Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Daemon Tells His Tale

The Daemon Tells His Tale

By Jason Zavoda

Your world is cold and plain as the skin of a virgin stretched on a drying rack. What I can tell you of the places beyond thought and behind reality would make you cry tears of blood, make you scream till your throat was stripped raw, pleasure you beyond pain and understanding.

Can you see the colors of death? Can you taste the sublime flavors of damnation or hear the unending chorus of those trapped between the veil of life and the curtain of eternity? You would have me rip a handful of threads from the weave of fate and place them in your grasp though each strand would flay your soul. Truly I would laugh at such a sight and bask in the radiance of your torment.

Would you sail with me on the boat of dreams past the boundary of the sane? Take bleeding wings sewn with the severed silver thread that binds your spirit safe to Earth?

The mystic heavens have no place for mortal travelers. To hear of what far fabled lands reside beyond the birth of the moon and the far reaches of the outer dark will set you on a path that will forever take you from the world of man.

There is no safety in words. They will not shield you from the horror of the empty dark. The words are a doorway, a gate to fear and wonder, that once opened can never be closed.

I will tell you of places unreachable filled with the nameless and the unimaginable from which there is no return.

Clark Ashton Smith - Art & Sculptures 27

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 65

"Can you walk?" Gytha asked Jalal.

The old man still lay on the floor with his back propped up against a wall. He breathed deeply and seemed asleep till Gytha spoke, but then his eyes opened, lively and bright.

"I don't know," he said. "I will try."

With a groan he shifted onto his side and got to his knees, Gytha reached out to help, but Ghibelline put his hand on her shoulder and drew her back. Jalal's bones creaked as he stood, and he used his hands braced against the stones so that he could straighten up, but when he faced them it was with his shoulders back and his pride in place.

"We must go," said Telenstil.

"I have a friend here..." Jalal began.

"I am sorry, we have also lost companions, the one who was left here and another, but we cannot stay." Telenstil explained.

"There are places we could hide, and the orcs, they are in rebellion, we could enlist their aid," said Jalal.

"I am afraid that we have had a confrontation with the orcs. They will not help us," Telenstil told him and shook his head sadly.

Jalal sagged a bit at the news, but caught himself and addressed Telenstil once more. "I cannot abandon my friend."

"We may be able to return. I had not planned to leave entirely, but this foray, we have stayed much longer than I had thought to." said Telenstil. "Come with us now and we will try to help your friend and rescue our companion."

"I will come. You promise to return?" Jalal asked.

"I can only promise that we will try," said Telenstil. "I cannot even promise that we can escape."

"Come Jalal, we cannot leave you here. We will do all that we can," said Ghibelline. "That I promise."

"Then we had best leave," said Jalal.

"Is there another way out of here?" asked Gytha.

"No, there are tunnels that have been started and a warren of caves where the orcs hide, but the stairs are the only way that I know of to leave the dungeons," Jalal told them.

"Harald," Telenstil called to the ranger as they left the cell. "We are taking Derue, please help him up, but be careful. I think he is awake, but pretends to still be senseless."

"If he is dangerous, why not leave him here?" asked the thief.

"He is not himself," Gytha said. "There is a spirit within him."

"How do we know?" Harold asked, still questioning the sense of dragging the scout along. "He has always been a suspicious sort. I have never trusted any of them, him, his brother or that priest who employed them."

"And now they are all gone or mad," added Talberth.

"I would suspect them more if they were still here or if they had showed us a pleasant and friendly face at the start," said Telenstil. "They have been honest with us, I feel. I did not like them, but they did not break their faith with us, at least not till they found those weapons that the giants hid."

Harald went to retrieve Derue and he found the scout still out cold and breathing stentoriously through his open mouth. The ranger reached down and grabbed him by the belt, hauling Derue up into the air. As his feet left the ground the scout spun and placed a kick against the ranger's leg, just missing the knee.

* * *

Harald dropped to the ground as Derue's kick sent his leg out to the side but failed to break the thick bone. The ranger let himself fall forward. He slammed Derue face first into the stones and brought his other knee down hard against the scout's back. Dazed, the scout moaned and tried to wriggle free. Harald grabbed a handful of his hair and bounced Derue's forehead on the hard rock, knocking the man cold.

"You were right," Harald called to Telenstil. "This time I'm tying his feet. I'll have to carry him."

"Are we ready?" Telenstil asked.

There was a murmur of assent, the little thief started off first through the vast and almost empty hall. The orcs had gone, but they had left the bodies of their dead behind, several dark lumps of flesh and cloth left lying by the walls and a carpet of dead, the bodies thick, one against the other, where Talberth's magic bolt had slain them by the score. The group stayed together, Harald carried the scout like a sack of grain across his wide shoulder, Ghibelline and Gytha helped Jalal keep the pace, the old man had his arms around the elf and cleric's necks. They half carried him, but Jalal barely weighed a thing, he was only skin stretched over bone. Before they reached the stairs Harold came running back, he waved to them to stop and rushed up to Telenstil.

"There are orcs ahead, a small group waiting on the stairs," Harold reported. "They didn't look threatening. They look more like a group of beggars in a marketplace."

"Let us proceed with care," said Telenstil.

"Let's get out of this hall," said Talberth, "and up from this dungeon."

The ranger unslung Derue when they reached the arch before the stairs, leaving him leaning against the wall.

"Ho there!" he called in the orc tongue, but he received a reply in the common traders' language used across the Flanaess.

"You there," the voice called out. "We wait for you. We had deal. You lead us out."

"I had no deal with you!" Harald called back.

"Not so loud!" the voice hissed back. "I come down, you no kill." The orc dropped down the stairs and walked into the light. He was the one called Boss, but his followers had almost all deserted him, a bare half-dozen remained waiting up the stairs.

"I deal with that one," Boss said pointing to Derue. "He make deal. We help, you help."

"The orc is correct," spoke up Jalal. "Your companion promised to help them, as he promised Ghibelline and myself."

"Then we will accept their help, and help them as well," said Telenstil.

"Help these monsters?" Harold spoke up surprised.

"There are worse than orcs about, and they are no friends of the giants," the ranger said.

"Come, we delay ourselves for nothing," said Telenstil. "We will honor our companion's word. Let us be out of here."

The ranger nodded to the orc. "We will help you. Carry this one," Harald said pointing to Derue. "He made the offer. He is your burden."

The orc beckoned to his companions and the other orcs came down the stairs. They waited for the Telenstil and the others to climb, following last carrying the still unconscious body of the scout. 

Witch 45

Friday, November 28, 2014

Castle 57

Characters #2) Harald - Old Warrior - Northman


#2) Harald - Old Warrior - Northman

- Ftr 9th Lvl - HP 91 - AC (8) {3 with Chainmail} [2 with chainmail and shield] +1 To Hit and To Damage due to strength. Cannot be knocked unconscious in combat nor can he be held, slowed or trapped by spells. If detect magic is used Harald personally radiates magic from his body.

Harald has lived a long life and feels the approaching years with trepidation in his heart. Always he has put himself in the forefront of battle. He has gone on long and dangerous raids, adventures, quests and while his fame has become great a glorious death in battle has eluded him. The Raven King, he who chooses the slain to fight for him in the next world, calls to him and Harald is eager to answer that call.

Armor and items of renown and power Harald once possessed, but he has set those aside, gifted them to friends and kin, so that the death-wound may find him. He wears finely crafted mail and helm, a sturdy shield and a thick cloak of red, but the only item of power he carries is his bastard sword, Steel-Cleaver.

Steel-Cleaver - Bastard Sword +3(To-Hit)/+5(To-Hit & Damage) versus Giants and Giant-Kin - Any successful hit by Steel-Cleaver has a 20% chance of destroying any nonmagical shield, helm or piece of metal armor that is struck. The bonuses apply (To-Hit only and not To-Damage except against Giants and Giant-kin - Steal-cleaver is then a +5 to hit and damage weapon but does not destroy armor).

While Harald is eager for a glorious death he will use all his considerable skill and combat knowledge to defeat his opponents. He will never surrender and the Raven King has blessed him so that he cannot be knocked unconscious in combat or even magically held, slowed or trapped.

Franz von Stuck -_Die_Sünde

Clark Ashton Smith - Art & Sculptures 26

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Castle 56

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 64

He heard their laughter before he saw them. Deep, booming and touched with cruel mockery. A flush of anger colored Edouard's sweating brow, but he stood, powerless before the giants, a dark pair with red hair and beards and teeth like dinner plates, yellowed and stained. Both were huge, much bigger than Nosnra's kind, but one held Edouard's unsheathed blade across his hand and laughed as the human rushed forward to retrieve it. The call from Kalfashow was all that Edouard could hear, when he saw it he was aware of nothing else, the room faded from his sight, even the giant which held his sword. The hand that smacked him aside came as if from nowhere, it knocked him from his feet and sent him sprawling on the floor.

"Little one," the giant spoke, "you hear fire spirit. It sing pretty song yes?" the giant laughed. "It talk to me. Say you powerful, have strong spirit too, you make good slave. Be good and let you see fire sword, be bad and take fire away."

Edouard didn't reply but gathered himself and launched a leaping kick toward the giant's mocking face. The monster held out his hand and waved the sword back and forth, small as a toy in his huge palm. A scream, a screeching voice, threw Edouard into a spasm of pain, he dropped halfway through his attack, landing hard on the stones and curling into a tight ball, his knees hugged against his chest.

"Naughty little one," the giant chuckled. "You make fire spirit mad. It serve me, you obey, or fire spirit get mad again."

* * *

"Look at all those orcs," said Talberth.

"Where are the others?" Harald looked left than right, trying to pick out Telenstil or Gytha from the crowd. He would have been happy even to see the scout.

"I have my wand," Talberth held the carved magic stick nervously in his hand. "These orcs wouldn't survive the lightning I could unleash."

"Our friends could be among them," Harald reminded him. "The scout said these orc's rebelled against the giants didn't he?"

"Yes, but I'll never put trust in such beasts," Talberth said. "What should we do? Where are the others?"

"Here comes Harold and Ivo, let's wait for them, then just march out there. If the orcs attack we will fight them off," the ranger said. He held his sword, a claymore almost as long as he was tall, and peered back up the stairs, waiting for the gnome and halfling to appear.

* * *

"What do you see?" asked Gytha.

"Orcs. I do not see Edouard," said Telenstil. "They are milling about, some are dragging things, ahh... bodies, several bodies, some are still thrashing. There seem to be many less than when we went through before. No... I see them now. A large group is coming from a opening on my left..."

"That would be south," said Ghibelline.

"Yes. Your direction sense is good," Telenstil said, surprised.

"Jalal knows these tunnels well and he has told me what he knows," Ghibelline explained. "We hoped to escape, somehow. I should see to him. Do you need me here?"

"Please go see to your friend, but come if we call..." Telenstil began. "Wait! There is a new commotion. Gytha, I see Harald, he stands at least a head taller than any of the orcs. Quick let us move the table and unbar the door, they may need our help."

* * *

"Just keep walking," Talberth said to the others.

All around them stood orcs, most in small groups near the walls, but they could not be avoided. Harald took them to the center of the huge room, glancing left then right, searching for some sign of their companions. Across from the stairs there were two doors, a passage opened between them, on the right-hand, up by the far wall, there was another door, but lower down there was a wide opening. As they watched, it began to disgorge more orcs, a rough and angry band. Shouts rang out and hands pointed toward the four companions. The orcs which milled about the room did not join in, but instead backed away, moving closer to the walls and the dark corners. The orcs who charged and shouted, most with crude weapons in their hands, came on at a run, Talberth stepped forward to meet them.

The mage held an arcane wand, small symbols had been carved into the dark wood and the grooves filled with a liquid silver. The writing spiraled along the wand and ended in a silver cap that held a diamond cut to a long sharp point. Talberth whispered a word and the power was unleashed, a symbol became dull and empty wood, the silver metal flowed away and disappeared. The diamond glowed and from its tip there came a bluish light, and as it left the wand it grew. A lightning bolt, it left the wand with a thunderclap of noise, and swept across the running orcs. In between the blink of an eye it struck, three orcs in the lead were touched first but it was past them and amongst the others before a step could be taken or a shout escape their lips. Three dozen or more of their band were touched by the single bolt, the flash blinded many for a few moments leaving a purple blur staining their eyes. The noise of the bolts passage drowned out the screams, but the spectacle was grim. Those touched spasmed in pain, jaws and teeth broke, clamping shut as the energy coursed through, spines snapped as the orcs' bodies were contorted, hair burst into flame and their flesh smoked and stank as greasy rags and skin were flash-cooked by the stroke. Talberth was surprised at the result, he stood open mouthed. These orcs were weak and frail, packed together, crowded in the passage the magic bolt could not have wrought greater havoc.

"I don't think you will need to cast another spell," said Ivo, impressed by the carnage. The orcs which survived the charge turned and ran back down the hall, more than half their number lay dead, they ran for the security of their caves, most would rather surrender to the giants than face more of these human foes.

* * *

"What was that?!" Ghibelline asked excitedly.

"Talberth I should think," said Telenstil while he put his shoulder against the table leg and pushed.

"We'd better hurry," said Gytha. They dragged the table away and attacked the wooden beam but could only free it from one bracket at a time and as it cleared the first it came crashing down nearly crushing Telenstil's foot, he leapt away just in time.

"Thank goodness for the grace of elves," said Gytha.
"I was never strong," said Telenstil, "But I have always been quick."

"We elves have always been adept at avoiding falling wood," laughed Ghibelline.

* * *

The door swung open and Gytha came running out. Harold saw her first; the others were still mesmerized by the carnage that Talberth's lightning bolt had wrought. The little thief ran over to her and the orcs who had not fled cowered against the wall or in the corners, afraid of even the halfling, not knowing what terrible powers he might possess.

"Harold," Gytha called, "am I glad to see you."

"Gytha, what happened? We heard a commotion."

"Those scouts, the swords that Henri handed out, they were cursed," she told him.

"That figures," Harold agreed. "That's how our luck has been going."

Telenstil left the cells as well but did not run. He looked slowly from side to side but walked straight toward his companions, stopping beside Gytha and putting his hand down to pat the halfling's shoulder.

"A timely arrival my friend," he said to Harold.

"We could have simply come with you. That Henri never showed," Harold said.

"I had hoped he would. I hate to leave any of our group among these monsters," Telenstil shook his head and glanced again at their surroundings.

The room was a dank cave, though torches were set all along the walls throwing off a smokey light. The ceiling was high and dim, and where Telenstil stood, part way to the center of the room, the torchlight barely reached. The orcs had begun to slink away, some crept off up the stairs, others disappeared down the small passage by the cells. The large passageway was clogged with the bodies of the dead. None of the orcs would go that way. Telenstil lead them back to the cells, they were a quiet group, unhappy to find themselves back underground again.

"Telenstil, these orcs will alert the giants," said Harald as they crossed the threshold of the door. "We had best leave, and quick."

"I agree," Telenstil replied, "but we have lost Edouard, again, and now Henri has abandoned us, and Derue, our scout has been cursed by that magic sword he found."

"More reason for us to go now," spoke up Harold. "Who is this?" he asked as he spotted Ghibelline.

"I am Ghibelline," the elf answered. "You are the friends of Master Telenstil and the good lady cleric, I take it."

"How is Jalal?" Gytha asked him.

"He is awake, but weak. Telenstil, he wishes to speak with you," said Ghibelline.

"Who is this Jalal?" asked Harold. "Telenstil have you enlisted an army to join us?"

"No," said Telenstil, "we have just found some of the captives the giants had kept. Gytha, come with me, we will have to move Jalal. You too, Ghibelline."

"Is that Derue back there?" Harold asked as Telenstil and the others went into the cell where Jalal lay.

"Yes, do not untie him," Telenstil warned.

"Don't worry about that," said Harold to himself. "Well this is fine don't you think," he said to the ranger.

"Eh," Harald shrugged. "It could be worse." He leaned against the open door and kept watch, eyeing the last of the orcs as they crept away. A small group had not left. They stood near the arch of the stairwell and cast long glances toward the cells. 

Witch 44

Wormy's World - Characters - Dudly - #33

Wormy's World - Characters - Dudly - #33


On their way to the Ogres with snookerball in hand Dudly and Frank are set upon by some of the more rowdy diners (and survivors) of Irving's dwarf-burger stand. The three monsters, Goblin, Wereboar and Wererat all have torches in hand to deal some permanent damage and Frank urges Dudly to break open the snookerball and let the little blue demon loose. Dudly doesn't agree and tries to fend off the Goblin and Wererat. A stream in the woods gives him some protection from the burning torches and gives the Wererat a good smash in the head as it jabs its torch at him, but also makes Dudly drop the snookerball in the water. After leaving the Wererat face down and blowing bubbles Dudly manages to catch the Goblin with a good smash in the face from his mallet but takes a burn from the jabbing torch.

Castle 55

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Hill Giant Chief -Nosnra's Saga - Part 63

Meatstealer turned to Boss prepared to go to the human's aid, but Boss held him back. "Let them kill him. Maybe they can cut down the other one as well," Boss said in the gruff orcish tongue.

"They'll cut him to..." Meatstealer began but stopped as he saw the human down one then another of the rebel orcs with bare feet and hands. "Maybe this one doesn't need help."

Boss shook his head. "He has Gruumsh's own strength. Ah they have him now."

They could not see what happened. The rebel orcs closed in and blocked off their view.

"I don't know," Meatstealer said. He could hear the shouts and cries of pain coming from orcish throats but not cheers or laughter to say that they had slain the madman or captured him for slow death by torture.

The crowd swayed, the rebel orcs seemed to draw in like sand falling down an hourglass, funneling to one point. There was a final shout and the rebel orcs set off the way they had come leaving their dead and wounded behind.

* * *

There was a smell, sharp but choking, then the feel of heat, a great simmering wave that became a smothering blanket, stifling, a physical presence in the air. Edouard nearly gasped, but the call from Kalfashow was too great. It washed over him and put all his other thoughts and senses aside. He had turned off from the passage he'd been following down a slanting tunnel. Somewhere ahead was the source of the great heat and the burning smell, but he could see nothing but the stone walls and the haze of torchlight far away.

The tunnel made a turn. The way went to his left, but only for a dozen feet. A sharp wedge of stone split the passage right from left, broadening out in both directions till the way was wide enough for a wagon to pass. To the left the wide stone tunnel was lined with weapons, heaped with shields and armor, piled with bits and pieces of metal waiting to be fixed or melted down. Bags of coal and cuts of wood were mixed within, a rough storage nook, though large enough to fit a peasant's house between the walls and roof.

Edouard paused, he glanced at a row of swords hung high upon a wall, but his head turned to the other way. The call came from the right, not from the storage nook. His blade was not hidden among the weapons there or buried beneath a sack of coal. The right-hand way was broad and slanting down. It was from here that his sword called to him, and from here that the heat pulsed out. It had become so great that he was cooler inside than without, the thickness of the air made his eyes tear, a cloud of smoke, black as a rain-filled cloud, hung against the ceiling. As he crept forward he could see the source of the heat and smoke, a massive forge, its edges taller than a man, a huge bellows set above it, unmoving, waiting to breathe life into the coals and make the red sparks dance. The walls were hung with weapons, helms and bits of armor, all formed for giants. Edouard felt like a child stepping into his father's armory. The room seemed empty, but there were wings which went off to either side, Edouard could not see what they contained from where he stood crouching in the outer hall. The call came to him again. It sang with great allure, he could not resist.

* * *

"I would like to just sit here, but we need to move the table over," said Telenstil. "There is a viewport set up there in the door and I want to watch for our companions' arrival."

"As long as it isn't just something to keep us busy," laughed Gytha.

"I know that when I get a chance I will lay down for several days," said Ghibelline.

"I thought you elves never slept," said Gytha.

"Hah!" it was Ghibelline's turn to laugh. "That is a fable. We need our rest, though there is truth in the tale. We sleep, though you could say that we elves sleep with our eyes open, even when they are closed."

The table was made for the bugbear guards. It was large but not giant-sized, sturdy but crude. It screeched across the stones as they dragged it and pushed it up against the door. Telenstil climbed up, there was a small cover set between metal runners that blocked the viewport. He slid it aside and peered out into the room beyond.

Castle 54

Wormy's World - Characters - Wormy - #32


Wormy has an idea about the origin of the Snookerball Demons and while Irving is busy poking at the roasting fowl in the fireplace Wormy tells him his theory and works at proving it. With a chisel and a hammer Wormy is able to split the broken snookerball in two and one looks inside the shell at the demonic writing inside his theory goes to Hell.

Sebastian Evans - The Ancients of the World

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Witch 43

Clark Ashton Smith - Art & Sculptures 25

Castle 53

Characters - #1 Rolfr


#1) Rolfr - HouseKarl - Northman

- Ftr 7th Lvl HP72 AC(9) {0 in +3 Chain Shirt} [-1 with +1 Shield]

RuneHelm - The runes for clear vision are inscribed on Rolfr's helm. The helm itself is dwarf-forged steel but the enchantment is good skaldish work. Wearing the helm allows Rolfr to see through fog and minor spells that would alter perception (up to 3rd level and thereafter giving him a +3 save against higher level spells where allowed). He also gains a +3 save against attacks that would cause blindness and increases his general eyesight by 20ft as well as allowing him to see that much greater in dim light or moon light. These runes were crafted only for Rolfr and the helm is only well crafted steel to anyone else.

Arrowcatcher - This shield gives a +1 bonus to armor class but it also draws any normal arrows, slingstones or darts to be attracted to it and bounce off harmlessly. Enchanted projectiles are unaffected.

Silk-Metal - This chain shirt was crafted by an elvish people beholding to Rolfr's kin. It is a family heirloom and will be ransomed if seized in battle. If not ransomed then it will be the object if quests and bounty to have it returned. It provides a +3 bonus to armor class and has the texture of silk against the skin of the wearer as well as weighing only as much as a shirt of the same material.

Drawn Blood - is a bastard sword of elven origin but altered by a Northern songsmith of the Eastern lands. It bears an enchantment that allows it a +2 bonus to hit but the songsmith made sure that any wounds would bleed for an addition 1d6 damage with a 20% chance that the wounded would swoon from blood loss and suffer a -2 AC and -2 to Hit penalty for the next round of combat.

The Green Cloak - Allows Roflr to ignore enchantments that might slow or trap him.

The Red Pants - these pants absorb 1 HP of damage for every damage dealing attack against Rolfr. If an attack only causes 1 HP damage then Rolfr is unharmed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 62

"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. 

Castle 52

Witch 42

Wormy's World - Characters - Irving - #32

Wormy's World - Characters - Irving - #32


Always a dab hand with a pitchfork, Irving is busy standing in the fireplace and poking at a trio of roasting fowl while Wormy examines the broken snookerball from which one of the blue demons appeared. Wormy has a theory that the sharp-clawed puffs of blue smoke might be Hellish inhabitants but Irving doesn't remember them from his own time in the Abyss. With a little effort Irving scales the table to see what Wormy is up to but remains mystified even as the broken snookerball revels its secrets.

Castle 51

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Matthias Rudolf Toma Bauer - mit Ochsengespann bei Schottwien 1866

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 61

"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. 

Castle 50

Witch 41

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Clark Ashton Smith - Art & Sculptures 24

The Hill Giant chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 60

"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.