This is an ongoing tale, catch up on the previous installments here. ♦♦♦ Orsog of Ha-Rend, outlander of the utter west, had wandered far to the utter east, only to find himself standing in a
This is an ongoing tale, catch up on the previous installments here.
Orsog of Ha-Rend, outlander of the utter west, had wandered far to the utter east, only to find himself standing in a sorcerer’s high tower chamber. That practitioner of foul, wicked arts had not yet seen Orsog. The outlander crouched, sinking back into the shadows, with a San spear clutched in his left hand and Asentic sword in his right.
The long-limbed creature crouched over a stone altar, head bowed above the unconscious body of Musane, the daughter of chief Hishine of the Pale Foxes. Beyond the altar, on the far wall, a series of shelves held wax-sealed jars. One had a lid in the shape of a bat’s face, which was closing as red mist dissipated around its rim.
“Ho Dhram,” came the sorcerer’s eerie voice, “I did not bid you return to your vessel.”
A croaking issued from the jar, echoing as if from a great depth.
“I was slain, Master. An outlander, disguised as your acolyte, drew a sword on me in the larder. He spilled my brains, and I remember no more.”
The long, spindly arms of the demon’s Master rose from the sleeping woman and spread outward with claw-like nails upraised. The man seemed to draw in breath.
“I can smell you, Child of the Hills.”
The sorcerer’s bulbous head snapped toward him and orange-rimmed eyes locked on his own.
Orsog tensed. “I can smell your stench as well, devil-caller. If you give me the girl willingly, I will make your death quick, and perhaps even your gods will have mercy.”
Pride and fury blazed in the unearthly eyes of the sorcerer. “Fool! You think to threaten me, you raw savage! I walked the earth before your so-called gods were ever worshipped and will walk it again when your people are forgotten. Even without this virgin’s blood, I am more powerful than any deity who would aid you.”
A claw of the sorcerer twitched, a lid sprang from a jar, and a stag-antlered lion with fish’s scales poured forth, growing in a moment to the size of a great buffalo. It landed at the altar’s head—and turned its open jaws to the sorcerer. A second twitch of the sorcerer’s finger, and the new monster’s mouth snapped shut, its head jerked back as if pulled by a chain.
“Kill the intruder,” the diabolist hissed.
The beast’s muzzle turned toward Orsog as its master drew a knife and bowl from his robes. The sorcerer turned to regard the unconscious girl.
An ordinary man might have frozen in fear, but Orsog grew up in the Rendic jungle, dodging wolf and panther, and stalking the mighty bear. He faced fear many times before, and always came away the victor. Though this beast was large and strange to his outlander’s eyes, it was merely another beast. He leaped, not toward it, but at an angle, putting the sorcerer between himself and the devil’s spawn. Instinctively, the master raised his hands as the beast charged, bowling into him. Blood spattered from the impact.
As Orsog reached the far wall, the fish-scaled creature turned about the altar and flew at him. The sorcerer staggered back to his feet, blood oozing from a gash where the beast’s antlers tore the flesh of his forearm. The rage in the demon-caller’s eyes turned to fear as his thrall sped toward Orsog, and to the wall of jars behind him.
This time the sorcerer crooked not a single finger but jerked back his entire blood-drenched forearm. The chimeric monstrosity slammed to the floor, loudly cracking the stone. Seeing his opening, Orsog surged forward, lunging with his spear, and he slew the demon.
“You will pay dearly for your insolence, when I have trapped your soul in one of my jars,” the demoniac sorcerer panted.
“Keep trying, old man. My soul is hard to catch.”
The sorcerer snarled, spitting out words in an ancient tongue, and a large, jade-green jar flew across the room and shattered on the floor.
Smoke billowed out into a vast, murky cloud that filled one side of the chamber. Tendrils, snaking out, condensed. A foul, squelching, tentacular mass, called up from cold, hellish abysses of long-forgotten oceans, slithered from the murk. There was no face, nothing that could be called a head among the bubbles, pustules, and fleshy knobs. Yet its movement suggested focus, but it was not directed at Orsog.
A long, wet appendage flashed toward the bloody arm of the sorcerer, ensnaring him. Ashy blackness mingled with blood.
In that moment, triumph rose in Orsog’s breast. But with horror he realized how close the sorcerer was to Musane.
As the monster started to kill that unholy necromancer, Orsog charged the altar where they battled. Sharp words rang out from the sorcerer, syllables in a devil’s tongue. Orsog sheathed his sword and reached for the unconscious girl on the alter. The writhing abomination surged toward the three of them. Just as the outlander’s hand reached Musane, a thick tentacle hurled Orsog back into the wall.
The sorcerer’s incantation had worked. The sea-demon’s attention was now on Orsog. Black tendrils encircled him as the cackling butcher bent down to retrieve his knife.
The tide had turned again.
To Be Continued…