This is an ongoing tale, catch up on the previous installments here. ♦♦♦ A mass of writhing flesh and tentacles flung Orsog of Ha-Rend, wide-faring barbarian of the utter west, into a corner. The creature’s
This is an ongoing tale, catch up on the previous installments here.
A mass of writhing flesh and tentacles flung Orsog of Ha-Rend, wide-faring barbarian of the utter west, into a corner. The creature’s immense, slimy bulk shielded the black-hearted sorcerer, who stood over the captive daughter of Orsog’s friend with his sacrificial blade.
Orsog’s head throbbed, and his body ached from the impact against the hard stones of the tower wall. His sword was sheathed, but his numb brain could not tell his hand to retrieve it. Even his breath had fled his body.
It is the arrogance of the great empires to think that because a man comes from a small and distant land he is not learned. Nurtured in the jungles of Ha-Rend, Orsog had learned the ways and tongue of the Asentic Empire as well as many others. In the high mountains that are the gates to the eastern world, he learned the speech of creatures which are not men, and passing over the mountains, he learned San Dhi, spoken by all civilized nations to the east.
In all his learning, the barbarian had not neglected the speech of the black abysses. “Hashie Talo.”
The tangled mass halted, confused, over its prey. The small, two-legged creature had whispered something it recognized.
Orsog gathered breath. He spoke the same words again, and a shudder moved through the monster’s writhing form. Words of command, words ancient and horrid, spoken only by the foulest of men across nine thousand years, seized the thing by whatever might be called its soul, and the creature obeyed.
Orsog climbed to his feet as swiftly as he could, shaking with shock and pain. The monstrosity from beyond the seas of earth withdrew to cling to a nearby wall. He saw the sorcerer, knife poised, chanting over the girl. The sorcerer shambled forward, unhurried. The practitioner’s black arts could not be rushed. Orsog knew this litany well, and it was not yet half-spoken. The girl had time. Her captor’s red-orange eyes widened in fear.
Orsog lifted his spear and cast it.
The sorcerer stepped back, broke his chant, and shrieked an eldritch word. Blackness opened before the spear and swallowed it, before vanishing back out of existence.
“What have you done?” the half-mortal wailed. “What have you done, barbarian?”
Jars cracked, splintered, and crashed to the floor behind Orsog, punctuating the squelching strikes of a thousand greedy tentacles.
“I spoke in words the beast could understand, demon-caller,” Orsog said. “I am not fool enough to walk into a place like this armed only with my sword. I do not throw my life away in vain gestures.”
Smoke spread out behind Orsog as he walked forward and picked up the sleeping girl, cradling her gently in his arms. The sorcerer was backing toward the stairs, cutting off the exit.
“Do you hear them whisper? They are calling your name.”
A chorus of demonic voices rose from the smoke. It condensed, and all the former servants of the sorcerer, called up from nether hells and bound to his service, were free.
“They will kill you as well,” the sorcerer gasped. “You cannot do this!”
“Kill me?” Orsog laughed. “I set them free. Now stand aside.”
The ungainly creature tried to turn and run at the staircase, but his feet caught in his robes, and he fell next to the doorway. Orsog gave him a wide berth as he passed and descended the stairs. The sorcerer’s screams began before the barbarian and the girl he’d rescued had reached the bottom landing.
In the high mountains of Gobh Shan, which overlook the place the Empire of the East calls Wa Yun, the barbarian tribes of the Pale Foxes have a custom. When their heroes return from war, the whole clan ascends to the broad peak of Natama. There they serve the warriors a great feast and sing their praises.
Far above the world, Orsog sat in the victor’s chair and chewed on goat’s meat. His eyes were on the shining face of Hishine, doting on the daughter his guest had returned to him. When she rose to sing, the chieftain beamed with pride. And no wonder, for she sang with the voice of a mountain lark. The words were her own, and no poetry Orsog ever heard was finer.
“Hishine will let you marry her, if you wish,” one of the young men whispered in his ear. “She is willing.”
Orsog was surely enchanted by her voice, and enraptured by the poetry of her words, and ensnared by the fire in her hair and the gold in her eyes. He was glad to see the clan feasting and happy and full of joy. But from high Natama, Orsog looked out at the distant horizon. The winds also sang. They sang of places he had never seen, and of deeds yet to be done. They sang, and their song was sweeter.