Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part VIII: A-Nye-He’ll-Hate

A mighty barbaric belch erupted from Gorm’s mouth as he watched his companions hike further up the trail. They had been bickering ever since breakfast with the Maurians, though Esservassa had been the one to start it, of course. At least the remains of the meal still tasted good on the way back up.

He studied the insane blue-haired woman for a moment: despite her many signs of abuse- an expected consequence of spending too much time around orcs and goblins- she still had her wits about her and was shapely. Why did she continue to follow that Cult of Special Grow-People? And why didn’t she use her real name anymore? He remembered when he had first met her, she had been riding bareback in the Vale. She and...

Gorm’s thoughts then sank to sadness as he remembered her former companions. Elfriede had been captured and Gudre had...

Gottschalk looked back when he noticed that Gorm had begun to sob. The large man started to shake and mighty barbarian tears rolled down from his downcast eyes onto his mighty barbarian overalls.

“Are you alright?”

“Me just memembering...” His sad eyes went to Esservassa.

For a moment, she appeared to show some sympathy, but then quickly glared and turned away. “The Liberators will find you both soon!”

Both Gorm and Gottschalk looked back in the direction of Dinglesfuhr. A smaller snoollab, one of the fell airships of the invading red dwarf forces, had been approaching their position for the last few hours.  Even though they were high in the forested mountains, it still seemed to be creeping inexorably closer.

“Me get rock and pop it!” Gorm rubbed the tears from his eyes and clenched his jaw as he searched the ground.

“Probably not wise,” said Gottschalk. “I doubt even you could damage it.”

Gorm turned to Gottschalk, outraged. Gottschalk didn’t know whether to be afraid that the barbarian might go berserk or happy that he was no longer crying.

Knowing that he had little time to spare, Gottschalk quickly thought of a way to redirect Gorm’s rising fury.

“Esservassa: are you leading them to us?”

It seemed to have the desired effect, for Gorm quickly turned his attention to her.

Despite the threat he posed though, she merely laughed. “By all that’s Rainbow- I wish! I can’t wait to see the look on your Amaranthine Faces and Miniscule Encroachments when the True Equalitarians get a hold of you. Oh, by Thrym, then you’ll get a taste of Diversity!”

Gorm had trouble grasping all the large words that she used; Gottschalk knew that she was merely spouting more Cult nonsense.

They then turned to each other with knowing glances: perhaps it was time that she left their company.

Though still wrapped up in her vitriol, Esservassa soon began to realize that the men might abandon her on this mountain trail. Despite her intense dislike for ones who so obviously didn’t agree with her, she didn’t like the idea of being separated from them just now either.

“There might be a way to spare you... to have the Equalitarians Annihilate You in the Name of Acceptance... at a later time...”

Gorm looked up at the sky in terror: that a-word she used sounded awful!

Gottschalk only smiled at her sardonically though. “Want to keep us around? Scared of the goblins finding you again... all alone?”

Esservassa shrieked furiously and made to strike him with her wine bottle. “You would insult a Womyn with your Womyn-hating Hate, you Womyn-Hater?!”

But just as quickly, a strange understanding came over her: if she struck Gottschalk, then they would abandon her for certain.

* * *

The sun creeped towards its apex, peeking through a few winter clouds. Gorm and Gottschalk sat around a small fire that provided little warmth. Strange, multicolored objects were placed around it, some quite lewd, all suggestive of gender. Esservassa danced around them in a circular manner, her spectral robes fluttering as she passed by, marking her as out of place with the cedars and barren oaks all around as her unnatural faith.

“All the many choices... are we men, or just some boy’ses... oh, Great Teacher, here our voices!”

To Gorm and Gottschalk’s increasing discomfort, she then began to gyrate in bizarre ways as she continued to recite the lyrics to her twisted, demon song. It also seemed that she was having some sort of argument with a phantom adversary- something bizarre for even her.

“In one end and out the other, by all that’s Rainbow, I can have any lover! Any lover! Any l-o-v-e-r! You can’t tell me, can’t tell me!  Thrym, please stir my genital stew, for oh Great Wise One Guy, I call on you!”

The sky went dark as a cloud passed over the sun. A strange, rainbow shadow filled the area and a fell odor came from the fire, one of perfume and dung. Esservassa immediately prostrated herself, bowing before a sinister looking man that had now appeared amongst them.

Gorm and Gottschalk arose quickly, weapons ready, but did not strike, hoping that this... person... might help them in avoiding capture.

The man’s eyes shown as red spirals in the strange light and he adjusted his insidious, crossed tie. “My friend here says that you need some help, that you need to change yourselves to avoid capture?”

Gorm and Gottschalk nodded to him cautiously. They knew it was unwise to consort with demons- if that is in fact what this ‘Great Wise One Guy’ was- but they also knew that the red dwarves would be upon them within the hour, and they would show no mercy.

The strange man smiled insanely. “Did you know that there are, in fact, 666 genders?”

Both looked at each other in confusion. He giggled and then continued. “...and that there are certain fish, somewhere in the world possibly, that can change their gender?”

Gottschalk’s eyes narrowed: he didn’t like where this was going. Gorm wondered what any of this had to do with them: men weren’t fish!

The Wise One Guy continued: “And the red dwarves are looking for two men...”

Gorm struggled to understand what he meant. Finally, he ventured a guess: “You mean, we should dress up like fish?”

Gottschalk began to look for a place to escape.

“No...” the strange man adjusted his crossed tie again and looked down at their pants.

Gorm finally realized what he meant and covered himself defensively.

Esservassa then arose and began to dance with the Wise One Guy, gyrating strangely, shouting out more demon lyrics. It was almost as if the area itself, still cast in bizarre light, was providing some sort of very troubling musical accompaniment.

When the strange man finally removed his pants to reveal garishly-colored undergarments, they knew it was time to leave. Gottschalk led Gorm away.

“But won’t the red dwarves a-nye-he’ll-hate us when they catch us?”

Gottschalk glanced over at the barbarian and sighed. “Being shot by the red dwarves might be a better fate than the one suggested by this shrill, nigh ‘Wise One Guy’.”

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part VII: 100 Amaranthine Scalps

Dawn was beginning to break behind the Helltowne Mountains to the east. Gorm was already up and had caught a deer for breakfast. The aromatic smell of it sizzling over the campfire made even the troubling events of last night seem dim by comparison.

Gottschalk rose and stretched in the cold morning air. A moment of panic came over him though and he glanced over at their untrustworthy companion. With some relief, he saw that she was lying there, still asleep, her blue-dyed hair and partially-crippled body covered by blankets.

“She was attacked by goblins last night. She snuck off down the path.”

The large barbarian raised an eyebrow, intrigued by Gottschalk’s statement, but didn’t take his attention off the finishing venison.

“Though she didn’t seem to mind, or at least, became infuriated when I tried to rescue her.”

At that, Gorm finally turned to Gottschalk and nodded. “Women get in-furry-rated over everything!”

Esservassa stirred under her blankets then; both men wondered if she had heard them.

Seeing that she lay still again, Gottschalk continued: “She’s dangerous! Her insane cult beliefs will be the death of us all! Why do you insist on keeping her with us?”

Gorm looked at Gottschalk and then adjusted his carefully styled mullet for a moment as he considered his response.

“Me knew her when she was nice, Gott-chalk.”

Gottschalk glared at the barbarian, aghast that he would put them both at risk over such a simple sentiment. Yes, Gorm still insisted on calling her by her pre-cult name. And yes, she, like all cultists, was probably far kinder before falling for such Fell Beliefs, but that didn’t change the fact that she would now willingly let goblins defile her and then gladly lead them to camp to cut Gorm and Gottschalk’s throats.

But suddenly, their attention was drawn to the woods to the southwest: some branches had snapped.

Only a moment after Gorm had grabbed his great axe and Gottschalk his miner’s pick, a group of men entered their campsite. They were all dressed in uniform: four in grey with caps, two in blue with helms and light armor, and one in black with a peaked hat. They were Maurians!

“Ho, there!” said their captain in black. “We smelled your roast game and had to come see.”

Gottschalk didn’t know what to make of it. True, the Maurians had helped him, Gorm, and their allies slaughter a goblin tribe in the Vallee two nights ago, but he still didn’t trust them completely. Like all in Dinglesfuhr, he had been taught to be ashamed of his people’s ‘Amaranthine Past’ which the Maurians actually seemed to espouse in the current day.

Both men lowered their weapons and smiled nervously. For his part, Gorm subtly dropped a blanket over the still-motionless Esservassa, covering her obviously cult-associated blue-dyed hair. The Maurians seemed too taken by the venison to notice: it did look and smell mouth-watering.

Gorm turned to them and nodded. “Sure, you can have some! Anyone who fight goblins is friend of ours!”

The Maurians smiled wide and put down their gear. To Gottschalk’s surprise and relief, they didn’t begin chastising him and Gorm about their level of human purity, nor their level of political devotion. He had been taught to believe that all Maurians were insane Human Supremacists, that they were vicious servants to their Maurian Leader and would submit any innocent that they encountered to a cruel and callous death.

Not only did they not fulfil those stereotypes, but they even produced enough field ware and rations to turn Gorm’s simple roast deer into a nearly-refined breakfast!

As they ate, both groups chatted about recent events in the Vale. Their captain, Schnitt, even related how a Great Tower had shot up from the mountains near Helltowne yesterday afternoon. Gottschalk could remember the sinister, red light he had seen then. It seemed that the machinations of the red dwarves were not finished though.

After another half hour of eating and chat, the Maurians got up and thanked their hosts for the deer. And though Gottschalk was already beginning to realize that the Maurians weren’t the Ultimate Evil-Doers that his tutors had made them out to be, he was surprised when they not only cleaned up the meal, but left them additional rations and supplies, as well.

As they departed, Captain Schnitt spoke again. “We’ll be making a raid into northern Dinglesfuhr in a few hours. We’d be honored if you’d accompany us in helping to liberate your kinsfolk.”

Gottschalk turned to Gorm cautiously and nodded slowly. “Perhaps, we’ll have to see...”

“Understood,” said Schnitt. “We’ll be near the Wilterbergrade.”

He and his men then saluted and left.

Gottschalk and Gorm breathed a sigh of relief.

“I thought they might arrest us! I’d always heard that...”

“For what?” interrupted Gorm. “Me worried they would find Kalla!”

Both looked down at Esservassa. Her stiffness and lack of breathing showed that she was now only pretending to sleep.

“How long have you been awake?” challenged Gottschalk.

“Long enough!”

Esservassa leapt up and unfurled her blue-dyed hair. It had become knotted and frayed overnight, giving it the appearance of being molded.

Both men sighed, knowing that she would now look even more unpleasant as she launched into a diatribe.

“Breakfast with AMARANTHINISTS!?” She nearly drooled, she was so enraged.

“They seem nice to me...” offered Gorm.

“Nice? Nice! NICE!? You must be Amaranthine yourself! Did you check? Didn’t they poison your food? Those Maurians are Notorious Poisoners! By all that’s Rainbow, I can’t believe that you actually sat and ate with them!”

“We might even help them free more Dingle-furry-ones at Wilbur-grade.”

“Fine! Let us go and kill those Maurian Scum instead! Then we can take 100 Amaranthine Scalps!”

Gorm only shook his mulleted head at her. Barber-barbarians such as he considered any talk of scalping to be in bad form.

Esservassa turned to Gottschalk then.

He shrugged. “What else were we to do? They aren’t the enemy anyway! It was the goblins that destroyed Dinglesfuhr, not the Maurians. And they were let in by people like you!”

Enraged, Esservassa lunged at Gottschalk, nearly knocking the man over. She now had a wine bottle in her hand, one she had ironically grabbed that the Maurians had left behind. She swung it at him with full force, beseeching her fell cult’s master that it would dash out his Amaranthine brains.

But Gorm, though large, was quick. He snatched her weapon before it could strike his friend and pushed her back.

“You would Strike a Womyn? You have no honor!” She appeared truly outraged despite the obvious hypocrisy of her claim.

“You attack him first, silly! You not know difference?”

“But he is AMARANTHINE! You are all AMARANTHINE!” Esservassa’s face went ashen white.

Despite her fury, Gottschalk got up again. “Why don’t you and your lunatic cult slake your wrath on the goblins? They kill humans with glee. Isn’t that ‘Amaranthine’ enough for you?”

To that, Esservassa had no reply.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part VI: The Dark Path

A continuing series that follows the exploits of Gorm and friends in the Nights Skies Over Valhallow World

A cold wind blew down the mountain trail, whipping Gottschalk back to his senses. Esservassa cried out again and he gritted his teeth, reaching for the first dark form he could put his hands on.

With a mixture of surprise and grim purpose, he realized that it was not some unreal spook of the night, but in fact a goblin. He grappled the monster as best he could, though he sorely missed his trusty miner’s pick that was still back at camp.

Luckily for Gottschalk, the goblin had already begun to remove its garb when attacking the woman, so it was easier to fight him down, though certainly more disturbing. The thing turned to him then, stinking breath emitting from beneath its oversized nose. Gottschalk’s mind raced as it brought its filthy hands up to his neck. The goblin closed them tightly, causing him to gasp as much from surprise at its strength as from lack of air.

Gottschalk’s eyes darted madly and he spotted a rock gently lit by the dying light of the setting moon. Before the goblin could fully throttle the life out of him, he quickly grabbed it and smashed it into the side of its head. The goblin wailed and loosed its bowels, its face turning to one of feigned innocence. In disgust, Gottschalk got up and kicked it in its jaw. The creature lay still.

Esservassa yelled out again, but then was silenced. It seemed that the other goblins were now forcing their mouths onto hers.

Roaring, outraged, Gottschalk lumbered over, his leg still stiff from the impact with the first goblin’s mouth and soiled by its incontinence. He clenched his fist to impact with that of another.

His punch struck true, knocking that goblin off the crippled woman and nearly down the mountainside as well. It clung to the edge of the path with its dark hands, mewling for mercy in its barbaric tongue.

Others came at Gottschalk then, cutting into his salt miner’s garb and flesh with their cruel blades. He yelled out in pain, but his fury stiffened his resolve. Clenching his jaw, he was finally able to turn one goblin’s blade upon itself and then use it on another.

Those remaining began to flee. As their despicable kind was known for, they had the stomach to attack a lone woman, but not an enraged man.

But then Gottschalk stopped and his mouth went wide. One goblin still remained behind. It seemed that it had been watching its fellows this whole time. And beyond all belief, it was even drawing a picture to record their heinous assault!

He marched up and pointed his blade at the fell artist. It looked at him meekly, pointing out its especially childish rendition of colored chalk and parchment upon a crude easel.

Gottschalk couldn’t believe his eyes. The goblin was celebrating the callous, invasive, and horrific nature of its very race by recording their attack on Esservassa!

The goblin showed its underhandedness too, because when he turned back from its picture, the monster had already begun to flee down the trail. Gottschalk would have pursued, but he knew he needed to return to camp. He took solace in kicking its remaining fellows off the path, their shrill screams satisfyingly cut short when they reached flat ground again, a few dozen feet below.

He then held out his hand, but she only folded her arms and refused to take it. Bizarre for even a cultist, Esservassa appeared angry at her rescue.

“Didn’t goblins defile you before... and they were about to do it again!?” He gestured to her many old injuries and missing hand.

Esservassa became furious, shuddering as she spoke. “I was merely trying to Make Amends for the Ways of our People, Amaranthinist!”

 “I am not Amaranthine!” insisted Gottschalk. “I merely care what happens to our people!”

“Any human who cares about his people IS AMARANTHINE!”

Gottschalk sighed as he made his way back up to camp. Perhaps he should have left her to her fate?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

New Map for Campaign Blackbeard

Here is the new map by Michael J. Patrick for my upcoming novel, Campaign Blackbeard. The sequel to Red Noon at Helltowne, it illustrates how the red dwarves have been busy at work, subverting and conquering other lands of the Vale to spread their twisted philosophy of Equalitarianism.

Will Oborren, Tepson, Kolvaig, and their allies be able to stop them?

More details to come!