Tuesday, October 24, 2006

There's a place where you are goin', you ain't ever seen before...

The title is from Beck's Lost Cause song.

Here's a little something from my childhood. It started off as small games my dad would play with my brothers and I and turned into this full blown D&D-esque game with much simpler rules. Plus, we got to use all the cool miniatures my dad had painted and this really cool castle he had bought us one christmas.

The Castle

The rain settled in an even drizzle that blanketed everything in the valley. The three men made their way toward the enormous stone castle in the distance. The aged and shredded flags flapped on the ramparts and the men approached cautiously. They neared the large black gates and saw that they were closed. The tallest of the three men, a man with snow-white short-cropped hair, yelled to the gatekeeper to let them in. The wind picked up some and made the three men shiver. The rain fell harder around them. The man with white hair hefted a massive double-headed hammer of silver and brought the head down against the black gates. But nothing happened to the hammer or the gates.
The next tallest of the three, a man with wavy, shoulder length hair that had streaks of white in it, and an eye patch over his right eye, loaded his small hand cannon. He lit a match and pressed it to the fuse. The hand cannon was aimed at the black gates as well. There was a blast of smoke and the deep clanging thud of metal on metal. The steel ball the man had shot at the gate rolled back toward him.
“Damn it all,” the man said. He lifted a small cigarette from one of the many pouches he wore on his heavy leather belt. He placed the cigarette against still burning match and inhaled.
“Nicholas, do you have to do that right this moment?” said the third man. He wore black leather armour with silver trimming on it.
“No Trevor, I don’t. But I feel better afterwards,” said Nicholas. “What say you Simon?”
Simon had his hand resting on the handle of the hammer as he looked up at the front gates.
“We climb in,” said Simon. He took off the large backpack he carried and removed from it a length of rope and a grappling hook. He tied an end of the rope to the hook and walked towards the other two men.
“Stand back,” said Simon. He swung the rope in a circle and let it spin for several seconds. When the hook was just a blur in his hands he tossed it towards one of the openings in the ramparts.
The hook stuck and he tugged with all his might to pull. The hook did not move. He gathered his hammer and then put on thick black gloves. He began to climb the rope when the other two men realized they had to climb as well.
Simon flung himself over the rampart and helped the other two up. Once they dusted themselves off they looked down into the square and saw nothing but broken and busted vendor’s carts, a small crimson tent with its roof flapping away, and deep claw marks slashed into the stone’s around them. There were several staircases that lead down into the square and the three men moved quickly down them and into the square. Wilted cabbage and lettuce littered the foot of the staircase. Simon pulled out his hammer and walked toward the crimson tent. With the head of the hammer he drew back the entrance flap and saw several bodies strewn around the room. The bodies were picked clean of all flesh and only bone remained.
“Something big ripped this pavilion to shreds, I mean look at these claw marks Nicholas. Only one thing around this valley could leave marks like that,” said Trevor. He walked away from some of the claw marks near the back of the tent and moved towards the black gates.
Nicholas finished smoking his cigarette and followed Trevor to the gates. Simon looked up at the towers of the castle further up. He looked from the ramparts to the winding staircases that wrapped around some of the towers and saw doorways leading in to them, but did not see any leading into the castle itself. Trevor found the gate’s wheel and began to turn it to release them. Nicholas did not move as he saw a stairwell leading down into the castle. He also caught the gleam of amber eyes trained on Trevor. He pulled his friend backwards just as the creature made its move.
Simon saw the beast clearly. It was a red dragon, the kind that had no wings but was still just as deadly, and agile. The scales of the beasts were like heavy plate armour and their only weak spots were their underbellies. Simon watched as the dragon had almost caught Trevor, had it not been for Nicholas moving his friend out of the way. The dragon clung to the side of the wall like a spider, its claws deep in the stone of the fortress. It lifted its wedge-shaped head towards the two men, now on the cobblestones of the square, and opened its mouth. A long deep hiss escaped from its throat.
Nicholas Grabbed Trevor once more and hefted his friend up.
“Run,” yelled Simon.
The dragon’s opened maw grew a bright amber, just like its eyes, then it seemed to squirt liquid like the king cobras of Indus, and flames shot towards the running men. They managed to duck down behind the tent before it caught fire. It did not last long as the rain grew harder. Simon was with them. He told them to wait there for his signal.
“Where d’ya think yer goin’ old man?” said Nicholas. He reloaded his hand cannon.
“To kill that dragon,” said Simon. He smiled at his two companions and hefted his hammer.
The dragon hissed again but did not shoot flame at Simon. Instead it climbed off the wall and onto the cobblestones of the square. It was easily three meters in length but only a meter high. Its motion was painstakingly slow for Simon. He realized quickly that it moved with precision. Every inch gained was a calculated step towards his destruction. Simon did not like the thought and swung the silver headed hammer at the red dragon. The flat end connected with the dragon’s right front leg, smashing the bones inside. It hissed and thrashed at Simon, its great jaws snapping in anger at the damage done to it.
Simon waited patiently for an opening then struck again, at the dragon’s side, sending it rolling over on its back, the scales making a grating sound as they clanked against the cobblestones of the square. Simon looked back at his friends, who had been ready for his signal.
Simon nodded and Trevor ran forward, his sword drawn from its scabbard, as did Nicholas with his hand cannon loaded and ready for an attack.
Nicholas, shoot the belly,” yelled Simon. He avoided the clawed extremities as the dragon thrashed on the ground.
Nicholas’ hand cannon went off and the dragon’s body seemed to lift off the ground as it was struck in the underside. It hissed flames at the men.
“Now Trevor, cut the front legs off,” yelled Simon.
Trevor ducked and weaved between the thrashing dragon’s legs. He slashed at the broken leg and cut off the dragon’s foot at the joint, thick, hot black blood spraying him in the chest. One of the clawed feet curled into a fist and slammed into Trevor’s chest, sending him across the square. His sword clanged to the ground several feet away. The dragon used the distraction to move onto its legs and hobbled quickly over to the downed man and was ready to breath fire onto him. It opened its maw and hissed the high-pitched sound that made Trevor cover his ears and close his eyes.
The hammer slammed down onto the dragon’s head, making the jaws click together loudly and the dragon slumped down onto the floor. The rain poured down now harder than it had in the past week. Simon looked up and closed his eyes. He let the rain bathe him. Nicholas moved to Trevor and helped his friend up.
The dragon’s amber eyes were still open, but they were losing color and the creature was turning to stone. Simon kicked the head away from the rest of the stone covered body. He reached down and hefted the head on its stump. He opened the jaws, which was easier since they had snapped together, breaking the jaw, and held onto one of its jagged teeth. He reached behind his back for the small carving knife he carried and dug deep into the gum of the dragon’s mouth to cut out the tooth he had chosen.
“Eh, what’re doing Simon? You shouldn’t take dragon’s teeth from them, bad luck,” said Trevor. He was standing up and had much and small scrapes on his face from the fall.
“Come on Simon, leave the beast be, you’ve already killed it,” said Nicholas.
“Yes, I killed it, but we need this as well. Maybe not here, but soon,” said Simon.
“We found a way in,” Nicholas said.
“Where?” said Simon. He turned to Nicholas.
“By the gate. I think we have to go down to get inside,” said Nicholas.
“Let’s go then, I’m done with the rain here,” said Trevor. He walked over to his sword and placed it back in its scabbard.
They traveled inside the tunnels of the castle for only a few minutes as they found themselves inside the court of the castle. It was smaller than anything they had been accustomed to in Falkirk. But everything was beautiful in the court, marble pillars encrusted and bejeweled with strange stones none of the men had ever seen. There were odd lamp posts that glowed with a pale blue light that burned brightly but gave off no heat. There were also strange doors that lead nowhere built into the stone walls. But the crowing jewel of the court was a monumental throne made of gold.
The armrests were made of solid gold and had been shaped into the shapes of lion’s heads. The majesty of those regal heads shown brightly even in the gloom of the empty court. The piece that left the three men staring was the great Imperial Eagle symbol they all wore beneath their heavy armour. Simon moved toward the throne and watched as it moved backwards as if on a track and revealed a winding staircase that began moving toward the ceiling.
“Coming?” said Simon. He leapt upon the stone steps.
Trevor and Nicholas followed. Each stood still as they waited for the steps to stop moving. They passed through a gap in the ceiling and found themselves looking up at the steel gray clouds again. They were on a vast landing that had catapults and a ballista. From where they stood they could see how much further the castle went on.
“Should we try that small tower, or go further inside the main castle?” asked Nicholas.
Simon looked at the options and then turned to his friends once more.
“We have to go through that tower, out onto a walkway that’s obscured right now and wind up on that arched stairway in order to reach the top. All you’ll find in that door is supplies,” said Simon. He slid the hammer back onto his back and started for the door.
The handle was carved to resemble a dragon swallowing its tail and Simon smiled. He now knew that the former lord of the castle had kept dragons as war hounds and not as pets. He opened the door and then ducked. Trevor ducked as well and Nicholas caught the shafts straight in his breastplate. They knocked him back to the stone floor and he groaned in pain.
Trevor scrambled over to him and checked his wounds. Miraculously none of the arrows had penetrated his armour. For that brief reprieve Nicholas thanked the blacksmith for making him his armour.
“You okay brother?” said Trevor.
“Nothin’ I couldn’t have handled,” said Nicholas. He fixed the eye patch over his right eye and smiled.
They followed Simon and moved through the various towers cautiously, especially since they knew that some could be booby traps. For three hours they made their way higher into the outer portion of the castle. Then came the final tower and walkway that lead to the last top of the castle. The rain had stopped hours before and the sun had yet to reveal itself even though the day had begun long ago. They stood and watched the sliver of clouds move over the land. The wind kicked up despite there being no more rain. Then a great shadow passed over them. There was the sound of heavy armoured feet landing on the stone floor behind them. Simon, Nicholas and Trevor turned in unison and brought their arms to bear. A knight stood behind them.
The knight was covered in armour from head to toe. There was one horizontal slit for the knight to see out of the helm, which had batwings fashioned from the sides of the helmet. The armour was trimmed in silver and upon a great silver chain was a medallion of silver that shone brightly in the waning light of dusk. Simon recognized the great lion headed symbol from the court down below.
“Who trespasses on my lands?” boomed the knight.
“Four soldiers from the Imperial palace of Falkirk,” said Simon. He took out his hammer. The silver head gave off heliographs as he spun the shaft in small circles.
“Falkirk? Hah! I laugh at your pathetic empire. You and yours are saplings compared to me and mine,” said the knight. He laughed deeply. A harsh grating sound that each man could feel in the pit of his stomach.
“Who are you sir knight that you mock our great Empire?” Trevor said. He unsheathed his sword and aimed it at the knight.
“I have no quarrel with you sir, I have no quarrel with any of you, all I ask is that you leave now, before it is too late,” the knight said. He unsheathed a mighty sword that had a bluish blade. He took several steps towards them and held a stance.
Simon moved first and swung the hammer at the knight. He blocked the swing with his sword then grabbed the handle of the hammer and threw Simon behind him with his free arm. Simon tumbled across the landing and slammed into the door of the last tower. Nicholas tossed a knife at the knight who deflected it again with his sword. Trevor moved in front of Nicholas as the knight brought down his blue blade. Trevor’s sword sparked as he blocked the chop from the knight. Trevor turned the blade of his sword so that it was almost vertical and then kicked the knight back for an opening. Trevor looked behind the knight and saw Simon was still down.
Swinging with controlled force, the knight charged at Trevor. Trevor sidestepped the knight’s charge but fell sideways. Nicholas reloaded the cannon. He made the fuse short and walked up to the knight, pointed the cannon at the back of his helmet and lit the fuse just as he was about to give the deathblow to Trevor. The smoke filled the area and wafted back towards Simon, who shook his head clear and slowly stood up.
Nicholas looked down at the knight, who held his face in his hands. The shot had only managed to knock his helmet off his body and left a diagonal slash across the man’s face. They saw that the man had long blond hair and once he stood up and revealed his face, ice blue eyes. His canines were longer and sharper than any normal man’s and his tangle of blond hair was streaked with white.
“You’ve bested me, I am your servant,” said the knight. He kneeled before the three men.
Simon had not moved back to them instead kept looking at the ridge they had crossed. Just seconds ago it had been empty, now close to fifty riders in black and silver carrying a banner that flapped sharply in the wind stood on the ridge. Their leader was a man that had the same sandy blond hair that the knight had and wore twin golden bands on his head, like a crown. He led the charge and pointed up to the castle. He was riding his horse full force towards the black gates of the castle when he stood up on the horse’s back and flung himself towards the ancient stone walls of the fortress. Simon hefted his hammer and backed away from the edge of the landing.
Trevor, Nicholas and the knight turned and looked at Simon then went to the edge and saw the black riders nearing the castle. That was when their leader leapt up from the ramparts and in one smooth jump landed between Simon and his friends, the man’s cloak trailing behind him like bat wings. He looked at the knight and unsheathed his sword and slew him before anyone could react. Simon swung his hammer and missed, hitting only the stone floor. Trevor tried to swing his sword at the man but he easily dodged it and grabbed Trevor by the throat, flinging him over the edge of the landing. The sound of plate armour clinking on metal filled the square. The rest of the knights tore Trevor to pieces. Nicholas reloaded and fired the cannon at the man, hitting him in the bicep.
The man howled in pain as he grabbed his wounded arm. Thick black blood seeped down his arm slowly. It began to reverse itself and then stopped.
“My arm, what did you do to my arm,” said he man. He ducked a swing from Simon and kicked him towards Nicholas.
“Silver shot,” said Nicholas. He reloaded and was ready for the man again.
“What is he?” said Simon as he picked himself off the floor.
“A vampire lord, in fact I’m pretty sure he’s Julian of the Black Lake, the hero of the Dark Ages,” said Nicholas. He grabbed his knife, which was the length of a man’s forearm and switched the grip to his left hand.
“Julian of the Black Lake died five hundred years ago,” said Simon. “That man doesn’t look a day over thirty.”
“Amazing what the elixir of life can do isn’t it?” said Julian. He liked the blood from his arm and spat it out. “You’ve poisoned me.”
“Yes, that won’t ever heal Julian. It’s silver,” Nicholas said. He fired again and missed.
Julian moved faster than both men could think and had disarmed Nicholas of his cannon and shoved Simon down again. Simon was ready and kicked the vampire’s feet out from under him, his face landing on the broad side of Simon’s silver headed hammer. Julian’s face smoked, as his skin touched the side of the hammer, and skin began to peel away from it. He writhed in pain as he pulled his face away from the weapon. His right eye dangled out of its socket and his cheek’s skin flapped away from his face into his hair. Burnt flesh filled Simon and Nicholas’ nostrils.
Julian looked at the two men and roared. “You’ve fought well, but I will not kill you here this day, with no one to watch as I destroy two soldiers of Falkirk,” Julian said. He leapt off the landing and glided back down to his horse.
Julian roared once more and his black and silver clad warriors streamed out of the gates and back to their horses. In several minutes they had reached the ridge and stayed there, facing the castle.
Nicholas and Simon moved back down through the towers, walkways and arches back down to the square. The saw that Trevor had fallen through the tattered crimson tent’s roof and had been torn apart by Julian’s men. Trevor lay with his eyes looking up at the sky. The sun had finally broken through the clouds and was shining down on the castle. Trevor’s eyes moved and he looked at the two men that had been his friends once. Simon reached for the dragon’s tooth inside a pouch and slammed it into Trevor’s heart. The remains of Trevor liquefied and all that remained was a wet skeleton.
Nicholas vomited as he saw his friend liquefy to nothing and only bones remain. Simon reached down and grabbed Trevor’s skull. He handed it to Nicholas, who reached into Simon’s backpack and gathered a small black back with a white cord drawstring. He placed the skull inside and tied it to his belt.
“Now what? Trevor is gone, we’ve met Julian of the Black Lake, and we killed a dragon, but the artifact is not here,” Nicholas said. He fixed his eye patch again.
“We go home and tell Galen where this castle is and that we’ve found Julian of the Black Lake. That is all we are required to do Nicholas,” said Simon.
“And what about the skull?” said Nicholas, lightly touching the black velvet bag tied to his hip.
“We give Trevor a warriors funeral and place his head in the tomb of his forefathers,” Simon said. He began walking towards the ridge. He saw the black and silver banner stuck into the ground where Julian’s men had been.
“Should we take the standard with us?” “No, Galen needs to see it here at this place,” said Simon. “Come, let us get back home, other adventures still await us.”


Blogger KRUG said...


5:14 PM  

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