This one is due to all the late, sleepless nights spent in Ken's basement as we put together the beginnings of an epic tale. None of us knew at the time just how much it would captivate our imaginations and, hopefully, the imaginations of others. Here's to Ken and Dave.
Also note that this is part of a trilogy. The sequel to this is Yamara, and then the third part in the trilogy is The Chaos Blade.
The two combatants faced each other with legs crouched and arms spread wide. In the ceremonial firelight, the oil on their naked skin glinted. Slowly the wrestlers circled one another, waiting for a chance to grapple with the other.
"Get him Nordan!" A man cried out in support of the smaller wrestler. Smaller at 6 and a half feet tall and easily 260 pounds. The larger wrestler was just shy of 7 feet tall and weighed closer to 300 pounds then 250.
Catcalls and jeering nearly drowned out the cry of support as the barbarian tribe rooted on their champion, Thorgrim. His friends (most of the tribe) called him Crusher.
Feigning a trip, Crusher lured Nordan to rush him. Nordan realized his mistake and tried to stop when the larger mans fist sailed out and connected with his chin. Nordan stumbled back quickly as Crusher sought to press his advantage with another swing. He was stepped at the edge of the circle as a group of barbarians caught him and pushed him back into the ring.
Nordan lowered his head and went with the momentum, charging forward and roaring loudly. Crusher met the charge head on, barely moving as Nordan crashed into his midsection shoulder first. He grinned to his tribe and grabbed the challengers arm so that he could twist it up behind Nordan's back. Nordan grimaced in pain as his shoulder threatened to dislocate.
"That looks painful," a dark skinned elf muttered to no one in particular.
Nordan's supporter nodded his head and replied, "Aye, it does!"
Looking about him, the dark elf found he was as tall as the average barbarian at just over 6 feet tall. His companion beside him was perhaps the shortest one there, save for the children, at only 5 feet 7 inches. "Why are we doing this again, Pompey?" He asked.
Pompey opened his mouth to answer but grimaced in sympathetic in pain instead. Nordan's position had worsened. Crusher had maneuvered so that he know had his arms locked about behind Nordan's back and lifted him off the ground. It was his namesake position, and he was using it well to crush the life out of Nordan.
"Shouldn't we do something, Kelnozz?" Pompey asked, clutching the spear he held in his fist.
Kelnozz looked around at the cheering tribal warriors. "Only if you want to get us killed too."
Nordan's veins were popping out in his head as he struggled to fight back the growing pain in his back. His head rocked forward and a stunned Crusher dropped him and stumbled backwards, blood exploding from his shattered nose. Nordan crashed to the ground and fell to his knees, fighting to keep from passing out.
He regained his feet and walked stiffly towards Thorgrim. The larger barbarian shook his head, spraying blood everywhere, and grinned at Nordan. Nordan met the grin with his fist, bashing out several teeth. He then locked arms with the larger man and began a test of strength as they circled one another and tried to drive the other to the ground.
Loud cheering erupted amongst the barbarians. It was a rarity that anyone ever challenged Thorgrim. He was the undisputed champion of the tribe. Their hooting and hollering was giving Kelnozz a headache, and making Pompey's head swim.
The cheering fell quiet as Crusher fell to his knees, overwhelmed by the slightly shorter man. Nordan let go of his arms and Crusher fell to all fours. Wasting no time, Nordan grabbed the behemoth by the inner thigh with one hand and the shoulder with the other. Grunting, he lifted him in one smooth motion over his head.
The barbarian tribe was stunned. As one, their mouths stood open in shock. Crusher lay stunned himself, but was amazed at the strength in Nordan in spite of himself. With a heave, Crusher went sailing into not the first or second, but the third row of barbarian spectators, taking several of them down.
The crowd remained silent, uncertain of what to do since their champion had been beaten. After a few moments of peaceful respite, Crusher forced a path through the crowd and walked back out to stand in front of Nordan. With blood running down his face he grinned a broken toothed smiled and raised Nordan's hand in the air, proclaiming him the champion.
The crowd slowly took up a cheer, but by the time it was done, it's volume had surpassed anything that Pompey or Kelnozz had heard before. Indeed, the sarcastic elf considered himself most likely stricken deaf by it and the ringing in his ears afterwards.
An hour later, with Nordan cleaned up and once again wearing his furs, the three companions sat at a table feasting. When the feast was finished, Helmut, the chief of the tribe stood up and raised his goblet for silence.
"Our kinsmen comes to us to ask for our help, he has been judged worthy by a test of strength, will you hear him?" He called out in a powerful voice.
The response was overwhelming. Men beat goblets, daggers, drumsticks, and whatever else they had at hand on the table in approval. Helmut nodded to Nordan and sat back down. Nordan smiled sheepishly but stood up in spite of it. Once the cheering died down he began.
"My friends and I have traveled further then most of you have. We have been to the cities across the great Lands End Mountains to the east and seen many things. We have fought many creatures, and we have lived. We have fought, and slain, dragons! Now I have bested your champion, will you hear me?"
Again the barbarians cheered unanimously in approval. Kelnozz looked heavenward while Pompey found himself getting caught up in the revelry.
"We came of late from Yolarch, a city that plagues our ways of roaming and living off the land as the Gods intended us too. While there, we were betrayed and barely escaped with our lives from the foul wench that rules that den of filth. I made a vow to her that I would not rest until her city was sacked to the ground and she felt the tender mercies of a pillaging barbarian hoard! Will you aid me in this call to plunder?"
The tribe seemed to hesitate, thinking about what Nordan asked. Knowing that to wait was to lose his chance, Nordan jumped on the table and kicked a full goblet of ale into a group of men sitting at another table.
"Her soldiers harry our ancestral lands, driving us from it. We must fight back! Fight with me and we will destroy the bitch-queen of Yolarch! I have seen her palace, and with your help, we can have much plunder. I promise you wine, women, song, and wealth unmatched if you aid me."
In ones and twos, then more and more until another fevered roaring could be heard, the tribe agreed to aid their long gone brother returned home. After what seemed an eternity of it, they had settled down enough so that Kelnozz could think again. Helmut came over and sat with them at their table.
"Tell me the story of how this happened," He said, bringing a haunch of steaming venison with him.
The companions looked to each other and then began there tale. "We had returned to Trillindad from the east by ship. Easier that way then crossing those Lands End Mountains! We'd spent some time there visiting with Pompey's family before he got thrown out again," Nordan began.
Kelnozz picked it up, "There was this nice tavern down by the docks...
...The three adventurers, having squandered all their money on ale, wenching, and other wasteful ventures, had signed up with a merchant named Therius Magnus for caravan guards. The caravan only consisted of one wagon though which meant little pay. The route was from Trillindad to Yolarch, passing along the rode through Lizardshome Swamp.
For two weeks of sheer boredom the companions guarded the wagon and talkative merchant from the dust on the road and the occasional weary traveler. Then the dusty plains outside of Trillindad turned lusher and greener. Soon they passed through occasional farmlands, though the farms were rare as even this close to a major city-state such as Trillindad, bandits and roving groups of monsters were not uncommon.
The green pastures and farmlands gave way to longer, thicker grasses and trees. Another day put them in the outskirts of the Lizardshome Swamp. Few travelers past this way, save in great numbers, for the lizardmen that made their home in the swamp were fierce and often unforgiving of any trespassing on their territory.
Sure enough, they had been attacked. Lizardmen swung from the trees on thick vines, landing atop the covered wagon to give battle. At the same time they rose up from concealment in the waters of the swamp beside the road. The guards and merchant found themselves quickly outnumbered nearly 4 to 1.
What the lizards did not understand was the prowess and might of those very same guards. Nordan, with his great strength and skill with his hammer easily dispatched the first lizardman to come at him, causing the others to advance slower and more cautiously. Pompey had set his spear and impaled a lizardman that swung down from a vine to attack. Freeing his spear, he turned to face the others emerging from the waters. Driving the wagon, Therius fought to keep his horses from panicking while the chaos of battle raged around him. Unseen by him, Kelnozz leapt from the ground to the top of the wagon, barely touching the side of it to aid his ascent, and used his twin longswords to dispatch the green humanoid about the skewer the merchant. Then he turned to deal with the other scaled attackers atop the wagon.
In a matter of moments the lizardmen lay dead and the guards had little to show for their efforts save heavy breathing and a grin stretching from ear to ear on Kelnozz's face. Nordan searched the corpses, finding little of value. Even there weapons were rusty, poorly tempered, and in some cases little more then tree limbs used as clubs.
They continued on, anxious to be away from the ambush site. Therius had then confided in them that they might expect a few more assaults, and not necessarily by lizardmen. The cargo they carried was none other then the magically sleeping son of the Priestess-Queen of Yolarch, Lesbiche Wollust. Prince Ragnar had been kidnapped and magically suspended several months past after a night of drunken celebration of his coming of age and acceptance by the people of Yolarch as their future king. Due to his being a loyal servant of Lesbiche, Therius had tracked him down and stolen him back from his captors. Unfortunately, only Lesbiche could perform the magical ceremony necessary to bring the man out of his sleep.
Grumbling at their luck, the companions had little choice but to continue on. Word apparently spread amongst the small communities of lizardmen, for though they felt watched on many occasions, three days later they left the swamp behind them. A stream paralleled the road they were on, but other then that no reminder of the swamp was left.
Another two days saw them entering the southwestern gate of Yolarch, and upon seeing Therius, the guards took them straightaway to see the Priestess-Queen of the theocratic city, though no fanfare or celebration was announced. Once in front of Lesbiche, the companions were surprised to find that court had been dismissed prior to their arrival, and further, that they met with her in her private chambers.
She thanked them repeatedly, seemingly the grateful mother throughout. Rewarding them with much gold, they felt quite proud of themselves and their sudden turn of luck. Pompey, however, felt something was amiss throughout the performance. As soon as they were dismissed from her presence to special rooms in the palace she herself had arranged for, he let his feelings be known to his companions.
Nordan blew such ill thoughts off, explaining that they were due the reward. Kelnozz was not so quick to invalidate Pompey's hunch, however. Either that or he merely sought an excuse to get himself in trouble again. Regardless, he was out later that night, prowling stealthily about the palace. He returned to Lesbiches private chambers and, distracting the guards by setting a harmless trap for a servant (tripping him up and making him spill his platter of dirty dinner plates), he slipped inside her suite of rooms. Immediately he felt the unexpected emptiness of the rooms. She was not there. Searching about, he discovered a secret door in a wall near her large bed that she had poorly tried to conceal.
Slipping through the darkened passage, Kelnozz briefly wondered how humans and other races without the ability to see as well in the dark as he could managed to get by. Convinced even more of the superiority of the dark elven race, he stopped at an intersection of passages and realized he had no idea which way to go. Randomly choosing, he turned right at the intersection. A few more turns, seemingly random, and he opened another secret door. This one turned out to be the Queen's audience room. Shrugging, Kelnozz returned the way he had came and took a different turn at the last crossroads.
He must have explored the passages for hours. He discovered a long tunnel that seemed endless. He guessed that it must lead out of the city. Another tunnel returned him to his own rooms. Further searching revealed the kitchen, two of the guard rooms, a harem in which slept eight scantily clad women, and finally the one which made him stop, a hidden room devoted to some dark god. The temple was occupied as well, by none other then the Queen herself. Therius Magnus was with her, and so were a few initiates and disciples of the evil religion. What made Kelnozz's breath catch in his throat was the figure on the alter. Her son. The Queen was indeed a priestess, but not of the order the people of Yolarch suspected. Instead of worshipping the generally benign God of Law and Order, Celos, she gave her soul to Bavorish, the God of death and murder.
Kelnozz could barely stop to appreciate Lesbiches jewelry adorned but otherwise nude form. He noted that she must have magic aiding her, for she did not appear nearly old enough to be the mother of her recently rediscovered son. He turned immediately to warn his companions when he heard something that made him stop. It was the noise of whimpering.
The prince, barely old enough to be a man, was magically held upon the altar spread eagled. For one so young as to have only just reached his majority, to be bound naked was no doubt a terrifying experience. He bore it well, considering Lesbiche's chanting and behavior. She held a wicked looking dagger with 4 curved blades coming out of the hilt. Not knowing how he knew, Kelnozz knew what the dagger was meant to do.
Lesbiche finished her chanting and crawled atop the altar with her son. There was no doubting her beauty, for her well rounded breasts swung freely as she leaned over the boy and her curved hips settled about his waist. Her long brown hair fell about the Ragnar's face, hiding his terrified expression from Kelnozz. The dark elf watched the evil priestess grinding her hips against her sons, drawing an erection from the barely adolescent boy in spite of the terror in his eyes. Satisfied, she threw her head back and allowed everyone to see the glint of lust in her eyes and the wicked smile she wore on her face. Lifting up her hips, she drove herself down on the boys burgeoning manhood.
Kelnozz's disgust took form at that point. Red eyes glowing with rage, the dark elf pushed open the secret door and burst into the room. Lesbiche's eyes flew to his and the evil grin she wore chilled him to the bone. Unholy guards came at him, overriding their surprise.
Kelnozz disemboweled the first one, then ducked the halberd of the next one and drove a longsword through the mans throat. He walked towards the altar, intent upon destroying the evil priestess when he had to stop and deal with two more guards that had not reacted as quickly. The first of these felt Kelnozz's steel in his stomach, and the second fell back cursing as a deep wound opened along his sword arm. Kelnozz turned to continue his assault upon the altar when he heard Therius finish chanting and a chill crept over his limbs. He took two more steps before he found his limbs refusing to obey him.
Helpless, Kelnozz watched as the boy whimpered and pleaded with his mother to release him as she raped him. Nature took its course, however, and very soon the young man was fighting against what was happening inside of him. The queen moaned loudly as her own powers were being augmented by the sexual energy flowing into her. She raised up so that she was sitting upon her son, still riding him to their inevitable orgasm. The sacrificial dagger was raised high in anticipation of the result of their writhing and pumping thighs.
Kelnozz gritted his teeth and fought against his imprisonment, but other then a bare minimum of facial muscle control, he could do nothing. Behind him, Therius was using his dark powers to save the mortally wounded guard and then heal the other one. The first two were clearly dead already.
Kelnozz felt an overpowering sickness pass through him as the energies in the room began to manifest. Ragnar could fight it no longer, and he thrust up into his mother, filling her with seed as though she were one of the many courtesans he had tumbled throughout his youth. Lesbiche drove the dagger down at the same time, the blades magically opening and spearing into the prince's chest. Her own orgasm overtook her then, making her writhe and grind her sex against her dying sons. They writhed against one another briefly, then she pulled the dagger free from his chest, holding his still beating heart within it's blades. With each beat blood spurt onto their naked and sweaty bodies. In spite of her sons final moments, she continued to grind herself against him, using her fey powers to draw every last bit of life from him.
Kelnozz watched in growing revulsion as the young man he had returned to his doom finally went limp, seeming to sag and deflate in death. Lesbiche continued to writhe against him, milking the corpses member and bringing herself another orgasm in the process. Satisfied at last, she climbed off of her murdered son and knelt in front of the altar. She began chanting again, completing the ritual by causing magical flames to erupt within the dagger and consume the cooling heart.
With the ritual completed, she rose and turned to face Kelnozz. Knowing him helpless, she walked up to him and ran her fingertips along his jawbone seductively. Inside he trembled with rage, but outside only the glow of his eyes showed his mood.
"You have witnessed something few people not of our order can boast to have seen," She whispered in his ear. "But don't worry, you won't escape with your life to tell anyone of it."
She backed up and smiled wickedly at him. He knew nothing of fear, only loathing and hatred of the woman before him. More so when she stepped forward again and began to undo the ties on his breeches. "It works best when the sacrifice is a virgin, but alas, keeping young Ragnar from sex would have driven his nannies insane. All the more so since one of them was his first."
"The ritual has to take place when they are adult," She continued, rubbing against him with her hands. "The sacrifice to Bavorish instills me with great power and extends my life years beyond count. He may have made a good King one day, but only by deposing me as Queen. Unacceptable."
"You and your companions will be killed and put on display in the public square for the murder of my son that my faithful servant Therius so readily recovered from his kidnappers," She said, having told Kelnozz all she wished of the ritual he had just witnessed. She dropped Kelnozz's breeches and took his flaccid member in her hands. "Just so you know the true futility of your situation, my son was never kidnapped, he escaped on his own when he chanced across this hidden temple to My Lord Bavorish and discovered the truth while wandering through the hidden passages in hopes of returning secretly from a celebration with the commoners of his coming of age."