Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXXI: The Land That Sold Its Children

The moon arose over the benighted streets, casting strange shadows upon the chill road. Dark structures sat lurking, their arched rooves and many spires rising menacing upon the winter sky. The four companions walked cautiously, ready for whatever horrors Monjaksen might have in store.

Still, despite the haunted reputation of this place, it was preferable to the horrors that they had experienced inside the Town Hall. What could be worse than traitors, zombie politicians, goblin ‘screamer-dreamers’, and a Demoncrat vampress? Stranger still, he and Gorm had entered that place with two other companions around noon, but time seemed to have flowed strangely, for what could have only been less than an hour inside had brought them now to full on night.

Gottschalk glanced at their new companions, the ones who had led them out of that place. The dark-haired woman, Tamara, and the blond-bearded man, Sir Jave, had mentioned at the outset of their walk that they were from some far-off land named Britanstan, but had to flee the tyranny there. Both were young and spoke with a strange accent which was pleasant, somehow familiar and yet one he could not remember hearing before.

Not caring much for such things, Gorm spoke up then. “We need go back for Ram’ and Laur’, Gott-chalk. Me not trust them around Sal-pink’s burning hat.”

Gottschalk turned to the barbarian, but shook his head. “Now we’re going to find a way to help them. We need to break the spell, the one that the Patrons cast.”

Tamara nodded at that. “I suppose the Torrent Sword should do the trick. It’s been used to defeat Ghul-Ghul before.”

“Yes, it’s actually quite interesting,” added Sir Jave, “it essentially slices through the warping effect that Ghul-Ghul can have on people, allowing direct communication, normal conversation if you will, between them again.”

“Where would we find it?” said Gottschalk. He hadn’t known Ramzeus and Laurissa for long, but had come to already consider them friends.

“That’s also very interesting,” replied Sir Jave. “Don’t believe what you might have heard about it! It’s at the center of what made Monjaksen what it is today. You might even call it the ‘crux of the supernatural, the paranormal, the-”

“Where!” interrupted Gorm. Barbarians didn’t care much for unnecessary talk either.

“Oh yes, the Cemetery, it’s truly a-” Sir Jave would have continued, but stopped when he noticed Gorm begin to point his great axe at him menacingly.

Gottschalk would have replied, but then spotted something odd a dozen yards away. It seemed to be large, roundish, white, and glowing, though it may have just been a trick of the eye from some errant beam of moonlight shining. He started to turn to check if the others had seen it too, but then could have sworn that it moved slightly...

With his fear now rising, he patted Gorm on his shoulder. The barbarian was still distracted glaring at Sir Jave though, so Gottschalk reached up to pull his head in that direction. By the time he was able to do so though, the glowing was gone.

“I saw it too,” said Tamara. “We need to keep moving here...”

Gottschalk could see the fear on the woman’s face. It was strange: she hadn’t seemed afraid of those in the Town Hall earlier- what would make her so afraid of some glowing thing now?

The companions moved on, quiet again, but more wary. The structures they passed made strange creaking sounds, though they could feel no wind- only some distant, frozen scent of rot and death coming from within. From each open doorway it felt like they were being watched.  It seemed that there might be folk inside, though none would be any that they would wish to approach. Gottschalk and Gorm looked at each other, but Tamara and Sir Jave bade them continue moving, grave looks upon their faces.

Knowing no fear though, Gorm entered one structure. Inside was a bleak, lone middle-aged man staring at some Ghul-Ghul box. The place he inhabited could have housed a small family and yet the only possessions inside seemed to be his. He didn’t even react to the barbarian invading his home, but instead only glanced at him for a moment blankly. Gottschalk began to enter too, but Gorm left, disgusted: it wouldn’t be any fun to pillage the place if the owner didn’t even fight back!

Gottschalk noticed too that none of the other structures showed the usual accoutrements of family life. No children’s toys or jump match squares in the yards. No wedding wreaths or even Othala runes upon the doors.

What sort of place was this? All knew that Monjaksen was haunted, but there seemed to be something else at work.

Gottschalk could take it no longer. He turned to Tamara and said, “What has happened to this place?”

Her face turned even paler than before, her voice rising with her increasing fear. “I dare not mention their name- and you SHOULDN’T EITHER!”

Sir Jave looked afraid too and stroked his blond beard as he considered his next words. He wondered if Gorm might threaten him again for saying too much. Still, it seemed that now was as good a time as any. He made sure to whisper at least.

“Monjaksen used to be prosperous, but one generation became too greedy, and wished to live forever...”

Jave paused then, making sure that the barbarian didn’t have his axe out again. Gorm did, but his attention wasn’t on Jave- it was on the sounds of something approaching down the alleyway. All four of them could detect it now.

“... and they gave away their children’s....”

Before he could finish, something came at Sir Jave. It seemed old, yet unnaturally preserved somehow, like one of the zombie Public Lords from the Town Hall. This thing seemed almost vampiric though, like the Demoncrat woman and yet not, its hands outlined in some sort of enervating shadow.

“Hey man,” it hissed, “In the garden of Eden, don’t you know that I... I... I... hope you die before I get old!”

Gorm made to wrestle the thing off Sir Jave, but it was strong. With a slap, it sent the much larger barbarian hurtling back into one of the structure’s walls. It then grinned and began to let the shadows around its hands creep into Sir Jave’s chest, almost as if draining the young man’s life force. The creature then seemed to ‘bloom’ as a result, growing a little larger and beginning to glow.

Gottschalk turned to Tamara in shock: if the barbarian couldn’t defeat this bloomer thing, then how on earth could they?

Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXXII!

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