Bjørn in Danish

Bjørn, Prologue
Prolog

Vinden howled ned fra nord land som en ravening udyr, ivrige efter at strimler varme og lukkeren fra små trange huse af Dimmentagr. Sne og vindstød overtog aften, kørsel indbyggerne i landsbyen sammen i søgning af varme og komfort. Allerede mange af de perifere landsmen havde bragt deres familier og husdyr i landsbyen til at bære de værste dage i vinter.
The Long Hall blev pakket ud over komfort med dynger af menneskeheden, de yngste og ældste tilbydes pladser i nærheden af firepit at føle den største varme af omhyggeligt hamstres træ. Det kan alligevel være dage før mændene kunne gå ud på at indsamle mere. Mænd hunched over deres ben terninger whiling væk med lange arbejdstider, kun lejlighedsvis udgiftsområde ud i Tempest at kontrollere, at dyrene ikke havde frosset ihjel og havde masser af korn for at holde dem.
Kvinderne holdes på hvad reparation og madlavning de kunne, gossiping og tittering over træk af deres ægtemænd, mens børnene er indsamlet omkring de ældste for at lytte til historier om yore. Kun ét barn var ikke den unge bleg-hår Bjørn, det het-mands søn, sveden under flere skins. Feber havde fundet ham, da han havde været bragt i. Han havde været jagt i skoven med sin nye bøje når stormen kom, under landsbyen ved overraskelse. Mændene havde fundet ham blindet af hvidhed, sin hånd snoet i Throat-Biters krave, webcrawling i driver mod hjemmet. Hans mor og hendes nu hårdt desperat for at redde ham fra den side af den kolde One, at holde sin krop varm og toweling væk hans sved. Bekymring snoet ansigterne på både kvinder i masker så forfærdelige, at de andre følte ubekvem omkring dem, og selvom mange kom over til at tale om deres bønner og bekymringer, de fleste undgås søger deres måde af frygt for at bringe død Guds opmærksomhed på dem.
Fra et hjørne af Lodge, en høj, tætbygget mand, hvis flaxen hår nu begyndte at bløder i sølv, gned sine trætte øjne og glanced worriedly over hvor hans søn lå ramt. Indsamlet omkring ham blev byens Rådet består af ældre mænd i landsbyen, der ikke var faldet i senilitet. Tunge emner blev diskuteret, da overlevelsen af hele byen kan være i fare, hvis vejret ikke brød snart. Den høje mand stod og strakte sin lange muskuløse ben og plukkede hans vej gennem skare til sin kones side.
“Hvor er han, Marna?” Spurgte han sagte. Den yngste af de to pleje-givere kiggede op på sin mand med øjne på randen af tårer og rystede med hovedet.
Så døren fløj åbne og en trio af skind-pletterede unge, næppe anses for at være voksne, snuble i fra kontrol af husdyr. Alle tre var mumbling usammenhængende ord gennem snøret hætter af deres frakker. Endelig en af dem fik hans hætte unlaced og begyndte at messe i en nervøs stemme, “Demons! Dæmoner! … Demons is! ”
Øjeblikkeligt, en høj mumlen vaskes over townsfolk som realiseringen af de unges ord ramte hver person. En af de ældre mænd skidtede over og slog hans søn til at bringe ham tilbage til hans sanser. Den ungdom, begyndte for et øjeblik, gasped i chok over den behandling, så i en høj alvorlig stemme, opfordrede for alvor, “Det er sandt, papa! De kom ind på os i laden! De var dækket i pels! Og deres øjne lyste! “En ny bølge af frygt forårsaget allerede akustisk clamor at toppe endnu højere.
Den høje mand skubbes gennem menneskemængden, indtil han nåede den unge. Han tog den første og trukket ham tæt. “Hvad kneb er denne Skulnar?! Er ikke vores omstændigheder dire nok?! ”
“Skarn! Det er rigtigt, jeg siger! Dæmoner i laden! Omfattet i pels! ”
Skarn trukket de unges coat-ærme op, før den skræmte unge mands øjne. “Du er dækket i pels, Skulnarsson.” Han udgivet sit greb om de unge. “Demons indtaste vores laden og du forlod dem dér til at dræbe vores kvæg. Du har lige dræbt hele landsbyen, knægt! ”
Drengen, føle, at han blev kaldt kujon, bristled. “Og hvad ville du have af mig, O Great Skarn! Jeg har ingen magi til at bekæmpe dæmoner med! ”
“Så i det mindste ville der være tre mindre munden til foder!” Skarn spyttede, giver Skulnar far en frastødt look. Han gik over til Trophy-muren og løftede en stor slag-ax fra, hvor den hang på væggen. Det er lederen, der er fremstillet af en mærkelig sølvskinnende metal begyndte at gløde en lys blå når Skarn hånd snoet omkring en haft, har kastet en azurblåt Sheen i hele lokalet. Spændte øjeblikke bestået som Skarn studeret våben nøje, reverently, indtil han til sidst hviskede, “Wave-Splitter!” Han vendte, overskrift for døren.
Som han grebet de træ håndtere at flyttet slidebar, Skarn vendt tilbage til gruppen. Han løftede Wave-Splitter høje og talte højt, så alle kunne høre, “Magic til at dræbe dæmoner!” Han lod sit blik hvile på de grædepil ansigt af hans dejlige hustru Marna, og stirre hende et varmt smil af opmuntring. Så hans øjne fejet rundt i lokalet, at finde de mænd. “Hvem kommer?!” Han udfordret.
Silence mødt ham. Han havde ikke forventet meget mere. I sin egen mave, queasiness og frygt var desperat forsøger at tale fornuft ind i ham, men han stod stærkt inden hans folk. Han så på den unge Skulnar. “Boy! Du vil holde et lys for mig, så jeg må kæmpe uhindret! “Drengen kiggede lige ved at besvime.
Skulnar far kigget på Skarn, derefter på hans søn, og i et øjebliks beslutning han kom ud og slapped de unge i bevægelse. “Du!” Han roared på hans søn, “Du dishonor mig dreng! Hente et lys, eller jeg vil have dig ikke mere! “Som Skulnar scurried at hente en signallygte, hans far tog sit swordbelt fra ved siden af døren. “Jeg går til min søns gerninger!” Erklærede han. Skarn nikkede til ham.

De tre mænd skubbet deres vej gennem de driver mod lange lave indgive at opstaldet dyrene. Nr. lyde kom fra den bygning, som kunne høres over stormen’s brøl. Skarn motioned for Skulnar yngre at se til laden døren, da han readied hans greb om hans våben. Hyldetræet Skulnar holdt hans klinge og med en vis usikkerhed. De unge heaved hans skulder mod laden dør bar og heaved portalen åben. Stormen roared indeni.
Som Skarn’s frygt og wariness gjort hans puls race, bladet af Wave-Splitter blussede dejligt, påfyldning staldene med lys. Ned i den anden ende, to slanke tal holdt deres hænder mod lyset’s genskin. Tallene var faktisk pelsklædt, en tyk lodden hvid pels som en vinter hare’s. Skarn peering-aftaler på dem et øjeblik, så hans tenseness lettet.
Skarn vendte om og tog signallygte fra skælvende hånd af de unge, opfordring en hvin fra både far og søn. “Gå tilbage til huset. Luk døren først. “Han befalet. Efter at de havde forladt, vendte han sig mod nærmer par tal.
“Nå mødtes den højeste af de to tog ordet. Skarn Olafson. Mai dine børn leve længe! “De invaderende fjende var lige så høje som Skarn, der var høj for en mand, men Skarn nyt, at der kun var gennemsnittet blandt hans venlige. Hans lange røde hår samlet i bagsiden af hans pelsklædt hætte, som blev skubbet tilbage på hans skuldre. Stor fremmede vippes øjne gerne saffires crinkled varmt som han ser Skarn. Hans ansigt bar en feline støbt, og som altid, Skarn forventede at se dem vokse skind på ethvert tidspunkt. Hans samlever, en kvindelig af deres arter havde mørkere hår, dybe brune med hints af røde i det. Men hendes øjne blev afholdt den samme krystal blåt af hendes følgesvend’s. Hun studerede Skarn opmærksomt men tavst.
“Mit barn vil ikke overleve denne nat.” Skarn talte roligt. “Din velsignelse kommer for sent.” De to kiggede quizzical for et øjeblik, så de mandlige kiggede til den anden, og nikkede. Hun fortravlet til døren, trækker den til side og trække den tilbage lukket bag hende imod stormen’s disfavor. Skarn og alfar-mand undersøgt hinanden et stykke tid længere, så Skarn brød tavsheden. “Dette er et dårligt tidspunkt for dette.”
Den alfar så dystre. “Der er aldrig et godt tidspunkt for dette. Skal vi gå inde, før vi fryse? Vis mig sandheden i ordsprog Deres folk har om nordlige gæstfrihed. ”
Skarn fattet laden døren. “Der er lidt her for hositality, frygter jeg. Bør Tor ikke stoppe hans raseri og lad jægere ud, vil der ikke være en landsby her enten. “Igen stormen hældes i laden.
“Miri har en te om hende, som vil give dine folk modstandsdygtighed mod kulde!” Den alfar yelled over stormen. “Det kan ikke være meget, men det kunne hjælpe folk til at overleve!”

Skarn og hans følgesvend indtastet indgive med en hvirvel af sne. Han pressede på døren for, at skubbe bar tilbage på plads og slået på at finde en håndfuld af hans mænd stående slack-jawed i nærheden af døren, våben spredt omkring dem, da de stirrede numbly på væggene. Når resten af landsbyboere så Skarn’s følgesvend, den womenfolk lad en række skrig af alarm. Skarn glanced på hans familie og venner så rejste hans hænder til at tie stille deres stemmer.
“Vi har været velsignet mit folk!” Han talte. “Disse er Alfar. Fra Alfheim. De er kommet til at velsigne mennesker og give os magiske at afværge den kolde-One. “Han nikkede til hvor Miri tendens til Bjørn, hans søn. “Hun er en stor Alfar healer, og hun vil give dig en drik for at give dig styrke.” En kommentar, som Miri vendt og så på hendes far med irritation. “Du skal stole på dem.”
Beboerne var ikke parat til at opgive deres overtro så let, selv om, og mange en mumlen havnet omkring indsamling om heksen-vine og tricks. Den crones især waggled deres fingre. Men Skarn var overholdt, da både modig og klog. Og han ikke synes at være under nogen magi. Og han havde en magisk ax at beskyttede ham fra fortryllende.
Skarn intensiveres over til, hvor hans bedoevet clansmen var begyndt at savle. Da han studerede dem, en anden runde af mutterings om heksen-magi fejes ind i stuen. “Det vil gå hurtigt.” Den alfar kommenteret.
“Kom på mig med stål.” Miri growled fra dødsleje. “Northern gæstfrihed!” Hun huffed.
Skarn skidtede over at Marna og hugged hende, spurgte “Vil han leve?” Det alfar kvinde set på bekymrede forældre og langsomt nikkede. “Jeg har givet ham nogle krydderurter, som vil tage feber væk. Det er for dårligt, at sådanne urter vokse så langt mod syd, når de er brug for så hårdt op her. “Hun vendte tilbage til hendes pasning af drengen.
Skarn sukkede og kæmpede med sig selv for et øjeblik, og derefter stod, resigneret og stod over for en mandlig alfar. “Du har ikke kommer alle på denne måde, Silandrilrandion, for at redde min søn eller min klan. Tale nu, selvom jeg ved, hvad du siger. “Han følte Marna hånd greb hans strammere.
“Skarn Olafson.” Elf sagde roligt. “Jeg er kommet til at kræve ed du svor syv og tyve somre væk.”

“Hvorfor!?!” Marna græd som Skarn indsamlet hans rejser ting. “Din søn ligger døende, dit folk sulter! Hvordan kan du forlade m … os gerne det?!? ”
“Jeg svor en ed kvinde!” Skarn øjne hærdede til koldt Glints. “Vil du have mig en ed-breaker? Vil du have Bjørn vokse op søn af en ed-breaker?!? “Han snøret den beskyttende flap af hans pack ned for at holde sine ejendele sikkert fra den barske snestorm. “Jeg ønsker ikke, at Bjørn til at overleve denne nat, hvis jeg lavede sådan et valg!”
      Han heaved pakningen over hans skulder, og døren er åbnet af deres indgive. Tærsklen kun kunne skelnes fra lysere farve af snefald.
      “Du vil omkomme i denne sne”, Marna opkaldt efter ham. “Du og din Alfar. Den eneste ed du vil holde vil være at Den Kolde-One! ”
      Skarn tændt hende, snarling, “Silence Woman! Jeg vil ikke have dig forbandelser efter mig! “Marna så ud, som om hun var ved at bryde sammen. Hele landsbyen ventet at se deres Hetman og hans mærkelige kammerater væk. Skarn henvendt sig til sit folk og lægge sin hånd på hans bror, Baga’s arm.
      “Jeg vil fylde en ed, jeg har foretaget i disse gode Alfar da jeg var ung. I mit sted står min bror Baga. Hans ord er minen indtil foråret indsamling. ”
      Ved afslutningen af disse ord, var han næsten slået ned af kroppen af sin kone. Hun klyngede sig til ham desperat. “Live for mig, Olafson! Live for Bjørn! ”
      Landsbyen iagttog de tre forsvinder i hvirvlende sne.
     

      Publikum stod bedøvet, hænder rejste i midten juble. Den udfordrer lå i snavs blødning fra hans skulder, hans ben, hans hovedbund, scrabbling til slutningen af hans brudte sværd i chok. Den Chieftain stod defiantly over ham, brusende hans sejr ud og ryste hans store økse Skull-knusere over hovedet med begge hænder. Som udfordrer prøvet at stå, han sparkede ham ned, én, to, tre gange, indtil manden tog det nederlag, forstod hans sted, vidste han var en mindre mand. Da han gik tilbage til Honor sæde, hans lakaj, hans spion Skaggi holdt sin kappe af pels, men han børstet det væk. Selv om de tidlige daggry time var koldt han skylles med varmen i kamp. Han faldt hans store sønderslåede bulk til tronen, og tog en hornspatel seje Southland vin fra hans anden hustru, eyeing hendes lasciviously før afdrypning dybgangen. Publikum blev skrigende sit navn, der ønsker ham langt liv. De vågner Sæson udfordringer var alle over, at en konkurrent lagt ned. Han var nærmest en gud til sit folk i endnu et år. Han smilede og nikkede til sin mand, derefter rystede et par muggen blade fra hans peppery skæg.
      Det udfordrer, en ung magert magtfulde mand med bleg blonde hår tilsyneladende næsten hvidt, blev beslaglagt af lakaj og stirrede på Chieftain groggily som lakaj trukket sit hoved op og holdt hans kniv til mandens hals. Drengene egen far havde været parat til at udfordre år siden, før han forsvandt ind i vinteren ti år tidligere. Nu drengen faldt i faderens sted.
      “Bjørn Skarnesson” den chieftains stemme var commandingly dyb og barske som vinter ånde. “Du har udfordret for ledelse af klaner! Du har svigtet! Du er forvist fra alle klan havner. Enhver, der hjælper dig vil blive thralled! Du har indtil søn-down, og så vil jeg have mit hundekobler efter dig! ”
Chief snuble ned fra hans stol og spyttede på den unge mand, før ambling off til hans telte. Mængden, usikker på, hvad man skal tænke trickled væk, indtil alle, hvad der var tilbage var et par af de yngre krigere, der begyndte at sparke den bloodied udfordrer ud af bekæmpelse område, harrying dem, indtil han var ude af grænserne for indsamlingen. De sparkede ham nogle få tid til at indstille ham ind i skoven, men Cheiftain sagde, at de ville være efter ham ved skumringstid, så de vandrede ud for at finde nogle andre forlystelser indtil menneskeskabte jagten begyndte.

Bjørn stod i nær indefrysning kildevand, halve submersfermentering, lade chill rydde spindelvæv fra hans hjerne og rengøre snavs og sved fra hans sår. I sin hånd han stadig clutched hans knækkede sværd, hans øjne himmelråbende på det, som om der stadig unbelieving de begivenheder, der havde ført til hans banishment.
Hans overvejelser i krystal vand glared tilbage på ham med sorg. De lyseblå øjne, så populær hos pigerne af hans stamme og nabostaten dem, syntes udenrigs-og uigenkendelige. Vanddråber faldt fra det hvide hår af hovedet og ungdommelige skæg, og dripped på sårede huden af hans krop trukket undervises over hans udvikling af muskler. Hans opvågnen tankerne begyndte at tage bestik af alt, hvad han havde mistet. Han aldrig ville se hans hus eller landsby igen. Eller hans kone. Han ville aldrig gøre sit ufødte barn for øjnene af Faderen, og heller ikke lære ham at holde en kniv. Han ville aldrig blive Chief igen og udfylde sin fars støvler. Han var Vargr, .. ulv. Bandlyses og alene.
Han vidste, at han skal bekymre os om hundekobler og lægge så meget afstand mellem klan havner og selv hvis han ønskede at overleve, men han var begyndt at danne mistanke om, at noget, der ligger uden for hans ungdommelige uerfarenhed havde været involveret i hans fiasko. Hans tanker havde syntes så fogged, chefen havde bevæget sig så meget hurtigere, end han burde have været i stand til. Selv de mennesker havde syntes lidt skævt og bevæger sig i twitches og Jerks.
Den Theiftaker!!
Den modbydelig lille mand havde bumper ham, som han kom til at inspicere de to Kampskibe’s våben for svindel. Bjørn begyndte at minde om en let smerte, som var ledsaget den lille mands puffe. Kan han er blevet forgiftet, før kampen begyndte?
Rage kogt op i Bjørn’s hjerte, og han howled hans frustrationer på overhængende træer, den nedgående sol, den enorme mængde af All-fars kappen af fading dagslys. Flere øjeblikke slæbt på indtil hans hals var rå fra tortur af hans ukontrollerbar vrede.
Langsomt, han kom tilbage til sig selv, og sænke sine arme og tænker mere klart, end han havde i timer. Beat hundene. Han begyndte at spore hans vejen op gennem strømmen mod foråret encampment.

Den chill tærsklen bestået i endnu koldere morgenen som de sidste par revelers faldt i deres tæpper og forårets festligheder tog en pause, forfriskende selv for den næste dag i jubel. De sidste par af de unge, der ikke var stadig på jagt for forvist Bjørn lørdag omkring deres borde, ammende ned Bærme fra deres bægre og tønder og dozing off med deres skind dækker over at afværge aften chill.
Et råb brød gennem stilhed, en kvindes hvin, alarmeringstjenester alle fra telte rundt, hvilket bringer det stadig fordrukken Northmen kører til åbning af Chief’s store telte. Nogle af de ældre mænd forsigtigt prodded teltet flap åbne med en trukket kniv og kiggede indenfor.
Den høvding hovedet kone crouched i hjørnet, sygepleje den høvding, hvis ansigt var dækket i welts og blod. Ansatte og mindre koner stod over i angst og chok. Dominere midten af teltet, ødelægge en sydlige RAID, en enorm tabellen dripped langsomt med at samle blod af Theiftaker – impaled om en brudt sværd igennem.
Alarmen blev rejst, mændene kørte alle om i nat, der søger efter den forvist Bjørn at bringe ham til domstolene, men i morgens lys, alt det blev konstateret, var de manglende elementer: den Chieftain’s ax, den Chieftain’s foretrukne datter, og Det Chieftain’s rigt udstyret funereal skibet.

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Balthazzar Thorensson

Balthazar Thorensson (the Necromancer), his brother Torvald (a Paladin) and Fingers (a Halfling thief) were asked by a local village to go drive out a ghost that was haunting an old manor house on the cliffs down the road.  So for the past month and a half of gaming sessions, they had been running around in the upper floors, exploring the house.  After a few encounters with lots of poisonous bugs, They came finally back to check out the basement.
    They decended the stair into the wine cellar. Halfway down, they heard cackling laughter, and a voice telling them to flee. They looked around, but nothing jumped out at them, so they continued.
    As they reached to the bottom, Balthazar shined his lantern around to see what he could.  Nothing much but a few crates full of garbage, a fireplace, some broken wine trellises and bottles and an old dried out corpse wearing armor.  They did a quick search of the corpse and the other stuff in the room.  Balthazar of course took a few samples secretly, but when Fingers was trying search the corpse for goodies, a rotgrub burrowed into his hand and began chewing it’s way up his arm.  Without the decisive thinking of Torvald, it would make its’ way toward his heart.  Torvald almost chopped Fingers’ arm off to save him, but at the last minute, he prayed to his god, and the holiness of his prayer destroyed the grub and removed it from the theif’ body.
    When Fingers decided he could go on, he searched the room and found a secret door in the wall that led into a large chamber filled with torchlight, beds, liquor and clothes,..very much like a big barracks.  They found little of interest after a quick search, but around the corner was a large barred double door with “Danger” marked upon it and another door leading into the more richly dressed chambers, obviously the residence of this band’s leader.  They searched the place and found a box of vials filled with a liquids of various sorts, some platinum coins as well as some books on mesmerism, naval strategy and lewd poetry.  
    They took everything of value, but as Fingers opened the box, he pricked his finger, poisoned surging through his veins.  Torvald grabbed the theif’s finger and tried to massage the poison out of the wound.  It seemed to work, but some of the discoloration would not leave. They discussed returning to the town for medical aid, but Fingers insisted that he was okay.
    Within the big barracks room Fingers found another concealed door.  This one led to a damp stair going down into the earth.  They judged from the direction and what presence of the Naval Strategy book that this was a pirate’s hideout. They had already agreed that this house wasn’t likely to be haunted, especially after they found the barracks.  
    They proceeded cautiously down the stairs, and came to a ‘T’ in the passage, one side of lit and full of fog, the other, empty but dark.  Balthazar motioned to the clear  path and they proceeded on.
    Shortly they came to a chamber, empty except a slick green ooze on the ceiling. They avoided walking under the ooze, and made their way across to a passage on the other side.  They moved down the passage a bit and found a lit candle just sitting in the middle of the passage.  Fingers started to sneak ahead to check things out, but he didn’t get far when three men with short swords charged out of the darkness to attack them.
    Fingers used his tumbling skill, rolling about the room to give him an advantage against his foe.  Balthazar flung a dagger at the one nearest him.  The Necromancer missed with his dagger, but Torvald quickly intercepted his opponent and killed him with one crushing blow of his huge sword.  The other two men swung their blades at Fingers but his incredible acrobatics thwarted them. As Torvald cleaved one of Fingers’ enemies to death, the thief flung himself on the last pirate with his shortsword and cleaved his head open.  They stripped the bodies quickly for valuables and information and continued on into the darkness.
    The passage curved around, and again came to a ‘T’, again with a fog filled passage (they’d come full circle to the other end of the foggy hallway).  Torvald looked down the other hallway, while Balthazar determined the fog to be of a magical nature.  Just as Balthazar was about to explain it to his companions, a large Dog-man creature saw Torvald from the other passage and fled away down the passage, howling in warning.  Immediately three men stepped out of the fog in front of Balthazar. Fingers made a heroic leap to intercede between the necromancer and the men, luring them with his feats of acrobatics.  Balthazar hied out of harms way.  Torvald rushed to the aid of his brother, opening the belly of one of the men and spilling his guts upon the slick flooring.  The other tried to fight back, but in a monumental bout of clumsiness, both men dropped their swords.  Fingers slashed the hand of one of the disarmed men to prevent them trying to retrive their weapons.  
    Balthazar moved to watch for trouble coming from the hallway where dog-man had fled.   But before Torvald could strike his opponent down, two of the dog-men and a wizard came out of the darkness of the corridor behind him.
    He turned to face the new threat.  Alas, before Torvald or the dog-men could act the wizard had cast a spell, engulfing all three with swirling colored lights.  All three fell sensleless to the floor.
    Fingers quickly dispatched his enemy and leapt into the cover of the fog, hiding from the wizard’s view.  The wizard lifted his hands and started to chant, hoping to take out the necromancer with another spell.  Balthazar quickly whipped another knife in the wizard’s direction, lodging it into his leg and knocking him down.  The distraction of pain and surprised cast the spell from the mind and he crawled back to his feet.  
    The man with the wounded hand reclaimed his sword and moved to stand in front of the Wizard to protect him. Fingers swept  from the fog with two daggers drawn, and threw them at the man.  The swordsman fell with a surprised look upon his face.  
    Balthazar had just had time to unraveled a scroll and read from it the spell of Magic Missile, hoping to finish off the wizard.  The Wizard was faster and barked out a spell of Suggestion, commanding Balthazar and Fingers to run away.  Immediately, Fingers and Balthazar fled into the fog, up the stairs, through the barracks and up into the old manor, running until they were overcome with exhaustion.  As they tried to catch their breath, the wizard’s command wore off, and Fingers asked Balthazar what just happened.  Balthazar explained to him that they had just had a spell cast on them. Both agreed that they need to hurry back down to help poor unconscious Torvald.  
    All of the running exhausted Balthazar, and they could not get back to Torvald as quickly as they had hoped.  While they had fled, Torvald and the dog-men had awakened but the wizard was already gone. Torvald used his paladin’s instinct on the dog-men, and determined that they aren’t evil creatures, so he tried to make gestures of peace to them.  The dog-men seem to be as confused about their involvement as Torvald was, as though emerging from a spell themselves.  
    They slowly reached down and retrieved their weapons, then sheathed them and headed off in different directions.  Torvald searched for Balthazar and the thief and was relieved to find them returning down the stair.   
    Balthazar pointed out that with all of the magic the wizard had been casting, he would very likely be exhausted, as well as wounded, and it would be best to pursue the wizard now, instead of giving him the opportunity to refresh himself.

****  pause in writing awaiting next game session   ****

    Just as they’d been about to defeat the Pirate Wizard, he cast a Command opon them and made Fingers and Balthazar flee away up into the manor, leaving Balthazar’s brother Torvald the Paladin unconscious on the floor with the dead pirates and the unconscious Dog-men.  Up in the manor house, Fingers and Balthazar had found their good wood-elf priest companion, Artemus, and his Tyr-priest friend, Gunther, seeking for them. They all ran back down into the Catacombs, trying to save Torvald but they found him wandering around looking for them as well. He said that when he had awakened, the wizard was gone and he and the dog-men had parted peacefully. Balthazar the Necromancer suggested that  hey should press their advantage, since the wizard was surely worn out from his  sounds and all the magic he had used. So they continued heading down into the caves looking for the wounded wizard.
    The adventurers once again came to the place where the pirate’s bodies lay on the stone floor.  Balthazar stopped to claim a dead man’s hand for his studies, as the rest of the party continued on.  But unbeknown to him, Fingers, watched him at my grizzly task. Balthazar hurried on to catch up with his companions.  
     They came to a branch in the path.  To the left was a large chamber filled with bolts of silk and barrels of fine brandy.  Balthazar was looking over the brandy, and the Elf was amusing himself with the silk, when Fingers, standing watch at the chamber entrance, saw the two dog-men approaching again.  
     He let out a scream of alarm, and threw both of his blades at the dog-men, one sinking deeply into the chest of one, and the other impaling the leg of the other.  Before any of his companions could come to his aid, one of the dog-men smashed Fingers to the ground with a mighty ax-blow.  The Thief played dead upon the floor to spare himself further harm.  Torvald and Gunther, Paladin and War-Priest of Tyr, lunged into battle with the dog-men, standing over Fingers to protect him.  The Paladin quickly dispatched one of the Dog-men with his longsword’s flashing might, and Gunther drove back his foe with heavy blows from his great Lucerne (Pole) Hammer.  
  Before Gunther could dispatch his enemy, A wave of seawater crashed up the passageway, flinging all from their feet except one of the huge dog-men.  The water receded back down the passages, leaving the band of adventurers laying dazed on the ground.  Torvald and Gunther gracefully leapt to their feet and slew the dog-man who was attempting to flee.
    Artemus the cleric moved among the wounded, laying on his hands, and easing the pain and cuts of the wounded.  They continued down the passage in hopes of catching the wizard, but as they surged into the underground cove, they found no sign of him.  They assumed he had escaped to the sea in a waiting boat.
    They searched the area thoroughly, but found no sign of hiding places or other possible exits.  They sat down and considered where else they might search.  Finally, Torvald recalled a door they had not searched up in the pirate barracks, the   large door marked ‘Danger’ in an old long forgotten language.
    They climbed their way out of the cavern and approached the great portal.  Fingers searched the door for traps and tricks but found none.  Balthazar and Fingers decided to hide back in the protection of the wizard’s bedroom as Torvald and Gunther removed the bar from the door.   Artemus took up a stance with his bow and covered the two mighty warriors.  Torvald pushed the door open, looking inside.  
     Six skeletons, old,  yellowed and fleshless sat about a long collapsed table. The Paladin called back to the rest, telling them what he saw.  Balthazar the Necromancer quickly pushed his way into the room to examine the corpses.  Torvald and Balthazar approached the bones while the rest of the companions slowly filtered into the room.  The Necromancer was examining the ghastly diners, when the nearest skeleton turned to look at him.  It reached out with it’s bony hand and tore a huge bit of flesh from Balthazar’s throat.  One of the skeleton jumped on him and ripped mightily at Torvalds flesh, causing him grievous wound. Quickly, both Artemus and Gunther prayed to their gods, and their holiness drove the skeletons back into the corner of the room, while Balthazar and Torvald crawled back to join the party near the door. It was quickly decided that these obviously evil skeletons were an abomination to the gods of Torvald, Gunther , and Artemus, so while Artemus kept the skeletons at bay, Gunther advanced on the skeletons while Finger threw his daggers at them from across the room , and Balthazar continued crawling out of the room to rest outside in the barracks. As Gunther started savaging one of the skeletons, Fingers was quickly learning the faultiness of attacking a fleshless creature with his daggers, for it took several to bring down one skeleton. Gunther started to bash at the skeletons with his hammer, but in his trepidation his blows went awry, and the skeletons, being threatened, and having nowhere else to go, turned and swarmed at Gunther. Fingers, in a wild fit of heroics, threw himself into the battle, hoping that his acrobatic leaps and tumbles would save him from the ravaging claws of the skeletons, but he was terribly gashed by one of the skeleton’s boney swipes. Torvald, though sorely wounded, was moved and inspired by the little man’s selflessness and bravery, and also came to Gunther’s aid, but was quickly torn up by the skeleton’s terrible attacks. He collapsed to the floor bleeding from horrible wounds. Artemus ran forward, trying to drag Torvald from the deadly grasp of the undead foe, but his efforts only brought him under the horrid claws, and he too was quickly brought down unto death for his heriocs. Soon after, Gunther also was subdued and rent unto death by the Skeleton’s mighty wrath. Balthazar, having regained his wits, cast a spell that would make any but the most strongwilled undead creature flee from his touch, and went to look in the room to see how he could help, but Fingers, who realized that he was now alone in the room with four of the horrible shambling creatures, and surrounded at that, guzzled down an elixer he had that shrank him down to the size of a mouse, and he quickly hid under the body of Gunther. When Balthazar looked into the room, all he saw were the four skeletons, and the bodies of his dead companions, so he quickly pushed the door shut and braced it with the removed door bar, then hurried up out of the manor to rush back to the village, and get some healing aid, and then to hire some men to help him reclaim the body of his brother.

Pirate Cove

Balthazar Thorensson (the Necromancer), his brother Torvald (a Paladin) and Fingers (a Halfling thief) were asked by a local village to go drive out a ghost that was haunting an old manor house on the cliffs down the road.  So for the past month and a half of gaming sessions, they had been running around in the upper floors, exploring the house.  After a few encounters with lots of poisonous bugs, They came finally back to check out the basement.
    They decended the stair into the wine cellar. Halfway down, they heard cackling laughter, and a voice telling them to flee. They looked around, but nothing jumped out at them, so they continued.
    As they reached to the bottom, Balthazar shined his lantern around to see what he could.  Nothing much but a few crates full of garbage, a fireplace, some broken wine trellises and bottles and an old dried out corpse wearing armor.  They did a quick search of the corpse and the other stuff in the room.  Balthazar of course took a few samples secretly, but when Fingers was trying search the corpse for goodies, a rotgrub burrowed into his hand and began chewing it’s way up his arm.  Without the decisive thinking of Torvald, it would make its’ way toward his heart.  Torvald almost chopped Fingers’ arm off to save him, but at the last minute, he prayed to his god, and the holiness of his prayer destroyed the grub and removed it from the theif’ body.
    When Fingers decided he could go on, he searched the room and found a secret door in the wall that led into a large chamber filled with torchlight, beds, liquor and clothes,..very much like a big barracks.  They found little of interest after a quick search, but around the corner was a large barred double door with “Danger” marked upon it and another door leading into the more richly dressed chambers, obviously the residence of this band’s leader.  They searched the place and found a box of vials filled with a liquids of various sorts, some platinum coins as well as some books on mesmerism, naval strategy and lewd poetry.  
    They took everything of value, but as Fingers opened the box, he pricked his finger, poisoned surging through his veins.  Torvald grabbed the theif’s finger and tried to massage the poison out of the wound.  It seemed to work, but some of the discoloration would not leave. They discussed returning to the town for medical aid, but Fingers insisted that he was okay.
    Within the big barracks room Fingers found another concealed door.  This one led to a damp stair going down into the earth.  They judged from the direction and what presence of the Naval Strategy book that this was a pirate’s hideout. They had already agreed that this house wasn’t likely to be haunted, especially after they found the barracks.  
    They proceeded cautiously down the stairs, and came to a ‘T’ in the passage, one side of lit and full of fog, the other, empty but dark.  Balthazar motioned to the clear  path and they proceeded on.
    Shortly they came to a chamber, empty except a slick green ooze on the ceiling. They avoided walking under the ooze, and made their way across to a passage on the other side.  They moved down the passage a bit and found a lit candle just sitting in the middle of the passage.  Fingers started to sneak ahead to check things out, but he didn’t get far when three men with short swords charged out of the darkness to attack them.
    Fingers used his tumbling skill, rolling about the room to give him an advantage against his foe.  Balthazar flung a dagger at the one nearest him.  The Necromancer missed with his dagger, but Torvald quickly intercepted his opponent and killed him with one crushing blow of his huge sword.  The other two men swung their blades at Fingers but his incredible acrobatics thwarted them. As Torvald cleaved one of Fingers’ enemies to death, the thief flung himself on the last pirate with his shortsword and cleaved his head open.  They stripped the bodies quickly for valuables and information and continued on into the darkness.
    The passage curved around, and again came to a ‘T’, again with a fog filled passage (they’d come full circle to the other end of the foggy hallway).  Torvald looked down the other hallway, while Balthazar determined the fog to be of a magical nature.  Just as Balthazar was about to explain it to his companions, a large Dog-man creature saw Torvald from the other passage and fled away down the passage, howling in warning.  Immediately three men stepped out of the fog in front of Balthazar. Fingers made a heroic leap to intercede between the necromancer and the men, luring them with his feats of acrobatics.  Balthazar hied out of harms way.  Torvald rushed to the aid of his brother, opening the belly of one of the men and spilling his guts upon the slick flooring.  The other tried to fight back, but in a monumental bout of clumsiness, both men dropped their swords.  Fingers slashed the hand of one of the disarmed men to prevent them trying to retrive their weapons.  
    Balthazar moved to watch for trouble coming from the hallway where dog-man had fled.   But before Torvald could strike his opponent down, two of the dog-men and a wizard came out of the darkness of the corridor behind him.
    He turned to face the new threat.  Alas, before Torvald or the dog-men could act the wizard had cast a spell, engulfing all three with swirling colored lights.  All three fell sensleless to the floor.
    Fingers quickly dispatched his enemy and leapt into the cover of the fog, hiding from the wizard’s view.  The wizard lifted his hands and started to chant, hoping to take out the necromancer with another spell.  Balthazar quickly whipped another knife in the wizard’s direction, lodging it into his leg and knocking him down.  The distraction of pain and surprised cast the spell from the mind and he crawled back to his feet.  
    The man with the wounded hand reclaimed his sword and moved to stand in front of the Wizard to protect him. Fingers swept  from the fog with two daggers drawn, and threw them at the man.  The swordsman fell with a surprised look upon his face.  
    Balthazar had just had time to unraveled a scroll and read from it the spell of Magic Missile, hoping to finish off the wizard.  The Wizard was faster and barked out a spell of Suggestion, commanding Balthazar and Fingers to run away.  Immediately, Fingers and Balthazar fled into the fog, up the stairs, through the barracks and up into the old manor, running until they were overcome with exhaustion.  As they tried to catch their breath, the wizard’s command wore off, and Fingers asked Balthazar what just happened.  Balthazar explained to him that they had just had a spell cast on them. Both agreed that they need to hurry back down to help poor unconscious Torvald.  
    All of the running exhausted Balthazar, and they could not get back to Torvald as quickly as they had hoped.  While they had fled, Torvald and the dog-men had awakened but the wizard was already gone. Torvald used his paladin’s instinct on the dog-men, and determined that they aren’t evil creatures, so he tried to make gestures of peace to them.  The dog-men seem to be as confused about their involvement as Torvald was, as though emerging from a spell themselves.  
    They slowly reached down and retrieved their weapons, then sheathed them and headed off in different directions.  Torvald searched for Balthazar and the thief and was relieved to find them returning down the stair.   
    Balthazar pointed out that with all of the magic the wizard had been casting, he would very likely be exhausted, as well as wounded, and it would be best to pursue the wizard now, instead of giving him the opportunity to refresh himself.

****  pause in writing awaiting next game session   ****

    Just as they’d been about to defeat the Pirate Wizard, he cast a Command opon them and made Fingers and Balthazar flee away up into the manor, leaving Balthazar’s brother Torvald the Paladin unconscious on the floor with the dead pirates and the unconscious Dog-men.  Up in the manor house, Fingers and Balthazar had found their good wood-elf priest companion, Artemus, and his Tyr-priest friend, Gunther, seeking for them. They all ran back down into the Catacombs, trying to save Torvald but they found him wandering around looking for them as well. He said that when he had awakened, the wizard was gone and he and the dog-men had parted peacefully. Balthazar the Necromancer suggested that  hey should press their advantage, since the wizard was surely worn out from his  sounds and all the magic he had used. So they continued heading down into the caves looking for the wounded wizard.
    The adventurers once again came to the place where the pirate’s bodies lay on the stone floor.  Balthazar stopped to claim a dead man’s hand for his studies, as the rest of the party continued on.  But unbeknown to him, Fingers, watched him at my grizzly task. Balthazar hurried on to catch up with his companions.  
     They came to a branch in the path.  To the left was a large chamber filled with bolts of silk and barrels of fine brandy.  Balthazar was looking over the brandy, and the Elf was amusing himself with the silk, when Fingers, standing watch at the chamber entrance, saw the two dog-men approaching again.  
     He let out a scream of alarm, and threw both of his blades at the dog-men, one sinking deeply into the chest of one, and the other impaling the leg of the other.  Before any of his companions could come to his aid, one of the dog-men smashed Fingers to the ground with a mighty ax-blow.  The Thief played dead upon the floor to spare himself further harm.  Torvald and Gunther, Paladin and War-Priest of Tyr, lunged into battle with the dog-men, standing over Fingers to protect him.  The Paladin quickly dispatched one of the Dog-men with his longsword’s flashing might, and Gunther drove back his foe with heavy blows from his great Lucerne (Pole) Hammer.  
  Before Gunther could dispatch his enemy, A wave of seawater crashed up the passageway, flinging all from their feet except one of the huge dog-men.  The water receded back down the passages, leaving the band of adventurers laying dazed on the ground.  Torvald and Gunther gracefully leapt to their feet and slew the dog-man who was attempting to flee.
    Artemus the cleric moved among the wounded, laying on his hands, and easing the pain and cuts of the wounded.  They continued down the passage in hopes of catching the wizard, but as they surged into the underground cove, they found no sign of him.  They assumed he had escaped to the sea in a waiting boat.
    They searched the area thoroughly, but found no sign of hiding places or other possible exits.  They sat down and considered where else they might search.  Finally, Torvald recalled a door they had not searched up in the pirate barracks, the   large door marked ‘Danger’ in an old long forgotten language.
    They climbed their way out of the cavern and approached the great portal.  Fingers searched the door for traps and tricks but found none.  Balthazar and Fingers decided to hide back in the protection of the wizard’s bedroom as Torvald and Gunther removed the bar from the door.   Artemus took up a stance with his bow and covered the two mighty warriors.  Torvald pushed the door open, looking inside.  
     Six skeletons, old,  yellowed and fleshless sat about a long collapsed table. The Paladin called back to the rest, telling them what he saw.  Balthazar the Necromancer quickly pushed his way into the room to examine the corpses.  Torvald and Balthazar approached the bones while the rest of the companions slowly filtered into the room.  The Necromancer was examining the ghastly diners, when the nearest skeleton turned to look at him.  It reached out with it’s bony hand and tore a huge bit of flesh from Balthazar’s throat.  One of the skeleton jumped on him and ripped mightily at Torvalds flesh, causing him grievous wound. Quickly, both Artemus and Gunther prayed to their gods, and their holiness drove the skeletons back into the corner of the room, while Balthazar and Torvald crawled back to join the party near the door. It was quickly decided that these obviously evil skeletons were an abomination to the gods of Torvald, Gunther , and Artemus, so while Artemus kept the skeletons at bay, Gunther advanced on the skeletons while Finger threw his daggers at them from across the room , and Balthazar continued crawling out of the room to rest outside in the barracks. As Gunther started savaging one of the skeletons, Fingers was quickly learning the faultiness of attacking a fleshless creature with his daggers, for it took several to bring down one skeleton. Gunther started to bash at the skeletons with his hammer, but in his trepidation his blows went awry, and the skeletons, being threatened, and having nowhere else to go, turned and swarmed at Gunther. Fingers, in a wild fit of heroics, threw himself into the battle, hoping that his acrobatic leaps and tumbles would save him from the ravaging claws of the skeletons, but he was terribly gashed by one of the skeleton’s boney swipes. Torvald, though sorely wounded, was moved and inspired by the little man’s selflessness and bravery, and also came to Gunther’s aid, but was quickly torn up by the skeleton’s terrible attacks. He collapsed to the floor bleeding from horrible wounds. Artemus ran forward, trying to drag Torvald from the deadly grasp of the undead foe, but his efforts only brought him under the horrid claws, and he too was quickly brought down unto death for his heriocs. Soon after, Gunther also was subdued and rent unto death by the Skeleton’s mighty wrath. Balthazar, having regained his wits, cast a spell that would make any but the most strongwilled undead creature flee from his touch, and went to look in the room to see how he could help, but Fingers, who realized that he was now alone in the room with four of the horrible shambling creatures, and surrounded at that, guzzled down an elixer he had that shrank him down to the size of a mouse, and he quickly hid under the body of Gunther. When Balthazar looked into the room, all he saw were the four skeletons, and the bodies of his dead companions, so he quickly pushed the door shut and braced it with the removed door bar, then hurried up out of the manor to rush back to the village, and get some healing aid, and then to hire some men to help him reclaim the body of his brother.

Outside

                                                      Outside
  
     Du-Uruhk of the Kovin Ba-Mahahl stood over the meteor and was overcome with dread.  He gazed at the path the star-cow had made through the tree-herds as it plummeted to the earth.  Much of the rich soil that blanketed the planet’s surface lay newly turned and exposed by the rent in the Earth’s face.  Soil.  Du-Uruhk, as one of the few of the Ba-Mahahl, was one of the few of his people who had ever seen the rich earth.  Most people rarely dug deeper than a mere scratch in deep mosses that covered their planet.
     Carefully he let himself down into the trench of the star-cow’s wake and approached the fallen beast.  Strange scents assaulted his choura, the fine tentacles recoiling from the star-cow’s cooling carcass.  He squatted among the sacred soil of the Earth and considered the meteor.  Not coming from a people with much use for straight lines, it took him some time to understand that the crumpling on the ‘front’ of the meteor was due to its impact with the ground, not its natural shape.  This puzzled Du-Uruhk.  As one of the Ba-Mahahl, it was one of Du-Uruhk’s duties to put the star-cows to rest and to reassure the tree-herds so that they might flourish undisturbed.  But this Star-cow was different from any he had seen.   It was not made from the Bones Of The Earth.  At least, it was not any Bones Of The Earth he had ever seen.  This Star-Cow, even though blackened by the Fury Of Heaven, still glittered in places, glittered like a moon-face in a puddle of water.  Its body crumpled, like a leaf, or a root instead of like the Bone Of The Earth.
     He held out his Uruck close to the Star-Cow to sense if it still held the Fury Of Heaven, but it seemed cool enough now to touch without pain.  His doi brushed against the surface and he noted how flat and smooth the beast was to touch.  Under his doitips the blackening of the Furies smudged and came away on his doi.  He continued to contemplate the odd Star-Cow, noting that it tended to flake off in bits.  Indeed, many pieces of it littered the trench left in its wake.  He gathered the pieces of the Star-Cow together so that they could rest in peace.  As he did so, he would look at the strange meteor from time to time, curious as to the nature of its flat surfaces and odd angles.  His sire, from whom he was borne had known of a deep vast cave, very rare on the Earth, where the Bone Of The Earth grew in flat planes and odd angles, but Du-Uruhk suspected that the Star-Cow had a different reason for its odd nature…

-01-28-2003

Unfinished Business

“You’ll pick me up, right?”  The voice on the other end of the line waited expectantly.  Alan paused for moment to collect his thoughts.   Behind him, Dan made a wry, non-commital motion.  “Yeah.  Sure.”  he reponded after a moment.  He let the receiver drift away from his ear as the voice on the other end made some standard “see-you-laters” and disconnected with an audible click.  
    “I guess we’ll need to get a car.” Dan said.  “Maybe we should get a truck.  It is North Carolina, after all!”  Dan was a thin, pimply young man with straight black hair that always appeared greasy no matter how often he washed it.  His outfit was always the same, jeans, concert-tee and sneakers, though if you care to pay attention, you would notice the band change from day to day.  The clothes were clean, just not very unique from day-to-day.  
    Alan by contrast was often mistaken for a hippie, until you spent time with him.  He was long-haired and bearded, the hair a rather un-interesting shade of brown.  He had a very keen glint in his eye though, and often left his observers wondering.  His clothing was patched, second-hand goods, rugged and serviceable, but far from fashionable.  He dressed like a man who did not really wish to think about clothes right now.
    Tabitha, betraying her lack of meditation, interjected.  “A truck won’t hold four of us.”  She opened her pale, blue eyes, allowing them a moment to adjust to the fading sunlight of afternoon pouring in through the skylight.  Unlike the boys, she was dressed in the latest lines of casual clothing, everly last hair on her head perfectly coifed.  She stretched like a pampered, yellow cat and swung her legs form the couch.  Leaning forward she added, “Five with this new fella.  You gonna drive all the way back from Raleigh with us all in the back picking bugs from our teeth?”
    “Shotgun!” Dan claimed quickly.  He was deeply engrossed in the re-construction of his laptop, which he had manually exploded all over the dining-room table just half an hour ago.  
    “You can’t call that yet!”  Tabitha said.  “It’s not even the day of!  You have to wait until everyone is ready to get in the car.”  She scowled him, and finally stuck her tongue out, thinking once again to herself that she would not stoop to his pedantic antics the next time.  
    “Should we take him to see this Martha person after we pick him up?” Dan asked, slipping a piece of plastic and wire into the casing on the table.  
    Alan shook his head.  “I think he’ll want to see the tree first.   Get a feel for what we’re dealing with.  He doesn’t even know about Martha yet.”

    They left first thing in the morning, going to meet their guest at the airport in a rental car.  The trip to Rahleigh took them several hours, and they spent more time in travel going to pick Mr Mortenssen up that Mr Mortenssen had spent on the plane.  Jann Mortenssen appeared to them from the crowd of people awaiting luggage return as a thirty-something man in jeans, jacket, tee and sneakers, his dirty-blonde raggedly brushed back from his face and a blonde goatee frolicking on his chin like a mountain goat seeing how close it could get to the edge.  He had only a carry-on of underwear and socks and his laptop case over his shoulder, so little time was wasted getting out of the airport.   Something about the place with all of its noises set them each on edge.  
    The question of Jann’s heritage was answered the moment they saw him.  They had hoped that since Brenda had recommended him that he would be one of them.  It would certainly make things easier to explain.   After catching a quick meal in the city, they made it back to Ravensburg by late afternoon.  
    “Do you wish to see the Tree now?”  Alan asked Jann when he had settled in.  
    “Sure,” the newcomer responded.  They gathered everyone into the living room of the old cabin.  
    “Are your clothes dedicated?”  Alan looked to Jann for confirmation.  The man smiled.  “Wouldn’t be very good at my job if they weren’t.” he replied.  Alan leaned forward, his forepaws striking the earth as he leapt through the doorway out into the forest.  Their forest.  He exulted in the feel of the trees and bushes whipping by his face.  He howled for the joy of it.  Behind him, the others dropped down onto their paws, taking the wolf and leaping out into the late afternoon.  Their howls joined with his and they ran as a pack, all human concerns lost to them.  Even Jann, though not of their pack, joined in the howl.
    The glade was only a half mile from the cabin, and the wolves arrived long before their desire to run was sated.  As they approached the huge Tree from around the small lake at its base, Jann spoke of his sensing the power of the place, and the wrongness that now emanated from it.  As they slipped underneath the great branches, Daniel felt as though a great cloud of horror was coming over them.
    The signs of change were everywhere.  The waters, once crystaline, seemed cloudy and full of murk.  The Tree, once peaceful and happy to dance with the wind-spirits, clawed at the sky like a madwoman.  Along its once-smooth limbs, could now be seen briars and thorns, jagged spikes awaiting flesh to rend.  Jann Mortenssen gave the little growl of dis-belief.

Linseed Oil

Linseed Oil

This story I wrote on a bet. My opponent told me to spit out a word or object at the same time as her. Then, we each took the other’s object and wrote either a poem or story that involved the object. The object I had to use was a globe, preferably an ancient globe. I got off easy. She ended up having to write a poem about a Fried Chicken Leg.

I can still smell the linseed oil….
Gazing out of the window, I see spread before me the lush lands belonging to Aleston Manor. The patchwork fields, little white blobs that marked the presence of bountiful herds of sheep in the distance, the path of the river Mannon marked by a row of trees. Dale is taking the dogs out again to bring in the kill for tonights festivities. Twenty years of bliss with my dear Diane.
For those twenty years now I have been master of these estates. I first came here with my beloved, when she brought me to meet her father. It was a very blustery night I remember. The wind threatened to rip the hide top of our carraige off as we lumbered down the road. The clip clop of the horses hooves had eventually drowned out our conversation, and the long road had diminished lovely Diane’s enthusiasm for the impending presentation. We were tired and sore from the bouncing and jouncing of the buggy’s cabin. I almost felt for poor huddled driver, cramped and shivering out in the open air.
The manor appeared in the moonlight as we came around the bend of Old Knob, the hill that holds the reputation of being the burial mound of the ancient norse cheiftains that had settled here years ago. It almost looked like one of those old dreary haunted mansions that I read about in the cheap novels we buy in Soho. It’s silhouette was imposing, yet stark. The house had long been possessed by the Aleston family, and it was deep in it’s decline.
The rain had begun to fall as we pulled into the courtyard. We hurried into the house leaving the poor wet manservant to deal with the baggage. Old man Aleston was waiting for us in his trophy room. I wasn’t surprised when I saw him. He fit all the common stereotypes of the aged english lord. Balding, paunchy, dour, dressed in his burgundy robe and slippers. Even his den was filled with the poor stuffed heads of his many sporting adventures. I had them all tossed in the middens when I gained control of the house at his lady’s passing.
Dinner went by painlessly. Lord Aleston greeted me indifferently, but Lady Aleston, an dear middle aged aristocrat still carrying the glory of her youthly beauty, hugged me and drew me in like one of the family. Each of the servings was seasoned with heavy helpings of local gossip that my dearest had missed in her time at ladies school. A the inside of Aleston manor I noticed hadn’t achieved the dark gloominess of it’s exterior. Bright candle light and wealthy, bright furnishings made a most hospitable and regal home. Then Diane announced our intent to marry, and Lady Aleston lost all her composure and wept with her daughter for joy. By the time dessert was served, Diane and Lady Aleston were tto preoccupied with their happiness, and went up to the attic to search out the old dress that Lady Aleston had worn at her own wedding. Lord Aleston just watched me, quietly, since the anouncment of our betrothal.
“Come up stairs with me for a brandy,” was all he said to me after the ladies had left.
In this same room he brought me. It was and still is a very comfortable old study. racks of books line the walls, I still haven’t read them all. I remember the first time I was overwhelmed by the scent of the linseed oil used to burnish and shine all the woodwork that dominated the room. A huge oak desk was positioned in a corner by the windows, taking full advantage of the light that would shine in during the daytime. Comfortably overstuffed leather reading chairs, and a shiny dark stained oak table dominated the center of the room. The old man shuffled over to the liquor cabinet and filled two glasses with what turned out to be a very fine old brandy.
Aleston heaved his great old bones onto a deep chair, and sighed in relief. The fire in chimney had burned low, so I placed my glass on the mantle and started poking about with the iron poker. After adding a couple of logs, I replaced the poker, reclaimed my brandy and sat in one of the deep chairs next to His Lordship.
We sat in silence more a few minutes, mulling the flavor of the wonderful liquor over our tongues. I must admit that the silence did make somewhat nervous. I’ve always had a way with charm, but how do you charm silence? Eventually, Aleston turned his chair toward the fireplace and warmed his toes in the radiant heat. I followed in suit.
“Have you and my daughter decided when this blessed event is to happen?” he mumbled after a healthy swig from his snifter.
I chuckled, trying to bring some lightness into the mood. “Diane has requested it be in May, sir. She says it is the time of Spring, the time of birth.”
Aleston began struggling in his chair, seeking to replenish his empty glass.
I leapt to my feet. “Please sir, allow me. ” I took his glass to the liqour cabinet and started to pour a healthy amount into it. So it was time for THAT conversation. My answers were already well versed. After a few moments passed, he spoke again.
“You’ve now seen how she was raised. How do you expect to keep my daughter in the way that she deserves?”
“I don’t know what Diane has told you about my family,Your Lordship, but I have been attending a very prestigious school. My father was…”
“Don’t! Don’t try to swindle me with your lies and smiles, sir! ” he growled through his teeth. “Did you actually believe I wouldn’t look into your past when my daughter wrote us about you!”
I must admit, I was stunned by this unexpected outburst.
“Your mother was a Lady of the Night, and you have no idea who your father was. I’ve hired men to look into your past. I’ve had others following you around. You are a partisan to gamblers, thieves and murderers. You frequent shady establishments. You have already sullied my daughter’s honor over a score of times, and you haven’t even wed her yet. ”
I started to fume with my frustration.
“Sir! I don’t know where you’ve heard these outlandish stories about my person! Nor do I know why someone would wish to slander me so! But I…”
“Enouph!” he roared. I would never have guessed a man of his health being able to produce so harsh a sound. “Enjoy your brandy, man. It is the last treasure of my family’s that you will ever taste! My man Dale will be taking you to the constable when you are finished.”
My eyes narrowed in anger. They glared at the old ‘s bald pate shining in the candle light. On the desk was a small brass globe depicting the shape of the continents as they were believed to be over a hundred years ago. My hand wrapped around the base and hefted it’s weight. It felt so natural.
My servants have been using a wax to polish the wood of my study for the last twenty years, but I can still smell the linseed oil…

The Squeaky Boot

The Squeaky Boot
 
 
I left the intro on this one to be explained at the end of the story, since the inspiration might spoil the story for the readers.
I first heard it one chilly spring night.
I was out for one of my many nightly walks.  I enjoy the night air immensely, the sound of eve’s breath like a close companion as it blows through the cities streets, tossing coats and scarves about: the Zephyrs at play.
Ahead of me a young couple, in their late twenties I’d guess, chatted about their days, the frustrations of work and the hopes of promotions and finally being able to afford their own home.  A small twinge of jealousy ran through me.  I’d had such dreams when I was younger, with my own dear Alice.  As the memories gripped me, I found the familiar melancholy taking hold, the deep sorrow that cost me my job.  I miss her so since she passed away.
I missed something of their conversation so caught up as I was in my reverie.  Whatever it was, the young lady turned to her husband and threw her arms around him, smothering him with kisses.  From this angle I could see what a fetching young woman she was, long curly hair and slim form, all completed by an angelic heart-shaped face.  They were so happy.
Squeak
Squeak
Squeak
Suddenly I heard the squeaking, like the tread of a leather boot, poorly oiled.  I looked about, a strange feeling of fear coming over me.  The couple noticed too.  They began to run.  I ran as well, almost catching up to them in my fear.  We all exploded onto the bright lights of one of the busier streets, losing ourselves in the crowd, finding comfort in the larger herd of humanity walking and motoring around us.

As I unlocked my apartment door, I laughed at my fear.  Too many cheap horror films I guess.  Alice never let me watch such things, but Alice wasn’t there to watch over me anymore.
As I entered my room, I looked over the dimly lit second hand furniture and the knick knacks I’d kept after the funeral.  I’d thrown so much away, the pain had been so great then.  I could feel the depression lurking about my soul like a patient beast saying ‘I can wait for you to come out.  I have all the time in the world.’  I took some of my prescription and went to bed, letting the drugs wash me into oblivion.

The second time,  I was out again for one of my walks.  It was earlier though, the night having yet to fall, but the deepening purples of the sky giving the promise of a good starlit eve.  I walked down the sidewalk, the steep hill causing twinges of pain in my sore left calf.  To much walking with too little support I guess.  People streamed about me, oblivious to the pain and joy of those around them.  How could people live so closely and yet see so little.
The air started turning colder, and you could almost see your breath before you in the air.  Seems the Ground Hog really had seen his shadow.  It suddenly occurred to me that a nice hot something from Beat Nick’s was in order.  I quickly turned into an alleyway, one of the many shortcuts I knew in this city  that would take me to my favorite haunts.  The high walls of the buildings towered over me, dampening the sounds of the city’s rush outside.  No wonder the muggers loved to hang out in these places.  In all the city, I think the alleys are the best for secrecy and solitude.
Ahead, laying for warmth in a pile of garbage, a homeless man lay propped up against the brick face that made the back wall of Terri’s Gourmet Butcher Shop.  The closer I got, the more I could see the man’s misery.  Sickness, malnutrition, gin blossoms, such horrible maladies tore through my compassionate heart.  I resolved to help him the only way I knew how.
Squeak
Squeak
Squeak
The noisy footfall seemed to spring from nowhere.  I’m sure the sight of myself and the homeless man running out of the alley like all of Hell was at our heels gave the onlookers quite the chuckle.  Had I not been so spooked, I would’ve wondered how  the sick little grungy man could run so fast.  Had he actually seen the source of the Squeaky Boot?

I plopped down into my favorite table at Nick’s.  I was shaking so badly that the bottom of my Cup-O-Cino (yes, I still cringe at the name too, but it’s the best cup in town) chattered like a tap-dancer.  The waitress gave me odd looks, and seemed put out by my lack of conversation.  Being a regular, we usually enjoyed a decent repoire.
The squeak followed me home, at least before I began running again.

 
For next week, the squeaking followed me about, setting my nerves on end and keeping me looking around me constantly.  It was torture.  In the grocery, following me out of the movies, on my nightly walks,  While I searched for work.  Squeak.  Squeak.  Squeak.  I was becoming a shadow of a human being, fear causing me to avoid the world, hermeting myself in my safe little haven.

Tonight I can’t handle being in any longer.  I must smell the fresh night air.  I must gaze up at the moon.  I gather my coat and hat and sail out the door, my ears tensed for any sound of the squeaky boot.
I take to the park.  There are plenty of people about.  That almost makes me feel safe.  I saunter down one path or another.  Yet still I can’t help but strain for the Squeak, Squeak, Squeak.
I purchase my dinner from a cart, and eat it while enjoying a concert by some street musicians.  Their playing isn’t half bad, and I give up my pocket change to their hat.  My feet take me among the paths they know so well.
Ahead of me, a young raven-haired lass walks, free of care.  I can tell she is not haunted by the sound of footfalls in her sleep.  She looks about herself, seeing the silhouettes of the tree branches against the night sky.  I watch her face.  It rips at my soul like a thousand razors.  She is so like my Alice.
I feel the tears running down my face now.  I quicken my pace, my heart ache pushing me forward, melancholy infecting me.  I’m almost over-taking the young woman.
Squeak.  Squeak.  Squeak.
The woman hears it as well.  She turns, her eyes widening with terror.  She sees the knife in my hand, the anger on my face…she screams.
Damn.
I’ve got to get that boot fixed.
 
AFTER WORD
I wear boots myself, one of which tends to squeak with every stride I make.  I was cursing the noise while speaking to Jen one day, and she said it would be a great title for a story and that I had to write it.  I’ve been putting it off for the better part of half a year now.  Finally, I buckled down and wrote it.  I hope you like.
-gb   8/10/98