The winner and runner up of the competition have been published separately, but here are the other notable entries:
No Ordinary Slave
By Greg Heath
Gwizda had pretty much been on the move since escaping her enslavement at Landfar Plantation less than a week past. Being Dverg helped put the miles behind her faster, as she required less rest and could survive by eating things that would make other races sick. Even during her spare moments of rest, she made use of that time by carving an atlatl, as well as scrounging some appropriate sized thin bamboo to be used as missiles for the atlatl. These missiles were tipped with pointed stones that were attached with a combination of plant based glue and twisted fibers, pulled from various wet branches. She also fashioned a spear made of thicker bamboo and razor-rock tipped, for fighting up close, for she knew she’d be hunted.
While Gwiza’s pace and crafting would be too much for most other races, she was built for it, and this was easy compared to the enslaved life she had been living for the past few years. Fortunately, Gwizda had a special knack for making friends with beasts, and thus was never truly alone even when there weren’t any other “people” around.
Despite Gwizda’s naturely driven nature, she would still push herself harder after speaking aloud, “Just have to get to the Rig.” She would say it aloud if for no other reason than to hear spoken words while also giving herself extra motivation. She’d heard of a Dverg community there, within the region of Lish and hoped they may defend her against any chasing bondsmen and hopefully help get her home.
Meanwhile, many miles southeast of Gwizda’s current position, a lone Berengi stood nervously outside a large primitive building in Kwara City. Covach had a good reason to be nervous before entering the building and seeking audience with his boss, he had failed. However, the only thing compounding the result of failure would be to run from his responsibility to report the incident. With that in mind, he reluctantly entered the building and asked to be directed to the boss. He wasn’t so much directed, but rather led through the dark hallways by the twins. Covach had always hated to be around those two humans, as the brother and sister rarely spoke but always had that look about them that spoke volumes in a dangerous way. After a few minutes of nervous silence, the trio stopped at the appropriate door and the female twin knocked twice. “Enter”, was the only sound in reply.
The female opened the door and led the way, the male twin nudged Covach to indicate that he was to go next, just in case it wasn’t inherently clear already. The Berengi followed the female and stood before a large ancient desk that had been fully restored to its original opulent state. The desk was bit gaudy and out of place for Covach’s taste, but he wasn’t going to relay his opinion at this particular moment, or likely ever. Sitting behind this overly inlaid chunk of dark wooden desk, was the boss. He was the meanest Sorrian that Covach had ever run across.
The male human closed the door after he entered and stood on the other side of Covach, with his sister on the other side. They flanked him at a fair distance to either side, but might as well have been shoulder to shoulder for how Covach felt with them in here. Before he could speak on his behalf, the boss stood up and started the speaking.
“This was a simple enough task for you Covach, was it not?” Before the Berengi could answer, the boss continued. “Apparently, one Dverg slave proved to be too much for you and your crew of six. Word travels fast in the Flats, so I suspect the Iron Guild is already aware of our failure. Yes, I said ‘our’ failure, because despite your incompetence, this failure reflects upon us all here. “
Covach didn’t like where this was going, but had he honestly expected anything else? He at least wanted to get his side of the story out, as it wasn’t as simple as one Dverg slave besting him and his crew. He took advantage of the boss’s slight pause and started, “But Limossk, it wasn’t just the slave we encountered.”
Limossk held up his hand to quiet the Berengi, “I didn’t tell you to speak yet. But since you were bold enough to interrupt me, I want to hear about this encounter. Are you saying the slave had help? Was it the blasted Militia, because if so, we’ll need to make arrangements to deal with them as well.”
Covach took a breath before replying, as the pain in his left forearm reminded him of the grim encounter. “We found her trail well enough, but she was just moving so fast, you know how the Dverg can be, and we always seemed to be a day behind her. With that in mind, we were surprised when we appeared to catch up to her, in a clearing outside of a small cave entrance. She didn’t seem to be surprised to see us, and she was armed with an atlatl and a spear she must have crafted. Her black hair and light brown skin were decorated with white streaks or sort. We fanned out to come at her from different angles to subdue and collar her like we usually do. She wasn’t afraid. In fact, she smiled and let out a series of whoops, whistles and cries. We thought she may have gone daft of something, but we closed in.”
The Berengi took a breath and glanced around. The twins certainly didn’t show any acknowledgment that he had even been speaking, let alone showing any curiosity in what he was saying. However, Limossk certainly looked to be taking an interest. Covach continued, “Like I was saying, we were closing in on her, but quick as a snake, she let loose with her atlatl, sending a long bamboo shaft into the eye of a wrangler named Sedima and quickly reloaded another shaft for another shot. We didn’t wait for her to loose another one, as we charged toward her. Just as we thought we were going to be close enough for Dondarick to use his blowgun with tranq dart on her, there came a rustling from the surrounding jungle. We paused our advance to prepare ourselves for whatever was making that noise, but it was coming from all around us. Then a pair of Dilophosaurus’ ran out of the cave and spit at us. They hit a couple of the crew and they were left clutching at their eyes and stumbling about. Shortly after that, some Domeheads charged into the clearing from nowhere and smashed into those that were blinded. I heard bones breaking from the impact. Me, Chicaro and Felus were left standing and formed a small circle to defend ourselves, and that slave just kept up with her whoops and whistles. The Toodons and Oviraptors came at us next. They aren’t much to handle on their own, but there were nearly a dozen of them at least. We killed a few, but they kept biting, and pecking and then the Domeheads came in to force us to separate. The others being human, were knocked over easier and overrun. I got chewed up pretty good on my arm before taking out a couple Troodons.” He held up his mangled left forearm for effect, then continued, “With everyone else down and still so many of those blasted dinos around, I ran and got to the tree branches, despite the great pain in my arm and limited use. I figured that me dying there wasn’t going to help get that slave back.”
Limossk held up his hand again to indicate Covach stop talking. He seemed genuinely intrigued when he asked, “So you are saying that this Dverg slave was controlling those dinos? While I know of some limited connections that some have had with dinos, but that is rare and limited to using Dacts for communication over distances, and even occasionally using a Yutta as a mount. But mass control and coordination is unheard of. I’ll have to get word to other crews to the east, as I imagine she may be heading for the Rig. I’ll also have a word with some in the Iron Guild, for they had better not have known of her abilities and kept that knowledge from us. “Limossk paused and walked around his desk and smiled, “let me tend to that wound of yours. Hold out your arm.”
Covach hesitated, but the twins forced his wounded arm out in front of him. With a blink of an eye, Limossk’s flaming Souvla whooshed from its sheath and cut through and cauterized Covach’s injured arm at the elbow. The Berengi howled in pain but said nothing. Limossk put his right hand on Covach’s shoulder and said, “You’re welcome. Now get out of my face and get yourself another crew.”
Gwizda’s hand had been forced, as previously she hadn’t let on to any of the slavers or her fellow slaves about her communication skills with beasts. But this time there was no choice, she wouldn’t let herself be taken back to the plantation or any other slave camp. Unfortunately, the Berengi bondsman had escaped and would certainly tell others about her. After the battle, Gwizda thanked the surviving dinos and let them take care of their dead and wounded in their own way. If nothing else, she had bought time with this battle, but the bondsmen can be relentless.
“Just have to get to the Rig,” Gwizda muttered aloud a couple miles west of the site of the battle. A moment later she heard rustling in the jungle around her this time, but no other sounds. She thought to herself that there was no way another crew of bondsmen could have caught up to her so fast. If it were beasts planning to ambush her, she may have a chance. The hardened Dverg loaded her atlatl and had it at the ready, while holding her spear in her left hand. The attack never came. Instead, several people stepped out of the jungle around her with their hands up in a sign of peace. They were of various races found in Ulaya, but all were dressed in similar green clothing. “Could it be?” she wondered to herself.
Before Gwizda could say anything, a woman approached her with a friendly smile. “Hello, my name is Juchita, we don’t mean you any harm. We had just happened to be on a scouting mission, when we caught the tail end of your encounter with the bondsmen. That was certainly amazing.”
Gwizda lowered her atlatl and glanced away, knowing that now others were aware of her ability. “I don’t know how I am able to do that, you know. I can’t teach it if that’s what you want.”
Juchita smiled reassuringly, “We don’t want you to teach us that. We are the Skyton Militia, and we really have a dislike for bondsmen. We detest slavery and do what we can to fight against those in that ugly business. We followed you for a while to let you unwind from the battle. You are heading to The Rig aren’t you? “
There was no sense in lying, “yes, I’ve heard there are other Dverg there and hoped they could help me. Protect me from the bondsmen.”
“Well in that case, would you be interested in some company? We would be happy to escort you to The Rig, and on the way, perhaps I could convince you to join us in our cause,”Juchita offered.
With that, Gwizda started walking and said, “Let’s go, you can fill me in about the Skyton Militia as we walk.”
Gwizda - Dverg Mech for the Militia
Cost 16pts Health 4
Move 4/6 APs 2
CC 6 Agility 6 Marksmanship 6 Intelligence 7 Toughness 3 Armor (1)
Weapon – Atlatl Rng 6/9 Dam 3/4 Special – Primative / Finite
Weapon – Spear –Rng -- Dam2/4 Special – Pierce (2) Reach (1)
Beast Friend – This Model can give a Command Order during an action as if it were a Leader model. However, it may only give a Command Order to move APs from friendly Beasts to other friendly Beasts, or between this Model and a friendly Beast. No Beast can have more than double its starting AP’s at any one time. When taking a Dodge Action against an Enemy Beast Model, this Model uses her Intelligence value instead of her Agility value.
Camouflaged – When an Enemy Model targets this Model with a Shoot Action that Enemy is at -1 Marksmanship.
Covach – Berengi Tough for the Bondsmen.
Cost – 20 pts Health 5
CC 6 Agility 5 Marksmanship 7 Intelligence 6 Toughness 4 Armor (2)
Weapon – Ruger.5 Rng 9/14 Dam 3/4 Special – Rend (2)
Weapon – Prosthetic Mace –Rng -- Dam2/4 Special – Stun (1)
Savage – Immediately after making a CC Test this Model may re-roll the Attribute Die.
Sniper – Immediately after making an Unopposed Shoot Test this Model may re-roll the Attribute Die.
By Jens Artz
It was one of these cursedly hot and dusty days that followed the three weeks of no rain at all. Such days were rarely seen in this region of Ulaya, but when they occurred, it felt like hell on earth. Nonetheless, Gleyfields marketplace was buzzing with the sound of people trading for goods or gossiping over the latest news brought into the city by incoming merchant caravans. A strong smell of spices, cooked meat and fried seafood was in the hot summer air and mixed with the stench of sweat and motor oil. The odour of the almost dried-up bayou surrounding the city added up nicely to form an unpleasant sort of stink that made it hard not to gag. As the sun was burning relentlessly from above, Renya tried to stay as much in the shades of the surrounding market stands as she could and dared to. She didn`t want to lose line of sight to Dwight and Ressk, who were watching each and every step of hers from a safe distance from outside the city walls. She wasn`t in the mood of risking the wrath of the ill-tempered Sorrian, should they lose sight to her during the mission. It wasn`t a good day for a gear theft... Streets too empty to vanish between busy customers, as everyone was hiding in the shades just as Renya did. Too hot for the good old hit and run. She would be out of breath before she could reach the city wall and dive into the surrounding water, which was anyhow no good idea considering the current water level. But sometimes you just don`t get to choose the day and time of a job.
She was slowly approaching the crowded pub, where Hossan wanted to meet his client. Except for the storage room, the pub was open to all sides with a bar in the centre of the ground floor and a huge terrace on the second level. Two staircases to both sides of the pub led up to the terrace, which was covered by a huge sunshade. This was where the meeting should take place. From one of the staircases she might be able to jump to the canopy of a nearby market stand, slide down to the back and vanish into one of the narrow alleys that surrounded the market. But she couldn`t judge where she would end up. In the worst case it would be a dead-end and she didn`t want to risk that. From the other staircase, an additional makeshift sunshade was connected to some of the nearby market stands in order to protect more tables and thirsty customers from the cruel sun. This side was too crowded to thrust one`s way through easily enough. So she also had to discard this option. Surrounding rooftops of considerable height were also scarce, as the pub was a building of quite an impressive size, towering over the marketplace and surrounding houses. Not impossible to land more or less softly on one of those buildings... but still, a twisted ankle on the run was not Renyas first choice for a gear theft. Additionally, she would be an easy target for anyone crazy enough to bring a gun into Gleyfield. Weapons where strictly forbidden in the city and anyone disobeying the law took the risk of death penalty. But Hossan and his sidekicks were definitely crazy enough...
“She is struggling” Dwight said nervously. He took down the binoculars and turned around to see Ressk watching motionlessly. The Sorrians expression darkened and his eyes fell down on Dwight lying in the dry grass. He didn`t need to answer anything to make the scout understand that he should shut his trap, pick up the binoculars again and keep his eyes on Renyas movements. Just that moment, the girl was crossing the street towards the pub, went straight to the bar and bought a drink. Just looking at the scene left Dwight incredibly thursty. He was lying in the sun for too long now... After throwing a glance at the nearby tables pretending to look for an empty seat, Renya turned to the nearest staircase and climbed to the second storey. Since there were no empty seats on the terrace either, she walked over to the handrail and examined the busy marketplace for a while. She took a sip of her drink, turned around and leaned back, watching the busy crowd on the terrace. Hossan sat at a table in the centre of it all. Three thugs of his were scattered to tables close-by. She could recognize them by the unfamiliar military clothing and their serious looks. Hossan was as imprudent as his reputation would tell...
It didn`t take long for the special guest to arrive and it wasn`t quite hard to distinguish him from the rest of the crowd either: The fat little Dverg wore fancy clothes and used a walking stick made of fine wood, that must have cost him a fortune. He was accompanied by two other Dvergs not nearly dressed as fancy as their boss, but flashily enough to stick out of the crowd. This job would be harder than Renya had expected, especially when the little figure drew the attention of the whole pub towards the newcomers as he greeted his customer in a loud and booming voice: “I cannot believe it! Do I really have the honour of welcoming the great Hossan Aklir to our beautiful hometown of Gleyfield?! And what a fine place you have chosen for our reunion!” Upon that, everyone in the pub turned quiet and watched the scene, so that even Renya could hear Hossans hissing voice: “What on earth has gotten into you, you fool?! Sit down and don`t make such a fuzz - you`re drawing everyone’s attention to us!” The Dverg sat down with a huge smile and very slowly, people started going on with their own businesses again. Without attracting too much attention, Renya shifted slowly towards the centre of the terrace to keep within a good hearing range in order to follow the rest of the conversation. Luckily, there was a group of customers just leaving a nearby table. “What do I care?” the Dverg asked, his smile widening even more. “I own half of this town. Let the few wayfarers and newcomers know, who I am and what I`m doing. That is, how business works. Why the heck should I hide in disguise if I want to make new clients?!” With a wave of his hand, one of his two thugs brought out a small package and placed it on the table in front of his boss. Slowly, the Dverg pushed it towards his customer. “Check it! Best quality. I enjoy a good reputation and do not intend to lose it. If you`re not satisfied, I`ll take it back gladly and you can keep your money. But do not ever bother me again.” He sat back, folded his hands on top of his fat belly and kept on smiling his smugly smile, showing his perfectly white teeth.
That was her moment! If not now, when?! But how?! Too many thoughts ran through her head at a time and there were too many options! Hossan was just about to pick up the small package, when Renya grabbed an empty bottle from a table nearby. She struck it hard on the unlucky guy’s head, who was just walking through the tables looking for a place to sit. Before he could tumble to the ground, Renya grabbed him by the arm and flung him through the tables. Striking home, the poor guy knocked Hossan right of his chair, leaving both lying entangled on the ground like a bunch of vines. Everything happened so fast, that neither Hossans nor the Dvergs bodyguards could do little more than to get to their feet. But Renya was quick! Surviving as a child in the streets of Skytons Downtown needs skills and speed. And Renya had survived for very long and intended to do so even longer. One step on a chair and another on a table, followed by a leap over a group of surprised customers brought her into contact with the objective. Still in mid-air, she analysed the scene within a blink of an eye: The Dvergs smugly smile was fading, as he and his companions watched the entanglement lying in front of them. Hossans bodyguards were the first to react, one jumping towards the table in-between them in order to get to the small package first, another reaching for something in his vest - a gun, perhaps? She had left the third guard behind her and didn`t dare to spend valuable seconds on looking back. Still in motion, she let herself fall down and slide through the mess underneath the table, one hand reaching for the desired object. “Got it!”, she thought grinningly - followed by “Dang it”, just when the little package slipped through her fingers and landed right in front of Hossans bodyguards feet.
“She lost it”, Dwight cursed, trying to follow the scene from their hideout. “It is hard to follow it from here, but I think, she lost it!” Shifting anxiously from one position to another for a better view he screamed out excitedly: “No, wait - she`s got it again! Yes, she`s got it!!! Pulled out a knife and just slammed it through the guys hand when he was trying to snap up the darn thing! She`s up her feet again, running to the stair case!” In the heat of the pursuit, Renya twisted around deftly to slip through the fingers of her persecutors. The tiny package in her hand, she was bouncing through the thugs like a skittish deer. In front of her was one of the staircases and she knew, the guards would try to reach those before her to cut her off. But exactly that was her plan! All the bodyguards were brutes - very strong, with huge muscles but also very clumsy! They might be able to block her exit to the staircases,
and most definitely they would never let go of her if they got her once. But none of them was fit enough to follow her jumping to the nearby rooftops. Twisted ankle or not, this was her best chance! She dodged a blow, turned towards the handrail, leaped through a group of travellers sitting at their table enjoying a cool drink... and jumped!
With a loud THUMP she thudded onto the rooftop. Her feet and legs where trembling when she was trying to get up. Grinning once again, she turned to look back to her persecutors gathering at the handrail, cursing aloud. Underneath of them was the staircase holding the sunshade, even more crowded than a few minutes ago. That should keep them busy for a while. Her smile faded, when she saw the gun pointing at her face from the terrace above. Just like she thought, Hossan and his companions were actually crazy or stupid enough to enter Gleyfield with a gun and use it. The bodyguard smiled a cool smile while aiming at her, when the roof underneath her feet began to creak. She could hear the BANG of the gun just as the rooftop gave in and she crashed into the darkness of an empty store room. Following the shot, the only sound to hear were the screams and shouts of both citizens and city guard. If she was able to get up, the chaos outside should make escaping a lot easier...
“Where is she?! Did he hit her?!” Ressk hissed angrily. “I can`t see her, Ressk, I`m looking! She fell into that building when the roof gave in!” Dwight searched for any sign of Renya running through the narrow alleys surrounding the building she just crashed into. “It`s hard to say from here. She could be anywhere, running through the alleys or maybe she was shot after all and is now lying wounded in that building.” He shifted uneasily from one uncomfortable position into another. He had been lying in the dirt for too long now and he was anxious regarding Renyas condition. “No, wait... There she is!!!” Renya just made her way out of the building, dusty from tip to toe - but by the look of it unharmed. With her little knife she reflected the sunlight to signal her companions, the job was properly done and they would meet at the hideout.
“Ressk, she did it! The girl did it! Dang it, she didn`t even...” he was not able to finish that last sentence, as a strong hand grabbed him by the neck and lifted him up, his feet dangling at least half a meter above the ground where he just lay two seconds ago. Letting the binoculars fall, he clutched his hands around the thick and muscled arm holding him tightly. Just a few inches from his own, the scarred face of a gigantic Berengeii watched him coolly like a mask of solid stone. One of the Berengeiis eyes was scarred to the bone, the other one resting on Dwights face, observing his prey silently. Dwight was certain, the Berengeii could smell that the scout was scared to death. With his free hand, the Berengeii lifted a portable transceiver to his ear, not losing eye contact to his victim: "Got two of ´em, boss. Won`t take much time to catch the third goner..." Only then did Dwight realise Ressks motionless body lying in the dry grass just a few feet away...