Right I told you all I'd consider doing some more competitions at some point in the future, well the future is now baby! But I'm not doing a prize draw again, in fact I won't be doing prize draws for some time. So for now I'm trying something a bit different. This might backfire horribly on me, and almost certainly will... but what the heck, I'm giving it a go. Below you'll find the start to one of my long winded, and badly written stories. However, I hope one of you can actually help me out, because I haven't finished it yet. What I require from you is to come up with a suitable ending to my yarn. So what are the rules? Because every competition needs rules! Right? They're as follows:
- You must write an ending to the story 'Sandstorm' below.
- You must then email this ending to me at this email address TheFrontlineGamerBlog@gmail.com, with the following in the email topic 'Dark Age story competition entry'.
- Although Dark Age is a no holds barred sort of game I'd ask you to keep it 'clean' people. No unnecessary swearing or auto-erotic asphyxiation!!! I'll accept 15 rated entries, but R rated hardcore porn and gratuitous splatter fests might not be accepted. I will email you ASAP to let you know if I think you've gone too far.
- Entries must be no longer than 1500 words. I'd love for it to be longer, but if we have 100 entries... well you do the maths that's a lot of reading and a lot of words.
- You do NOT have to be a follower of my Blog to enter this competition. Although it'd be nice if you did follow me. I'm a truly spiffing fellow, and a thoroughly nice chap. Plus I think my Blog's awesome... although I accept I might be a tad biased.
- All entries must be submitted by 12:00 noon GMT on the 19th November 2012. I'll then have a chat with Bryan at Cool Mini or Not about when we'll annouce the winners, and then we'll let you guys know. I think this gives you all plenty of time to get a decent story ending together so late submissions will not be accepted. Sorry!
The entries will be judged by myself and Bryan Steele of Cool Mini or Not / Dark Age / Ravage Magazine fame, and 'Multitasker Extraordinaire' and all round top bloke. So what do you get? Well the winning entries will win, unsurprisingly, Dark Age swag. The precise Dark Age swag is:
- Dark Age: Devastation (expansion rulebook)
- 1x CORE Pathfinders
- 2x CORE Rends
- 1x blister of CORE Menials
- 1x Skarrd Nightmare Juggernaught
Which sounds pretty cool right? I haven't yet decided how I'm going to divide the swag, it might all go to one outstanding entry, or more likely it'll be split between a number of good entries, with the winner obviously getting the lion's share. Also the completed story with the winning entrants conclusion will be posted on the Dark Age website. Pretty cool right? Well I hope you think it sounds pretty cool, because I think it sounds pretty cool. Any way on to my short story...
Finally the explosive plasma cloud had passed by, and the last remnants of the sandstorm it had dragged along with it appeared to be moving away from where Pedro was holed up. In the distance through broken glass doors he could see the whirling orange vortex of fire and sand that had only just recently assaulted his current position. He could hear the explosions and see the flashes of fire off in the distance, and thanked his lucky stars he was still in one piece. He rolled onto his back and took a hip flask from under his tattered jacket. He slowly loosened the top and took a swing of precious water. He swilled it round his mouth to clean the sand and grit out from between his teeth, and spat it on the floor. He took another mouthful, this time drinking longer and harder than before. He was parched. Although mid-day had long since passed, the storm and the heat had left him feeling very dehydrated and weak. He only hoped it had done the same to the interlopers whose progress he had been following for the past three days. He carefully and very firmly screwed the lid back on top of his precious flask of water, he replaced it inside his jacket, and began to beat the dust away from his clothes.
He was totally smothered from head to toe in the orange sand of the desert now, despite him having taken refuge in an old abandoned building. It had got into every nook and cranny and had found its way into some exceedingly uncomfortable places. He sat upright and removed his goggles from his face and shook them to remove the sand. He placed them on top of his head and removed some binoculars from a satchel on the floor to his left: he'd better try and get eyes on the invaders again, and fast. He was in the atrium of a large office complex of some kind, pictures and banners hung like half peeled scabs on the walls. Their surfaces all swollen and bloated from exposure to the elements of this savage spinning rock. Their messages long since forgotten, their meaning lost in the vagaries of time. The roof, which had once been a continuous expanse of glass was now all but broken, only a few desperate shards of glass still clung to the frames, a last defiant gesture from those who had once called this place home. The setting sun was starting to glint off of this last remaining shards in quite a beautiful way, thought Pedro.
Wearily he got to his feet. He needed to get up on the second floor and use the vantage point to view what the storm had done to the forces below. He began to make his way up the cracked and broken stairs in front of him. At some point he was sure this vista must have looked quite grand, but Samaria had a way of turning everything on its harsh surface to wrack and ruin, and here was no different. Exposed concrete was blasted and worn away by the sand, there were bullet holes and burn marks scattered around the place that seemed to allude to the various violent incidents that this ruined building had silently witnessed over the years, probably dating back to before the troubles and the exodus, he thought. He finally made his way to the top of the staircase, tired and aching he waddled forward towards the room he had used to spy on the plains below. The automatic door was jammed in place, halfway open or halfway closed, depending on your point of view. Long disused and redundant wires hung from the ceiling.
Pedro squeezed his way into the room beyond, although to call it a room was a bit of a grand gesture. Inside, most of the roof had been destroyed, and either lay across the room itself, or had been spread far and wide across the desert around the structure. There were desks lined up in neat rows, about 50 or 60, Pedro thought. It was a large long thin room. As he got closer to the outer wall Pedro ducked and moved carefully to ensure he wasn't easy to see. As the wall got ever nearer he crouched further down until he was on all fours. Slowly he slid and hauled himself to where the wall was, rested his back against the surface and paused to rest his cracking joints. He was getting far too old for this. Scouting the wastelands, keeping a vigilant eye out for enemies and being a guide for young scuts. He blinked the sleep from his eyes and peaked over the surface of the walls to the valley below. It was like the storm had never happened down there, not that there was much down there to destroy or change anyway. It was a barren orange expanse of sand and rock, with no vegetation of note.
Off in the distance he could see the amassed forces of the Forsaken. The storm had scattered their lines somewhat. They had been further out into the plains when the storm had first started to show its hand. They had moved rapidly towards the valley hoping it would provide some cover for them. Pedro had sent his three charges back to the villages of the valley as soon as the army had changed route. He had hoped they'd have passed this small valley by, and headed towards bigger settlements. But fate had other plans. Yanna, Dale and Priss had complained at first like they always did: it was the way of the young to rail against authority, and try to get out of doing their duty. A few well placed clips around their ears had convinced them they'd be better off running for the towns and villages in the valley to warn them, than stick around and face Pedro's wrath. They were good kids, skilled kids, and he was sure they'd have made it back in one piece and were already giving the leaders of the various tribes in the valley the message. Trouble was heading their way.
He slumped back down to the ground, and rummaged through his satchel. He drew an old tattered notebook out of his bag and thumbed through it to a page that listed the movements and forces of the army below. He patted at his various pockets trying to find his pencil, eventually locating it in a trouser pocket. Bloody stupid place to put it he thought, but he was glad to have found it. He pulled a desk chair towards him and placed the notebook on it. He once more peered over the wall, this time with his binoculars in one hand and his pencil in the other. He began to survey the tattered lines of the force below him in the valley. The storm had clearly taken a heavy toll on these invaders. Many had been injured, burned or battered by the violent storm. Many lay dead. This brought a grim smile to Pedro's lips. Less for those in the valley to deal with was music to his ears. Better still was the fact that the commander clearly felt it was important to give these soldiers a proper burial.
While it was commendable that they would seek to give the fallen a proper send off, it would thankfully delay their progress even more. Clearly the idiot in charge of this cohort was a bit green behind the ears. He should be pressing on, didn't he know the hills have eyes? Pedro began to make notes as to where the various units and forces were now. He made notes, checking off all of the forces he'd seen and accounting for every unit and person. Well almost all. He looked back at his notebook with a worried look. No, it couldn't be right. He checked the list again and then re-surveyed the scene below him. Even taking into consideration the fact that the storm must have wrought a heavy toll on the forces below him, there were small discrepancies between what he had seen a few hours before, and what now lay in the valley below. A number of units, maybe thirty people in total weren't accounted for. This was bad, very bad. They'd clearly been sent out to scout, and most worrying of all there were eight missing Sisters of Compassion.
Pedro was suddenly aware that he wasn't alone in the room. He heard some very slight and careful foot steps behind him. They'd have been inaudible to most people, but a lifetime of having to live on his wits alone had honed his hearing to that of a dog's. He could smell the faint metallic tang of blood on the air. His heart began to race, but he stilled it. Panic wouldn't save him now. While still pretending to peer on the forces below, Pedro's right hand slowly but surely slid to the pistol inside his jacket. He carefully and quietly unclipped the gun from its holster. His fingers rested lightly around the grip and his finger played on the trigger. He took in a deep breath and in a single fast fluid movement he rotated 180 degrees, pulling his pistol out and pointing it at where the noise had come from, ready to shoot at whatever or whoever had crept up on him. He caught a brief glimpse of the small figure that stood near the doorway behind him just before he pulled the trigger.
It was enough to stay his hand.
"Crap Yanna, what the hell are you doing here?" He looked up to the sky, thankful he hadn't pulled the trigger. "What are you trying to do girl? Give me a heart attack?"
His eyes settled on those of the young girl. They were filled with sadness, and were clearly red from crying. Something was wrong.
"What are you doing back here Yanna?" He paused, and looked around. "Where are the others, child?"
Yanna looked towards the floor, and began to cry. "I think Priss is dead."
Pedro's heart sank, Priss was a good girl, and a survivor.
"I think Dale got away."
"Got away?" Pedro was suddenly even more concerned now. "Got away from who?"
"Their scouts, papa." She shook her head. "They jumped on us from nowhere, we didn't see them."
"Who are 'they', Yanna?"
"The Sisters, papa, the Sisters."
Pedro's blood ran cold at the mention of the Sisters. That would explain the discrepancy in his notebook for sure.
"Four sisters and some others attacked us."
"How many were there, child?" he asked calmly.
"I don't know, about ten." She looked up, a spark in her eyes, and stepped forward. "I killed two though, and I think Dale got one before he slipped away." She stared at the man she called papa, looking for a brief glimmer of praise.
"Well done kiddo, well done" Pedro knew when to offer a carrot and when to offer the stick. Now was no time for the stick. "What happened to Priss?"
Yanna shook her head violently and put her hands to her eyes as she began to cry again. "She put up a real struggle papa, but they grabbed her good." She looked up again, fear in her eyes. "She told me to run, so I ran..." Pedro nodded as if to encourage her to carry on, and she did. "I figured that if I ran after Dale I might slow him down, or lead them to us both, so I came back here."
That was not the news Pedro had wanted to hear at all. He had faith in Dale, he was a quick and sneaky kid, far quicker than any kid ought to be. Tricky too, far too smart to be captured in this valley if he had a head start on people. But Yanna and her instincts, while right in one sense, were also wrong in another. Priss wasn't dead, they'd captured her - and more importantly Yanna fleeing this way, back to this building would have told them there might be more holed up here. He should have let her loose years ago, he knew she was weak, but she was a good kid and really tried hard, and he'd hoped she would have come good in the end. Well this could very well be the end now, he thought. He was getting soft in his old age, and others had told him so too. He had a tough leathery hide, but a gooey heart.
"It's OK, Yanna, but I have to know if you were followed."
"I ran back here to warn you papa! They could've got you next..." she implored, but she knew she'd done wrong. Again.
"Well you've warned me now kiddo, so I have to ask, were you followed?" this time he asked more insistently.
"I had nowhere else to go, papa" she whined. "I just ran where my feet took me."
"Were you followed!" he hissed again in a hushed, but clearly agitated tone.
"No!" Yanna pleaded, her face awash with tears as she walked rapidly towards Pedro. "I don't think so... I mean, I'm not sure how they could've followed me..."
Pedro could see the shock and fear on her face. Her tattered clothes showed the signs of a considerable struggle, they were torn in places and she had cuts and scrapes on her exposed flesh. She had always been the most sensitive of souls. She put on the tough kid act, but she was no fighter really, and she was clearly shaken. He opened his arms and beckoned her to come closer for a hug. Yanna leaped at the chance of some comfort and threw herself headlong into his arms and began to sob uncontrollably. Her answer wasn't emphatic, and her evasion told him she hadn't checked to see if she was being followed, that meant in all likelihood she had been.
"It's OK little pup, it's OK." he stroked her knotted flame red hair to try and reassure her. "I'm just glad you are alive, and that you've come back to me in one piece."
"Thanks, papa" she sobbed.
"Are you hurt, girl?" he asked softly.
"I'm not bleeding, papa, but I've hurt my leg." She pointed to her left knee. It looked swollen.
Pedro picked her up and put her on his back to carry her. He took a long piece of cloth from his satchel and pulled it tight underneath Yanna as she wrapped her legs around his waist. She clasped her arms tightly around his neck. Pedro crossed the cloth across his chest and moved it up round the back of his neck, and there he tied it off to give Yanna the support she'd need as he tried to get them the hell out of here alive.
"We've gotta move, kiddo" he whispered. "I think you might have been followed."
"I'm sorry, papa."
Pedro took one last look at the valley below through his binoculars: down below was a small group moving towards the main force. There appeared to be six figures. Two wore the tight, revealing blood red leotards of the Sisters of Compassion, the others were a ragtag bunch of sorry-ass excuses for soldiers. Probably conscripts. One of the sisters was dragging a small child behind her with a piece of rope tied around her neck. the child was bound and gagged, and was clearly a battered and bruised Priss. Her face was smeared with blood and there was a severe looking gash across her back. A pang of grief ripped across Pedro's heart to see one of his charges brought so low. It was deeply upsetting, and it was his fault. He shouldn't have let them go alone. There wasn't much Pedro could do for her now, but pray. That left roughly six or fewer Sisters unaccounted for, if Yanna's version of events was right. He had to make sure she was telling him the truth.
"Yanna -" he started, "I need you to tell me exactly how many of the Sisters there were that attacked you, and how many were killed or injured."
"We were attacked by about twelve people, in all".
"Priss killed the two grunts, not me. And Dale killed one Sister" she explained. "I froze." She paused. "I'm sorry."
"So how many Sisters and grunts were there in total? Think carefully."
Yanna closed her eyes and relived the attack. "No, there were only fourteen of them altogether" she asserted. "There were four Sisters and the rest were grunts. I'm sure of it."
"They must have split into two groups to scout both sides of the valley" he muttered, almost to himself. "Two groups of around fifteen each, that explains the missing troopers" he sighed. "Did Priss tell you to run?"
"Yes, she could see I was scared stiff, papa, and told me to run for it."
Pedro believed her, she was telling the truth. Dale and Priss had always looked out for Yanna far more than they should do from the moment he'd taken charge of them. They'd allowed her to become weak, and he hadn't done anything to toughen her up. How could a warrior rely on her to have their back? He'd failed her, but he wouldn't fail her now. He hurriedly picked up his remaining belongings and stuffed then haphazardly into his satchel and made for the door. He stopped in his tracks, a chill ran down his spine. He could hear footsteps down below, faintly at first. They were moving in the atrium, treading on the sand and glass that littered the floor there. He needed a new escape route and quickly.
And there you go, I've set the scene for you all. It's now up to you to decide where to take the tale of Pedro and where it should head, and how it should end. Or if you want how about telling the rest of the story from the Forsaken perspective? Or seeing if Dale got away to warn the settlements? What of the fate of Priss? I genuinely look forward to seeing what you all come up with, so get writing now. Peace out!