CAS

CAS

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reread Jenkin's/Leinster's 'The Other World'



Just reread Will Jenkin's (better known as Murray Leinster) short story 'The Other World'. This the story that made me interested in Leinster's work. It is an enjoyable and inspiring short story dealing with inter-dimensional travel of a sort. Very heavy on the action and light on most everything else but enjoyable. Perfect setting fodder for a gamer (I know I found inspiration for a AD&D campaign that I've been working on for some time) or a sci-fi writer.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Rereading Alexander Kent's Bolitho novels


I've really only read this one and started the first book Stand to Danger, but I misplaced my dead-tree copy and enough time lapsed to want to go back and start at the beginning.

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the Hornblower stories, and anyone who likes Drake's or Weber's sci-fi versions and wants to give something similar but with the original coat of paint. They are also available on kindle, which for me is becoming something of a necessity as my eyesight continues to decline. I'm not sure if the complete Midshipman Bolitho is available in any other format than kindle.

The Bolitho stories don't appear to have been published sequentially but it seems that kindle versions have been rearranged to provide a sequential story. That has worked out well for the Midshipman Bolitho stories.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Small Yuletide Miracles


That moment when your realize the ASL Paratrooper Box actually contains a copy of ASL Croix de Guerre.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Superman Lives


I recently watched this documentary and it is amazing that any semi-decent superhero movies have ever been made. For me, more importantly, it explains indirectly why they cannot make a decent Conan movie. I came across my copy of Jason Momoa's Conan this morning and felt that the movie would have been a notch better without any connection to Conan. If Momoa's movie had been presented as a generic fantasy or an original fantasy setting there would have been no expectations or if they'd simply scripted a version of one of Howard's (rather than a Howard imitator's) stories.

Perhaps they could have crafted something enjoyable from Superman Lives. One glance at the picture of Cage in the long-haired wig and plastic costume makes me think differently as well as trying to imagine how he would act the part and I just can't imagine anything beside farce. Momoa certainly seemed the opposite, a good physical type and acting personality that might have done justice to one of Howard's stories.

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


Summary:
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,

References:

Irving:
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.

Wargaming:
It's illeagal!

Wormy:
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


Summary:
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!

References:

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

Gremorly:
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.

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

Nexar:
Undefined

Solomoriah:
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.

Syiygy:
Undefined

Wormy:
Not mentioned directly but we all now who Gremorly means.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Spear That Roars for Blood - Part 12



Dawn had come and the morning had worn away toward noon. Arawn woke, but in a cold sweat. His stomach churned and his vision was a hazy blur. He was sick, filthy and hurting badly. He shivered though wrapped warm in the rolled-up carpet, then he flushed and felt a terrible heat. The carpet he threw aside, he had to roll along the floor to get it off then he tried to stand but could not. His feet would not bear his weight; they were cut and swollen from his bootless flight across the woods the night before. The sword he wore felt like an anvil on his back, he pulled it loose, thick-fingered, it took him several tries to snap the buckle free. On hands and knees he crawled across the floor, a cupboard near the fireplace had held pots and pans but medicines were hidden there as well.

The cabin was a horror in the light of day. Every foot of wall showed hacks and gashes, not one stick of furniture remained intact, all were smashed, broken or chopped to kindling. Blood, bone and nameless viscera lay near the hearth. Inside the fireplace a great iron spit still retained the bony remnants of the dogmen' last meal. Whoever he had been they had cooked him with his boots still on, thick-soled with rough-forged iron nails. Some hob it appeared, Arawn was relieved to see that they were not the light- soled boots that rangers wore.

Crawling made him cold again and sapped his strength. Arawn lay near to the hearth and looked toward the wall. The small cupboard door was shut but split, its center panel smashed by a club or a vicious kick. He saw a pot that had been kept within, it was dented and showed bright metal scars where blades had hacked into its base. It was hard to tell if the cupboard had been emptied, the floor was layered with debris, and only that single pot had caught his eye.

Arawn summoned up his strength and crawled forward once again. He dripped with sweat, the cold had passed, the heat made the room look red.

He awoke only an arm's length from the cupboard door. In an eyeblink he had passed out and lay there he knew not how long, hot then cold, now shivering again. Teeth chattering, he pulled himself along, his sweat-soaked shirt a clammy second skin. Arawn pulled the broken door aside, a small square set in the wall. Inside he found only a broken empty shelf, not a scrap was left. The dogmen had taken all.

Arawn laughed, a painful heaving sound, and swooned. Suddenly the fever, hot and cold had gone away. He was looking down, a body lay still, its head and arms half hidden within the empty cupboard.

"That's me!" he said aloud, but no sound came out. He floated higher and drifted through the wooden roof. "Another dream," Arawn said but his words were only a thought. The river rushed along, the water fell and crashed. The woods were quiet, though he could see the movements of a deer. Then along the stream came a running pair, the nymph and a winged man, "Some demon in the nymph's employ, no doubt."

Arawn felt a sudden fear. "This demon will see me," and with that thought he fell. In a flash the cabin came rushing up and he was lying on the floor again. "My fever's broken," he said and this time he could hear his voice, but still he could not rise. Weak as a kitten he pushed the broken shelf aside and crawled into the small cupboard then pulled shut the shattered door.

***

Two voices sounded outside the hunters' lodge. Arawn heard the nymph's seductive tones and the grating voice of her demon escort. He hid, choose your fights if you can, Daghdha always said. The cupboard was so tight he could not draw his sword, but he drew a dagger from his belt, little good either would do against some hellish fiend, but he swore to face his death with a weapon in his hand.

Footsteps thrummed against the porch, the door creaked across the floor, adding another scratch to the wooden boards already streaked with such from a hundred pairs of clawed and careless feet. A padding came near to where Arawn hid, the loose debris layering the floor he could hear being scrapped aside.

Arawn's heart thudded in his chest, his fever broken but not gone, he had no chills but within the close confines of the wooden box he streamed with sweat again. His mouth was dry. He ran a rough cardboard tongue against his teeth, his lips felt stiff and gluey. A drop of sweat ran down and touched them, they burned. The skin dry and cracked, he had to open his mouth with care, skin separating upper lip from bottom, the dry stuffy air stung them where raw flesh showed through in cracks.

The nymph had not said a word since she had entered into the lodge. Arawn could not bring himself wait; they would find him in any case. Fight while you still have the strength, he said to himself.

Arawn placed his foot against the broken cupboard door. It throbbed, cut and swollen, he gritted his teeth and kicked out. The cracked wood broke in two, half on the hinge, half flying free into the room.

"Yaarrghh!" Arawn screamed and rolled out to face the demon the nymph had brought along. Instead he looked into a pair of dull brown eyes. A large old hound stared at him and wagged its tail. The dog gave a bark, then padded over and licked his face.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Repost - Minstrel Tales A Prayer to Hextor



Minstrel Tales A Prayer to Hextor

A Prayer to Hextor

This is an inscription found on the barrow of an ancient Oeridian War-Chief. It is still used today to honor fallen worshippers of Hextor who have achieved greatness in Hextor's cause.

"My days have run, A servant I
Worshipper, of mighty Hextor;
Student of war and battle, Hextor's lore;
I have called his battle-cry;
Fulfilled his red and bleeding feast;
Held my enemies heart within the flame;
I am set free and named by name
Honored by the War-God's priests."

An altered fragment of Aristophanes

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Spear That Roars for Blood - Part 11



It took Arawn an hour to find his clothes. He fretted over every wasted minute. If that nymph returned he did not think he would have the strength to resist her charms so he knew he must run.

Finally he found his boots, they were lying by the river bank, and as he put them on he paused. "What was he to do now?" he thought. How long had been here? It all seemed like a dream, but his side was partly healed. A long purple-bluish scar ran from ribs to hip. The wound looked like it might have been a week old or even twice that, but he could not believe so much time had passed.

"She must have healed me with some spell," Arawn said aloud. "She must have."

The waters all ran south, and that way lay his home as well. But this Blodeuwedd, her legend placed her among the daunting Crowhorns where man, Aelph, or gnome seldom roamed and never dwelled. He shook his head, legend, that was all she was, and what sent him to her; a voice speaking in a dream.

Going would be slow without supplies. He had some odds and ends within the pouches on his belt, some line, some fishing hooks, a piece of flint and a honing stone. But the jerked meat, nuts and dried fruits were in his pack, left to rot high above the river where he'd jumped. A week's rations there, all gone. His stomach rumbled, he'd lived on love, but little else, during his time spent with the nymph.

He set out on his way, dogging the stream back to the northwest. Somewhere he'd cross to the eastern side. Find his pack, see if the monsters had left anything behind in that hunting lodge then see if he could pick up the other rangers' trail. The last was a very forlorn hope in Arawn's mind. Even if they were dead the hobs would not let their bodies rest. He turned his attention from such thoughts and kept an eye out for some food along the riverbank.

An hour later he sat nearby a small pool, an offshoot of the rushing stream. He'd found frogs and turtles along its muddy shallow depths and now full, his stomach silent, he felt a weight pulling at his limbs, his eyelids drooped, and sleep called softly for him to rest. Arawn fought back, he ducked his face into the muddy pool, he'd wash off later when he was along the river once again, but for now the mucky water chased sleep away, though still his limbs felt weary.

The way was rough; no trail had been cut along this shore, though animal paths were frequent near the offshooting streams and pools. Those paths went south and west most often. Arawn felt he could travel just as quickly by breaking a new trail as following the twists and turns of the small paths he'd seen.

The water roared nearby, he crawled on his belly and peered from behind a thick growth of weeds to see what moved along the river's eastern side. All was quiet but for the stream and nothing moved. The river path was empty, no sign remained that hobs or formorians had ever crossed that way. If the current had been less fierce he would have swam to the other bank right here, but his weariness had never left him.

Now as the day wore on his strength seemed to set with the light. He must find some place to rest, he knew, and soon. As he watched the waters he placed his chin upon his hands and closed his eyes, sleep claimed him and his head lay against the ground.

***

The sound of voices woke him from his sleep. It was nearly dark, the sun had dropped below the mountains and the last rays of daylight lit the clouds with a pinkish hue. Twilight had crept in while Arawn lay asleep.

The voices came again, a pleasant tenor and a lilting soprano, the nymph and someone else, another man. a surge of jealousy ran through Arawn, it woke him and cleared his head. He felt the urge to jump up and out, to confront the pair. Instead he closed his eyes and placed his hands against his ears, he hid from the sight of her and from her voice, they were weapons that he could not face. He thought of Daghdha and his friends, he brought his wandering dreams to mind, and let himself dwell on what was happening down below. These were his armor and his shield against the beauty and desire that the nymph possessed, they warred within him and he lay stunned and wounded while the battle raged, fought between his heart and mind.

Night had settled down upon the river when next Arawn opened his eyes. Had he slept again, he yawned and wondered, but felt better and his limbs less weary. The night-talking insect life had not yet woken from their winter's sleep, the river sang its song alone, the woods were still.

Arawn stood and began his slow-paced journey up the river along its south-western bank. Silver moonlight danced over the river water, two moons chased each other across the starry sky. Arawn breathed in deep, the cold night air making him feel more awake and alive than he could ever remember feeling in his life.

He stood before a familiar scene. Across the river a log house, the hunters' lodge, the waterfall roared down unchanged. He never thought to see this place again. The current was strong, but Arawn could think of no better place to cross. Upstream, below the lake, the river was all falls and fast running streams. The water here was fast, but slower than any other spot the ranger knew. It was cross here or follow the river to its source and the mountain lake was fraught with perils both rumored and deadly true.

Arawn took off his boots again and tied them to his sword. He sat upon the bank and slid his feet into the chilly stream and pulled them out again quick. "Oh great," he said aloud. "Now I have to go."

Several moments later he cinched his belt tight and sat on the bank once more. The water was still as cold, but Arawn slid in slow, without a splash. The current pulled him and he swam angled against its force. He made progress, but three paces ahead and two drawn back.

The far bank was high and slick, he'd been dragged far from where he'd thought to cross, his muscles burned, his hands and feet felt like icy blocks. Slick grass and weeds slipped beneath his numbing hands but an old thick root, projecting from a long dead stump of tree, allowed him to wrap his arms tightly round its limb. He used it like a ladder to climb the bank and rolled onto his back once he had pulled his legs and frozen feet from the cold flowing stream.

"Fire..." he said with chattering teeth. He'd need a fire to warm himself whatever the risk might be. The hunting lodge would be best. He remembered the crude comfort of the place. He forced himself to stand, his boots forgotten still tied around his sword.

***

Arawn could not feel his feet as he stumbled through the woods. He shook with cold, soaked to the skin and freezing. The world was at an angle, disjointed. He fought through the thinning trees, half tripping, colliding with branches he hadn't seen or thought were to the side.

The moonlight sapped the color from the earth, all was shining silver and deep black. He knew he ran, but it felt as if he was standing still, the distant lodge came rushing toward him. Trees ran and buffeted him with their boles, scratched at his protecting arms and sought his eyes. His ears were filled with the water's voice, roaring, roaring, always roaring, it drowned his thoughts. Everything around seemed flat, like a picture on a wall, but rolling back and forth. With his arms raised in front of his face he collided hard with the lodge's wall and was knocked back. Arawn fell and lay looking up at the moons and stars, they danced and left sparkling trails like words of flowing script painted in glowing light against the dark backdrop of the night sky. He could not read what the stars were writing, his wonder turned to sickness and his stomach churned. He shut his eyes, but the lights remained, spots dancing on the inside of his closed eyelids.

Arawn rolled to hands and knees. He was sick and heaved till his numbed sides began to ache. It cleared his head though it left him feeling weak. He wiped his mouth and spat then tried to stand. He fell then crawled. His hands touched the rough wooden timbers of the wall. He pulled himself up on cold shaking legs and dragged himself along, head and shoulder scraping across the bark.

The porch was high here at the southern end, its floor came to Arawn's shoulders and its railing was high above his head. He tried to grab the edge but his fingers were stiff and cold, still half-numb. He swung around the corner and plodded up the slope, as the ground became higher the floor of the porch dropped further and further down. Halfway up Arawn could lean over at his waist and place his head and shoulders on the wooden floor. He could barely stand but he could crawl, with his elbows and a small jump he got his right hip over the porch's edge.

The smooth foot-worn boards felt good against his back. Arawn wanted sleep, wanted it too much. The cold had begun to go away and he no longer shook but felt warm. Death could come this way, he thought, even in an early spring. Soaked in icy river water on a chilly night, not how Arawn expected the end to be.

He groaned and dragged himself across the floor of the porch. The lodge's door hung loosely on a single hinge, its frame cracked and showing deep gouges from axe and sword. The long main hall smelled bad, it was very dark inside, only swatches of moonlight angled in through windows along the lodge's side. The hall felt colder than the porch outside, the shutters were open wide or gone, Arawn could not tell. The little light showed splintered wood, the tables, chairs, benches and all else had been hacked to bits and what was not burned as fuel was left scattered about the floor. As he crawled he came across broken table legs, the fragments of a chair, broken plates and cups. Too weak to move them or move aside himself Arawn crawled on and did not note the cuts and scrapes they caused him.

Near the center of the floor he felt a rough rag cloth beneath his arms, a huge lozenge of a rug. Heedless of the sharp scatterings of debris, he grabbed its edge and rolled himself inside. Bundled up and feeling a slow return of warmth Arawn let his conscious mind relax and fell asleep, regardless of what might find him trapped, cocooned within the rug till morning came at least.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Lone Wolf - Monster - Giak - Post 3


Giaks are the most common foes in the Lone Wolf setting. They are bred in spawning pits by the Dark Lords. There are several breeds of the original Giaks but they are much smaller and weaker than the later breed of Mountain Giak.

For game purposes the lesser breeds of Giaks are monsters and use the monster combat tables based on HD while the Mountain Giaks are an NPC character race and use the fighter combat table for the experience level they have achieved.

Mountain Giaks are larger, stronger and much more disciplined than their smaller kin. They are militaristic and have an organized society based on a command hierarchy with ranked positions of authority. All Giak's are short and squat, while Mountain Giaks are larger than lesser Giaks they are all grey-skinned and yellow fanged.

When any Mountain Giak is mixed with lesser Giaks they are immediately in command no matter what level of experience they are at even a lowly 1st level Mountain Giak 'cadet'.

Each level of experience is a named rank among the Mountain Giak's

0 = Recruit
1= Cadet
2 = Private
3 = Lesser Corporal
4 = Corporal
5 = Lesser Sergeant
6 = Under Sergeant
7 = Sergeant
8 = Over Sergeant
9 = Lesser Captain
10 = Captain
11 = Over Captain
12= Lesser General
13+ General

Mountain Giak's organize themselves into regiments although there is no particular number within these regiments and there are commonly between 500 and 5,000 within each. The larger regiments tend to have higher level Generals but sometime attrition or large combat losses cam leave a group with high level leaders but fewer members. New recruits from breeding pits tend to go to the largest regiments first so it can be difficult for a particularly mangled regiment to get back to large numbers once they have taken heavy losses.

Mountain Giak's use the 1e PHB Fighter abilities and do not possess characters of the ranger or paladon sub-classes.

Lesser Giaks are 1HD Monsters with a natural AC of 8 but otherwise have the AC of the armor they are wearing. They have the normal attacks per round with the weapon they are equipped with or a 1d6 bite attack. Their movement rate is 9" and their intelligence is Low-Average.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

White Dwarf #18 Fiend Factory - Mandrake People


I was thinking about doing a series of posts on White Dwarf's Fiend Factory when this entry caught my eye. Rather than go back to the first issue with the column I've decided to start here and go back and forth with it till I'm caught up.

The Mandrake People is a creature inspired by one of Thomas Burnett Swann's stories. I'm not familiar with it and it sounds a bit like it may be a short story so I don't know how easy it will be to track down. I haven't read to much Swann. The few I have were short and I have the memory of them being tragic retellings of mythology, but most mythology kind of swings that way.

There are some great ideas here, the viagra babies gave me a chuckle, but the mildly vampiric Mandrake women were an excellent idea, which is why robbing fiction for game ideas is such a good idea.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Wormy Reference Guide - Dragon #48


Summary:
Wormy is playing pool when Irving decides to play a game of his own on Wormy. With the use of an old bone and some sound effects Irving makes it seem another Snookerball has cracked and released a blue Ethereal Demon. Wormy moves lightning fast and even loses his cap for a minute in his rush only to find Irving sitting in a corner-pocket. After giving the little red Imp a giant-sized warning Wormy fetches his cap and brushes off Irving's warning about the dangers of playing games with the Snookerballs.

References:

Ethereal Demon:
Wormy worries that one of the blue Demons has escaped but it is only Irving playing a joke.

Irving:
With a crack and some loud FFFing noises Irving gets Wormy to think that another Snookerball has cracked. He takes the mild threat from Wormy in stride and still gives a warning about the dangers of playing with Snookerballs filled with demons.

Snookerballs:
Wormy has cracking the Snookerballs all day across his pool table till Irving uses one for a prank.

Wormy:
Wormy loses his cap in a rush to see if one of the Ethereal Demons has escaped only to find Irving playing a joke. With a non-too-subtle warning he lets Irving off easily and takes the little demons fears in stride.

NPC - Rusty


Outwardly Rusty is a typical Rust Monster but in actuality he was a skilled blacksmith who ran afoul of a powerful Sorceror with an ironic sense of humor. He has the normal abilities of a Rust Monster but the mind of the man he once was. The Wizard Talberth discovered him held in a cage of bone in the caverns of the Dark Elves but was unable to dispel the powerful enchantment. Currently Rusty helps to guard the Wizard's mansion in the town of Gorakil but slowly the mind of the man is disappearing leaving only a fading memory in the body of the monster.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

White Dwarf #18 AD&D Mini-Scenario The Halls of Tizun Thane


The Halls of Tizun Thane by Albie Fiore

This is one of my favorite adventures from White Dwarf. It is recommended for a large party of 1st to 2nd level adventurers and is wildly inappropriate for such low level fodder. Several of the creatures encountered could slaughter the party by themselves, one group of monsters right at the start of the adventure before the players even make it to the halls. The way the scenario is set up it is an almost guarantee that they are going to all get killed unless the DM is in a railroady mood. While there is some slight amusement to be had for a DM in seeing all the PCs die a gruesome death I try to avoid such things without better warning than having an NPC tell the players not to do something that will stir their curiosity. Definitely some changes need to be made, but it is still a great adventure with a huge amount of material stuffed into 6 oversized pages.






Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Riddle Master of Hed trilogy by Patricia McKillip


When I first read this story I didn't enjoy it but coming back to it I think it is perhaps one of the best fantasy stories ever written. It is rich and evocative, filled with a sense of mystery, beauty, sadness... There is a world described here that is mythical and yet full of connections to ourselves. This is not a retelling of The Lord of the Rings, which was a popular theme at the time. It is not allegorical or filled with subtle or unsubtle political references. It is not brutally, decadently, crassly, boorishly realistic. It has power and imagination and magic and a conclusion after only around 700 pages total that people following overstuffed, endlessly sequelled, glaciarly paced fantasy series might find disconcerting.

The Spear That Roars for Blood - Part 10



The tunnel moved beneath Nantosvelta's feet, but she was sure-footed and had played along these swirling walls before her mother chased her from her home. No other nymphs resided here, just her mother, the servants and her sculpture garden of once living flesh, now lifeless stone. She sighed, she would not waste such a one as rested in her bed, but her debt was overdue and her mother's wrath was something she could not face let alone survive.

The crashing fall was far overhead, the whirlpool tunnel ended in great doors of water-polished stone. She shuddered at its sight. The frame, which arched high above her head, was adorned with nymphs of stone, her sisters who had failed to pay the debt of life they owed to their mother-queen. They paid it with their deaths. A dozen statues, sad faced, poignant, carved from flesh and set stiff in hard cold stone. Some had looks of fear or terror, one beauty laughed, harsh and brave. Another's lips curled in contempt, a fist raised against her fate. This one was set against the door, her raised arm, a handle to pull open the heavy valve. Beside her stood a hand-masked face, one hand hiding fearful eyes, the other outstretched to keep away the numbing death that claimed her.

Nantosvelta grabbed her sister's defiant hand. She would not share this fate, but if she somehow did, she'd stare it down bold eyed and not cower back like some mayfly human maid.

The passage seemed unguarded but the nymph knew better. Her mother's pets kept watch. A mated pair of monstrous basilisks laired within the queen's palace, their offspring allowed to roam at will along this hall. The greenstone charm Nantosvelta held in her hand felt warm, it glowed and sent out a sound beyond her hearing that kept the basilisk brood away.

The walls were lined with examples of her mother's art. Above her head a flock of geese, frozen forever in flight, winged their way across a ceiling colored a cloudy blue. She was running out of room, thought Nantosvelta. The walls were heavy with the bodies of countless victims, the tiled pathway lined with such as well. The nymph shuddered, she remembered playing games among these creatures whose flesh, now stone, once lived, whose eyes once shown, chests heaved with air and voices sounded, now rendered stiff and silent for countless years.

She came at last to a mighty door, two golems made of stone stood at either side. A statue set in the door itself shimmered and came alive. With a smooth graceful step it moved across the floor, behind it, a hollow man-shaped space was left. The statues features changed, no longer a bare-chested man of dark grey stone, now, warm reddish flesh, with feline golden eyes, small horns upon its head and a pair of wings that a dragon chick might possess, upon its back.

It smiled at the nymph, its teeth were white and even, but it had long needle-pointed fangs, its hand had claws that curved like little scimitars.

***

"Caliban!" Nantosvelta exclaimed. She had not expected to see her half-brother here again.

"Svelta!" cried the cambion, half nymph, half demon, sired by some hellish lord. "I am glad to see you, but I wish it was not here."

Svelta, as her brother called her, ran to his embrace. He lifted her from the floor and swung her around, then set her back on her feet.

"Do not be sad brother," Svelta said. "I come to pay my debt."

"Ah, so you have found a toy for our mother to add to her collection," Caliban smiled. "Good. Will it do? She has become jaded by our other sisters' gifts."

"I believe that this one will redeem my debt in full," Svelta said with regret.

"Ahh! This one must be quite a catch if it has touched your heart," Caliban caught her wistful tone.

"Nonsense. I have had him only a few days. He needs to rest and heal," Svelta rejected her brother's judgement.

"So quick! It truly must be a special toy," Caliban then frowned. "But damaged. Just what is it that you have found?"

***

Arawn's dreaming mind drifted on. He could not close his spectral eye though the land he loved had become a nightmare of pillage, slaughter and destruction. He rose, floating on a wind of thought, above the ravaged streets of Gorakil. The last defenders fell and the center streets were packed, panic roamed at will and terror ruled the night just ending. He heard the gonging of the great bells above Finnian's temple, one last peal to greet the dawn, but there would be no tomorrow.

Up he went, rising high into the paling sky, below the town shrank to a child's toy. The cries of fear and screams of pain became remote then disappeared. Arawn looked across the land, Highaelph, Der and Nagham, all were besieged. To the north of Nagham the town of Bluewater fell as Gorakil had. Its guardsmen sleeping out the last hour of their watch, hobgoblin knives saw that they would never wake again.

***

"I have found a hero," Svelta said and smiled.

Caliban laughed, the sound echoed strangely along the hall, a hundred stone-frozen faces looked on and listened with ears that could no longer hear. "My sister, I never knew you to be so romantic." He saw her frown. "He may well do, mother is a romantic herself."

"Mother? Romantic?" the nymph could not believe her ears.

Caliban waved his hand in a sweep to include the macabre decorations in the hall. "All this is a romance, though dark and grim. You are very much like our mother, and that is no insult. She is cruel, yes, but I have walked along the layers of Hell and the Abyss. They have romance there as well, but they make such things as this," he pointed to their sisters' stony form, "look like a sunny day or a pleasant dream."

***

Arawn dreamed, but it was not fair or pleasant. Time came and went, quick then slow. He floated high to see the entire land then dropped down low and, helpless, watched a farmstead south of Der be overwhelmed by a howling pack of dogmen.

Further south he watched as fires began to grow and swept through the Yewwood. But the forest was full of life and it took a magic flame to keep the blazes lit. Fire formorians from the southern mountains led packs of red eyed monstrous hounds whose breath was the flame of Hell. They fought their way along the Bluewater river to the center of the wood.

At Patrick's crossing, a lumber town, its defenders were driven away at great cost, and with eyes shamed at the sight, Arawn watched the elders of the town open the gates and surrender to the formorians, begging for their lives. A towering red-haired formorian, with skin black as coal in a forge, lifted up a foot and crushed the leader of the town beneath his ponderous boot. The people cried out, but at the formorian's growl they hid their faces and whined in fear, submitting to their fate and their new master's harsh decrees.

All across the land the story was the same. Defenders fell, from the Cavehill to the Green Oakwood and across the fields between. Just before he wakened, Arawn's eye fell on Nagham, the capital city, its walls were breached, its gates thrown down. The Duke's guard fought beside shopkeepers and fishermen, but to no effect. At best they slowed the formorians' advance, at worst they increased their wrath. Wagons used as makeshift barricades were flung aside like children's toys. The living, wounded or hale, man, woman or child, were killed when found and some were made into a hasty meal by their killers, fighting was hungry work.

Arawn's eye flew above the ruined streets till he reached the Duke's great keep. Already fire touched its walls and massive stones thrown by formorians' heavy arms had left the battlements with broken teeth, the fallen merlons knocked into the yard below.

The Duke himself stood upon the parapet and looked into the street below and as Arawn watched the Duke turned his head and stared him in the eye.

"Arawn," The Duke spoke and called to him by name. "Arawn, find the druidess Blodeuwedd, for all our sakes. Ask her help and tell her this,"

I am a Spear: that Roars for Blood,
I am a Salmon: in a Pool,
I am a Lure: from Paradise,
I am a Hill: where Poets walk,
I am a Boar: Ruthless and Red,
I am a Breaker: threatening Doom,
I am a Tide: that drags to Death,
I am an Infant: Who but I
peeps from the unhewn Dolman Arch?

The Duke wore Daghdha's face. "You are as a son to me, Arawn."

And in a sweat, Arawn awoke, starting from his grassy bed.