The Bloodaxe Saga, Book 2: Of Dreams and Fate Ch. 25,26,27

Chapter Twenty Five
(Canned Pees)

“Fill the jars with poop and pee?” Shkowtz was the only one of the group that seemed able to find his voice.
Skruff nodded. “And anything stinky or yucky. Dead animals, skunk weed, poison berries and toadstools, rotten eggs. You know…yucky stuff.”
“Eew,yuk! I’m going home”, said Bizzard and rose to leave.
“Sit”, said Skruff, pointing at the log and Bizzard plopped back down with an audible thud.
“Nobody’s goin’ home”, said Skruff. “You’ll miss all the fun”.
“How is poop and pee and stinky stuff gonna be fun?’ asked Bob.
Skruff sat and poked the fire with a stick. “We’re gonna use it to annoy the trulls. Put it in their food and drink. It’ll make ‘em really sick. Maybe even kill ‘em.”
Skruff noticed the doubtfull looks that passed between his companions and realized they were having trouble with the concept of killing. Nissas were notorious mischief-makers but killing went against their nature. “I know, I know”, said Skruff. “Look, trulls are monsters. They would eat you up as soon as look at you, but first they’d hurt you real bad ‘til you screamed and cried, ‘cause that’s how they have fun. They killed Garr’s whole tribe, and just look at what they did to those poor farmers. Sorry boys; this is war.” The captains all mumbled and nodded agreement.
“Trulls are mean”, Said Chuck, nodding.
“Yeah, they’re boogers”, said Shkowtz.
“Poop-heads”, said Bobo.
“Ugly Poop-heads”, Bob added.
“Stinkers”, said Sneaff, grinning proudly.
“How would you know?” asked Bebo. “You can’t smell.”
Everyone went silent and sat blinking for a moment. Suddenly they all burst into laughter and thought that was the funniest thing they’d ever heard.
Skruff waited for the laughter to subside and said, “Laughing is good. In the days ahead we might be sad or angry sometimes, but there’s some mighty serious business to do. I picked you guys because I like you a whole lot, but more because I trust you and you’re really smart fellas. When we get done here, I want you all to go and tell the others what I told you. Is that clear?” Everyone nodded.
Skruff opened a jar of peaches to celebrate the promotion of his confederates and passed it to his left. Shkowtz took a slice and passed it to Chuck who did the same and passed it to Bebo, who passed it to Bobo, who passed it to Bob, who passed it to Sneaff, who passed it to Bizzard who peed in it and passed it back to Skruff, who resealed it and said, “Next time wait ‘til it’s empty.”

Chapter Twenty Six
(Where There’s Smoke…)

Deep within the Voldsom Mountains and even deeper in the bowels of the caves therein, eight lidless obsidian eyes were awakened and scanned through the impenetrable darkness in annoyance. Verminard was truly a monster out of man’s most primordial fears. A cursed and distorted soul with a physicality to match, Verminard had slept for years uncounted in the hope that death would visit his repose and end his tortured existence. He’d once been human. In that incarnation he had sought to be the most powerful necromancer in the Earthlands. He’d aspired to a position too high, for there was another warlock with similar designs of his own and this one would spell Verminard’s doom and seal his fate. Doden was that warlock. The two had once been brethren, members of the same order, the Nibelunga. Both had achieved power beyond the normal limits of their humanity but being weak of soul, both had fallen prey to the lure of the Morkstemme, the dark side of magic that waited like a snake to strike at the soul of all who were impure and corrupt in their nature. Among such, there could only be one master and all else would serve that one.
Verminard and Doden worked to the same ends for some years. Together they raised the Draugar from their graves and ensnared the trull race to their designs, all the while the dark miasma of magic’s negative energy pulled them down and subsequently, at odds. Each saw himself as the one destined to rule and there came a day when only one would prevail. Doden knew that killing Verminard was beyond his ability and the endeavor would likely spell his own demise as well, so he formulated a plan to remove Verminard from the picture as best he could. In the dead of night while Veminard slept, Doden crept into his quarters with a snuff-box containing a large spider he’d captured days before. Now, in the deathly still of the early morning hours he released his pet into Verminards bed and began the chant that would merge spider and man as one. At the end of the arcane incantation Doden raised his staff with both hands and a blinding light filled the chamber.
When the light faded and the smoke cleared, there on the pallet stood an abomination of impossible magnitude; an enormous, monstrous amalgam of man and spider shrieking in horrific agony and clutching helplessly at the air. Doden was shocked at the horror of the tableau and reeled back until the wall stopped him. He was in awe of the macabre apparition that faced him, but knew he must regain his composure or he would never regain control of his intentions.
“Hold Verminard. You are mine to command.” Verminard scuttled forward and froze in the energy emanating from Doden’s outstretched hands. Before him hung a huge gilded wall mirror. What stared back at him, he knew to be his own reflection and he shrieked again. The image was that of a huge spider with a man’s torso protruding from the thorax. The head was large, hairless and crowned with eight fixed coal-black eyes with obscenely huge fangs that dripped venom growing from the upper jaw. The spider’s body only had six legs instead of the usual eight but the human torso retained two perfectly functional arms and at its waist where the torso joined the thorax where two more that where some horrid hybrid between man and spider.
Verminard was unable to summon any magic in his defense and any effort to get to Doden and do him physical harm was futile. He struggled and frothed at the mouth. He strained to pushed through the power holding him, but to no avail. Finally, exhausted, he collapsed to the floor of the chamber sweating and panting.
Doden came forward a pace and said, “Verminard, you are mine. You will live henceforth at my beck and my call for as long as I permit you life. You will hie from here and get you to the deep and dark places of the mountains until I have need of you. These things you will do without question as I am your master evermore, Verminard.” By using Verminard’s name first and last in this tirade, he trapped the hapless creature within his influence. His fate was sealed.
“Go”, said Doden, pointing to the door.
Verminard picked himself off the floor with his six spindly spider legs and clicked and clacked out of the room and through the throne room into the armory where he grabbed a lethal sickle sword and spear from the wall rack. He made his way out into the courtyard and when he reached the wall he scaled it as effortlessly as any spider would. At the catwalk he met a trull guard, who froze in terror. Verminard grabbed him and sunk his fangs deep into the chest injecting venom paralyzing him immediately and liquefying his innards. Within moments Verminard drained every drop of fluid from the trull’s body and threw the shriveled husk over the wall. Verminard scuttled over and down the wall, effortlessly jumped the chasm and skulked off into the desolate Voldsom Mountains. He was now truly a monster and would nevermore experience human emotions.

  • * * * * * * *

Now many, many years later, after a long and lethargic hibernation, Verminard heard the astral summons of his erstwhile master and spat venom. He bristled at the thought of returning to Fryktholde to the machinations and will of his enemy, but he had no choice. He must make the long and arduous journey through the mountains to Doden in Fryktholde.
Now that he was awake, however, he must feed. He gathered his sword and spear from their places in the dark recesses of the cave and made the trek to the mouth and daylight beyond. Daylight that he had not seen in an age, burned in his brain until he adapted to it. Fortunately it was dusk and he would have the night to travel and hunt.
There was the hint of smoke on the air. He knew it was many miles off but the direction from which it came was unmistakable, southeast. Where there was smoke, there was fire and where there was fire, there was life…but not for long.

Chapter Twenty Seven
(Volcanoes and Wyverns)

Garr’s head was swimming. Things were moving so fast he scarcely had time to think before he was involved in another conference or council meeting. There was information pouring in from avenues unseen as well as expected. The keep was a hurricane of people coming and going. Algar had conscripted a contingent of scribes just to keep a record of all that was happening and the library grew daily with a blossoming history of events. Today was no different
The council had been briefed on the news of the Torque and knew that an expedition would be in the planning. The meeting to plan that expedition was now in session in the library, away from the general population of the council proper. Garr sat patiently at the table awaiting whatever revelations would be forthcoming. Loki, Briar’s huge Mastiff, was presently drooling on Garr’s lap while enjoying an absent-minded head-scratching.
“I’ve invited you all here to ensure that we have privacy”, said Arnaald, standing at the head of the long library table. “It’s not that I wish to keep information from the rest of the council, but so as not to have to deal with time consuming bickering and debate. Time and efficiency of its use are of the essence. The council will be apprised of what is decided here today, be assured. I’ve taken the liberty to decide on my own who will be included in the trip to Gunderbad. My decisions are in no way etched in stone and are open to debate by any of you here. Let us begin.” With a sharp thump of the butt of his staff on the flagstones he signaled the meeting’s commencement. He leaned his staff against his chair, walked to the window and drew the drapes flooding the chamber with warm early Spring sunlight.
“Well, that’s better. I’d say it’s safe to say we’ve seen the last of the snow for the season so fortunately that won’t be a factor in the upcoming hike.”
Around the table were Huldred, Garr, Briar, Tykk, Helmut, Brommar, Dolf, Smuntley and Juliex of Drakedahl, whose ancestors were renowned to have ridden dragons and of course, Arnaald himself. Algar and two of his scribes had set up a smaller table from which to record the proceedings.
“Juliex”, said Arnaald. “You may be wondering why I’ve asked you to attend.”
“Not at all”, Juliex replied. “When you mentioned last night that Faracayne was unable to attend, a fact I already knew, I expected as much. The fact is, had I not been asked, I’d have requested to be included. At the risk of seeming immodest, I am a capable shaman and an authority on dragons and wyverns. I daresay my knowledge will be a boon in days to come.”
The wizard seated himself, stroked his beard and smiled. “No argument there, my friend. So,” here he patted the back of Huldred’s hand, “Huldred is here for her wisdom and because she has earned the right. She will stay here to hold down the fort.” He winked at her and continued, “Is there anyone who objects to attending Garr on this journey? Be advised; I can assure all of you, it will be fraught with danger. The very ground we will encounter on the slopes of Mount Gunderbad is said to steam and belch flame. It also may move and shift beneath our very feet. If what I’ve heard is true the air is infused with noxious fumes of sulfur and acidic pools and tarns dot the landscape. Needless to say, it is no idyllic garden spot and peril will abound.” At this he went silent and looked deeply into the eyes of each of the gathered group. None opted out. He smiled and said, “I knew, but I had to ask.”
“Oh”, said Smuntley, in a flash of realization. “It’s a volcano.” When no one responded he glanced from one blinking vacuous face to the next and realized an explanation was in order. “That’s what we call them where I come from. This mountain. A volcano is a vent in the earth’s crust where magma vents forth.” Still no nearer to enlightenment, Smuntley decided to try layman’s terms. “See, deep within the earth the core is molten hot. So hot, in fact, that it super-heats rock to the point where it liquefies and issues forth in the form of magma or, if you prefer, lava. Anyway, depending upon the configuration of the geology in any given area the manner in which the lava seeks egress could be a gentle flow that continues until the magma pocket is exhausted. Or it could result in a cataclysmic and devastating eruption.”
More vacuous looks and slack jaws.
“Oh, for the love of…It pops like a huge pimple.”
At this everyone at the table spoke at once, each giving their own take on the news. Finally Tykk bellowed, “Well, why didn’t ya just say so? That ain’t so bad.”
“If the scenario we encounter is the latter, trust me, my friend, it could be very bad indeed. Fortunately the odds of our being present for such an event are remote. If we encounter the first type, it will simply be a matter of picking our route cautiously. Geology was my minor at university so I happen to have some experience in the field.”
“Well”, chortled Arnaald. “I’d say the Norns are smiling on our venture already. An expert in the field of…what did you call…oh, yes…volcanoes.” Everyone applauded Smuntley and Dolf and Halff both clapped him on the back. Smuntley truly felt like one of the inner circle already.
“So, Juliex”, said Arnaald taking his seat. “What can you tell us of wyverns?”
“I’m sorry to say my information is not so rosy”.

  • * * * * * * *

Juliex stood and walked to a sideboard laden with goblets and pitchers filled with mead and wine. He poured himself a goblet of mead and to everyone’s surprise, downed it without a pause. He poured another, turned and leaned against the sideboard staring into his cup.
“Wyverns are an off-shoot of the dragon species, no question. No front legs. They use their wings as arms when on the ground. They look like dragons, wings, long neck, scales…all that. That’s where the similarity ends. They are not quite so discerning as dragons. None would ever see a wyvern associating with men…or any other species for that matter. They’re lazy, hateful and opportunistic. They often kill and devour even their own kind. Cannibals. Juliex took a sip and shuddered. There are those that say that wyverns are the wellspring from which all evil springs.”
The shaman walked back to the table and sat down. “As to their physical being, as I’ve said, they do resemble dragons. Their scales are almost impenetrable. Hard as boiled leather, they are. A practiced archer would stand a chance at a killing shot if he were able to pierce the eye straight through to the brain but short of that I hold out little hope. They spit acid as well as flame and have a venomous barbed tail with its own eye, which they use to expert advantage, so it’s difficult in the extreme to mount a successful frontal and rearward attack. Mark me, gentleman…and lady”, here he rose his goblet to Huldred, who nodded in return. “These beings are designed to kill. I can’t think what else they’re good for. If we have to go up against one…or more, we had better have some damned strong medicine.” He nodded and knocked back the second goblet.

The Bloodaxe Saga, Book 2: Of Dreams and Fate Ch. 25,26,27

George Yesthal

Brodheadsville, United States

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