The faint plea of Uckthar’s supplicant penetrated the thick, sleepy haze that had settled on his mind. It tickled his brain, the way a sparrow tickles a tree branch as it hops along. He brushed it away with a thought. The plea came again, this time nipping at him like a puppy eager to play. He tried to ignore it. Eventually though, the persistent call overcame his perpetual lethargy and he bent his will towards the old man in the small shrine. He heard the man’s words and sighed. It would require a great expenditure for even that simple request.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
The large terminal windows permitted the sunlight to enter, but forbid the heat from escaping. The air conditioner wheezed continuously; the temperature continued to climb. The flight delays meant all the seats were occupied by overheated, sweating masses of humanity, whose higher faculties were slowly eroded by the increasingly intolerable environmental state. Those who hadn’t managed to find a seat were slumped down on the floor. When thirst finally drove someone to their feet, their presence was marked by a sweat stain. The kiosks had already run out of water, and the soda fountains at the restaurants were being taxed.
Monday, March 19, 2018
I awoke with a start, the troubadour’s haunting dirge still caressing my ear. I inhaled through my nose to calm my racing heart and found my nostrils filled with the stale stink of dirty bodies and work animals. Rolling over, I retched over the side of my bed. Fortunately, the urge to vomit was replaced by rough coughs before I ruined my carpet. After my coughs subsided, I lay back in bed and wiped the sheen of sweat from my brow. The dream came back to me; I was on the same pilgrimage as the grotesque figures in the painting.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
“Do you see the size of that one?” Erik shouted.
He thrust his finger towards one of the twisted trees that were scattered through the marsh. A giant mosquito perched on the rough bark, buzzing loudly. It was the largest he’d seen so far.
“Shit, don’t point at it. What if it notices us?”
The two men froze, ignoring the conventionally-sized insects that crawled over their exposed skin. The gigantic mosquito took flight and vanished deeper into the stinking marsh.
The men resumed their slog through the thigh-high water, trying to ignore the unseen things rubbing against their tired legs.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Gazi put her craggy hand on the rough tunnel floor. She could feel the cave spider’s web blocking the path, but not her acolyte. The spider chittered, hoping Gazi’s curiosity bring her to be ensnared in its trap.
Instead, Gazi placed her hands on the stone and whispered a prayer. A moment later she pushed, and felt her hands sink into the stone as though it were wet clay. She continued pushing until she had passed entirely into the rock wall. She swam through the rock until the spider’s web was behind her. After emerging, she continued down the tunnel.
Friday, March 16, 2018
“If one more motherfucker cuts me off…” I growled.
Then some asshole in a Chevy Equinox jerked into my lane and slammed on his breaks. I laid on the horn.
The driver stopped and put it in park. Then they got out of their car. It was a middle-aged man who looked like he used to be athletic, but was still a bully. He stormed towards me.
I was salivating like a dog when a bell rings. I was going to give this fuckface such a beating his own mother wouldn’t be able to tell his face from his ass.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
“Before we arrive at the village, my lord, you should know that the inhabitants are all possessed of a bizarre look and manner. Perhaps due to inbreeding, as is so common in places of extreme isolation, they universally speak with a lisp.”
“Yes, my lord, and they practice a particularly backwards religion deifying snakes. They’ve gone so far as to forbid the killing of the things in their territory. Oddly though, despite the dense population of snakes in the surrounding area, they never seem to enter the village grounds.”
“We shall need caution when we bed down tonight then.”
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Rururox lifted her snout and inhaled the scent of the humans they were tracking. There were several of them, with horses, probably a caravan. She licked up the drool accumulating on her mouth. Humans rarely traveled the underside of the continent and the gnolls considered their meat a delicacy, flavored as it was by the variety of fragrant plants they consumed that were unavailable on the underside.
Rururox turned back to her hunting party. Their snouts were pointed in the direction the scent on the air suggested the humans had traveled, though eventually they’d have to adjust for the wind.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Cecil crawled from the wreckage of the airship, covered in scrapes and cuts. Once sufficiently recovered, he pushed himself to his feet and looked over the debris. He saw no movement. Slowly, he dug through the shattered timber, searching for other survivors.
Cecil abandoned the search after finding the smashed bodies of a few of the other passengers. He instead started to search for supplies and his armor. Anything breakable had been destroyed. He did manage to find the heavy chest holding his armor. It was intact. He wasn’t sure how useful it would be however, stranded in the wilderness.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Zenbios passed the speaking stone to Talaos. Like the others, Talaos bore the scars of many battles. The best-known had pulled one side of his mouth up, giving him a perpetual half-smile and the name The Grinning Butcher.
“We’re discussing the prospect of war with the state of Pentheos. Many compelling arguments have been made in support of invasion. At the heart of each proponent though, is a desire for glory, wealth slaves, or some other thing. For my part, I care not for any of these things. Go to war or stay at home, I simply love to kill.”
Saturday, March 10, 2018
Fikri woke late and struggled to rise. He checked the offering he had placed the night before. The little altar held a battered statue, worn smooth in places by the touch of time and many hands. Fikri touched the idol’s featureless face with the three fingers of his left hand, as his father and grandfather had every day.
The worn spots on his prayer pillow struggled to expel the two divots from the hours he’d spent droning ancient adulations. The offering lay where he had placed it yesterday, before his supplications. His petitioning hadn’t roused Urtarr from his godly slumber.
Friday, March 9, 2018
She put her hand on the tree. Its life energy was sluggish, not wane. It was waiting for the invigorating touch of spring air before it would stir itself. The taste of the nutrients in the soil crackled across her tongue and the sun warmed her skin all over, even though she stood in the shadow of the massive tree. Something touched her neck. She didn’t flinch, recognizing the sensation of a squirrel stirring in its den high overhead. She looked up, locating the clump of leaves and made a chittering noise. The squirrel’s poked out and it chittered curiously.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
The music started, the double doors opened, everyone turned in their chairs. Standing in the doorway, framed by the setting sun, stood the bride’s silhouette. She walked down the aisle carefully timing her steps to the music. Once she was out of the sunlight and fully in the building, sunbeams filtered through the building’s strained glass, painting her white dress. Everyone’s heads turned, following her as she walked past them. When she reached the end of the aisle, the music stopped. The only thing that broke the silence of the hall were the creaking of chairs as the guests settled.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
The woman awoke and saw two unfamiliar men staring down at her. Behind them she could see an unfamiliar ceiling.
“How are you feeling?” the older man asked. He had a close-trimmed grey, beard.
“I’m…” her stomach roiled.
The younger man dashed out of view, so fast his floppy cap fell off. He returned just in time to catch her vomit in a wide-mouthed earn.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked when she’d finished.
“Can you remember anything?” the young man asked.
“I remember…” she trailed off.
“Don’t rush her.” The older man said. “It will take time.”
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
“But what is it?”
“It’s a motorized scythe,” the diminutive man replied. “It’ll mow a field in less than half the normal time.”
“Well, at the price you’re asking, it had better.”
“It will pay for itself in a few years.”
“If it breaks?”
“It’s made of wood and steel, any piece you can’t make yourself you can get from your smith.”
“And who’ll bring in the crop in the meantime?”
“Well, certainly there must be labor you can hire in the short-term.”
“Tss, if you think there’s free hands at harvest time, you’ve a lot to learn about farming.”
Monday, March 5, 2018
“What do they call this place again?” Arthur asked his companion.
“A café,” Gregory replied.
“Yes.” Gregory sipped from his clay mug. His eyes widened. “What an amazing product, this coffee.”
“Yes, its rejuvenatory powers are unparalleled.”
“And that’s exactly why I brought you here, Arthur. The natives are content to sit in their cafes and sip their coffee, and that’s that.” He put his hand on his friend’s arm. “But between us two, I think we can take this coffee across all the rainbow bridges. A café in every neighborhood. Filled with those of monetary and temporal means.”
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Grusun carefully placed the lockpick back in bag. The ancient lock refused to open.
“Time to get the hammer,” he said to himself, a habit developed over years of working alone.
He rummaged through his pack, emerging with a sledgehammer. Grusun drew the hammer back and smashed it against the lock. The impact sent a metallic clang echoing down the tunnel.
The door remained shut. Grusun struck the lock several more times, then bent down to examine the results. The lock was intact, but Grusun could see that the hammer-blows had cracked the casing around the mechanism.
“It’s a start.”
Saturday, March 3, 2018
The airships shrank as Stanik plummeted through the air. The sounds of shot and men’s screams faded. All that was left was the wind rushing by. He had thought about the possibility of this moment many times; the whole crew had. But that didn’t prepare him. He couldn’t scream. He didn’t feel his heart racing. It wasn’t until his plunge began to slow that his shock started to dissipate. It wasn’t until after his fall was completely arrested and he was floating in one of the neutral zones that were scattered throughout the sky that panic began to set in.
Friday, March 2, 2018
“We need to get back inside,” I said, unnecessarily.
My fingers were stiff. I could barely close them around the handles of my tools. Everyone struggled to get their equipment back into their bags.
Initially the engine wouldn’t turnover. After the first sputter, we all looked at each other. I could see in their eyes that they were imagining someone finding us tomorrow, seated and frozen to death.
Everyone sighed when the motor finally roared to life. It growled as it idled, angry at being roused. We started to drive slowly back to the ship, accelerating as the engine warmed.
Thursday, March 1, 2018
The view out the window showed a cold, brown, and barren landscape. The inside of the house was equally bleak. A visitor, were that by some miracle there was one, wouldn’t have been given any indication that it was in fact, Christmas day. There was no tree decorated with a riotous explosion of lights and ornaments of innumerable theme. There were no gifts, wrapped carefully with paper that would be thoughtlessly torn away. The small table was bare. The kitchen was spotless, having just experienced its weekly cleaning. There were no signs of any preparation for the receiving of guests.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Merik’s aching head woke him. He was looking up at the sky. When he tried to sit up it made the world spin, so he dropped back down. He could feel that he was on an open bed of a wagon, bouncing along a rough road. Merik turned his head to look to the left. Loping next to the cart was a being like he had never.
It humanoid. But it was taller than anyone Merik had ever seen and rail thin. Long, stiff hair stood straight up off its bare arms. It was bald except for single, long braid.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
“The whole of the land is against you, Sarah. If you fight and struggle, you’ll just freeze to death. Take the Cold Kiss, it’s the only way you’ll survive.”
Sarah stood, shivering. She tried to scowl at Zoe, but her face was too cold.
“Please Sarah, there’s no other way. You won’t have to worry about the cold, hunger, anything. And we’ll be together again. Forever.”
Sarah looked into Zoe’s eyes, completely ice-blue where they had been brown before, and she wanted to give in. Those eyes implored her. Zoe reached out with a hand, pale and tinged blue.
Monday, February 26, 2018
When she inhaled the room’s smoky air, it filled her nostrils with a medley of smells. The club was full, and nearly every patron was taking regular, lingering pulls from large, pungent cigars. Flavored tobacco was the latest craze. The slow, intermittent exhales contained notes of vanilla, strawberry, mint, and a host of other things.
The odor of the room evolved as she walked towards the stage. She passed a table of fashionable young women; the smell of vanilla and lavender overwhelmed all others. The odors of Coffee and rum replaced it as the women’s excited conversation faded behind her.
Sunday, February 25, 2018
Bisliev blinked; the sun was unbearable after his time underground.
“Wane gods, that’s bright!” Vakhaev side.
“Better than spending another instant underground.”
“Cliff’s edge, you’ll get no argument here.”
“And,” Bisliev inhaled, completely expanding his chest and flaring his nostrils. “Are those blue cups?
Vakhaev inhaled, “Fire and Steel! Something better.”
Bisliev ignored him. He was bent over in the grass by the side of the road.
“If I never smell another mold or fungus it will be too soon.”
“Wane gods, that’s true. Don’t think I’ll ever be able eat stinky cheese again.”
“Let’s find a lot of beer.”
Saturday, February 24, 2018
“It’s so quiet out here.”
“I know. I come out here a lot, to be by myself. Or when the city gets to be too much.”
“The memories you mean.”
“Yes… the memories… That’s why I brought you here. I thought it might be as salubrious for you as it has been for me.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that.”
“I’ve always tried to look out for you, you know.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I just brought you here so you would know the way. I can’t look out for you anymore.”
“What? Where are you going?”
Friday, February 23, 2018
“Who was that on the phone? The police? What did they say?”
“There was an accident.”
“Is he okay?”
“They’re sending someone over to speak with us in person.”
“I told you not to let him take the car! This is all your fault!”
“It wasn’t a car accident.”
“What happened? What happened to him?”
“They wouldn’t go into detail over the phone. They just told me there’d been an accident at the bar he was at.”
“I knew we shouldn’t have let him go there. I told you that.”
“Yes. You did. I just told him to be careful.”
Thursday, February 22, 2018
“Pass me the ladle, would you.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“How’s the soup?”
“Delicious. The meat is so tender. What did you say it was?”
“Well. What is it?”
“Come on, don’t be coy. I must know.”
“Well, remember those raiders that came through here two days ago.”
“The guys that tried to steal our onions? Yeah, what about them? Did they have this with them?”
“Well, let’s just say that raid solved our meat problems for the next few weeks, now that the refrigerator is running.”
“Wait, are you saying…”
“I feel sick.”
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
“Ugh, I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday.”
“Tell me about it. It feels like it should be Saturday morning.”
“You two are such creampuffs. When I was your age, we didn’t have days off. We worked on in the fields, sunrise to sunset.”
“Sure, sure ,sure. And if you weren’t fortunate enough to have a dinosaur to ride, you had to walk uphill both ways. Life’s changed.”
“Yeah, and don’t go on another rant about salad days and the best times of our lives. Maybe if you’d taken better care of yourself, you wouldn’t be such a creaky old man.”
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
“This coffee’s cold.”
“You should be happy we have coffee at all.”
“Aw, that’s the same sorta nonsense those people goin’ on about bein’ happy to have a job are makin’.”
“Nobody should be grateful to have a job. That’s just nonsense the bosses feed you to keep you from actin’ up.”
“Keep it down, man. Do you want somebody to hear?”
“What if they do? Are they going put me up against a wall? No, they’re gonna do nothing. Maybe fire me.”
“Fine, then shut up because I don’t want someone thinking I’m the one sprouting your bullshit.”
Monday, February 19, 2018
“This rain is horrible.”
“Good thing we beat the army though. They’ll churn the roads till they’re impassible.”
“If we hadn’t beaten the army, we’d be strung up on hooks like a couple of stuck pigs.”
“You’re right there.”
“We’ll have to huff it through the night as is. And a damn cold one it’ll be.”
“It’s just a little rain.”
“Sure, sure. You’ve had ten times worse when you were a boy and I’m just some soft city folk.”
“Both of those are true, yes.”
“I’m not sure what’s worse: being on the run or being stuck with you.”
Sunday, February 18, 2018
The unfamiliar, upon seeing the opposing armies, would wonder what noble’s son was being entrusted to lead such a large assemblage of men. His armor was black with gold whorls and edging. When he removed his helmet, the face revealed was angelic. His skin was pale and without blemish. His eyes were piercing blue. With one shake of his head, his pressed-down locks, golden in color, sprang back to their habitual curls. He smiled at the men around him. They puffed out their chests as his infectious confidence washed over them. He re-donned his helmet, raised his sword, and charged.
Friday, February 16, 2018
They were late, again. I shivered outside, wondering when someone would arrive to open the door.
How did I end up here?
Reviewing the events of my life, I found no singular moment that had lead me to my current state. They say the way to improve something is through the elimination of small inefficiencies. My life seemed to have involved the accumulation of said inefficiencies.
Those readers who are more self-righteous are not doubt thinking something about working your way up a ladder of some kind. For that to work, the first rung has to still be within reach.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
The first thing one notices upon entering The Resplendent Vision, the most well-known opium den in the city of Coramor is the dreamy smoke that hangs heavy in the air, exhaled by the multitude of reclining bodies. It surrounds the habitual user, the addict, like a blanket, warmed by fire and ready to banish the bone-chill of a cold evening. To the staff, it was like a tapestry, a feature of the room, but unnoticed unless someone drew attention to it. To everyone else, it was like the gases that sometimes escaped the mine near the city, noxious and vertigo-inducing.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The highlight of the children’s week was the box. When their father brought it inside, they crowded around him. He often tripped over the skinny, eager gaggle as they fought to be the first to see what the truck gave them that week.
Their father set the box on the table and used an old kitchen knife to cut the tape. The children fell silent.
The box popped open and the father bent the flaps back. The first thing he removed was a can of peaches. The children chittered to each other; they hadn’t had anything sweet in several weeks.
Monday, February 12, 2018
I didn’t recognize the thing that emerged from the cave. It stood on muscular hind legs and was covered in hair ranging in color from slate gray to jet black. It had a barrel chest that thrust forward, like a soldier’s. Long arms extended from large shoulders and ended in meaty hands. It wore a leather breastplate and battle-skirt decorated with intricate whorls done in bright red stitching. The enormous nostrils on its face flared and it peered into the undergrowth surrounding the cave. My heart surged when its dark eyes, full of low cunning, roved over my hiding place.
Sunday, February 11, 2018
“At best, man is an ill-prepared, unwelcome visitor to the ocean’s hidden depths.”
It wasn’t until he had descended deep enough such that his world was a solid blue color, impenetrable as the night, that he finally understood his teacher’s words. When he looked ahead, he worried about what was below. When he looked down, he wondered what lurked behind him.
The fish he encountered swam away in irritation. In their eyes, he was a strange beast, best to be avoided in hopes it would leave. Other, hidden things also marked his slow progress, tailing him lazily through the water.
Saturday, February 10, 2018
The powdered design flared up, white hot for a moment, when Huragard slammed his hammer down on the shield with a holy shout. It cooled to a smoldering orange. The lines on the steel were straight and even in color.
“This will fetch a good price,” Huragard declared, barrel chest swelling with pride. Truly, the gods continued to smile on him. The high priest of Ashome had even installed one of his hammers in the temple to Fire to Steel.
Ulgar examined the shield with his merchant’s eye. “It might be hard to sell. I’ll have to find a nobleman.”
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
“I’ve been told you sell souls.”
“That I do,” the old woman replied. “What kind do you want?”
She leaned forward and grinned at me, eager eyes wide. It made me uneasy.
“A boy like you probably wants the soul of a nice girl.”
She looked me up and down. “Or a naughty girl.”
I swallowed. “Uh, no. Just the cheapest one will be fine.”
Her smile fell to a frown.
“Get yourself in debt, did you?”
“Don’t worry, boy. Happens all the time.” She waved her hand dismissively and started puttering towards the back of her shop.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
“You’ve still got that old cat?” Greg asked.
“Of course,” Steve replied, picking up the cat in question and cradling him in his arms. It rumbled when Steve picked him up, but deigned to be held.
The cat wasn’t quite a bag of bones, but it moving in that direction. Its fur was thinning in places. Frostbite and fights had taken bits of its ears over the years. After Steve put him down, the cat limped, its back leg was arthritic, over to its spot near the heater. He plopped down in his bed and started grooming his thin tail.
Monday, February 5, 2018
Gaaz placed her hands on the cave floor, listening to the vibrations. She couldn’t summon the energies to meld with the stone. But she was confident the darkness, ever an ally to her people, would protect her. A heavy limp slowed her considerably and it wasn’t long before the echoes of pursuit reached her. She turned down a familiar side passage, carefully skirting a pit in the middle of path. On the other side, she drew a stone from her satchel. After whispering a few words to the pebble she threw it at the hole. Then she turned and fled.
Sunday, February 4, 2018
“Do you think we should go look for them?”
“No, I think you should shut the damn door and stop letting the cold in. If they can’t travel further, they’ll make camp.”
Kaz shut the door reluctantly and returned to the fire.
“I’m worried about them,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time it was this cold and they’ve never been this late before.”
“I told you,” Leja snapped. “They’re fine. They probably just made camp for the night.”
Leja’s words failed to quell the worry bubbling in Kaz’s gut. He kept glancing at the door throughout the night.
Friday, February 2, 2018
Kaikura held his hands over the corpse and whispered the prayer his father had taught him long ago. He had been attempting the ritual nightly for two weeks with no results. Zhoggal had either ignored his entreaties or his limited energies had been focused elsewhere. Kaikura had feared that tonight would be the same.
Then he felt a turgid energy begin to swirl through the small basement room. It stank. He smiled and kept praying. The corpse rose to its feet and waited. Kaikura finished his prayer and stood, elated. The animated body stared straight ahead, awaiting its first command.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
When they found the wreckage at the bottom of the cliff, it was clear there were no survivors.
“Hopefully the chest is intact,” Haram said, casually kicking a limb as he walked.
When Grick saw the bloody projectile, he fell to his knees and vomited. Arash patted him on the back as he passed.
“It’s okay, boy. Happens to everyone their first time. Nothing to be ashamed of.”
Ignoring the carnage, Arash and Haram surveyed the battered remains of the carriage.
“Good frame, to survive that fall,” Arash said.
“Yeah. Does it say who made it? I’d like one myself.”
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
The goblins marched down the craggy passage in darkness. The druid led the others unaided; the most basic test of their order was the memorization of the sacred path. Each supplicant had their hand on the shoulder of the one in front. All wore iron-soled boots. These, along with the gong carried by the druid, sent walls of sound echoing throughout the tunnels. Although the goblins served the duergar, the squat folk avoided these tunnels wherever possible. It was dedicated to the wane gods, Darkness and Echo, of the goblins, and was known to have a taste for duergar flesh.
Monday, January 29, 2018
When Ostera emerged from her tent, the watch was still removing bodies from the trench. The Sons of Lurio had unleashed a new bombard, enormous and firing rounds that shook the earth. They released some strange alchemical mixture that filled the air with noxious fumes. Anyone who inhaled the miasma was doubled over with fits of coughing. That passed, but was followed soon after by fever and rasping breaths. Death was the end result.
Command wasn’t sure what to do with the bodies. No one knew if burning them would release the fumes anew. There were too many to bury.
Sunday, January 28, 2018
I slipped and tumbled down the dune. When I reached the base, I leapt up and danced, trying to shake out the hot sand that had found its way through the gaps in my clothing. That night, when I bedded down, my skin was itchy and irritated. I woke up repeatedly. It ultimately saved my life.
While tossing and turning, I heard a strange noise outside the tent. The guide I consulted before setting out had briefed me on the dangers I was likely to encounter, but I couldn’t remember him describing a sound like the one I was hearing.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Jenna slipped silently from her hiding spot. She stalked down the alley, making no more noise than her silhouette did as it glided along the grimy wall. The man she was pursuing stumbled to and fro, like beer sloshing in a drunkard’s mug. He staggered against a wall, swearing when he stepped in a pile of unknown composition. Jenna held her knife ready as she closed the distance. The man thrust himself away from the wall and took a few more stumbling steps. He didn’t understand the bright burst of pain the plunging dagger produced, and died confused and gurgling.
Friday, January 26, 2018
I rolled over.
“No Ziggurat. It’s not time to get up.” I rolled over again.
I tried to push Ziggurat off the bed. He deftly skipped away and sauntered to the foot of the bed. I knew he was just biding his time. After a few seconds, he would walk back over to my face and start pawing at me.
I pushed him away and checked my phone. It was 5:30 AM.
“Just because I woke up early and fed you one time does not mean this is a normal thing.”
“Please let me sleep.”
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Morg tossed the onion back onto the cart. It was too small and too mushy. He turned to leave.
“You don’t want my onions boy? They’re the finest around,” the merchant declared, staring daggers down his hawkish nose.
Morg looked at the merchant and shook his head. “These onions are terrible. I’d be sick if I ate one.”
The man opened his mouth again, but Morg was already leaving. The boy’s stomach was grumbling, but it wouldn’t do to fill it with spoiled food. He counted his remaining coins. Hardly enough for an onion even if it had been edible.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
An angry cry echoed through the valley. The miners cast uneasy glances towards the open windows. Those men nearest slammed the shutters closed, muting the sound, but doing little to quell the chorus of shifting chairs.
“What was that?” I asked Beorg.
“A duergar revenant.”
I furrowed my brow.
“A decapitated duergar is cursed to wander, seeking vengeance.”
“Did someone here kill it?”
Beorg shook his head. “But it remembers only the echoes of life. It may slay a random man and think it can finally rest, only to be driven to a new fury when its shameful existence continues.”
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Morg fell to his knees and groaned, stomach roiling. He rolled around, clutching his belly. As he writhed in agony, he reflected back on the meal he’d eaten at the duergar inn. They hadn’t served anything unfamiliar. Unless the particular combination of foods was somehow toxic to humans, it couldn’t have been the cuisine. He managed to get to his hands and knees and crawl towards the door. Then, feeling like his organs were rolling up into his chest, he vomited. He could tell by the smell that he’d been poisoned and probably only his unusual physiology that saved him.
Sunday, January 21, 2018
Jason died with a gurgle, knife protruding from his sternum. Convulsing, he rolled from the altar. He left a bloody stain that partially covered the blasphemous symbols chiseled into the marble. A low noise began reverberating through the underground chamber.
“Shit,” Chuck swore.
The volume of the sound increased, filling the room with a blasphemous tone. The chamber shook. The robed men surrounding the altar stumbled to and fro, crying a mix of awe and fear. A sudden shriek silenced the men and pulled them to their knees. The marble altar split apart. From the shattered bits rose a monster.
Saturday, January 20, 2018
“How did it look outside?” Diana asked.
Duane shook his head.
“Yeah. There’s no way we’ll make it today,” he replied, hanging up his gasmask.
“Do you think it’ll be clear by tomorrow?”
Duane shrugged. “Hard to say.”
Diane scowled. “Can’t you make a fucking guess? We need to do a food run.”
“Sorry,” Duane replied. “We’ll have a better idea later tonight.”
“Okay.” Diane relaxed. “Did you see anyone else from the watchtower?”
Duane shook his head again, “The fog was so thick I could hardly see anything. It was hard to breathe even with a mask.”
Friday, January 19, 2018
He managed to sit up and nearly throw himself from the bed before the blanket wrapped its wet, cold tentacles around his chest and head. Its suckers roamed over his face while strong muscles squeezed his ribs. The blanket pulled him inexorably back, extending itself over his whole body. He fought it until his heart raced and his lungs burned, but it conquered him in the end. He couldn’t muster the strength to defeat it. It held him there, miserable and helpless, until he relaxed. Then it merely weighed him down, waiting in case he should try to flee again.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Barkad lowered himself down to his old prayer mat. He groaned in sympathy with his joints, tired, stiff, and old. His knees found their familiar, well-worn spot. He put his palms together and raised them above his head. The words of Oagi’s supplication came easy to his lips.
A statue of muscular man was the recipient of his entreaty. Its features had been smoothed by time, giving the man a tired expression in place of the exaltation they used to display. The forearms were missing; they had been broken off and carried away before Barkad had started worshipping of Oagi.
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
The Center Point was the anchor around which the continents floated. It was a craggy place of charcoal-colored stone run through with veins of iron ore. If it weren’t for the menagerie of demons who called the place home, it would’ve provided the gnomes an inexhaustible supply of ore they could’ve used in the production of their mechanical devices, or traded to the other races of Void.
The few expeditions that had tried to establish a beachhead on Center Point had universally met with disaster. The constant assaults by demons, lack of clean water or nutritious vegetation made habitation untenable.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
I was numb as I zipped my tiny suitcase. I hadn’t expected to be leaving the apartment with so little. Or alone. I finished packing by myself; she was gone for the day. It was easier that way.
I lifted my suitcase off the table with ease. I’d left most of my clothes in my dresser. My books were still on the shelf. I was sad to be abandoning some of them, but I didn’t have the space. I didn’t want anything I couldn’t fit in my bag, let someone else decide to do with the leftovers from my life.
Sunday, January 14, 2018
When Adam came to, it was with the taste of saltwater on his tongue. He lay on his side, sea lapping against his lips. The sand warmed his cheek on one side, the sun warmed the other.
When he had awoken fully, he dredged himself up onto the shore and puked, vomiting up a gut full of briny water. He wiped the sand and spittle from his mouth, stood, and looked around.
The beach was featureless. Its white sand stood between the water and a wall of tall, thick foliage. It was silent other than the lapping of the sea.
Saturday, January 13, 2018
The heat of the practice field made him woozy. Ottmar’s face was covered in sweat and his shoulders burned. He yanked his blade up and into the path of his partner’s own heavy practice sword, groaning with effort. The force of the blow caused a mighty clang and staggered Ottmar. He barely managed to block the next attack and was driven to one knee. His partner drew his leaden arm back for another swing. Ottmar held his sword horizontally and launched himself at the other man. The dull blade crashed into his partner’s midsection, sending him to the dusty ground.
Friday, January 12, 2018
When Abidin came to, he was staring at the ceiling. It was familiar, but he didn’t recognize it. The colors were so much more vivid. He didn’t realize they came in so many shades. And the detail was so sharp. It was as though he could read the expressions in the figures’ eyes, not just on their faces.
“Quite a change, no?”
Abidin whipped his head around. Alistair was smiling at him, pointed teeth gleaming in the firelight.
“The detail, I mean. With your new eyes.”
“Yes…” Abidin said, looking all around.
This will do nicely he thought to himself.
Thursday, January 11, 2018
No one knew what the Traversers looked like under their heavy robes. No one even knew what they called themselves; Traverser came about because they were the first beings to travel between the floating continents after the War in the Heavens. Their robes were known in every major city of Void and most of the minor ones. It was whispered that they even traded on The Center Point, bartering strange oddities like the tears of a blue-eyed boy, shed on the day his mother died. What they received in return from the demons of that iron ball was anyone’s guess.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Each little bite they took of my brain sent jolts of pain through my skull. I tried rubbing my head with my hands. That didn’t help. The mad pain drove me to scratching at my scalp, till my nails bent and skin bled. I pulled my hair out in clumps, but the pain continued.
When they were sated, I could fall asleep for a time. But when hunger stirred the tiny things to wake, they would resume their gnawing. I would come awake, writhing and shrieking, and wishing for all the world that I would be put to sleep forever.
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
When I awoke the next day I was confronted by what would prove to be our greatest obstacle.
“How far does it extend?” I asked, shading my eyes from the sun and squinting against the glare reflecting off the ice.
“No one knows. Everyone who ever attempted to cross it died years ago.”
The terrain before us was bare and completely flat. The incessant wind made the snow drifts slither across the frozen sea, like giant white snakes sidewinding across a frozen desert.
I turned towards my companion. “How do we cross?”
“We walk. And hope the ice is thick.”
Monday, January 8, 2018
“What about this one?” I asked, pointing to a white box with a picture of a black humidifier.
“I don’t know,” my wife responded. I could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t like it.
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.
“It doesn’t show you the humidity level.”
“I wanna be able to see.”
“But that doesn’t change if it's working or not.”
“I know,” she said, exasperated. “I just want to see it.”
“Okay,” I said, shrugging it off as another marital peculiarity and started looking for a humidifier that told you the humidity level.
Sunday, January 7, 2018
The old man tied off the last stitch and snipped the excess thread. He smeared a muddy paste over the surgery site to protect the arm from infection and covered his young patient with rough wool blanket. His hands worked by rote to clean and store his instruments and compounds; he hadn’t done anything like that surgery in a long time.
The old man’s chair beckoned. He eased himself down into the old seat, and found his mind troubled. He had broken his vow. And what for? A boy he knew nothing about. And now, would it be like before?