Sunday, April 21, 2019

Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories 5a

Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories 5a

If you have not read this story TURN BACK NOW! or risk losing forever the unspoiled appreciation of Clark Ashton Smith's prose.

5a). The Tale of Satampra Zeiros
(Written Nov 16 1929, first published in Weird Tales Nov 1931)

Commoriom - [TWN]
Polarion - [PLC]
Satampra Zeiros - [NPC]
Tirouv Ompallios - [NPC]
Uzuldaroum - [TWN]
White Sybil of Polarion - [NPC]

"I, Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldarium shall write with my left hand, since I have no longer any other, the tale of everything that befell Tirouv Ompallios and myself in the shrine of the god... (see post 5b), which lies neglected by the worship of man in the jungle-taken suburbs of Commoriom, that long-deserted capital of the Hyperborean rulers. I shall write it with the violet juice of the suvana-palm, which turns to a blood-red rubric with the passage of years, on a strong vellum that is made from the skin of the mastodon, as a warning to all good thieves and adventurers who may hear some lying legend of the lost treasure of Commoriom and be tempted thereby."

White Sybil of Polarion

"Now Commoriom, as all the world knows, was deserted many hundred years ago because of the prophecy of the White Sybil of Polarion, who foretold an undescribed and abominable doom for all mortal beings who should dare to tarry within its environs. Some say that this doom was a pestilence that would have come from the northern waste by the paths of the jungle tribes; others, that it was a form of madness; at any rate, no one, neither king nor priest nor merchant nor laborer nor thief, remained in Commorion to abide its arrival, but all departed in a single migration to found at a distance of a day's journey the new capital, Uzuldaroum. And strange tales are told, of horrors and terrors not to be faced or overcome by man, that haunt forevermore the shrines and mausoleums and palaces of Commoriom. And still it stands, a luster of marble, a magnificence of granite, all a-throng with spires and cupolas and obelisks that the mighty trees of the jungle have not yet overtowered, in a fertile inland valley of Hyperborea. And men say that in its unbroken vaults there lies entire and undespoiled as of yore the rich treasure of olden monarchs; that the high-built tombs retain the gems and electrum that were buried with their mummies; that the fanes have still their golden altar-vessels and furnishings, the idols their precious stones in war and mouth and nostril and naval."

"...we saw in the moonlight the gleam of marble cupolas above the tree-tops, and then between the boughs and boles the wan pillars of shadowy porticoes. A few more steps, and we trod upon the paven streets that ran transversely from the high-road we were following, into the tall, luxuriant woods on either side, where the fronds of mammoth palm-ferns overtopped the roofs of ancient houses.

We paused, and again the silence of an elder desolation claimed our lips. For the houses were white and still as sepulchers, and the deep shadows that lay around and upon them were chill and sinister and mysterious as the very shadow of death. It seemed that the sun could not have shone for ages in this place- that nothing warmer than the spectral beams of the cadaverous moon had touched the marble and granite ever since that universal migration prompted by the prophecy of the White Sybil of Polarion.

"I wish it were daylight," murmured Tirouv Ompallios. Hos low tomes were oddly sibilant, were unnaturally audible in the dead stillness."


The Treasures of Satampra Zeiros

The city of Vol in the Amedio Jungle is dead but for the bestial life of the ape-man. While some parts of the city have been rebuilt by a few thousand of these strangely human-like and advanced creatures, most of the city remains locked in jungle-choked ruin. The oldest and more outlying areas of Vol are home to a more savage breed of ape-man as well as the beasts of the wild, the giant-sloth, clouds of giant bats, the sabre-tooth...

In the comfort of the old inn at Monmurg, the Silver Eel, Satampra Zeiros the One-Handed, tells of the great treasures to be found in a nameless and forgotten temple located in the abandoned suburbs of Vol, and of the map he is willing to sell for a substantial amount of gold, and a share in the treasure itself.

While Satampra's map is accurate, if slightly out of date, the treasures he speaks of, the eyes of the dark idol in the abandoned temple (rubies as big as northman's shields) and the collected offerings of millenia piled at the idol's feet, are not simply there for the taking. The temple is not abandoned, and the dark idol is not nameless. The wild ape-men of Kor, driven from the rebuilt center of the city by their more evolved cousins, have opened the doors to this ancient, squat stone temple and have found a god.

The passage to Vol, according to Satampra's map, is down the river from the Amedio Coast and onto a small tributary that ends at a collection of broken stone piers near the east of the city at the edge of the old suburbs. This basin is home to a water snake of gigantic proportions. Vasha, her ancestors altered by the power of ancient mages of Vol, is a stupendous creatures several times the size (and hit dice) of a normal water snake. She is of moderate intelligence but high cunning. She will not risk herself unless she is sure of success, though she is willing to sacrifice her progeny (what else are children for?) in great numbers. These water snakes are double the size and hit dice of normal water snakes and infest the half-submerged ruins immediately surrounding the pier.

Vasha lairs in a cavern beneath the basin. It was several passages and chambers (including a hidden chamber where the research was done on her ancient kin). Her nest has an escape tunnel that leads to the T'vala inlet which she will not hesitate to use. Vasha is a big coward at heart. Vasha is immune to charm spells and abilities and her children are highly resistant.

The overgrown houses, shops, barracks and boulevards have abundant animal life. Exploration of these ruined buildings will result in numerous encounters with wild animals defending their lairs. As with Vasha's children these animals are highly resistant to charm spells and abilities, but they are no more aggressive than any other wild beasts of the Amedio Jungle (at least for now).

If the players have Satampra's map it will show a path through the jungle and ruins that leads through, what one were, major streets of the outer city. These paths lead to a clearing. These paths are suspiciously clear and show signs of recent passage.

The clearing, at the end of a short three mile journey through the ruins, is a paved square with an old and worn squat black building made of basalt blocks. It is a short, three-tiered, ziggurat with a set of stairs leading directly to a pair of double doors at its top level. There are at least fifty bodies scattered about the square. Two of the largest clumps of the dead, comprising about a dozen bodies each, are charred and smoking. The others appear to be chopped, battered and broken. Other than a few exceptions the dead are ape-men, some clad in dark mangy capes (giant-bat skin).

The first non-ape-man body appears to be a youth, fair-haired, the hands of an ape-man with a split-skull clutching his legs and the headless body of a second ape-man nearby. The youth has had his throat torn out. On his back is a large open pack which still contains food and some camping gear. He has an ordinary belt knife and clutches and unbloodied spear.

The second human body can be found at the foot of the ziggurat, a fruz warrior. There are a half-dozen ape-man bodies around him, slain, apparently, by a large axe clutched in his right hand. A close examination of his body shows that his arms and legs are swollen and tinged with green. He wears an enchanted shirt of chainmail and his axe is also magical and runecarved.

There are no other visible entrances to the ziggurat other than the double-doors at the top of the stairs (although 2 secret and hidden passages are among the ruined buildings bordering the square). The long flight of stairs up to the doors is festooned with ape-man dead with a large pile of bodies before the doors. These bodies will need to be cleared before any attempt can be made to open the doors. As the players reach to drag away the last body an automaton of flesh springs up, tossing aside the corpse of the ape-man. It is only slightly damaged and will attack anyone approaching the door or directing ranged attacks against it.

The doors are shut with iron spikes and a crossbar from within. It will take 449 hp damage to batter them down. As the first blow against them falls (or if they are opened by any means) drums from the surrounding ruins begin to sound.

To be continued...

Project - Languages of Oerthly Magic - Magic Missile

Languages of Oerthly Magic - Magic Missile

16). Magic Missile

Amedian - Ukawe Kombore (Uk-Aw-E Kom-Bor-A)

Bakluni (Ancient) -Zeherlae Faeze (Ze-Her-Le Fe-Ze)

Drow - Majekese Raketae (Maj-Ek-Es Ra-Ke-Ta)

Dwarven - Mageska Misseale (Mag-Es-Ka Mis-Sel)

Elven - Maegene Ohjuse (Ma-Ag-En-An Oh-Jus)

Flan - Draoketa Deaurnakane (Dra-Ok-Ta De-Ur-Ak-An)

Fruz - Galdare Eldflaegame (Gal-Dar Eld-Fla-Ag-Am)

Giantish - Magezkeze Gezkose (Mag-Ez-Kez Gez-Kos)

Gnomish - Magezkae Rakate (Mag-Ez-Ke Ra-Kat)

Oeridian - Magea Raketa (Mag-Ey-A Ra-Ke-Ta)

Olman - Maea Evekanae (Ma-A Ev-Ek-An-A)

Suel - Magekae Telam (Mag-Ek-A Tel-A

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 31

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 31

"You will get out of my way!" Derue yelled at the others.

"Derue, you are possessed," Gytha yelled back at him. "Throw away that sword. Fight it!"

"I will fight you if you do not move.," Derue told her. He began to advance with his sword at the ready, the fire bright along its length. "Elf!" he commanded Ghibelline. "You have sworn an oath to me, strike her down."

"My debt to you is paid," Ghibelline said in a calm voice. "Your brother is healed. I will not raise a hand against this good cleric."

"Trust an elf and elf's word," Derue spat out. "I am leaving here. I should cut you down in any case, but stay out of my way and you will live!"

Telenstil did not reply to Derue but spoke quietly to the elf. "Take your friend into the cell, out of the way. We will deal with our companion."

Ghibelline carried Jalal into the cell; the old man was thin as a figure made of sticks held together with string. The elf could not say if he still breathed or if the madman had slain Jalal in his escape.

* * *

"Don't forget the chain," Talberth said to the ranger.

Harald grumbled, but wrapped it about his shoulders with care, more to balance it evenly than any worry he had about damaging the weighty links. As they left Ivo kept glancing back at the chute. He could not decide whether he was happy to be rid of the priest or sorry to abandon even so regrettable a companion in such a place as the giants' hall.

* * *

The hallway was huge, more like a road or some covered bridge of stone. Edouard ran fast, faster than the orcs who pursued him. After a hundred paces they let him go, he had maimed and injured many of them and the others had no great desire to fight the madman again. Ahead, the passage ended in a door and two ways, smaller than the hallway he'd just run down, they ran to his left and to his right. The door was heavy and old, wood bound with iron and set with metal arms to hold a timber, that kept it closed. The timber lay against the wall, and the door was open wide. Inside, it was a reeking pit of black. Edouard stood, he looked back the way he'd come then ahead peering into the lightless room. He turned to his left to look up the smaller passage then around again, facing the right-hand way. Something tickled his mind, a lazy finger of heat, a tongue of flame he could not see. It pulled him to the right. He stumbled forward and felt the flame increase then he began to run. His sword, it called to him from somewhere ahead, down the right-hand way.

* * *

"Pod-At, Taz-Pan, Zamp-La," Telenstil intoned and threw a dry pellet toward Derue. The scout brought up his sword, but the pellet became a white viscous blob. It hissed as it passed through the burning sword and thinned to a mist as it struck Derue. A wave of nausea nearly made him wretch. Derue felt as if he stood upon a ship that was caught rolling in a storm upon the deep. He swayed and the world went upside down. His sword fell from his grasp and he rolled after it. His fingers touched the hilt and sent the blade skittering further away. He could not stand, he tried and fell. Before he could rise again Gytha's metal staff struck him aside the head. Stars sparked behind his eyes and a dark wave came up and swallowed him.

"Bind his hands," Telenstil said to Gytha.

"What will we do with the sword?" she asked.

"I do not know. I hate to just leave it, but it is dangerous to touch or even possess." Telenstil eyed the blade lying cold and naked on the ground.

"Can you destroy it?" she asked.

"No, not even if I had my rest and the most powerful spells at my command. This was crafted with both evil and power," he nodded toward the sword. "It will take much power to destroy."

"Good cleric," a voice spoke. Ghibelline the elf came from the cell. "Can you see to my friend? He is injured."

"Certainly," Gytha said as she tied Derue's hands behind his back and tied his feet as well. "Does he wake?"

"No, he is senseless," Ghibelline replied.

"Here," Telenstil asked the elf, "help me bar the door."

Ghibelline left Gytha to attend Jalal and went with Telenstil to the huge door. A wooden beam could be dropped between metal brackets to keep the door from being pulled open, but now it lay propped up against the wall. Both elves wrestled with the beam. Ghibelline would have been the stronger of the pair, but starvation and torture had weakened him, he was only a thin shadow of his former self.

"You are of the high brethren," Ghibelline said to Telenstil.

"And you are of the woods, and for the woods, are you not?" Telenstil replied.

"Yes." he answered. The two swayed back and forth with the beam, they managed to place one end against a bracket and struggled to raise the other side, but could not.

"We will need Gytha's help," said Telenstil. "

She is of the lands below, you are far from home," said Ghibelline.

"You seem to have strayed far as well," Telenstil replied.

"Yes, these hills are not my home, but I came to find someone. They may have been taken by these giants," Ghibelline answered. "They were not here. I was taken instead. I did not think I would be struggling to lock myself inside these cells."

"We have companions coming," said Telenstil, "and those orcs outside may object to us leading away our scout as a prisoner. They seem to have taken a liking to him."

"He seems just their sort," said Ghibelline. 


"Harold," Ivo called quietly to the halfling. "Harold."

"Shhh!" Harold hissed back. He ran from the stairwell to the pantry door where Ivo, Harald and Talberth padded slowly in. "I'm glad you've come, there is something going on below. I can hear the shouting."

"They are in trouble," the ranger shook his head. "Come on, we better go help."

"We don't know what is happening down there!" Talberth exclaimed with in an unexpected squeak.

"Then we had better find out," Harald shrugged the chain from his shoulders and let its length come crashing down.

"Watch that!" shouted Talberth.

"It'll be alright, come on!" Harald cried to them.

"Talberth, prepare a spell," Ivo told him.

"I can do better," answered Talberth taking a wand from a sheath he wore on his arm. "I have magic enough left in this to give anyone or thing we might meet below quite a shock."

They ran to the steps, both Ivo and Harold looked askance at the deep treads the giants used for stairs.

"Follow us as quick as you can," said Talberth.

The ranger was already dropping down the steps with reckless speed.

* * *

Gytha stepped from the cell. She left Jalal sleeping, healed of his wounds, but weak and tired. She felt weary herself, being a vehicle for the Saint's grace and power enriched her spirit but took its toll on her strength.

"Gytha," called Telenstil, "please give us a hand."

The two elves struggled with the heavy beam. Gytha set aside her metal staff and ran to them. With her help they set the bar in place.

"Phew!" said Gytha letting out a small huff of breath.

"I concur," said Telenstil.

"And I," added Ghibelline. "How is my friend?" he asked Gytha.

"Asleep, but I believe he will be fine," said Gytha. "That was a nasty blow he took, and he is frail."

"The giants use up their slaves, at least Nosnra does," Ghibelline told them. "The dwarves last the longest."

"We saw no dwarves," said Gytha.

"No, they are kept at the forge. It lies somewhere among these passages," explained Ghibelline. "It is near their chamber of pain. I have been there many times. There are a pair of huge giants at the forge, the kind that are kin to fire. They look like creatures of that plane, burnt skin and hair like the embers in their forge."

"That," said Telenstil, breaking into the elf's rambling speech, "that is very strange. Fire Giants you say, hmmm..."

"Yes, I have heard them talk, but I do not understand their words, it is not like the speech of Nosnra or his kind," said Ghibelline, "but Jalal might be able to tell you more. He has become close friends with one of the dwarves who they hold at the forge. They use them for the finer work that the orcs cannot do, the giants of stone find them useful as well and make sure that Nosnra does not kill them out of hand, but still they work them close to death."

"Giants have little feeling for those smaller than themselves," said Telenstil.

"Those are kind words to describe such evil monsters," said Gytha.

"No, there are giants of all kinds, some are cruel and some are not," said Telenstil. "I have met worse than Nosnra, both giants and those of our size."

"You are right," said Gytha. "The Saint teaches that the body is but a shell, it is the spirit inside that matters."

"Wise words," said Ghibelline. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Hill Giant chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 30

The Hill Giant chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 30

There was a gabble of rough voices below then they heard a human shout, Derue yelling for quiet. Gytha helped Telenstil down the last step. They paused to listen before entering the huge room itself.

Beyond the vaulting arch they could see a crowd of orcs sprawled out in groups about a cavernous room. Derue was surrounded by one group and faced another. Both groups looked ill-treated and half starved, but there was a demeanor to the orcs facing Derue that those behind him lacked, an air of resignation but also pride. They were a quiet lot while the orcs around Derue were boisterous and loud, these that parlayed with him were silent and only their leader spoke.

Telenstil counted several dozen of the beasts and perhaps twice as many in the other group. He walked slowly into the room with Gytha by his side. Derue caught sight of them and waved. He started toward them when they did not increase their pace.

"Hurry, this way," Derue shouted and lead them across the room to a large iron-bound wooden door. He banged loudly on its panel and shouted to those inside. Something gave a clang from within then a half-dozen orcs pulled the door open using an iron chain. A man stepped out, but Derue pushed him back and turned once more to signal franticly for Gytha to quicken her pace. "Will you hurry, we have wasted enough time already," he shouted.

"I'm coming, I'm coming," she replied, clearly annoyed with the mercenary's complaints. "Where is Edouard?"

"He's here," Derue pointed. He stood within a long hall lined with cells, a man stood beside him, swarthy and old, but calm, seeming to have mastered whatever fears or concerns he felt. Derue practically danced with nervous energy, his eyes darted from Gytha to the cell, back and forth till the cleric stepped inside.

Edouard lay unconscious, his eyes closed, his breathing faint and labored. Gytha knelt beside him and put her head on his chest. She heard the gurgle of liquid when he breathed, and put her hand lightly across his ribs. The bones were broken, she could feel the jagged ends where they had been snapped off and driven into his lungs. His face was badly bruised as well, but she suspected most of his injuries were inside.

"Heal him," Derue demanded.

Gytha paid him no mind, she would do what she could do. "Dear Saint," she began. "I have asked your help much today, but the need is great. This is a dark time and a dark place. Please lend me the strength to heal one who has fallen to this dark, who fights the evil you have fought with merely mortal strength. Please dear Saint, aid this fallen warrior who is near death." She placed one hand upon Edouard's head and the other on his chest. A deep green glow began but as it sank in it was replaced by gold, a shining gold that surrounded Edouard, his body lifted from the ground, his arms fell to his sides, suspended as well. His body shook and an angry line of red curved back and forth like a snake through the haze of gold. Gytha felt a great pain, her hands were on fire, it blazed at her, but she called upon the Saint and the golden glow increased. The red lashed out, it sprang from the cocoon of golden light and sought for Gytha's throat, but as it left Edouard it paled and faded into a dark steaming cloud, then blew away, up and up toward the high ceiling and disappeared.

"What was that?!" asked Ghibelline the elf. He had backed away when the cleric entered the cell and remained unnoticed while she cast her healing prayer over Edouard.

"Gytha! Are you all right?" Telenstil tried to go to the cleric's side but Derue roughly shoved him out of his way.

"Edouard!" he cried and ignored Gytha who staggered up, dazed, on unsteady feet.

"Brother," Edouard spoke. "Where am I? What has happened here?"

"You are in the giants' cells. I don't know how you came here, but you were badly injured," Derue told him.

"I feel fine," he said. Edouard felt his chest and jaw. "But I do remember great pain. It was like a dream. Derue! Where is my armor, my sword!" he grabbed his brother's arms so tightly that the links of Derue's own chain shirt bit into him like metal teeth.

Telenstil held Gytha up by the shoulders. She shook her head then steadied herself. Reaching out she gave the elf's shoulder a squeeze, then took the metal rod from where it rested against the wall. She leaned upon it and seemed to take strength from the black iron, recovering from her brief daze.

"Thank you," she said. "Come, let us step from here and let Derue and Edouard speak."

Telenstil lead her from the cell. "And you sir, who are you?" he asked the elf who followed them.

Gytha turned, a bit surprised. She had been aware that someone else had been in the cell, but had not taken note of whom or what he was. The elf looked worn and his injuries, old and new, showed plain.

"I am Ghibelline of Derelion," the elf said, then pointed toward the door behind them. "And this is Jalal-ud-Din of Zeif, Master Builder, and my friend."

Telenstil and Gytha both turned to look at the small old man. He placed his hands together and bowed deeply at the waist.

"I am Telenstil and this is Gytha, one of Saint Cuthbert's staunch followers," said Telenstil. "I have many questions for both of you, but this is not the place."

"Will you take us with you?" asked Ghibelline.

"Of course," said Telenstil. "I would not leave anyone in the hands of the giants."

"Gracious Elf," spoke up Jalal. "If that be true I must ask you for your help. There are others held captive, they have worked alongside me and one I hold dear to me as kin."

"We will see what can be done," said Telenstil. "For now there are others, my companions, who we must rejoin. Then we can speak and discuss how to help your friends."

As they spoke a commotion rose from the cell, then Derue backed out, his hands before him. Edouard followed, his pale face was red and he shouted and pushed at his brother.

"...done with it." Edouard yelled.

"Nothing, it was gone, Edouard, gone when I found you," Derue protested.

"No! It can't be," Edouard shouted. "I can't hear it anymore, what have you done with it?"

* * *

The wolves could not run; some were left behind, half-dead to fend for themselves. The giants plodded along the path, like the wolves they had been stripped of their stamina and strength. Only Nosnra still walked with his shoulders back. In his arms he carried the body of his friend, a mere souless husk, drained by the powers he had wielded in life. Only one more hill and a valley then they would be home.

* * *

"Ivo, he is not coming," said Harald. "I've given him the five minutes, and more."

"Then it is time for us to go," Ivo replied.

"Telenstil won't like it but I say we leave," chimed in Talberth.

"I could climb down..." the ranger began.

"No," said Ivo. "If the giants catch us here Talberth and I could not hold them back."

"Leave the rope," said Talberth. "As Telenstil instructed we've given him every chance."

"Let's collect our packs then and find the others," Harald gave a deep sigh and a final pull at the rope, then let it drop back against the wall of the chute.

* * *

Edouard gave a growl and grabbed Derue by the throat with both his hands. For a moment Gytha saw the red streak coursing through the scout's body, wrapping around him like a vine around a tree, then Edouard pulled the sword from over his brother's shoulder. Smoke rose from his hand and the smell and crackle of burning flesh pervaded the silence and stench of the room. With a scream Edouard threw the sword from his hand, it clanged from the stone wall. Derue jumped for it and turned to face his brother, the flames racing across the steel as soon as he put his hand to the hilt.

"Ineptire!" Derue yelled. "Where is your blade? Hah! You have lost it, you cannot claim mine!"

"No!!!" Edouard howled. He kept his injured hand clutched to his chest and backed away from the burning sword. Suddenly he whipped around and ran from the room, pushing past the others with a maniacal strength. "Kalfashow!" he screamed into the cleric's face. He knocked her back and she swung out her metal staff to trip him up, but he took the fall with a roll and was on his feet with only Jalal, the old Bakluni, standing in his way.

The old man backed up and tried to press himself against the wall out of the madman's way, but Edouard clubbed him to the ground with his bare hands, striking a sharp blow to Jalal's head with his open palm, then grabbing a thin arm and twirling him about. Ghibelline jumped forward to aid his friend but Edouard flung Jalal into the elf then slammed into the door. He hit with force enough to open it a crack and slid through, scraping shoulder-blades and ribs between the stone frame and the iron straps across the wood.

Derue screamed out his brother's name and dropped his sword, the flames disappeared the moment it left his hands then he cried out again. "Ardare!" he screamed, then fell to his knees and scrabbled across the stones to grab the hilt again.

"I see it!" Gytha shouted. "There is a red serpent inside of him, it is that cursed sword!"

Outside the cells, the orcs watched Edouard as he ran about. He kept going back and forth, looking for his sword, making further and further sweeps of the room. One of the newcomers who had not seen Derue or his magic sword and obeyed the scout's commands struck out at the crazed man as he shoved by. Edouard slid past the blow, and into the orc's reach. One hand grabbed the orc's wrist, a strong thumb digging into the palm, his other hand, the calloused edge of it, struck across its throat. The sword dropped from the orc's numbed grasp, it grabbed its throat and let out a barking, strangled cough. Its companions yelled in fury and surrounded Edouard with their weapons drawn and ready.

* * *

He was more than just a whirling madman, Edouard's fists and feet lashed out at the orcs, hard as steel, deadly as any weapon they used against him. A sword jabbed toward him, he stepped aside and grabbed the outstretched arm then pivoted, adding his force to that of the orc's. The blade stabbed into an orc rushing Edouard from behind and with a twist the scout sent the orc he'd grabbed flying atop the one just stabbed. For a time Edouard's training took hold and proved stronger than the overwhelming need he felt to possess his sword once again. The voice which called to him, Kalfashow, was just a dim whisper at the back of his mind. There were a score of weapons set against him and three score fists ready to fight him barehanded, he had no chance, but he had been born and raised to fight, even when that fight would surely be his last.

They came at him, so many at once that they blocked each other out. Each wanted to use a weapon to fight the man, but if they had simply rushed in they could have borne him to the ground by their sheer weight and number. A morningstar whizzed by his head, but Edouard leaned back, supple as a willow bending beneath the wind. It passed just inches from his face and pulled the orc half around as it went by. Edouard used his foot, his torso still bent back, to strike beneath the armpit of the orc. The spiked ball flew free, smacking into the crowd, the orc's arm popped up and out of joint and the pig-faced monster flew back and yowled in pain. Edouard bent back even more, his torso horizontal to the ground and kicked up even higher. A second orc rushed forward to take its companions place and as it did Edouard drew back his leg, both at the hip and at the knee then lashed out again, hard as a mule, directly into the orc's throat. The sound was like a melon in a canvas bag being dropped against the ground, the orc collapsed, falling backwards, knocking down several who sought to close with the man but were bowled over into a writhing heap. Two clubs and a rusty blade sought Edouard's blood and life, the sword skimmed close, a club drummed against his side, but its force was spent when the wielder collided with another orc, and the last was stopped by Edouard's upthrust hand. He caught the orc forearm to forearm then hooked his other arm up behind the elbow. A quick merciless pull of his hooked arm driving the elbow forward and a push out of his forearm against that of the orc's and its bone snapped, the elbow came out of joint and the club hit only the ground as it fell from the useless fingers of the orc's broken arm. Edouard dropped into a crouch and spun with one leg extended, it caught the swordwielder behind the knees and sent the orc heels over head smacking hard against the floor. Then with a dancer's grace Edouard spun up rising from his crouch and with his gathered strength kicked with his right leg straight into the chest of another orc. Its breastbone cracked like lead shot against a stone wall, the crossbow it carried went off and left a gash which scored the outside of Edouard's leg leaving a bleeding trail. He shifted tactics then and brought the fight into the midst of the orcs crowded in the room. Edouard flung himself bodily into the mass, jumping high and crashing lengthwise against three orcs, knocking them down and creating a rolling, biting, clawing havoc as he fought through. He gouged eyes, broke fingers, smashed throats and noses flat with his forearm and edge of hand, cracked temples with vicious jabs of elbow, fell hard upon chest or spine or stomach with his knees. Close in the orcs weapons were more of a hindrance than a help, they could claw and bite, punch or grab desperately at the spinning fury which slashed at them, but Edouard was lightning fast, as dangerous with quick thrusts of fingers, or gripping hand as he was with the kicks and throws he used against them in the open. They would have overborn him in the end but he fought his way through the thinnest portion of the crowd.

An orc reeled back, its thumb pulled from its joint as it tried to grab the man and an elbow driven deep into its back where its kidneys lay, a blow struck as he passed by. Edouard spun as he cleared the room and kicked the reeling orc from behind, propelling it into the others, giving him a moment's lead, he ran down the dark corridor, he knew not where. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 29

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 29

"Harold! Harold!" Ivo called. "Where is our thief?" he asked the others.

"I saw him," said Gytha. "He was attacking that giant from behind. I saw him stab its legs." She pointed to the headless corpse, a vast body lying on its side, the ranger standing nearby leaning on his sword. The giant's head rolled several feet away, wedged beneath a kitchen storage shelf.

"Harold," said the ranger, shaking himself, still recovering from the rage that had overcome him. "Where is Harold?"

They all began to look about the room. It took only a few moments for Ivo to find the little thief, unconscious, a small crumpled form soaked in the giant's gore. Gytha ran to his side, and the ranger crowded in beside them.

"Is he all right?" asked Harald with a worried voice.

"All this blood, I don't see a wound but I can't tell if any of it is his own," said Gytha. "He does have a lump on his head."

"Ow!' the body spoke.

"Good, maybe he has had some sense knocked into him at last," Harald said relieved.

"What was this the third or fourth giant you have attacked since we have come to the steading, and that ogre. I thought you were a thief not an assassin."

"Shut-up," said Harold, "both of you. Gytha I don't mind seeing two of you but please tell that fat old human to get out of sight. I'm feeling sick enough already."

"Seeing double eh," said Ivo. "That is quite some lump you have there."

"Gracious Saint, this small one has your brave spirit," Gytha prayed. "Grant me your power and your healing strength." She laid her hand atop his brow and cupped his injured head with her other. A green pleasant light glowed across his wounded head, like the sun seen through a canopy of leaves.

"I suppose I will owe your order quite a tidy sum by the time we leave these lands," said the little thief. He stretched and rubbed the back of his head and yawned. "Can you do something about this mess?" he asked holding up his blood covered hands.

* * *

"Up the stairs," Derue told the orcs. "Anyone who doesn't want to come can stay behind."

"I go," said Boss. "Most stay, go get others. We all go when you come back."

"You come with me then, tell them to guard those cells. Anything happens to my brother and they will wish the giants had found them, understand."

"Yes," the orc nodded and then told the others what had been said.

* * *

"What a mess," said Harold. "Fire or no fire someone is going to come stumbling in here and we can't hide these giants the way we could hide that orc."

"Yes, they won't fit down that garbage chute," said Ivo.

"We need to get Talberth and Telenstil up from below," Gytha said glancing at the opening over the pit.

"Harald, if you please, can you pull them up?" asked Ivo.

"Sure, but they better come up this time. Those cursed bags and that thrice cursed chain could have waited till the last." The ranger unlaced the bags from the end of the line and tossed the rope back down again, then waited for the signal from below.


"Do you hear that?" asked Talberth.

"Yes, I believe that there is fighting up above," Telenstil put his hand to his ear, then took a small curved tube from his robe, an ear trumpet he directed up the chute. "It has gone quiet now. Wait... no, the shouting has stopped. We may have to find another way up."

"They may need us up there now," Talberth looked up the shaft and if he could he would have willed himself to its top.

"Your ring..."

"It is useless for now and I need to rest and meditate before I can cast such spells again," said Telenstil.

"Me too... What about Henri? Do you think he has the power to rise from this stinking pit?" asked Talberth.

"Perhaps, I am not sure that he intends to leave at all or if he would help us now if he could," Telenstil replied.

"You are unworthy, but my elder has instructed me to help you, and while you walk in the shadow, you are not yet in the dark, but you are perilously close," spoke up Henri.

The priest had come upon them unawares while the two wizards directed their thoughts up the chute to where their companions surely fought.

"Why you ar..." began Talberth.

"Hush," Telenstil commanded his ex-apprentice. "Henri, can you help us ascend the shaft? There is trouble above."

"I..." but before Henri could say more the rope came slithering down and dangled before them.

* * *

Derue climbed the steep stairs accompanied by the lone orc who had joined him. The other orcs milled about below, waiting for his return, though some had been sent to contact their kin who had rebelled long before and hid among the caverns beneath the steading. They passed through the giants' pantry and crept along the north-eastern wing of the empty kitchen. All seemed to be as it had been before, but Derue could not be sure. He had run and paid no attention his first time through the giants' kitchen thinking only of finding his brother. He peeked around the corner to where he had left the halfling near the garbage chute that lead down to the manticore pen and stepped back. Derue stretched out his arm and held back the orc, then cautiously peeked again. At least two vast bodies lay across the floor, the corpses of a pair of giants reclined in death. Over one bent and stiffening knee he could make out the old ranger just helping the elven mage up from the chute and onto his feet. To the right he saw the girl cleric talking with her head bent down, probably to that halfling, he thought.

"She will do, if my patron is not to be found," he said aloud.

"What?" asked the orc.

"Never mind. Keep your weapon sheathed and your mouth shut or my companions will cut your throat," Derue told the orc, then ran out to the others.

"Cleric! Cleric!" Derue called to Gytha.

Everyone turned, the ranger grabbed up his sword which he kept near to hand and the halfling stepped forward with a long dagger raised.

"Mercenary," she replied slowly.

"You're back." said Harold, "You and you're crazy brother. I was nearly killed," the halfling yelled at the man.

Derue ignored him and rushed over to Gytha. "My brother is injured, down in the giants' cells. He needs your help or he will die!"

"What is that you have with you?" asked Ivo catching sight of the orc.

Derue only paid attention to the cleric, he reached out and grabbed her arm, but froze when he felt a knife point push under the edge of his chain shirt and poke him just below where his kidneys lay.

"You left me here. I was almost killed," said Harold in a low and angry voice.

* * *

"Everyone calm down," said Telenstil. His voice was quite but forceful. His appearance surprised Gytha as if he'd stepped from behind the illusion of one of Ivo's masking spells instead of merely ascending from the lower level with the aid of the rope and the old ranger's strength. "Harold, please put your knife away."

The halfling had a scowl across his face and his eyes were bright and angry. He was still covered in a thick coating of giant's blood, though he had cleaned his face and hands, his hair was matted and his clothes were dark and stiff. He didn't say a word, but withdrew his knife and spat upon the mercenary's feet.

"Derue, what is this? What has happened?" asked Telenstil.

"Where did you go? Why the Hells did you run off and leave me here..." Harold began, but Ivo put his hand on the halfling's arm.

"We don't have time for this," said Derue. "Edouard is injured. This orc slave behind me rebelled with his fellows and we took the cells."

"Where are the cells?" asked Telenstil.

"Near... down some stairs. Come quickly, he needs help before he can be moved."

"Down again, oh no," said Harold.

"I will go," said Gytha. "I cannot leave a wounded companion, no matter who."

Telenstil tapped the ranger on the shoulder. He had been standing with the rope in his hand eyeing both the mercenary and the orc.

"Harald, please send the rope down. We still have Talberth and Henri to bring up."

"Yes..." Harald said distractedly. "Yes, Telenstil," he turned and dropped the rope back down the chute.

"Gytha, you cannot go alone," Telenstil looked them over. "Derue, you must wait till we have Talberth up, then I will go with you and Gytha. No," Telenstil raised his hand and silenced Derue's objection before he voiced it. "As you can see we have encountered more giants." He looked to the thief. "Harold, please go take watch and make sure that we are not surprised."

"We must go now!" Derue was frantic with worry.

"We are in a precarious place here, we must... Derue, we must not be caught here if more giants come," Telenstil explained calmly to the frantic man.

"Edouard is dying down there..." Derue went on.

"I am sorry," said Telenstil, "We will help as soon as we can, but not yet. Go keep watch the way that you have come. Derue, this is the way it must be."

"If he dies..." Derue said, but left them and went to watch the stairs, taking the orc and saying no more.

"Harald?" Telenstil asked the ranger.

"Got someone... Give me... a hand," the ranger huffed.

"I'll help," said Gytha.

"I will do what I can as well," Telenstil picked up the slack of rope as did Gytha.

Harald released some of the weight, though he still supported the greater part.

"Good..." said Harald, "Now on two, pull back. One, Two..." they put their backs into it and drew up the rope. Gytha did not mind the work, but such labor had never, in his more than human years, been Telenstil's choice of actions. The elf breathed hard and when Talberth finally was helped from the chute, he dropped the rope and sat down on the stone floor.

"Telenstil are you alright?" asked Gytha

"Fiinnee..." he hissed.

"Telenstil," Talberth stumbled forward. "What is wrong?"

"Winded," Telenstil huffed. "Fine. Give me a moment." Telenstil inhaled slowly. He took several deep breaths before he tried to stand. "Well," he said. "That was an interesting experience. Gytha, we had best go to aid our injured companion."

"Be careful," said Ivo. "We don't want to lose you two."

"Ivo, can you take Harold's watch? Then have him trail us, but only to these stairs that Derue has mentioned," asked Telenstil.

"Certainly, Telenstil," the gnome replied and jogged off to where the halfling watched the outer hall.

"What is this?" asked Talberth. "Telenstil, where are you going?"

"Our scout Edouard is injured. We are going to his aid, but Talberth you must stay here and help Harald draw up our good priest Henri."

"Hah, Telenstil you must be joking!" Talberth exclaimed.

"I am not, and we had best be leaving," said Telenstil. "Talberth, you must stay here."

The mage could hear the seriousness in his old master's tone. The elf was never one to rule with a heavy hand, but he expected his commands to be obeyed. "I will, but this is madness," Talberth answered.

"Harald, are you drawing up Henri?" asked Telenstil, walking to the ranger's side.

"Nothing yet. I have received no signal," answered Harald.

"Give him five minutes, then leave the rope and follow us," said Telenstil. "Make sure it is a full five minutes."

"Why not wait?" asked Talberth.

"I have already made Derue wait, perhaps Edouard has died," said Telenstil. "I will take the risk and give them at least that five minutes."

"Telenstil, let's go." Gytha grabbed her pack and waited for the mage. She had found a metal rod that the giants used to sift the ashes in their fire grate and held it in both hands like a metal quarterstaff. The pair left their companions behind, Harald still waiting for the priest to signal from below. The little thief followed them, not trying to hide, just staying back and away from Derue and the orc.

"Come on, this way!" Derue called to them as soon as he saw the mage and cleric approach.

He stood at the northern edge of the huge room, around the corner where the hall turned east. Telenstil and Gytha began to run. They soon caught up with the orc, who trailed Derue by several paces. The room opened up and extended to the north again, but to the south there were a pair of doors. Derue slid through the righthand one. The huge wooden portal was open only a crack, but wide enough for any of them to pass through with ease. Inside they were in a pantry of giant size and at its back there was a set of stairs. Edouard and Derue had descended them before, though only Derue returned.

"Down here, this way," Derue called to them as he hopped from step to step, each wide and deep, cut for the tread of giant feet.

The orc did not hesitate, but Telenstil and Gytha descended carefully. Telenstil turned back and eyed the thief who followed him. Harold nodded back and crouched at the top the stairs, keeping watch on them as they dropped down and out of sight.