Heart thudding and out of breath, Solaris leans against an old pine tree. Through the needle leaf canopy, the sky brightens in shades from black to gray. The morning’s sunrise is still many heartbeats away.
She growls, shaking her head and clutching her fur-edged cloak. Water drips from skeletal branches and the tip of her nose. She wipes and breathes in the damp air, face relaxing and lungs refreshed.
Crackling underbrush jerks her head. Smithmage Martle scrambles clear of a thicket wearing a voluminous robe covered in twigs and sticky seeds. Legs wobbling, he falls and struggles on with knees and palms.
“Calm down!” Heart steadying, Solaris holds up her hand. “It’s a mystic fear. Pause, and let it clear.”
“No!” Martle recoils with wide wild eyes. “Run! He Comes!” The older man staggers to his feet and stampedes into more underbrush.
Continue reading Jabberwaki: Part 5, The Monster
Storm clouds smother starlight, and a breeze chills Beorn’s cheeks as he walks the length of an ancient rampart. He coughs into his fist and adjusts his warhammer and shortsword, making sure both are in easy reach at his waist and don’t clank against his dull gray armor.
Below, Jacob waves a torch. “Belazar’s having another vision!”
Beorn grunts and charges past the knotted rope he used to climb up. The rampart ends broken, as if an age ago something colossal took a bite out of the castle wall. Beorn hops over the edge and skids down the steep side. A mini avalanche of crumbling stone rolls after him. He stumbles into the grass but keeps his footing as bits of wall pelt his heels.
Jacob jogs over, quiet as a cat with only his loose tunic and trousers. “Not bad, considering that turtle shell around you.”
Beorn tightens a loose strap hanging from his half-plate. “Let’s go, circus freak.”
Continue reading Jabberwaki: Part 4, The Vision
Voices of Belazar’s companions echo around him, blunted by the smooth walls of the rose quartz room. As their sounds are lessened yet drawn out, so his torchlight is dimmed but reflected. Everything that influences his senses is dispersed throughout the spherical space and stretched between the gaps of his breath.
“This place assaults my perception.” Belazar crosses his thick mountain-climbing legs and sits like a boy mesmerized by an all-night campfire. “I’m drifting.” Time spirals and thoughts from yesterday, last season, and his childhood compete for attention with parallel intensity.
Solaris waves her pale arm in front of his face. “Whatcha doing?” She holds the edge of her short skirt down as she settles onto her knees and reaches for his cheek. “Are you okay?”
Continue reading Jabberwaki: Part 2, Ghost of Rage
With swift, sandaled feet and loose-fitting tunic and trousers, Jacob scouts his squad of mounted adventurers through the night, reaching a lonely inn during the quiet dark before dawn. A cramping calf makes him wince, and he stretches it as his companions rein in around him.
Shortsword in hand and armor clinking, Beorn hops off of Theros, his giant gray goat. “If we hurry, we can loot and escape before sunrise.”
Jacob gestures up to the dimming stars as the sky gains a hint of blue. “The sage warned that our enemy controls flying spies.”
Leather armor creaking, Sylyca dismounts her sweaty horse and spins thin elvish hands about with a hypnotic flair. “I can cloud our travel. No tracks, and blur eyes looking our way.”
“Nice.” Jacob smiles at the petite elf who makes him regret his vow of celibacy as he fingers a blocky stone key. “The secret entrance should be under a stall in the stables. Follow me.”
Continue reading Jabberwaki: Part 1, The Empty Room
The granite wall sparkles next to Jacob’s torch. Smooth and flat as glass, it is carved with a titan’s eye towards perfection. Jacob crouches, butt hovering over sea water that fills the room up to his calf, and the flame flickers where a knee-high tunnel bores through into another shadowed room.
Jacob places his torch in the hole, pulls out his black coral flute, and plays crisp notes. Discovered in a treasure chest full of titan gold, the instrument summons piquant water that he gulps like a flask between blows. He sighs. It’s refreshing, as if from a cool mountain spring, despite an off-putting taste.
Kriv hops over. “Can I try some magic flute juice?”
Wiping his mouth, Jacob tucks the flute into his ragged tunic and splashes the little beebo with sea water. “Since this room isn’t draining on its own, do your part. Drink your fill of this ocean slop that your awesome friend summoned.”
Kriv licks the cloudy water and spits. Belazar growls, handing the little man a flask as big as the beebo’s bald blue head. Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 6, Titan’s Flute
The Undersea hall is wide and tall, made by a giant race of scaled men. The floor is smooth and wet, and Jacob is slow with his steps. An iron and oak box strains his callused fingers. Sealed shut by centuries of neglect, it is red with rust and soft with rot.
Metal clinks inside as Jacob shuffles forward. “This one’s heavy enough to be filled with gold.” He huffs, struggling to maintain his posture. “Not more devil-damned dwarven copper.”
Kriv, short as Jacob’s hip, scoots his bald blue head under the chest. “Need more light.”
“Get out from under there,” says Jacob.
Belazar, a head taller and a barrel wider, shuffles over with a torch and grips the side of the chest with his free hand. “May I have a turn, Sir?”
Jacob nods, and the burly orcelf tucks the box under his arm, easy as a load of laundry.
“Thanks.” Jacob cracks his back. “It’s not the weight; it’s the awkward shape.” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 5, Devil
Torchlight makes shadows dance as the adventuring band tiptoes deeper into the Undersea maze. Built by a giant race, the place shrinks the veterans into children. They are like puppies and kittens with trinkets and charms, exploring an endless dungeon with fur raised and ears twitching.
Breath hushed, the band of five pause where the yellow ribs of something colossal blocks an entry like a portcullis.
Solaris runs her hands along a carved bone thick as her arm. “Could you break through this?” She gestures to Belazar. “Without too much noise?”
The bulky orcelf saunters over and grips the bone bars. “Maybe.” His dark gray skin flushes and tiny tusks poke from his lips as he grits his teeth.
Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 4, Statue
Spiders: Featured spider color altered from original: taken by Thomas Shahan. Used with permission.
Still under the docks of Titantale City…
The empty bookshelf swivels open to a passage, a short tunnel through the Undersea’s speckled blue granite.
Solaris runs her soft fingers across the rough cut stone. “Not titans’ work. It is old though. Maybe chiseled through by the first people that took advantage of the scaled giants’ disappearance.”
Jacob rubs his hands together. “Let’s get some treasure.”
Solaris taps his back with the base of her torch, and the martial artist leads her and the rest of their party into another dark room. The floor is dusty instead of damp and webs cover the walls all the way up to the ceiling, a tree’s height above Solaris.
“Spiders.” She spits on the dry floor. “Now, you’ll see why I prefer crabs.” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 3
The walls are a mixture of porous and smooth, hard granite and fossilized coral full of holes. Solaris swings a flaming torch from side to side. Blues, blacks, and whites, all swirl together, and the wide corridor echoes with skitterings and clickings coming from inside the stone.
“Crabs are fine.” Solaris kicks at a foot-sized claw poking through the wall. “It’s the beetles, bats, and spiders.” She shivers. “Especially the jumping spiders. Those things look like a nightmare ate a teddy bear and grew eight legs, too many eyes, and huge fangs.”
The crab she had kicked snaps at her. Shell striped, purple and gray, with cyan barnacles adding a spiky layer, it is a giant crustacean that has survived many seasons. Solaris makes a circle and slash motion of her overgoddess to show respect and then jabs with her torch until the creature skitters deeper into the nether behind the carved stone.
Sylyca, the diminutive elf holding the parties’ other torch, points back at the oversized stairs they’ve descended. “We are below sea level, aren’t we?” She lowers her voice. “Have we entered the Undersea? Is that dream demoness close?” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 2
Seagulls squawk and soar over the city’s slumside docks. Under new management, boards have been removed from storefront windows, replaced with trade goods displayed behind glass. Shiny trinkets, silk, and spices instead of empty bottles, drugs, and darker vices.
Clean money flows into what the band called Lute now controls.
At the edge of this district, a ship-length inland from the choppy water, a dark building sits. Built with salvaged titan granite, it is scaled for men, not giants. Shiny black pillars guard the entrance, a veneer of obsidian elegance.
Solaris, the sea witch, licks salt from her lips and runs her hand over the volcanic glass covering the stone columns. She helped remove crusaders that had claimed this place for their overgod of tyranny and death, but that isn’t what causes her goosebumps.
“There’s a way to another world underneath this Obsidian shrine.” She claps her hands. “Time to dust off some lost mysteries. The Undersea awaits our exploration.” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 1