May 3, 2006 at 5:09 pm #30662
A mixed group of people sit around a long table situated in a knoll in Verden Park. They talk quietly among themselves awaiting the arrival of Lord Allox Mark. Criers had proclaimed that the Lord of Markshire himself would tell this week’s tale in the Park.
He arrives relatively unnoticed and stands on the knoll above the height of the table. He listens a moment before interjecting a simple word into the pause that always occurs. “Good,” he says, “Excellent.” He scans the assembled a moment and holds out his arms, “Welcome, one and all!”
“I am Lord Allox Mark and it is my pleasure to regale you with the story of the bastion city, Gastlinyk Gate.” He sketches a quick bow and steps a bit back from the edge of the hill.
“But I must warn you that I am only fair at telling tales, but I have wizards hiding in the park to help me. So if anything it will be entertaining as they scare me to death.”
Taking a deep breath and settling his features into a neutral mask, Lord Mark begins, “Many years ago, my father, Lord Hanse Mark, had just attained the Lordship of Markshire. Unlike today, he ruled Markshire from Arik.”
Gesturing grandly, Lord Mark indicates the air above him with a sweeping gesture. “A city of wonder I am told. High towers and large temples cast shadows across the large city. All of the gods were represented but then as is now, Odin’s Temple watched over all. Set on the peak of a hill that formed the center of their city.” Above him shadowy shapes appeared showing the vague outlines of a city. Lights from the stars above seemed to light most homes.
“The times were tough one year. The Giants from the north had free access to the outskirts of the city if they wished it. Arik was in the middle of a huge plain. Thrym would send his minions from the north. Arik would defend itself and the cycle would renew.” Giant silhouettes loomed over the rooftops of the phantom city above him.
It was then that the shadowy city grew more solid and the park around them began to fade. The scene slowly grew as if the buildings were getting larger then was lost in the shadows of the buildings. A deeper darkness settled in and a whooshing noise drowned out the park’s night birds. A deep reddish glow erupted from the ground and a bubble of rock formed over the table. The glow of lava reflected off the ceiling and a throne of flowing magma held a monstrous figure.
Lord Mark’s voice drifted from the shadows, “But below us, deep within the earth, sat Surtur, Lord of the Fire Giants. He sat and watched, as his brother, Thrym repeatedly failed against the might of Arik and Markshire.
“Surtur, unlike Thrym, had little to spare in his giants. So he bided. It was during the latest attack by his brother that Surtur had a visitor.”
A dark cloaked figure approaches the monstrous king of fire. “A stranger came to a place where no one but giants had been for centuries. This stranger brought Surtur a book.” The figure standing at the end of the table in front of Vruruk Krain handed over a tome to the giant who sat at the end of the table opposite Graulm.
The lord of fire opened the tome as the stranger retreats into darkness and his eyes glowed even brighter at what he read. “No one knows what the stranger got or why he came. But from the book, Surtur learned a secret.”
The scene shifts and Surtur is standing on a precipice overlooking his measly host. “Surtur called his giants together.” Lord Mark’s voice picks up a resonant echo from the illusory cavern, “‘FIVE SHALL BECOME ONE!’ Surtur thundered through his hall.”
Red light flares up to reflect brightly from the cavern ceiling. “FROM THE HOST SHALL SPRING A TITAN!” This last word echoes uncomfortably across the park.
“Then Surtur flings out his hand and beams struck five of his warriors.” The illusory Surtur matches suit.
“BEHOLD!” cries Surtur. “GASTLINYK, THE TITAN!”
The central point that used to hold the biggest of Surtur’s giants clears of smoke and a massive bright red skinned giant of giants stands from his kneeling position on the floor of the cavern. “Standing amidst the host was a giant of giants. Gastlinyk stood three times the size of any standing around him. His head was a mesh of faces from the warrior giants melded into him. He roared a triumphant call.”
The illusory Gastlinyk threw back his head and a tremendous roar, “AAROOOAAAARRRRRR!” echoed not only through the park but out into the city beyond.
“The giant shouted, ‘GASTLINYK IS FREE! LET THE WORLD TREMBLE!
“Surtur, obviously pleased at what he had wrought bade the giant, ‘Go forth,’ but the Red Titan paused.
“Looking back at his ‘creator’ he laughed, a horrible, horrible laugh that erupted from his many mouths.” The illusionary Gastlinyk opened the twisted maws of his faces and laughed, at first in unison and then in a cacophony. “Aaaah-hehehe-hahah-heh-heh-heh-hehehehe!”
“Looking Surtur straight in the eyes and said, ‘MY WILL DONE!’ With that the Titan slew a handful of the host as he turned a mighty blade appeared in his hand. The Titan’s eyes gleamed and within a wink of one he was gone.
“Surtur was enraged! The stranger’s book had been a trick to get Surtur to infuse some of his own power as well as sacrifice many of his host, all for naught.” The illusory Surtur rages toward the heavens and the golden-red cavern recedes into the ground.
“The scene shifts,” says Lord Mark’s disembodied voice as Arik comes once again into view. Beyond the city is grass as far as the eye can see though most of it is trod into a lifeless brown by the many feet of giants.
“Frost Giants besieged the city while the forces of Markshire held the walls, but Thrym was sending his will through the clouds. An ever deepening chill fell over Arik.
“Standing upon a tower balcony, Lord Hanse Mark turns to his trusted advisor and marshal, Luke Thymes and asks, ‘What is your father up to?’
“Thymes could only shrug and look down at his friend and lord, ‘I’m just a soldier. The Lord of Winter is cunning and has many tricks yet.’
“Unaffected by his friend’s ambiguous remark, Hanse turns back to the scene before him. As the two continue to look out upon the mass of Frost Giants, both are startled when the center of the Frost Giant horde erupts into flames.
The scene before the assembled listeners erupts as well to match Allox’s words. A red nightmare stands amid the blue-skinned giants and begins to cut swathes among the assembled combatants. Irregardless of side the Titan’s sword claims many lives. The mad titan’s appetite for their destruction of all assembled seems to be insatiable.
The carnage is displayed in detail; the controlling wizards maintaining an image of quality for their lord.
“Thymes points across the fray, where a knight appears on horseback, ‘My son approaches.’
to be continued …May 8, 2006 at 4:56 pm #40449
Lord Mark continues, “The marshal’s son charges the Titan from behind, little realizing that the misshapen Titan’s head possessed eyes there. A simple cut of his blade unhorses the young man. The poor beast scattered to the wind.
“But Luke Thymes, II jumps clear of the massive charger. Like his 11-foot-tall father, he too possessed the blood of the giants. Despite his jump his massive frame is lifted clear of the horse and sent floundering nearly 100 yards. The Titan’s roars of laughter echoed across the city and countryside.
The illusory titan erupts into the insane laughter of five mouths, “Aaaah-hehehe-hahah-heh-heh-heh-hehehehe!”
“The giant stops a moment and holds his massive blade in his fist with the point buried in the ground at his feet.” The illusion follows Lord Mark’s description and then says, “HA HA-HA, HA-HA. What little man is this? Who DARES to challenge Gastlinyk!”
Lord Mark jumps a bit as the titan speaks and then resumes the tale, “Luke stood up slowly. Pulling his blade from the saddle near him he stepped forward defiantly.”
The miniature version of Luke steps to stand directly in the Titan’s path and shouts up to the Red Giant, “The Paladin, known as Luke Thymes II, stands before you monster. Blessed of Tyr. Grandson of Thrym himself.”
Allox turns from watching the miniatures and says, “Poor Luke only came to the monster’s shin and the giant laughed at him.”
Undaunted the miniature Luke stares into the many eyes of the illusory Titan then says, “I challenge you, but you will not give fair combat. I have seen your ways.”
Once again Lord Mark takes back the narrative from the illusion, “The titan only chuckled at him from his many throats. As the bits of out-of-sync laughter fade away the giant raises his free hand and points at the little man before him.”
The giant matches Lord Mark’s words with actions and a beam of light erupts from him and sends Luke flying. The giant’s front mouth agrees with him, “Too true blessed of Tyr.”
The miniature grandson of Thrym lay there a moment and then stood once more. Doubt crossed the face in the illusion.
“TITAN!” the illusion shouted across the distance at the giant, “I WILL CHALLENGE YOU! BUT YOU MUST ALLOW ME TO PREPARE. I WILL STAND VIGIL IN THIS SPOT THE NIGHT THROUGH. TOMORROW WE WILL DO BATTLE.”
Lord Mark continues, “The Titan’s expression was guarded but all could hear his reply, ‘As you wish little man.’ The night came and went, the titan did not move and neither did the paladin. The sun rose and the first light fell upon Luke and blinded the Titan.
“Luke’s back was to the rising sun and it blinded the Titan a moment and the monster lost track of him.”
From within the glare swept field in the illusion came Luke’s voice, “FOLLOW ME MAD TITAN OUR VENUE IS FAR FROM HERE!” and as the light subsided Luke could be seen standing in the stirrups of a huge charger. “COME!” he shouted and off he rode.
The tiny charger and Luke in the illusion galloped down the middle of the table as the titan gave chase.
Lord Mark watched the two rush across the table top, “Untiring the charger rode on. The titan, too, felt no fatigue.”
The illusion draws back from the two in their travels and zooms across fields to the city again. The tiny form of Lord Hanse Mark could be seen running from his tower and into the great hall of the castle.
Allox watches his father in the illusion as he speaks, “Lord Mark rushed from his tower and called forth the High Council of Mages.
The tiny Lord Mark called to the assembled mages, “Luke’s son has bought us time. Tyr and Odin guide him now. For I doubt anyone saw the steed for what it was. Odin’s very own … proud Sleipnir! They will run until we are ready.”
The current Lord Mark steps through the illusion dispersing it, “It was then that the High Priest of Tyr burst into the council chambers.”
A new illusion forms at real size at the foot of the long table. The image of the High Priest strides with haste to the other end of the table and turns to the current Lord Mark as if he is Hanse Mark, “My Lord!” Wheezing the priest recounts his startling dream, “A door. No a gate. Nearly 100 feet high. Dwarves clamored over it. Priests chanted around it. A plan.”
Lord Mark turns from the illusory priest as if he were truly his father and address the table as if they are his councilors, “A seal. But where to trap him?”
The chairs are now populated twice over, an illusionary councilor and the listeners to the story. Maps are laid on the table. Scholars are called for and consulted.
“The wizards drew together and summoned supplies,” continued Lord Mark as the illusions matched his words. “The courtyard was filled with robes of scintillating colors. Every order had come forth. The job seemed immense. That very night the teleportations began.”
The wizards in the courtyard of the illusion began to wink out with the gear nearest them only to return moments later alone.
“The wizards took shifts. In the morning the courtyard was clear.”
“Meanwhile,” Lord Mark turned around to face the other end of the knoll, “Poor Luke rode. Followed unerringly by a juggernaut. Day turned to night. Night turned to day. And so on.
The magical charger sailed on. The Titan following near mindless. Swinging his mighty sword again and again.”
Several times the Giant chases the galloping pair around the knoll in Verdan Park and the table of listeners watch him circle.
Lord Mark also turns to follow the antics of the illusion, “It was on the fourth such day that he passed a farm. Standing on the roof of thatch was a small child. The child was just standing there.”
Many heads at the table look up in surprise at the mention of a child.
Lord Mark continues on, “Luke leapt from Sleipnir’s back and rolled toward the farmhouse and the giant roared in triumph. His swing misses the running paladin but cleaves through the side of the farmhouse.”
A farmhouse had appeared as he spoke and disappeared in an explosion of debris as the massive sword sweeps through it.
Watching the illusion Allox continues, “Luke undaunted … leapt toward the child crashing through the falling thatch. The titan’s blade caused the house to flare up and fire erupted all around him.”
The knoll explodes into flames everywhere and it becomes hard to see the figure of the paladin.
Allox shields his face from the flash of the flames and pronounced, “Luke could not see the Titan but he did chance upon the child. The small boy was crushed upon the oven under a beam.”
Sar Khan jumps up from his chair and hollers, “WHAT!!”
to be continued …June 15, 2006 at 4:21 pm #40450
Sar Khan realizes his outburst and settles back down sheepishly.
Lord Mark continues as if expecting the outburst, “A swelling rage engulfed Luke. For in fact he did seem to swell. In moments he was the size of his father and then twice his father’s height. Still smaller then the Titan he roared up out of the fallen home.”
The flames burst outward around the group as the illusion of Luke grew and the paladin’s greatsword cut in a blinding arch. The sword ripped into the Titan’s arm and came away. The tipped of it smoldered and molten metal ran from it. The sword was ruined but the giant bled.
“Recalling his mission the youth reigned in his temper. Quickly while the Titan was distracted by this development Luke lumbered off and within moments he was his normal size again. Looking about quickly he spied the barn,” Lord Mark’s voice was filled with excitement.
“He grabbed the only horse in it and thundered off on it bareback,” Lord Mark pauses for a moment, “Meanwhile. A host of wizards and men descended on a small fort in the mountains to the west.”
The illusory burning house and the barn faded away and were replaced by a tiny fort upon the center of the long table.
Allox reaches to the table and takes a sip from a glass of wine that appears there as he reaches for it. Once the cup is returned to the table it fades from vision again. He continues, “Nestled in the crook of a pass, the fort had few inhabitants. Suddenly it was full to bursting. The wizards were not still. A clearing was cleaned of debris. The local priests were sent for. The ground was sanctified and as the wizards started a chant, a drone took up the beat. Slowly it built in power. It went from drone to thuds. Steadfastly beating it built and echoed through the mountains and pass.”
The illusory fort was a buzz of activity. Men ran about wildly looking for the sound.
Lord Mark cocks his hand near his ear listening to the drone coming from the top of the knoll, “Suddenly it became clear. Boots. Many boots. A host was marching from the pass toward the tiny fort.”
A shout from the hill could be heard, “Dwarves. Hundreds”
Lord Mark smiled and said, “Yes, a host of dwarves from the city deep beneath the earth to the south had arrived and centered amongst them was the door of the priest’s vision.”
The dwarves crested the hill of the knoll and were seen to be surrounding a massive door. Of course, they were in miniature.
“A gate nearly 100 feet tall rolled forward. It rode on treads pulled by dwarf and mule. The host came to rest at the bottom of the hill near the base of the pass.”
The host was swarmed by the robed figures of the wizards as if they had been expecting an army of dwarves to appear. In the midst of this chaos the illusory mithral Gate began to glow and it slowly rose.
It slowly drifted up over the fort. Men ducked as it passed overhead. Their horses shied and whinnied in fear of it. The massive piece of metal drew to the ground in the center of the sanctified clearing.
Lord Mark whirled and pointed as one of the illusory guards shouted and pointed across the plains, “LOOK!”
And there across the plains could be seen the massive red figure. The Titan had arrived.
And out before the red giant a pair, horse and man, drove on. Luke thundered across the plain with the Titan close to his heels. The illusion zoomed in and panned left to view the two in profile. The horse was dying beneath the large man but still it pounded onward.
Luke reached out and patted its neck, “Nearly there.” Luke was tired as well. The Titan had come too close, too many times but the mountains were in sight. Their goal was near.
The tired paladin spurred the beast to put some more distance between the giant and himself and then pulled up and wheeled the mount to face the Titan. The sky above the table of listeners filled with the insane mask of the giant’s face and shoulders as it loomed over the knight. The illusion of Luke taunted the Titan, “FOUL BEAST! CAN YOU NOT KILL ONE LITTLE MAN?!!!”
The Titan spurred to new heights of anger threw his sword at the winded paladin. It dug a trench in the earth near the beleaguered horse, throwing Luke from the animal. Winded the grandson of Thrym managed his feet as the Titan recovered himself and his blade. Luke could see the clerics and mages on the field before the fort.
Within a step the Titan was on him. Luke was pressed to avoid the blade of the titan. But ever mindful of his goal he retreated. Not once did he miss a step or fail to turn the huge blade. Slowly he crossed the last few hundred yards.
Lord Mark took up the narrative once again, “Now everyone at the keep could see the young paladin battling for his life. As he crossed the last few hundred yards a a mighty thunderclap rolled across the plain. The ground quivered and bucked with its passing. All were sent flying to knee and ass, even the titan himself.
As he said this the ground did buck and shake and Lord Mark was thrown to his knees. Many at the table were turned out of their chairs as well.
Standing, Lord Mark resumed his story, “Seeing his chance to cross the last 100 yards Luke launched himself back to his feet. He dashed toward his goal.”
“The monster, enraged beyond thinking scrambled on hand and knee to try to squash his miniscule opponent.” The illusion of the titan matched actions to Lord Mark’s words and the Titan was almost comical in his efforts to tag the tiny knight.
A chant came from all around the knoll that nestled the table. Real mages and clerics walked to the edges of the hillock and stood over the group.
“The mages and clerics began to chant together. The powers that be leapt to their collective feet across the heavens and rained power down upon their chosen!” cried Lord Mark over the chanting. The mages and clerics began to glow. Above the clearing where fireworks frequently hung in the hair a new decoration could be seen. The cliff wall of Thrym Pass shown upon the air and a brilliant white light grew from a point on the massive rock wall and blotted out everything, including the sun.
From the light came Lord Mark’s voice, “The light built to a point and then streaked toward Gastlinyk. Realizing too late that he had been tricked, Gastlinyk managed his feet as the beam of power struck him full in the chest. The massive sword he wielded in two-hands sailed into the sky.”
The illusion of the Titan glowed brightly over the park in Stonemark. Lord Mark continued, “The titan glowed for a moment as the light bathed him. Then all at once the light retreated.” The brilliance receded as he said this, “As it left, so too did bits of Gastlinyk. Slowly it dwindled. Few even now could see what transpired. The light faded and so did the Titan.”
The illusion of the giant dwindled away to nothing. Lord Mark could be seen plainly again as he was speaking, “A resounding boom dropped across the plains a second time.” The park once again resounded with a massive chest-pounding BOOM!
Unaffected this time Lord Mark went on, “When everyone could clearly see again it was noted that the gate was raised and sealed over the portal in the cliff. Many of the mages and clerics died from the power they channeled. Many more were permanently blinded.”
The scenes around the table in the park abruptly disappeared except for a lone figure stumbling toward the foot of the table. Mournfully Lord Mark started, “As the dust settled…”
Sar Khan shot to his feet and asked, “Is he okay?” as Lord Mark continues, “Luke Thymes, II staggered into the encampment. Most thought him unscathed.”
Sar Khan’s face clears of anxiety as he says, “Guess so.”
The staggering figure falls to the ground just before the table. Lord Mark walks over to the body and bends over it, “Until he fell on his face. His back was burned black. He died then.”
Lord Mark looks up at the gathered listeners then, “No one moved as he released his last breath.”
The muted whispers of the gathered clerics and mages stopped and silence reigned for several moments. The men and women standing atop the knoll all feigned shock and awe at the death of their champion. The silence lengthened.
Lord Mark’s voice startled everyone, “Then a deep shuddering breath wracked his body. And then another. By the third the priests were upon him.” Elderly clerics ran down the knoll in awkward gaits including Bishop Kolton and gathered about the illusion of Luke Thymes.
Lord Mark continues as he walked out of the knot of men, “Until very recently, this extraordinary man lived in Gastlinyk Gate. The city itself had built up from the fort and encampment within months instead of years. A fortress was built below the Gate, bigger and stronger then the original. Knights were sworn to guard the Gate against all threats.”
A lone figure appeared among the gathered mages still on the knoll above the listeners. A true Knight of the Gate stepped forward and nodded to Lord Mark.
Lord Mark concludes, “And there ends our story. I thank you all for coming.”
The assembled listeners sat in silence a moment as the varying dignitaries slowly backed into the gathered fog until Lord Mark was alone at the foot of the table. Then the fog enveloped him as well.
Reinhart the Red began clapping just as Lord Mark vanished into the gloom. Sar Khan comments, “Good story Lord Mark.” Lady Tyian, winner of the Great Penguin Caper, chimed in as she applauded, “That was wonderful, Lord Mark.”
Stepping from behind her chair as if by magic, Lord Mark says, “Indeed it is an amazing story. I recall my father telling it to me on his last night before joining Odin in Valhalla.” A grim sadness is plain in his last comment but he continues none the less, “I apologize. I must retire. This story is truly exhausting. I bid you all farewell. Perhaps I can find time to do this again.”
The End.June 20, 2006 at 3:47 pm #40451
All three pieces of this story are posted to the Neverwinter Vault:
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