Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Doorman

Taken from the flash fiction challenge at the ever interesting Terribleminds. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/05/27/flash-fiction-challenge-the-unexpected-guest/  Go, read, enjoy. Now onto the story.

 "Your not on the list little man. Back off." The bouncer was persistent. Of course he was, golems are famously single minded. "Listen to me you half animate chunk of clay, you are going to let me in that door." I tried to push past him, but a giant dark hand stopped me, and with a twitch of his wrist the doorman sent me flying backwards. I tumbled past the barrier of the house and landed on my ass. Anyone watching would have been very confused. To outside eyes I walked up to the door, yelled at it for a bit, then jumped backwards to the sidewalk. As I picked myself up a couple walked past me, through the veil now hiding that damn rock head, and then into the house itself. For half a second I glimpsed the inside. As ever strange sigils crawled sluggishly over the walls of the front room, the dim lighting giving an appropriately otherworldly feel to it. And just past that I knew the feast was starting.
Rare and impossible succulent meats would be on the table. Dodo legs, dragon flank steak cooked in the creature's skin, entire dead raptors warped from the time before man. The side dishes would be equally luxurious and maddening. They would feast on noodle dishes garnished with black lotus, fill up with bread baked from summoned mana, and of course wash it down with libations unknown to most of the world. My mouth was watering at the idea of it, but more importantly the list had been changed while I wasn't looking. I wasn't allowed in. To be sure I could live without the fine foods inside. I could even craft or summon a few of them myself. But I was barred.
I turned back to my car, parked on the side of the street, and got in. Driving off sullenly, wracking my brain for a solution of any kind. My name wasn't on the list, and that doorman was almost impossible to fool. An alias wouldn't help at all of course. I might have been able to beg a friend for passage and safety, but I would need to meet them on the way in and the chances of that were slim. I managed to get about five block on when I hit upon a solution. I hit the gas and sped back to my place at the other end of the city. It was a bit of a long shot, but it might work.
A few years back the elders of the house had issued to me an official invitation to join their outlandish feasts and learn a few tricks of their art. It had been good for a while, eat damn fine food, learn alchemy and thaumaturgy, meet a few new people. Then I stepped on the wrong toes. I pissed of a local celebrity, bested him in a brewing competition actually. Things turned a little nasty from his bruised ego, and rubbing his face in it (literally, I rubbed his face in my potion) didn't help. I laid low, hoping it would blow over, but apparently it didn't. Now I had to get back in, and that invite was the only way.
It took me a solid half hour to search my room top to bottom and time was running out. Guest list or not the feast was sealed from the world in just over and hour. The invite wasn't much, just a piece of papyrus with some writing on it, and an envelope with the remains of a wax seal. I found the envelope first. It was in my fridge for some reason, stuck to some leftovers. But while it was useful it wasn't enough, I needed the note. I turned my mess of a room into something out of a tornado strike looking for it, but to no avail. Then I remembered I had hidden it, for safe keeping. I peeled back the batman poster and snagged the loose note before dashing out the door.
I drove far faster than was wise, weaving in and out of traffic as best I could, counting on luck that the cops would look the other way. While driving I fumbled open my pocket knife and made a cut on one thumb. Dripping my blood and flooding it with my will I activated the latent charge of the envelope and letter. I hoped it would be enough. I tore a piece of the envelope off and dropped it in my bottle of coke before chugging the entire thing. It was crude but it got the job done. Magically speaking I was linked to the invitation, and looked a little bit like it.
Parking was a nightmare. Five minutes to go and the street sides were jammed with cars. It looked like a full house tonight, and I wasn't going to miss this shindig. I swerved around a corner and saw a perfect spot just ahead. I slammed the brakes and sprinted to the door, a mental timer counting down in my head. One minute to go and I was in front of the door man, doing my best to look respectable. He looked me over, no memory of my flickering across his half formed face. “Your not on the list.” I knew this was coming. “Well, no, technically not. But I do have an invitation, see?” I held up the blood stained sheet to his eyes. After several agonizing seconds he pushed open the door. “Enter, guest, and enjoy the feast.” I nodded my thanks to the now inert clay and dashed in, slipping into a seat just as the main course started. The local celeb stared at me. “Only guests are allowed in.” I just smiled at him as I grabbed a steak. “Well I got in, ergo I'm allowed. Nice to see you to.”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mort Safe, a tale of Tane Kore

The corsair captain stood uneasily on his own deck, riding on a choppy sea. The skies had been dark and the wind alternating from cruel to becalmed through this entire voyage. The men blamed the strange cargo in the hold, and the stranger passenger they had taken from that tiny island. The man was inclined to agree, but the stranger had also brought gold aplenty with him. Strange relics they were, goblets hammered and impressed with geometric patterns that made a man ill to look at them to long and delicate knives sharper than a razor were hidden amongst simpler coins and trinkets. The ship was filled to bursting and the stranger's only requests were passage back to the ports of a civil land for himself and a large iron casket he had with him. It had seemed a more than fair deal but now this damned weather made it seem worse.
The stranger came above decks to speak with the captain. They were study in contrasts on the deck, staring across the horizon. The Captain was a short man well tanned by the days at sea, with slicked hair and a fine forked beard, while the passenger was tall, with wild hair knotted in patterns, his ebony skin was marked by tattoos across every inch.
“Your men seem uneasy around me Captain de Montfort.” “That they are Mr. Kore. They speak of devilry and witchcraft in you. They say you are sent here to plague us for being greedy. Others say you should be counted among the dead, and the iron box is your home.” The tall one burst into laughter at that. “They aren't all wrong at that first one. But I am no devil sent punishment any more than a heavenly reward. No I am just a man seeking passage home after fighting a great enemy. How far are we to port?” “Not more than a week from this point, but with this wind we've had to row the almost the whole way, and my men are tired. Could be as much as a fortnight.” This seemed to trouble Tane Kore, and the captain continued. “I don't know about the nature of your calling but I have some idea of what you are. Have you studied the sorcerous ways or do you come by the marks on your skin another way?” “I am a student of those arts yes. What of it?” de Montfort paused for a moment, considering what he was requesting. “Help us get home. I've met your kind, you can do a damned lot more than just haul an oar. You seem anxious, and we are running low on food.” Kore muttered in his own tongue before turning and going to his cabin. The captain returned to his musings as the men unfurled the sails to catch a rare eastward breeze. It didn't last more than an hour though, and it was back to rowing. The sky blackened overhead, impossibly thick clouds building.
As the breeze died a thundering crack was heard in the hold, reverberating through the ship. Every sailor held what he was doing in the silence. Some made signs to ward off evil, others loosened the blades in their sheaths. The noise came again, louder this time, and again and again. Regular as a heartbeat it was, and louder than anything on the ship had a right to be. The men grew nervous, the rowing deck and quarters were abandoned by now, each man standing on the upper deck away from the noise. Last came Tane Kore, clad only in loose breeches and holding a great dark wood staff capped with iron, stumbling out from the hold. The captain helped him regain his balance. “Mr. Kore what the devil is going on.” “The devil himself, or an agent thereof. I tried to raise wind for you, but it may have cost us all.” “What are you going on about man?” “The box, it's a Mort Safe, an artifact of my craft made to keep still the restless dead. But it's contents slipped my mental grasp when I gave you that breeze, and now it hungers for flesh.” One of the sailors overheard and drew his poniard. “He's brought our death, kill him!” Putting action to word the young man charged the dark wizard, but was only rewarded with a savage strike from the staff. “I brought you more booty than you could have made in dozens of privateer raids.” He snarled before turning to the Captain again. “Get these men as far back as possible. Arm them as you can, but do not interfere unless I fall.” De Montfort bristled at being given orders on his ship but he followed, wizards are rarely to be trifled with. Some men made for the boats, others huddled in the crows nest or amongst the rigging as the pounding continued.
Then it stopped, silence reigned for a moment, each man daring to hope that just maybe the crisis had been averted. Then the door to the hold flew off it's hinges as the contents of the casket were revealed. The thing standing there was foul in every sense of the word. A pale withered form, long dead, it's arms and legs twisted to unnatural angles. The mouth hung slackly open, showing sharpened teeth, and the eyes burned with a single minded malice. Some flesh had sloughed off, showing dried and cracked bones beneath, covered in a pulsing blackness. The same fetid ichor dripped from breaks in the bones. What skin it had left showed the remnants of tattoos all but identical to the intricate designs on Tane Kore's flesh.
The fiend launched itself at the wizard,the bones of it's fingers sharpened to wicked points. As it neared him Kore pivoted and brought up his staff. Runes inscribed in metal along it's length lit up as metal and wood met unnatural flesh. The creature was vaulted over Kore, only to right itself and charge again. This time he favored one hand over the staff, muttering and gesturing until a bright green flash shot into the creature's mouth, stunning it for a moment. The moment didn't last however and it's next attack rakes his leg, leaving deep claw wounds.
Back and forth they fought, one with strength speed and magic, the other with simply unholy determination. In time the unnatural vitality of the monster became to much for even the wild mage and he began to falter, bleeding from multiple wounds, his face mashed from a headbutt. Still he fought on, half blinded and enraged he fought the pale form striking him. And unseen to everyone the captain of the ship snuck down the rigging, a wicked dagger at his hip. Kore finally faltered, and the undead set out to finish him, only to have a blade shoved deep in into it's ancient heart. In moment's it was over, the creature dissolved to nothing. Tane Kore looked up, surprised to live. “Who are you sailor?” “One of thirty Tane Kore, wizard of the Dark. I could not have taken that beast myself, you did admirably. Now come, you need healing, and I think all the men need a drink once we are underway.” The crew roared in approval at that and set about cleaning the ship. Limping and leaning on his staff Kore still had to wonder. “How did you know who I am?” “I've always known, but again, don't fret. There is no quarrel between you and mine. Especially now that the beast is dead. What was it anyways?” “My old teacher. I sought to bury him properly on his grounds, but time away had taken it's toll after his death.” “Aye that's a bit unfortunate, but still, we live, we have treasure, and the sky is clearing.” “You are right about that one Captain.”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Hunt

Just a little something ala Conan or Solomon Kane, enjoy 

 There are ways in the deep woods that no man in history has tread. They are old paths laid down by wild animals and stranger things in ancient times. Here no steel was welcomed, and whispers of the dark primal gods could still be heard ruling over the land. In the shadow of a great tree a man was crouched, his mere presence an insult to the forest. He had sat for half a day already, nearly motionless, waiting for a sign of his quarry. His great longbow was strung, an arrow nocked and ready for the first sign of movement. Aside from bow and quiver he carried only a long hunting knife and a small belt pouch on his hips.
Soon enough the archer's patience was rewarded. A great beast, moving and shaped like some predatory cat but scaled as a lizard, came through the underbrush, it's claws raking furrows in the ground as it swept by. For just a moment it paused, sniffing the air for an unaccustomed scent. Hidden and utterly still the archer thought himself unseen and stood to his full height as he pulled the bow taught, but the monster heard and turned it's baleful eyes to the dark recesses of the tree. It's mouth split open, revealing long jagged teeth and a deep waiting gullet. A horrific roar issued forth from that foul mouth and the archer took his shot. The creature turned to quickly and what would have been a kill struck it's flank.
A lesser archer would have failed then, but this was Jacob Fletcher, a hunter and tracker of beasts ancient and strange. His bow stood almost as tall as he did, and few had the strength to loose a shaft from it. The arrow found a mark in the lizard-cat's hip, burying half the shaft in the flesh. The monster let out another bellow and pounced forward. The wound to it's leg hampered the lunge, drawing the attack short and saving Jacob's life. Still he was caught by one outstretched claw on his chain mail and that sent him sprawling to one side.
The ranger hit the ground and rolled, holding the bow close to him, shielding it with his body. The creature skidded to a halt, turning gingerly to it's right, snapping the exposed arrow off at the wound, a black liquid oozing out of the hole. As it charged again Fletcher stood his ground, his great bow held across his body with both hands on the haft. Moments before it's talons struck home he twisted, throwing his entire body into one strike, the laminated wood of his bow cracking hard against the scaled neck of the beast. It flew to the side, smashing against a tree and slumping down.
It rose again, head whipping around, but it was already to late. Jacob had drawn his knife, it's point shining in the low light as he drove it down into the great lizard's head. The spine severed and life fled from it's yellowed eyes. Setting to Jacob quickly stripped it's flesh for meat and saved the head, tying it to his belt as proof. With night coming he built a small fire and ate a bit of the beast's flesh. Relaxing against a tree as the stars came out.
“Yes, this was a good hunt. Tomorrow I collect payment, but tonight, I feast.”