Heresy-Online's Expeditious Stories 16-03: Serenity
Welcome to the year's third
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 and be awarded the Lexicanum's Crest award for Fiction excellence!
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:
SerenityEntries 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 GMT, 31 March 2016. Remember, getting your story submitted on 22nd will be just as considered by others as one submitted on 11th! Take as much time as you need to work on your piece! Any entries submitted past the deadline will not be considered in the competition, regardless of whether the voting thread is posted or not.
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 and Lexicanum's Crest
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in this thread.
Without further nonsense from me, let the writing begin!
I have a really unique idea for a story about a group of misfits who all live on a rickety ship and fly around the universe being chased by the military.
One of them is a super-soldier, another a priest, a doctor....
What do you think? :grin:
So, this was what sprang to mind. 963 words.
It drifted slowly through the vast wilderness, knowing little of its destination. Somewhere, far ahead in the blackness was a soft, golden light that beckoned it onwards, but before that there was food, and the brief touch of warmth and light in the cold dark. Around it bustled other, smaller creatures, their lives impossibly short and frantic by its glacial standards, as well as a few others of its own kind. Their company was neither welcome nor unwelcome. It was merely there.
When food was close, the tiny creatures became even more excitable. They hurried and bustled around, swarming in their haste to begin the preparations. Dimly, it was aware of countless millions of the little ones as they were spawned deep within its gut, before the gentlest of contractions hurled them away to their doom. It was of no more import than was a sneeze to a man. That the last few million miles to the food passed the slowest was barely noticeable to it, but in its own way it enjoyed the feeding, anticipated it. Every so often it would arrive only to find a cold, dead rock, and there would be the merest tinge of disappointment before the journey began again. There were less of the little ones in those times.
Very rarely, it would be attacked on the way. Tiny beings that were not of its body would invade the massive form, savage battles erupting in capillaries and veins, the alien sounds of language and gunfire echoing through bivalve and gland. Usually, these events went completely unnoticed, as hordes of antibody-beasts rushed to the site of the infection and swiftly excised it, though occasionally it would be irritated enough that a vast muscle would contract and crush the interlopers, or a tide of digestive bio-acid would sweep them away. Even then, it paid little attention and the event was soon forgotten.
Now and again, there was the touch of something greater. Another mind, one mightier and more powerful than any the galaxy had known, would touch upon it, gently, and steer it. Usually, this brought it closer to the food, but every now and then the great mind would make it turn away. There would be the faint sensation of danger, or of revulsion, of an overwhelming need to avoid some place or thing. It obeyed without argument or hesitation. There was never any question of doing anything else. But then came a new command, or at least one it had not received for thousands of years.
At that impulse, instincts long-dormant stirred into action. Sensory feelers, pheromone receptors, ocular organs too complex and wide-spectrum to ever be called mere eyes and ancillary brains sensitive to the merest psychic disturbance quivered out of aeon-long torpor. Ahead was another, much like itself, but this one smaller and made of the cold, dead metals of the invader. The Other too, was attended by many tiny forms, similarly lifeless but each containing faint embers. And then, for the first time in a millennia, there was pain, pain in every colour and flavour, glaring, flaring beams of light, speeding slugs of ceramite and adamantium, barrelling, diamond-tipped projectiles. All over its body, great chunks of precious flesh were torn away into the void even as it and its fellows fought back, weapon-sphincters gaping open. Back towards the Other flew gobbets of mucous-wrapped bio-acids, mindless ultra-borer drones, and blasts of sheer psychic agony. Metal joined meat, spilling into the blackness.
As the two swarms closed, they began to die. One of its fellows, leading the herd, shuddered in its death agony, and with a last, terrible convulsion lashed an Other in two before finally rupturing. A great cloud of its juices spilled into space, fogging augurs and clogging guns even as it screened the hordes of tiny creatures that rushed in to harvest the precious bio-matter. Seeing, feeling the death of its brood mate, it went berserk, tentacles the size of star-bases uncoiling and whipping in languid frenzy through the mass of the Others, smashing them, rending them, tearing them apart. Amid the confusion of a melee too chaotic to ever be called a battle, its mighty mind suddenly found a tiny tendril of thought. Still raging, it followed it back to the source, to a tiny, self-important speck of flesh at the heart of the largest Other. The weak little thing had the briefest of seconds to register the shock of contact before the full force of its furious hatred struck fatally home. Moments later, and it was upon the Other, seizing it in a fatal embrace, crushing the semblance of life out of the thing even as the little ones stormed in to begin their own work, scuttling through dark metal halls and slaying all they found. Plasma fire blazed into the void as the Other was ripped in two and then a sudden flare of panic- beware, flee! It hurled the remains of the Other away, even as the metal beast's flaming heart went critical and fire blossomed one final time in the darkness. And then, once again, there was silence, and peace.
The herd stayed there for a while, as the little ones went back and forth, stripping flesh from metal, their own fallen and the Other alike. Much had been lost, and it would need to feed soon. But the soothing touch of the great mind was there, had always been there, and had plucked a single, succulent morsel of knowledge from the speck. Baal.
The journey would be long, yet as nothing compared to the long trek to the golden light. It returned to its slumber, sense-organs hibernating, weapon-sphincters closed. Soon there would be calm, and quiet, and peace, and food.
It would have all it ever wanted.
You could tour the Whole Damn 'Verse and not come up with a better premise!
I should have known you're a Browncoat.
The Last Tempest
Word Count: 1008
Aurellan parted the very clouds with an unfurling of his mighty wings. The bright sun’s rays crested over the horizon and glistened on the Dragon’s crimson scales, gnarled and scarred in a hundred places, but unbroken. Arch-Mage Eatheron clung to the reigns for dear life, though he knew he would not fall from Aurellan’s hunched back. Ancient mounts such as these could never be truly tamed and possessed an intellect far exceeding mortal elves. The High Elf of Caledor never once needed to utter a command, because Aurellan could always read the battlefield by himself.
He knew what needed to be done.
Lances of sorcerous magic hurtled from the valley so far below, Eatheron could not tell friend or foe from such a height. But Aurellan quivered as the dark magic crunched into his mighty hide. He shook the sharpened horns on his great head as if annoyed and nose-dived into the chaos without a word of consent from his ‘master’.
The battle in the valley was a remarkably miserable chronicle in the Phoenix King Finubar’s campaign against the Druchii. A glittering host of three thousand elven knights marched across the lowland on the right flank. They advanced over countless fallen no doubt left in their destructive wake, and into the teeth of a counter-attacking Witch-Cult. The center of the battle had become a killing field. High Elf archers and Druchii crossbows traded blows across entrenched positions. Occasionally, one faction would sally out of their fortifications and charge the other.
It was upon the left flank that the fight had turned truly dire. Aurellan unhinged his maw in a great roar, a challenge to the Black Dragon that wreaked havoc down there. Eatheron traced the volleys of dark magic to the area as well, and could barely make out the coven of sorcerers holding a great hill. He observed the Black Dragon unleash purplish flames upon a great host of spearmen with grim fascination.
Eatheron stroked Aurellan’s gnarled scales. “I’m not certain that we can beat that, friend.”
Aurellan unleashed a low growl and spread its wings for descent.
Eatheron shrugged. “If you suppose.” He began to drone in the archaic tongue, his hand lifted toward the sun even as flames crackled into life upon his fingers.
The Druchii upon the great hill, to their credit, did not flee at the sight of a Sun Dragon bearing down upon them. Several lines of crossbowmen formed ranks around a dozen Dark Elf Sorceresses and prepared themselves to fire on their masters’ orders.
“Your fate is at hand!” The Arch-Mage unleashed his spell with a swipe of his hand in the same moment that Aurellan belched liquid fire from his maw.
Aurellan’s mighty claws rent the earth where it had been scorched, crushing the burned and dying beneath them. Eatheron unleashed another fireball into the midst of dead Sorceresses for good measure. He shifted his attention toward the Black Dragon waiting for him at the peak of the hill. The ancient beast beneath him growled deep within his throat and stalked closer to its prey.
As Eatheron made to unleash an infernal spell of fire and magic at the darkly armored figure atop twisted dragon, something seized him. An overwhelming sensation of serenity eclipsed his wrath as if a shadow looming over him. Thoughts that were no longer his own whispered gently on the fringes of his mind, fingering their way into his inner psyche. Even Aurellan paused in his primitive assertion of dominance to cast a quizzical glare at the Arch-Mage.
We must never allow war to define who we are. We look to Isha, Mother of the Elves, for our future. Every tear shed in sorrow is a forest reborn, a soul forged anew. As our Goddess weeps over the senseless destruction of the elves, the flames of war are guttered… even Malekith’s eternal hatred can be undone.
The rider atop the Black Dragon barked a command and the twisted beast charged forward. Aurellan turned and split his maw with a geyser of flames, but his foe countered with breath of his own. Eatheron found himself clinging to the reigns for dear life as his mount stood upon it’s hind legs and fell upon the foe as it tackled into him. Wicked talons harder than diamond rent through the Black Dragon’s veiny grey wings. Aurellan’s titanic maw snapped shut around the back of the creature’s neck, hard enough to draw blood through the hardened scales.
A shooting star is the lance of Asuryan striking across the heavens, destined always to find its mark. To scholars, it is nothing more than an omen, a sign of the times we live in. Those who have dedicated their lives to studying the arcane can unleash their true purpose and bend the heavens to their will!
The Black Dragon slammed into Aurellan with all of its strength, enough force to throw the Sun Dragon off of its hind legs and it send it hurtling down the hillside. The next moments were a blur of earth, mud, and flames as Eatheron was thrown around in his saddle. The sheer momentum of
Aurellan was enough to break him like a ragdoll. The sound of ribs breaking and his leg bones cracking were audible even over the surprised screams of his mount.
The world halted in its spinning almost as quickly as it began. Eatheron peered into the sky, his lower body pinned against the earth beneath Aurellan. All he could see through the smoke and rain was the looming silhouette of the triumphant Druchii commander atop his monstrous mount. The raging storm had broken up enough that he could see dusk on the horizon… and the bright trail of a shooting star.
Eatheron reached out for the shooting star with broken fingers and a voice that was not his own spoke through his lips. He was no longer controlling his body, but he was still aware that was alive. Was this possession?
Death is only but the Gods’ bridge to eternity.
The Quiet Life
The Quiet Life
The sun was rising and dawn had arrived. A new day. A time of reflection, a time to enjoy peace.
Carsten Ottosen raised his glass in salute and muttered a toast to fallen comrades. Every day, for the last ten years, he had carried out this ritual, in all weathers, rain, sun or snow.
He leant heavily on the railing and looked down at the valley before him. It was covered in thick fog which heralded the arrival of spring.
“They will be late coming in today.” He was thinking of the small fishing fleet that hunted the Stora Swords in these waters. They would be struggling to negotiate the rocks and banks in that impenetrable white wall.
He sighed and sat back in his carpet-backed chair and stared up into the sky above.
The large moon Thieon sat there like a pale blue ball, always there, always watching. Its ubiquitous ring of ice particles and dust were glittering and sparkling like exotic jewels.
“Perfect.” He hummed, drawing smoke into his lungs from a long stogie. “This is what it is all about.”
They will be the death of you.
He smiled at the memory of his wife, gone two years since.
It was another ritual that they would play out, and he missed it terribly. He would stand there every morning with his Amsec and cigar and thank the Emperor for bringing him to this idyllic pasture. His wife would cuss him, and he would always reply.
“I should have died many times before. Now every day is a blessing.”
The stars were still out, which was unusual. Ottosen stood up, his augmentic leg creaking through lack of maintenance.
Something was not quite right and it took a while for Ottosen to take it all in.
They were not stars, they were ships, large ships in orbit. He smiled.
“Well that is different.”
He noticed the flashes and lines and raised an eyebrow.
“Fleet action?”. Ottosen had seen enough of them in his service in the Guard to know. “An orbital battle… here?”
He felt the vibrations, but heard nothing. There were flashes in the fog over by the headland, near the old lighthouse. Ottosen knew it was not lightning, it was something far worse.
“Well, well,” he smiled. “So today is the day.” He gulped down the contents of his glass and hastily refilled it, staring at the bottle as if he had never seen it before.
“I knew I brought you out for something.”
The vibrations became more pronounced and he could feel static in the air around him. There was a bright flash in the sky and Ottosen knew that the plasma reactors on board one of the ships had just gone supernova. He raised his glass and watched a long white vapour trail appear in the atmosphere above, quickly followed by thousands of others as the vessel broke up and was incinerated.
There were now figures in the fog, three of them walking in an awkward gait. It was an optical illusion of course, as the fog was several metres deep, but there were definitely figures advancing towards his hilltop retreat.
Figures the size of small buildings.
“Emperor’s teeth,” he gasped. “Frickin’ Titans!”
Ottosen grabbed the bottle and topped up his glass once more and waved it above his head like a trophy. The Amsec was clearly beginning to have an effect on his faculties. He glanced down to the left and saw the water surface on his neighbour’s pool vibrating like the water in a boiling kettle.
A mountain of glistening metal slammed down into it like a meteor, displacing its contents like a mini tsunami and shattering the paving stones around the pool as if they were made of glass.
He could not help but chuckle rather than gasp with shock. He hated his neighbour with a passion. Always sticking his nose up at the old campaigner and never having done a single day’s service for the Emperor.
The whole pool area had been replaced by the squat figure of a Warhound Titan, resplendent in red and gold livery and bearing the mailed fist emblem of Mortem Domini, The Death Lord Titan Legion.
Ottosen was barely able to register the vision he saw before him, as to his right, his thousand-year-old olive grove came crashing down into his ornamental garden in a crescendo of noise, dust and utter destruction.
He turned to face the business end of a large multi-barrelled weapon the size of a Rhino transport, and if on cue there was an ear-splitting whine as the Gattling-blaster powered up to maximum revolutions.
All Ottosen could do was raise his glass to the Princeps and his crew and offer a respectful nod.
A Goth-Class Reaver, a Titan killer.
He looked around for the third pack member and knew that another Warhound was probably in a flanking position and waiting in ambush.
As if on cue there was a series of bright flashes to his right and then the Warhound in the pool area began hammering away at the lead enemy Titan with its own weapons.
With an ear-splitting roar, the Reaver added its Gattling-blaster and a clutch of missiles to the withering fire, which tore away what remained of the enemy’s shields.
After what seemed an eternity the Reaver finally loosened the Melta Cannon, ripping away large chunks of exposed armour and tearing off one of the enemy’s primary weapons. A second later the enemy titan exploded in a bright orange fireball.
Ottosen punched his fist into the air, all pretence of decorum forgotten.
The Reavers command cockpit seemed to turn towards him and nod acknowledgement, before stomping forward to engage the other engines.
“Good bye my friend.” Ottosen smiled. “If Gods walked this earth…” A stiff breeze from out at sea brushed his face. It tasted of promethium and burnt metal.
“That should clear the fog.”
The Reavers battle banner was now fully unfurled and Ottosen saw its battle honours and campaigns and finally the old Titans name was revealed;
Serenitatem – Serenity.
The Inevitable- 978 Words
“Alright. We’re going.” announced Lieutenant Schonn, drawing his laspistol with shaking hands. “Get ready.”
It wasn’t an unexpected order. Hell, they’d been sitting in this damned trench doing the same damned thing for… how long now? Aric checked the chronometer on his wrist reflexively, even though he knew the thing was broken. It felt like they’d been there forever, anyway. The lieutenant knew it, Aric knew it, every other trooper in the platoon knew it- this was pointless. But it was what was going to happen.
Schonn was the only proper officer left. The captain had bought it early on, in the first wave. First lieutenant had been executed by Commissar Nikov for refusing to send his men on another wave. Nikov was dead out there in no-man’s-land, after leading that charge out. There were only two platoons, maybe, left out of the original company. And they all knew damn well that they’d just keep getting thrown at the heretics until there was nothing left.
Aric plucked the lho-stick from between his lips, mashing it into the gritty dirt of the trench. He’d come to terms with this hours back. Or days. He didn’t know how long, but it really didn’t matter when this was the endpoint, did it?
The other troopers were pushing bayonets into the trench walls, securing letters and keepsakes for their loved ones. Some were offering up prayers to the Emperor. Some were fortifying themselves with the last of their secreted-away illicit liquor. All their eyes were dead, flat. They weren’t humans anymore, just machines.
Aric knew he looked the same way, if not more so. He didn’t have any loved ones to write to. Didn’t have any words for the Emperor above. No need for drink, either. He was already numb inside.
He brought his lasgun up, wrapping his hand around the battered metal of the handguard. It had felt like he was dreaming up until now, like he’d been watching someone else move his body from a distance, but now he was present. Looking out of his own eyes, moving his own hands. That was refreshing.
Maybe it was just that now the outcome was sure. He chuckled at that- maybe whatever had been working his body before had just decided that he couldn’t screw anything up now, so he could be left to his own devices.
Retrieving his bayonet from where it hung at his belt, Aric reached up and fixed it onto the barrel of his lasgun. Most of the other troopers weren’t bothering, knowing that they’d be dead far before they made it to the heretic lines. Hell, fixing bayonets at this point was just pure optimism.
“Men, you’re…” Schonn started, voice trembling and trailing off. He took a deep breath, eyes closed, fist clenching over the whistle he held in his left hand. “You’re men of Vesstri Ultra. You’re the Tenth Light Infantry.” Another breath, trying to quell the shaking. “Don’t forget it.”
The troopers prepared, propping their lasguns up on the trench wall, steeling themselves to climb up. There were still a few muttering prayers, but most of them had just gone silent. Soon, the prayers too dissipated, leaving nothing but calm in their wake.
The calm before the storm. Aric hated to be cliche, but that was what it was. In seconds, there’d be chaos. Light, sound, screaming, dying. But now, just… silence.
Lieutenant Schonn broke it, lifting his laspistol above his head and clicking the safety off with a surprisingly loud click. Aric glanced back, seeing him lift the whistle to his mouth with shaky hands. This was really it, then.
Schonn blew the whistle. There was a great shout, and what remained of the Vesstri Tenth Light Infantry surged up over the top.
Las-fire filled the air, the chugging crash of a heavy bolter complementing the sharp cracks of lasguns. The trooper to Aric’s left caught two las-bolts as soon as he cleared the trench, collapsing face-first into the dust and the piled bodies of the first three waves. The trooper to his right made it a bit further, maybe five steps, but then detonated suddenly, struck by a bolter shell.
Fifteen paces out, they’d lost at least half of their little force. Aric had his lasgun up, set to full auto, panning it about to spray the enemy lines with bolts. Didn’t do much, but it didn’t matter, did it?
Hell, he’d thought it’d be chaos, but it was actually peaceful. Sure, there were his comrades dying left and right, ripped to pieces and blown to shreds, but it was the best kind of peace. He didn’t have to worry about anything anymore.
Aric smiled. He’d dreaded going over throughout most of the battle, and then he’d realized that it was gonna happen anyway and come to terms with it. Now it was different. All choice taken out of his hands, all worries whisked away. Tranquillity. All he had to do was go forwards. That was all that was required.
Schonn was alongside him now, screaming incoherently and snapping las-bolts as quickly as he could. Aric turned his smile upon the lieutenant for a brief moment, seeing a crimson bolt take half his head off, before returning his eyes to the goal.
The weapons fire was dying off now. Aric realized that although he was still pumping the trigger on his weapon, it simply clicked uselessly- he’d expended the power cell already. Reaching down, he retrieved a new one from his belt.
Something struck him in the chest; ignoring it, he fumbled with the power cell. Damn thing wouldn’t go in. Another impact, and the weapon fell from suddenly nerveless fingers. He slowed to a stop, looking for where it had fallen, and then realized that all he could see was clouds.
The sky was beautiful. Shades of grey and white, mixing together.
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