Nem tudom, hogy valóban lesz-e ebből "rovat" a blogon, de történt a minap, hogy nagyon kedves de jópár éve idegenbe szakadt kebelbarátom - a könyvkritikákat még mindig várom ám! - (egyenlőre maradjon névtelen) szólt, hogy ugyan még semmit nem írt nekem a megígértekből, de helyette írt egy kalandjátékmodult a Pathfinder szerepjáték-rendszerhez (én nem ismerem, de jól néz ki) egy amerikai játékfejlesztő cég felkérésére és CSAK ÚGY hozzá egy novellát.
A modult elfogadták tőle, de a novellával jelenleg nem igazán tudtak mit kezdeni, ezért elküldte nekem, hogy rakjam ki a blogra. Véleményezésre, meg csak úgy, miért ne? (Büszke vagyok Rád!)
Következzék tehát az Intro című fantasy novella (ne lepődjön meg senki, hogy az írás ANGOLUL VAN, hiszen külföldi "piacra" íródott - a fordítás készül). Jöhetnek a kommentek nyugodtan, senki nem fog megsértődni. Valamint, bár ez eddig bennem fel sem merült, de jöhetnek novellák és egyéb írások is, rajtam nem múlik, én kirakom őket - a blog stílusába valamennyire belevágóak legyenek, (romantikust ne is küldjetek)! Ha elég összegyűlik, akár még valami versenyt is kiírok közöttük. :D
Sun. Heat. Sand. Drops of sweat rolling down his uncovered chest but he can’t be bothered to wipe them down anymore.
Baltasaar, after a few minutes of hesitation, has decided to have another helping of lemonade. That would have been his fourth that morning. It was lukewarm and looked like piss (he would have noted it tasted like that too) but it was still better that the stagnant warm water it was made from.
He sat back in his chair in the scorching desert-sun with the refilled mug, and begun to think about what he will do with all that money at the end of this job. That was the only thing that could still keep his spirits up, at least most of the time. Buy a house? He always wanted a pub, he could rent one afterwards. He certainly will send some home as usual. He had to admit, Heruda was paying him generously and so far the work wasn’t very exhausting.
He took the job as Heruda’s bodyguard two months before, knowing well how hard and boring it would be but the prospect of so much money was way too luring. He had well paying assigments recently and he was never short of them but Heruda’s offer got him in a spell of adventurous mood and after a dubious love affair, unfortunately with one of his clients, so he accepted it. At the time he wanted to get away from Mir for a while. And that, he did.
Baltasaar at the humble beginning was a simple doorguard at the Wheel of Fire, one of Mir’s hundreds of pubs. He loved it. He enjoyed the crowd, the music, the smoky, noisy atmosphere, the brawls. He was handsome, had the right mixture of being subtly menacing but still tidy looking and was much more intelligent than his job description required, so soon was found by guests, mainly ladies, in need of a strong arm to escort them home at the end of a long night for some cash. From then on it was an upward spiral for him, he was handed from client to client, sometimes for a night only, sometimes for weeks or months, for city visits or longer travels. He was always grateful for his luck, never greedy and always reliable, the ultimate recipe for a good name in business. So finally after protecting, guarding and escorting merchants, judges and ladies of various social standing, he got this offer from Jacob Heruda, one of Mir’s richest and most influential people to be his personal bodyguard on this long and tiring mission.
He knew that boredom was very dangerous. It would dull his senses, rust his weapons, weaken his muscles and ultimately compromise his efficiency. And that could mean the life of his employer. So he did his best to keep himself in shape. Exercised daily, kept his equipment in pristine condition and checked the area a hundredth time.
There wasn't much to check, though. The whole thing comprised of the interior of a large tent, some more tents outside and endless desert beyond that. The perimeter of the camp was guarded by a number of mercenaries, which really left him an area of a size of a handkerchief to secure. Not much of a task for his abilities.
This afternoon was the same as all afternoons in the last two or three weeks.
His boss, Mr Heruda was having his after lunch siesta in the tent, escaping the scorching sunshine of the outside and choosing the oven of the inside instead, while Baltasaar was sitting in front of the tent, doing his best to enhance his already impressive tan, sipping lukewarm lemonade.
He was watching the workers. When they left Mir he couldn't comprehend why Heruda wanted to take the Frontier workers all the way from the city to the other end of the world. The journey to the excavation site took over three weeks from Mir. He could have just hired some peasants as they got there. Once the excavation got underway though, he started to see his point and his respect grew by the day towards these hardy men.
They were tough folk, probably the toughest he had ever seen. They worked all day, stopping only for moments to drink and wee. When the camp guards were nearly collapsing in the midday heat, these guys seemed to perk up and pull it even harder. They seemingly lived on some dry bread and thin air, as far as Baltasaar could tell and did not even notice injuries that would have crippled a normal man. He got fascinated by them. So as per usual, he was watching them working from his post.
About two weeks before they dug out a huge door-like something in the sand. Everybody got very excited, Heruda was running up and down, had night long meetings and consultations with his archeologist and the group of adventurers accompanying them, who apparently had some sort of information about the area,so they were all over the place. The door was round and was made of some sort of ceramic material. They discussed this and considered that, made drawings and descriptions then decided to open it. Well, at least they tried. After a couple of days of futile fiddling to open it up, Heruda got bored and ordered the workers to break it in. That was nearly two weeks before.
So today, as for the last ten or so days, the workers were banging on the door with their hammers and chisels and other instruments, with one other group trying to dig down around it, all under the guidance and supervision of Jeremiah, the old task-master. He stood on a small sand dune, not far from the door, crooked and dry like a vulture, organising his workers only by a blink of his eye and a movement of his stick. They picked him up in Talas, the last city before the desert, he was highly recommended by their mayor and apparently not without a reason. He looked like a retired beggar, one armed, one eyed and toothless, his face deformed in an accident but all the workers and even Heruda himself was treating him with deep respect and listened carefully when he, very rarely, had something to say. He somehow radiated a sort of confidence and power that Baltasaar had only seen in very few men in his life, mostly in veteran warriors who had seen more than their fair share of horrors of the world but managed to keep their sanity to tell the tale.
Baltasar was thinking about these things, slowly slurping his lemonade from the warm metal cup,when suddenly a great shadow enveloped him, instantly easing the heat of the burning sun, and a massive body blocked his view. Baltasaar slowly lifted his head up, covering his eyes with his hand.
'Hello Baltasaar.' he heard from far far above. The voice was deep, hoarsy and arrogant and belonged to Samuel "the Butcher" Waxton, a member of the adventurer team. He had a knack on Baltasaar since the beginning of their journey, trying to wind him up, challenging him at every opportunity.
'So I surprised you? Now,That is not very good from a bodyguard, is it?' - An evil grin spread on the rough face. His numerous battle scars were jumping up and down on his features. He was wearing filthy, blue gardeners trousers and no top. The downrolling drops of sweat dug deep fissures in the sandcover of his huge, fat upper body.
'You didn't surprise me, Butcher. I can smell you coming from miles' -smiled Baltasaar back at him.
The grin melted instantly and he bent down, his face almost touching Baltasaar's.
'We will sort our business Baltasaar. Sooner or later I will get you' His mouth, filled with the ruins of his teeth, stunk of alcohol.
'I've already told you: I will be happy to knock your remaining teeth out as soon as this job is over.'
The grin returned: 'I can barely wait. But don't run away. That would upset me. Byesy-bye girlie, catch up later' and the huge man turned and walked away.
Baltasaar watched him until his fat back disappeared behind a tent, thinking about the best possible methods to beat him to pulp when the time comes. This mountain of fat started to get on his nerves big time. Arrogant pig, thinking that only because he calls himself "adventurer" and has scars on his face like a cobweb, means that he can irritate him unpunished. If it was up to him, he would be more than happy to double the number of those scars by smashing his face through a glass window. But he had to stay calm, at least until this job was over. He was about to drink another sip of his warm lemonade when he noticed that sweatdrops from Butcher's face were shining on his cup and hand. He sloshed the lemonade out with disgust and with a big sigh he decided he will leave to fill it up for later.
His attention returned to the workers. They were still tirelessly banging on the massive door.
The ancient red dragon was disturbed. The constant banging noise from outside snook into his mind and stirred his sleep.
He was dreaming. He had no conception of time, no conscious realisation but somehow he knew that he hasn't dreamt for many many years.
In his dream he was flying over the battlefield stretching out for dozens, maybe hundreds of miles over the landscape. The huge battle was raging on for days. Clash of massive armies and smaller scale fights were going on underneath, skirmishes and ambushes, marching columns of soldiers, running opponents or allies from a lost fight, little encampments and burning tents. The siege machines of the enemy were vomiting boulders and flaming rocks onto the defenders' numerous wood-and-earth field towers. Ant-armies of unimaginable sizes moving on the scene, all part of a big plan.
Two huge flaming boulders flew across the field below.
Just underneath him the walls of a fortress finally gave in and the undead hordes of the enemy swarmed over the first line of the defence almost the moment the last wooden beam of the broken wall hit the ground. He felt the command of his rider Dragonlord Dameon, but their harmony was such that even without it he did instantly what the rider just started to think. With a graceful swoop he descended onto the attacking enemy and, appearing from behind the damaged wall, he bathed the bulk of the undead in white-hot flames. Smell of burning and rotten flesh and smoke filled his senses for a fragment of a second. By the time he noticed what was happening further back in the ranks it was too late. One of the siege machines still hasn't unloaded its projectile and its commander was very fast thinking, releasing the huge boulder with perfect timing as he appeared above the enemy lines. He dodged the shot but the massive rock still managed to glance off his right side, ripping off his arm and knocking him off the sky. He tumbled onto the ground taking out even more zombies and other foul beasts as he came to a halt. As he stumbled onto his feet, with numbed senses he realised that he lost his rider and could hardly move. The horde now turned on him. It was the fortress defenders' turn to lend him a hand...
The dream continued, swifted, swirled out of focus then in again. This time he was standing in the main fortress,still fresh injuries, missing an arm and an eye,jaw broken, along with the other dragons and riders, on top of the guard tower. They watched in horror as the gigantic incarnated god was spreading death outside the walls. The creature was almost certainly mad and most likely barely conscious. It was flailing his many arms blindly around, hitting anything and everything that got in its way, be it friend or foe or inanimate object. The summoner necromancers still must have had some control over it as it was steadily heading towards the main fortress.
It finally reached the outer walls and started to demolish the building. Each blow was followed by screams of the dying defenders and the thunder of the crumbling stone.
The eyelid of the sleeping wyrm twitched.
Baltasaar stood up from his chair; he needed a wee. All he was doing for the last couple of hours was drinking that awful lemonade and this started to have its effect.
At this very moment, something happened at the excavation site. He immediately forgot about the urge and became alert. There was a sound coming from the direction of the door, as if dozens of wheatstones started to turn at the same time. Everyone stopped in their jobs. At first nothing noticable happened but after a few seconds the noise became louder and the ceramic door moved slightly. With increasing momentum, it slowly swung open, revealing a steeply angled wide corridor leading down into the guts of the desert. Nobody moved as if they got petrified. Baltasaar was standing still but ready.
A slow gust of air emerged from the deep, twirling a few grains of sand outside and Baltasaar could see the expression of nausea and disgust on the faces of the men standing close to the door. Then a few things happened very quickly at the same time. Three or four shapes appeared in the opening, smoke-like and bodyless, like ghosts. Baltasaar first thought that they might be some form of gas or smoke from the depth. But they were moving determinedly and steadily. They whoosed out of the darkness and their grey masses engulfed a couple of workers. Almost at the same time more solid bodies took form in the blackness of the corridor. Humanoid figures appeared in the sunlight, wearing tatty armour and rusty, ancient weapons, moving with surprising speed and agility. Their flesh was peeling off their bones, their eyeless faces frozen in the grin of death.
Baltasaar just have heard the first screams of the unfortunates attacked by the ghosts as he was running in Heruda's tent.His body was doing all this, his brain still frozen in horror from the sight outside. He swept the hindrancing pieces of furniture aside, gripping his always ready backpack and one handedly pulling the sleeping Heruda onto his feet. His soft, fat face was still wearing the expression of the innocence of a sleeping child. He slowly opened his eyes, clearly not knowing where he was.
No time for this,- Baltasaar though and slapped his face hard with an open hand.
Heruda woke up immediately.
'What...,what is happening?'
'We are under attack, we must run'- said Baltasaar.
'Keep low and stay with me'-commanded as he pulled Heruda to the back of the tent and slashed the leather open.
'But.., who is attacking, and...'
'Quiet. No time to waste now!'
They stayed low as they run to the fenced area where the horses were kept only a dozen yards from Heruda's tent. The man was surprisingly helpful and although looked scared, did exactly what Baltasaar told him. By then the camp was echoing the noises of the ongoing fight. Baltasaar could see the flashes of steel and muscles as the mercenaries were quickly jumping through the gaps between the tents, running towards the battle. They didn't know yet what they were going to see...
The horses were nervous from the noise and it took them nearly a minute to grab a couple of them and get on their backs, holding the saddles in their hands.
Baltasaar knocked off a section of the fence and they started galloping towards the desert.
The undead attackers have swarmed most of the campsite by then, breaking up the battle into individual fights.
In the middle of the chaos not far from where they were, he saw Butcher for a moment, surrounded by undead, fighting for his life. He was doing it very well, Baltasaar had to admit. With each swipe of this battle axe he broke necks and sliced dry mummified bodies in half. Baltasaar almost felt sorry for him for a second as he was fighting off waves of attacks in this hopeless battle. A ghastly apparition choose this time to enter the sight. It immediately enveloped Butcher with its black gray smoke-tentacles and began to force them into his body at every orifice, his ears, mouth and even the eyes. Butcher was screaming like a pig as the tendrils entered him. In a second or two there was barely anything left of the ghost. Butcher staggered a few steps, his body shrinked somehow. His skin suddenly became too loose, like a kid wearing his dad's clothes. His eyes filled with blood. He wasn't screaming anymore. Then he slowly fell onto his knees and then forward, onto his face. That was more than Baltasaar was willing to see. Fighting an increasing sense of nausea he whacked his heel in the side of his horse, dragging the other horse, taking Heruda with him.
Moving swiftly, a whithered undead in rusty armour jumped out from among the tents in front of them. Flailing an old sword it was waiting for them to pass by, his rotten face expressing an almost human grin of evil pleasure. As they reached it ,Baltasaar kicked out with perfect timing. His heavy boot smashed the wretch's face. The undead flew a few yards backwards and landed on a tent. Baltasaar knew that this kick would have killed or knocked out even the bull neck Butcher. He could hear and feel the crunching of the shattered jaw bone and the crack of the neck. As they flew by he had a glimpse behind just to see the dead warrior climb up to its feet and launch itself after them, its head hanging from the neck in an impossible angle. Luckily the horses were already so terrified that they run at their absolute top speed, leaving the creature easily behind.
After minutes of mad gallop, he stopped the horses on the top of a dune in a safe distance from the camp. Heruda, who was shocked by the sight of the undead was starting to regain his senses and was mumbling something about his notes left in the tent. Batltasaar looked back at the camp. He was expecting to witness the last act of the massacre they left behind, as the undead cleaned up the remaining resistance.
But he saw something even more shocking, something completely unexpected instead. A gigantic red dragon was flying above the camp.It was unbelievably large, nearly as big as the campsite itself. It was in a terrible state, its right side badly scarred, its arm and most of its wing on that side missing. It was coiling in agony, like a worm on the fishing hook. His remaining left eye was hazy as if he was only half conscious. As his gaze turned downwards on the fighting below his body suddenly stiffened. He stopped coiling and the pupil of his eye widened. Then his face grimaced into an undescribable expression of hatred and rage. Baltasaar could swear that even from that distance he could physically feel the radiation of this anger on his skin. The remaining fighters underneath, the handful human survivors and even the undead stopped and looked up onto the dragon. It was hanging in the sky above them like a giant red cloud of deadly rage, like an avenging god ready to destroy the entire world below.
Then the creature opened its scarred,toothless mouth and started roaring. It wasn't only a roar, it was roaring and screaming and vomiting white flames, bright as the sun onto the face of the earth, onto the camp and the fighters, the undead and onto the desert. The sound of the roar and the sound of the flames mixed into one almighty sound and heat and rage hurricane, knocking Baltassar off his feet. He had to cover his ears and curl into embryonic position not to start screaming in fear. He could hear Hiruda crying and whimpering next to him. The horses whinied and ran into the desert. He felt the waves of the unspeakable heat from several hundred yards away on his skin like his arms were dipped into boiling water. He reached out, grabbed Hiruda and rolled down on the far side of the dune.
The screaming of the dragon just didn't want to stop. Baltasaar thought it was raging on for hours or for an eternity,couldn't really tell, but he felt if it doesn't stop soon they will die. Then, after a lifetime, the terrible sounds muted. For some time he wasn't able to move, his muscles simply weren't obeying the command of his brain. Finally he managed to stumble upon his feet, his legs weak and trembling like jelly. Heruda's body was still shaking with crying next to him. He knew that he shouldn't leave him but somehow he felt that they were not in danger anymore. Slowly fighting his way up to the top of the dune he looked down onto the former campsite.
The site was no more. In fact the desert, where the site was, was no more. Down below, starting almost at the foot of their dune, a mirror smooth lake of molten glass was glowing, white hot. The dragon was nowhere in sight. The only thing breaking the flawless surface of the glass was a large round item where the camp was before. The ceramic door, closing down the undead possibly for millennia under the surface, was still intact. It blackened in the massive heat and as the sand melted underneath it, it slowly turned on its side and was sinking into the glass.
Baltasaar couldn't stand the radiating heat very long and slowly descended on the side, back to Hiruda. He was getting himself together and smearing his tears from his face he looked up onto Baltasaar.
‘The dragon..it almost looked like…’
‘I know, don’t say it or I’ll go mad here and now…’
‘What do we do now?’
‘We wait until dusk. We will need to find our horses or we are dead. But we must not leave until the heat gets bearable. I have some essenial things.’
Together they quickly set up a shade and sat down in the shadow. They weren't talking. There was nothing they wanted to talk about. Not yet. Baltasaar knew that they were far from being safe. They had to find the horses, survive the way back home, but more imminently, keep sane. So he dug out his survival whisky from his backpack, had a good portion and offered it to Heruda. He looked at him gratefully and had a big gulp of it. Then they were waiting.
As the sun set down behind the next dune Baltasaar climbed up theirs, one last time. The glass on the other side was glowing in dark orange, the big black mass of the door was still standing, half sunk into the sand.
‘It Looks like a tombstone.’
Heruda was standing next to him, his soft face bathing in the orange glow.
‘Yes. Let's hope it will keep down the ones it should, this time.
Come on, let’s find those horses.’