it. Expect a reasonably cordial PM from me (and likely some responses in the competition thread) if you fail to adhere to this rule. The word count can be annotated either at the beginning or ending of your story, and does not need to include your title.
Without further ado...
The theme for this month's competition is:
Entries should be posted in this thread, along with any comments that the readers may want to give (and comments on stories are certainly encouraged in both the competition and voting threads!) 40K, 30K, WHF, and original universes are all permitted (please note, this excludes topics such as Halo, Star Wars, Forgotten Realms, or any other non-original and non-Warhammer settings). Keep in mind, comments are more than welcome! If you catch grammar or spelling errors, the writers are all more than free to edit their piece up until the close of the competition, and that final work will be the one considered for voting. Sharing your thoughts with the writers as they come up with their works is a great way to help us, as a FanFiction community, grow as a whole.
The deadline for entries is Midnight US Eastern Standard Time (-5.00 hours for you UK folks)Wednesday, December 26, 2012. Voting will be held from 27 December - 01 January. Remember, getting your story submitted on December 8th will be just as considered by others as one submitted on December 24th! Take as much time as you need to work on your piece!
If simply being victorious over your comrades is not enough to possess you to write a story, there will be rep rewards granted to those that participate in the HOES Challenge.
Participation - 1 reputation points, everyone will receive this
3rd place - 2 reputation points
2nd place - 3 reputation points
1st place - 4 reputation points
If you have any questions, feel free to either PM me or ask in this thread.
Without further nonsense from me, let the writing begin!
hmmmmm get me thinking cap on
A Memory, Sundered
Based on "The Fall of Kher-Ys" in Codex: Chaos Daemons, and borrowing heavily from the sonnet "Grief," by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Kher-Ys is not silent, not yet. The Craftworld is utterly desolate, but oh no, it is not silent. So long as any of her people live, her corridors still ring with the remembered death cries of her people and the laughter of their slayers.
And one still lives. On a staircase in a despoiled courtyard, untouched by the ruination of her world, a white-gowned eldar maiden weeps and cradles the corpse of Kher-Ys's autarch: her father. His armor is rent and his corpse defiled. His spirit stone has been cruelly shattered and the silver wraithbone key he always wears around his neck, a finely-wrought locus of psychic power, is missing.
Human grief is an immense thing, capable of overwhelming any defenses the grieving can erect, but it is a pale thing by comparison to the true grief of an eldar. It is but warm, shallow and tempestuous water: never knowing the cold, deep sorrows to which the heart can truly sink. Hopeless grief is passionless; only those incredulous of despair, those half-taught in anguish, can possibly shriek in reproach and beat with futile fists against the fickle fates.
The maiden sits in the fading fragments and shattered shards of her world, and there can be no balm to ease her injury. As far as the eye can see, the crystalline landscape of Kher-Ys is dead. Its elegant structures are milky and discolored, and have been crazed into distorted, shattered parodies of their former beauty. The Aspect Shrines have been defiled. The sibilant, soothing song of the Infinity Circuit has died. The corpses of her people are scattered in horrific commonality: the abandoned playthings of a capricious god. She is the last, and memories of cruel laughter grant her no respite.
Why was she spared by the servants of She Who Thirsts? Why was so perfect and unflawed a soul not fought over rapaciously? Only because the greatest among the Dark Prince's servants present had already claimed her.
A shifting in the taste of the air presages his arrival: a faint and cloying musk the maiden finds achingly familiar. A gentle wash of warmth. A faint, fiery crackle. The scrape of metal upon wraithbone.
"Express grief for thy dead in a silence like to death," says the soft and tender voice she knows so well, "most like a monumental statue set in everlasting watch and moveless woe, till it crumbles to the dust beneath. Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet: if it could weep, it could arise and go."
She turns to face him: the immense, measureless blasphemy of that malign spirit possessing the Avatar of Kher-Ys. Its molten metal flesh has been twisted into a panoply of cruel barbs and foul sigils and its ever-bleeding right hand, the symbol of Khaine, has been severed. Its fires are banked and fading, no longer fueled by the orgy of destruction in which it has taken part: they shine faintly through the cracks in its ash-colored metal hide and glimmer with an avid cruelty in its eyes. When it speaks, smoke wafts between its dull, pitted lips. An ornate silver key dangles at its waist.
"Ail," she says. It is all she can say.
"Ilthania," he replies, nodding in deference. "Is not this form more fitting to my true nature? A demigod am I, now: the wrathful Young King bathed in sacred fire, capable of redeeming our declining race."
His every word is a cut across the tattered remnants of her heart, recalling the daydreams they had idly shared. Such daydreams had lured her, initially, from Kher-Ys abroad onto the Path of the Outcast. There, she had met and been bound inexorably to him: laughing Ail, beautiful Ail, compassionate Ail, whom she had thought to be a fellow Ranger. Ail, whom she had loved with the depths of the heart that only an eldar can bring to bear, and had assumed the love reciprocated. Ail, whom she had brought home to her Craftworld and inside its wards. Those wards had come crashing down, unlocked by the key at this Ail-Avatar's waist after he stolen it from the autarch's neck while the latter slept.
"Why?" Ilthania asks. She has to know.
"Secrets are my stock and trade to Keep," he replies, "but you have given me so generous a gift that I can tell you this. Among your kin, I am aptly named, and in that name lies the only reason that I need, my love: I am Ail'Slath'Sleresh, the Heartslayer."
"Your love?" she says, her voice curdled by a note of disgust and choked by the immensity of her emotions.
"My love. My purest, truest love--as befits your beauty." No smoke comes from his mouth, now, and when he extends his remaining hand, the cooling metal of his being creaks in protest. "Chaos is not a solely destructive force: the truth of Creation, the building up, is just as vital as that of Annihilation, the shattering of what has been built. Your life in wasting sorrow, now, is so very much sweeter than an abridging death."
Ilthania does not reply. What could she possibly say? Full desertness, in souls as well as countries, lies bare under the blanching, vertical eye-glare of truth in absolute.
Ail's stolen body cools further. The light in his cavernous eye sockets flickers. At last he moves again, and his still-extended left hand groans in protest as it reaches down to lightly touch her cheek. His metal fingers are cool where they touch her alabaster flesh.
Then his fires die and Ail's presence is gone. The scene is a tableau: The looming, defiled Avatar frozen in a lover's caress; the maiden sitting on the stairs; the fallen autarch, head still resting in her lap; and about them, the tragic dissolution of Kher-Ys.
After a suspended, infinite moment, Ilthania stands. She takes the key from the Avatar's waist and rests it, once more, around her father's neck. Then she departs, wandering as far as she can within the Craftworld's bounds. She seeks some unsullied place to hide herself away, but she will not find one, for the servants of the Dark Prince have been thorough in their play.
Before long, she will die. Though she eats and drinks not, it will not be deprivation that is her end. Nor will she visit harm upon her flesh, for to do as such would be to act in bitter parody of the violence of her foes.
She will die nonetheless, bearing what no heart can bear. Perhaps then, at long last, the drifting shell of Craftworld Kher-Ys will fall silent.
Thankee kindly, Boc, for picking a theme that meshed so nicely with my entry to RiaR: Silence over on the Bolthole. I had to trim it down about 50 words to fit with this slightly more stringent wordcount, but it still works quite well, I think.
Whooh, after my time tinkering with my fiction competition entry i can return once more to HOE's.
and mossy is the first lol
Word Count: 1012 (not including title)
The Kids knew nothing about war, fresh faced young enthusiastic kids, in with the new transfers from the Home World to bolster our numbers on this Emperor forsaken world. They are all eager and they are all mine to introduce to the reality of the wars, and not the romantic stories of heroism and valour that no doubt the elders tell at home.
I am Sergeant Cordax of the Nova Scotia 53rd foot sloggers. We have been on this world of Agamemnon IX for three years; the forces of the arch enemy have dug in tight and what started as so called simple battlefield skirmishes turned into entrenched warfare. It’s a cluster frag and the big bosses know that.
Not that anyone is stupid enough to voice it; I’ve seen the Commissar shoot people for less. I look to the heavens and, not for the first time, wondered if the Emperor was really with us, or if it was just some big fruck off joke. You know, the Emperor is all watching and we are taught to believe that he is everlasting. Sometimes I wonder if he is not just laughing, cause he sure as hell hasn’t heard any of my prayers for the last twenty years.
With some reluctance I look at my orders once more, we are to infiltrate the enemy lines and get back some of our men they have captured. One of them is Captain Lorenzo, our commander, I don’t have much hope getting him back, and chances are he’s dead, or at least he had better be. Cause if we bring him back and the Intelligence guys get their hands on him, or the Commissariat, he will want to be.
I light a cigar and offer up a prayer to the old man, take a last look at my squad of rookies and turn to my Corporal and shrug.
“Sarge, they are just kids, they won’t know how to do this, it’s not like the training fields at home….”
I cut him off with a look, I can see his point and I understand his statement, but in this day and age we do not have the luxuries of easing the newbies into a mission, not anymore. He understands, good ole Jockie, he always understands, and he doesn’t like it any more than I do, but he understands and with a couple of harsh words that cover his concern for the kids, he gets them to move out.
Its hells journey, it doesn’t matter how many times we do this journey or how many battlefields we cross, everyone is different and everyone is a level of hell that no one has ever been to before. No wonder half the men and women in our Imperial Guard Regiments the Imperium over end up either becoming desensitised to the acts of war, or spend the rest of their lives in a lunatic asylum, or wishing themselves dead on some other world, just for the peace from this everlasting war.
“Sarge, Sarge is we nearly there yet?”
I glance across to see one of the newbies, a young kid with eyes like fire and the name Connell stitched across his uniform, the colours don’t matter
anymore, and we’re all up to our arses in muck and shit.
“Bit eager isn’t you Connell?” I ask as I peer over the edge of the trench, he, like the others have made their first kills and I suppose it’s a good feeling for him to send one more soul back to the God-Emperors own hell.
“I just want to kill every last one of the Frackers Sarge” he enthuses “To help reclaim this world in the name of the Emperor”
“Be careful what you wish for son”
“Stick with me and do as I say and we will be toasting that when we get back”
The first to die is Macray, a young man who was our sniper, instead the sniper got caught in the back of the head, where the shot came from I have no idea, I was certain we were too far behind enemy lines to be a target.
Next to die was Jerros, a young woman whose chest opened up like a peach and splattered Jockie with blood and shit, Jockie died next with Marisa and Yves, a grenade landed near them and blew them into so many pieces I would be cleaning it out of my uniform for weeks.
“Is it the enemy?” Connell asks, terror in his voice, now it sinks in.
“Not really” I reply and cock my weapon
“The Emperor loves us all” Connell whimpered.
Without a thought I shoot him in the leg and crouch down to read his horrified face. I take the knife and draw it across his throat. They were right of course, there is rot in the company, but they keep sending me the newbies and I keep making sure they fall. Several years ago, too many now I was in a temple, an old temple, one that had never been seen before.
That’s when it happened, a being so full of martial honour and pride he showed me the true path of the warrior. I care little for the cultists that run amok in the trenches, they do not serve him like I do. I am sent with a higher purpose, ever since I was 19 I have been served with a higher purpose.
I lost my innocence on the world of Hargave, but in its place I found a reality that makes perfect sense to me. I shoot myself in the leg and the arm, to go with the other scars I have had to inflict upon myself. It will be a few days before we are found but when we are found, they will say that it was bad Intel.
I look down at the bodies and wonder how Jockie never cottoned on to my true calling, it does not matter, nothing matter, all that matters is blood for the blood god, and he does not care from where it flows.
The Enemy Within
There was a nearly imperceptible hiss and the door closed behind the aspirants. With its closure, all light from the corridor outside was quenched. The only light in the cold flagstone chamber came from servo-skulls bearing candles hovering by the shoulder of each of the assembled boys, and circling above the giant of a man that stood behind them clad in baroque armor of jet black. Occasionally, the light would catch an engraving on the flagstone walls of the room, but never well enough to make out the markings to the unaided eye.
“Your final trial,” intoned the bass voice of the Chaplain from behind the aspirants. A pair of glowing eyes pierced the darkness beyond, and the distinct sound of heavy footfalls and the scrape of steel manacles on the flagstone floor echoed. The aspirant at the fore of the group, Varnus, found his breath catching in his throat, and his heart rate increasing.
After several moments, the footfalls and the scraping stopped, and another giant man, clad in a simple robe stood before the aspirants. His hands and ankles were bound by massive chains, though he was free to walk and could outstretch his arms. They were very obviously symbolic more than practical. In one hand, he bore a set of obsidian beads, ending in a small, horned, golden skull. The Astartes spoke quietly, in a voice starkly contrasting the stern Chaplain’s. “Who is first?”
Varnus stepped forward. The Librarian outstretched his free hand, and placed it on Varnus’ forehead. There was a flash of light from the psyker’s palm, and Varnus found himself no longer standing in the cold chamber in the Librarius. He and the Librarian, who was now clad in royal blue armor, but still bearing the heavy steel manacles, stood alone on a mountaintop.
“I am Erias, and I am a witch,” said the Librarian softly. “You are Varnus, Aspirant of the Lions Rampant Chapter.” Varnus nodded, looking around. Warm fog swirled about both of them, and he could see little past it.
“Where are we?” asked Varnus.
“You tell me,” replied Erias. “You are in control here.” Varnus appeared confused, and looked up at the tired features of the Librarian. “We are in your mind,” explained the witch.
“What am I supposed to do, Brother Erias?” asked Varnus, finding no sign of anything other than endless swirling mists, the distinctive thin air of a mountaintop, and the stone beneath his feet.
“What do you think you are capable of, Varnus? Shall we see?” said Erias.
Varnus found himself now standing on broken earth, churned mud saturated with the blood of slain men before him. He felt larger, and stronger, and distinctly powerful. He became aware of the weight of a sword in his hands. He looked up, and men fled before him. Varnus felt a fire building within him, and without consciously trying, he outstretched one of his hands, and cerulean lightning leapt forth from his fingertips. One of the men fleeing from him was struck squarely in the back and instantly reduced to little more than ash.
Varnus became distinctly aware of himself being disembodied, and saw himself from several yards away. Horns jutted from his brow, and his eyes glowed an unnatural color. He continued throwing psychic lightning, contemptuously slaughtering those who stood before him in witchfire. He moved with inhuman speed, and his shadow appeared to move of its own accord behind him. Everything about this version of himself was utterly monstrous and plainly wrong.
“I don’t understand,” said Varnus.
“This is your soul,” said Erias. “Mine is little different. It is unnatural. It is flawed. It is dangerous.” The vision ended, and the pair stood alone on the mountaintop again. Several moments passed, and Erias spoke again. “Do you understand what will happen now?”
Varnus felt his stomach knotting. He pushed down the growing rage and disbelief at what the Librarian had shown him. “I am not like you,” said Varnus, voice wavering.
“I wish things were different, Varnus,” said Erias. “I will tell you what I tell all who come before me like this—you are innocent. You are dangerous. But you are innocent. You have not become that monster you saw, and soon, Chaplain Loren will ensure you never do. Had you only endured the trials of the Black Ships, and not come before us like this, perhaps you would have found a place amongst these weary ranks of the Librarius.”
“Why does it matter?” snapped Varnus. “You can’t know the future! What does it matter if I might be able to do the things you showed me?”
The mists surrounding Varnus and Erias faded, and a sky the color of freshly-spilled blood appeared. Winged monsters swept across it, gnawing at men and women clutched in gore-slicked talons. The thunderclap of bolter fire punctuated the relative silence of the mountaintop. It came from white-armored Astartes, trimmed in green—Lions Rampant. But their helmets were horned, and the trim was irregular and ended in arrows and spikes. At their fore was the same twisted version of Varnus, clad in similar armor. Great, leathery wings came from his back, and he towered over the other Astartes. Great lightning strikes flew from his hands, and before them, men bearing the Aquila on their breasts perished.
“This is why it matters,” said Erias, shaking his head. “This is one of several possible futures. But in every one, you are a witch, just as I,” he said. “Here, you have damned us all. Though you have not yet done anything wrong, we cannot risk this becoming so.”
The vision of hell ended. The mountaintop faded, and Varnus became distinctly aware of the glow from Erias’ palm receding. He found himself standing in the chamber in the Librarius, covered in a cold sweat. Warding runes glowed on the walls, stifling the psychic energy unleashed moments before. Erias looked to the Chaplain, quietly said, “There is psychic potential,” and then looked down at the flagstone floor.
Varnus turned around, and found the Chaplain’s bolt pistol leveled at his forehead. “The Emperor forgives you,” said Chaplain Loren, and pulled the trigger.
1100 words not including title
I could feel my lifeblood flowing from my wounds. I pulled my hand before my face and saw, in the dim light, the crimson blood that covered it. I knew I was in bad shape. I could feel blood pumping from my head but that wasn’t the worst. The worst part was that I couldn’t feel my legs.
I lay back my head and it fell into the thick mud that was sucking my body under as I lay there dying. I doubted they would ever find my body, the mud I had fought upon becoming my grave. Maybe no-one would even look for me. I was no-one, just one guardsman among billions. And I was dying, like millions of my kind had before me. I never saw the enemy that had shot me down. All I had felt was the pain as the bullets ate away my lower body and knocked into the mud.
Maybe it was a blessing. With the blood in my eyes I never saw the enemy surge forwards and slaughter my platoon around me, wicked blades cutting the young and innocent men I had known for so long. Somehow I survived, but I almost wish I hadn’t. Now there was no-one to end my suffering as I lay there, dying.
My eyes grew heavy and I could almost see death, like some dark cloud descending upon me. I gave in; there was nothing left for me in the mortal world. My eyes closed and my fevered and dying mind flung me into a warped dreamland from whence I would never return.
I knew what I would see even before the darkness cleared. The sun was shining, just like it had been on that day so many years ago. I had seen this sequence in my nightmares near every night since it had happened, I could remember every detail. I looked around me and sure enough saw the cursed squad that used to be my own.
To my left ran Cooper, his uniform as clean and smart as it had been the day he died, the vox-caster slung upon his back. I could see his lips moving quickly, barking orders and information. It made no difference.
I turned to my right and like I knew I would I saw Lucas running. He turned to me and smiled, like he had every night since he had died. A tear came to my eye. Lucas had been my friend since I was no more than five summers old and I had to watch him die a thousand times.
Just ahead of me I could see the tall figure of the Seargent. Seargent Thompson, known as the Bear by his platoon for his strength and determination. It was said that when he had something in his mouth there was nothing that could make him let go. I watched with dread as his head began to turn back to me. I tried to look away but I couldn’t. My eyes were drawn to the man who had taught me all I knew.
Thompson’s head exploded in an instant. Blood and brains splattered across my face. The suddenly headless corpse crumbled to the ground like a ragdoll.
I turned to Lucas only to see his smiling face urn to one of excruciating pain. I could only watch as the gunfire cut him nearly clean in half, his blood and guts spilling forth as he fell forwards. I heard myself cry out and throw myself to the ground. I landed hard upon the stone streets of the village.
I looked across and saw Cooper lean forwards only to spin backwards and pirouette. Although I knew the truth I could not draw my eyes away from the spinning man. And then I saw once more the deep bullet wound that had near ripped his shoulder clean off. He was dead before he hit the ground.
I shouted again but with the death of Cooper I was all alone with no-one to help me. I scrambled to my feet even as gunfire rained down around me. I ran towards the nearest doorway, arms over my head to try and protect myself from the red-hot death that was raining down form an unseen enemy.
I dived forwards and slid into the small doorway that at least provided me some shelter from the gunfire. I looked out across the blood-stained street, littered with the bodies of my friends and comrades. They were all dead.
I took deep gulps of air in an attempt to gain some control over my frantic heart that beat so fast I feared it would break through my chest. I managed to slow it to at least a point where I no longer feared a heart attack and listened. The gunfire had stopped and the village was once more still and silent as the grave.
Over the still air I heard high voices. At first I suspected some foul alien but upon listening to their words I realized I could understand them. They were talking in the same tongue as I did myself. It was then I realized that I faced children. It had been a child that had shot down Lucas A child that had wiped out the rest of my squad. My mind whirled.
My training demanded I avenge my comrades to the best of my ability and that would mean moving to attack these child soldiers. But my heart was screaming that they were just children, they couldn’t have any idea what they were doing. However my mind was quickly made up for me.
I heard footsteps approaching and flattened my back against the rickety doorway I was sheltering in. I peered out and saw two small children, neither more than 11 summers old, walking along the street, clutching autoguns in their hands. I watched with held breath as they approached the bodies of my squad.
I saw red when one boy leant over and spat upon the corpse of Lucas and laughed with his friend. Not a simple childlike laugh, but a laugh of pure malice. These children knew what they were doing, and liked it.
When I woke up I was lying in a hospital ward. I later learned that I had been found beside the bodies of two infant children. No-one ever looked at me in the same way again. My simple innocence was lost that day. And that day would plague me for the rest of my life.
My dreams slowly drifted to deep sleep. A deep sleep I knew I would never wake from.
romero whats your title and word count?
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