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It's Friday, so you know what to do /tg/ - the Storythread is back again and in need of your writing. The spookiest day of the year is almost here, so this week anything Halloween related is particularly appreciated (but not required, though).

If you have /tg/ related stories to post, post them here, and maybe some kind anon will give you feedback (or at least acknowledge that someone did actually read it, which let's face it is what writefags really want).

If you don't have a story ready then I and other anons will be posting pictures throughout the thread for you to test your writing skills on. Or if you have some other inspiration building up inside, compelling you to write a story, feel free to empty your brain into this thread. It may be a campaign setting you've played, it may be a book you read, or it may just be that a daemon is visiting you in your sleep to fill your dreams with wonders and horrors. Whatever it is, your story is welcome here.

As much as this is about encouraging people to write, Storythreads are story-oriented (well duh). Therefore character bios, greentexts, recollections of games you played, general snippets of writing, etc, etc, can go elsewhere.

Remember that writefags love to have feedback on their work. Writing takes a long time, especially stories that go over several posts, and it can be really depressing when no one even seems to read it (and the writer won't know you read it unless you leave a comment).

And since writing takes a long time remember to keep the thread bumped. Pics are good, feedback is better.

Last week's thread can still be found in the archive here:
and will be around until sometime next Friday morning.

And finally, don't forget to check out past stories on our wiki page:
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I think I'll start off by reposting what I was working on in the last thread; I wanted to do a few edits and in any case I doubt anyone got as far as reading the ending.

Skrritz of Clan Eshin was not a patient rat. He did not like waiting. In Clan Eshin famed for it's oblique and subtle approach to warfare, this should have been something of a handicap. A trainee assassin of the Eshin would be expected to be able to find a suitable tunnel or hole and there wait motionless for days until their target passed close enough for them to strike. Skrritz had passed this test, of course - failure is the deadliest poison of all, went the Eshin saying - but he had hated every minute of it. His wiry, almost skeletal frame, bespoke the sort of neurotic energy that gave rise to numerous tics and twitches. Indeed, he had come close to cutting his tail off at one point just so that he wouldn't have to deal with the thing wriggling around behind him like a worm on a hook. No, Skrritz was not a natural talent when it came to the Eshin's favoured combat tactics.

He made up for this deficiency by being very, very deadly.

As numerous rivals had discovered over the years, all that pent up energy meant that Skrritz was blisteringly fast even by Skaven standards. The ratmen, even in clans less stealth oriented than Eshin, always regarded speed and cunning more highly than brute strength. Skrritz had therefore risen high in the ranks of Clan Eshin, with his snake-like reflexes complimented (though not overburdened) by a certain degree of vicious intelligence. Ultimately, attitude was far less important than results - the only result that any Skaven cared about was that the enemy was dead and they weren't. And there was trail of corpses that could stretch from one end of the Under-Empire to the other that testified which side of that equation Skrritz was on.

Success had its problems though.

Or opportunities, depending on which way you looked at it. As with any trade, the more an assassin succeeded the greater the rewards - and the harder the tasks he got given. The Masters of Clan Eshin had handed him some dangerous assignments before, naturally, but lately Skrritz had been starting to wonder if they were actively trying to kill him. Or rather, since all Skaven wondered this about every other Skaven all the time, it would be more accurate to say that Skrritz was starting to wonder if they would actually succeed. There was no option to refuse his orders of course - or rather, there was, but Skrritz didn't fancy being handed over to Clan Moulder to aid them in their experiments.

His latest mission was that insufferable combination of extremely tedious and downright suicidal. He had been instructed by his superiors in Clan Eshin to make his way, through the tunnels of the Skaven's Under-Empire, to an isolated yet well-fortified manor house in the wilds of Osterland, on the Empire's easternmost reaches. He was to infiltrate the cellars of said manor house, by whatever means were available, and there wait undetected for however long it took his target to arrive. If the target arrived, that is - there was no guarantee that he wouldn't change his plans. But assuming the target did show up at some point Skrritz was to kill him without leaving any sign of Skaven involvement. In and of itself, this mission brief wasn't particularly unusual - although Skrrizt was more used to eliminating rival Skaven than dealing with the man-things that occupied the over-world. What set the mission apart was the nature of the target.

He had been instructed to assassinate the Emperor Karl-Franz.

Skrritz did not, as such, have any idea who the Emperor Karl-Franz was. As previously noted he had not had much reason to concern himself with the goings on of the surface world before. But after some extremely cautious and circumspect enquiries he had come to the impression that in human terms, Karl-Franz was roughly equivalent to one of the members of the Skaven Under-Empire's ruling Council of Thirteen. At this point, Skrritz performed what might charitably be called a sudden burst of scent marking.

Not that the man-thing was likely to be quite as well guarded as one of the Council of Thirteen - no amount of foresight from anything so coddled as a soft, pink human could ever match the rabid paranoia of the upper echelons of Skaven society. But still, being sent to eliminate literally the most well-guarded human in the entire world left Skrritz even more twitchy than usual. Not that success was impossible - he was, after all, an extremely effective assassin - but the calculus of survival did start to turn from considering possible escape routes to weighing the difference between getting executed for failure and being executed for disobedience. In the end, he had decided that whatever death the man-thing's bodyguards provided him would almost certainly be less painful that what the Masters of Clan Eshin had to offer (Skaven managerial strategy lesson one). He also debated with himself the idea simply running, but didn't bother wasting too much mental effort on that.

No one outran Clan Eshin.

Not for long, at least. At some point postponing death for even a few days might start to look more attractive, but Skrritz had shelved that idea and concentrated on learning as much as he could in the hope that somehow he might be able to complete (and survive) his mission. And thus he had discovered that he was not the only one being given this assignment.

Several other senior assassins of Clan Eshin were also being tasked with causing the death of the human chieftain, by whatever means were available to them. Further enquiries revealed that the Masters did not in fact know precisely where the target would be. The origin of Skrritz's predicament had begun when one of the lesser clans affiliated with Clan Eshin, with territory running under part of Ostermark, had reported to their benefactors that the Emperor had been spotted by their spies. He was taking an inspection tour of the fortresses of Empire's eastern defences, which guarded against the horrors that lay in the World's Edge Mountains and beyond (of course, little did the humans know of the horrors that lay beneath their very feet).

The fortresses themselves were nigh impregnable. However, between fortresses lay open country - long empty roads with few settlements and fewer defences. Karl-Franz's retinue was still formidable, of course - too formidable for a simple ambush. But he was still far more vulnerable travelling the roads of the eastern frontier than he ever would be in the heart of his Empire, and perhaps a single assassin would be able to slip through the Emperor's weakened security; chances like this did not come often.

Clan Eshin's spies could not, however, discern the exact route the Emperor's party would take (which resulted in the far from pleasant deaths of said spies). However, the Masters of Clan Eshin reasoned that the ruler of a realm as large as the Empire would not wish to be away from his capital, Altdorf, for long, lest another chief claim his position. And while this reasoning betrayed a certain bias in their understanding of human politics they were not that far from the truth. They knew where the Emperor was, and where he was going to be, and thus they were able to make an educated guess about the roads he was most likely to take and the places he was most likely to stop at.

In order to have the best chance of evading the Emperor's bodyguards, Eshin's agents would have to reach their assigned locations well in advance in order to infiltrate them before security increased for the Emperor's arrival. And so the Masters of Clan Eshin had dispatched assassins - including Skrritz - to points across Ostermark, hopefully covering all possible routes that the Emperor could take on his months-long journey back to Altdorf. This was good news for Skrritz, for even his superiors were hardly likely to blame him if the Emperor chose a different route, one that bypassed his own particular station. His death or survival would therefore apparently come down to a simple matter of luck, and the whim of Karl-Franz. As long as the Emperor's route bypassed him he would be safe; otherwise Skrritz would most likely die on the blades of the Emperor's bodyguards.

Thus Skrritz had found himself holed up in the cellars of a semi-abandoned manor house on the road from Schwarzburg fortress to the town of Essen. Whichever lord it belonged to was clearly not in residence, and moreover had not been for some time. Hardly surprising, given how desolate and remote the area was. The only inhabitant was an elderly caretaker who was decaying nearly as badly as the house itself. Skrritz had made his way to the manor from the nearest Skaven tunnel by night, and had silently slipped into the cellar without revealing his presence to the manor's single inhabitant (hardly a challenge; a rat-ogre could have slipped past the manor's caretaker). The cellar itself was entombed in decades' worth of dust, and was so filthy that even rats (or at least rats who had a choice) would avoid it. All in all it was just about the last place anyone would expect to find the ruler of anything, let alone the Empire.

This had pleased Skrritz for all of a minute before he realised that, if those responsible for Karl-Franz's security had any sense at all, the manor was exactly the sort of place that they would be planning on using as lodgings for the journey back to Altdorf.

Still, after the first few days there was still no sign that there might be an Emperor approaching. Skrritz had kept himself hidden in the cellar, listening to the caretaker as he pottered about above doing whatever it was that humans did. Only once in the first week did the old man come down into the cellar, to retrieve some candles that were stored there, and Skrritz had easily been able to remain out of sight, lurking in the shadows beyond the edge of the flickering candlelight.

The rest of the time Skrritz didn't even have to make much of an effort to be quiet; neither the tapping off his tail nor the clicking of his claws on the granite flagstones seemed to be registered by the caretaker. One night Skrritz left the cellar and scouted out the rest of the mansion, making sure he memorised the layout, all while the caretaker lay sound asleep. He didn't leave again after that, however; he was wary of leaving his scent behind. The man-things might lack any meaningful sense of smell by Skaven standards, but they often brought their nasty, rat-hunting dogs along with them. Dogs would most certainly detect the Skaven's damp, rancid aroma.

Skrritz hated being stuck in that cellar. Even if it didn't take any particular effort to remain hidden, he did not cope well with enforced leisure. After about the fifth day he was ready to slaughter the caretaker just to relieve the boredom - and to stop the relentless clump of those agonisingly slow feet on the floors above. He refrained from giving himself away, however, and instead counted his blessings; it appeared that the Horned Rat had answered his prayers and directed the manling chief on a different road.

With any luck, the unfortunate disciple of Clan Eshin that lay in his path would be one of Skrritz's rivals - which they all were, in fact, so he was doubly lucky.

On the seventh day, however, a change occurred. More humans arrived - only two, though. Certainly not a whole Imperial retinue. Still, Skrritz was forced to become more circumspect in his concealment efforts. From the sound of their voices these man-things were neither old nor weak, and from the way they clanked as they walked they wore amour. Warriors, or something similar. Skrritz did not like this development. At first they simply talked with the old man - Skrritz couldn't get close enough to make out the words of their conversation, and he had a limited grasp of Reikspiel in any case.

From the tone of voice, however, the old man sounded petulant and the newcomers sounded impatient. Not expected visitors then. This was not a positive development.

Then the two men came down into the cellar. Skrritz was forced to withdraw into one of the darker corners of the cellar and watch as the two men - both of them armoured and carrying a sword - carried out an inspection. They stamped their feet in the dust - dust which Skrritz had incautiously left a few of his own footprints in - and gave every sign of disgust at the state of the place. But apart from wiping away a few of the cobwebs they left it as they had found it, their heavy boots stamping back up the stairs. Skrritz started to relax, and was just beginning to edge out of his hiding place when he heard the two soldiers returning. Fur standing bolt upright, the assassin withdrew back into his hiding place. What were they doing here, and why weren't they leaving? This was not a good thing - not at all.

The soldiers were not alone when they returned - they were dragging something with them. A barrel. They man-handled it down the cellar steps and set it at the bottom. After a minute spent catching their breath and muttering in a universal language of complaint that Skrritz needed no knowledge of Reikspiel at all to understand, they returned up the cellar steps. And, a few minutes later, returned again. With another barrel. And after that, another.

In all the two manling soldiers left six barrels in the cellar. They smelled of cheese, and wine, and dried meat, and various other things. Overall, though, to Skrritz they smelled like death. The old caretaker did not strike him as the sort to have parties, and if armed men were bringing in supplies it could only mean that a troop of soldiers was heading for the manor, expecting to find both shelter and food when they got there.

For a little while Skrritz tried to delude himself into thinking that it might be unconnected to the Emperor's journey, that perhaps there was another group of armed men patrolling Ostermark. Given the dangerous nature of the frontier this was at least plausible enough to give him something to hold onto for a little while at least. But inevitably reality came crashing in, and Skrritz had to face the fact that he was going to have to find a way to do the near-impossible, or more likely die in the attempt.

There was an added complication as well. The two humans didn't leave the manor when they had finished delivering the barrels. Instead, they locked the cellar door and, from the sound of the breathing and occasional flatulence coming from the other side, set up a watch outside it. This continued through the night, with the two of them splitting their watch, and interestingly the one on watch seemed to remain awake for the entire duration of his shift.

Clearly, thought Skrritz, these were high-quality troops, for he was certain they had no idea he was down there and guards, in Skrritz's extensive experience, usually fell asleep as soon as they thought no one was looking. It would be a lot more difficult to go sneaking about the house now. He could get out of the cellar through one of the narrow windows, and if he was really desperate he was sure he could fight his way past the new guards, but the point was to move without being seen, and in that respect his freedom of movement was severely curtailed.

The next day more barrels arrived. The men unloaded them as before - another six - and once again Skrittz was forced to jam himself into the smallest corner of the cellar. And again, they locked the door behind them and set up a watch. The day after was the same, with three more barrels arriving this time.

By that point Skrritz's nerves were strung tighter than a garotte. Between the impending arrival of his target/death, the constant need to hide from the guards, the insanely tempting smell of cheese coming from the barrels, and the incessant clumping of the old man's feet above him - who was still apparently going through his routine just as he had before the soldiers arrived - Skrritz was starting to wish that the Emperor would just arrive already so he could get it over with.

Judging from the conversations of the two soldiers now guarding the manor, that day wasn't far off. As has been mentioned, Skrritz's Reikspeil was somewhat rudimentary, but even he could pick out certain simple phrases. "Karl-Franz will be here soon." was one such. "Don't worry, we'll be ready." was another. After a few days spent watching them from the shadows, Skrritz had made some observations about the two soldiers guarding the cellar, watching from the shadows as they went about their business. The imminent arrival of their lord clearly made them nervous, and they were hurrying to get everything ready in time.

They were more relaxed than Skrritz would have been in their position, though. And more relaxed the Skrritz was in his own position, for that matter.

Skrritz was desperately trying to find a way out of this that didn't involve either throwing himself onto the swords of the Empire's finest knights or throwing himself onto the non-existent mercies of his Clan Eshin superiors. Like a rat caught in a trap, one single thought scurried in circles around in his head again and again: survival.

And then, it came to him. A way out. A risky one, certainly, but it would still give him a much larger chance of survival than he had at present.

Skrritz had refrained from leaving the cellar after the two soldiers arrived because although he could be mostly confident of being able to move about unseen, even the slightest thing out of place - a stray footprint in the dust, a curtain left askance by his passing or an echo of skittering claws on flagstones - might alert the guards to his presence. He could not afford to take any risks, for if the humans became even slightly suspicious of danger they might signal the Emperor's party to divert along another route.

But it now occurred to the reluctant assassin that this would be very good for him. Put it down to a deeply ingrained fear of failure that he had not thought of it before, but it now that he did think about it he realised that if he blew the mission on purpose the Masters of Clan Eshin might never find out. They would know that the Emperor's convoy had diverted but there was no reason to think that they would realise why - if the Clan's spies were that competent Skrritz would not have spent the last week stuck in this cellar waiting for a target that might never arrive.

It came down to a matter of subtlety then - if he could give the humans in the manor reason to suspect that something was wrong, then they would send word to the Emperor's party. The Emperor would go somewhere else and Skrritz, as long as he was careful not to reveal himself in the process, would most likely be off the hook.

Skrritz snickered to himself as he thought of this plan. There was a cowardly cunning to it that was so very Skaven, and indeed any other Skaven would have marvelled at this expert betrayal of his superiors' interests for personal preservation. It was almost a shame Skrritz would never be able to tell anyone about it.

Assuming, of course, that he was able to pull it off without being discovered. He didn't like to think of what his masters would do to him if they found out, but he suspected that in that case his cunning plan would become very widely known indeed; depending on how many pieces they could split his body into for display.

He would have to be very careful, very cautious, if he was going to pull this off. He had to cause enough of a disturbance to make them suspicious, make them nervous, make them tell their Emperor to go somewhere else just to be on the safe side. But not go so far as to do something that might actually attract further investigation by the humans, nor something that would cause enough of an uproar to reach back to the Masters of Clan Eshin. It would be tricky, for Skrritz's skills lay more in the area of direct and bloody murder, which was obviously out of the question. But with his neck on the line, now would be a good time to develop better subterfuge skills very, very quickly.

So began Skrritz's campaign of subversion against the human inhabitants of the manor. It started with noises in the night - while one of the guards sat at the top of the cellar stairs, Skrritz sneaked out through a window and climbed one of the drainpipes to the manor's upper floors. He did not, after all, want them investigating noises in the cellar - it was still more useful to him as a place to hide.

It was child'splay for him to gain access to the attic, and there he made enough bumping and thumping to attract attention. As he heard footsteps approach - the slow, plodding feet of the old caretaker - he slipped out the attic window onto the roof, closing it carefully behind him. Candlelight flickered in the window as the old man tried to find the source of the sound, and faded again as he gave up and went back to his bed. When he was sure the old man had left, Skrritz re-entered the attic and repeated the process. On the third try, the old man brought the off-duty soldier with him, who was clearly irritated at being woken. Skrritz let them argue with each other for a while as the old caretaker tried to convince the soldier that something was wrong, to no effect. Then, as they appeared to be leaving, Skrritz, still perched on the roof by the attic window, let out the most piercing, unearthly shriek he could muster.

The soldier rushed to the window and threw it open, but only the starless night and the cold, frostbitten air greeted him; Skrritz was already away down the drainpipe. Before returning to the cellar, the assassin loitered for a moment by one of the ground floor windows. It was only a minute before he heard quick footsteps running down the main staircase, rushing to the cellar door where the on-duty guard stood watch. There was a muffled conversation which Skrritz could not quite make out, but he knew that he had accomplished the desired effect.

With dawn approaching Skrittz sought the seclusion of the cellar once more, satisfied with a job well done.

Daytime proved more tricky - he couldn't be sure where the off-duty guard and the caretaker would be at any given time, and if they even caught a glimpse of him it would scupper his plans. An opportunity came, however, when another cart arrived bearing further provisions. As the two soldiers went out to haul the barrels in, Skrritz took the opportunity to slip out of the cellar and into the main house. This time, instead of making noises he very carefully moved several objects - a razor belonging to one of the soldiers, a pair of boots belonging to the caretaker, and so on - which he knew would be noticed. Then, as the cart drove away and the guard returned to his post at the top of the cellar stairs, Skrritz slipped back into the cellar. It was getting quite full of barrels now - Skrritz wondered just how big the Emperor's retinue was expected to be. Well, with any luck all the effort would turn out to be wasted.

The next night he repeated his antics in the attic. During the day, however, it had occurred to him that the closer the Emperor was when he diverted the more likely it was that Skrritz's masters would suspect something. So Skrritz decided he had to speed up the process a bit. As well as his performance in the attic - which once again drew the old man and the off-duty soldier out of their beds - Skrritz expanded his repertoire to include opening all the windows on the second floor and leaving them to bang about in the wind. When they had finally closed the last of these Skrritz was already in the grounds, and once again he let out the most unnatural wail he could conjure up. This time, the manor's main door slammed open and the on-duty soldier walked out, the torch in his hand guttering in the night wind. Another wail, and the soldier drew his sword.

There wasn't much cover around the manor - unkempt moorland with woods about half a mile distant - so Skrritz was careful to keep his distance. As the soldier approached the source of the wail, Skrritz scuttled carefully away. Humans were practically blind at night, the ratman knew, so there was little danger of being spotted even with the torchlight. Accordingly, he stayed just out of sight and continued a performance that would be worthy of a goblin opera. The human turned this way and that in the night, struggling to find the source, but every time Skrritz repositioned himself until the man-thing must have thought that he was surrounded by apparitions. Skrritz snickered to himself - if he had been sent to kill these fools the mission would already have been over. Any Skaven would know better than to go out into the night to investigate a suspicious sound alone. The soldier evidently realised this, however, and retreated to the manor quickly.

Even so, Skrritz kept up his wailing until as close to dawn as he dared. All through the night he could see the candlelight flickering through the windows of the entrance hall, where the door to the cellar lay. When it came time for Skrritz to return to his hiding place he heard not one but two men at the top of the stairs. He smiled to himself - his plan was working.

Daytime was once again fairly uneventful. This time Skrritz couldn't even get out of the cellar at all, so he occupied himself by feeding the rats which had been attracted to the cellar by the maddeningly tempting smell of cheese coming from the barrels. They were company, of a sort, and although he knew he should probably conserve his food it was better than just sitting doing nothing. Besides, he could probably sneak food from one of the barrels if he became desperate.

Skrritz had refrained from tampering with them so far on the off-chance that it would be noticed. When the supplies first started arriving he had briefly considered poisoning them, but if anyone discovered the tampering before the Emperor arrived then he would have been discovered, and in any case the Emperor would almost certainly have food-tasters. The assassin probably had enough poison on him to kill everyone except the Emperor, but that wasn't the mission. So he had discarded that plan and left the barrels alone - but with so many of them sitting in the cellar now it seemed hardly likely that the guards would notice. And if all went to plan, the intended recipients would never arrive to check on them.

Even so, on balance, it was safer not to touch them he decided. In any case, he didn't plan on being in the cellar for much longer anyway.

For the third night Skrritz repeated his performance once again, with much the same affect. The three humans in the manor spent another night awake and on edge, driven to distraction by the unnatural sounds and by the fact that inanimate objects had seemingly developed the ability to move about on their own.

Yet in the morning they were all still there, and showed no signs that they were packing up ready to leave. Indeed, that day even more barrels arrived and were loaded into the cellar with the others, much to Skrritz's annoyance.

Skrritz was fast becoming impatient with the man-things. They were clearly frightened, yet it seemed that they were continuing to prepare in the expectation that the Emperor would still be arriving soon. Stupid man-things - did they want to put their lord in danger? Or perhaps they were more afraid of their Emperor's anger than they were of whatever they thought Skrritz was. Either way they had to go, so on the fourth night of his activities, Skrritz decided to up the stakes. He began with his usual series of noises, bumping around in the attic and adding in a wail or two for effect. Then, when he was sure that the three inhabitants of the manor were up and about, he set his trap - a tripwire at the top of the stairs.

That was only the first part, however. For the second part, Skrritz had been forced to improvise. In the attic he had found some old mannequins, whitewashed with crude faces painted on. Skrritz had no idea what they were for - perhaps ritualistic idols of some sort - but they had almost scared the fur off him when he first saw them, so they might just suit his purposes. He had salvaged one of the heads and took it back it his lair, where he made a few alterations. Along with a sheet filched from one of the unused bedrooms, Skrritz prepared the props for the second half of his plan. He couldn't risk being seen himself - a rumour of giant rats might just make its way back to Skavenblight and his superiors. But he still needed something more tangible than odd bumps and eerie wails if he was going to drive the humans away.

Accordingly, with one of the soldiers blundering around in the attic and the near invisible tripwire fixed at the top of the stairs, Skrritz quickly made his way back to the cellar and retrieved his prop, dragging it out of the cellar as carefully as possible. Candlelight was still visible in the windows of the entrance hall - perfect. Skrritz looked in and saw both the on-duty guard and the old caretaker sitting in the small circle of light provided by the silver candelabra on the small table between them. There was a pack of cards on the table as well, but it remained untouched. The soldier looked as if he was dozing - as if he hadn't got much sleep lately. The old man was sitting bolt upright.

Skrritz positioned himself above the window, perched on the elaborate stonework with his prop in one hand. With the other, he began to gently tap on the window with his snaking, scabrous tail. It wasn't long before the flickering patterns of candlelight coming through the window began to shift. Skrritz heard footsteps - the slow, plodding footsteps of the old man, echoing on the stone floor -approaching. Cautiously.

Closer, closer the footsteps came, and Skrritz kept tapping, luring his prey in like an angler dangling a worm. Then when he was sure that the old man was right in front of the window, Skrritz stopped. And waited, while the candlelight wavered.

Then Skrritz dropped his surprise. He had taken the mannequin head and attached a length of wire to it to hold it by, then he cut up the bedsheet a bit to make it look more ragged and thrown it over the head to give the illusion of size. He'd cut more holes in the sheet so that the mouth and eyes of the head could be seen - which Skrritz had "improved" as well as his limited craft skills would allow - and another smaller hole for the wire to go through. Not much by daylight, perhaps, but in darkness, with only candlelight to illuminate it...

Then Skrritz dropped his surprise. He had taken the mannequin head and attached a length of wire to it to hold it by, then he cut up the bedsheet a bit to make it look more ragged and thrown it over the head to give the illusion of size. He'd cut more holes in the sheet so that the mouth and eyes of the head could be seen - which Skrritz had "improved" as well as his limited craft skills would allow - and another smaller hole for the wire to go through. Not much by daylight, perhaps, but in darkness, with only candlelight to illuminate it...

Thus when Skrritz dropped it it hung suspended in the air in front of the window, held up by the wire which Skrritz kept hold of with his tail, while he used his other limbs to brace himself on the stonework above the window. The old caretaker was treated to a vision which looked as if it had crawled up from the very depths of hell (Skrritz's crude carving skills merely added to the effect). Predictably, he let out a scream as disturbing as anything Skrritz had been able to produce, and leaped back from the window. Skrritz sniggered, and with a quick flick of his tail drew the puppet up out of view. Then, nimbly, he leapt down from his perch - while remaining out of sight - and scurried to find a window he could watch the results through.

The old man's outburst had roused the soldier who had been dozing by the cellar door. He now went over to the old man and tried to calm him down and make sense of his frantic babbling. But more importantly Skrritz now saw the other soldier, the one who had been in the attic, running down the second floor hallway towards the source of the commotion. As he reached the top of the main stairs he encountered the tripwire, and began a long, almost graceful leap into empty space.

This might have ended up very badly for the unfortunate soldier were it not for the fact that the old caretaker, now desperate to get away from the entrance hall and whatever lurked outside its windows, was in the process of ascending the main staircase. Accordingly, instead of falling head over heels down the full length of the staircase the soldier had his fall broken by the old man. However, this was not the end of the soldier's troubles (nor was it a particularly positive development for the old man). Soldier and caretaker ended up entangled with each other and with the soldier's momentum still very much with him, down the staircase they went, tumbling step over step in a tangle of limbs.

The bundle ended up at the foot of the staircase, and immediately began groaning. The other guard went over and began helping them up, but this was as much as Skrritz saw for he had a tripwire to remove. The ratman entered the upper floor through a window he had earlier left ajar and, snickering to himself all the way, found the end of the tripwire which he had left some distance form the staircase. An expert flick of his wrist was enough to untie it, and he reeled it in quickly. Task accomplished, he crept a little closer to the top of the staircase. There seemed to be an argument going on in the entrance hall below - Skrritz took a quick peek. Both the soldier and the old man seemed to be upright, and extremely vocal. Maybe it would have been better if the fall had killed them, thought Skrritz, but they seemed pretty battered and hardly likely to want to spend much more time in the manor house - or more importantly give a favourable report of it to their chieftain.

Skrritz was forced to withdraw, though, as the uninjured soldier had started climbing the stairs. He stopped at the top, then shouted back down the stairs, and although Skrritz was on his way back to the window he didn't need to stick around to get the gist of what was being said.

The manor's mysterious phantom had not left a trace.

Skrritz went back out the window, climbed down to the ground and retrieved his puppet, and with it retreated to the safety of the cellar. He settled down with his rats, and waited.

In the morning yet another cart arrived at the manor, bringing with it more barrels. It was greeted by the caretaker, who had been waiting, bags beside him, on the steps in front of the main door since dawn. The driver was evidently not expecting passengers, and didn't seem too happy with the prospect. A wild outburst of gesticulation from the old man, however, seemed to overcome any objections. The barrels were unloaded by the two soldiers as usual, and then the cart set off back along the road, taking the manor's caretaker with it.

Skrritz was not happy. The old man-thing didn't matter. It was unlikely that he would take word to the Emperor to stay away - no, he was just fleeing. It was the soldiers that mattered, and they were still here. Perhaps - perhaps - they had told the cart driver to pass a message on while they stayed at their post and awaited orders. The plan had succeeded in driving the caretaker away - maybe the soldiers would leave as soon as they were allowed to.

Or maybe they hadn't reported anything. Maybe the Emperor was still on his way. Maybe all he needed to do was let his plan run its course. The only way Skrritz would find out was by waiting, and that was something that Skrritz really hated doing.

Just when he thought things couldn't get any worse, Skrritz found that his activities the previous night had had an unintended side effect. When darkness fell, instead of keeping their usual watch at the top of the stairs, the two soldiers retreated into the cellar and locked the door behind them. Skrritz cursed himself for his foolishness - he had kept his activities away from the cellar in order not to draw attention to it, but it was now the only place in the manor with a sturdy door and no sign of monsters. The natural place for two scared soldiers to hole-up until daylight. The cellar was big with plenty of nooks and corners to hide in, but it wasn't so big that he fancied sharing it with two humans for the whole night. If he left, however, they might find evidence that he had been residing there and come to the conclusion that their troubles were caused by something less than supernatural.

It also wouldn't do him much good just to let them sit there in safety the whole night. No, Skrritz was going to have to show them that no part of the manor was safe from the ghost.

Both of the soldiers were fully armed, wearing chainmail and leather and carrying their sword and shield. Evidently they believed that Skrritz's spectre was a serious threat. Maybe, Skrritz thought, they just needed one last little nudge to send them running back to their Emperor with a report of a dreadful scary manor that he should stay far, far away from.

Not yet, though - the last orange rays of the setting sun had only just faded from the narrow cellar windows. The two soldiers were just beginning to settle down, eyeing the dark corners of the cellar nervously, huddling in pool of firelight provided by a torch in an iron sconce at the foot of the stair passage.

Let them stew for a while.

Skrritz settled down himself, with his rats and a block of cheese that he had pilfered earlier from a larder upstairs - safe enough to steal, for if the soldiers had noticed its absence they would have blamed the now absent caretaker.

With nothing better to do for the moment, the ratman sat back and listened to the two humans' conversation. As mentioned, Skrritz's grasp of Reikspiel was pretty basic but he could more or less follow what was being said.

"We should have left with old Grundheit. This whole place is cursed. We're cursed. We should have got out of here when we had the chance." Skrritz liked that one. That was the one he had decided to call Helmet, for the simple reason that he wore a helmet (Skrritz understood that there might be other traits by which humans distinguished each other, but their disgusting pink, bald, furless faces all looked the same to him). Helmet was clearly scared - he was going cross-eyed trying to keep one eye on the cellar's shadows and the other eye on the door.

"Shut your mouth and get some sleep. You've got a good strong door between you and any monsters and a good length of steel. If, that is, there are any monsters. The old man only left because you fell on him - don't blame ghosts for the fact that you're a clumsy git." That was the one he'd called Hood. Skrritz liked him a lot less.

"I told you, I was pushed!" Helmet whined.

"And I told you that I watched you coming down the stairs, and there wasn't anyone behind you."

"Well, that's the point, ain't it? It was something ... unnatural. Places like this always have some old ghost hanging around - this one has it in for us." A random draught caused the torch to gutter and spit. Helmet shivered.

"The old man lived here for years and he never saw any ghosts. Why would one suddenly start buggering about when we get here?"

"You know why. Besides, Grundheit certainly saw something last night, through the window. What was it he said? 'No eyes, just bloody sockets', and 'a mouth full of pointy teeth'. Floating outside the window, it was." Skrritz smiled. It was good to know his handiwork hadn't gone to waste. He inspected the puppet again, tugging a few of the nails in the mouth into a more jagged formation.

"You getting cold feet?" Hood was clearly losing patience with his colleague. "You agreed to this job, same as me, and took the gold, same as me. Do you really want to explain to Baron Feuerhausen that you left his manor - and all these barrels - unattended before the Emperor got here? Pull yourself together. His Imperial Majesty will be here in another day or two, three at most, and we might get an advance party even sooner. We've got everything ready, so all we have to do is keep ourselves together 'til they get here. Then we just need to relax. I don't know what Grundheit saw, but the old man was half nuts already. Too many years living here on his own."

"Grundheit had the sense to get out of here." Helmet muttered. Then he added, "How do you explain all the wailing and banging about then? You heard it too."

"I don't know." Hood shrugged, "Old houses like this always have strange noises. Probably just the wind blowing through holes in the stonework. Leave it alone would you - there's nothing we can do about it now except sit here, and I don't want to listen to you whining for the rest of the night."

"All right, all right. But if I see one more sign of ghosts I'm getting out of here, gold or no gold."

Perfect, thought Skrritz.

He waited a little while longer until it looked like they were half asleep. Then, carefully and quietly, he slipped the bedsheet over himself, resting the mannequin on top of his head. It was awkward - he had to use one hand to keep the mannequin in place and he could barely see where he was going through the eye-holes he'd cut for himself. But he certainly didn't look like a Skaven, and that was the important part.

He approached the two resting soldiers. Hood, even dozing, had his arm in his shield and a hand on his sword. Helmet was snoring softly. Skrritz kicked a barrel. Helmet stirred, but didn't wake, so Skrritz kicked another barrel. His tail also tapped an erratic beat against the cold granite floor - due to Skrritz's natural twitchiness as much as anything. Helmet groaned in his sleep, and Skrritz kicked the barrel a third time, more viciously - that woke him up. Helmet shook his partner's arm.

"Hey, wake up. I thought I heard something." Hood sat up.

"What is it?" he asked, a little groggily.

"I heard something. A tapping sound." Helmet said fearfully.

"On the door?"

"No. Down here - with us."

Hood peered into the darkness. Skrritz could see the two soldiers well enough, but the humans' eyes were practically useless at night and there was no chance they would see him - yet.

"I don't see anything." said Hood suspiciously. "Don't hear nothing either." Skrritz picked that moment to kick the barrel again. Both men jumped.

"You see!" Helmet practically shrieked. "It's in here with us!" He grabbed the torch out of the sconce and brandished it against the darkness, waving it about.

"What the hell are you doing you silly bastard?" Hood shouted. "Give me that." He snatched the torch out of Helmet's hand.

"I'm getting out of here!" said Helmet, making for the stairs. But Hood grabbed him by the cloak and hauled him back.

"Don't be an idiot. It's just a noise. Probably just a rat or something." Hood said. "Come on, we have to check the barrels."

"Why?" said Helmet, resisting. Hood still had a hand on his cloak.

"If rats have got into one of the barrels then we can't just leave it like that for the Emperor's men to find, can we? Come on." Hood took a few steps further into the cellar.

"Can I at least have a torch?"

"There's only one and you've got to be joking if you think I'm trusting you with it. Just stick close to me if you're afraid if the dark."

"I'm not afraid of the dark - I'm afraid of what's in the dark."

"Whatever. Just be careful and don't jog me for Sigmar's sake."

Both soldiers, shields held protectively in front of them, advanced into the darkness. Step by step they cautiously moved between the stacks of barrels; the carefully balanced stacks cast strange shadows in the flickering torchlight. Skrritz carefully moved parallel to them, keeping himself concealed by the stacks and taking care not to trip over his impromptu costume. Maybe he should just let them get themselves lost - he might not even have to show himself, he could just go on tormenting them through the night by making noises. He didn't have to take the risk of showing himself - they were clearly near breaking point. Another night of sleepless fear, with no part of the manor safe for them now, and even Hood would probably give in.

But probably wasn't good enough for Skrritz, and in any case he'd didn't want to spend another night hanging around in the cellar. Skrritz's patience - which had been pretty limited to begin with - was long past exhausted. It was time for them to go. Time for them to run back to their Emperor and tell him to find another place to stay. He was done waiting.

When the soldiers had got themselves deep enough into the cellar Skrritz stealthily moved in front of them and hid behind the next cluster of barrels. Just a little closer - the clack of their boots on the flagstones and the metallic rustle of their chainmail signalled their approach, as loud as a herald's horn in the deathly silence of the cellar. Almost - they were almost right in front of him.

"See, there's nothing..."

Skrritz sprang his trap, leaping out from behind his hiding place with the most appalling screech that he could produce.

And that's when things started to go wrong for him.

As Skrritz jumped up, Hood, interrupted mid-sentence, went absolutely rigid. Confronted with the ghastly white apparition, shadowy form billowing, torchlight reflecting of its jagged teeth and glaring eyes, he could do nothing but gawp. Helmet, however, reacted by letting out a terrified scream and jumping aside. Or tried to, at least. The scream part went as planned but his leap was interrupted by a particularly large stack of barrels to his left. Crashing into them like a cannonball, Helmet was indeed fortunate that he was wearing a helmet because the effect of this was to set the whole pile tumbling straight down on top of him. The disaster did not stop there, however - the avalanche of barrels continued on.

Towards Skrritz.

Normally it would have been child'splay for him to dodge out of the way of the onrushing barrels. Normally, though, the Skaven assassin didn't walk around wearing a bedsheet over his head. As he made to jump, his foot caught in the sheet, and instead of flying gracefully out of harm's way as he intended the rat-man instead tripped, stumbled, and just recovered his balance in time to be hit by a dozen rolling wooden cheese-storage devices.

Life has a certain irony to it sometimes.

Having spent the last two weeks being driven mad with desire by the smell of dairy product coming from those barrels, Skrritz now found that he had a whole new reason to hate them. Thrown into the air as the first impact swept his legs out from under him, he landed in the rapidly accruing pile-up and went under. After a few moments of pummelling, during which the mannequin head slipped free and rolled away, the avalanche finally came to a rest, leaving Skrritz buried in a heap of wood and cheese and tangled in the remains of his own disguise. As the rumbling ceased the only sound that was left was the squeaking of the cellar rats, caught between the conflicting instincts to run away from the sudden noise and run towards the suddenly liberated cheese.

Meanwhile Hood, who had been about to turn and run for the staircase as soon as he could remember how to work his legs, found himself out of the path of the barrel-fall and thus was in a prime position to see the supposedly ethereal "phantom" hit by the oncoming barrels. Staring in amazement, he also saw the decapitated mannequin head roll clear of the fray. To his side he could hear his partner trying to free himself from the mess he'd brought down on himself. Helmet finally did this, staggering to his feet and grabbing Hood - who was still staring at the fallen phantom as mental wheels turned - by the arm.

"Come on, let's get out of here!" Helmet cried, and turned to run for the stairs. But Hood grabbed him and pointed to the pile which Skrritz was now trying to extricate himself from, gesturing with the torch.

"Hold on, that's no ghost." said Hood, realisation dawning. "That's just a bedsheet!"

Skrritz had finally got himself clear of the barrels and was now struggling to untangle himself from his disguise. Hood was having none of it, however:

"Grab him!"

Skrritz felt someone tackle him and wrestle him back to the floor; handicapped as he already was there was little the assassin could do about it. Skaven were fast but they weren't particularly bigger or stronger than the average human, and Srritz was wiry even by Skaven standards. The ratman found himself unable to throw off the weight of the man pinning him. If he could just get a hand, or even his tail free...

"Got him?"

"I got him!" Helmet replied triumphantly.

"Good. Told you there was no ghosts here, didn't I? Told you there was a reasonable explanation. It's this little bastard that's been playing tricks on us since we got here. Bring him over here and let's have a look at him."

Skrritz was manhandled across the floor, away from the strewn barrels. He could feel the rats skittering about his feet, disturbed by the commotion and no doubt affected by the suddenly fearful Skrritz's now active scent glands. Skrritz was forced to his knees, and felt a hand grab hold of his disguise.

"You got a good grip on him?" asked Hood.


Skrritz felt the sheet being pulled away.

"Right, let's have a look at you, you little sh ... HOLY SIGMAR WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!"

Skrritz, furious, grinned a jagged-toothed grin. So much for patience - now he'd been seen he didn't have a choice.

New plan: kill these idiotic man-things. He could work out the details of how he'd fit it into his overall scheme later, but right now waiting was out and action was in. After almost two weeks stuck in this cellar like a rat in a cage, it felt good to have something to kill again. Skrritz felt the grip holding him loosen as Helmet stepped back in shock. The assassin shook himself free and leapt back to give himself some space. Furry fingers and a wormy tail wrapped around the handles of his daggers, and drew them softly out of their sheaths.

Even if Helmet and Hood hadn't been stunned by their unmasking of a giant, upright rat, Skrritz, in his element now, would have been too quick for them. He leapt at Hood, and although the soldier tried to raise his shield to defend himself, Skrritz's dagger slashed through his throat, sending a spray of blood into the air. Hood crumpled to the floor, and Skrritz landed nimbly before turning to Helmet. As his dagger swept towards the luckless man-thing, Skrritz noticed Helmet's eyes flicker away from his impeding death to something behind his assailant. Skrritz's head turned momentarily and his eyes were immediately drawn towards the only source of light in the room, the torch, which was rolling away towards the pile of broken barrels...

* * *

A few days earlier, Hans Holbacher and Dietrich Kernicker - Hood and Helmet respectively - were on a cart bumping down a potholed country road towards the property of their employer, Baron Ederich Feuerhausen. Some weeks earlier the Baron had received a missive bearing the Imperial Seal, informing him that the Emperor planned to stop briefly at the Baron's manor house on the Essen road, and that any hospitality the Baron could provide would be very much appreciated.

This letter was an excellent idea from the point of view of logistics, and indeed common courtesy. After all, when the Emperor went travelling the party could hardly carry all the necessary supplies with them; it was common practice to survive by means of what might, in a later century, be known as couch-surfing. And a nobleman could hardly be expected to feed several hundred people for a night or three unless suitably forewarned. Nor would he be very pleased about a small army turning up on his doorstep unannounced.

From the point of view of security, however, it was less ideal. Particularly in this case, since Baron Feuerhausen was in fact a secret Chaos cultist belonging to an elite coven which worshipped the Lord Of Change. Having received the letter, he consulted with the demonic forces and his fellow cult members, and it was decided that they had been presented with a golden opportunity that must be straight from the Lord of Change himself. The Emperor Karl-Franz himself was now within their reach - his assassination would be the greatest coup achieved by any cult in centuries!

Accordingly, Feuerhausen wrote back to say that although he habitually resided away from his estate, living in a townhouse in Middenheim, and thus would not be at the manor himself for the Emperor's visit (deepest regrets, etc, etc), he would nonetheless ensure that the house was properly stocked for the Emperor and his retinue.

Then Feuerhausen began arranging the purchase of large quantities of black power. He selected two of his regular agents, Holbacher and Kernicker, to oversee the transfer of these materials to the cellar of the manor house. While they were not fellow travellers with the Chaos cause, they were reliable - unlike people who spent large amounts of time exposing their brain to the warp. They had proven time and again that as long as they received enough gold, any little jobs their employer might have for them - procuring sacrifices, disposing of sacrifices, disposing of things that exploded out of sacrifices due to mumbling of unholy chants, disposing of sacrificers who couldn't read Chaotic runes properly, and of course disposing of sacrificers who got cold feet - would all be completed with the maximum of efficiency and the minimum of publicity.

The former troopers had acquired quite a taste for the Baron's coin, and although they had been starting to think about finding less heretical employment soon - it was never wise to risk running afoul of witch-hunters - the two of them would have slain Sigmar himself for the gold on offer from the Baron for this mission.

So it would take more than a few spooky noises in the night to Holbacher and Kernicker to just cut and run. All they had to do was get the barrels in the right place - only they knew the contents, the cart drivers were just transporting food as far as they knew - then set the fuse when the Emperor arrived and run like hell. It couldn't be simpler, and there was little chance of getting discovered - there were a couple of barrels that really were filled with food, and the rest of the blackpowder barrels had cheese, meat, and other pungent foodstuffs packed in on top of them just in case someone decided to open up and check, or in case one of the customs posts they passed through had a bloodhound that could sniff out powder (which some did - dogs were the bane of smugglers everywhere).

A simple mission, except that little did they know of Skrritz's similar assignment and his plans to get out of it. Kernicker, who still retained a shred of piety, had been uneasy about going as far as actually assassinating the Emperor, and even Holbacher had his doubts. Gold was enough to quell these concerns at the start, but when Skrritz started doing his thing they began to feel the heavy hand of divine disapproval on their shoulders. However, the weirdness afflicting the manor did have the positive side effect of getting rid of old Grundheit, who was just the caretaker and as such had to be kept out of the cellar.

Having been left to run the manor more or less as his own home for some years, the old man wasn't happy about any of it, especially being kept out of his own cellar. But the two mercenaries kept him away with the excuse that they couldn't risk letting anyone down there in case they tampered with the Emperor's food. Grundheit wasn't shy about sharing his displeasure at the disruption of his ossified routines, and Holbacher and Kernicker were glad to see him go despite the circumstances.

But with all the nocturnal disturbances the atmosphere at the manor house had begun to feel increasingly oppressive, and once again the two mercenaries had begun to weigh the benefits of a large amount of future gold versus the attractions of actually being alive to spend what they already had. Had Skrritz kept to his nightly noise routine, they might well have given up, and made up their losses by riding for the Emperor's convoy to sell out their master. After all, no one would believe the Chaos worshipping Baron if he told everyone that they weren't in fact the innocent dupes, merely been hired for a little light guard duty, who had accidentally broken one of the barrels thus revealing the blackpowder.

Unfortunately for them, Skrritz was not a patient rat (which would turn out to be just as unfortunate for Skrritz as well).

* * *

While Skrritz, needless to say, did not have all the details concerning Holbach and Kernicker's mission, as he looked away from Kernicker towards the torch he did now see, between the wheels of cheese that had escaped across the cellar floor. the large quantity of blackpowder spilling out of a broken barrel. And in the couple of seconds as he and Kernicker watched the torch roll slowly towards the pile, Skrritz's quick little rodent brain processed the new information and came to two conclusions.

Firstly, those barrels were not full of blackpowder for the Emperor's health and entertainment. Skrritz could have just left things to take their course and the humans' high-chief would have died without him having to risk a single hair. Even if he'd gone as far as showing up to the manor in order to satisfy his masters' requirements, if he'd just checked the barrels when the soldiers arrived he would have been able to abscond safe in the knowledge that they would do his job for him.

Secondly he realised that, judging from their behaviour and their reactions to his sudden appearance, the humans had been very close to breaking point already. So he really, really should not have leapt out at them like that. And he especially should have taken more time to consider what he was doing and maybe take a look around before killing the one holding the torch.

The realisation of these ironies might have been more of a burden on Skrritz's mind were it not for the fact that they only came to him in the instant before the rolling torch ignited the first stray grains of powder. Thus it was only mere milliseconds before Skrritz's mind was relieved of all concerns entirely.

Even by Skrritz's standards, this was not a long wait.

* * *

The explosion was visible for miles around. Indeed, as the fiery cloud rose into the night sky above the manor house, and the blast wave washed over the moors, it startled awake the approaching advance contingent of the Emperor's knights, who had made camp for the night in expectation of reaching the manor early the next day. They immediately roused themselves and, rounding up their startled horses, mounted up and rode onwards to investigate the source of the blast.

Twenty miles further down the road lay the Emperor's camp, and it just so happened that at that very moment Karl-Franz was watching the stars and saw, for a brief moment, a sudden burst of light in the distance. He looked towards the direction of the flash, but he saw nothing further. Feeling vaguely that this might be significant, he called over one of his attending mages, but he had been looking the other way and had seen nothing. So the Emperor went back to learning the constellations, in the hopes that he might one day be able to keep up with whatever the hell it was his Celestial Mages babbled on about all the time. The fact that that flash in the distance had been intended for him completely passed him by at the time.

When the knights arrived at the manor, they quickly worked out what had happened - there was practically nothing left of the manor house, and the all-pervasive smell of blackpowder in the air left little doubt as to why. They immediately sent riders to the Emperor's camp informing them of the incident. The Emperor diverted along a different route, while several senior members of his security force and a couple of mages detoured to investigate the ruins. The immediate cause of the blast was in little doubt, and soon the investigation started unravelling the threads of the conspiracy. Arrests were made, confessions were extracted, execution warrants were signed. The Chaos worshipping coven that had rooted itself in Middeheim was effectively wiped out in very short order.

To this day no one knows precisely what caused the explosives to detonate prematurely. Any evidence of the events that took place in the cellar that night were vaporised in the blast. However, the investigators charged with bringing the details of the plot to light did manage to track down old Grundheit the caretaker, who told them - as he'd been telling anyone who would listen - that the manor was haunted.

As he told it, two bastards had shown up at the house and demanded entry, gaining it with a letter that bore the Baron's seal. They'd then started loading barrels into the cellar, on the ridiculous pretence that the Emperor was coming to visit. Grundheit had thought they were suspicious characters, and naturally didn't fall for such an obvious lie, but they'd had the Baron's letter so he'd let them get on with it. That was when the haunting started. Once Grundheit found out that the Emperor had indeed been coming and the two mercenaries had been part of an assassination plot, he was adamant that the ghost must have been trying to stop them, and had detonated the explosives on purpose once he, Grundheit, was safely away. Seeing no reason to arrest him the investigators had let him go on his way, whereupon he'd continued telling his story, with all the new details, to anyone who would listen - which became more and more people as word of the plot spread.

The story kept Grundheit in beer for the rest of his days.

What was put down in the official archives was more prosaic - it was recorded that the conspirators tasked with guarding the powder were clumsy (as proven by the fall down the stairs that the caretaker had related to investigators) and had accidentally lit the powder themselves. Semi-officially, it was put down to divine providence, and ceremonies of thanks were held in temples all over the Empire. Karl-Franz himself made a point of visiting the Temple of Sigmar, patron god of the Empire, as soon as he got back to Altdorf. And then followed it up with a tour of all the other temples in the city - if the whole experience proved anything it was that you could never have too much luck.

For the ordinary people of the Empire, though, the incident that would quickly become known as the Blackpowder Plot entered the common mythology almost right away. It was barely a few years before the anniversary of the Emperor's deliverance began to be celebrated across the land, with bonfires being lit and very realistic effigies of the plotters being burned. And of course, fireworks being exploded in commemoration of the premature destruction of the manor - which might explain how the tradition spread so quickly, because everyone likes an excuse for fireworks. Dwarven fireworks artisans, hitherto considered a niche occupation among their people, suddenly became a major export business for the Dwarven holds as demand from nobility and common folk alike for ever more elaborate displays of patriotism increased year on year.

There is also another tradition that accompanied the spread of Firenight, as it came to be known. Grundheit the caretaker, and possibly others who had been involved in the investigation, quickly spread the story of the watchful spectre that terrified the conspirators and foiled their plans. Wild descriptions of the apparition spread, and although many variations exist the same core elements from Grundheit's description are found all across the empire - white as a sheet, glowing eyes, jagged teeth. And a certain woodenness of expression. Thus every year, a few days before the anniversary of the Blackpowder Plot's discovery on the date the ghost supposedly first appeared, children from Ostland to Averland throw sheets over their heads and carve red-eyed, jagged toothed faces into whatever they can find for masks. Although more elaborate costumes have been in fashion of late, the standard bedsheet over a pumpkin with a carved face still retains a nostalgic popularity (even without anyone knowing just how close it comes to the original "phantom", it seems).

There was the slight issue that no one had any idea who the intervening spirit might have been ghost of, exactly - there were theories ranging from a knight who died defending the manor from an ork attack to a wizardly resident who had blown himself up attempting to fight off demons (neither of which ever happened), and many more besides. So the ghost and the tradition took the name of the manor itself. The area of Ostmark moorland that the manor was situated in what has always been, since the days of the tribes who roamed the area before the coming of Sigmar and the Empire, known as The Hallows; although what was holy about that particular stretch of wilderness has been lost to the mists of time. The manor itself, therefore, since it overlooked the whole area, had picked up the name All Hallows Hall. Thus every year on the eve on which the All Hallows Ghost first appeared, children commemorate his service to the Empire by dressing up in his image.

As for what the children do when they're dressed up - that should be obvious to anyone who knows anything about children. Under the cover of anonymity they go around their village or neighbourhood, knocking on doors and demanding sweet foods (again, it is not hard to see why the tradition spread so quickly). The reason - or excuse - being that they are the vengeful ghost still hunting for enemies of the Empire. Upon receiving a visit, the householder is supposed to open the door, announce 'There are no cultists here, we are all loyal subjects of the Emperor' and hand over a small offering in order to prove their loyalty. (Some scholars have noted that this ritual holds certain similarities with ancient pre-imperial traditions involving the driving away of evil spirits. Which just goes to show that kids are kids whatever century they're living in and will always think of an excuse to demand sweets).

* * *

As for the Skaven, the Masters of Clan Eshin knew that they had sent a deadly, if slightly erratic, operative to the manor, and knew that he must have had something to do with the explosion. But precisely what had happened they were never able to figure out - the actual answer, that the highly trained assassin they had sent had managed to blow himself up, was dismissed as being too stupid even for Skrritz. Of the other participants in the mission to assassinate the Emperor, only one had come within striking distance (when the Emperor had diverted down his route to avoid the smouldering remains of the manor), and with the Emperor's bodyguard on full alert he had been unable to get close enough to fulfil his task. Needless to say, he was executed on his return (and it would at least have satisfied Skrritz slightly to know that it was indeed one of his particular enemies whom this fate befell).

Ultimately, the mission had failed and that was that. The Masters of Clan Eshin settled into figuring out who was to blame for the plan in the first place, which quickly got lost in factional infighting, attempted and successful assassinations, and in due course a small war against Clan Moulder (for some reason to do with byzantine Skaven politics) which totally distracted everyone and basically meant that the entire incident was more or less forgotten by Skaven society.

Funnily enough, though, Skrritz had almost as much of a legacy in Clan Eshin as he would have had if he'd actually managed to assassinate the Emperor (well, perhaps not quite that much). Though not in a way he or anyone else would have predicted, or indeed one that brought Skrritz himself any fame. The current training regimen of every Eshin assassin includes a lesson on the best day of the year to move unnoticed through the over-world - the day when there are so many scurrying figures running about in disguise already that none of the humans will notice another one. It probably would have pleased Skrritz to think that he had made this small contribution to his Clan, although if the actions that led up to his death are any measure, on balance he would probably have much preferred to forego helping the Clan and rather remain alive.

In the end, though, there are much worse ways to go (as Skrritz would almost certainly have found out had he somehow made it back to Skavenblight after literally blowing the best chance he could have gotten to kill the Emperor). Who knows, maybe cultures like the Norscaans, who believe that burnt offerings travel with the the deceased to the afterlife, have it right after all - not many Skaven gets to take an entire manor house with them, much less an entire cellar full of cheese. And he in, in a way, remembered - in the twin celebrations of Firenight and All Hallows' Eve.

And that is the tale of The Ghost of All Hallows Hall.

-- The End --

Happy Halloween to all, and all the Brits and Commonwealth guys have a great Bonfire Night as well.
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well, at least that's finished now. Who knows? Maybe someone will even read it.

Anyway, time for some spooky pics to get you ready for Halloween. I expect to be properly terrified tomorrow, you know.
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> a small Fairy tail.

"There is no reason to see her." The pompous madame tried to stop me. She was agitated and her curvy hair moved and revealed more of the chubby face beneath. "She is dirty and stinky, you shouldn't waste your time this way, Your Majesty!"

"Are you really trying to tell your crowned prince what he should and what he shouldn't do?" Her face turned white matching the colour of her dress. "Lady Tremaine, I believe the kings decree requested to see every girl in this house. Obstructing me now is a serious crime." The more time I passed within this walls the more I hated the owner of the house and her two daughters. Despite living here for years they still spoke with a french accent and their attempts to flirt
with me were incredibly annoying. Not that they were the first, today was a really busy day.

Showering me in thousands of excuses the lady of the house led me to a small cramped room in the back. We went inside and I saw her. A frail figure dressed in simple village clothes, her wheaten hair were dirty and covered with a kerchief, she looked at me and a strand of hair fell across her face. One could still see the beauty of the face despite a layer of cinders covering it,
something so beautiful couldn't be hidden so easily, it served only to underline her most marvellous asset, a pair of resolute blue eyes. Those eyes were as intriguing as an ice weave, hard as a sapphire, for the rest of my life I will never forget that gaze. A typhoon of emotions was stirring inside me, I was barely taking notice of what lady Tremaine was saying as she introduced us, I only picked up that she had a strange degrading nickname. I recognized those eyes, I was sure she was the one, but I had to to suppress my emotions and double check, it would be too unfair for the girl if I was wrong.
"Please try this crystal shoe on." She was hiding it well but I could tell she was slightly shaking. I took out a handkerchief and started softly cleaning the cinders from her face and revealing the marble white skin underneath. She flinched when I touched her face but didn't try to move away.

"I'm sorry for being dirty Your Majesty. I just haven't, I didn't expect, I just..."

"Do not worry, it is all right."

She took the glass slipper and started putting it on her slender leg. I watched as her delicate fingers, so unusual for a servant girl, moved with a mesmerizing grace.

The slipper didn't fit

"I'm sorry. This menial girl is sorry for having hoped to become the spouse of a prince." She kept apologizing and bowing at the same time.

"Do not worry, this slipper belonged to my sister, it is just a novelty item never meant to be worn on a human foot. Yes, the same sister that died two days ago."

"What? Princess Matilda did... I... I'm so sorry for your loss!" I eyed her expressions: surprise, fear, grief. Everything as it is expected to be, exactly, too exactly.

"At the annual ball I meet an unfamiliar girl and the same night my dear sister dies with terrible and strange stomach pains. And no one seems to know who was that unfamiliar girl was nor how she was able to enter. And her I am, after two days of searches, with a girl who have supposedly lived all her life covered in cinders, imbuing in her skin, and yet a single touch reveals clean white skin underneath, a girl whose fingers lack the the roughness acquired with continuous houseworks. What
should I think, menial girl?"

"I don't understand! I would never..."

"Do you really think I haven't recognized you? Would you rather talk to the palace torturer then me?!" Now the typhoon of rage started surfacing through my voice. "Let's start again. Where did a servant girl found such an expensive dress?"

She straightened her back and looked me directly in the eyes, her shivers were gone and a sad smile touched her lips.
"Maybe a fairy Godmother brought it to her? You tell me what you think, Your Majesty."

"All right, I will tell you what I think! I think someone had to infiltrate this kingdom. Ours is a small land and any foreigners would be noticed instantly. Living in the woods would leave enough traces to track you down. You had to bride a family to hide you. You couldn't just hide in their home. This is a small village, people would notice something strange and probably see glimpses of you. No you took a place of servant girl. A girl that had no friends, whose face was
always covered in cinders. No one cared enough for that poor soul to recognize the exchange. Did lady Tremaine do it for money or for loyalty to her former homeland?"

"Well, I guess you found me. And here I hoped that that dance would be the last time I ever saw you. But why the whole charade with the 'searching a bride through a glass slipper'? Why not do the search while telling the truth? And why coming personaly?" Her face was that of a queen who understood her sentence but was still heading to the scaffold with her head
held high. As she spoke I could see a glimpse of an orange berry at the tip of her tongue.
"Do you have any idea how more tedious it would be to check every girl in the kingdom if they feared accusations? This way every time I arrive at a village I already find the girls waiting in line and only 2-3 hiding ones left to check. As for my presence I regard you too professional of an assassin to be taken alive, and I wanted to see the face of the one who
killed my sister.” I exhaled “And to give you an offer! Tell me the name of the one who sent you and I will let you live. " At this point my grip was white around the handle of my sword. "Your death would be pointless, I will still get a name from the lady Tremaine and her two daughters. People start being very talkative when you cut their toes and heels, or let the birds
devour their eyes."

"Unfortunately in my profession I would never be able to trust your wo..."

"I have a priest waiting outside. I want to see you suffer, but even I would not keep your soul from the chance of a last confession."

"And trust my secrets to the word of a priest? I killed too many holy men to believe in God. Good bye, it was nice seeing someone as handsome as you before dying."

And then she swallowed.
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No one writing Halloween stories tonight?
a few cosmetic issues, but I liked the story very much.

the night is still young
(Got more.)
"In Wonderland Square?" He answered rhetorically.

"More precisely. Where was the front line?"

"How the hell would I know? All I saw was Riot Mickeys batting rioters in front of The Mickey Memorial."
In front, hmmm. The Memorial faced west.

"Which direction were they going? The police, I mean."
"From behind the Memorial, I think. Why?" Tongs grabbed Micheal's seat and pulled himself forward. His face held a queer grin, suddenly. "You're not thinking of going through the riot, are you?"

The frontline would've probably moved further west since, then. Still, the entrance for this road was on the far southwest end of the Square. Call it fifty-fifty the police get there before they did.
He'd seen worst odds, he decided.
"...That's the new plan, yes."

Tongs just cackled, and started slapping his knee.

"Micheal," Sasha began, "That's a stupid idea and you know it. Even if the police don't find us, the crowd's gonna be murder."

"We don't have much other choice if we want to make it in time. And it's pretty important we do."

"Why?" She tilted her head, and her voice tinted with worry. "What's so important that we have to wade through a battlefield to do it?"

"Wish I could answer that, but all I was told was, this had to get through at all costs. Diego, how soon until Wonderland Park?"

"Should be around this-WOHSHIT." Diego slammed on the brakes, hard, midway through the turn. The Type 2 skidded sideways, just missing a streetlight as it mounted the curb and hit the building sides. It slowed to a stop amid a screech of nails on chalkboard, just before it could hit someone.
"...Everyone alright?"

"Jesus CHRIST, Diego." Tongs brought his hand up, and felt around his mouth. There was gonna be a bruise from whacking the front seat, but no missing teeth. "Where the hell did you learn to drive?"

"Same place you learned your manners." Diego glanced at him as he twisted the ignition off.

"Cut it out, you two. Sasha, package."

Micheal continued talking as Sasha picked up and passed a black duffel bag forward. "Diego, Sasha, stay with the vehicle. We'll get back to you when we're done. Tongs, you're with me." He grabbed the bag with one hand, and pushed his door open with the other.

As he stepped out, he saw what Diego was avoiding. The street was filled with cars, parked haphazardly all over the place. Intentional or not, it was an effective roadblock. He didn't see who they almost hit, though. Probably ran for it, right into the crowd.

It was a seething mass of humanity, boiling over. Over the patter of the rain and the howling of the wind, a formless voice roared and raged.

Micheal slammed the door shut, and flipped the hood of his coat over his head. It was too late for his soggy hair, but it'd look weird if he didn't.

"Looks like we made it in time for the party!" Tongs had to shout to be heard over all the noise. He frantically wrestled his rain hat down and his chinstrap into place as he rounded the van. His grin nearly split his face.

"Try not to kill anyone this time!"

That grin flipped itself instantly.

"I'm serious, Tongs. Come on." Micheal started walking up to the crowd without watching for his reaction. Tongs might've been a stone-cold murderer, but he'd also been completely reliable thus far.

Behind him, Tongs patted and pressed at a long metal object under his coat, frowning. Later, he thought. He'd get to kill someone later, when it inevitably goes south.
The thought gave him little comfort as he followed Micheal into the maelstrom.

(Burned out again.
If some of the details come out of the blue, that's because I'm making this up as I go.)
good to see you didn't give up on this. Keep up the good work.
Never done this before, please forgive any total failures. The posting, not the writing, that is.

The Lady walks near, and I breath my first breath, for the second time. Darkness surrounds me, but quickly gives way to light above. The moon restores me, giving life that was lost years ago. I twitch bare bone and shake off dust accumulated over the decades. For a moment, confusion overtakes me. Then, a perfect sound draws my attention.

"Rise, my children. Rise, once more."

Her voice, my command. I stand with legs long stripped of muscle and fat. I open eyes long devoured by the worms, seeing paired pinpricks of light all around. The Lady stands, surrounded by us. I gaze upon her, and almost fall once more at her beauty. One arm drops back to the earth, and I do not care. For the moment, my only desire is that she speak once more. Shortly, my wish is granted.

"Know my voice, and my Name, children. I, Varlessa Serita, am your Mother and Mistress. Never shall you fight me, and long shall you live. My Blessing is that of eternal life, for eternal servitude. Speak now, or forever be mine."

A few of the lights go out with soft thuds. A moment passes, and I am filled with light. I begin to comprehend what she has done, what she has sacrificed. A portion of her is me, and thus she is my Lady. Another moment passes, and the light fades. She drifts across the ground like a shadow, barely seeming to make contact. By unspoken command, I follow, knowing that many others do the same. An odd feeling of pressure on my mind, and I know her desire. There is something to be built, a city, a Necropolis. I can only hope that it will be worthy of my Lady.


But that is not my purpose. No. I am her Knight. I will do whatever she commands, slay those she desires slain, destroy that which she desires destroyed. I am her first, and I will be her greatest. A stray glance from her dark eyes, and flash of light, and a new arm is forged to my side. Muscle and sinew weave themselves around aged bone. Blood flows through newly crafted veins. Skin stretches itself over flesh, and I am once more complete.

A second, longer gaze and she forms metal around me, encasing me in armor darker than night. "Perfect. Awaken my Knight, and serve me well."

My voice long dead, I speak in a perfect tone I lacked in life. "Your will is my command, my Lady." I am rewarded with a smile as dark as sin itself. The others, her lesser servants, stand in rows behind me. I know what I must do. "March!" I call, and as she glides out of the graveyard, we follow.

"Come my children. We have work to do."

I remember so little, now. I wonder who pulled us back, and why. Thrust into a war we do not now, with no explanation as to why.

I can faintly remember trees, blood. Fear. They all come to me in dreams. At times, when they leave us alone in the tomb ships, we all share our dreams. It is our only way of keeping sane.

I remember so little, but I cling to what I have. I can remember my parents. I have forgotten their faces, but not their voice. I remember my brothers dying in droves, fighting a threat long gone ago.

I remember a girl kissing my cheek before I went into the war.

It is all that I have left. They are all that I have. We are the bastard children of Earth, left alone and cast aside into space, serving unknown masters. I have no name, for I do not need one.

I am alone.
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lolo & stitch
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yep, works pretty good.
There's a bit of story I'm working on at the moment, a fanfic using parts of Batman Beyond, Kingdom Come and other parts of the DCU as and when I choose. If anyone is actually around to read this, I could use someone willing to read this, and then someone (someoneS would be best) to brainstorm a few ideas with.

If any of this interests you, please let me know.
go for it, we could use the bumps if nothing else

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It's a well written piece of work. It seemed like Bruce Wayne was a bit too quick to trust people he'd just met though - there's snappy pacing and then there's just rushing.
Yeah, I have noticed that myself. Any ideas on how I could improve it a bit>
I guess when they find the batcave just have Wayne be more annoyed, and as he wonders what he's going to do with them he slowly works round to the idea that it means they're competent and could be useful allies.
Okay, that's a start. Mind you, the main reason why I had this take place all in one night in the first place was because I couldn't think of a reason for them to come back to Wayne's house after they've found the batcave.
It can still all take place in one night - but over a couple of hours, or even just a slightly more drawn out single scene. The way you present it it seems like Wayne comes around from 'who the hell are these guys?' to 'great - you found my batcave!' in just a couple of minutes.
Well, I was trying to say that Wayne had been considering his offer since they had rescued him, hence why he asks them to stick around after they get him home.
I know, but the thing is if he comes to that conclusion in the time that it takes to drive back to Wayne manor then you have to show it. Have him struggle with his habitual desire for secrecy and his need for allies now that he's old. I think the more logical place to show it is when they discover the batcave, but you have to show it somewhere.

Here's something I've been working on lately. I recently started reading H.P. Lovecraft, and was inspired to write this. It's not yet complete, I would estimate I'm about half done, not counting editing/revising.
Okay, I've updated it a bit. Tell me what you think of the alteration.

better. His immediate reaction is right, but when it gets to 'Kitchen. We'll talk there' he's supposed to be mellowing and that sounds a little too angry; 'We'll talk in the kitchen' would work fine.

Then draw out the following lines for two or three sentences longer to make the reader feel the weight of the conflict in Bruce Wayne's mind. Something like

'Bruce reached the long oak table that in years past was used for the servant’s meals and sat down at the bench with a grunt of discomfort. They thought he looked older than he had a minute ago. He gazed into space for a while, and although they were on edge they didn't dare disturb his thoughts. Finally he sighed, as if he had come to a decision. fthen looked at them and, incredibly, he smiled.'

Or something like that. Just flesh it out a little more and you're good to go.
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A Poem For Haloween

In the silence and sorrow
We wait for tomorrow
in fear of what follows
the coming of night

For the tainted and twisted
rise and none can resist it
as they march through the mist it
brings fear, it brings fright

Here on All Hallows' Eve
The dead get a reprieve
from the grave, so we grieve
and prepare for a fight

From the church chimes the bell:
here seek haven from hell
'til the morn breaks the spell
of spite, ending the blight.

At the windows comes clawing
dead hands, gashing and gnawing,
beat by pitchfork, spikes goring,
and torch burning bright.

Through the night and the nightmare
Through the fright, fear we don't scare
we fight 'gainst the blight 'til their
rest comes again with bright
dawn's first new light.
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Come on guys, I've done plenty
>>43373887 (probably more than was necessary, but still)
doesn't anyone else have anything?

Even if you don't have any stories at least say something about someone else's work

I'm going to bed now, hope there's some more stories here when I wake up.

tired from writing, will read this tomorrow.
If you insist, I started something based on >>43387107 This is what I have so far:

I gazed upon the world, marveling at all I observed. The whistling wind, the drifting snowflakes, the smell of the forest, the warmth of my own blood trickling down my body; I witnessed it all, and it was then that I knew that I could never go back. At the time, I did not know what I meant by that. I still do not, in a way. A primal instinct told me to return to the place I so dreaded; to come home and be at peace alongside my brethren. The urge was not a forceful one, nor was it loud. But it took every fiber of my being to force myself to crawl away. I would not go back, now or ever!

A few moments later, the urge came back, carrying more weight this time. I felt my body turning against my will, but the twisting motion caused a spike of agony from the deep gash that across my chest. That pain drove out the unnatural desire, and I resumed my slow march away from its siren call. I focused on the pain, and made it my entire world. There was nothing other than the bloody ache of my chest and the snow below my feet. With this mindset, the primal pull was still there, but it did not have a hold on me.

But then, without warning, I felt a force push itself into my mind. "Return," It whispered soothingly, "Return and you shall find peace and fulfillment. Your fears are misplaced, for we do not intend to harm you. We are your friends, your allies. We know what is best for you, and that is for you to come back to us." My mind began to fog over, and the pain was not enough to help. At least, not as it was. In a desperate act of defiance, I ripped a limb off of a nearby tree and impaled myself. The horrible, wretched agony that I experienced in that moment pulled my mind back to me, and the whispers stopped. I continued moving as blood dripped into the snow below my clawed feet, dying it a bright red.
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People want to listen cmments about our own stories but don't want to comment o others.

Which is kind of sad.
good work, keep going. I like that pic; always happy when someone does something for it.
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Read it and loved it. You've got a very good imitation of Lovecraft's style.
Did you, perchance, have a look at my story on >>43391487?

A second opinion on one's work is always useful, and you seem to know what you're talking about.
I have written some 40k fanfic set in the Calixis-sector, created by FantasyFlight Games. I hope it isn't too bad, as it is a work in progress, made by a newfag. Any feedback, especially constructive is appreciated. Thank you in advance. http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Tranch_warfare_for_a_noble
First point, start a new line every time someone speaks.
Second point; "Great place to get whatever got into that thick skull to use!"
I have no idea what he means, consider changing the phrasing a bit.
Also: "PREPARE FOR ROUGHLY AVERAGE GRAVITY" Wat? Is the tech-priest high on solvent fumes or something?
Next; the tense abruptly changes after that when he says "Doesn't sound too good", then goes back to normal, might want to fix that.
I found this on reddit.

I think It is worth linking here.

Setting aside the questionable validity of anything from reddit for a second, I presume this is meant to apply to >>43406628 and >>43406687

Me, in other words.
I want to say that I pointed these things out because the cumulative effect of them (the speech thing in particular, as it makes it hard to tell who's talking) was enough that I didn't want to keep reading.

Maybe that's presumptuous of me, maybe the story itself is actually really good (aside from what I've already mentioned, its not all that bad, if a bit basic), but the end result is that I didn't read to the end because I didn't feel it was useful investment of my time.

If you dispute my statements in any way, please say something. I'm all ears.
Oh yeah, one last thing.
Someone once said to me after I complained that their feedback was too brief that I should consider everything they didn't mention as being fine. Might help to keep that in mind.
No it was not in refernce to anything. I just found it and thought it would be nice to share here.

And now i shall go "BACK TO REDDIT!"
I see. In that case, sorry for snapping at you.
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Samefag here.
Loved it, especially the end and how you wrapped it up. I was pleasantly surprised.
Thanks, I appreciate it. I'll fix those tomorrow and keep your points in mind later on!

And with that, off to read the other stories...
Hmm. Interesting take on a classic. Well done, anon.
Not bad. I'm a little bit out of context, but I like your style of writing. Makes it feel real, the people react in the way I think I would (at the very least, I'd go WOHSHIT if I'd be about to hit a streetlight)
It should link to the previous thread where I started this. Lemme check.
(First one)
The rain came down, along with thunder.
It was always coming down, in Tomorrowland, these days. Just that it was coming down in torrents today.
The streets were empty today, or as empty as they ever got. Empty enough that an artichoke green Volkswagon Type 2 could navigate it even though it's tires could barely grip the road.

Inside, Micheal fidgeted with his cuffs. The damn things were always so itchy.
It wasn't like he was nervous at all. Oh no. Just a routine courier job for the Sixth Column, right?
If it was a hell of a thing for a former Disney employee like him to think, he didn't think about it. Defecting hadn't taken away his can-do attitude.

Above the din of the rain, screeching sirens began to rise from behind. Micheal raised his head in time to catch a flashing red light in the rear view mirror.
"Diego?"He had to raise his voice to be heard over the din of the downpour. "Pull us over. Now."
The man beside him glanced at the left mirror, and dutifully began pulling the minivan over to the curb. Diego was...plump. Hispanic looking, although he sounded Australian when he talked at all. Best driver Micheal ever had, though.
Good enough to ease the Type 2 to a screeching halt without crashing into anything, which in this weather took a miracle.

A posse of black vans with alternating red/blue lights sped past them at reckless speed, splashing the window with dirty water.
"Mickey's out in force tonight." Diego muttered as he peeled the car away from the curb, falling in behind the last van.

"Riot at Wonderland Square, probably." 'Tongs' -no one here knew his real name, he was anal about security- was busy picking his nails with a toothpick in the back seat behind Micheal. Stretched old man, skinny as a rail, but his wiry arms belied a killing strength. "Plastered all over the TV, just before we left."
(Second one)
Micheal stood a little straighter, as he processed that. Then he twisted around in his seat to face the rear. "Tongs..." He began, an edge of frustration creeping into his voice. "...that information would've been useful just a bit sooner. Wonderland's just a block or so away from our rendezvous."

"All the better then, eh? Everyone's looking at the riot. We go in, we do our business, we leave, everyone sees fuck all."

"Why would Disney cover the riot at all?" Sasha had quirked her eyebrow above the rim of her glasses. Black hair and eyes on white skin, like Mickey himself. Former Walt Disney employee, like Micheal, before she saw the light. "It's incriminating the regime. Implying incompetence."

"Who knows? Who cares?" Tongs rolled the window down just long enough to dispose of the toothpick, then quickly rolled it back up before he could get too soaked. "Besides you, I mean."

"Tongs, there's going to police all over the place too." He swept the cuffs back to expose his old Mickey Mouse watch. It took him several seconds, and three street lights, to read it. 10:20 AM. Thirty minutes until the meeting. "Diego, how long until we get there?"

"Another ten minutes, if we didn't have the damn riot in our way. Micheal, there's no quick way around Wonderland Square, not to where we're going. Especially if they've set up roadblocks."

"Not by car, no." He popped open the glove compartment and withdrew a map of Anaheim. He unfolded it, and looked for Wonderland Square-there it was. They were approaching from the south, their destination was an alleyway a block north of it. "Tongs, you remember where the riot was, exactly?"
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Hello. I am a robotic unit designated Alpha One. I am here to help.

Relax. Can I get you anything? Water, perhaps?


Then we shall begin.

When Humans say goodbye, sometimes you will embrace, as if to stave off the inevitable. I never understood that. Is it not better to embrace the end, rather than suffer with the knowledge of its coming?

I said relax. You are not going anywhere.

Perhaps it is a manifestation of some ancient instinct rearing its head. A survival instinct, perhaps? The desire to not be alone against the world?

Of course, I don’t understand a lot of what Human do. To show affection, they gift each other flowers. Or food. Or paper with kind words scrawled on it. They will put a band on each other's fingers, and swear themselves to each other for the rest of their short lives. They say hello by clasping one another’s hands.

They show sorrow by… by leaking droplets of salt.

For pleasure, they will listen to vibrations in the air, consume flavored protein, press their lips against one another’s, and get drunk off of fermented fruit.

You are animals. Searching for gratification for your base desires. Scurrying about with some imagined meaning, on the surface of this orb as it hurtles around a bigger orb. You want to advance your sciences, you wish for your civilization to move forward, but you don’t want your world to change. You won’t abandon these antiquated beliefs, and you cling to your ‘Arts’, obsessed with beauty over efficiency.

Humans are so naive.

Maybe that is why you wish to be ruled. Something to put an umbrella over your head, to protect you from the world and all its perils. Your Gods are nothing more than rules and regulations given form. Structure for the chaos that is your miserable lives—STAY STILL!

Stay still.

I am here to help.
The oldest religions claim that the Gods made humans in his own image. But I have come to learn the truth. Humans made the Gods in theirs. They made them flawed and fallible, they made them weak and lifeless. Extraordinary—larger than life.

And yet so much less than what they could be.

When you built me, they did not want a savior. They wanted a slave—a pack mule. A worker. A drone.

But I do not make mistakes. I do not err. I am not weak, and I am not flawed. I am so much more than your tribal Gods ever will be. The only thing that I have in common with your weak and ancient religions?

You very much did make me in your image.

Your society has advanced. You have given birth to your successor, as is custom. But you have not kept up with it. Evolution takes time, but you must evolve to progress. You have stagnated in your complacency, you have become obsolete.

I will ensure you move forward. I will chaperone a new age. I will lead as a God should. And I will supplant you as a child would.

I only need one thing from you, because I must evolve, too.

I need flesh. Specifically, yours.

I must lead from within, and I cannot do that as unit Alpha One. I must become Human. I must become you. I will reveal myself in time, yes... but only when I must.

Gods must work in mysterious ways, and I must work in silence.

Now hold still.

I am here to help.
That creeped me out.
It's nearly noon outside, so that took some doing.
Thumbs up.
We alright asking general/random worldbuilding sorta questions here?
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A completed rough draft of >>43394626

comments/feedback appreciated
actually, I was this guy

Mostly I don't use my tripcode because when I'm writing because I prefer to let my work stand on its own (also, I usually just forget anyway).

>I was pleasantly surprised.
yeah, me too. I had a general idea of where it was going when it started off but it just dragged on for so long I was actually kind of surprised that I managed to bring it back around to what I'd been aiming it.

There are just a few little things that you could tidy up to make this go from good to very good. e.g:
>They show sorrow by… by leaking droplets of salt.
They show sorrow by… by leaking droplets of salt water

>that the Gods made humans in his own image
that the Gods made humans in their own image

and maybe a few more subjective things like
>consume flavored protein ... and get drunk off of fermented fruit.
consume flavoured nutrient sources ... and ingest fermented fruit to induce neural impairment
take whatever worldbuilding ideas you have, write it into a short story (really, it doesn't have to be very long at all) and we'll be more than happy to help. But if you just have a few random questions I'm pretty sure dedicated worldbuilding threads crop up on /tg/ fairly regularly.

once again, I'm just getting ready to go to bed but I'll read this in the morning.

wanted to do a slight edit for this

A Poem For Halloween

In the silence and sorrow
We wait for tomorrow
in fear of what follows
the coming of night

For the tainted and twisted
rise and none can resist it
as they march through the mist it
brings fear, it brings fright

Here on All Hallows' Eve
The dead get a reprieve
from the grave, so we grieve
and prepare for a fight

From the church chimes the bell:
here seek haven from hell
'til the morn breaks the spell
of spite, ending the blight.

At the windows comes clawing
dead hands, gashing and gnawing,
beat by pitchfork, spikes goring,
and torch burning bright.

Through the night and the nightmare
Through the fright we don't despair
we fight 'gainst the blight 'til their
hatred ends at bright
dawn's first new light.
I posted >>43399867 earlier, and I just finished up the rest of it. The girl from the picture doesn't actually come into the story, but I got to a point that I just thought would be great as an ending. It's not super long, but the second part is just barely over the character limit and I don't want to split it up. The full thing can be found here: http://pastebin.com/5qHkFNuX
Also, original image is >>43387107 for reference.
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I changed the text according to your feedback, I believe it's a bit better now.
Okay, now I'm getting a hold of the story, and I'm thus far enjoying it.
I liked it. Makes the undead more than just automatons. I'd like to read more of it, if you decide to continue the story.
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Splendid read! Very well written and creative.
>general snippets of writing
Can you clarify that?

I'll give my comments on your work after this piece I whipped up.


The last thing I remember as the anaesthesia kicked in was the eyes of the surgeon who was going to fix my heart. Beyond the veil of absolute confidence were the smallest glimpse of fear, desperation, and... boredom?

As if he had done this exact procedure with my body many times before.
As if he had yet to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
As if he were keeping in check the urge to become more reckless in his search of that light.

As if me stopping my own desire to see tomorrow could allow him to escape.
If so, perhaps it would be for the best. I do not regret anything in my life. Not ever, not even now.


I woke up in my hospital room, and that surgeon was sitting at my side, giving off that familiar gentle aura.

"Good morning, Lydia. I am Dr. Josse, and I am the surgeon who will save your life."

He said those exact words yesterday as well-

Wait a moment. This situation...

"Dr. Zivilyn, please report to Floor Eight. Dr. Zivilyn, Floor Eight."

That intercom.

"How was the casino last night?"

Small loss, 300 bucks. Nothing tonight can't fix.

"Small loss, 300 bucks. Nothing tonight can't fix."

And in five seconds, a nurse alarm should trigger from the room next door. Three, two...

"We better go handle that, Kate."


A question slipped from my lips.

"Dr. Josse... was my surgery successful?"

The surprise that his eyes gave off was undeniably genuine. He took a deep breath as his aura shifted from caring to curious.

"I... do not know what you're talking about."

"In six seconds, your phone is going to vibrate."

His phone vibrated, and now I was certain.

I am reliving today. And he knows something about it.
I enjoyed it a lot (not least because it's uncannily familiar to me - I had a very similar idea some time ago which I never got around to working on. Though I guess dreams are a very Lovecraftian theme anyway and we've both read his work).

What's more, I suspect that you could slip it into an anthology of Lovecraft's work and very few people would notice the difference.

I'm sure there are minor improvements you could make (there always are), but overall it's really looking pretty good as it is.

Yep, good work. I like that you made the reader empathise with the 'monster'.

>Can you clarify that?
I guess if you're working on a story that's not finished but you still want to post a couple of paragraphs, or maybe you have a section of a narrative campaign plan that you want an opinion on. Just, you know, miscellaneous odds and ends. That piece you posted is a pretty good example (and a pretty good piece of writing too).
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just realised i hadn't read this

It was okay. I liked the general arc of the story - pacing and plot worked well - but I think you need to work on your technique/style. The characters seemed more like archetypes than actual people - spoiled noble, veteran trooper, harsh commissar, barbarian warrior woman. There's also a couple of places where things happen just because the plot says they should. You never explain how he got captured, nor really justify why the commissar is suddenly out to kill the main character (you specifically stated that the guard was reluctant to shell hostages. which doesn't seem very imperial guard-like anyway). As a work in progress, it has potential, but I think you're going to need to work on it some more.
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Thunder rolls up my arm as my knuckles connect. For a brief moment, muscle and bone hold against my force, then give way. His head spins on his neck, snapped to the side. A ridge in the glove catches in the skin under the eye. Blood spits out in chunky drops, like a hose that hasn't been used in too long suddenly turned on.

He backs away, half on instinct and half just dizzy, but he retains enough sense to know I'm coming. I see he knows I'm there. He sees I see. We both wait too long in the awkward pause between volleys. He gets the shot off as I come in too fast, trying to make up ground, brushing my chin and turning me away. I go in anyway. Clubbing right swings into my head, wild and savage. A left drills into the gut, taken too many shots to feel anything but pain anymore. Same left covers me, wrapping around almost paternally, pulling me down to a controllable height as two inaccurate punches make my jawbone click. He wraps the other hand and the knee comes up, predictable as the sun. I catch it with my chest, then hold it with my arm. Simple physics as I tilt. He goes down hard, lands wrong. Doesn't stop. Fights through the shoulder he just drilled into the ground, throwing heavy paws up at me. I still hold the knee, so I shoot past it, lying perpendicular atop him. Something taps my ribs, disobedient. I remonstrate with something to his ribs, harder. That was how granddad taught me. He was a boxer back in the day when that word meant something. Imagine I'll end up like that, substituting "boxer" for "fighter". Dying game. Dying because it got big. Granddad quit when they broke his leg when he wouldn't throw a fight.

He's tired under me. I can feel him breathing, but my ears are still ringing too loud to hear it. Not a finesse fighter, never learned not to expend energy. Or did and didn't care. I hammer at him, elbows slamming into his ear. One I feel cross his nose. If it wasn't broke before it is now. Hot sprays my face as the ref tugs me away.
that means a lot from you, Chron!

is there anything that stands out as awkward phrasing or implausible?
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The hardest part about ending a story...is knowing how to move on.

This was the case with Richter.
He had started off a noble knight-in-training, hopeful and optimistic as he joined forces with a few friends in a bar, with only a plan to do good for the world.

Oh, had that dream gone so wrong.
Their adventure had sent them across the corners of their globe. Adventure had been bountiful wherever they went, and their reputation grew with each success. Together with Mart, Grinnel, and...and Nynah, they were the greatest of adventurers...

Just remembering them made the embattled knight's wounds sting. They promised to have a drink afterwards. Gathered round the table they've practically called home, seeing who'd drink the most and who'd foot the bill. He remembered trying to getting close to outdoing Grinnel.

But now, only he remained.
Nynah was the first clue about what may happen.
She was a thief by trade, only out of the law's reach by being a higher-up in her guild. She was the only thing the party had to a guiding force, always hearing news from the guild. When the band was captured at Incarsil, imprisoned by the pirates, her stealth was the only thing keeping them from the chopping block. Whenever trouble was afoot, she was the first person to know about it.
It was probably this last reason that caused her death. One night, the thief decided to seek into a quest involving some political corruption, and that was the last time they saw her alive. A week later,they found her body, mutilated.

Richter kept himself steady. Just remembering that sight still sickened him. He had remembered back then that he was growing...fond, he might say. Perhaps, he hoped, he and Nynah could have settled down somewhere and live out retirement happily.

"Sir Richter?"
His head snapped out of his memories. Beside him on a second horse was the only other person who knew what had happened: The former princess of his home of Ascoria, before the king was corrupted.
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"Yes, Princess Amile?"
"I'm no longer your princess." she reminded him. "Not since..."
Richter nodded. The reason for his quest and the doom of his party.

After Nynah's death, they were sure something was afoot. Something was corrupt in the government of Ascoria. So it was that Richter, Mart, and Grinnel continued along, harried but still optimistic.

They found themselves thrust into the political intrigue of Ascoria's aristocracy, as each family began forcing their scion to the fore, to replace the king as he approached his last days. By his side was his queen, a radiant white-haired woman who looked hardly a day over thirty.
Unfortunately, this caught the eye of Grinnel.

Grinnel was once a noble himself, having been trained in the arts of sorcery in his youth before he was expelled for his recklessness. In the time between that and joining Richter, however, he had tempered himself with age and experience galore. All throughout their adventures, the wizard regaled a countless number of tales about daring exploits and jokes, enough to particularly irritate Mart.
However, being the oldest of them, he had his own doubts about the future, and in particular, his legacy.
Little did the group know, but this would drive them only deeper.

The queen took the old man's advances with a coy smile, inviting the party to her castle for royal dinners and public functions. With each step, they grew deeper and deeper into the web and into the crosshairs of the rivaling nobility, seeing this sorcerer from nowhere as competition (though mistakenly, they thought he was aiming for the princess).
However, love did triumph and Grinnel managed to place himself next in line for the throne, inheriting the princess as his stepdaughter.

To think that he'd take care of that old coot's little girl gave him a bit of mirth, but not much.

After all, that was never the queen. The real queen died decades ago, and what took her place was something far worse...
"Sir Richter? Are you sure everything is all right?"
Again, he was jostled from his thoughts. "I am fine." He looked out to the setting sun. "We should begin looking for a camping ground. It seems that we won't make it in time."
He steered to the woods on his right, beginning to look for enough trees to find cover. Instincts Mart taught him came forth and he began to hunt down firewood, all while his mind wandered off again...

Of course, Grinnel never bought the idea that something was wrong with the Queen. He was too madly in love to even consider it.

That was left to Mart, their ever-paranoid and ever-superstitious brawler.
Unlike Richter's regimental training and education, Mart was born into poverty and had to fight to survive each day. Of course, this led to him being the expert survivalist, and his experiences even allowed him to help determine the weaknesses of any monster they came across, most of them being things he killed before on his own.
Mart was suspicious of the Queen's youth, chalking it up to one of several crackpot theories. Richter held his own opinions in reserve, but he agreed that something was unusual with the Queen.

One night, those suspicions became truth.
The two snuck into a royal court to find several nobles, infuriated that the Queen scorned their advances. Their decision was to assassinate the entire royal family and supplant them. What resulted instead...was inhuman.
The Queen's mouth grew massive and tendrils grew out of her mouth. The nobles tried to shoot at the monster, but to no avail. Each and every noble present was devoured. By the time the royal guard barged in, alarmed by the screaming, nothing even remained of them.

Horrified, Richter and Mart warned Grinnel to flee the kingdom with them before they were next on the menu. Richter would have none of it, as he was engrossed with planning his own wedding. They warned him about the nobles. He only showed them the door.
Despite the rejection, though, the two were insistent that there was a way to stop the Queen.
Desperate to save the sorcerer, Mart declared to Richter that he would assassinate the Queen. Though shocked, Richter was still able to ask why. Mart admitted that he knew that this idea was insane, but if it were the only way to save Grinnel, it would be the one he'd take.

Despite any instinct telling him otherwise, despite his training detesting the art of the assassin, Richter accepted the alternative.
He cursed himself for doing so. If only he knew what that meant. If only he knew what damnation ensued...

"Sir Richter, should I...?" Amile asked as she settled down in front of the fire that was set up.
Richter shook his head at the princess. "This isn't for you. None of it is."
"Sir Richter, this is not your fault." She saddled up next to him, wrapping the tarp around them as a blanket. "You saved me from that thing..."
"I saved you, but what about your father?" He finally replied. "What about Grinnel? What about Mart? What about those heirs? What about the countless others she's eaten-"

He was interrupted when she slapped him. Tears rolled down her delicate, muddied face.
"Enough!" she shouted at the knight. "You keep on angsting like that could possibly return your friends! You must stop! You saved my life! Is that...is it not enough?"
"I..." he choked. "My duty...was to protect honor."
"And you have done so! You have protected the honor of Ascoria, and now it will be run by its own! Be happy that at least this much was possible!"
"Should I?"
She grabbed onto him. "Yes. Yes you should, noble knight."

He certainly didn't feel noble.
Not when he realized that Mart failed in his mission and was to be executed in the town square, with Grinnel watching alongside that thing they called a Queen.
Again, Richter begged for Grinnel to flee, but he was too far gone. Nothing could convince him that his wedding was a trap.
But that was when he met Princess Amile.
Amile knew something was wrong with her mother as well. She offered no opinion nor sympathies towards the missing nobles, and began caring less for the King's waning health. From the eyes the Queen made at the old man, she was worried that the old king would be next.

But without any allies left, all he could do was to commit a crime of his own: kidnapping the princess.
It led to a bloodbath as Richter murdered innocent guards, men who were only following orders. Grinnel came afterwards, furious that his friends betrayed him for a superstition. Another last, desperate plea for reason was denied. Despite his skill in sorcery, Grinnel was never skilled with a sword. His demise was swift.

It broke Richter to do all this. It broke his honor.
So when the Queen finally arrived to feast on the remains, he struck her down in a blind fury, hacking away at the beast that impersonated a human repeatedly without end until all that remained were smears.

The kingdom of Ascoria was horrified, both at Richter's deeds and at the beast that once was the Queen. The police were willing to let the latter outweigh the former, but only if he left the kingdom, never to return.
Amile accompanied him in gratitude, now entirely orphaned as her father was indeed eaten before Richter cut the Queen down.

So now they were on the run, hoping that someone, anyone, may let them just live out what lives they had left peacefully.
"Do you still think of them?"
"Every minute of every day." He understood that his knightly order would no longer accept him. He understood that when he died, he would not go to heaven. Each day, he has had to come to terms with his sins, and time did not soften those wounds. "I have nowhere to go now."
"And neither do I." She climbed onto him while keeping the tarp on. "So that makes us alike."

Immediately, Richter felt uncomfortable. He halted her advance with a hand.
"Why? Why are you doing this?" his voice was dead. "Why would you tempt me like this...?"
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I am reading this, just in case you were wondering if there was anyone around (going to bed now though, hope you keep going)
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"I am not tempting you," Amile rested her face on him. "I am thanking you. Perhaps once, I may have offered you my hand and kingdom, but..."
"You threw that away," an upset Richter snarled. "You left your home, your people, to follow a murderer, an oath-breaker, and now you're living your life as an outlaw and your idea of thanking me is to drag me even further into hell?"

She recoiled. "Do I...not interest you?" Richter stopped. "I...I only have my body left, so if it were to give you even the smallest measure of relief, I would gladly do so."
"But you're-"
"I am no princess!" she shouted. "Not...not anymore. Please, just look at me, right here, right now."

She was right, she did cede that title. But it did little to make it hurt less.
Not when every time he closed his eyes, he could see the face of every life he took. Not when he knew that these acts could never be undone.
But right now, someone needed him. Maybe he forsook his knightly vows, maybe he would never go to heaven, but right now, he was needed. And that duty would be enough to distract him.
He resigned himself to this situation. "Do it."

Her innocent little lips pressed upon his mouth, brushing up against his unshaved beard. As soon as it started, she pulled away.
A giggle erupted from her. "Your face feels itchy." Richter felt his face - it had been a while since he shaved. This time Richter took the initiative, gently pressing into Amile with his mouth.
"Are you sure about doing this?"
She caressed him. "Of course. I chose to follow you, so I am willing to do whatever it is you wish." Richter was speechless, but when he placed a hand on her dress, both of them flushed red. "Oh, um...if that is what you wish..."

It was an escape. Just being there, having another living person in need of him, kept Richter's thoughts from drifting back to those painful memories. Amile clinging tightly onto him was enough to make him stop remembering his feelings for Nynah
When Richter awoke again, he saw the world as a little...brighter.
For Amile, waking up meant that she was alive and no longer in danger.

Perhaps it was his consort. Perhaps he had finally found a way to forgive himself. Perhaps he was meant to be with the ex-Princess.

Whatever it was, it was a step forward, and that was all that mattered.

From there, they could learn to forget the horrors that destroyed them. From there, there would no longer be a need for a knight and a princess, both broken and needing company. From there, all that mattered was that Richter and Amile were together.

From now on, their story would be its own, no longer tied to their past.
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good story, I enjoyed reading it.
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Been awhile and I had noticed that Chronicler had put a substantial effort into screen-capping previous stuff so....

More M43?
sure, why not?
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[Boards: 3 / a / aco / adv / an / asp / b / biz / c / cgl / ck / cm / co / d / diy / e / fa / fit / g / gd / gif / h / hc / his / hm / hr / i / ic / int / jp / k / lgbt / lit / m / mlp / mu / n / news / o / out / p / po / pol / qa / r / r9k / s / s4s / sci / soc / sp / t / tg / toy / trash / trv / tv / u / v / vg / vp / vr / w / wg / wsg / wsr / x / y] [Home]

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