My usual disclaimer applies. I love this contest, and the setting of the Grim Dark Millennia, but I have the unused education of an east Texan student athlete, and I haven't written much more than my name on counseling statements, until I joined this forum a few years ago.
So take what I say with a grain of salt and forgive my butchering of writing terminology.
Scourged - Superiority
What struck me most about this story, was the contrast between Tempus and Tekla. Both are well written in their own way. Tempus is a gritty, professional, and a hardened veteran. He has the fatalism of a man who is merely annoyed by his comrades dying noisily, the contempt for rear echelon of a frontline fighter, and the wherewithal to call in a six digit grid coordinate of a professional. The quarks in his dialect are a nice touch too.
Tekla however, is a highly skilled pilot, who not just shoots down two gunships, but takes one down in an awesome way that shows her inhuman timing and judgment, and that's before we really meet her. When we meet her she is a driven and devout chaos worshiper, willing to undergo horrific sacrifices to gain the gifts of the gods.
The transition between the two characters, one that I could identify, to another that is well written, but utterly inhuman, fascinated me. Also, the moment of transition from when who was the character driving the story, the moment that Tempus hears the arrival of the Hell Blade, was so well described, it was poetic.
Warsmith Aznable - The Silence of Space
This story impressed me with the details that added so much to the story. It was basically an action story about a chaos marine pilot, but it was rich with little tidbits of details that made a sci fi action story very believable. For instance, some of the terminology in the story like, nape of the earth, and aileron roll, helped me immerse in the story. Likewise, the pilot's attitude seemed like the way pilots have always been, cocky, elite, even resentful of walking like a grunt. I can tell that Warsmith did his research, or is well read, experienced, or otherwise knowledgeable on the material he used in this story.
Another good point of the story, was how seamlessly it fit into a larger tale. It was a story about one mission in a larger campaign, but more than that, the mission fit into a larger plan, it didn't feel like something written as a throwaway story.
EesiOh - Untitled
I liked the concept behind the 17th Wild Hunt. The enraged daemon prince, charging through fire as he led his horde of daemons, cultists, and mutants, evoked a primal imagery in my mind. The Wild Hunt seemed bestial and mythological, as much an expression of something primitive, as an actual fighting force, and this is an excellent take on chaos in my opinion. The dragon compliments this perfectly.
The ending was good too. I liked how it showed the ties that bind the army together. Where Cernunos had followers who had been with him from the beginning, he also had a pact with Fearghal, and in the end, an offer for a more permanent inclusion in the Wild Hunt.
Squigsqusher - Blight
For me, the strengths of this story was its tone. The story started out with a healthy bit of suspense. The evil was out there, all around, but hidden. I know they are completely different things, but I was reminded of the first Jaws movie where you know the shark is in the water, and it has bad intentions, but the time it takes before biting some foolish swimmer makes the attack so much better. The sisters were prepared for the enemy but still surprised. Then when you think they got a handle on it, the real enemy shows up.
The other tone was that of horror. The Blight Drones were evil, not just a construct. The defeat and capture of the sisters was horrific. I have to admit that I liked the suspense better than the horror, but the horror was good too.
Kierdale - Purity of Purpose
The Fall of the Stygian Guard, from the perspective of the techmarine pilot, Otathis.
In part one, I was impressed with the description of Otathis and Angra in the reclusium, as Otathis scourges himself with the pain glove. I came back to this after finishing the story and I think this was the key scene for the tale, at least in my opinion. At first I thought it was foreshadowing Otathis's fall to Slannesh with his over indulgence of the pain glove ritual, but it was deeper than that. It wasn't the desire for the intense sensation that signified something within him that was receptive to Slannesh, it was his quest for perfection, and this was carefully pulled out of him by Angra's questions, although I'm not sure that was his intent. It probably was. It was a great way to show Otathis's motivation in any event.
Part Three also had a memorable scene for me. The physical corruption of Raptor, and the corruption of its spirit, was well written, but Otathis's revelation of what he had become was particularly good. His response to his failure to reach perfection, and the realization that he was an enslaved monster, was suitably epic, but in grim, dark, fashion, he was denied an honorable death. If that's not enough, the fights were good as well.
Who wins? I choose Kierdale. I don't know if this is allowed, but I liked his story the best, and there were very good stories this contest. However, if our IF organizer wants to skip out on the judgment of his competition due to time constraints, and I hope he doesn't, my runner up would be Scourged.