Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Tree That None May Ever Know - Part 1

He dreamed of falling. At first it was a pit of darkness and only the streams of color that surrounded him as he fell were his companions. In their light he saw the outline of his hand, his arm, his legs stretched before him. He rushed downward but only the streaking colors told him that he moved. He felt no rushing wind, no air to breath or need for breath. He reached out and felt no wall or face of stone, no substance. His hands, his feet and legs, his body had a sense that was only the memory of flesh. In the darkness he burned and became a flame and when he struck the frozen lake he shattered the ice and turned the air to steam. 

The cracks in the ice ran from side to side in the lake and the great river Elvigar shuddered and split. The fire that was Ragnorvald burned upon the steaming ice and a great mist arose and a fog drifted across the banks as not had been seen in Niflheim since the days of creation.

In the chilling water the burning flame became flesh, became Ragnorvald and he swam to shore. The bank was rising as the ice became mist and then water. Ragnorvald was a terrible swimmer and swallowed mouthfuls of the rapidly cooling lake. He flung his hands out for the half-melted edge, pulling down clumps of sticking mud till he touched upon its frozen core. Shaking with the effort his newly formed muscles spasmed and his teeth chattered and chomped till he thought they would break while he lay naked on the shore.

"Cold, you certainly look," came a soft voice. 

The fire still lurked within Ragnorvald, was Ragnarvald, and the shivering and teeth chattering stopped. His muscles burned, and his skin burned with the fiery touch of cold. His bones felt as though they would crack as he straitened and gathered his legs beneath and pushed himself like the rising of the first tree onto his feet and up.

A wolf stood looking at him on the frozen shore and nearby was the frozen stoney edge of a mountain that rose higher than sight and all about, beside the steaming lake, was wasteland, ancient ice and a grey twilight that wrapped itself around Niflheim that did not see the sun.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cockneys vs Zombies

This is in the vein of Shaun of the Dead and a worthy successor. The zombie meter is higher and the humor a little more low key but for me it worked. The cast is amazing and just about every character should be familiar from their other work especially the survivors from the retirement home. There are very few good humorous zombie movies out there, very few decent zombie movies of any type, but this is one of the best.

Wormy Reference Guide - Dragon #50

Irving is strolling through Wormy's mound of treasure idly picking up odds and ends while Wormy is pulling out a blue chest from his hoard. Irving wonder where all the gold and valuables came from and Wormy empties the treasure chest to show him. A wealth of polyhedrals rolls out and Wormy explains her made his treasure the old fashioned way: Wargaming (and making bets on the side), but it is all hush hush because he is a wanted Dragon for it. The Storm Giants have his wanted poster up in the post office, but not for gambling, it's the wargaming that is illegal,


He is wandering through Wormy's treasury for what appears to be the first time.

Post Office;
At least one formal one exists for the Trolls.

Storm Giants:
They are actively searching for Wormy and seem to employ lesser giants.

It's illeagal!

Wanted for Wargaming (and other offenses no doubt). He appears to have been a successful gambler.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Spear That Roars for Blood - Part 14

"Svelta, he is nowhere to be found. Your hero has run away," said Caliban.

"No, curse him! No! He can't be gone!" Svelta cried. "He should have slept till I awakened him." The nymph ran about her bower and searched the tussocks of living grass that had held his clothes and weapons. She found all of what he'd possessed to be gone. Svelta dropped to her knees and began to weep.

"Sister," Caliban put his hands on her shoulders, "Do not despair. He may be near. You say that you were not gone for long. We may find him yet."

She held her brother’s hands in her own and ceased her tears. "Yes, you are right. But Caliban, what if he is gone? I have no way to repay our mother except with my life."

"We will worry about that when it is time to worry, not before," Caliban told her.

"He spoke of warning the lowlanders, though their fate is already at hand," she said. "He would have followed the river downstream."

"Then let us start," said Caliban.

The cambion, child of the nymph queen and a demon-lord, set out with his half-sister Svelta by his side.


Brambles pulled at Arawn's shirt. It was already torn along its side and stiff with old blood, but it was the best that he had to wear. Their pace was slow, the old hound ambled beside him uninterested in the early spring forest life, but instead wanting to stay close at hand. The dog was always at his left, he could feel its tail hit him across the leg as they walked.

Draupnir's would be a long walk through these woods, Arawn thought. He did not like to approach it from the road, but with his injured feet he wasn't sure if there would be another way. The hills turned into mountains, Draupnir's mine sat at the base of one, deep in a valley with the tallest and last of the hills to its south and the rising mountains all around. One long and curving trail followed a path cut by a stream, an old run-off from the Aelphstream river. 

"Dog, that canny dwarf would not be taken completely unawares."

Draupnir was old, but smart and strong. He'd fought hobs and formorians before, but in recent years it had been bandits which had plagued his workings and his men. The trail to the mines was well guarded, posted with watchers and easily defended.

"If the hobs have not come upon them from behind as Sharptooth had said, curse that hob and all his kind," he said to the dog, "and curse all the days I've lost." But he would not curse the nymph. He held the memory of her locked away, afraid to let himself think of her at all.


Half a day had passed as Svelta and Caliban searched down the river. The nymph would run ahead or swim across, unaffected by the strong flow, and search the other bank. Her brother tried to bring her cheer, but his words faltered and she became more frantic and despaired.

"He is nowhere to be found," she said to Caliban.

"We will try upstream," he turned and began to retrace their steps.

"It is useless," said the nymph.

"Come now, Svelta, we have to try." Caliban gave her arm a tug to start her on the way back.

They stood near a human dwelling, a rough wooden box that showed the wear of years and the harsh treatment of the monsters which had so recently passed this way. Svelta looked out across the wide pool that boiled beneath a waterfall.

"I am lost," she said to Caliban. "I cannot face her, I have made my promise that my debt would be paid and now I have nothing to pay her with."

"Svelta," Caliban said to her fiercely."You must either face her or flee. no good comes from bemoaning fate."

"I cannot face her," Svelta said. "I will flee, but where, this river is my home."

"Mother does not rule this river. Her dominion ends with the mountains." Caliban pointed down toward the lowlands. "There the river flows into other streams and other lakes. Sister you must find a new home, you must exile yourself or face our mother’s wrath."

"I will go," she said. "I have no other choice. But down there, I do not know what dangers I will face. Caliban," she looked into her brother’s eyes. "Come with me, please. Why do you stay with her?"

"Sister you pay a debt to our mother, I pay a tithe as well," Caliban explained. "But I will go. She would have me slain for letting you escape."

"Then let us leave this place, but I tell you I will return one day," Svelta swore her oath upon the river bank.


The night was cold. Arawn was glad to have the dog traveling with him, it slept across his chest, its head under his chin, heavy but warm. Morning came as a surprise, Arawn had barely closed his eyes before the light of the rising sun woke him from a deep and dreamless sleep. His dreams had been too real of late and he was glad to be without them while he slept.

The pain from his feet had passed, the swelling had gone down, but they were still red and tender, the cuts healing and crusted over, but the walking had kept them from closing right. The bandages were damp with blood and serum leaking from the wounds. He took them off and buried them in a shallow hole. He had more, a long length of the cloth from the medicine kit he'd emptied and left behind.

With clean bandages on his feet and a quick meal of dried meat and wild onions dug fresh from a patch he'd found along his trail, Arawn set off. The dog had eaten a small share of the dried meat, but preferred more active food. It took off after an unlucky hare then later caught a squirrel as well.

"Dog," Arawn said. "I should have you do the hunting for both of us. I won't forget to set some traps tonight before we sleep. I'll breakfast on some rabbit too."

The day was a long and agonizing trek through the woodlands. Sometime after the noon sun had begun to wane Arawn heard loud singing coming from the roadway. The voices were rough and the words unintelligible, but he did not think that human throats were behind the sound. He had to hush the dog, it heard the off-tune wails and almost began to howl, but Arawn held its head and closed its jaws with his hands. What he wanted most was to see for himself what creatures were marching past, but he dared not take the dog and did not trust his wounded skills. Cut feet and days with little food had made him slow and weak.

Arawn waited till the voices were long gone, the sound drifting through the air as the marchers headed south and east, down toward the duchy and the lands beyond. Angry with himself and daring fate, Arawn left the woods and set out upon the road.

The old dirt track was beaten down, countless feet had passed this way. The grassy verge was almost gone, trees were hacked and stripped of bark, crude symbols carved into their boles. It was risking much to make his way along the road, but it saved Arawn hours of time while the daylight lasted.

"At least no one will spot our trail," he told the dog.


The sun was setting and they had walked hard most of the day but a mile back they turned to the east where the path diverged. The rutted road showed the tracks of formorians' feet frozen hard in mud long dried. Smaller feet were sculpted in the ground as well, claw-toed dogmen and the iron nailed boots of hobgoblins, hundreds had left their mark.

"Draupnir," Arawn murmured. "Draupnir. Still be there," he looked down and spoke to the old hound. "We won't be there before dark. Dog, let’s find a place to sleep for the night."

The two of them moved back within the woods. Arawn found a dry spot and set camp, cutting a layer of fir tree limbs for a bed. A spring was near, an outpouring of the stream which ran close to the road and had cut the valley from the surrounding mountains and the hills.

Arawn used the line he'd taken from the dead fisherman. He set half a dozen traps along the spring and near to clumps of grass and other greens. With any luck he'd catch a hare while they rested for the night.


It was a windy day, breezes howled through the narrow valley road and echoed from its walls. At times a stream trickled along between the cliffs and the dirt trail, but then the way would rise and the stream would disappear sinking once again beneath the ground. It was a bare path, wider than a wagon by a man’s length, but empty. Arawn had no place to hide as he followed it down toward the mountain’s base.

In times past Arawn had gone this way and found it stark but with a sense of strength and beauty. Today he was chilled by the wind and haunted by the ghostly voices calling in the breeze. Beside him the hound was all astir, its ears were raised and it darted looks up at the rising edges of the cliffs. There should have been sentries to greet them and wave them on, shouts to call back man to man to say that rangers approached. Draupnir would broach a keg of ale and have frothing mugs set out in the guardhouse by the gate, waiting for their arrival.

The road seemed longer than Arawn could remember, but he had never had to half-limp down before with stick in hand to help him walk. He had not planned it but the sun rose high as he sank lower between the rocky walls. The final turn was past and the way lead gently down, lit brightly by the noonday sun. Soon darkness would fall even while the sun settled in the east, the high straight valley walls cut the daylight short and made twilight last for hours before the dark of night.

A gate should block the way, he thought, but looking down the road he saw no sign but tumbled stones knocked loose and thrown about the yard. Most of Draupnir's mine was within the caverns at the mountain’s base, but he had a large open circle of land cleared before their mouth. The trail had run to a stone gate with a huge stout wooden door, big enough for wagons to pass in and out. Inside, a guardhouse was set and pathways went up through the cliff and followed trails to the sentry posts which lined both sides of the valley road.

Draupnir's miners were a tough mix, human, gnome and mountain dwarf. They took it in shifts to guard the mine and each was skilled with bow or spear or stone thrown from a sling. Bandits often tried the mine, or had until word went out that it was too tough a nut to crack. But they still tried, the wagons with the ore always went out with heavy guard and Draupnir kept no schedule that bandits could learn, he'd hold up a shipment till his nose felt it was the time to go. The old dwarf always said it itched when someone thought of taking what was his.

Arawn hoped that Draupnir's nose had proven true, maybe he smelled the formorians coming.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Spear That Roars for Blood - Part 13

"Hey there old fella," Arawn ran his hand across the dog’s head. "You gave me quite a scare."

The hound barked and skittered away.

"Down boy, keep it down," Arawn hushed the dog. "You'll bring them here if you make such noise."

It did not understand but barked again. The hound ran over to the wall near the fireplace, opposite of where Arawn had just been hidden. It sat and whined, then put its head down between its paws.

"What's there boy?" Arawn asked, "What do you see?"

The dog just whined and thumped its tail as Arawn spoke. What did it see, he wondered, but first he moved back. Leaning against the wall, the large brick hearth separating him from the dog, Arawn drew his sword. He would not be trapped again with it undrawn.

Arawn sheathed his knife and looked at his swollen feet. They'd begun to bleed again, a toe was bluish black, sometime last night he'd broken it but he couldn't remember when. The left foot had just two long cuts across the soles. He must have hurt it first then leaned on the right to carry him through the woods.

"What a mess," he said to the dog. "And I still have my boots." He shook his head. "Daghdha what a foolish student you have, can't remember to put on boots to walk through a wood at night."


His knife made short work of the rug that had kept him warm during the night. He cut a pair of ragged bandages for his feet, wrapping them tight and careful. The swollen foot would take his weight but only if he walked with care.

Arawn hobbled across the floor, his drawn sword was a burden. He yearned to use it as a crutch, but would not treat it so. There were no sturdy lengths of wood among the debris to use, Arawn stumbled and twisted awkwardly and nearly stabbed the hound as he reached its side.

The dog barked at him and scratched at the wall. Arawn looked where the hound's claws had dug. He leaned his shoulder against the wood and gave it a rap with the pommel of his sword. It gave out a hollow sound, some open space must be here, he thought.

"What is in there?" Arawn said aloud. The dog barked but could tell him nothing else. There was no sign of latch or hinge, he could not even see a line or groove where the wall ended and the door began.

"An axe would be better suited for this work," he told the dog. He brought his sword down along the grain, it took several strikes to make it split, but then a long wedge fell free.

A strong stench assailed him, meat left out to rot. The hound barked and jumped, it struck the wall and sought to put its head into the room beyond.

"Down old fella, down," Arawn pushed it back. He struck the door again and an entire corner dropped away. He must have sprung the lock, it opened at the blow. Inside there was a dark space taller than the cupboard in which he'd hidden but only deeper by a foot or so. A body lay crumpled on the ground, dead, there could be no doubt, and begun to stink.

The hound pushed past him and poked its muzzle against the lifeless form. It whined and lay with head atop the dead man’s legs.

"Come on there," Arawn pulled the dog away. "Let him be."

The body was that of an elderly man. He had a bald head and a long grey-white beard. An arrow stump was still in his chest, Arawn could find no other wound when he dragged him from the hidden space. The man had worn rough hunters’ garb, he had a large dagger at his belt and several pouches too. Arawn hated to rob the dead, but the need to survive left such niceties soon abandoned.

Fishhooks were in one pouch, and line with round lead weights in another. The dagger was thin and curved, no huntsman, this man, but some fisher come to try the river. Arawn saw no sheath for sword, if the man had born some other weapon he had not taken it into hiding with him. A quick check of the hidden space showed only a small wooden box that the body had leaned against and kept from view. Arawn almost laughed when he opened it, proper bandages and herbs, a tinder box, and medicines made from root and bark and wild plants.

Arawn sat upon the floor, the old hound by his side. He'd moved away from the dead man’s body and taken the small wooden chest with him to the hearth. He'd need water to boil some of these dry herbs but he chewed upon a tough and bitter strip of willow bark to soothe his aching head, and with luck to stop the swelling in his foot. He gingerly took the rags from off his feet, they were soaked with blood. There was no water to wash them clean but inside the chest was a large pouch of salt. He bit down upon the bark and rubbed the thick granules along the cuts, they stung and burned like hot coals from a forge. He wrapped his feet, this time in clean white lengths of cloth, then cut the rug again for rags. He would have to fetch some water from the spring and build a fire. Arawn eyed the grisly skeleton impaled on the turning spit. He would take what he had gathered and set his fire outdoors, regardless of the nymph and her pet demon. Let them come, he'd fight them or anything. He would not hide from them again.


Smoke drifted up lazily from the small fire. Arawn sat upon a tree stump and watched the water boil in the pot, he sprinkled in a pouch of herbs taken from the medicine chest he'd found.

"At least they smell good," he said to the hound. The dog had adopted him. It followed close wherever he would go. "Funny thing, old dog, it's not for drinking."

Arawn put his head above the steaming pot. He inhaled the fragrant broth and sneezed. His head was clear at last and his aching feet bound within his boots. He felt refreshed, but weary, his night’s rest had not been half enough.

"Dog, we're going," The hound gave a bark. "I will have to change that noisy habit of yours." Arawn turned and looked toward the lodge. "I wish I could put your master to a proper rest, but fire is the best that I can do."

He took a burning limb from the small fire that he'd lit and hobbled over to the river side of the lodge. The rug he'd slashed apart lay half through an open window. Around it, inside the hall, were piled the shattered fragments of chairs and tables, bits of cloth and firewood from a stack lying unused outside.

The glowing ember was cherry-red as Arawn blew away the ash. He held it to the rug and watched it begin to flame. Once afire he used the stick to push the rug back over the windowsill and onto the gathered tinder. Dark smoke began to stream from the window, then an orange glow. Arawn tossed the stick into the lodge as flames shot through the smoke.

"This fire will bring any searchers for miles around," Arawn told the hound. "Let's get going. Come on, we have a hill to climb. Maybe I can find my pack."

Arawn cut a stout staff from the bole of a young tree. He used t to propel himself along, but frowned at the trail he left behind. "Dog between your paws and my feet we will be as easy to follow as an hob. The bracken will mask us to an untrained eye, but any woodsmen worth their keep will spot our trail like footprints in a field of snow."

The woods were wild and overgrown around the lodge. Arawn led the hound up across the ledge that overlooked the water to their left. It was a steady climb, but not very steep or hard, yet soon the river was far below and the ledge became a cliff. A jutting curve that overhung the path along the riverbank was just ahead.

"Here it is," Arawn said, relieved. He found his pack, a quiver and the dogmanish bow, undisturbed. "Dog I wish that you could carry some of this. The Crowhorns," Arawn mused aloud. "I will need more supplies than these."

He sat on the ledge and looked back downstream. A huge pillar of dark smoke leaned to one side where the wind pushed at it, but he could see no movement in the trees, nothing stirred below.

"Draupnir's mine, maybe they have survived. Hells, what do I know, maybe the lowlands have beaten the monsters back, and Finnian's Keep survived, but no, they at least must have fallen if the hobs and dogmen made it through."

The hound lay beside him and put its head across his knee. Arawn brushed its back and it beat its tail with a rapid thrump upon the ground. "Dog, what should I do, listen to some dream, but I have no better course in mind." Arawn used the staff to stand and gathered up the packs and bow, they weighed him down. "Come then, Dog, it's to Draupnir's first, then... who knows where, maybe Draupnir can tell us more of where to go and what to do."

Sunday, June 12, 2016

To The Bounds of Deepest Water - Part 1

To The Bounds of Deepest Water

He thought of the cold between the worlds and the sterile necessity of flight as he painted the walls of his ship with blood. The metal had been coated with a greenish plastic, very light like the petals of a leaf, as an improvement over the bright dead-white of the padded chambers where they slept.

The blood was fresh and dark and it ran in small rivulets down the plastic walls as his fingers drew shapes that his dreams had imagined. He tried to catch them as they ran and smeared roadways along the borders of his art. The blood would be black soon with no flys, no bugs, no larva in this lifeless metal box that was his home. 

His ship, of which he was not captain, instead, imprisoned by a terrible duty, it was a tomb. Inside were the ranks of sleeping dead, their frozen coffins ringed about the circling outer hull. Inside, deeper, were the halls of the awakened who would wake no more. Deepest still at the roof of his circling world were stored the seeds of the future; flora and fauna, man, woman, animal and plant; all ready for the new Eden, and he was the burning sword.

The blood was hot as he drew it from the long wound on his arm. The others had fought him at the end but his injuries would not kill him; little could, so little of flesh was left to him, but humanity he still jealously possessed. His fingers traced the outlines of the world the left behind and as he painted he began to hum.


Time passed, much, much time, but the sequence was all wrong.


"Gill!" the man called to the darkened room lit only by the white-blue of the machines. He called again and only the distant thrum of machinery that should have been silent responded.

Samuel Clemes pushed himself to his knees, he'd fallen from the Ice Box and found himself on the ceiling, or what should have been the ceiling, amid a tangle soft metal conduits that had been pulled from between the walls. They were too soft. almost plastic, and the folded about him in bends and creases clutching at his legs in an imploring tangle of wrongness.

For a moment darkness overtook him and he was violently ill, painful spasms trying to bring up bile that his disused digestion did not contain wracked him. He wiped his dry lips with the back of his hand while his throat burned at the strain and he laughed suddenly at the pang of hunger he was not supposed to feel.


There were five boxes on the new ceiling. Four blinked green while the fifth was red and empty and black. By stretching Samuel could run his fingers across the pad of keys as it waited for the nunbers, but he hesitated. 

Maneuvering across the gutted ceiling in the darkness was difficult and he fell more than once as he made his way to the wall. He ran his hands along it till he felt it move beneath the pressure and then leaned with his outstretched hands with all his strength. The wall clicked and the panel slid aside.

With both hands he felt inside the opening and pulled the top panel free, beneath it a motor whirred into life and hummed a song sweet to Samuel's ears. A creature of plastic, wire and metal fell free. It began its fall as a black square but as it fell its edges came apart like writhing serpents, light appeared along its length and at its center was a globe that admitted a gentle light which filled the room.

Samuel gasped at the carnage revealed as the light from the Dog showed him the extent of the destruction around him and the flaking images scrawled on the walls in long dried smears.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wormy Reference Guide - Dragon #49

Gremorly the wizard with his handy book of Demonic incantations succeeds in piercing the Veil of Stygothia and freeing the Shadowcat Solomoriah from his 250,000 year imprisonment, but before he can go he needs him to do one little thing; Kill Wormy!


Demonic Languages:
The written and spoken languages of the Demons.

A human wizard of great ability who manages to summon Solomoriah from his lengthy imprisonment. Through use of his knowledgic of sorcerous math and Demonic languages he is able to breach the Veil of Stygothia and no Solomoriah owes him one and that seems to be to kill Wormy.

Gremorly's Familiar:
The tiny Demon manages to ride on Gremorly's shoulder through summoning spells and Shadowcat shouts.

Quite likely the plane of existence which contains Wormy's World.


Dark Angel of the Fallen Huse, a Shadowcat held imprisoned within or behind the Veil of Stygothia for two-hundred, fifty-thousand years. He is freed by Gremorly and owes him a favor (which seems to be to kill Wormy).

Stygothia (Veil of Stygothia):
A place or barrier that has kept Solomoriah imprisoned for a quarter million years.


Not mentioned directly but we all now who Gremorly means.